Plymouth August 2020 aka the Arabian Slipper weekend!

This trip had been 3 years in the planning, the previous 2 having been cancelled due to adverse weather conditions, and I must say that I was loosing hope on this trip too, as I sat watching all weather channels known to man on the internet. Thankfully the only call I received was from Ben, on the Thursday confirming that we were staying at the Mountbatten centre and that the weather was set to improve as the weekend rolled on.

The diving numbers had also depleted as the years rolled on and we were down to 4, me, Chris, Mark and Thomas, however Sarah, Paul and Oliver were coming too for a weekend break so we still had good company for the weekend.

Mark & Thomas

Me & Chris

As we arrived early at In Deep it was great to catch up with Ben and some of the team, James, AJ and Hugo and to meet other new crew members, Seb, Nick and Rob. Ben was happy that we were early and we began to offload our kit onto Panther, once he brought the boat over to the jetty. Simon was the other diver for the day, from In Deep club, he had been on board with us on previous trips so was looking forward to the banter again.

Mountbatten Centre

Once kitted up we waived farewell to Paul, Sarah and Olly and headed out towards Whitsand bay but the sea was still rolling and there had been a land slip making the sea look like oxtail soup, needless to say we turned around and went to the east of the bay to dive Le Poulmic. Not a lot of wreckage left but plenty to see scattered over a large area with lots of gullies to explore. Part of the bow section is still visible, home to Pollack, Bib and a huge lobster. The surrounding reef is scattered with large white starfish and Bloody Henry star fish in purple and orange.

Le Poulmic bow section.

The sea was still rolling so Ben brought Panther inside the Breakwater during surface interval where we were served with hot drinks and allowed time to change cylinders. Thomas didn’t make the second dive due to mal de mare, but me, Chris and Mark had a good explore on Tinkers Shoal, aptly named as there are still treasures to be found for a keen eye. There was a lot of smashed up crockery from various boats and I found a shell casing, reliably informed it was a 20mm shell, but sadly no doubloons. A very pretty reef to swim around, lots of nooks and crannies for fish to dart in and out of and some larger shoals of fish cuckoo wrasse, ballan wrasse goldsinny, bib and pouting as well as the pretty coloured corals, snakelock anemone and sponges to admire.

Snake lock anemone.

At the end of the dive we headed back to the marina and off loaded the cylinders and headed into the centre to prepare for our evening out. However we were informed that there was no hot water on our floor but the management were doing everything they could. Boiling kettles and hair washing in cold water is not what we planned for but we are a hardy bunch and made the best of it. We boarded the ferry into the Barbican and Paul and Sarah told us of their day, which also included finding a chemist for some sea sickness tablets for Thomas. Everywhere was heaving and we ended up sitting in a chippy having our tea but it was very hot and very enjoyable. As we were all tired after the early morning start we were soon tucked up in bed, overlooking the marina, and looking forward to the next days diving.

The following morning was sunny and mild and the sea had calmed considerably and we were met with 2 other divers, James and Matt (RAF lads) joining us for the rest of the weekend and Ben also helped out some fellow divers, whose RHIB was punctures so we had another couple of guys with us, this made 8 on board but we still had room to spare as Panther usually takes 10 divers.

Panther

Our first dive was at Hillsea Point, a range of pinnacles and walls, home to lots of cuttlefish, crayfish, tompot blennies, sea fans, stag horn coral, sea squirts and scattered with jewel anemone, also home to some very large sea urchins.

A large cluster of lightbulb sea squirts.

 

Mark said it reminded him of Fast Castle in Scotland, Thomas thought it was brilliant and feeling much better today, if not a little wet up his arms!  The second dive was at Fairylands, a wall dive with loads of crevices to explore and search. Home to many crayfish and lots of spider crabs. Ben told us that some divers had found Ray nestled in the sand at the base of the wall but nobody reported seeing anything on their return. Thomas zip had given up the ghost but fortunately he had a spare to use so his weekend wasn’t ruined.

Chris’s fave photo, yellow stag horn sponge

Crayfish on Hillsea Point

Tompot blenny

Close up of a sea urchin.

