Written by club member Tim Sleight
Pictures by Tracey Roberts
After a long day on the road ,we (myself and my buddy Nick) arrived at Porthkerris . It was early evening and pleasingly quiet, we navigated our way around the site to find our designated camping area, fittingly called The Mound.
The Mound is situated to the north west of the campsite, behind an old MOD building that was used for observing secret torpedo testing, just after the second world war. Rick and Rob had already began setting up camp, (Home for the next few days) it wasn't long before we had been joined by the rest of the group. (Tracey, Bridget and Ben). Once camp was set in a somewhat organised fashion ,we sat down to a curry. That's right a curry we have Bridget and Rick to thank for organising this treat, after a long day on the road it was just perfect .We sat chatting and star gazing as the Perseid meteor shower was making an appearance that evening, be it a lot later than we should be stopping up. Across the bay there was a splash, everyone was up turning to see what it could be was it a shark, there has been several sightings this month. No we are safe a couple of dolphins play in the bay ,but what the perfect end to the evening .
Breakfast. Awoken to the sound of the alarm clock .Time to go, well almost , sliding the van door back I was greeted by the view of the bay. Being up on this mound in its self was a tremendous view, and just maybe at this point I had become an over excited adult. First things first Bridget had planned to look after us all well on this trip. She had organised breakfast, with Rick as the chef. The tea, coffee and sausage baps went down a treat, well done Rick cooked to perfection, and lets face it being so excited about the first day, it was one less thing I had to do . Not that I shy away from playing the team game .It was just that personal touch ,that Dive Rutland bring to the table. Always looking out for each other more than just a club, a family.
Kit build and buddy up. After rounding up all the kit we would need and loading the van. We had a short walk to the beach area, we set off laughing and joking as a group . Once we had got ourselves to the beach we began kitting up . Getting our weight together and checking everything was working .Now's the time to be sure everything is in good working order .The Dive Rutland team keeping it running like clockwork. Tracey began to organise the buddy pairs, using her wealth of knowledge and experience teaming us up not only with the best air consumption matches, but with the fact a few of us had never been boat diving . Myself included although we are all well trained divers Safety was always at the forefront of her planning . I was placed with James .Now James has been part of my training from the beginning. He has been there as an assistant for my instructor and myself from open water ,advanced open water, and various specialities so diving with James was bound to be a good day.
We set about our buddy checks and made sure everything was good to go .
First dive. As arrival of the boat draws near, we stand kitted up ready to go. Looking out across the bay as the Celtic Kitten beaches itself and entry ramp is lowered. The divers before us walking ashore faces beaming. As they chat about their experience, last diver off its our turn . Walking up the ramp we are greeted by the smiling skipper, Dave Brown. He clearly loves his job ,and is enthusiastic. Once everyone is aboard the ramp is raised, and The kitty backs away from the beach . Before shutting its engines down, the skipper turns and begins to talk . Firstly welcoming us aboard and giving us a safety briefing, pointing out where the oxygen is and various other equipment like Radios, depth finder, and how the lift works. Now he says where would you like to dive this is somewhat a shock he has actually given us a choice after a short conversation we had agreed on a wreck called the SS Mohegan there was a kind of silent yesss among some of the divers of course I had no idea what to expect, well it turns out after a short 10min boat ride we are all about to find out
Skippers briefing. The Mohegan is one of the best known wrecks on the Manacles . She was a steamer witch sank off the coast, lizard peninsula on her second voyage . She hit The Manacles on the 14th October 1898 with the loss of 106 out of the 197 on board .The captain being one of the survivors . He lived close by up until he jumped from the cliffs a few years later, and is buried not far away . We was told the wreck is so big it could take up 4 dives to explore it all . With the deepest parts being 29 meters and the shallowest 15.The skipper told us we could either return via the shot line or launch our smb and use that as our way back where he would pick us up . He gave us our max dive time and we were set .
