Patrick Beaumont began diving 44 years ago in Dorset while living in Hampshire.
“ I couldn’t swim,” he told me, “ so when friends were swimming I was sitting , missing out. I got some flippers ( what divers call fins) ,then the snorkel and face mask and I joined a club.”
How hard could it be? I had watched Hans and Lottie Hass and Jacques Cousteau on the telly.”
I am transported back to television images of tropical seas and those intrepid divers of my own youth. I loved seeing them even in black and white…but then in those days, that was how it was.
I am fascinated that Patrick took up diving without being able to swim. I am astonished that over 40 years later he insists he has never bothered to learn.
I ask about his adventures and he showed me some videos of grey seals, fascinated by a red light on a GoPro on a dive off the Isle of Man.
“One of the funniest experiences I have had diving was in the same area, again with seals. There were 4 in the group. One was a real James Bond type who worked for MI5. He was 6ft tall, 16 stone built like an Adonis, an obvious tough guy. Well he attracted the attentions of a full grown bull seal. They are huge creatures and this one managed to pin him down with obvious amorous intentions. It took three of us to push it off and persuade it that it’s attention wasn’t welcome.”
Sounds scary. I have had some interesting encounters snorkelling but I only met my first seal a couple of years ago at Abercastle. He was very friendly, but not that friendly.
Patrick tells me about diving off Oban with a novice diver . They thought they had attracted the attention of some dolphins. “ When we got back on board the boat we were told there was a pod of killer whales in the bay.”
That’s big stuff.
Patrick agrees. He loves encounters with wildlife and has a wealth of interesting stories to tell.
He tells that on a night dive on the Lulworth Banks in Dorset, he came across a huge Marbled Ray. “ It was a good six feet wing tip to wing tip and was just laying on the bottom. I don’t know what possessed me, but I stroked it. I put my hand under it, lifted it and stroked it’s tummy. The skin was so soft, like exquisite silk or satin. It loved it.”
I once encountered a huge Ray off a reef in the Red Sea, I tell him. It came flying up out of the darkness to my left with the Reef on my right. It passed within a few feet and I remember shaking with excitement. We didn’t get a chance for a cuddle though.
“ The Amazonian Dolphin, is interesting.” he continues.
Diving in the Amazon? Isn’t the water very murky?
Patrick nods , “But the Rio Negro is clear. Where the two rivers come together , it’s like chocolate and clear meeting together . The Dolphins swim along the edge hunting. They will have any fish that pop out of the murky side.”
He goes on to tell me about night diving in Dorset on Lulworth Banks where he came across a large cuttlefish eating a crab. It shot off, frightened and dropped the crab. Patrick then took the crab to the cuttlefish and spent 45 minutes enjoying the experience of feeding it.
“Diving off Dorset was good,” he continues, “They stopped scallop dredging in 2000 and the visibility improved hugely. Unfortunately they have started dredging in Southampton waters to allow the large Aircraft Carriers to go in to the docks. Mid channel the sludge is now being deposited and it makes visibility less than a meter.”
He goes on to tell me that sadly, scallop dredgers have moved to the Irish sea, stirring up the sea bed They dredge as much as twice a day bringing up 20 to 25 tonnes of scallop and damaging the seabed dramatically.
Patrick moved to Pembrokeshire in 2004. “ It was like Dorset used to be 30 years ago and the diving was great. ” He explains, “ but places that used to be great for wildlife are being destroyed here too. In Newport Bay there was a reef, called Octopus Reef. You could always find them there. Now silt has blanketed the whole reef.”
He asks me to mention Red Dragon divers at Havefordwest in Pembs as a great place to belong if you are a Pembrokeshire diver. “They are a lovely bunch,” he says. “Its important to have good people to dive with. Solo diving is suicide.”
We talk about some of the hazards of diving.
“Most people have heard of The Bends. Its when a diver surfaces too fast and nitrogen bubbles have been absorbed by the blood stream. The bubbles can’t escape from the blood and they get trapped in soft tissue. The pain can be excruciating and can cause permanent paralysis and death. The first treatment is for oxygen to be administered on the dive boat and then the diver is transferred to a decompression chamber. He/she undergoes recompression down to the dive depth and is then brought up slowly whilst breathing oxygen enriched air.”
I know from my snorkelling days that there are a lot of other hazards out there, like poisonous fish and coral. Have you had any painful experiences?
Patrick nods “ The most painful experience I have had was following an encounter with a beautiful black and yellow sea slug in Malta.” Patrick tells me that he was later to regret picking it up and letting it crawl between his fingers when that night he felt that his hand was on fire.
There is so much more I would like to know.
“ I give talks,” Patrick tells me, “ I give A/V presentations to groups showing how all the equipment works and I have a lot of footage of my experiences.”
Sounds great, but I know that this isn’t all that Patrick does. We first encountered each other over the Charterhouse Life Boat, which was looking for a new home in the area. Patrick became involved after visiting the wreck site of the Hermina with Red Dragon Dive Club ten years ago. He recovered some artifacts and half a porthole which he donated to the charterhousereturns trust
“ Sadly, ” he tells me , “Unless something happens , the Charthouse, with all it’s local history connections, which is currently on Stena land, will be homeless from the end of the year ” .
In his capacity as Vice Chairman and a Trustee of the charity he asks me to put out a plea . “We are looking for a barn big enough to store the boat which is 40 feet long, 12 feet wide and twelve feet high. If anyone can help, it needs to be before the end of the year “( 2019)
I can also reveal that Patrick stewards at the International Eistedfodd in Llangollen each year in the second week in July.
He says, “ Put it on your bucket list. The singing , dancing and colourful national costumes; its a wonderful experience, and for you non welsh speakers, it’s all in English.”
Patrick makes his own beer, wine and scrumpy and at time of writing he has a batch of damson wine, picked from the side of Newport estuary and 5 gals of home grown grape wine, bubbling away nicely.
He also finds time, when not travelling about with his partner in their motor home to give presentations to groups on a range of subjects including :
The History of Booze, and the Pennine Walk or 268 miles in 60 mins.
Email for contact : email@example.com