October is a busy season for us. Lots of people come to the Farne Islands to use our underwater rehabilitation services. Humans have very sad dreary lives on land as I understand it and so it is our duty and pleasure to welcome them into our underwater environment to play with them and generally make them feel like their existence has some meaning. We have a special deal with William Shiel in particular to do this work, although he was maybe taking the piss a bit this weekend when he brought 34 divers out on one incredibly crowded boat, but we’ll have a word with him about this at a later date. He may need to supply more fish if he’s going to work us that hard.
The other boat load however were a jolly crew of 18 or 20 – I lost count and they didn’t seem to have a clue themselves – from Robin Hood Dive Club. This lot seemed like a professional outfit although one of them called Jared seemed to prefer having more water in his suit than outside of it. They also had some potential new members with them called Julie, Alexandra and Andy who seemed a friendly bunch, smiling a lot and blowing bubbles all over the place. There was one barking mad chap who apparently never wears a hood – I think Jonathan is his name – he must feel the cold less than we do so maybe he’s half seal. There was also a bloke called Ben who I think may have moved in with one of our sexier seals in the colony here – he seems to be around a lot anyhow – the less said about that the better.
So we did our thing – we dutifully chewed everyone’s fins, particularly the bright coloured ones, as that seems to be what humans like….besides its funny to creep up behind them in stealth mode and then bugger off really quickly before they can take a photo. They’re not that agile in the water so we can run rings round them generally. We put on a good show this weekend though I say it myself – we called in all the reserves and we were everywhere, dancing, twirling and looking cute and doe-eyed. We let people tickle us and we even had a threesome with the blubbery one called Ruth – that was fun as she just kept screaming “I don’t like it!”.
So job done we watched them all get back on board after two great dives – have to say that lift thing they have is definitely something we should look into – it’s hard getting back onto our rocks, particularly when we have a lot of winter blubber – might have a word with William about getting one installed on some of the main islands. Always sad to see them all go – particularly as their season is coming to a close because they can’t hack the cold. Come back next year guys – get Johnny to organise another trip. We’ll miss you until then xx
Dunbar, a magical place in Scotland with castles, big rocks covered in bird poo, Tennent’s lager, a cement factory and a nuclear power station but nowhere to get your cylinders filled!
Friday afternoon and off we go to the land of said ‘bird poo rock’ with more cylinders than you can shake a stick at. Perhaps a few too many for Tim judging by the blowout, oops!
Tyre repairs aside our buddy pairs start arriving at the Pine Marten Pub & Hotel for some well-deserved food & beer. We’ve delicacies such a gourmet burgers, best gammon, rotisserie chicken and of course Bob’s enormous Tupperware box of sandwiches. All that topped off with peanuts and Peroni made for a great night out.
Saturday arrives with the sun shining but a breeze that limits our options somewhat. We plum for the Isle of May and manage a couple of reasonable dives. I think we were meant
to find wreckage and boilers on dive one but Steve & I must have read the map wrong. Never mind, by the time we’re on dive two Steve found an angler fish (which was the highlight for me) and Liz found an octopus. Another highlight was to be found topside, we saw the UK’s new Aircraft Carrier out on her maiden sea trials.
Our skipper Steve Haddow of Shadow Marine took great care of us on his Swiftcat catamaran ‘Mako’ which was a smashing boat. He’d been keeping a close eye on the weather report and come the end of the day we called it for the Sunday, the breeze we’d had was more likely to be a gale by morning.
Back ashore and we unload (in more ways than one), Andy manages to upset the locals by peeing in the car park. “I’ve taken his reg. and phoned the Police” an irate lady informs me. So we dash to the pub to avoid a run-in with the law but chaos ensues and we end up in two different pubs with two groups of divers grumbling about how this came about and whose fault it is (least said the better).
After a quick scrub and polish, we’re out on the town and surprise surprise enjoying food & drink again. This time we’re in Dunbar’s finest Italian restaurant “Umberto’s“. I think we may have been a bit tiddly by the end judging by the tip we gave our waitress Sarah (we didn’t have to pay for her entire gap trip – Tim!).
Sunday as predicted was very breezy so scattered by the winds we separated out with some going straight home, others off to some salmon smokery and the rest for a brisk walk and another visit to Umberto’s.
A smashing weekend away, thanks to all that came.
When Gary, aka Great Uncle Bulgaria – the oldest and wisest of the Wimbledon Wombles and their leader, asked if anybody wanted to help clean the Glanmire wreck of rubbish, we wombles jumped at the chance. Little did we know that temperatures would plunge to below freezing and Angus, the first named storm of the year would be threatening us out in the North Sea. James,aka Tobermory – an engineer, a skilled inventor, and avid diver tooled himself up with a variety of cutting implements and was chomping at the bit to get started on the clean up. He excitedly told us of his vast array of lift bags and clips as we planned our operation in Oblos on Friday night.
