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.

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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.

Jul 15, 2015

Trenow Cove

Trenow Cove

Trenow Cove (a National Trust owned cove in Mount’s Bay) is a beautiful spot to explore near the tip of the SW UK near Marazion, Penzance; looking west from the beach you see St Michael’s Mount in the middle of the bay, I left home at 8.30am to avoid the traffic and arrive at the car park of the Dynasty restaurant for 10am to meet up with everyone else so we could make our way down to the cove in convoy. It was going to be an exciting adventure as it was one of those spots that aren’t talked about often in the diving world, and later in the day with our maximum depth at 6.4m can understand why.

When I arrived at the meeting place at the Dynasty restaurant I was surprised to be as early as I was, I thought being that early that the main roads would be busier even though I missed the 9-5er’s, I was glad to see Mat waiting before I got there which meant I wasn’t the eager beaver, and Mat knows all about them. I was wondering if the restaurant knew they were about to have about 10 or more vehicles turn up that early but it wasn’t the end of the world, and they got a mention here (not a link as I didn’t try their food though, next time), as 10am approached a few more people turned up.

We were all introducing ourselves with the people who were new to a Dive Against Debris dive and catching up with everyone that was when Rob decided it was time to make a move, and off we went through the narrowest of lanes and a quaint Cornish village with a few slightly older people tending the garden and hedges at the small church looking perplexed with a convoy of vehicles passing by; it might be worth getting magnetic Project Aware/Dive Against Debris signs made up for cars that turn up at events and sticking them on the bonnets, or something to put in the windows at the least to advertise what we are doing to the poor people who get inundated by our presence.

When we arrived at the top of the path to the cove we were lucky with so many of us to be able to park in the field above it, Rachel (Rob’s wife) was the little woodland elf holding the tree back as we drove in and we all quickly unloaded and waited at the top of the path to the beach for the dive briefing by Rob.

Dive Against Debris Briefing

Our youngest diver, Charlie, was enjoying a doughnut in the sun but this time she wasn’t diving with us, she would be surface swimming and helping with the beach clean, and enjoying the sunshine; did miss her home made cake this time, hopefully next time she will remember so we can all stuff our faces after the dive on the yumminess that she normally brings along.

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Off we went to kit up, I did make a rookie mistake and left my gloves ontop of my bag (so much for a thorough buddy check Rob 😉 ), luckily I hadn’t put my fins on but running back up the pebble covered beach with my kit on reminded me why I would shortly be glad to get in the water and become weightless. As we walked in through the small waves the vis issue was clear, well not clear vis, but clear it was going to be a struggle to see much, the amount of organic particulate matter made it look a bit like a sewer was flowing freely nearby, but there wasn’t and it was just broken up kelp/seaweed making the water really brown.

We knew we would have to swim out about 20m or so from the shore as there was a clear line the particulate matter cleared, we were still in for a shock though as we dropped down.

Wrasse

The vis was no more than about 5m, but most of the time it was 2-3m and during the dive it was easy with a couple of gentle fin kicks to lose Rob, who I was lucky enough to buddy with again, if it hadn’t been for the smb line and bubbles I might have had to surface more than twice during the 70 minute dive so it was lucky we were only at 6-7m, any deeper and it would have ruined the dive and the day.

I have been meditating a lot recently and my breathing has become a lot more controlled, ontop of that I started doing press ups and squats again, as well as a 1km jog in between 2 sets which hasn’t been easy but it has made me feel better and I look forward to the next few months as I build the number of reps I can do, as well as bring in other exercises to the routine. The confidence this gave me in controlling my breathing has been awesome, and while only a shallow dive I was over the moon as I watched my air go down a lot slower than the last dive.

Am not sure why there wasn’t much life around, the kelp beds should have been brimming but I did see a few wrasse, not sure which sub and they were too fast for me this time to capture with the camera, but no other species of fish, was it just unlucky or timing, I don’t know, however the beach was littered with cuttle bones and with the way the reef dropped away to a sandy bed about 35-40m from the shore it will definitely be a place to come back to when there are cuttles in the cove. There were a few spider crab and common spiny starfish, as well as plenty of snakelock anemones.

Spider Crab

Common Spiny Starfish

This clearly shows the amount of particulate matter in the water and how hard it was to spot things like this starfish within the 20-30m from the shoreline.

