A COUPLE OF WEEKS BEFORE EASTER finds me at Porthkerris for my usual start to the British diving season. With a quite horrible wind coming from the west, the sheltered east-facing beach is deceptively tranquil - even almost tropical, in rare delusional moments when the cloud breaks, and I am wrapped up toasty in Weezle and drysuit.
After a couple of nice dives on the Raglan reef, the outermost rock of the Manacles, in quite good visibility, my optimism for early-season diving knows no bounds. I ask Mike and Andy from Porthkerris Dive Centre if we can have a look further south.
The big catamaran hardboat is still on its trailer at the top of the beach, the last few touches of winter maintenance being finished ready for the coming Bank Holiday weekend.
Instead, Mike backs the smaller catamaran RIB down the beach on its trailer. We load up on the shingle before launching and heading south.
The wind has backed to the south-west without abating, so we cant head too far south and lose the protection of the land. We take the inshore route past Manacle Point and continue past Coverack, a small traditional harbour that would be an ideal point for launching dive-boats - if only they were allowed there.
The hotel on the headland south of Coverack forms one of the transits for the wreck of the Veritas, a gable on the end lining up with a volcano-shaped outcrop of rock. Mike lines these up and points the RIB in until we cross the other transit, a less conspicuous line of shapes atop a headland back past Porthkerris.
Transits are not really needed in these days of accurate GPS, but when you have good transits, the GPS numbers are irrelevant. More important is a decent echo-sounder, and this soon shows the distinctive capsized hull shape of the Veritass stern against the flat seabed 38m below.
Descending, the first thing I notice is that visibility is less than I had hoped for, less good than it had been on the Manacles, though were only a few miles south. Its dark at first on the wreck, but my eyes soon adjust and, without having to switch my dive light on, I can pick out both the boiler and Andy, who is buddying me. I do however need the additional light to help focus my camera.
We head aft towards the more intact stern, following the main line of the hull, though such a line is a misnomer, as the Veritas landed on its starboard side before breaking further. The stern now rests upside-down, the propeller standing 5m high in the current.

RETURNING FORWARD, I loop out off the deck side of the wreck, looking for all the fittings that would have fallen this way, such as winches. Just forward of the boiler, partly obscured by fallen deck ribs, I find the helm.
Further forward, the hull has collapsed completely. The Veritas sank bow-first, standing on the seabed with her stern out of the water.
Perhaps it was trapped air, or maybe the cargo of wooden pit props, that kept the stern afloat, in sight of Coverack and dragging slightly with the tide.
It was two days before the Veritas finally sank. After all that trauma, its hardly surprising that the bow suffered the most damage.
A day later the flood tide sees us heading south again, with a drift planned for Chynhalls reef. Its a good job slackwater timing isnt needed for the dive, as dolphins are just outside the bay, brought closer inshore than usual to chase the mackerel.
This pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins has a territory that spans the western approaches and into the Irish Sea. Mike swings the RIB in big slow circles, and we soon have some dolphins leaving the main group to chase it and ride the wake and the bow wave.
As with any catamaran hull, even one as narrow as a RIB, there is a wave inside the bow and the dolphins try to ride it, but seem to enjoy the outer edges of the bow wave more.
Later than planned at Chynhalls, Mike drops us on the sand to the south so that we can drift in with the current.
In a stronger current, the plan would have been to drift across or round the reef and shelter behind it, releasing a delayed SMB if we drifted off.
Today, the current on a neap tide is negligible, and I can swim freely up and down the gullies, round the exposed outcrops and back again.
Visibility is much the same as on the Veritas, 5m or so, just good enough. Its as if the wind and tides have drawn a line out from Coverack and dared the clean water to cross it.

MARINE LIFE IS A MIXTURE of white dead mens fingers, pink gorgonians, big yellow sponges and red-brown Ross corals, which are in fact bryozoans.
Its the sort of covering befitting a reef that sees less current than Raglan or Vase Rock on the Manacles.
Multi-coloured colonies of jewel anemones are limited to the more exposed outcrops, but still have aspirations of grandeur. As would be expected of any Cornish reef at this time of year, the spider-crabs are invading from Mars.
Back on the RIB, we head lazily further south, past Black Head to the wreck of the Carmarthen. The wind is still blowing hard from the south-west, the sun is out and the inshore water is sufficiently sheltered to be near-flat.
Dangling my toes over the tube of the RIB, the visibility looks quite promising. Half an hour later the tide has slackened, Im halfway down to the wreck, and Ive changed my mind. Visibility is decidedly worse going further south.
The 4262-ton Carmarthen was torpedoed by UC50 on 26 July, 1917. The ship did not go down straight away, but struggled to beach at Kennack Sands before sinking in 20m. Following salvage and storms, it is now well broken, but its still an enjoyable dive.
The boilers stand on end, broken open enough to play peek-a-boo between the tubes. Debris from the engine, the propeller-shaft, hold coamings and gunwales leads aft.
Every now and then the easy route is confused by deck or hull plates that have fallen awkwardly, but guessing a straight course soon brings me to something recognisable like a winch, to reassure me that Im on course.
Mike had suggested that if we got tired of the wreck we could move on to a nearby reef, but after 45 minutes I have seen half of it, about right to round off the afternoon. I return to the boilers and ascend, with no stops to worry about.
On another day, another tide and other wind conditions, vis here can be impressive, so it will be worth diving the Carmarthen again.
I feel enthused by a successful start to the UK season. Some of my regular dives, like Porthkerris reef, the Volnay and various rocks and wrecks of the Manacles, then some less-dived sites further south past Coverack - it brings out the adventurous side of UK diving.
If visiting the area, many local pubs have historical photographs and wreck memorabilia on the wall. Check out the Five Pilchards in Porthallow and the Three Tuns in St Keverne.