After checking the weather and tides, and the fact we were still going to be diving on lows we decided to go back to the same beach for the last dive of the weekend for another scan over the area for Seagrass (I think Elli was humouring me). The North coast was out anyway and we had to get the kit back to Seaways in Falmouth, and then to the Train Station in St Austell after lunch so Elli could go back to the hum-drum of London life. We were glad we did by the end of the dive, but my second biggest lesson was learnt for diving and equipment today, apologies for the long post.
We kitted up and headed down the beach, again Elli was towing the DSMB as I had my camera, after we had descended Elli was having difficulty with the reel, it had become caught, so we surfaced and untangled the line from around the reel as the vis wasn’t great that close to the shore. Then we prepared to descend again, and as I always do I went to hold my camera, even though we were only descending in about 2-2.5m, it was then I noticed my camera had become un-clipped and I only had the £16 extendable clip attached to my BCD that most dive shops sell hanging there. As this was my 40th birthday present a couple of years ago you can imagine my reaction, and Elli and I started scanning the bottom and surface for my camera, after a 10 minute look and no joy I walked back up the beach defeated and gutted, it was then that I looked at the clip, it wasn’t bent or broken and must have got caught, un-clipping itself from the housing.
As you can see from the photos there is nothing visibly wrong with the cable or clip, it even feels OK for the tension in the safety part of the clip, so this is just down to bad luck with it getting caught and un-clipped somehow, with the weight of the wet lens I had a feeling it would sink but wasn’t totally sure. I turned around and realised where I now stood at the head of the beach was the same spot I started at a little earlier, grabbed my mask and fins and headed back down the beach along the same path we had taken, as I got out to roughly where we were when we dropped down, I looked down and saw it sat on the bottom, relieved doesn’t describe it and after shouting to Elli I had found it as she had waited patiently for me to get back in the water to look, I dropped down to pick it up, as I was coming back up I saw there was no water in the housing after its short drop and gentle rolling in the swell, am so glad we were on a shore dive.
Some may take from this to check their clips, and I would agree (rinse them properly, and vaseline them if needed, check them for damage or any looseness in the safety features of the clips), but more importantly I would say to check your reel, I am only a novice diver but if that had happened at depth Elli would have been dragged to the surface and I am mortified it got tangled so easily, and yes mortified that the clip came undone, nearly losing my camera. I’m still learning every dive but when I see other divers, the kit we use, such as reels, seem to be used for all depths (as is mine), but while it is extra cost, I think a reel for shallower dives is needed for me; around the coast of Cornwall the shore dives are generally around 8-15m and I am only qualified to 30m anyway, so I am going to be setting up reels for 15m and 30m (or just over), and keeping the one I have now set up as is (which is 50m). This just makes sense to me, not for the dive, but after when it comes to unreeling the line to rinse and dry it properly, stopping salt from building up in the line causing it to stick together, and then get tangled as happened to mine. I have also looked more closely at what I have around the D-ring on my BCD, as well as where the camera hangs when I am upright in the water and moved/removed, and secured more suitably anything that may cause it to become un-clipped again (I hope).
So back to the dive, after a few minutes sorting things out, we decided to carry on with the hunt for Seagrass, I had my hand stuck to my camera and it was back on the clip, Elli signaled she was good to go, and off we went dropping down into about 2 1/2m onto the sandy floor. After heading straight out from the beach for about a minute, Elli was waving at me and pointing down excitedly as us divers do, I went over with my best Starsky and Hutch head on to investigate as all I could see was organic debris floating by.
I’m not sure if this was a Lesser Pipefish (Syngnathus rostellatus) because of the fan tail it had, or the same kind of fish as the 15 Spined Stickleback (Spinachia Spinachia) with the weird luminescent nest I had seen at Newquay before but it was a cool little critter, and a sign of things to come.
There was a lot of Hermit Crabs running around again but with over 15 species around the UK, I won’t be trying to identify them just yet.
We went straight out from the beach for about 25 minutes, the gentle current chasing the low carried us out and we only needed to kick occasionally. Some people say going out over the sandy bays is boring as you don’t see much, the safe reefs to dive have a variety of life, but there is a large coastline around the South West (of the UK) and exploring it is half the fun of diving, even if you don’t see a lot as each dive is different.
On the way out we saw a few crabs which had picked up the scent of a dead Razor Shell and were heading toward it.
It was fairly large as well, would have been great to wait and take some pics of them feeding but time (and air) was getting on and after a near canceled dive, it was getting really interesting.
Elli found a dead Sea Urchin shell, it was in perfect condition so she put it in her pocket, as you do. Then as we were turning around we saw another crab mating (am pretty sure that is the male on the back) buried in the sand.