Snakelock Anemone

There were some areas the vis was clearer though, and on one part of the reef there was a whole colony of snakelocks covering it (just a small bit here) which made for some stunning shots as they gently swayed in the tidal stream.

Snakelock Anemone

So down to the rubbish, it was surprising that there wasn’t actually very much, and what there was seemed more like stuff from local residential waste than commercial, or from other places around the globe. I didn’t find any fishing lines or hooks, commercial fishing gear or anything like but only plastic bags partly buried in the sand or parts of floating in the water column, I am waiting to hear back from Rachel and Rob about what was collected overall, it wasn’t a lot even though there were 6 teams of divers in the water. Rob and I did manage to find a major brand baby wipes packet and a Frozen Turkey bag from a well known supermarket, the rest was just pieces of plastic bags as I said, it would seem Trenow cove was in just the right spot for the majority of debris to either get washed up straight onshore, or swept by the currents somewhere else in Penzance Bay.

Plastic Bag

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As you can see the vis wasn’t great but we did our best to find what we could.

The beach clean team managed to find a lot more stuff, ranging from the small pieces of buoy plastic to commercial fishing nets and lobster pots as you would expect so close to a major fishing port.

Toasting the Cove

As we were getting out we were informed that the National Trust wanted us to ‘Toast the Cove’, we obliged and it was refreshing after the dive.

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It was a fun day and dive, I enjoyed being Rob’s dive buddy again, even though that is Dave in the picture with him in front of St Michael’s Mount, it seems the others on the shore are scared to try using my camera.

We left Trenow Cove and headed to Cape Cornwall for a second dive, another beautiful spot and I made it there but some personal stuff came up and I had to leave before getting wet, am gutted as it was a stunning place that I don’t get the chance to visit often, next time folks, next time.

Cape Cornwall

Cape Cornwall

With the importance of our oceans, not only as habitats but also as a space we share on this small planet, the more people that can come to the events is important, even though we only cover a small area during the dive and on the shore, working together as divers and shore cover (beach cleaners) to remove as much as we can while we wait for global policy to change on the dumping of waste, working together we can make a difference, and after doing my Environmental Science degree over 10 years ago with the same warnings being given as now, with policy moving so slowly it is down to us to make the changes needed, not only in educating people as to the importance of the oceans, but also to the importance of not dropping our trash where we like. Sure the systems in place need changing, companies need to change what they use to package goods, councils need to recycle more of what we throw away instead of what the companies can make money off, but each small step we make will move things in the right direction.

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Jun 17, 2015

Port Mellon

Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers

Port Mellon was an interesting and exciting dive, exciting as it was my first dive this year and hence the lack of blog posts which I can only apologise for but personal life got in the way, and interesting as it was with Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers and Project AWARE through Kernow Divers. As always in Cornwall it was a beautiful spot, a small village South of Mevagissey with a fairly large shallow harbour at about 8-9m at high tide as you swim out. I didn’t get to explore the village and am sure it had more to it but an easy access car park, an easy access dive spot and a pub with decent ale and hot food is enough for me, next time will try the food but what they brought out for some of the guests looked worth a try. Can see it being busy later in the summer as it is within walking distance of Mevagissey and the narrow lanes through Meva are a nightmare out of season without tourists.

Port Mellon

While I was nervous being my first dive of the year it was great to have so many Kernow Divers club members there who I had dived with before, and being budded up with Rob of Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers was awesome as I am sure he is on the same wavelength as me about the environment and our role in it, I keep meaning to invite him out for a beer one evening. There was a lot of organising to do and when everyone got in the water and headed off on the left side of the harbour, I jumped in gingerly and set about sorting my camera out so it was one less thing to worry about as I went through setting my buoyancy and checking my regs and waiting for rob, it was only about 2m off the slipway but it felt great being back in the water and ready to go.

Rob

When I had finished faffing around I noticed that the area around the slipway was strangely clear of any debris, in fact in the first few minutes, unlike other dive spots, the only thing I saw man made was this strange brick with an engraving on it.

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Then as Rob, the girls and I were bimbling along, with no sign of any rubbish anywhere I saw my first fish and it was this big (                                                            ) honest.

