Cornwall Divers Guide North Coast – Bude to Perranporth.
Knap Head, at the north-east extremity of Cornwall, covers some 70 miles of high cliffs and remote rocky coves and headlands, broken only by a dozen sandy holiday beaches, which are still virtually unexplored – with large underwater areas still unknown, even to local divers. The cliffs often rise to 325ft(100m), interrupted at Port Isaac, Porth Quinn, the Camel Estuary, Harlyn and Trevone Bays, Newquay and Perranporth.
This is a dangerous coastline offshore, and you are advised to ensure your outboard engine is reliable, carry a spare ‘get-you-home’ engine if possible, and always carry spare fuel, an anchor, a VHF. radio and suitable distress flares.
The diving off the North Coast can be spectacular, with depths of 82ft(25m) generally available only 0.5 mile offshore, the majority of the 1,000 recorded shipwrecks offshore lying within 130ft(40m) or 5 miles of the coast. Portreath, at the south-west end of this area offers a good launch site, with every amenity for family members left onshore, the offshore Gull Rock and the remains of the s.s. Escurial offering excellent diving.
In the opposite direction, a 5 mile run to the north-east will bring you to St Agnes and the Bawden Rocks, with Newquay and its numerous offshore wrecks only 5 miles further on. Boat launching at Newquay harbour is possible at high-tide, but the beaches are unbelievably crowded in the holiday season, being a mecca for windsurfers. Compressed air is available at Newquay at Jack Beaumont’s Motorcycle shop. Padstow harbour, on the Camel estuary is a good base, with a concrete slipway alongside the Harbour Masters Office and a large public car park.
The Camel estuary is tidal, and the outer harbour dries at low water springs, so that it will be necessary to stay out until there is sufficient water to return. There is both an excellent Shipwreck and local Museum at Padstow, and compressed air is available. On the opposite shore to Padstow lies Rock, a small village which offers excellent launch facilities and does not have such a restrictive tidal window. Launching into the Camel allows easy access to Stepper and Pentire Point, the latter the site of the tragic sinking of the square-rigged Maria Assumpta in 1995, also Trevose Head and the offshore islands known as the Quies, Gulland, Newland, Mouls and Rumps.
Further north, Port Isaac is a reasonable if congested launch site, where an early start is recommended, giving access to the 1980 wreck of the m.v. Castor 1 literally at the harbour entrance, or a short distance away in Hell Bay, can be found the remains of the Greek freighter Skopelos Sky. It is then 23 miles further north before another easy launch site presents itself at Bude. From here it is a relatively short distance back south to Tintagel and Boscastle, where there is terrific diving in the rocky, sandy coves, which abound in colourful wrasse, dog fish, pollock and sea urchins, with many caves and rock formations.
Bude, in particular, offers easy access to many sheltered dive sites, around Dizzard Point and the Cambeak area. There are plenty of shallow and deep wreck sites here, which can be found marked on Admiralty chart No. 1178. A small local museum stands on the quay, almost opposite the RNLI Inshore Rescue Station, which features many relics from shipwrecks as well as lists of local shipwreck incidents.
Local Diving Services
For local diving information or compressed air contact the local BS-AC club at the Pool & Leisure Centre (01288-353714). Air is available here by prior arrangement only, so telephone in advance 01566-773838