As we were heading back the battery light started flashing on my camera and then it switched off, after about 10 minutes, and lots more crabs, a flounder (the fish that got away) all not getting photographed, I tried to turn it on again as I saw Elli point at a rather large Crab and then she looked up and I saw her eyes light up, she raised her arm and pointed and as I looked to my right I suddenly saw what had caught her eye (as I had been staring at the camera, praying it would turn on for the Crab), a Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma Pulmo) right in front of us.
Then the camera battery died again and I had just noticed a Cuttlefish stalking the Crab, I tried to slowly grab Elli to stop her moving toward it but was too late, it was gone and the cheap UK based ebay battery had drained. Elli grabbed my arm and frantically pointed again, so I crossed my fingers and pressed the on button, I looked across and managed to capture this shot of the snail Elli was pointing at before the camera turned straight off again, I didn’t try turning it back on and we headed back the last 10m or so to the beach.
When we were sorting the kit out at the car after, Elli pulled the Sea Urchin shell (dead, or empty in case you had forgotten) out of her BCD pocket, it hadn’t survived the short journey and had been crushed, was gutted for Elli as would have made a great memento. It was one of those really nice dives, even after a horrible start to it, and like last year it was a pleasure to dive with Elli, but please don’t go sticking your head down holes in warmer countries.
Elli met Lenny over the weekend and like everyone, fell in love with him, I had to stop her sneaking him out in her bag when we left for the train station, maybe next time.
Elli and I were stuck as to where to dive next and had been to St Agnes and Newquay on the North coast but it was a bit choppy so we headed to the South coast and decided a nice easy dive at one of the secret little spots where it is almost always flat. It started out as just another dive, but we found Seagrass in the surf as we were walking out and decided to swim straight out, instead of following the reef round as I have done so many times before and it was on, a hunt to see if there was a Seagrass bed in the small bay.
We had done our buddy check on the beach and made our way into the water, it may seem daft to some to change the dive plan on entry, and normally at most other dive sites I would agree, yet we had near perfect conditions with no surf or surge, clear skies and a mass of sandy bay that we hadn’t explored before in front of us with a max depth of about 7m at low tide, the only concern was the vis. As I had my camera, Elli was towing the DSMB, we donned our fins, looked at each other to make sure we were OK and headed off, as we started to go down it was clear the vis wasn’t going to be great yet we were pleasantly surprised as to how patchy the areas of bad vis were and it was 5-8m in most places, there were tracks of higher particulate in some areas that were easy to spot and either avoid or move quickly through and the channels in the sand created by the currents gave us advanced warning of where those areas were.
So we bimbled along, never more than 3m apart and as most of you know there wasn’t a huge amount of life, well there would have been but it was hiding in the shallow water or out with the tide and waiting for it to turn with the large amount of food it would bring back in. One thing I noticed was the number of Lesser Weaver fish there were, seeing them dart from our path and bury themselves again made me glad this was too deep for land lubbers to stand, and as always there was a huge amount of Hermit Crabs that are common all over the Cornish coastline,they are actually quite interesting to watch, and it was a shame that a lot of my pics didn’t come out as well because we came across 3 fighting over homes, one had already left its home and was in the process of pulling a larger Crab out of his, they look very strange out of their shells and if you have ever accidentally stood on a snail would get the idea.
We were bimbling around for ages, heading straight out from the beach and apart from the odd bit of Seagrass floating freely in the current there was nothing on that dive, have to say I was gutted and we started to head back in, we saw more and more Hermit Crabs but not much else which was gutting, but then all of a sudden, and literally 20m or so from the beach, we were surrounded by silver flashes, now the pics aren’t very good, but it was my first shoal to be properly surrounded by, and no it wasn’t as impressive as a Sardine run but it was still awesome as they went round and round us as if they were taunting us and thinking we were Seals. My head was darting side to side and I was spinning over to keep track of them (like you do) and with poor lighting (the sun had gone behind clouds) this was the best of the pics, and I’m glad I didn’t get whiplash.
So it was another dive down for Elli and while we didn’t see much life was worth it to cross the bay off the list of places to explore, something I have wanted to do for a long time and my Seagrass bed sightings are still limited to Swanpool down in Falmouth (and no Seahorses).
Finally got to dive the home of the elusive Fraggles at Fraggle Rock, just outside of Falmouth Harbour. Departure time was 4pm with Mark Milburn from Atlantic Scuba on the RHIB Stingray (starting to sound like a string of 80’s TV shows) from Mylor Harbour. We arrived at about 2 and found a sneaky place to park outside the car park for free, we would have had to pay £5 due to the time of arrival and the time the boat would have returned so Elli and I were both glad of that, we hung our wetsuits over the car (inside out) and settled down for lunch and a cuppa while we waited.
