Saturday by Ken
Saturday on the dive formally know as Salcombe...
Off to N50°20'56.67" W3°34'38.47" (aka Dartmouth harbour office steps...) we go, 105 of Dagenham's best horses dragging two sets of dive kit up hills almost at walking pace.
In Dartmouth various members of bsac42 leap out of a waterside breakfast place and point us the correct way.
The boat is blue and quite cosy, very much a squash and a squeeze.
Once all the kit has been shoehorned into place all the drivers are thrown off to make more room or maybe to park *on the other side of the river* we motor across to pick them up on the Kingswear side.
The first dive was a low reef off Tinsey Head, a bit north of Start Point and offering a good view of the lighthouse.
The bottom, about 15 to 18m, was a mixture of boring sand with the odd scallop and more interesting rock formations. These were like slate on edge, rising maybe a meter or so, with lots of long thing gullies to hide in. Hiding was further aided by the poor vis, maybe a couple of metres. There were plenty of crabs, mostly swimming ones but a couple of medium sized edible ones too. A few small fish were hanging about but mostly the game of not losing your buddy occupied the mind. It couldn't have been too bad though, we lasted about 40 minutes before starting back for the surface.
After some hours trying to figure out how to get the less liquid fraction of chicken soup out of a mug while motoring north back towards Dartmouth we jumped in for the second dive. This was on an underwater pinnacle lying between a couple of sets of rather pointy and upright rocks on the north side of the river mouth.
The bottom is in the twenty somethings, we saw 19, and the top about 10. This was rather like diving a wreck life wise, with the usual pouting and pollock appearing as silhouettes in the mixed vis, dead mens fingers and some great anemones. The vis varied from "ooops where has she gone?" to maybe 3m. Despite the rubbish vis this was a good dive, we managed nearly fifty minutes, and would be excellent dive in better conditions.
The grey but calm day had deteriorated to a grey an blowy day, so getting out was more of fairground ride than usual. Since we were close to home it didn't take long to get back in, get air, go to the pub etc...
Sunday by Jane
Arrived in Dartmouth Harbour at 8.00 am, and the place was already buzzing. A much more pleasant day, sun was shining and much of Dartmouth seemed to be taking the opportunity to get into their boats and yachts, the gig racing heats had started before we left the harbour, as a prelude to the following weekend’s Dartmouth Regatta.
First dive of the day was on an old collier the Bretagne which sank in 1918. The wreck is around 250ft (70m) in length and lies in about 30m of water, about 5 miles east of Torquay. The shot line was well sited on the wreck and Brett and I made an easy descent to the upper deck of the wreck. As with all the dives of the weekend, the visibility was poor, but might have been the best of the four, at about 3m for most of the time. The wreck actually looked like a ship, not just the usual hunks of strewn metal so often found. It was also very popular with fish, although I failed to see any congers, which several buddy pairs spotted, there were more fish mainly pouting and pollock on this wreck (albeit spotted through the gloom) than I’ve seen in UK waters – which explained the presence of anglers over the wreck and the odd bits of filament and angling weights caught up on the wreck. Swam between decks coming up beside a pulley encrusted on to the deck. Swam over the side and came across several edible crab in the crevices caused by the degradation of the wreck. Brett found a good sized lobster but couldn’t persuade it out of its hidey-hole. There were several types of anemone together with dead man’s fingers. Made our way back to the shot line, and used it to ascend, making the usual safety stop at 6m.
The second dive site was back towards Dartmouth at the Mewstone (there seems to be several of these – certainly one near Plymouth, and I guess is a name given to rocks offshore frequented by sea birds). The tedium of the journey was enlivened by lots of sea birds, particularly gannets diving/plummeting into the water and the wind was also beginning to pick up a bit so it was more bouncy. We anchored in the shelter of the Mewstone and soup was served (an interesting variation on pulse and smoked meat) lentil, I think, and smoked sausage.
The Mewstone was formed of a ridge of rock square to the land, which continued in a curve under water for some distance. The top of the ridge was some 11-8m deep and landward side descended to about 20 m, with the seaward down to at least 30m. The shot was on the landward side. Brett and I descended down the shot, tracking the ridge away from the Mewstone on the landward side. Briefly popping over to the seaward side, before tracking the top of the ridge back into the shelter of the Mewstone. There was not so much life here as there had been in the morning, but lots of small starfish and a few pieces of soft coral, together with several spider crab. Made a more rapid ascent than was desirable, and Brett followed shortly afterwards.
On the journey back to Dartmouthit was clear that the wind had continued to pick, but fortunately it was only a short journey back to Dartmouth. However, during the course of the journey the skipper checked the shipping forecast and informed us that the following day would be force 5-7, southerlies – and therefore with the wind blowing straight on to land, no sheltered spots along the coast for diving the next day.