Back at Mountbatten….still no hot water. Gypsy wash it was then! Paul and Sarah had managed to book us into the Mountbatten Hotel for tea so we managed a couple of beers to whet our appetite before tea. This is typically the time when the tales come out and this time it was Sarah’s turn to tell us of a meal at home, when she was a young child. Liver was being served and Sarah didn’t like it, she went to bed hungry that night, but the following day the liver presented itself again but she said it was all curled up at the edges, like an Arabian slipper. Hence the title of out trip and a good laugh all round. Another couple of drinks later (late start on Sunday) before we headed off to bed.

Day 3….still no hot water, but the breakfast’s were good. We headed out to the Scylla, an old favourite of ours but the water was still milky at 2 to 3 metre viz. Down the shot line we traversed to the stern the returned up the starboard side, soon after spying a cluster of red coral my camera failed but it was nice to see all of the encrustations on the wreck, lots of pretty corals and shoals of horse mackerel and pouting.

Red coral on the Scylla

It was clear to see that the wreck has been prey to some severe battering’s over the years and we were beginning to wonder what the James would look like? We had a different buddy pair with us today, a lady (Nat) and her friend from London. We recognised Nat due to her mop of maroon hair. She told us a tale of taking the grandkids to CBeebies land and of a little girl staring at her hair, Nat told us that she did a hair toss and told the little girl she had just finished a Trolls tour. We get to meet some very interesting characters on out trips, Thomas thought Nat was one of marge Simpsons sisters! Wrong colour Thomas.

Dive 2 was on the James Eagan Layne, a very famous liberty ship. Now extremely broken up but Mark and Thomas swum through a couple of holds and spotted the cooking pots and wagon wheels.

A view through some of the wreckage on the JEL

Wagon wheels on the JEL

Chris and I stayed on the port side of the wreck looking for Conger and was not disappointed.

Conger

Mark and Thomas came along side of us and spotted some well hidden under the wreckage, also an angler fish.

Angler fish.

As we were nearing the stern section the visibility was deteriorating and our dive time was running low so Chris and I returned to the surface to enjoy the Panther sound track and a hot cup of tea. No pasties this time so it’s a good job we came prepared with flapjack and brownies for all.

Back at shore we were informed that the boiler man had been, but sadly still no hot water, after a lot of discussion I told the centres staff that she would recognise me as I would be surrounded by my own swarm of flies, not a good look!  Another cold shower and off to the Clovelly for our last meal. Paul, Sarah and Oliver had been out on a harbour cruise and were all looking tanned. We chatted on about previous dive sites and trips and everybody said they had enjoyed the weekend. Off to be early as we had to be up early the next day to catch slack water at Hand Deeps, another set of walls and pinnacles to explore at your leisure and depth. Simon was back with us and another ex regiment Duncan, who dived with me and Chris.

The walls were carpeted with jewel anemones of red, orange, purple, green and yellows. They were all hanging wide open with their fronds out feeding, quite a spectacle to see, but sadly my camera was still not working.

Swathes of Jewel Anemone

Good enough reason to return next year to visit this magical site. Back on board Duncan was asking what me and Chris were talking about, well obviously we have our own Cissy and Ada signals and the more you dive with us the more you’ll understand! During surface interval we chatted some more with Simon and discovered a little about his life in retirement, good one Simon. However he called me over to tell me that the next time we are diving with In Deep he would like a heads up so he can join us again, he also asked if I know what the little squares of biscuit with chocolate and caramel are called, yes said I millionaire shortbread, good said Simon that’s what I like! Already in my log book Simon.

Our final dive was at the Eddystone lighthouse site. We were on the west side and as there was no current we simply bimble about until we run out of dive time. Lots to see, very tranquil and pretty with hard and soft corals, pink sea fans, fish of many size and variety.

Pink sea fans.

Fabulous dive trip. Mark enjoyed diving with Thomas and he has built up his dive portfolio and developed some new skills, looking forward to his next trip, as we all are Thomas. Many thanks to all for your company and to In Deep for their expertise.

Hope you all enjoy.

Janine.

All images courtesy of Janine, Mark and Christine.

 

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