Porthkerris Diving Centre
Porthkerris Dive Centre on the eastern tip of the Lizard Peninsular is held by many divers as being one of Cornwall's premier dive centres! The centre originally started life as the BSAC National Diving Centre, although it has been a private diving centre for many years now and it has evolved into a very remarkable dive centre indeed. Porthkerris boasts some of the best beach diving in Cornwall, the many divers who pass through the centre lie testament to its success. The centre is quite unique in its own right with many facilities you simply would not expect to find at a dive centre waiting to greet you.
The centre has a catering wagon situated on the beach next to the compressor room, serving hot and cold drinks, burgers, sandwiches, baguettes, crisps and chocolate. It is the ideal place to warm up with hot drinks between dives and satisfying those the post dive hunger pangs. The centre is also willing to lay on barbecues for groups subject to prior requests.
The centre was designed around divers and their needs, so much so that it is difficult to know where to start in detailing how far Mike Anselmi and his family have gone or how hard they have worked to provide such a variety of facilities. The complex has a wide range of facilities, including on-site parking, all of which are located within a few metres of the beach and close to an easy introduction to shore diving. Perhaps one of the best features of this diving centre is that the beach and water is accessible to within a few metres by car and therefore accessible to disabled divers! Qualified first aid providers are available on site at all times, an emergency telephone is situated on the beach with a public telephone available in the dive shop the centre also has toilets, showers, changing rooms and facilities for kit washing on the beach available 24 hrs a day.
The diving centre has full and part time instructors offering a range of specialised diver training courses. Mike Anselmi is the proprietor and Andy Howell is the centres’ lead Instructor and Boat Skipper, and should the need arise one of them is always available for additional advice and assistance. Diver training is available for the full range of PADI courses from Open Water to Instructor, PADI Specialties, EFR Primary & Secondary Care, IANTD Nitrox & Advanced Nitrox and DAN O2 Provider.
Many divers are choosing to embrace 'enriched air' as it offers the ability to extend your no-stop time beyond the no-decompression limits for air which means more time underwater, it is also widely accepted that diving with Enriched Air (Nitrox) can increase your physiological safety margin as opposed to diving on air. You need to be certified as an Enriched Air (Nitrox) Diver to obtain a Nitrox fill for your cylinder, the centre like many has have experienced an increase in Enriched Air (Eanx / Nitrox) Courses. Whether you are an underwater photographer, wreck diver, or simply a diver looking to increase your personal equipment / knowledge, the Enriched Air Diver course helps you get more out of diving. Haskel Trimix pumps have been installed for Nitrox cylinder charging, with fills available up to 100% O2.
There is also a fully equipped classroom that clubs can hire to supplement their own training sessions and excellent beachside facilities make for an excellent venue to continue your Diver Training. RYA Power boat handling course can be arranged subject to availability / demand. The well supplied dive shop sells a plethora of diving equipment, books, spares and gifts, as well as an extensive range of equipment for hire including dry suits and semi-dry suits. Air to 300 bar and equipment servicing and cylinder cleaning complement the comprehensive dive centre facilities.
DAN Oxygen Provider
Oxygen First Aid for Scuba Diving Injuries represents entry-level training to educate divers and public members to better recognise possible dive related injuries and thereby provide emergency first aid oxygen. The course also looks at activating the local emergency medical services and / or arrange for evacuation to the nearest available medical facility. Entry requirements: CPR and First Aid training, minimum 12 years of age, the course price includes the training manual, tuition and certification. Many divers choose to combine the Rescue Diver , EFR and DAN Oxygen provider courses benefiting from a lower combined course fee for both courses.
Divemaster Intern At Porthkerris Dive Centre
Porthkerris have the facility to offer trainees the chance to train with the PADI Internship method, this unique opportunity gives you genuine day to day experience of assisting in training real students and guiding real divers around the many wrecks and reefs nearby.
As a Divemaster Intern you are part of the team at Porthkerris working alongside an instructor to gain rewarding experience in assisting with training at entry and advanced levels, running the Scuba Review and Local Orientation courses, acting as a Divemaster on the centres boats, and escorting inexperienced , rusty or simply lonely divers! It can be hard work, but the centre guarantees you will enjoy it and come away not just with your Divemaster qualification but also with the confidence and satisfaction to make you an excellent Dive Master wherever you choose to use your qualification.
