Plymouth – a trip and a half

We arrived in Plymouth on Friday, eager to get in the water, so following a long journey we trundled our trollies along the pontoon at Queen Anne’s Battery to our awaiting boat. Our Skipper for the weekend was Richard King who greeted us with his custom brand of hospitality and dry wit. Our early evening dive was a chug out to the James Egan Layne, a 7000 tonne liberty ship which sank following a torpedo strike in March 1945. The dimming light made this an eerily beautiful dive. There were masses of Bib and Pollock which at times obliterated the view of the wreck. Lots of swim throughs and reasonable visibility created some happy divers.

It was late when we finally arrived back at Queen Annes Battery, so we opted for a few drinks at the Lockers Quay, close to the hotel whilst Steve challenged the long standing record for eating a monster mixed grill in Plymouth. (I think Graham’s was still bigger though).

Saturday morning dawned with blue sky and flat sea, and as Tim and Liz crawled out of the camper it was looking like a promising day. We then realised that somebody hadn’t reset their alarm clock to UK time and it was infact 6 am , not 7 am. Oh well, we had time to make bacon butties and have a leisurely bimble to the fill station. After ferrying the cylinders for filling and loading them on to the boat we set off in high spirits. Sun hats and suncream was the order of the day as we all slowly broiled in our drysuits. Dive one was the SS Persier, a Belgian Steamer which was also a victim of a torpedo attack in 1945. The skipper shotted it just off the huge boilers and with perfect slack water we glided along the pretty intact wreckage, spotting many conger eels and tompot blennies. The ghostly pollock and hoards of bib made this a great dive for everybody. With viz around 10m and water temps of 16/17 degrees it was about as good as it gets for diving in the UK.
Dive two was Hilsea point, a scenic dive comprising of several deep gulleys , some places down to 30m. There was stacks of life including 2 cuttlefish, congers, and happily lots of cray fish which are recolonising the area after being fished out in the 1970s. The Peppers even encountered a huge Angler fish that was happy to pose for a few snaps.

Back to shore for more trolly trundling and hauling the cylinders for filling earned us a few obligitary Gin and tonics outside Chandler’s bar overlooking the harbour, basking in the evening sunshine. Curry for dinner resulted in us having to remortgage our houses, but whilst extortionately expensive was quite tasty. 
Sunday was an early ropes off so we could dive Hands Deep. A beautiful wall dive approximately 12 miles off shore. A 1h 40 min chug out in a somewhat lumpy sea was too much for some of us and there were a few casualties jettisoning their curry over the side . The wall drops down to 55m in places and as it is constanly washed over by strong currents is covered with life. We descended in to a murky gloom on top of the reef, but soon found the drop off and the visibility quickly cleared. The wall is carpetted in anemones of all colours and a close up inspection is well worth it. Diving on air allowed us to find some depth and enjoy a bit of lesurely deco as we spotted cookoo wrasse and other critters . 
Dive two was a challenge, in worsening chop the rocking and rolling of the boat was taking it’s toll on the resolve of some of the team. Ben was almost ready to roll in when he decided his drysuit needed some added decoration, the poor lad joined Nigel , Sam and Andy in a salute to Hughie. Those able and willing did another dive on the James Egan Layne, which was reported to be the best dive of the weekend! Superb visibility and lots of life had everybody raving. As the Skipper made the tea, Liz took the helm and managed to avoid the headland and she even did some washing up!
Glad to be back on Terra firma we decided to treat outselves to a mexican meal complete with a few cocktails to round off a great day.
Monday was a different story. Goodbye blue sky and hello torrential rain! It was bucketting down and our enthusiasm was ebbing fast. Luckily the skipper’s was too and he made the call to scrap the diving due to a terrible case of ‘we all can’t be arsed’. We paddled and splashed our way to the local cafe to console ourselves with a big breakfast and a hot cup of tea instead.
It was a great trip and thanks to Claire Hallybone and Kenny for jumping aboard at the last minute, and to Andrew Pepper for organising. Also thanks to Queen Anne’s Battery for allowing us to park the camper there for three days 🙂

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