Through the engine block on the Maine.

Grouping the entire South-west into a single holiday destination may seem a bit heavy-handed. After all, the area has north and south coasts, and stretches from Devon to the Scilly Isles, with some spectacular offshore reefs and plenty of wrecks.
Its easy enough to base a trip in Plymouth, the Lizard, Penzance, Newquay, the Scilly Isles or many other ports in Devon and Cornwall and find a good weeks diving.
But for those wanting to cherry-pick the best of the best dives, or to get an overview of the whole area, there is always the option of a liveaboard.
For the past four years, Gary Pittaway and Watford Underwater Club have booked mv Maureen from Dartmouth, skippered by Mike Rowley with wife Penny and son Giles.
Mike, Penny and Giles are legendary, says Gary. I was aware of them though the grapevine, but I saw the advert in DIVER, enquired and organised the first trip. We enjoy
the trips so much we keep going back, and are already planning for this summer. The food is excellent, adds Gary, knowing where most divers place their priorities.
Watford UC has some divers who prefer marine life and others who are confirmed wreckies. Dive sites tend towards wrecks, but not too technical - the sort everyone can enjoy, and where they can take advantage of nitrox or dive on air with accelerated decompression.
I like the Maine in Bigbury Bay, says Gary. Although decaying, she is upright, big and atmospheric. Just as good as the James Eagan Layne.
Gary is also enthusiastic about the Runnel Stone, to the south of Lands End. This is a dive site that can be fitted into both a South-west cruise and as a quick stop on the way to or from the Scilly Isles
Great viz, a mixture of rock, reef and sand, plus quite a bit of wreckage with swim-throughs and lots of fish, is how he sums it up. We liked it so much that we got Mike to take us back the next day. His site knowledge and timings are excellent.
In the Scilly Isles Gary, like most divers, thinks the seals are great fun. Back to wrecks, he says: The Cita was pretty good, with a huge bent prop and a swim into the engine-room. There are tools, a work vice and gauges still there. I also really enjoyed the Italia.
Even for a large club like Watford and a popular trip, it can be difficult to fill 12 spaces. If we have any spaces, I ask for help from Mike, advertise on the BSAC forum and contact surrounding clubs.
There are six other clubs in our area and I think we could do a lot more joint planning, which would ultimately result in more diving for all.
Universal to all Great British diving holidays is the social side. You cant fail to get on with other divers, says Gary. We have the same thing in common, seeking the same type of challenges.
The usual evening venue is the local. I recommend Sharps brewerys Doom Bar when in Cornwall says Gary, who also describes what the group sometimes does over a pint. When divers have done something a bit silly, like jumping in without a weightbelt, we hold a kangaroo court. The accused have a chance to defend themselves, but the case is nearly always proven. They are sentenced to wear a T-shirt with the letter W and an anchor symbol on it.
The group has also been across to the Channel Islands and Brittany. From that trip Gary remembers the Hinrich Hey wreck: I could imagine the fight she was engaged in when she went under the waves. The gun muzzle must have been steaming when it touched the water. For our 50th birthday this year, were doing Normandy and the D-Day wrecks.
Will the South-west trips ever end There are other sites in the UK I want to visit, but I will keep returning, even if infrequently. The Rowleys operate the perfect dive boat that all dive boats should aspire to.

  • Watford Underwater Club (; mv Maureen (

  • Behind
    Behind a boiler on the Maine in Devon.