May 10, 2013

St Agnes Diving with Seasearch

Seasearch diving St Agnes VMCA

As always I was running a little late and managed to park in the free car park at St Agnes without running over anyone’s kit, it was great to finally meet some more of the Seasearch divers and they all seemed like a fun bunch. The dive briefing held by Angie at the shoreline was brief but well explained and we were guided to where our surface swim would take us to drop on the old harbour wall. The other groups had already gone when Andy (my buddy) and I got our briefing and into the water, we had already discussed that at 100 bar we would be turning around to come back to the wall to surface, and so started our surface swim and I was really excited with the number of things I was about to see.

It was a beautiful evening slowly swimming out to the point, the sky was clear and the sea was as flat as a pancake, building the anticipation as we neared the end of our 6-8 min swim. I had to laugh because I was keeping an eye on Andy yet when I looked over my shoulder to see the point, I kept drifting toward him and had to adjust my direction but we reached the drop in, looked at each other, signaled and slowly started to descend.

I wish I had taken my camera, but had been advised on my first 2 Seasearch dives not to as there was a lot of information to write down and sketching the map would get hectic, I was glad I had taken the advice on-board as it was hectic; as soon as we dropped onto the top of the old wall I could see I was in for an interesting dive where I was going to learn a lot.

The Kelp Forest ontop of the wall was a little misleading, it looked barren underneath, but looking toward the bottom of the wall where the Kelp was sprawled as far as the eye could see there were so many things all over the rocks, it was like my fist time into an underwater paradise. All this was hidden beneath the waves at St Agnes where most people that visited the beach would never even know it was there.

Andy was pointing things out to me as we swam along the wall; from the 5 species of Sponge, the Double Spiral Worm colonies crammed into the nooks in the wall, an Edible crab the width of my shoulders, which waved at me to warn me to stay away with a claw the size of my hand, and I was taking the time to look at the inhabitants of this small area of the dive and it was fascinating. We carried on further along the wall, Andy was snapping away with his camera  and it opened up past the Kelp bed to an area of gravelly sand with many species of Seaweed, empty Shells and plenty of Common Spiny Starfish which all looked like they had a weight issue from the plentiful food around them. I also spotted something bright green from a distance attached to a piece of seaweed on a lone rock in the sand, Andy took a photo of it for me and we later found it is was the eggs to a Green Leaf Worm which are found more abundantly on the South Coast.

We generally swam in a North-Westerly direction from our descent and after a good 25 minutes we changed to a South-Westerly direction heading back toward the bottom of the cliffs over the Kelp Forest. I was gently moving the Kelp to the side so I could see what was beneath and the number of Spider Crabs was amazing, I later found out they breed in a cave near by and would have most probably been making their way to it as the tide was coming in, I was seeing the different sponges, Bryozoan and more and was glad of the in-depth day spent learning about species identification and classification at the Headquarters of Seasearch Cornwall a few weeks before.

The closer we got to the cliffs, the shallower it got and we found ourselves coming up from 9m to 5m and as the tide was on the way in the surge was starting to build. We made our way back along the South-Easterly heading toward the old harbour wall and while Andy kept snapping away I was trying to draw the cross section of the dive we had done so far. It was too tempting to put the slate away and keep looking for things under the Kelp, especially as I was starting to see the mixed species that were growing off it.

It was one of the best 50 minute dives I have done to date, there were a few Pollock and Wrasse along the way but it was the smaller stuff, that to most would look more like many species of plant that fascinated me. We got back to the wall and started to surface from about 4m and as we made our way with the surface swim back to the beach I couldn’t stop smiling. Andy had been an awesome buddy to dive with, yes he had his head stuck in all the nooks and crannies to photograph things but he always kept looking around to check I was OK.

At the beach we were asked our air out, and our greatest depth, which we were then told we won as we had the deepest dive but it appeared there wasn’t a prize, not even a doughnut. Cat was really interested in hearing how the dive went as we walked back to the carpark and was starting to fill my head of names of things I was trying to describe but it was all a bit of a blur. After we had a tea, and sorted our kit out we headed to the Driftwood Spars, a really nice little pub with a large back room that we were able to huddle around the tables to check the books for the species we had seen and to fill out the Seasearch forms.

I will return to St Agnes with a couple of friends to dive the area again and will take my camera along, and my friend will bring his GoPro so it will be a more exciting read with some photos to show off what makes St Agnes VMCA (Voluntary Marine Conservation Area) such an important site for the North Coast of Cornwall.

ScubaFest 2013

The weekend is well underway at Scubafest 2013, many of the divers will be out right now enjoying the calm seas the South Coast of Cornwall has to offer. Yesterday while the divers were out setting up the stands were getting ready and they had Scuba Steve pointing the way.

