Brixham Pandemic Diving (Jun ’20)

Tim – ‘I love diving at Brixham breakwater beach. If a south westerly is blowing, knocking out most of the south west for diving, as it actually faces north it is invariably sheltered. You can dive with the tide in or out. The car park is conveniently adjacent to the beach. It has a lovely café, toilet facilities and of course a local legend in Baz Drysdale who regularly dives there and kindly posts the latest visibility and conditions. Baz can also refill your tanks with fresh Devon air if you need it. In other words, it’s a great place to dive and being familiar to me and my club, it’s VERY easy to organise and plan a dive there. The perfect place therefore to plan the first return to club diving of the lockdown.

This is England!

Though it easy to organise and plan a dive at Brixham Breakwater, adding the complication of social distancing and adhering to both government and BSAC guidelines adds whole new level of complication and made the planning quite intellectually challenging and in some ways, exciting.

Socially distanced base camp established!

Common practice is to get there early, park close to the beach, unload your kit onto the wall, assemble it and when ready don it and walk down to the sea. The problem with that under lockdown is the walkway is narrow in places and tends to get busy with public footfall meaning it’s impossible to do so without breaking 2m social distancing. Our solution; lay a big tarpaulin on the beach to define and establish our base, well away from public walkways. A sturdy trestle bench offered a convenient platform to kit up on and the whole setup offered close, convenient and direct access to and from the water. This was so successful and convenient we are considering doing it this way as the norm when we no longer need to social distance!

PPE in full force

Example of the small forest that greets you as the pebbles peter out

A full set of dive kit, including mask and regulator has to be the ultimate PPE so once kitted, social distancing didn’t apply and it was lovely to be able to once again have close contact with good friends. The weather was perfect, the visibility an acceptable 2 – 3m and the exhilaration of getting back to diving was just the ticket 🙂 ‘

Chris shows off a baby spider-crab that has captured him – look out, mama will be along shortly!

Kevin – ‘at last a return to diving after over 5 months away (due to Covid-19) & a return to the site of my only other dive this year: Brixham Breakwater Beach, hopefully my drysuit would be less leaky this time!

It was an early start not knowing how busy it would be since lockdown started to ease & I pulled into the car park just before 8 with Chris pulling up shortly afterwards with the same idea in mind, it wasn’t busy & we had our choice of spots and even as the day went on things never got hectic or crowded in the car park or on the beach.

Where’s my baby!

The other half of our expeditionary party, Colin & then Tim arrived around 8:45 & we set up base-camp (a large tarpaulin & a kitting up bench) around halfway (& above high tide!) to the sea to stake our claim.

Tim had sent out a very comprehensive Covid-19 brief involving masks, gloves, buckets, swooshing etc. We didn’t necessarily follow all the steps to the letter but they were there as a constant reminder that these were not normal times and to be careful & take it easy after the long break

Need any help? By the way, do you like the isolation hair do?

Once various members of the team had adjusted their dive computers from their last Philippine/Thailand settings (it has been a long break!) Chris & I were in first, initially proving Chris’ navigation skills needed a little sharpening by him taking us in a very quick circle but he soon found his mojo & we headed north then east then south. Viz was only around 2m with the occasional 2.5, enough to spot the usual large selection of crabs in evidence, many spider crabs of various sizes but also runner, velvet swimming, hermit & edible. Plenty of tiny fish & a few slightly larger Ballan wrasse.

Must get out more, this shell is getting awfully tight!


There are other types of crab you know! Edible by name…

Though the 2m viz was a little disappointing, particularly as we’d chosen a time after low tide but the wildlife didn’t fail us (apologies for the fuzzy photos – thats the viz for you!) and after an hour we were well satisfied and to be perfectly honest it was good to just get wet and spend some time with some like minded individuals!

The viz wasn’t the best but a nice shot nevertheless – jellyfish is around 2cm across

Happily my Backplate & Wing (new at Christmas & only dived once since) held up nicely & my new aqualung legend regs finally got their first outing and were perfect.

Once we exited, following Tims’ guidance to ‘swoosh’ our masks, regs & hoods in the sea & put on a mask and finish de-kitting it was time for Tim & Colin to have a go. 61 minutes later they emerged with a similar tale of crabs a-plenty & again the Covid-19 safe diving approach was taken with their kit.

Velvet swimming crab crashes the spider-crab party

By now the sun had burned off the cloud & Chris & I were glad to get out of what was starting to be quite a toasty day & back into the water.

This time we headed NE with a reciprocal for a return.

There were plenty of fish too – here’s a curious shoal of bib

Small Ballan wrasse

The pebbles, sand & sea grass once again transitioned to mud & crabs again then Chris pointed out a large cuttlefish lazily positioned right underneath him – unfortunately I failed to get any video as I was still remembering how to use my underwater camera 🙁 We eventually reached some larger boulders covered with various seaweeds, yellow boring sponge, phallusia mammillata (don’t you love that name!) and a large ballan wrasse hiding in a rock hollow.

The scenery can be nice too – Yellow boring sponge and Phallusia Mammillata

I tried not to wake up too many spider crabs and towards the end I got fascinated with a strange orange worm thing that was thrashing around while Chris allowed a few baby spider-crabs to crawl over his glove.

This was thrashing around, some kind of tube worm?

The good weather lasted all day!

Tim & Colin went in for a final dive, this time along the Breakwater itself, far-enough out to avoid the fishermen & reported back the scenery to be well worth a look  – maybe next time 🙂

Needless to say that despite the visibility not being what we hoped, the sheer joy of getting back in, the profusion of wildlife, the marvellous weather & the chance to spend some quality time with a nice bunch of like-minded people made the day.

We’re now preparing for a followup shore dive outing while boats are still not doable – watch this space!