Sadly Jake, aka Orinoco – who loves sleep and food, was snowed in and didn’t make the first dive on Saturday so there was plenty of room on deck and we braced the -3 degrees and set out as the sun came up over the cliffs.
Chris, aka Tomsk – an athletic Womble, discovered that ‘slack’ doesn’t always mean slack and reappeared at the surface puffing and panting, with tales of endurance and exhaustion. He must have been delerious because he kept mentioning something about a train.
It turns out that wombling at 32m in the dark with a raging current is quite tiring and shortly every body was back onboard , empty handed and empty tanked.
Dive two was more successful and shortly after descending James sent up a lift bag. Attached was a mere tonne of tangled rope which took four of us to haul on board. This manoeuvre was expertly executed by Douggie, the toughest and most agile 73 year old I know. We were momentarily concerned that James was in fact wrapped up inside but it turned out to be just a couple of gasping fish which we duly rescued.
By 8.30 pm we were all fed and watered and ready for bed, thanks to the early start, and everybody had turned in by 9pm! (Good little wombles).
Uncle Bulgaria was really looking after us and on Sunday morning we were greeted by a radiator festooned with warm, dry, gloves. This was a bonus seeing as it was so cold the mask bucket had frozen solid and we had to salt the deck! Liz , Andy and Chris opted for a dive on Anemone Gullies, and enjoyed 55 mins of exploration, flat fish and lobbies whilst down on the wreck some serious wombling was going on! Tim and James launched several creels to the surface, whilst Bob and Tom sensibly kept their distance. Luckily all wombling bags and divers made it safely back on board and enjoyed hot coffee and an odd biscuit or two to warm through.
Following the fourth and final dive we arrived back in Eyemouth harbour to unload our wombling haul, which was actually quite impressive (see photo) and we celebrated with a ‘healthy portion’ of fish and chips.
Learning points of the weekend:
1. Tides are unpredictable.
2. It’s bloomin’ cold in November in Scotland.
3. Pruning saws are not that effective on rope under water.
4. An 18l cylinder is not such a daft idea.
5. An empty twinset is very bouyant.
Thanks Gary and Zoe for the usual hospitality, and to all the junior wombles for making it a great wreck wombling weekend.
A final trip report : Farnes 22nd October 2016
Last trip of the season and there we were on the steps at Seahouses contemplating the waves INSIDE the harbour. Two divers said feck it and went back home which meant the rest of us had a lovely big empty-ish boat to roll around in. Having tossed and turned around a few islands with Timmy excitedly saying “we can get in there no problem” and the rest of us saying “we can’t get out of there – big problem” we ended up somewhere with a bit of kelp and some randy seals. Never has Mr Seal been so frisky, pressing poor Barry to the seabed by climbing on top of him (it was a relatively small seal) and ferociously biting at hoses, mask and suit. Back on the boat we heard that three divers on another boat had their suits punctured. Whilst most managed a respectable 40 minutes in the murk, Graham made a couple of new friends and spent a very impressive 63 minutes doing god knows what with naughty Mr Seal. His SMB looked like Robinson Crusoe’s trousers by the time they’d finished, but Graham didn’t care – he was in love.
After we’d broken the boat with an alarming bang at lunchtime, we then attempted a second dive despite murmurings of “pub” because we are after all a dive club, not a drinking club. With the boat belching steam and not sounding healthy we then rolled back to the Ship Inn to get shit-faced……and that my friends was the Club season closed.
Thanks as always to the trip secretaries – Tim, Ruth, Liz, Barry and everyone else who did everything that needed to be done – oh and thanks to the King of Delegation – myself – even though I’ve not even written this. This years crown for worst trip sec ever goes to……….
Roll on next year.
3rd dive trip and still the newbie in the club, excited and raring to go, not had much information on the plan or where to stay, everyone else seems to just ‘know’, turns out its not magic, it’s just our illustrious trip sec having the wrong number for me…………………twice!
So after the near heart attack inducing set off time to make an 8am ropes off on Saturday, a quick ring round from Tim secured 3 rooms in the Auckland Arms for the Friday night, unsure why; but Tim felt the need to ring and ask if I wanted a ‘Sub room’ (read closet) in one of the main rooms to save the princely sum of £5, unsurprisingly I declined.
Friday night rolls around and I am very kindly (and comfortably) whisked down the M6 with Mr and Mrs Dive Club in the A-Team Van, making good time thanks to a perfectly executed plan to avoid a major accident on the M56. A few swift jars in the Auckland to wash down the emergency McDonalds and we’re soon all calling it a night.
Saturday morning, cloudy, slight chill but on the whole can’t complain at the weather, trip down to Beaumaris the boats ready and waiting, with Graham and Jared already arrived after what I believe was 2:30am start to drive down that morning, not hanging around everyone’s loaded and ready to go. Odd dive boat, but weirdly endearing, nice and cosy but that can mostly be put down to the 3 huge boxes from the faff brigade and all their paraphernalia.