Dive One - The SS Mohegan. Now this was all new to me, but armed with the correct training and mentoring I was ready. The swell was what I considered to be quite rough for a first timer, but the skill of the skipper kept the boat in just the right position. One by one we made our way to the gate. I got myself into position, legs slightly apart using them to balance in the gate way. James looking up at me 3 2 1 best foot forward. I've done many a deep entry (giant stride) before. Some better than others, this one was different somehow, it seamed to be timed to perfection. Turning back and signalling to the boat OK . Myself and James made our way to the line. James checking to make sure I'm OK . Final check and the signal 5 point descent, no messing around today . We made our way down the shot line slowly descending to 21 metres, right next to a giant boiler, this thing is massive. I could see why it could take 4 dives now. It was hard to work out what was rock and what was wreck . A constant barrage of signals from James checking I was OK, he was an ever attentive buddy. We took a bearing and began to explore. Man oh man this ship is big , and it was teaming with life. Spider crabs, fish , kelp and sponges one in particular, that almost glowed yellow . It was just unbelievable, the dive seamed to go so quickly . It was time to make our assent. We started to organise ourselves into position, for a buddy dsmb launch. James handed off the smb. I had just completed the course in preparation for the trip and was fully aware of what I would need to do. All set to release and a problem with the reel. For real not now not today but no need to panic or stress . We signalled to each other tried to control our buoyancy and released the tangled real and smb . At this point there is only one thing we can do no spare . So we settled down and faced each other laying flat, we began our accent up to 5 meters .We levelled off time for the safety stop. Once complete we ascended reached the surface ,the skipper was so alert he knew what had happened. After picking us up he retrieved the smb and reel we sat on the boat as he collected the other divers chatting about the dive it had been my first boat dive and although the smb launch didn't quite go to plan (I'm sure that reel comes to life as soon as it knows your ready to let go) it was a brilliant experience. Just like the group before us, we returned to shore beaming with smiles and storeys to tell .
Dive two - The Helford River. After returning to shore we rehydrated ourselves and had some sandwiches swapped our cylinders and took the empties to be refiled . Time seamed to fly by , it was time time for dive two . Back on the boat ,the skipper suggested a dive call the river . This dive is a drift dive . Around a twelve minute boat ride this time . I had never done a drift dive before. Stony cove doesn't really have a current . Hang on what was that something just started following the boat dolphins wow he was jumping the waves from the boat he stayed with us the skipper running around the boat keeping the dolphin interested all the way to the dive site briefing time , this dive is around 7 to 12 meters and we are told to stay on the bottom because of boat traffic. Upon entering the water, unfortunately the dolphin had been frighten away . Myself and James signalled and descended. At around 6m we levelled off we had all ready stared moving . I could see in my opinion why it was called the river. The bottom was covered in stones gravel shells and all kinds of life it wasn't long before we spotted a ray (Thorn back Ray) hidden in the sand and then spider crabs, all tucked up nice and neat. Well until you got close, then a massive display of aggression . Legs stretched out ,claws reaching out for any thing you got dangling . A small intake of air and just out of harm's way . With no thought or effort we glided along in the current , checking the compass from time to time . So much life hermit crabs scuttling along the bottom ,as if in a rush . Then out of no where a jelly fish . Oh no I hate jelly's but hold on the only real time I have seen them is laying in a blob on the beach or from a distance on a boat ride. They are actually quite beautiful seamlessly hovering gently pulsing all different colours and tentacles laying out stretched and then anther and another just like a scene from finding Nemo jelly's everywhere stay away from the dangerous end at this point of the dive I was so relaxed I had not noticed how far we had travelled but as it was time to surface I was about to find out myself and James turned to face each other James handed off the smb just as before we clipped the reel and smb together signal to each other I checked above for boats and cracked the bottle you guessed it that reel came alive but this time its all gone to plan a near perfect deployment that moment of (yes nailed it came into play ) no need for a safety stop as we hadn't reached 10 meters but its still good practice so we took our time surfacing this dive will be in my memory for a long time to come if you ever get the chance to visit Porthkerris this I think is a must dive so much so I think drift diving has become one of my favourites upon surfacing we had travelled so far its was unreal its hard to believe just how far we had gone and how much we had seen.
BBQ - After an adventurous day of diving , what better way to bring it to an end . Sitting around a fire pit watching the flames licking the sky . Eating excellent food and chatting about the days events .
As the evening starts to draw in we have one last treat. A crash course in roasting marshmallows .American style. !!!!
So hear we go now I'm hoping I got this right, else its going to be me getting the next roasting.
1. Break your honey maid graham crackers into sensible sizes .
Day two started much like Day one we all gathered for breakfast and back down to the beach area to kit up .
Well a new day a new buddy well I say a new buddy I have dived with or around Bridget from the first day with Dive Rutland in fact she is mostly responsible for the training I have received we kitted up. Collected our cylinders from the fill station and checked our kit as always I owe Bridget so much she had solved a small problem I was having with the octopus (second regulator) the clip had worn so the regulator was continuously falling out and the last thing you want when diving is to be dragging that octopus threw the sand grit and sea weed you never ever know if or when it might be needed and I don't think by buddy really wants a mouth full of sand grit or sea weed come to think about it. So buddy checks complete and the boat has just arrived I remember thinking to myself it looks a little rough out there today I wonder what Bridget has come up with to dive so greeted as we walked onto the boat by Dave the skipper with a massive smile and a good morning we headed off to a group of rocks called The Manacles again close to where the SS Mohegan from day one lies this time it would be the Spyridon this is an 1708ton steamer laden with grain and lays around 18 meters.
