In July 2007 a party of 12 divers set off to visit Porthkerris and the Manacles reef dive sites. Despite the year being rather a bad one for diving weather wise we hoped for a break in the incessant rain and were not disappointed.
We managed to get the best diving weekend of the year so far – at least weather-wise. our first dive was on the wreck of the Volnay, visited by some members earlier in the year. Visibility was pretty good – up to 5m in places and we got a very good view of the boilers and of the large number of lead balls that festoon the weck as a result of its cargo of antipersonnel shells gradually decaying. Always handy to dive on a wreck loaded with lead if you are a bit light and having trouble staying on the bottom – several divers came up better weighted than they were when they entered the water!
The first afternoon’s dive was on a scenic reef that shelved from 10m down to >40 with a huge variety of marine life to see. Vis was pretty good with better than 10m in the less disturbed places lower down to the reef. Here we found a huge profusion of pink sea fans – some quite large and probably also very old and all in excellent condition. It’s a real treat to see gorgonian corals like this in the UK. Apparently, there are now some in Weymouth on the wreck of the Blackhawk.
Our skipper for the weekend told us that some divers feed the fish on this reef and there certainly were some very friendly Cuckoo Wrasse amongst the fans here. One was quite hard to photograph as I kept coming too close!
The second day dawned with excellent weather and we decided to plan a BBQ on the beach along with Night dive on the famous Porthkerris Reef. The day’s diving was ahead of us so the plans got put aside for another reef dive followed by a drift across the wreckage of the Mohegan and Raglans reef. We were dropped in close to the boilers of the wreck but very quickly swept past over the flattened sections of the ship and up onto the reef itself. Quite a fast drift around the cliffs, all mindful of the instructions to avoid being swept off into the deep water (60m) on the south side. Lots of life about, mostly sheltering from the raging current in fact.
After a quick sojourn back at the campsite, we returned to Porthkerris bay and set up the BBQ. Some difficulties were encountered with sausages too small falling down the gaps between the slats in the permanent BBQ at the dive centre but enough food was still rescued from the coals. The group split at this point with the hardcore divers going off for a night dive and the hardcore drinkers heading for the three tuns in St Keverne. The dive was a flat calm, a really nice gentle dive although not so much marine life. Very atmospheric though. Six of us braved the dark waters whilst the rest preferred the pub. Crabs, cuttlefish and sleepy dogfish were encountered amongst the kelp whilst our SMB’s floated serenely on a flat calm sea lighted by glowsticks.
Next morning dawned and we headed for a more relaxed dive on the Mohegan. Vis was pretty good and we got a good view of the three boilers lined up on the seabed where they’d fallen when the wreck broke up. Certain members of the Bowsher family decided that this was a good venue to find out if you can catch fish with your bare hands! (apparently successfully). The rest of us just enjoyed the wreck and had a good mooch about. The boilers were at about 25m with the stern laid out at 28m. The wreck is pretty flattened apart from the boilers but lots of structures can still be recognised including bits of prop shaft and winches. The wreck is pretty well colonised by pink sea fans too.
The second dive was the wreck of the Rock Island Bridge – a US liberty ship sunk after colliding with another US vessel, just in the mouth of the Helford Estuary. This was a very unusual dive site – in the quite clear water below an intensely green plankton layer maybe something to do with the nutrients and other stuff coming downstream? The brief mentioned that this wreck had lots of Conger eels but the first thing we noticed was lobsters.
Dennis, in particular, noticed the lobsters and wrestled with one for a while whilst trying to persuade it to go into his goody bag – in the end, it decided it preferred freedom and left him holding its claws! – They did, however, prove very tasty.
The morning of the 9th offered the chance to dive a little-visited reef just off Pencra head. We dropped onto a flat rocky plate which was the top of a dramatic series of cliffs and drop-offs ending at a gently sloping sandy seabed. Strong currents sweep the site but slack water kept things civilised for most of the dive. The fish (mostly wrasse) were pretty friendly and followed us about for a lot of the dive.