A fantastic long weekend at Hope Cove. Persier / Burgh Island / Louis Sheid.

Braced for bank holiday wetness, the nice weather gods arranged some sun for us and let up on the wind. It was almost too good to be true. Conditions were excellent. There was just bit of an offshore breeze on Sunday and Monday. Underwater visibility wasn't amazing, but generally a reasonable 3 to 5 metres.

Hope Cove was packed out with the Family Fun Weekend and people making the most of the good weather to try and brown themselves up a bit. There was live music, beer, and an assortment of animals being roasted.

Saturday

The first wave (Mir) dived the Persier. They were Terry and Simon, Geoff H and Susan H accompanied by Phil. Clint boat handled. Persier was located using transits and the profile from the transducer and shotted near the boilers. Off the boat and at the shot on the surface I refitted my flooded mask and we made our descent. There was very little current and vis was about four metres.

Terry led and we enjoyed a tour of this very scenic wreck; between the boilers, over engine bits, anchor, swimming through the propshaft and continuing towards the stern and the steering quadrant. There were bib (pouting - or whatever you want to call them) everywhere, the biggest amongst the steering gear. Some parts were covered with fish and at one point there was a layer of fish off into the distance. There were also large pollack, cuckoo and goldsinny wrasse. There were pink sea fans, dead man's fingers, and sea firs in the encrusting turf. There were orange sea urchins, spiny starfish, and Terry found a big edible crab - which before moving on he tucked up safely in some dark hidey hole.

Completing the tour Terry brought us back to the shot and we made a good steady ascent. Earlier we'd seen other dive boats arriving, and as we came up several pairs were on their way down. A bit busy it was, but no problem; then all of a sudden I was forced to leave the shot, as someone fell down to my position, clattering past me as they tried to sort themselves out.

The third wave (Hubble) to Burgh Island comprised Phil and Simon, Derek and Lucy, Brian and Hilary. Boathandling were Clint and Rachel Chappell.

We dropped in 100m or so off the south west side of the island and sent up the blob. We looked around and found a gully to follow. The gullies here are very nice indeed with varied and colourful plants and all kinds of encrusting life. There were lots of sponges, yellow boring sponge, tennis ball sponge, elephant''s ear, and others; sea squirts included very many of the baked bean variety, and a few small patches of star ascidians; anemones, there small white ones, and lots of snakelocks. In the crevices there were small red squat lobsters, velvet fiddler crabs, and beneath one overhang some very large prawns.

We went extremely slowly, and saw a great deal. Phil spotted a cuttlefish. We watched it for some time, and I was able to take some photographs. As I got a little closer, it swiftly darkened, became spiny and reared up its tentacles to say "I is a badass mollusc". Later it calmed down and turned white, pulsing with black as it watched a spider crab scuttle past - an incredible sight.

Saturday evening we gathered in Anne and Clint's enormous tent. Camping at Rew Farm was ok, the facilities (showers) were a bit stretched but it was the Holiday so not really surprising. What really was unfortunate was the rave that Saturday night a few fields away. It went on until 5:30 am, only stopping when someone threatened to drive over them with a tractor. Needless to say everyone was a bit disgruntled, short of sleep, and most likely on a short fuse; but in spite of this Sunday's diving went very well.

Sunday

After seeing off the first wave there was time for a snorkel, and I went over to Beacon Point to look for the boiler of the Empire Harry. Wearing a 3mm longjohn and a thermal rash vest it was very cold (and this was the end of August!), but I had gloves, and wore my hood so at least I didn't get "ice-cream head".

On the way over there were several compass jellyfish, some of these had small transparent fish swimming about them; also wrasse, shanny, sand eels, the usual sort of thing. There was quite a variety of weed, the red rags and ferny looking ones particularly striking. Mostly though I was swimming over kelp and I could see that it was starting to look a bit manky and chewed up. Arriving at the Point I soon found the boiler. I shouldn't have been surprised at how big it was, but it is quite big and stands upright 4m or so on the sea-bed. I took a few pictures round and about and headed back, keen to warm up a bit, and on the way found some spiny starfish.

The second wave (Mir) returned to the Persier, we were Paul Leyland and Debbie, Brian and Simon. Chris boathandled.

Brian and I went down (I took a while to get under- I had same weight as usual- so very likely a bit of excess air in my suit), and arrived near the steering quadrant to begin our swim round.  We found one of the gun mounts and Brian spotted a very large conger in one of boxy holes beneath it. The pictures I took revealed it to have swallowed a very large fishing hook, injuring it internally (its eye appears spotted with blood).  We swam over the forest of pink sea fans that cover the collapsed hull plates and swam through the propshaft from the stern end. After our zig-zag along the wreck we arrived at the boilers, and had a look round them before sending up the blob.  

We had bit of a get together around Chris and Debbie's abode, which was quite jolly, and Sunday night was nice and quiet and I actually got a good nights sleep; a few drinks, ramming the ear-plugs in as far as possible - just in case - and being fagged out all helped too.  

Monday

Derek suggested the Louis Sheid for a dive on Monday morning. It is accessible from shore and easy to find; there were some good dives on the last trip and I was eager to see it for myself. I went in with Geoff H, Abigail. Derek dived with Lucy and Pete.

We surface swam with snorkel out in front of the rocks until we spotted the mast, I aligned my compass with the shot buoy put out by a rib (just in case) and we dropped down and followed the mast out into slightly deeper water, and settled into a nice relaxed tour of the wreck, and surrounding reefy parts. We found the boilers, the criss-cross frame thing of the pictures, and various other bits of wreckage - mainly interesting as places for creatures to lurk, with pipes, holes and compartments.

I saw scorpion fish on some reef, which was very red in this habitat matching the surrounding weed. There was also pollack, ballan and corkwing wrasse, a leopard spotted goby, and many schools of bib around the wreck. Geoff spotted the cuttlefish and we had a go at making friends with it, doing our best hand-cuttlefish thing; but I think it just thought we were all really stupid. On the way back we saw a nice group of red mullet. Louis Sheid was a lovely mellow dive, with lots of interest and a great way to top off the weekend''s action!

A big thank you to Chris and Debbie for organising the weekend; also to Clint and Phil for towing, and all the boat handlers and helpers. It was a great trip with lots of great dives (I've only scratched the surface with my own perspective) and a great atmosphere! I'm back at work wishing I was still there.