A Trip to Plymouth

Pete Barnard

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A number of club members visited Plymouth 26th to 28th Aug, surprisingly to do some diving; the trip being organised by Richard Smart/Neil Tomlin. The other five divers being Fiona Tomlin, Martyn "Gadgets" O'Driscoll and the 3 Amigos: Neil "Radar" Brown ("I don't need a map to find the camp site"), Ian "Slim" Jennings and Pete "Pockets" Barnard. Non diving partners accompanied Richard and Gadget.

Accommodation involved camping at Brixton Caravan & Camping Park ˜ 5 miles from Queen Anne's Battery (QAB). The site can be described as adequate, cheap and convenient. The pub in the village of Brixton served excellent food and good beer, well worth a visit.

Diving consisted of 3 buddy pairs (Neil and Fiona alternating between diving and feeding Rachael), using a charter rib "Sound Diver", skippered by Ray out of QAB with the purpose of wreck diving. Air was supplied via the dive shop at QAB, Sound Diving, from whence the rib was chartered.


The drive down was uneventful, with Radar navigating the journey took slightly longer than if he'd had the map up the correct way. Slim provided the accommodation for the 3 Amigos, the Tomlin's made sure they got value for money by having the biggest tent, the Smarts cosyed up in the smallest, but top marks goes to Gadget - bikes, tables, chairs, cookers, kitchen sink.

Saturday saw a leisurely start with a 12.00 dive on the Elk then at 16.00 on the Sir James Egan Layne. Next morning 10.00, fresh as daisies for the long trek to the Persier followed by the Pulmic at 14.00. The final dive, on the Monday, was again leisurely at 12.00 to the Elk, after which it was back up the M5 home.

The Elk, see Dive Sept. 99 P.82, was a super dive ranging from 28 to 34m with the hull carpeted with Dead Man's Fingers, shoals of large Wrasse sheltering in the lee of the boat, a huge conger living in the chain hole and lots of crustaceans (an appropriate use for a former trawler). Much of the decking was missing to allow a meander through the skeleton of the support beams. The dive was made easy by some excellent shotline work by Ray the skipper, dropping the shotline right on the bow, 3ft starboard, port or forward and it would have missed.

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The Sir James Egan Layne, see Diver July 98 P.84, a liberty ship named after the ships engineer and sunk on her maiden voyage. She sits on the seabed at 22m and is not in the best of conditions being largely collapsed.

The Persier, see Dive Jan. 00 P.70, sunk in 1945 with the loss of 19 lives is very much a pile of debris scattered around the boilers and lies in 23 to 28m. This is a good dive for looking under/between the plates for small fish, crabs etc. A good torch and caution of the many fishing line/nets are recommended. The debris and ship cargo is spread over a wide area and is very popular; during the 40 min dive a flotilla of ribs had arrived. The main feature of this dive was the shoals of large fish, probably Wrasse, oblivious to us swimming amongst them.

The Pulmic, no ref. source, was of little interest, i.e. the 3 Amigos diving together lost it, the wreck being virtually assimilated into the seabed, with a few scattered plates and some shoals of fish. Hence a paddle around was the order of the day, the wreck being more of a

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scenic dive than a wreck dive. During the paddle around we happened across a medium sized Dog Fish who seemed unperturbed by two divers facing him but the third up behind saw him disappear.

The most memorable thing about the Monday dive on the Elk was bad manners from another diving party. 2 pairs of "foreign" divers descending on our shotline displaced Neil T and Pockets coming up the shotline and also Slim and Radar just starting their ascent. The foreigners were back up the shotline before Gadget and Richard and buggered off PDQ.

The main highlights of the weekend were:-

i) The 3 Amigos getting their own back on the Sunday night after the Tomlin's young'un keep them awake on the Saturday, i.e. fits of laughter after an SBD (Silent But Deadly)

ii) QAB. Good shower facilities; access to ribs including trolleys to carry the kit (it's worth taking a few land luvvers to push it); dive shop/air on site; jacket potatoes from the café on site to be recommended; the greasy spoon just outside the docks offers a 10 item breakfast for £2.99 (don't ask for the tea - it's powerful).

iii) Ray the skipper; found everything he looked for.

iv) The food and beer

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v) Non divers can wander around the Barbican, Sea Life Centre, etc.

There are pros and cons of using a chartered rib, the cons being more expensive; no boat handling or navigation skills development; restricted to charter sites. The pros being local knowledge; lots less hassle and hard work. But at the end of the trip it's fair to say that

Plymouth is Sound

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