Browsing articles in "Diving Log"
Apr 13, 2014

Secret Dive Spot 12/04/2014

Kurt and I were planning on doing an early morning dive tomorrow because the weather this weekend, along with the calm sea made for almost ideal conditions, I say almost because we are still plagued in the UK by a lot of particulate matter in the water column making vis extremely poor at less than 1m.

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Kurt had finished with family things earlier today than he thought he would and suggested we go for a dive today instead so after a mad panic getting all my gear together and setting up my camera we headed off to one of our secret dive spots that at most is 7-8m at high tide, but as I hadn’t been in since last August we decided it was best.

When we arrived just after high tide we kitted up faster than superman could fly, so excited about getting wet for the first time in ages and glad my semi-dry still fitted, the 7mm though not the 5mm I used in 2C at Vobster February last year.

Buddy check and we were off, almost running down the beach to get in. We already knew where we were going (and the way back) so as we indicated to each other we were ready to go down I couldn’t help but smile and must have looked like a Cheshire cat from behind my regs.

I was aware I was going to have a few issues with my buoyancy after such a long break and hitting the sand before I could clear my ears made me realise how out of practice I was. This wasn’t going to stop us though, and we had agreed to be in the water no longer than 30 mins so it gave me a good dive time but not too long even though we would only reach a max depth of 5-6m with the tide going out, meaning our air would last well over an hour.

Critters on the dive.

With the tide on the way out we knew there wouldn’t be as many critters as we usually see there and we were right, with a couple of nice surprises near the end of the dive. There were plenty of starfish, and some beautiful anemones like all the dive sites round Cornwall, so as to not let you down I took a few pics.

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After weaving in and out of the reef Kurt found a well hidden but beautiful anemone.

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Then there were lots of small green eggs, I believe they are from a worm that mainly lives on the South coast of the UK but I saw last year on a Seasearch dive on the North coast.

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The torch holder from Alex was worth its weight in gold, it made it so much easier to see under rocks with the camera ready to snap anything hidden there, as well as aiding the auto-focus as I hoped it would. It was just a shame we were on the wrong side of the tide with a slightly improved vis at around 2m and that I had forgotten the piece of plastic I was going to use to diffuse the light as can be seen with the large white spot in the photos. I do need a tray with handles next as my wrist was cramping up after about 10 minutes so will be calling on my friendly Nauticam dealer when I have finished sorting my new car out.

We found a branch that was about 9ft long and Kurt posed for the shot I am going to call ‘You shall not pass!’

You Shall Not Pass

After about 20 minutes weaving in and out of the reef in a South-Westerly direction we headed in an Easterly direction out across the sand to where we knew a rowing boat was anchored, on the way I saw the flash of 2 very small eyes staring at me, about a foot from my face and a small black cloud appeared and it sped off away from me; I suddenly became like a discover scuba diver and glanced over my shoulder to see Kurt and slowly started chasing what I knew to be a baby cuttlefish. I saw it burying itself into the sand and spread my fins to slow down as I was trying to find it on my small 3″ screen, wished I had a viewer on my camera at that point as I couldn’t find it and when I looked up could see it speeding off into the distance. As I was kicking myself in the backside (in my mind) for missing my favourite little critter I saw the unmistakeable lips and eyes of a Flounder staring at me.

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I waited patiently with my light shining on him for Kurt to see what I was pointing at when it lifted (as they do) and sped off so we couldn’t eat it, not that we would have, I did manage to just catch this though, one of my best photos taken so far I think.

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I’m not sure if it was, but back on the reef I saw what looked like Maerl, it isn’t a great shot but found it very strange being this far from known Maerl beds, there was quite a bit of it spread around the area that I hadn’t seen here last year.

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So back to the boat, Kurt was guiding us and keeping an eye on out on our heading after I had chased the cuttlefish like a child in a sweet shop and I could see he wanted us to head slightly North-East and just like a pro he hit us right on the anchor, I still think it was more luck as it was dragging with the tide.

Dragging Anchor

After a few minutes of some attempts at some arty shots with the boat and a model that couldn’t stop grinning ear to ear.

Rowing Boat

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We headed in North-Westerly direction and started to surface to find ourselves right back in the beach on the right hand side. Divers will know how I feel right now after not being in the water since August, and I hope the smile on my face and glint in my eyes will show my non-diver friends what they are missing. If all goes well I will be in the water in the next 3 or 4 days and I will need to start widening doorways to get my smile through 😉

Night Dive at the Silver Steps 03-08-2013

So last week Kernow divers organised a night dive, weather dependent of course, and 8 club members said they would go. It came to today (Saturday) and during the day for one reason or another 4 dropped out (and they missed a great dive) and so we were down to 4, Kurt had decided at 7pm that he was going to come and we had a nice little group. We met at the car park above Silver Steps on Pendennis point at 9.30 and chatted as we kitted up waiting for anyone else to join us.