The centre currently offers underwater photographic courses presented by Gavin Parsons. I was fortunate enough to have the help of Gavin when producing my books and can vouch for his professionalism and expertise in the underwater photographic world. Take at look at selected photographs belong to Gavin here or check the centres own website (address at the bottom) for more details.
Porthkerris dive centre allows camping on the beach, but a more suitable location for camping can be found in an adjacent designated camping field overlooking the whole of the Falmouth Bay area and the Manacles. A wide range of pitches are available for camping in tents or caravans with electric points for those suitably equipped (available only by pre-booking). Camping may not suit everyone, it does however, give the diver free parking and use of the shower / toilet block on the beach and some very exquisite views as the sun sets and rises. Additional web sites for local B&B and Self Catering accommodation can be found on the dive centres own web site, on the Accommodation page
Traditional diving is the domain of the RIB and the centre's Predator RIB is a very stable boat designed with divers in mind. Licensed to carry up to 12 divers it has wide comfortable tubes to sit on and a waist height kitting up table in the centre of the boat, great for twinsets. The boat is equipped with all the necessary navigation equipment divers have come to expect in order to move safely and quickly between the dive sites whilst still being able to drop you directly onto the appropriate dive site. There is no question of getting to the dive sites quickly with speeds of up to 30 knots from Twin Yamaha 100 hp, the 4 stroke engines were fitted in March 2007, and have been helpful in reducing those sickening 2 stroke fumes!!!
The dive centre caters for visiting divers who prefer to use their own RIB's, launch and recovery of all visiting boats is carried out by the Dive Centres’ own tractor because of the composition of the loose stony beach. The air station is located down on the beach which means very little distance to ferry your cylinder.
Not many diving centres can boast having a dive charter vessel as luxurious as the Celtic Cat a 40ft catamaran hard boat, licensed to carry 12 divers in comfort offering a very stable ride to nearby dive sites. Popular dive areas include Falmouth Bay down to the Lizard with more distant and deeper dives available subject to prior request. The wheelhouse of the boat, allows the skipper to coxswain the boat from an elevated position enabling him to see all round the dive area for added safety, the boat is also equipped with CCTV cameras for extra safety, the latest navigational equipment makes moving between dive sites safely and quickly as good as it can get.
The boat has an ample sized dive deck, with benches wide enough to sit on for kitting up, with benches to sit inside to shelter from the wind or rain and a dry area to put kit. Access from the boat to the water is excellent with two good size platforms, one each side at the stern of the boat and those with heavy equipment will really appreciate the double lift on the outer transom. One thing coveted amongst returning divers is the well equipped galley area serving hot drinks, the onboard toilet complements what is without doubt a classic diving experience.
Whilst strong winds prevailing from the south west restrict other parts of the coast, Porthkerris is generally calm. Listed by divers as perhaps one of the best shore dives in the UK, Drawna Rock nestles within a sheltered cove under high cliffs, protected from all but Easterly Winds. Depending on the state of the tide, maximum depth reaches around 18 to 20 metres making the dive ideal for newly qualified Open Water Divers and experienced divers alike. At the northern end of the cove the beach drops away to a fringing reef that breaks the surface no more than 100 metres from the shore. The reef continues to arc out a couple of hundred metres as the depth drops away to 20 - 25 metres making the reef a very interesting dive.
Below the surface the diver is greeted with garlands of jewel anemones, tunicates, sea cucumbers and sponges. On the bottom there is a variety of marine life to be seen including crustaceans, tube worms, sea urchins and during the peak months, hordes of juvenile cuttlefish. As part of the reef is exposed to the tidal current it is well covered in deadmans fingers, anemones and sponges making it an ideal place for underwater photography. Cruising Pollack, Wrasse, Red Gurnard, and the unusual John Dory await the watchful diver. The diver who keeps a good lookout may even be surprised to come across some bigger species including a pod of dolphins, the odd seal, and during the summer months large Basking Sharks. Fear not though the basking shark is the diver vegetarian type. They are magnificent to see although the diver is requested to respect this powerful plankton feeder and not chase or harass them!
