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Posts Tagged ‘Oyster Diving’

Oyster Dive Club, Porthkerris 2012

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster

Attractive shore diving

At 490 57’ North the Lizard, Britain’s most southerly point, sticks a belligerent finger into the warm, nutrient rich waters of the gulf stream. The result is an explosion of marine life, from giant basking sharks to myriad coloured jewel anemones.

Porthkerris Divers run a very professional operation from a modern dive centre right on the coast. The shop is well stocked, air fills are turned around quickly and the standard of food from the beachside café is excellent: farm reared lamb burgers, local Cornish pasties and proper coffee.

The weekend kicked off with an early morning dive on the ‘Volnay’, a 4,000-ton merchant ship that struck a German mine in 1917. Volnay did not sink immediately but being denied entry to Falmouth (if she sank near the harbour entrance, it would effectively close the port), she dropped anchor just off Porthkerris Cove. That night a storm blew up, she started shipping water and sank. Thankfully no lives were lost.

The great thing about Volnay is that she can be dived at any tide. A shot was placed expertly between her boilers and Oyster divers made their way down the line to the wreck, some 21m below. For anyone who trained at Wraysbury, the vis was amazing: 8 – 10m and the water temperature a cool but refreshing 120C.

Working our way around boilers, covered with soft corals and headed aft across wooden decks, littered with artillery shells. Shoals of immature bib shimmied through the wreck. The deck was also home to a scallop bed. We watched in amazement, as seashells became weird animated castanets swimming ahead of us. Good dives always end too soon and with 60 Bar showing on our gauges we made a reluctant return to the surface.

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster

Sponges on the Volnay

Celtic Kitten is a very stable power cat, with a top speed of 22 knots. Easy to board from the beach – simply walk up the gangplank. Entry to the water is giant stride and a powerful lift gets you back onto the boat quickly and easily when your dive is done. Our second dive was to be a drift around the inner manacles. These are pinnacles of rock seemingly designed to terrorise local shipping. Depending on the tide, the current either runs north (incoming tide) or south (outgoing tide). Six Oyster divers entered the water and made our way down to 14m. Here the rocks are covered in a thick kelp forest. Their fronds were waving violently in the 5-6 knot current. We swam east, towards deeper water and the kelp gave way to rocks covered in anemones, urchins and sea fans. We came across our first shark of the weekend: a 1.2m small spotted catshark. The current was fierce around the rock pinnacles and the group of six divers did well to keep together during a very exciting drift dive.

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster, Rainbow Wrasse

Rainbow Wrasse

In total 26 dives were made during the weekend in visibility that ranged from a ‘good’ 5-6m to a ‘great’ 10-12m (apparently the locals though this was ‘poor’). Despite the Basking Sharks remaining elusive, we were treated to a fantastic variety of life. But the best dive was saved ‘till last. Wicked currents make it impossible to dive the ‘Vase’ in anything other than slack water. It is a single pinnacle of rock rising 40m from the seabed to within 4m of the surface. Its crown is topped with an unruly shock of kelp and the rock then descends in tiers – a bit like a wedding cake. The strong nutrient rich currents make it an ideal home for jewel anemones, which cover the rock. We made our way down to the 20m tier and were treated to an incredible display. Dappled mid-day light lit up amazing colours as rainbow wrasse skimmed around anemones of red, green, magenta and blue. The colours matched anything I have seen on tropical reefs and this was, quite simply, the best UK dive and possibly the best dive ever.

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster, The Vase

Jewel Anemones and Urchin

We were made very welcome by the friendly staff at Porthkerris Divers. Accommodation at the Trengilly Wartha Inn was extremely comfortable and the food good. They even opened up the kitchen to give us a hearty breakfast before we set off for our early morning dives.

In all, one of the best weekends of diving at the warmest place on mainland Britain. We will return!

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster

Common Starfish

PADI Diving, Porthkerris, Oyster Divers, UKDivemaster, Urchin, The Vase

Urchin on The Vase

Barfield Rescue

PADI Rescue Diver

Image: Just Add Water

It had been over ten years since I’d set foot in Barfield (a thriving private junior school near Farnham). I’d been an acquaintance of the previous Headmaster who left some years earlier due to some ‘financial irregularities’. The School had prospered since I had last seen it: new buildings, an Arts centre and what looked like an assault course on the playing fields. Read the rest of this entry »

Advanced Open Water

Preparing for our annual family trip to the South of France started early. Getting Ryan and Scott qualified as PADI Advanced Open Water divers was vital for us to get the most of our time at Collioure, a sleepy French fishing village on the Cote Vermeille.

So last weekend the boys donned their wetsuits in anger only to find that growth spurts matter: Scott got Ryan’s old suit and I’m left dipping in my pocket for a suit that is likely to last just one season. Read the rest of this entry »

Exams

There are 9 PADI Divemaster Theory exams

As my course started before July 1st, I am able to complete the ‘old style’ divemaster syllabus. This means that there are a total of nine theory exams to get through: Divemaster Conducted Programs, Supervising Certified Divers, Assisting with Student Training, Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Skills and Environment & Decompression Theory and the Recreational Dive Planner. Now anyone who has done PADI exams as part of their course (Open Water, Rescue Diver etc.) knows that the exams have a standard ‘PADI’ format and if you read the instruction manuals properly, you should have no problems. Read the rest of this entry »

First Divemaster

Oyster Diving, PADI Open Water Course

Mark Briefs the Open Water Course before their first dive

Wraysbury is convenient, has good conditions for Open Water training dives. But it is noisy.

Every 90 seconds an airliner loaded with passengers takes off from Heathrow. And this morning they were flying directly overhead. But that is the only complaint I have about an extremely good morning.

This was the first time I had acted as surface cover Divemaster, indeed the first time I’ve acted as Divemaster at all! (Although I had been a BSAC Dive Marshall once). Read the rest of this entry »

Oyster Diving

OK. I’ve chosen which organisation to ‘do’ the DM course with. And it was a close run thing. In the end proximity, professionalism and friendliness were the determining factors. Read the rest of this entry »

Choosing a dive training organisation

You will never know until you have signed up.

Yup, of course the really bad ones will be obvious. But frankly most competent dive operations are better than good: they are excellent. They have to be. Running a diving operation in the UK is an adventure in operational and financial management. Anyone who can make a success of training divers in cold soup (most UK dive environments outside of late July – September) is a star. There are very good reasons to learn (and dive ) in the UK. We have a wealth of wrecks, fantastic scenery and good facilities. But the James Egan Lane (Plymouth) on a weekend will never match the experience of the Thistlegorm (Red Sea). Read the rest of this entry »

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