Cornwall Divers Guide South West – Praa Sands to Carrick Roads Falmouth
The Cornwall Divers Guide South West starts at Mount’s Bay and stretches from Mousehole to the Lizard Point, and offers completely different diving conditions, being relatively shallow and fringed with sandy beaches and plenty of launch sites for diving boats. Porthleven, an old fishing port offers the best facilities, giving access to the whole of the Bay, including the intact WW.2 Liberty ship s.s. John R. Park in 147ft45m); the s.s. Heidrun, a Norwegian collier lost with all hands in 1915; or on Loe Bar in the shallows, cannon, anchors and debris from HM. frigate Anson, the s.s. Brankellow and dozens of other victims of shipwreck. At Gunwalloe Cove, snorkellers and beginners could well search for pillar-dollars from the legendary Dollar Cove wreck of 1744, or nearer Mullion, which offers excellent but limited launching facilities, see the cannon remaining from the galleon Santo Christo de Castello under Angrouse Cliff in 1667, the nearby barque Boyne or on Mullion Island, two unidentified cannon sites.
To reach the Lizard, launch at either Mullion, Cadgwith or Kennack Sands, the latter offering camping, accommodation, food and compressed air. On your way to the Lizard you will pass the Predannack Holiday Village Dive Action Watersports Centre, newly opened, which offers equipment hire, air, PADI training, spares and accompanied boat dives (Tel: 01326 – 240020). On the Lizard Point, under the Coastguard lookout, which is swept with fierce tides on a spring ebb of up to 5 knots, lie the s.s. Mosel, le Vieux Tigre, Clan Malcolm, Zebra, Adolf Vinnen and Cromdale, all in shallow water, and in Housel Bay, on Carn Table, can be found the barque Hansey. Offshore from the Lizard car park near the twin tower lighthouse, is a large shallow reef well worth a visit at low tide, when it is safe for snorkelling. Known as the Inner and Outer Cledges, numerous ships have come to grief here and the area is rich in marine life generally.
Cadgwith offers limited launch facilities over a stony foreshore, whereas Kennack Sands gives easy access to nearby Black Head, again littered with wrecks, the s.s. Belucia, Carmarthen, Gunvor, Clan Alpine, Brielle, Dispatch, whilst Coverack slipway will lead divers to the Manacles. Legendary for the 112 ships lost here attempting to reach Falmouth Harbour in the old days, the Manacles, an offshore reef over one mile square, offers everything the underwater enthusiast could want. The most popular wreck here is the liner s.s. Mohegan, lost with 106 lives in 1898. She lies on the easternmost edge of the reef in 75ft(22m) depth, a great mass of 7,000 tons of steel. The closest launch site is Porthoustock, a steep shingle beach, popular with diving groups, which suffers frequently from ‘diver congestion’. Signs at Porthoustock indicate the ‘no-go’ areas for divers, and you are requested to read the instructions and observe the necessary restrictions. Compressed air is available from the inn at St Keverne, just inland, or every facility you could want can be found at the Polkerris Dive Centre, less than a mile further north. Here you can hire equipment, have a tracked vehicle launch and recover your boat, eat and drink, recharge your cylinders, take a training course or join one of their regular dive boat trips.
Falmouth makes a superb base for a diving group, with accommodation, entertainment, diver support, charter boats and the largest public concrete slipway in Cornwall. There are many dive sites in Carrick Roads , but contact the Harbour Office for permission first, otherwise dive in Falmouth Bay, on the many charted wrecks, including the remains of five German submarines, but keep clear of any large vessels on the move. Three diving establishments offer local knowledge, advice, equipment and air.
The Falmouth Underwater Centre, based in premises right on Maenporth Beach offer every facility (Tel:01326-250852);
Cornish Diving Services on Barr Road, close to the docks (Tel:01326-311265).
Seaways at Penryn, on the road leading into Falmouth (Tel: 01326-375544) will all assist the visiting diver.