The nights are pulling in

It seemed a nice easy one, meet at 6pm for a dip with HWS at 7.11pm on the South Gare, what could go wrong?

Well firstly my torch set up was just under 100 miles away in Northumberland so I needed to scrounge a torch and secondly as the Black Witch hadn't arrived it was going to be a damp dip!

However some nuts and bolts, the vis, well 3m or thereabouts but as we went in and had the shadow of the South Gare its-self to contend with and a setting then 'set' sun it was relatively ok in my humble opinion. We were all, yeah all six, diving with torches and I reckon you could make out a torch at 5m or 6m which made playing 'follow your leader' a bit easier even if that leader was Simon!

I had thought that our plan was easy, head out towards the end of the Gare then mooch around slowly and out at the ramp but oh no, I hadn't been paying attention and the plan was to end up at the beach rather than the ramp, which is fine but I may have approached things a bit differently if I had known. The main thing that I would have changed would have been my rock boots, the ones that I am currently wearing out are grand but do have the tendency to slip and slip they did, leading to some horrible calf cramps and when taking off my fins to get out the boots came off too! In a word bloody shambolic and sitting here typing my calves are still aching.

You would think that having done the dive a while ago that there would be nothing to pick up but no there was plenty as you can see from the photo below and this doesn't include the ones that Simon picked up and left in nice little piles for me.....that I didn't see.....so are still there.....waiting for me to pick them up!

Having what was in effect a night dive from first entry was interesting as I must say that in among the boulders there were more small cod that had come out in what they think is safer conditions, none were of a takable size with most around the six inch length, although I am sure that there are many larger fish there which are even more cautious than there smaller brethren and stay hidden away under rocks almost waiting to ambush something that will fit in their maws.

On the fish front that was about it on the table fish, apart from a few Ballin Wrasse and Rockcooks all of which were quite happy hiding in the kelp and sleeping or maybe resting is a better description. I also spotted a flatfish which I think was a juvenile topknot but I have some doubts as it was moving over sand, maybe it was simply shifting between boulders but I have only ever seen this particular flattie on rocks before and most usually sucked up onto overhangs in holes.

There were also lots of what I call micro species of fish out and about, Gunnel or Butterfish were all over the weed covered boulders, you just had to pause, look and focus and suddenly there were loads of them, giving themselves away with little movements under the glare of our torches. Other fish included the very common short spined scorpion although most were very small with most around three inches, no monsters. Finally there were a few, small, female dragonets, it is easy to differentiate between the sexes as the males have an electric blue tinge, these fish were on the sand rather than in and among the boulders and  rocks.

With it being a night dive you can't not mention fiends and blue fiends at that, although there were not quite as many as I thought we would have encountered. There was a takable lobster that one of the party was either extracting for the pot or extracting from an old lobster pot that was effectively ghost fishing. There are a couple of old pots that really should be lifted or slashed to bits if they won't come out, maybe one day soon. Apart from that the rest of the lobsters were still around the rocks and boulders with very few on the 'rough ground' where you kind of expect them to be when out and scavenging, I did notice that several of the fiends had combat wounds or what at the time I considered combat wounds from a poorly executed extraction attempt, missing nippers. One or two were a nipper down and there was one poor bugger that was pincer free, as I said at the time I thought poor extract but the flat conditions have allowed another build up of fishing line so maybe these lobsters had simply got tangled to some degree and decided to shed claws rather than be trapped and die.

As an aside did you know that should a fiend loose its 'crushing' claw then on its next shed the existing 'cutting' claw will change into a crushing claw, that is why you see left and right handed lobsters! There you go never say I learn you nowt!

By the time we had rejoined the wall of the breakwater my right calf was in a state of permanent pain as the cramp just wouldn't settle so I simply showed a passing interest to the large lobster that people were looking at, it's odd I had decided to get him out but with the state of my leg I thought 'you'll wait', I reckon that the best time to do it will be an evening or night dive and when close to him I will use my little scripting torch that I have glued a red filter onto. I think that the lobsters are happier being extracted without a huge show of lights hence the filter and low output light, now I am not sure if that is true but it gives me confidence, thinking about it I should really try and fasten the light to my head to free up both hands as this one is a bit of a monster, oh well note to self!

Bing in 'just keep finning' mode I paused only momentarily when the rest of the group were engaging with a few squid, these animals seemed very interested in the dive lights, just as the cuttlefish are at Babbacombe, I am not sure if this is down to the light itself or the fact that the light illuminates items of prey, at one stage a squid dashed over and seemed to snatch something from the water column, maybe an unfortunate small fish or fry or perhaps it just wanted to hog the lime-light?

Getting out was a performance, I managed to hole things together and not surface early along with the lift-bag and weights to scull back to shore but getting up was a performance and then as I wrote earlier one of the rock boots came out along with the fin meaning that once on dry land I had to get the bloody thing back on for the walk back to the car, what a pain. I do have a set of Halycon gaiters which worked wonders last time I was stricken with calf cramps so I will bring them down from Northumberland and start using again, I know you look a bit silly but if they help then I don't care!

So a dive where I really want to forget the last half hour, well apart from repeating the exercise with the squid when I have the right camera set-up, as the set-up I want and need is, yes you've guessed it, I must say that diving in a team was a bit of a chew at some points but it did give me the necessary to battle on and get out when both calves were going bang on a regular level, oh and I recommend carrying waste back to shore, the extra weight meant it was easy to dump from my suit and stretch my calf on the bottom, mind it buggered up the vis!

A nice dive and with things ok for the next few days it makes sense to get out there but please make sure that you........

Dive safe 


Weight this dive - 6.0 kg

Weight this year - 954.3 kg

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