ENGLAND - CORNWALL - A Club Trip To Penzance by Andy Fulford
I?d been looking forward to this trip for ages but, typical for this year, the weather reports were looking distinctly dodgy. ?Oh well?, I think, ?at least it will be good to be in Cornwall again?. After picking up Peter James, we set off for the long haul down to Penzance. The journey, thankfully, is pretty uneventful and we make good time, even with the A30 closed due to an accident not far from Truro. A short diversion via Falmouth and Helston and we are the first to arrive at our B&B. We are greeted by the lovely Kitty who shows us to our room. Everything is very clean and comfortable and it?s good to relax after the long journey. After a bit of a sit down Peter and I decide to go out for a bite to eat as we have no idea when everyone else will be arriving. Just as we get outside my phone rings with Matt on the line to let us know his ETA. I?m just saying to him that I have no idea where Stuart and Caroline are when a familiar blue Skoda Fabia drives right past us. A quick u-turn later and suddenly there are four for dinner. We decide to wait for Matt and when he finally arrives, we take a quick trip down the road for a lovely meal in the next village. Of course, during this time the heavens had opened and the rain had been pouring down. At least it had stopped by the time we left the pub.
We wake up to a very gray day. It?s misty and dull but at least the wind seems to have dropped. After a very full breakfast we set off down to Penzance harbour to meet our skipper and find out if we can actually get a dive in. Bill turns out to be a very friendly and easy going skipper, and happily thinks we have a good chance of getting out and doing some dives! We load the boat, say good bye to Caroline who is off horse riding, and set off into Mounts Bay. As there are only four divers on the boat we have bags of room and manage so make ourselves very comfortable.
Out first dive is to be on a well broken wreck called the Alice Marie. A French steel barque she became a victim of the Runnelstone in 1928 and finally sank in Mounts Bay. The sea state is a bit choppy but Bill is able to moor over the wreck and we prepare to dive. My buddy for this dive is Matt, and this will be his first official dive to 25m! After rolling off the boat and making our way to the shot we start our descent. Amazingly the viz is actually quite good and I find that I can actually see the wreck and seabed from around 15m. The wreckage is very broken with some ribs and spars sticking out of the sea bed. Fish life is plentiful and as a wonderful highlight I see my first ever John Dory! In fact we see four during this dive.
After 30 mins we ascend the shot for a well earned cup of tea and a nice long surface interval. Bill thinks that we should make the most of the relatively calm weather so we steam off to the West out of Mounts bay and round the coast. After a quick pit stop to admire the Minack Theatre perched on the cliffs we arrive at our dive site, ?Logans Rock?. This site has a very large pinnacle of rock sticking straight out of the water and dropping straight down to 15-25m of water. The pinnacle is also surrounded by huge boulders which make a great haven for wildlife. We drop in on the East face and are immediately faced with a wall covered in brilliant Jewel anemones. Despite not being in ?feeding? mode the anemones are very beautiful and in a huge range of colours. I managed to get a couple of good photos here. We did a slow circumnavigating of the pinnacle and saw a variety of life in the kelp beds including huge Pollack, and Wrasse. Finally made it round to an area of sand that is supposed to harbour sand eels but the sea bed was a bit deep for us at this end of the dive so we had to hover above and didn?t spot any eels.
Another gentle ascent sees us on the boat steaming back towards Penzance. The wind has definitely picked up and the journey back is a tad uncomfortable with all of us feeling slightly green. Back at the harbour we tidy up the boat and haul the cylinders up the steps for a refill and we actually finish at around 4pm. Loads of time to freshen up before dinner at the Meadery in Newlyn. The Meadery is Matt's idea and we manage to coordinate our visit with Jo and Jenny who meet us on the way in. After a small glass of Meade in the bar (tastes like a cross between cough syrup, Red Bull and honey) we go up to our table for various fayre eaten with fingers off wooden platters and served to us by wenches. Russ, Dawn and Martin finally turn up too late for dinner but make up for this with drinks.
