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New eco-moorings project off Plymouth replacing damaging anchorage

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Princess Yachts Collaborate with Marine Conservation Society to Support National Marine Aquarium to Install Eco-Moorings to Protect Delicate Marine Ecosystem

Princess, together with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and the National Marine Aquarium (NMA) have replaced old moorings with new eco-friendly ones that have been shown to allow environmentally important seagrass beds to recover, after damage caused by traditional mooring methods.  The Princess funded project spans three years with ‘helical’ mooring installations in Cawsand Bay and Kingsand Bay, Plymouth.

The ‘helical’ moorings project is being funded by Plymouth-based Princess Yachts in a joint, three year venture with the Marine Conservation Society, and the National Marine Aquarium.

Seagrass meadows are a crucial part of the marine ecosystem – they stabilise seabeds, lock in CO2 more efficiently than rainforests, host larval and juvenile fish and seahorses, and are great breeding grounds for cuttlefish and sharks in UK seas. But they are extremely vulnerable when traditional moorings using chains that drag along the seabed through the seagrass are used.


The helical devices simply screw (like a large corkscrew) into the sandy seabed. They are 2m long with one or two large rotational blades (about 30cm across) that turn into the sediment. This locks the device into place. It then has a chain link that is lifted to the surface by small buoys to a larger mooring buoy. This means that the actual footprint on the seabed is only 40cm across therefore much smaller than that of a conventional mooring.

Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Principal Specialist Marine Protected Areas, says: “We’ve installed five ‘helical’ moorings that  are screwed into the seabed. These are then attached to a chain, called the NMA Stirling Eco Mooring, that rises up above the seabed with buoys attached along its length to a large surface mooring buoy which has a rope attached to it. The chain that rises to the surface from the seabed therefore never touches or scrapes around the seagrass bed itself, and will likely result in recovery of seagrass.

We believe we’ll be protecting something like 0.5km square of seagrass bed with our project in the first year. We hope to cover the entire bed within three years, if the project proves successful,” says Dr Solandt. “The seagrass bed is considered to currently be in ‘unfavourable condition’ by Natural England. If the project is successful we hope it will lead to other areas using this cheap and practical technology where there has been animosity between local conservationists and boat owners over calls for anchor bans. These eco options offer a potential solution to future stand-offs.”

Kiran Haslam, Marketing Director, Princess Yachts said “Three years ago we set in place an initiative in marine conservation, and every year we renew and strengthen our commitment to MCS.  The delicate seagrass eco system is now in need of our attention and Cawsand Bay lies at the mouth of the river Tamar, a stone’s throw from our home city of Plymouth. We’re proud to be able to support this pioneering initiative that will give the seagrass beds an opportunity to repair themselves.”

For more information about the Marine Conservation Society visit their website by clicking here.

Freediving Blogs

British freediver sets new national record with 112m dive

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British freediver Gary McGrath has set a new national record at the prestigious Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas.

Using only a monofin for propulsion, Gary swam down a measured rope to a depth of 112m (367ft), returning to the surface to receive a white card from the AIDA International judges to validate his dive.

Gary, 41, held his breath for three minutes and 13 seconds to complete the dive.

Freedivers descend underwater on a single breath of air and the atmospheric pressure on their bodies increases as they go deeper.

At 112m deep the pressure is 12 times greater than the surface, meaning the air in Gary’s lungs would have shrunk to less than a twelfth of its original volume – around the size of a golf ball.

Freedivers train to cope with the physiological strains placed on their bodies by their sport, and Gary uses his background of yoga and meditation to help his physical and mental preparation for deep dives.

He has also had to overcome physical challenges after contracting Covid last year during preparations for a previous national record attempt.

Gary said: ‘Diving below 100m is a totally unique environment, it’s my therapy. 

‘This year has been extremely challenging for my mental health and freediving has helped me overcome that for sure. 

‘At depth I have complete isolation from the everyday world we live in. Down there it’s just me and nature. It’s that escape that all freedivers crave. 

‘There are moments of extreme mental clarity and purity that I can only achieve when underwater. The flow state that a deep dive allows me to experience is unique and addictive.

Gary, originally from Twickenham, began freediving in 2006 and has been competing since 2008.

A former tree surgeon, he became a professional freedive instructor in 2014, and he and his partner Lynne Paddon run Yoga and Freedive Retreats in Ibiza.

Remarkably, he completed his 112m national record dive on Tuesday (August 9) despite being forced to compete wearing a borrowed monofin which was a size too small for his feet.

His entire kit bag containing his monofin, bifins and two wetsuits was lost by an airline as he travelled to the competition.

Despite his careful preparation, Gary said he suffered nerves on the morning of his national record dive, and relied on a phone call to his partner Lynne, who helped him focus on breathing techniques and visualisation to calm his nerves.

Speaking immediately after his dive, he said: ‘That was all for Lynne – this whole week has been about her. I could not do it without her. I hope that everyone finds someone they can click with, it’s the most magical thing in the world.’

Gary also thanked supporters who helped him to crowdfund to raise the money needed for him to travel to the Bahamas and compete.

Vertical Blue is considered one of the most elite events on the freediving calendar and has been dubbed the ‘Wimbledon of Freediving’.

Owned and run by world record freediver William Trubridge, the event takes place in a 202m (663ft) deep sinkhole known as Dean’s Blue Hole, off the coast of Long Island.

The previous British national record of 111m was set by Michael Board in 2018, also at a Vertical Blue competition.


All Photographs courtesy of Daan Verhoeven (www.daanverhoeven.com)

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Miscellaneous Blogs

Film Review: Thirteen Lives

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Ron Howard’s recreation of the 2018 rescue of a Thai junior football team is impressive. Even though we know what happens in the end the tension and drama played out is palpable.

On 23 June 2018, 12 members of a Thai junior football team, the Wild Boars, and their coach became trapped deep in the Tham Luang cave system by rising flood water. The film details the incredible international rescue efforts that ensue. And Ron Howard has judged the tone perfectly. There is no Hollywood glitz and glamour and the two leading actors: Colin Farrell and Viggo Mortensen, who play John Volanthen and Rick Stanton respectively, capture the intensity of the situation perfectly.

The diving scenes are claustrophobic in the extreme. Although I suspect that the visibility was even worse than the film depicts as you have to be able to see something in the dramatization! All the way through the film I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at the extraordinary feat these divers pulled off. The skill and bravery required still impresses after watching films, hearing them speak in public and reading about the rescue.

I loved that, whilst the divers took centre stage in the film, the heroic rescue efforts of the water engineer and his team was also given the attention they deserve, as well as the incredible Thai Navy Seals and the thousands of people that flocked to the region to help.

Thirteen Lives is a must watch movie about an incredible cave rescue. It’s sober tone hits the mark. The cinematography is skilled and creates an impressively tense experience. It is available on Amazon Prime right now.

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