Dive 3 - The Spyridon. The sea was definitely more lively today the swell was pushing the boat around the briefing was to the point and told us to get to the line and underwater as quickly as possible you know all the drilling about being ready buddy checks and constant weight checks really comes into play in the conditions I am seeing today. Its at times like this you get to really appreciate the time and effort that really has to go into the planning be it a trip or just a club dive . So no time to chat today its in the water get ours selves to the line and a quick ready from Bridget signal orientate to each other regulators in tech/time elevate and descend (SORTED) working our way along the line it was rough to start with Bridget checking to make sure I was still there she purposely put me in front as we worked our way to the shot line another diver had already reached the line and was helping us with an out stretched hand it was almost so well timed it felt like I had done it many times before but its only the third boat dive for me once on the line down we went equalising our ears as we gently found the bottom so calm to what had been left on the surface a quick compass bearing and we was away beginning to work our way around a new wreck it was awesome this time I could make out with ease the structure and shapes of a boat there was plenty of kelp swaying in the current and fish I had never seen before in fact they are so brightly coloured they don't belong hear in UK waters do they (cuckoo wrasse) in fact they do and many species just like them UK diving maybe isn't as clear or as warm but it has so much to offer but sadly time was up it was time to deploy the smb and carry out the safety stop laying there for three minutes thinking I really need to come back here after surfacing and being pushed around by the swell the boat was with us ready to pick us up back on board full of beans and joy sadly my mesh bag had managed to get washed overboard I had become quite attached to that bag as it was new and so much easier to carry the smaller bits if kit but on the plus side I had just found a reason to return not that I am going to need an excuse to return Porthkerris has so much to offer for all levels of divers .
On the way back to the beach the skipper was helping Tracey and Bridget with the timings for the final dive they had a long drive back after we finished you can say with hand on heart the skippers of Porthkerris do everything possible to make your stay the best it can possibly be. So back on the beach swapping cylinders and re checking kit getting ready for the fourth and final dive this weekend has gone so fast my head still buzzing from every dive
Dive 4 final dive - Rock Island Bridge. As always its good practice to make the second dive if the day shallower so we had all agreed on the final dive being rock island bridge the waters much calmer now myself and Bridget took a giant stride into the water one after the other and ready to descend slowly working our way down to 10 meters this was a really easy wreck to dive my eyes where everywhere scanning the pipe work and wreckage suddenly came across the tail of a fish dark in colour and wiggling inside a pipe straight away I knew this has to be an eel I had just found my first conger Bridget must have thought I had gone mad pointing and trying to get her to take pictures I've no camera a few fin kicks and repositioned at the head end of this beast a conger eel hiding inside this pipe he must have been maybe a good 3 or 4 foot in length (water dose tend to make things look bigger) but I was so excited and I can admit I was like a child inside don't really know why its only an eel right backing slowly away as we started to move around other parts of the wreck this old ship had so much structure you could drop a little lower and find yourself looking right inside .
Pointing my light inside I was fascinated actually naturally inquisitive to what might be found inside of course I am not allowed inside (YET) but I think its inevitable after spending such a short time looking around the out side finding so much life that I would think about what's actually inside some of the wrecks we moved along side and rising across the wreck we came into a shoal of smaller fish this was amazing sadly time to go air running low and the cold had set in a little smb launched safety stop complete surface and back on the boat you might say I rushed that bit but you know the drill by now the difference this time is it had just sunk in this is what its all about a small glimpse of what is going on in UK waters has made all the early (really early mornings) and poor visibility at Stoney Cove worthwhile in fact more than worth while non of this would be possible without the instructors, staff, and club members, and those that give there free time at Dive Rutland .
This was my first club trip maybe some people just want to train to go off on holiday or seek clear warm waters, but its my advice get yourself a drysuit spec get yourselves evolved find something in our UK waters ,and go dive it . Porthkerris is a beautiful place it has so much to offer, from shore diving to boat diving they really go the extra mile to make sure your stay/time is worth while . Don t become fixated on warm clear water although the draw must be overwhelming. There is a lot your missing in UK waters. My feeling is that taking trips with your dive club builds friendships and buddy pairs to the next level. I know I will be making sure I spend many more hours below the surface with Dive Rutland ,sure you don't get 10 meters of visibility everyday, and you might need a coffee or tea after . But its not all about how far you can see, or how cold it might be. Think more what you might see ,and how good the coffee tea ,and company is going to be .
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Registered address: 8 Horn Close, Oakham, Rutland LE15 6FE