Browsing articles from "July, 2013"
Jul 30, 2013

U-Boat Wreck Dive off Castle Beach 27-07-2013

Today was great at 6.30am, a little cloudy but bright, Kurt picked me up at 7.30am and off we went with one dive location in mind and one goal to obtain, our first U-boat wreck dive; might not be the best in the world to go looking for, but isn’t the worst. UB 128 just off Castle beach at Falmouth it was, and after reading Mark Milburn’s Guide to a few wrecks and dives around Falmouth Kurt was confident we would find it.

Castle Beach, Falmouth

We arrived to find the street almost empty, well worth an early dive time. Kitting up by the car Kurt got chatting about how interesting it was reading about UB-128 on the net and how much info there was, I had a look later and found that it only did 2 tours, sank a 1 7,400 tonne ship in that time and was captained by one Wilhelm Canaris, as well as where it was made, that it was a type III and a few other things on uboat.net. It also showed that there are 5 or 6 U-boat wrecks in the bay and around Pendennis so we now have a mission to find them all.

As I was swimming away from the shore I saw Kurt going off to the side, when I asked him why he wasn’t 90 degrees to the shore he said he was to the marks in the location guide; I took the pic above and then swam over to join him so we were going in the same direction. After a minute or so as I was looking down to see the sea bed I saw the cleared area we had been told to watch out for and then the unmistakeable shape of  part of the hull came into view, I glanced over to Kurt and shouted I was right on top of it as he was about 10m away from me and excited at finding our first wreck we signaled to go down and slowly let the air out of our BC’s.

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I had brought my camera along, and Kurt his gopro as you will see shortly with his short edited video. It was so intriguing to look at the different parts of what was left of the pressure hull, kind of like a rib cage lain out on the sea bed. The amount of life that had decided it was going to be home was amazing, there was a huge wrasse inside that was too difficult to photograph and many smaller fish, shrimp, bryazoa, hydroids and many more. Below are a few pictures I took, I will return to get clearer shots of the overall hull at a slightly later date.

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It was an amazing dive, we both had 15l tanks and as it had been hot lately I was wearing my 5/4 Excel wetsuit again, yes a wetsuit here in UK waters twice in one summer. We were both examining things around the wreck, Kurt saw the window affect of the structure and the last shot is amazing I think, looks a bit like my fish tank (without the fish in this case).

OK so then we were just pottering about as you do, looking into the holes, taking pics of fish and the like, when all of a sudden I saw a very tiny but familiar shape speed past me to my left, I followed it with my gaze and suddenly stopped dead, it was a tiny cuttlefish, not very old yet it had full control over its chromatophores and one instant it was almost impossible to see as it was the same colour of the sand, then a black line waved from the back to the front and back and suddenly it was gone again. I turned to face curt and raised 2 fingers in horns and wiggled the others like the tentacles of the cuttlefish and Kurt nodded, I pointed to where it was last and we both slowly moved nearer, me with my arms outstretched with the camera to try and get a shot. That was when it just went black and suddenly appeared in front of us, I managed to get 3 shots but it moved so fast that the camera had problems focusing on it, the background looks crisp though and this was the best shot I feel I got of it.

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As it was my first cuttlefish in 2 years I was over the moon that our first U-boat wreck dive had been such a success, finding it and seeing so many awesome things, I can’t wait till we find all the others.

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Saw this strange anemone, was a few of them around buried in the sand near the wreck as well as snakelocks and an even stranger red one.

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We had some fun with the gopro for a bit and took some other photos of interesting things, I managed to catch this rare specimen.

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Yet it managed to wrestle the camera out of my hands and when I hunted it down and got home found it had taken this.

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Kurt had a lot of footage from the gopro and while we were playing around Kurt suddenly tapped my shoulder pointing at a clump of seaweed, at first I couldn’t see what he was pointing at but then it came into view.

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Quietly staying still I managed to get a couple of nice shots close up

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He decided we couldn’t see him, or that we weren’t a threat and came out of his hiding place, so Kurt and I followed, carefully trying not to spook him too much and it was a good 5 minutes so can imagine how many photos I have of this beautiful Red Gurnard, a few more are below.

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We had been in the water for about 45 minutes now and had hit 8m or so, I was starting to get a little chilly in my arms, obviously from the wetsuit as it kept flushing but I saw these 2 little goby and they were performing a dance around the same piece of seaweed and up the slope so I stopped a moment and they were oblivious to me as I gently rested my camera on the top of the slope to catch them and got this cool photo.

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With that shot in hand I signaled to Kurt I was getting too cold so we gently made our way to the surface and on the surface swim back to the beach we couldn’t stop talking about the Gurnard, but we weren’t sure what it was at the time. It was another awesome dive and with our teas poured it was time to de-kit, it was then that Kurt noticed his knife was missing and we spent a bit of time hunting for it but couldn’t so if anyone finds a folding blade dive knife, black and silver between the shore and around UB-128 can they send me a message and one of us will come and collect it.