We all woke fearing the worst but the weather surprises us all and Bill is able to take us out into Mounts bay again. We repeat the Alice Marie for our first dive. Bill is not keen on taking us to the same site two days in a row but as the four of us who have dived it are happy to repeat and the other four have never seen it we agree to go ahead. I?m diving with Stu this time and we immediately head of for the areas of the wreck that we missed yesterday. Found one of the steel mast sections and with it, a resident conger. This one was a pretty large specimen and I got a bit worried about Stu as he stuck his head in the mast to get a picture but the eel didn?t seem too interested and backed off.
We bumped into another fine specimen of a John Dory who seemed quite amenable to a photo session so we spent some time trying out different lighting techniques and angles until he got bored with us, gave us a grumpy pout and sped off into the distance. The viz was a bit worse today but still a good 6m. On the surface things have roughened up nicely. Dawn is not looking well (she?s not the only one!) and we rapidly head off to our second site and calmer waters.
Low Lee reef is a granite reef standing in up to 20m of water. A roped off nature trail was created by Penzance BSAC in 1995 and provides an easy way to get round the interesting areas of the reef. The trail and our dive starts on wreckage of the SS Primrose, a Liverpool coaster which sank in 1906. The reef and boulders are covered in hydroids and sponges although the fish life is not as abundant as I thought it would be. Following the roped trail we soon find a spur which takes us off to one of two bronze canon on the site. We bump into Jo and Matt here but despite it being well roped, we find out later that Matt hasn?t seen the cannon (It?s ten feet long!!!). Stu and I carry on round the trail and discover the largest yellow boringnsponge we have ever seen as well as some solitary Devonshire cup corals. The trail is circular but we?ve been taking to many pictures and detours so don?t make it all the way round this time, It?ll be something to do the next time we visit. Back on the boat we head for home again and another early finish. Today we make a detour on the way home and stop for photos of St Michael?s Mount and a nice drink in the Fire Engine pub in Marazion.
Tonight is party night as we?ve been invited to the 30th birthday of Jenny?s son, Anthony. After another lovely pub meal we all get dressed up in our fancy dress costumes and pop down to Tesco?s for some supplies. Strangely we do not attract that many odd looks!! The party is being held in the greenhouse of a disused garden centre. Much decorating has gone on and the place is well decked out with fairy lights, glitter balls and decorations. Pretty much everyone is in fancy dress with school girls, nurses, an Incredible Hulk, Tony Blair, Saddam Hussain, Michael Jackson, Princess Fiona (in ogre form!) and various outlandish 60?s and 70?s costumes. It?s definitely the best fancy dress party I?ve ever been to!
After a slightly shorter sleep than normal it?s back down to Penzance. The weather has finally given up on us and Bill can?t take us anywhere that we haven?t been already so we decided to call it quits. Dawn is determined to dive and persuades Russ and Martin to go shore diving in Lamorna Cove. The rest of us take the slightly easier option of cream teas and doughnuts in Cadgwith. Stu, Caroline, Peter and myself take a trip down to Land?s End and get thoroughly wind blown by the progressively worsening weather then we head back for our final meal of the trip in the village of Paul.
A final breakfast and we settle up with Kitty. She?s retiring so we are her last guests. Let?s hope the new owners offer such good value accommodation! Another fairly good journey home only marred by another accident, this time on the M25. I drop Peter off at home and make a quick detour to drop off a card and say hi to baby George. I end up staying for dinner and going all gooey over the cute little sprog. I finally make it home by 10 pm. I loved Penzance and we definitely did not see it at it?s best. Bill was a great skipper and I really hope we have the opportunity to return and dive with him in the future. Many thanks go to Stuart for organising such a great trip and to everyone who went for making it such a fun holiday.
Photos by Andy Fulford and Anthony Greenwood Billericay Sub Aqua Club