Just over 3 hrs from Penzance, off the Cornish coast by Ferry, lay the Isles of Scilly, a hidden gem of UK Diving, with lots of surprises, colour and amazing wrecks.
10 intrepid divers from BSAC 42 spent a week here diving under the watchful eye of skipper Dave McBride of Dive Scilly.
The pace of life in the Isles of Scilly is somewhat different from the mainland and we all soon learned to adapt. On arrival unlike other locations, where cars cause the traffic jams as you leave harbour, it was an abundance of people walking down the middle of the main high street to their chosen accommodation and for some a rush to the only supermarket on the island, to stock up on supplies.
The Isles of Scilly is so different from what we are all used to; some places only taking cash, the fish and chip shop only open from 5pm to 7pm and only one cash machine on the island. That said it was a pleasant surprise to fall into a slower pace of life.
Our dives started each day from the harbour quay of Huge Town on the Isle of St Marys. Here our boat Tiburon and our skipper for the week Dave, were ready and waiting for us each morning.
Our first dive was the wreck of the SS Charlotte, she hit the rocks at the mouth of Porth Hellick in thick fog in 1917, all crew survived. This was an interesting first dive and gave us an insight as to what to expect for our weeks diving. Nice clear waters and the opportunity to explore the wreck.
Our second dive was at much shallower depth, but this was because we were on the look out for the natives of the Isles, the local seals. They did not disappoint; smiley faces were had by both seals and divers alike. It was like a game of hide and seek, one minute your thought the seals had gone into the kelp, to then find they were behind you chewing on your fins. Everyone as they left the water had beaming smiles of excitement and stories to tell.
Today was a day of diving 2 very different wrecks, the Brinkburn and the HMS Colossus.
The Brinkburn like many of the wrecks in the Scilles hit rocks and sunk to a depth of about 30 metres. Many of the wrecks in the scillies are a wash with colour with sea anemones. Colours ranging from deep purples to orange to light pinks. The odd fish was seen, mainly pollock.
The second dive of the day was the HMS Colossus, this was a much older ship and was shipwrecked in 1798.
This was a 74-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. Now a scheduled, protected wreck, that has been surveyed & accurately mapped to produce a derailed plan & a trail to follow. The are Cannons and muskets, ships timbers & metalwork, all to be seen in situ on this dive.
Plan or not, not all of us saw all of the detail of this wreck, but we did see 4 crabs.
After the day of diving Victor went on the hunt for the famous apple strudel, but no luck, Monday it was closed so another day he would have to wait.
Our evening socialising was a meal at the Bishop and Wolf pub, this did not disappoint, as they had a full menu of pizzas, so unlike in Malta, Fiona had a wider choice than the standard Mushroom.
During the evening we found out that the next days diving was to be cancelled due to incoming inclement weather, although an initial sigh was had, this soon turned to excitement of being able to properly rehydrate at the local. Clive developed some great mountaineering skills that evening to get back to his chosen seat at the pub. And Victor revealed his porn star name would be Scrambled Eggs Homemyster. Something he seemed to be proud of!
Rather than be beaten by the weather, we chose to use it to our advantage. Deepti took her Sports Diver written exam and passed with flying colours. Phil went on a bike ride around the island, but with only 9 miles to travel, found it too easy and headed to have local teas shop for Ginger scone cream teas. Victor went for a swim in the freezing cold waters, as Teresa said, “he’s turned in to superman since he started living in Huddersfield”.
Whilst others had a gentle walk around the island, finding the grave of Sir Harold Wilson and visiting the barracks, where a brisk wind came howling across the Atlantic Ocean
There was also unconfirmed reports that the shelves in the local Co Op were now full again with food. Victor found the Strudel coffee shop open and indulged in Strudel and Ice cream, when they ran out it was chocolate brownie and ice cream for Fiona.
Excitement was building that evening as it was confirmed the diving was back on for day 4.
Our first dive of the day was Trinity reef. Here we again saw an abundance of colour and even after the previous days dive visibility was surprisingly good.
Our next dive was the wheel wreck although no one really did seem to find it, right Clive. “What were those funny looking rocks?”
This is the remains of a shipwreck lying in the Crow sound off Little Ganinick. The wreck site consists of a discrete mound of cargo that appears to consist of numerous size iron wheel, clogs clack valves and boiler pipes. Probably mining supplies. But nobody knows for sure.
Finally, the highlight to end the day was another encounter with the seals. They were out in full force again, Teresa seemed to be able to have the knack of almost hypnotising them. Almost like a sketch from Little Britain, “look into my eyes, look into my eyes”.
They really are like playful, inquisitive, nosy, puppies, the size of sheep!
We reluctantly said our farewell to the seals. Even as divers headed back to the boat seals heads were bobbing upon LG feet behind them.
Our evening excursion was to visit one of the smaller islands on the Scillies, St Agnes and to visit the only pub on the Island. This I believe is where Maggie managed to find the ever-lasting bottle of wine, it was only when Clive pointed out that actually no wine was coming out, as it was a screw-top.
On the return leg of the journey on a small boat, a group of travellers were having almost a mini karaoke session, singing their lungs out as they got soaked by the waves crashing against the boat.
A beautiful sunny day and very calm seas today.
2 dives were planned, with 2 wrecks included, unusually with both on the first dive!
With the wrecks of both the Plympton and the Hatho . This is a classic Scillies wreck and possibly unique worldwide as it features 2 wrecks piled one on top of the other. The first sank in 1909 when she ran aground of the Lethegus reef. 11 years later in exactly the same spot the Hathor wrecked here after her tow broke some miles offshore in poor visibility. On this dive Deepti saw a very large crayfish along with numerous artefacts of the wreck.
The second dive the Inner Gilstone a variety of many rocks off the island with an abundance of sea life .
This evening was fish and chips on the Porthcressa beach and an evening slide show with the skipper of our boat Dave. This was a fascinating evening as it showed us the many colours, we had seen on our dives but with some really close up video film and photos
Sadly, our last day of diving. And Pat nearly missed the boat this morning and had to board as we were pulling away via a long ladder from the harbour wall. His kit was on the boat, he had been on the boat, but his Buddy (who shall remain nameless) forgot to mention that he had nipped to the conveniences …. But he was spotted & joined us with a beautiful postcard blue sky, flat sea and with very little wind.
Our first dive of the day was the MV Cita Wreck , a more modern day wreck as on the morning of the 26th March 1997 the ship struck rocks just off of St Marys Island. Spilling almost half it haul of around 200 containers. For the locals on the island it was like Christmas had come early, containers full of car tyres , golf bags , Ben Sherman shirts, baby clothes and Irish lucky charms.
This was an interesting dive as much of the wreck is still intact and even over a short time, many sea creatures have made it their home.
Our final dive was Winglelange Ledges, an array of rocks and reefs with amazing fields of colour by the carpet of sea anemones. So many and so many different layers of colour, it was incredible. Victor managed to spot a beautiful nudibranch ( or slug as they are also known) so was in his element.
As we headed back to the harbour, we all had smiles on our faces having had a great week of diving.
A group photo was taken and it was then I spotted my dry suit made me look like a smurf with black shorts on.