Scilly Sailing and Diving

by Barny Darby

It had been a few years since the great 2014 trip in which we had managed to have a yacht and the Percy in the sound of Mull, diving the Hispania, Rondo etc. Then the yachties headed off North to dive the summer isles and the scapa flow. All the divers were keen to again explore some slightly tricky to reach sites. So with Verity, Gabi, Joy and Barny diving, joined by Pete (a yet-to-be-recruited member) and a few yachties to look after the above-water elements we set off to the South West.

We picked up a Bavaria 46 in Falmouth, and stocked it up with trollies worth of food, and dive kit bound for Land’s End and the Scilly Isles. First we planned a warm up dive on the Mohegan on the manacles wreck. This gets great write ups in all the books, but Verity’s log book provided a less enthusiastic review.  In the end Verity’s view won-out and while the sea fans were widspread there wasn’t much else to commend the wreck. Sadly (since we do most of our diving in Dorset) we found that in Cornwall there is a no-catch rule for divers on shellfish so there would be no seafood for our friends on the yacht on this trip.

above: kitting up for the Mohegan

After this we made a stop at St Michael’s mount for a land trip, and then sailed on to Scilly wanting to dive the King Cadwallon the next day. The Wreck Tour reported that slack here was at LW St Mary’s, and having bumped into a few other divers on the quay we didn’t expect to be alone on the site. It had been raining all day, but we still went over to try and dive at the appointed hour, but when we arrived the two local hardboats were picking up their divers not dropping them off!! Sadly it seems slack is at 1.5hrs before LW St Mary’s. So we scrapped that dive, and headed to an anchorage near Tresco (see photo below of the yacht – the one of the left) in the lovely location. Here we did a shallow dive and saw some amazing underwater gardens with great varieties of different seaweeds reaching 3-4 meters up from the seabed.

The next day we went to the wreck of the Cita, slightly the worse for wear after a brilliant camp fire the night before. We managed to get everyone in the water on time, and it was certainly the best wreck of the trip – a container ship which hit the island in 1997 at top speed as all the crew had fallen asleep with alarms switched off. It is said that the cargo of tobacco didn’t last long before it was salvaged by the residents. Now it is covered in anemones and extends from about 15m downwards to c.35m (although we stopped at 25m). highly recommended for future investigations.

photo: drying out after the Cita

Now the time came to head back from the Scilly’s to hand back the boat. So having stayed as long as possible to stand on very nearly every island, we had to make it all the way back in a day, but of course we wanted to get a dive in too. So for a rather tricky piece of dive management: we set off (sailing) from Scilly at 3:30am aiming to dive the longships reef (off lands end) at slack c.8:10am.  then sail on the east going tide from lands end to the lizard.

By 5:10am with the wind low we started to give up hope that we would make it on time, but by 5:30 it had picked up to a solid force 3 and veered northerly which gave us the better wind angle needed to make the necessary speed. by 6:30 we were expecting to be early! In the end it worked out almost perfectly, and while one pair bailed due to cold/lack of sleep Joy and I jumped in on slack and could quickly see why this is rated on of the best dives in the UK, even on the 4th rated part of the site (the best rated parts were facing the swell) there was life everywhere and brilliant viz. You could dive for days and still not have seen it all, one to return to when there is less swell.

photo: making the close approach to the longships lighthouse after we furled the sails

Thanks to all those for coming, especially those who had to stay on the boat while it rolled around near the dive site, and didn’t even get any seafood to make up for it.

Next time, maybe southern Ireland?