The club arranged to go diving in Beer in Devon for the weekend. Beer is a very picturesque village. It has a stream running down the side of the main street and generally looks the part of a Devon fishing village. The beach, however, is nothing special. It's made up of large, grey pebbles and the middle section is used by fisherman to beach their boats, so there is some oil about and a lot of winch cables to trip the unwary. There is a small car park for about 15 cars by the beach, though it was generally full by about 8.30 in the morning, though there was room to unload your kit.
The original plan had been for 24 of us to go out in two groups on a large RIB, which would run a shuttle service from the beach. Unfortunately, the owner rang the Monday before we left to tell us that he had a mechanical problem with it that couldn't be fixed in time. He did arrange a replacement boat, but it was a hardboat. Obviously, this meant that we were going to be pushed for time.
I was part of the second wave and the plan was that the first wave would go out on their first dive, fill their cylinders in Lyme Regis, do a second shallower drift and be back ready for us to board for 1.30pm. However, filling the cylinders up took a lot longer than expected and they didn't get back until almost 3pm. I must admit that I didn't find this too much of a problem since it gave me ample time to recover from the previous night, which had culminated in a trip to the local Mariner's Hall for a disco that went on until 1am.
The replacement boat was somewhat less than perfect. In fact, I think it was probably the worst I've ever been on. It was a fishing boat, which had had an ordinary ladder tied to the back with a length of rope. As the sea was calm for both days, it was a problem getting up the ladder, but you did have to remove most of your kit in the water, which was a time consuming nuisance. The way it rocked from side to side was somewhat unnerving too. The worst thing about the boat though, can't be seen from the pictures, because it was the pungent, rotting fish smell that really stuck in the mind. Still there was quite a lot of room to kit up in, so it wasn't all bad.
The first dive was on a wreck called the Brigadoon. It was a collier that was torpedoed in one of the wars and it lay in about 22m. Descending down the line I was pleasantly surprised at the 10m+ visibility and amazed by the number of fish. They were everywhere and there were some really large wrasse and bib. The wreck itself was fairly flattened though the two boilers were intact and have something like a 4m diameter. Apparently there was also a conger near the boilers though I wasn't lucky enough to see it. I did see a tompot blenny hiding inside a section of pipe though.
One thing to watch out for on the wreck was fishing line. The large numbers of fish obviously mean that it's a favourite fishing spot and there was quite a lot of discarded line that could catch on any piece of dangling kit.
After the wreck, we dropped off our cylinders in Lyme and set off for the second dive. The surface interval was about an hour and a quarter but the second dive was only a shallow drift. It was over an area of rocky gullies and the bottom was only about 12m. There was quite a lot of life about including crabs and various smaller fish.
By the time we got back to Beer, it was about 8.30pm. So after a quick shower, we made it up to the camp site, where the most of the club were staying, for a barbecue. So after planning the next day's diving, I headed off to bed reasonably early.
I was on the first wave the next day and the plan was to do a wreck in about 27-28m. We were supposed to leave at 8am though the boat didn't turn up until 8.30am. When we got to the site, it was obvious that there was a fair bit of current running. I would guess that we were well over an hour too late for slack. The first couple of divers seemed to pull the shot off, so the rest of us decided on a drift. The bottom turned out to be 30m and consisted of boring, featureless sand. All in all it wasn't the most exciting dive I've ever done. The viz wasn't too bad though. It was about 5m. A shame there was nothing to see. When we got to the surface we found out that no-one found the wreck. In that current I don't think we would have been able to stay on it anyway. A fisherman told me later that he thought we were in completely the wrong place.
After we got in, the second wave went on hunting for scallops. They were only going to do one dive, because no-one wanted to have to start the long drive home too late. Our second dive was another shallow drift in about 12m round by Beer Head. It was OK, if nothing special and I wished I'd remembered a goody bag as I managed to find a couple of large plaice. A couple of other divers managed to find a plaice and a skate.
The whole weekend's diving was pretty cheap. It cost £35 for the two days which also included the food for the barbecue. So even with the problems with the boat, it was still a good deal. If all had gone to plan, it would have been excellent value, but then these things happen. The boat was organised by John Taylor who can be reached on 07010 707707. The club has organised trips before with him without any problems and he will arrange trips at a variety of locations in Devon, including Plymouth.
A friend and I stayed at the Durham House Hotel. The room was very nice and it was good value at £17 per night per person for a room with en-suite shower and toilet. It was in the main street, so there was no parking outside, though a long term car park was nearby. It cost £1.50 for 24 hours. The only drawback with the hotel was that their breakfast times were a bit inflexible. It was only available 8.30-9.15, which was far too early on the first day and too late on the second, when we missed it. The phone no. is: 01297 20449