Exercise PORTHKERRIS PADDLE
By late October, most diving clubs in the UK are in the pub reminiscing about what they’ve been up to throughout the year, with the odd tall tale of daring feats and talk of ever more ambitious plans for the next year. The RAF Waddington/Digby/Scampton Sub-Aqua Club however decided to squeeze in a final trip to Porthkerris, Cornwall before the weather started to make coastal diving ever more difficult.
On arrival at the diving centre on Friday evening, we met up with the other contingent from Boscombe Down who were with us for the weekend. The first event on Saturday morning was a shakedown dive, checking kit and practising drills. Diving commenced straight from the steps of the diving centre, with a fairly simple route around the rocks and gullies and through the kelp, back round to the beach. Porthkerris has an abundance of marine life from lobster to octopus and anemones to corals. Standards of navigation varied with some pairs surfacing within a couple of metres of the beach and others having to use somewhat frowned upon ‘pop up navigation’ technique to get themselves heading in the correct direction. With correct weighting and minor kit issues sorted, the afternoon’s dive followed a similar vein for another poke about between the kelp.
The momentous launch of the club’s new boat was achieved on Sunday. After a great deal of time and money, it was very satisfying to see the boat on the water. Her first trip took the exped’s members to the wreck of the Volnay, a 4609 ton steamship that was sunk in 1914 and now sits in about 20 metres in the bay of Porthallow. The culmination of this dive represented another momentous occasion – the completion of Rick’s BSAC Advanced Diver qualification after several years training towards it.
By Monday, the Boscombe Down bunch had departed, leaving only 4 of us at the centre and some windy weather. We managed to get out to the Volnay again in the morning where we all dived the other half of the wreck, finding the odd WW1 artefact, including lead shot from the shells she was carrying. By the afternoon, we needed a site that was sheltered from the strengthening wind. Rik had some scant details of a wreck, nestled amongst some rocks, called the Andola – a 3 masted sailing ship that sunk striking Shark’s Fin Rock in 1895. The location we had was imprecise and despite Daz and Rick carrying out a lengthy search of the seabed, we didn’t find the Andola. Rik and I noted that darkness was starting to fall so elected not to continue the search with a second dive, but instead to return to Porthkerris and dived to carry out some work to strengthen the mooring buoy.
Tuesday’s diving was carried out in vicinity of the stunning Raglan Reef followed by a drift dive near the Manacles; a group of rocks that has proven catastrophic to many ships in bad weather over the years. During the latter dive, Rik and I stumbled across some unidentified wreckage, amongst which we were lucky enough to find some china. The hallmark indicates that it was made in Staffordshire in the late 1800s. Hopefully a bit of investigative work might help to identify the wreck.
The weather wasn’t as kind to us later in the week and we couldn’t launch the boat from Porthkerris so we towed the boat round to the sheltered harbour of Falmouth. On the Wednesday, we looked to dive the wreck of the Stanwood but, again with an imprecise location, we saw only the seabed of the harbour’s shipping lane. Diving was out of the question on Thursday but we carried out some boat handling practice around the harbour to tighten up our skills under Rik’s instruction so the day was far from wasted.
The week provided an excellent opportunity to get in some late season diving and as always, the selection of wrecks and impressive range of marine life proved how diverse and rewarding UK diving is. The week was, however hard work throughout. The daily routine of swimming out to get the boat, loading all of the kit that is required for UK diving, sitting in the cold and wind and getting the kit and boat squared away at the end of the day meant that the actual diving was a welcome break; the relatively remote location and self sufficient nature of the Exped meant that that the daily routine of feeding and administering ourselves kept the 4 of us busy and sleeping well.
Although coastal diving is pretty much finished for the year, plans are already underway for next year. Early in the 2012 we plan to qualify personnel in administering oxygen and boat handling in the club boat. We’re also looking to run an Ocean Diver course to qualify personnel with no prior experience over 2 weekends.
In terms of diving, we’re looking at trips to Flamborough Head, the Farne Islands, Anglesey and Ascension Island, with a number of more local single day expeds dotted about. Over the winter months we offer training at local inland sites. The club is open to all Waddington, Digby and Scampton based personnel; divers from any training organisation are welcome. If you’ve never dived before, come along and have a go in the pool with no obligation to join. Every first and third Thursday of the month we’re in the pool at Waddington from 1900 and we do theory training in the back of the Raven’s Club at 1900 on other Thursdays. For dates of events, up to date information or contact details check the RAF Waddington MOSS page (Stn Clubs > Sub-Aqua Club) or search for ‘RAF Waddington Sub-Aqua Club’ on Facebook.