Accommodation: Mount Batten Centre
Dive sites: Breakwater Fort / Breakwater, the Coronation, Fairylands, the Scylla, the James Egan Layne, Hill Sea Point, Mewstone and nearby. (Other sites may have been forgotten!)
Divers: Stuart Cuthbertson (organiser), Joshua Smith, Ross Peel, Mark Semenenko, Angela Thornley, Thomas Donald, Gareth Jones, Amy Chantry, Georgina Stooke-Vaughan, Martin Wilson, John Beatty, Gerd Engler, Oliver Lomax, Soo Parkinson, Emma Keeley, Michal Koziara, Laura Davison, Pippa Kay.
Water conditions: 10-11°C, variable visibility depending on site – East of the Sound tended to be better than West.
Weather conditions: Mostly blue skies and bright sun; couple of cloudy cooler days.
This was SUSAC’s annual Easter training trip, which also went to Plymouth last year. For a training trip, the diver qualifications were a little skewed: 1 novice, 5 Ocean Divers, 5 Sports Divers, 6 Dive Leaders, 1 Advanced Diver! Nonetheless, this mix of experience meant we could do a good range of sites and the newer divers got to meet a lot of different buddies, some of whom are rarely seen around Sheffield these days! (Gerd lives in Germany…)
We travelled down on the 19th and back on the 25th, leaving five days of diving in between. Each day included three ‘waves’ on the boat, with Seeker returning to harbour between each wave and taking 12 divers at a time. This meant that all 18 divers were able to get two dives in, every day. Seeker is a fantastic boat, skippered by the friendly and highly competent Steve, who provides delicious soup-in-a-mug after every dive. The boat has a decent sized cabin so when the weather’s bad, you don’t all have to get drenched on the ride out/back. It’s got loads of space for kitting up, a good diver lift, and is generally about the best dive platform I’ve had the pleasure of using to date. Steve skippers alone and does it very effectively.
Dive sites were many and varied: Plymouth has a huge range of wrecks and reefs available, and is rarely blown out (though Breakwater Fort is a pretty boring last-resort). There’s loads of information online about the sites we visited so I won’t repeat it all, but suffice to say you’re fairly guaranteed some very good dives. In particular, though, I organised a dive on the protected wreck Coronation which you have to fill in some forms etc to get permission for: see http://www.coronationwreck.co.uk/ for details. It was interesting history, but not great vis or all that much of a wreck to be seen, given the age!
The boat launches from a pontoon just outside the Mount Batten Centre, where we were staying. Behind the MBC is a dive shop, In Deep, which does air/nitrox fills and, for a group our size, was very happy to take payment just at the end of the week. They were really helpful when things broke or got lost, too!
The MBC is a general watersports centre, and so you’ll see plenty of non-diver types padding around too. They have a range of accommodation from en-suite doubles through to 6-bed bunk rooms. Sadly due to a bit of a booking mix-up we ended up just with six triple rooms, which was less than ideal for the couples on the trip! They were fully booked at the weekend but for the weekdays we begged an extra room at no extra cost so the couples could have some privacy. The rooms are nice and clean, with good shared shower/toilet rooms and plenty of hot water.
Food-wise the MBC can do fully-catered but the food quality is supposedly not great and not cheap either. They gave us breakfast every day, Full English on the last two days as a treat, and we self-catered the rest. There’s no real kitchen for self-catering use, so this is a bit tricky: we brought our own mini-fridges, cool boxes, BBQs and microwaves, plus other kitchen paraphernalia. There’s a Morrisons a short drive away so there was a daily trip to pick up things for the next day. MBC let us borrow their plates and cutlery on the basis that we did the washing up when their main kitchen was left open.
MBC have a room at the front that looks out to the pontoon, which we had as a general dry-only room for the whole time, so this became dive planning and cooking central. Always worth making sure you get this if staying there! They also have a drying room for wet kit, and two large lockable kit rooms for leaving wet kit overnight. You need to ask for them when booking.
The MBC has free WiFi for guests and a good bar, so most evenings were spent there relaxing. On the last night we walked over to the Boringdon Arms inn in Turnchapel (a 15-20 min walk along the coast) for dinner and a bit of a party. It’s a nice pub. Almost immediately opposite is another, the Clovelly Bay Inn, which we went to the year before and is also good.