1st dive is the 32m+ SS Delfina, great dive, my first on it, never really had a clue what I was looking at, but was impressive all the same. Fantastic visibility, even though it feels dark but almost tropical compared to the St Abbs east coast temperature 2 weeks prior.
2nd dive, another first for me, a drift, Steve and I saw lots of life but apparently missed ‘a huge stacked pile of dog fish’ seen by others, was good fun being taken for a ride, no pun intended. Keith and Amanda comfortably won the distance race.
Having finished earlier than expected, a quick beer onsite and dropping cylinders off, most headed to the rooms, I ended up billy no mates drinking (I think that’s the first sign of alcoholism) watching England vs Malta. Table booked for 7pm at Bocca, all arrived in good spirits and had a great meal [from my perspective at least]. Copious amounts of Red wine was consumed by most, which meant I was left in peace with my bottle of white! Must be an age thing!
Day 2, The Cartagena wreck, around 30m, good vis and a pleasure to dive, made it round a couple of times, loads of life, and some huge Pollock. Dive 2, not sure where it was or what you’d even call it, we were told to go South-East, Steve & I didn’t see much except a lone dog fish and some flat fish, still enjoyable, others saw more I believe.
Now backing up an hour or so, sun blaring, spirits high after a great 1st dive, hobnobbed up, heading back inland…………yet another (2 from 3 for me) pod of dolphins! Circled around for a good 20-30minutes, no abundance of acrobatic theatre, certainly in comparison to St Abbs a fortnight before, but 1 particular fella had his weetabix that morning with the highest breach I’ve ever seen, almost seemingly pausing for a photo at his peak. You’d think with some many photographers on board it would be have been caught, but alas, not this time.
Round Up: Fantastic weekend, both top side and under.
Trip Report by Lady, Club Dog
St Abbs 24th & 25th September 2016
with Barry Shaw, Ruth Hair, Chris Handley, Graham Watters, Sheelagh Kay, Stuart Fox, Tim Saville, Liz Saville, Andy J Batley, Bev Batley.
I love it when Auntie Wooof turns up in her big van on a Friday – its means we’re going on an adventure which spices up my very dull life going to work at Mars Petfood factory every day with Daddy. Even though we drive a long way, the journeys not too bad because we stop somewhere where they pass food through the window which is fab. After that we stopped at a pub in Coldingham which said I was welcome in the lounge bar, so welcome that the lovely lovely lady who worked there gave me a whole plate of roast beef. This meant I had to stamp on Auntie Wooof’s face in the middle of the night so she’d let me out because my tummy’s not used to piles of roast beef so late at night you know.
Anyhow – next morning I checked out all my favourite places on the harbour whilst everyone got in their funny suits. I’d been up at the harbour the weekend before launching the lifeboat and being a V.I.D. but not drinking prosecco as I’m a dog and it tickles my nose, so I have lots of favourite places to go and sniff and everyone knows me. Sniffing done, I went back to bed for a snooze whilst Auntie Wooof and Daddy and their friends went off on the boat and did two dives near the lighthouse and at West Hurker. If they’d walked on the cliff top instead they’d have seen lots of bunnies, but they seemed happy that they’d seen loads of lobbies and stuff – great viz as well, whatever that means. They were raving about seeing a massive pod of dolphins which they apparently followed up the coast – a bit like me chasing bunnies I suppose. The dolphins were playing and jumping out of the water – bunnies don’t do this. I prefer bunnies. Dolphins don’t have fur or legs apparently – they sound very strange and really not at all like bunnies.
Lunchtime was good as Euan showed us all around the lifeboat station and I got to give the boat a good sniff close up – it’s very big and orange and smells salty. Everyone seemed quite emotional about it and Euan seemed very proud of everything that has happened to get the boat there. I felt very V.I.D. again as lots of people had taken photos of me on launch day with my special Lifeboat t-Shirt on.
That evening was the best night out ever. The very kind lady at the pub had set us up in a special room so I could sit at the head of the table with my own water bowl and another plate of roast beef. I also had lamb shank, chips and a few veg. It was lovely. Bit disappointed I got no beer. Everyone else seemed to have lots of beer. We had a jolly evening with our new friends Arf and Joren from Holland – no idea if that’s how you spell their names but I’m a dog so I can get away with it.
Next day was another lovely day and everyone headed out early to dive Black Carrs which looked a bit lumpy and wavy to me, but was apparently OK underneath – what do I know – I can’t even swim well. Then it was lunchtime and I tried to train Eddie, the on-site Labrador, how to climb on the table and eat people’s sandwiches whilst looking cute, but he just carried his bowl around in his mouth and looked smugly superior. I like him, but he needs to be naughtier – he’ll get more treats that way. Next dive was Bander Reef along the coast near Fast Castle. Auntie Wooof raved about being in a beautiful place and not wanting to come up, she’s so over emotional sometimes.