Scubafest 2013 Scuba Steve pointing the way

The local dive club, Kernow Divers were out in force with Atlantic Scuba in their stand at the top of the field, the place to go if anyone needed to book a boat dive and well sheltered next to the fence from the gusty wind.  It was also a great spot as the view over the bay was astounding, eventually when the sun popped out and the rain stopped with a perfectly inviting flat sea for divers to get wet thinking about.

Scubafest 2013 Atlantic Scuba and Kernow Divers Stand

Scubafest 2013 Suunto tent

Suunto have the best stand, their yurt had so many comfortable places to sit it was more like a divers heaven after sitting in wet gear on a hard seat on a boat half the day. The most popular stand was Fourth Element because they had free hot chocolate and a couple of great reps who were smiling all day dealing with the longest queues.

Scubafest 2013 Fourth Element Stand

Scuabfest 2013 Fourth Element hot chocolate stand

When I was helping it was a bit empty as all the divers were out enjoying what Cornwall has to offer under the sea, as the day went on the sea stayed calm and then the rain cleared up so the sun could pop its head out and with the divers all coming back with big grins on their faces it is another year of success for the team hosting the event. Was a shame I didn’t get time to pop down Saturday night, but I did get a dive in for the Scubafest weekend with Kernow divers on our club boat ‘The Trout’. I hope all that attended had a great time and were able to see plenty of marine life and didn’t party too hard into the night.

Pendennis Silver Steps 21-04-2013

Scuba diving at Pendennis Silver Steps.

After a 25 minute drive from my home, and accidentally driving up to the castle, I found myself waiting in the small free car park at Pendennis Silver Steps for Zoe Russell who was going to be my dive buddy on this trip. We had both been running a little late as we were going to meet up at 10am. I thought I was late at 10.15, yet Zoe arrived a few minutes after me with her usual big grin on her face.  After the excited to dive greeting and reasons why we were late we started kitting up and talked about the dive, our hopes of finding some scallops for our dinner and my new camera and housing on its second trip out; so apologies for off focus or framing, as I use it more and learn the techniques I have been told they will improve. The lighting isn’t great but at present as I don’t have any strobes, so am stuck with the internal flash and macro lights on the housing when I remember to turn them on.

After our buddy check we walked down to the shore chatting about her new quail that kept waking her at 5am and her missing snake and got ourselves into the water by clambering over the rocks as it was low tide. The great thing about going at that time was we dropped straight onto mixed seaweed beds and sandy floor without having to deal with the usual surges a rocky entry would have at a higher tide.

Pendennis Silver Steps low tide drop in.

As this was my first dive after the day with the Seasearch team I was torn between just enjoying the dive and trying to take some shots with my camera, yet I was looking around and noticing so many different species that I wouldn’t have paid much attention to before. Straight away Zoe found a Lobster hiding under the rocky outcrops and it made me wonder what else would be hiding there so I started looking but wasn’t brave enough to get my head stuck in as far as Zoe did, which turned out to be a good thing when she found an Edible Crab the size of a dinner plate.



The great thing about diving at Pendennis Silver steps is that there are some old U-boat wrecks, they are hard to find as one of them only has the boiler left and the other is further toward the point. We didn’t go for either wreck this time because we had the taste of Scallops tickling our taste buds, as well as finding things to photograph.


This was the only live Scallop we saw on the dive, plenty of empty shells and half shells with things living in them, like this hermit crab.


The area is known as a Merl bed, and we saw plenty of that scattered around, I also found something I couldn’t identify and could only think wood louse when I saw it, but have since been informed it as a Chiton and I saw my first Sea Slug, well its mouth parts sticking out of the sand catching Zoo-plankton in the gentle current. Zoe had a big smile on her face as she gently dug into the bed near it and we watched as it pulled its beautiful tree like mouth parts into its hiding place.



As on most dives we saw a variety of coloured Common Spiny Starfish that seemed a little busy eating something that hadn’t been fast enough and one just hanging on the kelp looking like it was about to jump.




It turned out to be a beautiful dive and I was so amazed that I was noticing things thanks to the Seasearch tutors, we didn’t get any Scallops for our dinner but I was so refreshed afterwards that I wanted to go back in for more. If anyone ever comes to Cornwall diving, or lives here, then I would recommend Pendennis Silver Steps as a dive site for  ease of access at low tide, free parking and abundance of sea life. There is a cafe just round the corner and down some steps, another entry point if you wished and they do mean chips and a nice cuppa, with seating for an after dive chat and filling out the log book.