The tide was going out, so we knew we would get a max depth of 6-7m if we were lucky and had to clamber over the rocks in the dark but sometimes with diving it isn’t the depth that is important but what you get to see and the company you are with. The vis was amazing for down this way, about 5m clearly with the decent torches and would probably have been a lot further in daylight, not a bad throw on them; basic outlines were clear at about 2-3m without any light.

I had decided to try my camera without the wide angle wet lens, mainly to see the difference of the casing of the lens casting a shadow over the subject and it not getting enough lighting.  I was quite pleased with the results but did find it harder to frame things and sometimes that meant they moved out of shot before I could snap them.

Plankton on the night dive.

There was a lot of plankton in the water and it was amazing to see all the little zoo-plankton darting about, can only imagine the life and death struggles and territory wars that they were having as we swam through them, I just hope I managed to break a few up and peace lasted for a brief time.

The main thing I noticed was the number of small crabs all over the kelp and seaweed, they were obviously up high to catch their food as it unsuspectingly drifted by but they were amazing little things, leech spider crabs I think I was told, and it didn’t matter where I looked they were there.

Leech Spider Crab out to feed on the night dive.

Leech spider crab just hanging in the breeze on the night dive.

So the plan was to leave the gully and swim to the left, toward some wreckage, look around the gullies and see what we could see, on the way out it was pretty calm but without the weight of the wet lens on my housing it was very buoyant and a couple of times during the dive it got caught around my neck as I was untangling weed from my legs. It was a bit freaky the first time, not because it strangled me, I actually didn’t notice that it was but I thought it had become disconnected and as I span around looking up to try and spot it it became tighter round my neck, then I noticed where it was and stopped, took a couple of deep breaths and unwrapped it, thinking to myself I won’t be doing that again but I did later.

Snakelock anemone and scorpion fish captured beautifully on the night dive.

I couldn’t help myself taking photos of more snakelock anemones, they are so pretty waving in the current, and if you gently touch one of the tentacles the others wrap themselves round your finger so fast, an amazing thing to see. I didn’t notice till I got home that this anemone had a small fish just next to it, a juvenile as I had seen a larger one at Little Fistral on the last night dive. If I had used the wide angle lens I would have probably zoomed further in and it would have been in shadow from the casing of the lens so wouldn’t have spotted it.

We got to the wreckage, not the boiler but something else they had headed for and I gave up trying to get shots of everyone as the light was too poor, definitely need some strobes soon, but we came across the resident John dory and he was so relaxed with us near him that he let me get fairly close to get these shots.

John Dory taken on the night dive.

john Dory full side view on the night dive.

I have a new found respect for these fish, when Kurt and I first saw one at Gyllyngvase a few weeks ago we thought it looked prehistoric but catching it at night shows just how beautiful they really are because the light reflects off their skin slightly iridescent, almost like you could see your reflection in it.

I did get many more photos of things but as always it is hard to choose what to put in, was great being with the guys though, everyone was spotting for each other and if they caught something interesting they would stay in position with their light on it, am pretty sure a few things managed to get into cover before we all got to see it.

On the way back I was paying close attention to my air, I was on 85 bar after my panic over my camera earlier and I was aware I am still using more air than I normally would with taking shots of as much as I can. The tide was on the turn and there was a little surge but then everyone just stopped and right below us was a shark like thing just lying there, probably hoping we hadn’t noticed it.

Bull huss Catshark taken at silver steps night dive.

The first photo was taken from about 2m away and I only had one torch lighting it from the side and the internal flash on the camera, it was so peaceful just lying there in the weed obviously waiting for something big enough to eat, and as I lowered myself slightly so I was hovering just above the seabed I took a few more photos of it, I will only post one more though as I know I have bored my friends on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ already.

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I had managed to move in so my camera was about a foot away and I had to zoom out to get this shot but it shows how awesome they are to look at, and I said Thanks and waved as I left it to forage for its dinner. As I was moving away I saw a crab dart under some weed, I was getting way too excited nearing the end of this night dive and as I was getting used to the zoom on the camera thought I would carefully pull the weed back to snap him as well, he had clearly been in a fight and lost his claws.

Poor crab lost its claws fighting.

Thinking we were in the original gully Ben signaled for us to surface but we found we had come up one too early, I looked at my air again and saw I was down to 50 bar so stayed on the surface and swam over the reef keeping the guys in view all the time. Another great experience and an awesome reason that a night dive in Cornwall can bring many surprises, so lucky to live here.

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.