Here is the video that Kurt made of our latest dive, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

The great guides by Mark Milburn gave us our first successful wreck dive, and after we had our burger at Iguana Grill just round the corner from the beach we headed home.

Jul 22, 2013

Kernow Divers Scuba Diving Club Day 14-07-2013

In the middle of this sweltering hot July, Keith from Kernow Divers came up with the idea of running a scuba diving club day BBQ, as well as clearing a few skills for some members Rescue courses. Swanpool was chosen for ease of parking, great beach, cafe and the bay having an abundance of life.

Swanpool Beach

Jason brought the Trout along and quite a few club members turned up (too many to list), some with their partners and it was an interesting start to the day.

Dive Boat, The Trout

Kernow Divers Diving in Cornwall

Yet I should really start at the beginning, we had arranged to meet at 10am as I was going to be the unconscious diver for the Rescue course skills and it was planned to get it done early and out of the way so we could enjoy the day. As it had been a hot night, about 30C in my bedroom with the windows open and fan on I hadn’t slept very well and woke late, starting a morning at home of calamity on top of calamity. I finally got going at about 10.30 and was praying to Poseidon for clear traffic, which it was apart from one holiday maker with their caravan who insisted driving at 40mph on 60mph roads with no other traffic around but no where to overtake thanks to the bends and junctions in the road. Then all the traffic lights around Truro were against me, last time Poseidon gets any prayers of mine as the god of the sea and my faith is now going to the great spaghetti monster.

Rescue Course Skills

When I got there at about 11.20 there was already a couple in the water and Keith was running through some of the skills with the guys doing the Rescue course and with the number of people there I wasn’t actually needed in the end anyway so I donned my gear to join other divers and ended up following Keith and the others around on the surface taking some pics, was a great sight seeing a female duck and her brood enjoying a paddle around the bay but when they headed for the beach to get out there was too many people moving in to see and she turned them around and took them out on the rocks. I did manage to get reasonably close to get the one sneaky photo.

Happy Duck and her Ducklings

It was really nice floating around on the surface and snapping things, should have just put my mask and snorkel on and had some fun but me being me didn’t think that way, was worth it for the practice with the camera though, as you can see from my duck pic that I haven’t got the arms outstretched and level technique sorted, even in millpond conditions.

Rescueing an unconscoius diver practice

Keith demonstrating recovering an unconscious diver from the bottom, what isn’t seen in this photo are the DM’s and Instructors that were with him helping the Rescue divers go through all this in the water. Everyone that was on the course successfully completed all the skills, only a couple of people had to repeat a skill, with everyone working together and Keith’s clear instruction they understood their mistakes and at mid day Keith called time for lunch, great timing as always because I am sure the quiver across the surface of the bay was everyone’s stomachs. We also now have 8 Rescue divers in the club to go with the 8 DM’s and 8 Instructors.

Scuba Diving Club Day continued…

After lunch some of the club members went off on the Trout to a reef that was a little further to swim than anyone wanted to in the heat, leaving 4 of us to dive around the bay and we decided for a change that we would go straight out to the Eel Grass beds and we were lucky as Clare Marshall, one of our resident Marine Biologists was with us.

Clare, one of our resident Marine Biologists at Kernow Divers

With the bay only getting to about 7 or 8m at high tide, it is a very shallow dive site but there are plenty of things to see if you go left or right along the rocky reefs; yet not knowing about the Eel Grass would make you miss the whole little ecosystem that exists in the middle out across the sand. It was good diving with Paul as he knew where the bed was and it wasn’t long before we found it.

Unidentified Seaweed amongst the Eel Grass Bed

Small clumps of Eel Grass, as can be seen in the pic above top right were in front of us as far as the eye could see and with a good 10-12m vis at least, as we moved forward it was clear this spread over a vast area. We only got to a max depth of around 3.2m as the tide was on its way out and the water temperature was a beautiful 16C, part of the reason I was only wearing my 5/4 Excel wetsuit that I normally wear surfing.

Scuba Diver Paul Freeman Examining the Eel Grass off Swanpool Beach

We spotted a strange crab that Paul hadn’t seen before and as Clare and Mat had gone to the left and we had gone to the middle we couldn’t ask her what it was.

Unknown Crab amongst the Eel Grass

The pieces sticking up were part of its mouth and not something it had added like other crabs for camouflage, I was amazed at how many Bi-Valves were in the sand which I think were Ensis ensis (Razor clam) or something similair, literally everywhere and as we swam over they closed up and buried themselves slightly deeper. The reason I liked them so much was the way they reminded me of the Sarlacc pit in Return of the Jedi and I could just see little things getting caught under the jaws.

Bi Valve

Bi Valve

Paul and I were having a great time and to be honest I was examining the beds and often forgot to take a photo of what I had seen, it was a bit worrying to see so many Echiichthys vipera (Lesser Weever) fish though that would suddenly come shooting out of the sand and swim off a few metres and re-bury themselves, I managed to capture one shot of a rather large one but they were very quick.

