Recently Alan, Joe, Shaun, and I (Jack) returned from a week’s diving at Porthkerris in Cornwall. For me, this was a trip of Firsts. My first trip with Ipswich idive, my first experience of UK diving (apart from Gildenburgh – which doesn’t count), and my first time driving a RIB.
In the run up to this trip I was feeling pretty nervous. Although I have a reasonable amount of diving experience (logged around 80 dives), I was really not sure what to expect. (Google “UK diving” and you can see some stunning photos or read some real horror stories) but I was determined to experience it for myself. Some of my worries were: Am I a good enough diver to cope with UK conditions? Will my incompetence hold back the other divers? Will I do one dive and find out I hate it? Will it be too cold? Will being a vegan be really annoying for everyone else?
Early Saturday morning Shaun and I started the long journey south. We arrived at the Portkerris mid-afternoon. Joe had picked a great location! The accommodation was large and spacious and just a short walk down to the beach. There was a dive shop and air compressor on site, so it really had everything we needed.
On the afternoon that we arrived the weather was absolutely lovely, and the sea looked beautifully clear and still. When Joe and Alan arrived, towing the boat, and saw these conditions they agreed that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up and decided to get the holiday started with a shore dive. We unloaded our gear and carried it down onto the beach. I was feeling pretty apprehensive at this point but got kitted up and waded into the water with Alan as my buddy. With a bit of hand holding from Alan (both figuratively and literally) we got down to approximately 16m. Once I was down, all my worries dissipated, and I remembered why I loved to scuba dive. I was absolutely blown away by the scenery. It wasn’t the murky green I was expecting but lovely and clear (7m of visibility) and full of life! I particularly enjoyed floating though the kelp.
Unfortunately, the next day the weather was not quite as idyllic. The wind had picked up in the morning and we started a rather bumpy (but thankfully short) journey to the dive site. Although I was not having fun above water, under the water we had two great dives. First was a wreck named Volnay at about 21m. The second dive was on Vase rock where there were sheets and sheets of jewel anemones in so many different colours that I had no idea existed on the UK’s shores. It was so beautiful, just a shame about the lingering sea sickness! This was my first-time riding on a RIB (apart from the Zodiacs on the red sea) and one thing that was apparent was that I really need to get fitter, Joe and Alan really put me to shame. Kitting me up on the boat and getting me back onto the boat was, embarrassingly, a real team effort and I was absolutely exhausted by the end of the day.
Day three, the weather had improved, and we rode out to the first dive site Pen-win (a vertical wall on the Manacles reef.) Unfortunately, this was not a great day for me. I rolled into the water and when I tried to descend, I felt very panicked and just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. Eventually Joe called the boat back over and we re-boarded. I felt quite embarrassed, but everyone else was very understanding and explained that at some point all of them have had to abandon dives as well. I think I was just tired from the day before so sat out on the second dive too.
The next day the weather was nice a sunny and Alan suggested that we did some simpler dives closer to the shore to get my confidence back up. I really appreciated that, and we had two great dives that day. After this, I really felt like I got into my stride. I felt comfortable on the boat and in the water. Kitting up and boarding the boat was getting easier and faster. Joe and Alan showed me how to drive the boat and let me have a motor around which was really good fun (my sense of direction needs work though!). On the penultimate day I had a slight equipment malfunction and one of the weight pockets fell out during a dive (at about 10m). I feel quite proud that this didn’t phase me at all, I managed to scoop them up before I started to float and felt more than happy to continue the dive holding them by myside. I think this shows how much my diving confidence grew during this week.
On the last day we dived at vase rock again. I have been fortunate enough to dive at some of the most famous dive sites around the world, but I can honestly say that this is up there as one of the most beautiful dives I have been on. There were so many coloured jewel anemones and loads of life! Alan took some photos, but honestly it doesn’t do it justice.
To anyone else in the club who is in my shoes and a bit nervous about UK diving, I cannot encourage you enough to give it ago. The guys were so patient and supportive that I felt very much in safe hands the entire time, and I’m glad I had them to guide me though this experience. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to them all. Thank you to Shaun for driving and for helping me get all my gear on before every dive. Thank you, Joe, for your advice, for helping me board the boat after diving and for organising the whole trip. And thank you to Alan for being my buddy and supporting me all week.