When everyone was ready we headed down to put our kit on the RHIB and then headed back to the car to get back into our slightly damp wetsuits. When we were all onboard and ready to go there was a shout from the harbour masters office about something in the water, Steve (one of the other divers on the boat) jumped in and swam over to where he was pointing, pics aren’t great as wet lens was still on with water drops trapped inside.
It turned out to be a young swift that had fallen into the water and become water logged, Steve took him up to the harbour masters office and left him on the enclosed balcony to dry off.
As far as we know it was fine and must have flown off after drying out in the sun, was a great bit of quick thinking by Steve and hopefully the little fella is now doing well back in the skies.
Then off we went, and after a few minutes I had my first sighting of Fraggle Rock lighthouse and when we pulled up to it was lucky to have caught the infamous Red Fraggle right there in the boat, she said she was visiting old memories from happier times.
On the way out it was discussed the route to take, and who was leading the dive, who had been there before, and of course we had the introduction to the safety gear onboard Stingray, a well kitted out RHIB. As everyone was dropping in I had time to adjust the settings on my camera, nothing worse than taking pics underwater on the wrong white balance (yes I know I should be doing custom WB by now) but then it was our turn to drop in, have to say I was nervous as this was my third boat dive and it was at a site I didn’t know but when I popped back up, gathered myself and signaled OK to the boat had to grab the boat so my camera could be passed to me, making sure to clip it on and holding it tight.
As I swam round the boat to find Elli and everyone else I was surprised to see the rock was covered in Shags or Cormorants, can never tell which through my mask, As Ellie was ready we signaled to go down and slowly we passed through the boundary that the air breathers rarely break. As we dropped it was clear the area was a massive kelp forest to the North and South and a sandy bottom off the the West into the Estuary mouth, I glanced at Elli and turned around to see a rock face in front of me, still not reaching the bottom and it looked an interesting site with all the gullies.
With being gullies there wasn’t as much natural light as I have found at other sites in the 8-14m range and my photos suffered from only having the internal flash on my Oly PEN, yes strobes are on my list of things I need, along with a new battery in my dive computer, power bands for my Aqualung Slingshots, new boots and so much more.
Elli and I followed the other divers and to be fair everyone was moving so fast it was hard to stop and take pics, but that wasn’t an issue as I would rather enjoy the dive this time, then next time I come back will be more snap happy.
We went down this gully to the left and I suddenly realised someone was tapping me on the shoulder, I had gone the wrong way (glad I could see the surface light here), so I turned around and we continued following the group, we went into a small swim through and down the entrance (which was more of a short cave opening up to a large overhang) but there was no sign of any Fraggles, they had moved out and allowed the cave to become flooded, everything was gone, no dozer constructions, no evidence of anything ever being there, and then I swam round a corner and saw a shiney white thing staring at me, I was in shock as I had found a Fraggle egg, I took it home and gave it to a good friend, she has it in an incubator in the hope it will hatch.
There was so much life around the gullies, many species of fish, crab and even a squat lobster that was hidden in a very thin crack in the rock face, Elli was doing her usual thing of sticking her head everywhere to have found it.
I didn’t get a great shot as it was too far in, the Blennie next to it was even harder to get a pic of.
It was a fun, but hard 40 minute dive, one gully had a strong current that went the wrong way, physicists can get their head round that one as I’m just glad we got in and out of it without any major issues.
Then I saw my first sponge, beautiful and so colourful, obviously my pic doesn’t do it justice.
When we surfaced we were about 10m or so from the RHIB and had the fun of getting back onboard, Mark had been a lot of fun on the trip and was attentive when we were getting back onboard, it was a shame the dive was over and we were on our way back but after growing up with the Fraggles of Fraggle Rock it was an experience to have visited their home.
We found out that at Mylor there are warm showers outside and Elli and I used the opportunity to rinse out kit off, Elli had other thoughts on her mind and wanted to see if she could re-create Mr Softy from the mint advert by filling her suit with water, couldn’t stop laughing, and did join in and fill mine a little as it was fun, and warm.
By the time we finished messing around, and rinsing the kit off, we headed back toward home, only to realise the sunset was amazing, so we headed to the North coast to a place called Pentire, at Newquay and we watched the final moments of the sun setting with a load of tourists and their cameras.
There are many good schools in Cornwall, and only a few charters for diving, I can’t recommend Mark at Atlantic Scuba enough though as his knowledge and genuine passion for Cornwall is second to none. If my fraggle egg hatches at my friends house, she knows it is going to be taken home to try and revive Fraggle Rock back to the glory it once was thanks to Jim Henson who managed to hide cameras in the cave and bring us their adventures.