Lesser Weaver Fish at Swanpool Beach

The look on Paul’s face was priceless when we spotted a couple of happy crabs.

Scuba Diving with Paul Freeman

Yet trying not to disturb them I moved in for a shot, the male seemed to think I was there to take his place and he danced around the bed trying to hide his prize female from me.

Mating Crabs amongst the Eel Grass Bed at Swanppol Beach

It was such a fun dive that I wasn’t paying much attention to the battery on my camera, Paul came over to me and tapped me on the shoulder pointing at something that looked a little strange to me (no not my reflection in a mirror) and as I moved in closer could see it was some slug like creature, I went to take a shot and my screen was black so i started to panic thinking I had a flood and killed my camera but it was bone dry. Paul wrote on his  board that it was a Sea Hare, I was gutted as I hadn’t seen one before. We carried on looking around for a few more minutes and I just couldn’t get back into it, I looked at my air and still had 120 bar left, this was 45 minutes into the dive so I signaled Paul a T and made the gesture of drinking, his first response was to tell me his air, I shook my head and made it clear we should have a break for a tea as we had plenty of air left for another dive, he still had 140 bar.

After a break and a great cuppa from the cafe it was decided to go look for a lobster or 2, we had a rough idea where one was and it wasn’t any deeper than 2m around the reef. What started out being a 20 min dive turned into another 42 min one and I still had 60 bar left when I came out. It was amazing around the kelp bed to the right of the beach, plenty of life and we did find the lobster but he didn’t want to come out of his cave. I hadn’t taken my camera as I hadn’t changed the battery, with no fresh water till i got home I wasn’t going to open it up.

It must have been around 18.30-19.00 when Paul and I were sorting our kit out in the car park and everyone else had left, it was a great scuba diving club day even though we didn’t break out the BBQ’s and if anyone in Cornwall wants to dive more regularly I can highly recommend Kernow Divers because for £10 membership, free shore dives and only a donation toward fuel for the club boat you couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people from all walks of life to dive with.

Oceanic Shadow Mask Review

It is a very personal thing to find a mask that you are comfortable with and with dive shops having a limited stock of a few ranges can be a journey in itself trying out all the manufacturers, for me it is the Oceanic Shadow Mask in black. I had tried a few of the Cressi masks and just didn’t get on with the hard silicon skirt, this has put me off trying other makes to be honest. My instructor had a Hollis M1 mask and when he let me try it on I was really surprised at how comfortable it was and as I couldn’t afford it went for the next best thing and am so glad I did.

Oceanic Shadow Mask and Box

The mask comes with a plastic protective box like most others and a built in neoprene strap which makes the fit even more comfortable, and I never get the funny marks around my face that some divers seem to suffer from as they have their mask too tight or have not adjusted it from not wearing a hood when on holiday to having to wear a hood here in the UK. The frame-less skirt means it weighs very little and there are no distracting parts to looking ahead unlike many other masks that have a coloured piece clipped in to hold the glass in place and to look pretty that distracts my focus for a moment when looking closely at things, well it did for me when I was wearing them and while only milli-seconds it was more obvious when I was looking ahead and then glancing at my dive computer and my focal distance changing.

The black skirt makes the view ahead more defined as well, no light leakage at any depth, or on the surface to flare over my ability to see. The positive pressure I feel as the mask is squeezed gently against my face is great, obviously it increases with depth, but only slightly and since I adjusted it the first time I wore it with a 7mm hood, I have never had to adjust the thing again. Showing in my opinion that the choice of strap fabric and design of plastic clips is just right to keep it set up exactly as you want it.

I have purposefully flooded the mask, the only times it has filled with water, to keep my skills up with what we were taught back in the day of being a newbie diver. When I tilted my head back and pressed gently against the top it has cleared extremely easily and very quickly. A few times I have not shaved for a couple of days or more truthfully for a month or so and have a full face beard, I call it my winter coat which makes all my friends chuckle, and it still has not leaked once.

You may say I am bias and rightly so, this is the second best piece of kit I have ever bought (will go into the first best when I have a little time in its own review) and the quality in the build and reasonable price I paid for it of £37.50 made it a great investment, the RRP is £45 and in my opinion if you need to buy a new mask the Oceanic Shadow Mask is worth every penny.

 

“I have purposefully flooded the mask, the only times it has filled with water”

Pros:-

Soft silicone skirt makes for a comfortable and well held fit.

Very light and nothing to distract focus due to frame-less skirt.

Strap is built in with Neoprene band making the fit extremely comfortable and re-assuring it is going to stay in place, even hood-less.

Well defined forward view with no light leakage from the sides.

Great price at £45 in a very competitive market.

 

Cons:-

Other than it never leaks because of the great fit, making practicing skills difficult as I have to purposefully flood it for any water ingress I haven’t experienced any.

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