First fish in months

I know it isn’t a very good shot (but it was my first fish in ages so while I am stoked about seeing it, you all have to suffer) and that there seems to be an issue with fogging in my wet lens, it hasn’t been touched in such a long time I am unsure if the seal is OK in it, but have found out in that time that while it was a cheap second hand lens, it isn’t serviceable as such, shame on Epoque and a good reason to look elsewhere when I get the chance to buy another.

As all you divers know each time we get in the water it is such a buzz, and a privilege to explore the environment we love so much, and I am still buzzing now, in fact the only thing stopping me diving again is having to wait to get my tank filled, but it was worth it. As we bimbled along the reef there were so many nooks to look in but for some reason the first 20 mins of the dive was barren of very much but Seaweed and other rock clingy life forms (yes that is now a technical term), and there was no rubbish, it was almost as if the mermaids had come in and picked the place clean before we got there, does Cornwall Council employ mermaids to litter pick at the dead of night??

Saying that, Rob did manage to find a submarine periscope, that is his story and he is sticking to it.

marine litter

As with any diver I just needed confidence in my kit and the skills I had learned, over the previous 6 months I had been practicing my breathing, mentally running through the various skills we learn as students and getting more nervous as each day had gone by and I hadn’t dived, yet nerves are a good thing, so is mentally practicing the skills we use as we get wet. I have meditated for years, breathing through my diaphragm instead of upper chest but didn’t think about putting the 2 together till I saw a video that explained the importance of breathing and conserving air while breathing, non divers won’t really get that, but I was expecting a 40-45 min dive max and was pleasantly surprised for Rob to tell me we had a 63 minute dive. If I had worn my 7mm beaver semi I would have been warmer at the end of the dive and wish I had, I still had 150 bar left when we encountered what I first thought was a plastic bag floating near the surface, so being the first piece of rubbish I saw, made a bee-line for it only to find it wasn’t a plastic bag but..

Barrel Jellyfish 1

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A Barrel Jellyfish (Rhizostoma pulmo), having seen them on other peoples photos, and being jealous that I hadn’t been diving that day, it was the first I had seen. It moved through the water with such grace, I am 6ft and it was about the top of my head to my knees long, it wasn’t scary though as I knew they didn’t really sting you like others, it was a privilege to finally see one close up, but that is then where my air consumption went out of the window, after swimming around it a couple of times to get as many shots as I could, like you do, I noticed in that few minutes I had used 40 bar, so back to the reef for a few minutes with Rob to keep looking for the elusive litter and then it would be time to head back.

As we were looking up one of the gullies, Rob pointed out a Dog Fish (Scyliorhinus canicula) laying peacefully on the bottom and I approached carefully to photograph it, but it still decided I was a threat and moved, I was careful to follow it at a distance, watching behind me to keep an eye on where Rob was and he was OK.

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If you look carefully at the photos you can see how there is no visible debris like a lot of other UK, and Cornish dive sites and it was great to see, but obviously the smaller particulate pieces of plastic and debris would still be diffused within the water column, the great thing about a lack of debris was that the rock clinging Kelp had not been disturbed and I saw this beautiful scene as I looked up on my exit from the gully with the dogfish.

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There was a lot of life around though, someone else in the group got a photo of a blennie, I also saw a wrasse (I think, we call most fish we can’t identify Wrasse here lol) that was huge

 Wrasse

and lots of smaller Jellyfish, fish and more, it is just one of those places you would have to explore yourself to see, especially with the few sea grass clumps we saw, it would make for an interesting exploration dive of the whole harbour area, especially out to the right of the harbour where there is a rock outcrop that looks to go a hundred or so metres out to sea.

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We all had an enjoyable dive but it was the biggest fail as a Dive Against debris goes, but a pleasant one at Port Mellon, Rachel said the litter was only about 1.7kg, a massive drop on what has been collected elsewhere. A look into the currents outside of the harbour would probably show that it is just in that sweet spot protected from currents with the headland further South, and why Mevagissey gets caught with more rubbish that extra half mile or so North as the circulatory currents sweep back inland.

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So for my first dive after a bit of a break I am grateful to Colin, Keith and Ollie of Kernow divers for your support and encouragement to just get back in, Charlie for her gorgeous brownies, and to Rob and Rachel for organising yet another beautiful and meaningful dive with Dive Against Debris UK Volunteers at Port Mellon, and The Rising Sun for such great beer for after.

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