Train Diving in Great Britian

By Denise Frier aka. Den

Just got back from a fun week in Cornwall, even if the Eclipse was a bit of a washout!

Left west London at around 11:30 pm last Sunday had to sit by the side of the motorway waiting for a boat to come past, hoping it arrived before any cops did! About 10 minutes after I parked up it appeared and we started our 300 mile trek in convoy through the night. Turned out to be a good time to drive. Approximately half a million people made the trip this week, but luckily not very many of them on Sunday night. After one quick stop at a truckers' roadside cafe we arrived at the campsite at around 4:30 am and I started to wrestle with my tent (which I only bought Sunday afternoon and had no idea how to put up!). By 5:15 I had built something resembling an igloo, and it seemed sturdy enough despite the fact I still had about 15 pegs and 5 guy ropes left over! I crawled into my sleeping bag and drifted off into a wonderful slumber until 7am when my neighbors arrived, 3 families, 2 cars, 3 tents and about a million screaming kids or so it sounded! By 8 am I abandoned the idea of getting any more sleep and anyway, the sun was blazing down so I wandered off in search of the showers. Easy to find, just follow the screams they were icy! I came back to the tent to find Paul up and waiting with bacon rolls and coffee. OK, so I don't normally drink coffee, but it was WARM and I needed it! By around 1 pm we managed to get John out of his warm cozy bed at his daughter's house and spent the afternoon filling tanks and finding local charts, tide tables and maps.

John had dived a wreck, the 'Train Wreck', about 10 years earlier and wanted to try and find it. The tide times meant a late start on Tuesday, but we eventually found a good place to launch the boat and set off to the marks we had been given. This wreck is only diveable on slack water and it was a little swelly so I was feeling a bit queasy by the time we'd found the buoy and the tide slowed. John manned the boat while Paul and I dived. As soon as I hit the water I felt fine again and we descended the line to a max depth of around 30m (no computer here so having to guess at stats!). There are 5 locomotive engines on this wreck, which went down in 1918. We saw 2.5 of them, various fish and a huge conger who would not come out of his hole to play. Viz. was about 5m. When my computer got to 8 mins of deco we decided we'd better go back and sent up a buoy. Great dive!

Wednesday was Eclipse day, so it rained, and rained, and rained! The school we were staying at had set up some experiments and large screen TVs so we could sit inside to watch, but we ventured outside for the actual 'totality'. The meant standing in the torrential rain, looking up at the clouds so the drips went down your neck, and watching it get dark, then light again! What a let down. An hour later the rain had passed and the clouds had started to thin out typical!

Thursday we went back out to the train wreck to let John dive it. Conditions were perfect, hot and sunny with flat seas. We had to launch by 7:30, but could not dive until 1 pm so we took the boat up on a nearby beach and stopped for breakfast. Then we motored round to Seal Island and I had a 40-minute dive playing in the kelp with the seals. It was my turn to stay in the boat, so Paul and John did the wreck again. Afterwards we went back to the beach, had some lunch and lazed in the sun as we waited for the tide to come in far enough for us to get back to the slipway. I dashed off to the dive shop to get the tanks filled while the boys sorted and packed the rest of the gear. They met some locals who gave them the marks for a 'much better than the train wreck'. Friday's plan was beginning to form!

Friday dawned wet and windy but we launched and went looking for this new wreck, the 'Zone'. The locals were not sure if it was buoyed or not and we couldn't see one, so we assumed it wasn't It was very rough and almost impossible to hold a straight course in our little RIB, but we put in a shot line and started to search. We found the wreck on the echo sounder and hit the MOB on our GPS, then retired to the beach to wait for slack water. The ride back in was interesting. We were about 5 miles offshore, but could not see land in any direction mainly because of the rain and mist, but the constant shower of water coming over the bow didn't help! After a quick break we went back out to look for our buoy and, guess what, there was another buoy almost next to it! As we were searching we had almost abandoned the idea of diving it as the swell was now at about 10', but once we saw the buoys temptation overcame us and John and I dropped in. Don't know anything about this ship, but it was BIG, very BIG! The boilers were the size of my house and the winches were bigger than me! It was also covered in life. Huge shoals of pouting, bib, wrasse, a lobster and another conger. Max depth was around 28m and viz. about 6m. We only stayed 20 minutes as we'd promised Paul we wouldn't be long, but I could happily have stayed longer. We found the shot line and went up. Doing our safety stop I looked up and realized that the tide had risen again and the buoy was now 5m under water! Paul had been getting worried when he lost sight of the buoy, but luckily saw us as soon as we surfaced. Getting in the boat was easy in such rough seas. I just swam over the tubes as it rolled towards me!

That evening we managed to get into a restaurant and had a wonderful Mexican dinner with a few 'ritas and then crashed out by 11 pm, totally shattered and aching all over from being thrown around so much.

Saturday morning was spent packing up and washing the boat out, then a leisurely stroll to a beach restaurant for lunch before hitting the road home. We had originally intended to leave around 8 pm, but then changed the plan to go at 2:30 pm in the hope that we might get home in time to sleep. Big mistake. About 0.45 of the 0.5 million people obviously had the same idea and the drive took 10.5 hours. I was shattered. I just crawled straight into bed, leaving all my gear in the car and have just finished sorting it all out. Now got to get through the laundry mountain and get everything dried so I can pack up and do it all again next week - got a 4-day liveaboard starting Friday!

It's a tough life!

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