The wreck of the Volnay is one of the popular dives undertaken by many divers and was a favourite of mine. The Volnay was a British steamer, which displaced 4609 tons. She was homeward bound from Canada with a cargo of luxury goods and ammunition for the troops in France when she detonated a German contact mine on Friday the 14th of December south of the treacherous "Manacles". It was hoped that the ship could be beached and salvaged. Anchored just half a mile offshore in Porthallow Bay the wreck unfortunately sank in 20 metres. After sinking the floating cargo was washed up ashore at Porthallow Bay. The beach was soon littered with coffee, tea, potato crisps, cigarettes, butter, peanut butter and tinned meat.
The wreck was left untouched until around 1919 when salvage work started. With the high capacity of ammunition it was not possible to use any explosives to level the wreckage. Since then many thousands of 8-pounder shells have been located and removed. The shells were anti-personnel ammunition, which exploded sending large amounts of small lead balls everywhere. The wreck is littered with these lead balls and numerous shells are still been found. The lucky diver will even find one of the shell brass nose cones. Divers are warned to be on the look out for shells that still contain the rusty spaghetti coloured 'cordite'. This is seen along with another potentially explosive substance 'phosphorus'.
The bow of the Volnay is largely intact with the anchor windlass in place. One of the best sights of the wreck is the two boilers, which sit with a top depth of 13 metres. Another smaller boiler lies close by. The boilers are surrounded by steel plates ribs and bollards. The stern section is separated from the bow by around 18 metres. The bell was recovered in the late 1960's by Martin Vinnicombe who salvaged much of the ammunition. The dive is suitable for divers of all grades and is a very interesting dive. The Volnay is a slack water dive. Lying on a generally flat seabed.
The Manacles reef is home to what is probably the best known and most dived wreck along this part of the Cornish coast, that of the The Mohegan. It has been reported that on a bank holiday it is possible to see over 30 boats over the wreck, but this does not pose too much of an hindrance as this is a vast wreck . The Built at Earles Shipbuilding Company at Hull in 1897 displacing over 7.000 tons she was originally launched as the Cleopatra. In order to avoid a heavy penalty clause for late delivery to her owners the ship was inevitably rushed, leaving her with many defects including several leaks? Work to remedy the faults was carried out in New York and again at the Tyne. On her fateful voyage she was carrying 53 first class passengers, with a crew of 97, including 7 cattlemen to attend the animals on board, the vessels cargo also included amongst other things spirits, beer, tin, artificial flowers, and glass.
Those who witnessed the tragic events unfold knew the outcome long before, it was unheard of for a ship of her size to be so close inshore of the Manacles. The lifeboat was launched immediately and resulted in saving the lives of many of those on board sadly none of the crew where amongst those who survived, they died taking with them the true cause of her actions. Although the ship was equipped with eight watertight bulkheads each with its own pump, the generators used to power them were below the waterline, rendering them useless as the water rushed. Many tragic stories surrounding the tragic sinking of the Mohegan and the loss of 106 souls followed in the months ahead.
The dive on the wreck is very impressive as her size makes unforgettable, spread over such a large area there is something for all to see. There are strong tides in the area and the wreck can only be dived at slack water. The bow sits in 15 metres with what's left of the stern in 26 metres. Divers are encouraged to look and not take anything but photographs and memories sadly many souvenirs can be had for those with little respect. The wreck is largely broken up but many recognisable features can be found. Like the wreck of the Volnay, there is a lot of marine life to see with wrasse, Pollack, and crustaceans swimming around oblivious to the diver likewise the wreck is tidal and therefore festooned in deadmans fingers. The restaurant at Porthkerris has an array of information regarding the tragic sinking of the Mohegan.
Whilst these are just two of the fabulous wrecks awaiting the diver, there are many more, Porthkerris Diving Centre welcomes divers of all grades and from all training organisation's. My experiences of diving from this very well equipped diving centre are that they are more than happy to accommodate divers needs and if they can they will often go that extra mile to make a divers visit, one to remember. The centre has grown from its humble beginnings to become perhaps the premier dive centre in Cornwall, but then don't take my word for it, give them a try for yourself!! Use the following link for a Cornish wreck map .
Best job in the world
It probably caught every divers imagination when the best job in the world came up on the media. In June the centre had a visit from Ben Southall. Ben is a family friend our Instructor Dave, and is the recent winner of 'The Best Job in the World' competition. Ben chose to take his last dive in the UK here at Porthkerris, before going off to take up his job as Caretaker on the Great Barrier Reef for 6 months of diving and exploring the reef and surrounding islands for Tourism Queensland.
© Colin Brittain 1999 - 2022