Penzance, July 2003

Poor cod swim around some sort of winch
I booked the Dive Sights boat to go diving in West Cornwall. The skipper's wife runs a B&B in Rosudgeon, so we stayed there. At £600, the boat was quite a bit cheaper than some others, so I decided to just book 10 of us on it to give us room with our twinsets and all the assorted other junk that accompanies most UKRS dives. As seems to be happening quite a lot this year, 3 people pulled out at the last minute. Still it left more room for the rest of us.

The boat launches out of Penzance. We drove along the pier almost to the steps, so loading up wasn't too bad. It didn't help that it was absolutely pouring with rain. There's a big car park by the pier, and we were able to park there all day for £2.60. It made a nice change not to be ripped off Weymouth-style.

The boat is called Siteseeker and is a 38 foot Interceptor. It is fitted with a tail lift, so no need to struggle up a ladder. With 7 of us, there was loads of room. 10 would have been OK. I think 12 twinsets would have been pushing it. Plus a couple of us had brought stage bottles along too. The first dive was to be the wreck of the Heidrun, though it was previously thought to be the wreck of the Ibis. For more details, there's a Divernet article on the wreck.

Apart from the rain, conditions were good. There was a slight swell, which you expect in this part of the world, but winds were light. The wreck is permanently buoyed and it took less than an hour to get out there. Getting ready, we had loads of space because only 5 of us got in the water. Both of the rebreather divers gave the dive a miss for different reasons.

Shark! OK, it's a dogfish, but it's a member of the shark family
Descending down the line, it was obvious that the viz was excellent. I estimated that it was around 15m. The shotline takes you down to the boilers, then there is a lot of wreckage scattered around. It's quite flat, with lots of ribs flat on the sand. The long prop shaft is visible and the prop is still on the end. It has four blades, one sticking up vertically, two flat with the sea bed and one completely buried. There was a fair aount of fish life with some large bib and plenty of cuckoo wrasse. Our maximum depth was 33.3m and we left the bottom at 32 minutes giving us a fair amount of deco. We only had 26% nitrox because we weren't sure what the first dive was going to be. So the total dive time was 63 minutes. Water temperature was 15°C.

The second dive was Low Lee Reef. The local BSAC club had laid a nature trail around it, though it proved to be broken in a couple of places and we soon went off it. There was a small wreck at the bottom which was the SS Primrose which sank in 1906. We soon came off the wreck and swam around the rocks. There was plenty of life with lots of ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse, rock cooks and spider crabs. The shallower rocks had kelp on them, but were covered in dead man's fingers deeper. It was a enjoyable little bimble and we were down for 49 minutes at a max depth of 20.8m.

The next morning we were to dive the Hellopes. This was a 2774 ton steamship which sank on the way to be scrapped in 1911. This time we had the right mix. I had 30% in my tanks and also took along a stage of 80% because I wanted to use it up. I don't believe in throwing away gas I've paid for. The weather forecast had been a little worse, but the sea was even flatter than the previous day, and it wasn't raining.

Sea cucumber on a yellow sponge
The viz was good again, probably about 12m. Going down the permanent shotline, we came to a large section with a hatch in the top. I had a good peer inside the hole and then headed towards the stern section. The remains of the prop were still there, and there was a nice big hole to have a long inside. The wreck appears to be quite twisted. The stern was almost upside down, but the area near the shotline was lying on the port side. After the stern, we zigzagged our way towards the bows. There were lots of sea fans covering the plates plus a few wrasse and bib. After 33 minutes at a maximum depth of 34.7m, it was time to go up and we hadn't made it to the bows. Again our dive time was just over an hour mainly because we cleared a dive computer running on bottom mix. I did about 20 minutes extra stops. Nothing like being safe, is there?

For lunch we holed up in Lamorna Cove and the sun came out.. The second dive was on a reef called Stanock. The top was in about 15m and most of the dive was spent at around 20m, though we got down to 24m at one point. There was the usual selection of wrasse, dog fish, urchins and sponges. The viz was around the 6m mark and our dive time was 47 minutes.

I had been thinking about staying down on Monday. There were spaces on the Pamela P, another boat also fitted with a lift, but the weather forecast was force 6/7 and the wind had started to pick up a little. So I drove home. It had been one of the better diving weekends of the year and I think we'll be back in 2004.