Browsing articles from "September, 2015"
Sep 30, 2015

Seagrass Search Dive 1 31-08-2015

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.

Seagrass

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.

Hermit Crab

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.

Fish shoal

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).

Sep 16, 2015

Fraggle Rock 29-08-2015

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.

Bird Rescue

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.

Swift

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.

fraggle_rock_01

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.

Fraggle Rock Elli

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.

Fraggle_rock_wrasse_02

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.

fraggle_egg

fraggle_rock_swim_through

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.

fraggle_rock_squat_lobster

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.

fraggle_rock_blenny

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.

spider_crab_08

fraggle_rock_wrasse

Then I saw my first sponge, beautiful and so colourful, obviously my pic doesn’t do it justice.

fraggle_rock_sponge

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.

elli_inflating_wetsuit

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.

Cornwall_sunset_01

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.

 

Sep 12, 2015

Castle Beach Falmouth 29-08-2015

First dive back in Cornwall for Elli was at Castle beach, Falmouth, this was after her long and tedious journey from London by train to St Austell where I met her on Friday night. We both crashed early on Friday and got up at silly o’clock for breakfast and to head down to Falmouth to sort out kit hire from Seaways at an amazing price for complete kit for the weekend, the kit was in excellent condition as well and Elli was so excited with the weekend diving ahead that the passion was burning in her eyes.

Elli at Castle Beach, Falmouth

It was unfortunate that the tides were out of sync with the day, highs at about 6am and pm so as you can see it was shallow at about 11.30am when we were kitting up, but sometimes the depth of the dive isn’t important, in fact in my opinion it never is, I was happy as long as Elli was happy back in the water, the last diving she had done a few months ago was in the Maldives and I was stuck here in Cornwall, no I’m not jealous Elli honest :p

It would have been good to find the U-boat again but it wasn’t important, it was a shakedown dive for Elli in her hire kit before the dive later that day which will be in the next blog post. We made our way down to the waters edge, having to avoid the tourists who pointed and told their kids we were mad scuba divers, a sad way to introduce something new to a child, but hey ho. Was a nice elderly gent who was a diver with his wife and he couldn’t believe UK waters had so much life (at high tide), oh the warm water divers have so much to learn.

Saying that though, it was low tide and I wasn’t expecting to see that much, as most divers and brainy marine biologist types know the critters follow the food, and the food follows the tides (in a simplistic way).

Castle Beach, Falmouth

After we had kitted up and done our buddy check we made our way down the easy access to the beach and down over the rocks of the first reef from the beach, then I had a play with above and below shots while waiting for Elli as we swam out over the second reef, vis didn’t look great and we had already agreed if it was too bad that we would spend a few minutes on the bottom so she could check her buoyancy and write off the dive, but what is above is not always the same down below and I’m gutted I didn’t take more shots, but making sure Elli was OK was more important on this dive.

Castle Beach Falmouth

I knew we were going to be lucky to get 5-6m at this time of day and as Elli and I looked at each other and signaled to go down I knew it was still going to be fun.

Scuba Diver

The vis wasn’t too bad considering the un-settled weather we have had again this year, about 3m or so and we carried on the dive, Falmouth is a great place to dive with so many sites near to the shops to get air-fills, it is just shallow unless you go out on the boats. As I was concentrating on Elli and making sure she was OK I didn’t get many pics, but we did have fun chasing a Hermit Crab around for a while, and we saw plenty of smaller fish, such as a young flounder about 3 inches long, a lot of smaller shoals of fish I don’t know as well as a shoal of sand eels.

hermit_crab_03

Hermit Crab

Our bottom time was about 45 minutes and I had started with about 240 bar, finished with just over 170, the whole yoga/meditation breathing of 2 seconds in and 5 seconds out from the diaphragm while diving makes so much more sense than diving with more air just to keep the bottom time up, but I am definitely not the one to talk to about how to do it, I may have meditated for years on and off but have only started putting the principle into practice this year while diving and have no where near enough dives to be confident with it myself yet; there are plenty of yoga tutorials online and many experienced divers who have the technique down to a fine art that have also put something on the internet about it.

Elli was beaming when we came out, it was a great dive to get back in the water for her, and she had kit she wasn’t used to but controlled her buoyancy and breathing like a pro.

We had a cuppa while sorting our kit out by the car and headed back to Seaways for air as our next dive left the dock at 4pm and we didn’t want to be late, even though it was about 1 when we left Castle beach.