And that was it – back on the road again with Daddy snoring and Auntie Wooof doing ALL the driving as usual. I had a fantastic weekend. St Abbs is a very special place and the people there are all lovely – I hope we go back soon. I am very lucky to be Club Dog.
The vans were all packed carefully with several tonnes of kit and baggage and cool bags and beers and we set off on yet another Manx adventure. The steampacket company duly delivered us all safely to Douglas and we arrived at Mike keggan’s place in Port St Mary by teatime. We unpacked the above mentioned tonnage of kit and organised it into our allocated boat boxes ready for the morning. Then it was off for a curry dinner and back to the house for a restful night’s sleep. Or at least that was the plan…only we hadn’t banked on Jonathan’s impressive Massey Ferguson impersonation! I read recently that if somebody tells you you snore they have seriously thought about killing you but decided to let you live, so it’s testament to Jonathan’s personality that he survived the week!
The forecast for the next few days was for increasing winds so we opted to make the most of a calm day and do three dives. The first of which was the Burroo, a scenic wall dive festooned with luminous Jewel anemones and infested with very curious cuckoo wrasse, one of which actually attacked my arm! A fleeting glimpse of a seal and decent enough visibility had nicely whetted our appetites. Dive two was the infamous SS Clan Macmaster. This was a huge cargo ship which ran aground on Thousla Rock in the Sound of Calf in 1923. She was 420ft long but is now well broken up and flattened and covered in red seaweed. The boilers and prop shaft are still clearly visible and a resident seal likes to come to say hi to divers. After a pleasant dive on the wreckage we ‘jumped’ into the impressive currents of the sound and dived the drift with excellent viz making it easy to remain together. The wrasse and shoals of saith were going mad in the flow and at one point I was totally enveloped in fish! Time to surface and a quick cuppa and piece of ginger cake before divesugarloaf caves are an atmospheric and impressive site. The first cave is called the cave of birds and is a dead end but has a resident seal. The second cave is called Fairy Hall and is open to the surface so has shafts of light within. All in all a cracking day.
The first night’s cooking team did us proud with copious quantities of spicy meatballs followed by cheese cake and vienetta ice cream. Barry was issued a cheese cake challenge to raise money for charity but after much stomach rubbing and sweating he admitted defeat and the cheesecake survived another night.
The promised winds arrived over night, both from Barry’s over pressured gut and the weather gods. It was not looking overly likely we’d dive at all so we were happy to drop in on a sheltered bay known as Garden bay. Now re-named lost torch bay due to Tim losing his lovely new back up torch. We did get to see a small basking shark though which in the choppy sea was a good spot by young Tom. Craggy jeggy or eggy weggy or whatever the next dive was called was another sheltered bay with large boulders and plenty of life. Andy C ‘s pink mask was a great attraction for the local gangs of wrasse and we spotted congers and lobsters along the way. Andy had obviously been inducted into the gang as he turned to a life of crime, stealing in broad daylight the valued cargo of Mr Kiplings Bakewell slices and then forcing other members of the team to eat the evidence! Shocking conduct and not expected from a respected ex fire officer , he’s lucky to escape a birching!
Day three was blustery again but our intrepid group braved the large and mountainous sea with courage and bravado. Well some of us cried a bit and pleaded to go home, but it all ended well 🙂 We dropped into another sheltered bay called Gibdale bay and spent 10 minutes wading through kelp, which in 8m in a twin set stopped being fun almost immediately. We were about to give in and abort the dive when the kelp cleared and a little opening appeared with a gravelly bottom. Then the seals came! Lovely, playful little fellas which kissed and shook paws as we spent the next 40 minutes being chased around the same rocky swim through.
Dive two was, yep you’ve guessed it, another sheltered bay. We started at a pinacle then swam along with not a lot to look at apart from some sizeable pollock. The weather was taking its toll on our options but at least we got in somewhere.
Our final day was almost blown out completely and with the skipper sucking air through his teeth and shaking his head we delayed a final decision on diving for a couple of hours and went to the calf view point cafe for some cake. Having decided it was diveable we settled on the wreck of the Citrine for our last dive. In 15 m of water it’s nice and light and the boilers still stand proud. There were congers and lobbies and the usual subjects. Keith gave himself a hernia trying to lift a lump of some non- ferrous metal and we all had a good long poke around the wreck.
The trip home was brightened up by some nice customs officers arresting Ruth and team at the ferry port for smuggling dangerous air. Lucky they didn’t spot all the knives eh?
All in all it was another successful trip and whilst we had not had the best of the weather and had been limited in sites, it at least gives us a reason to return. Sorry Mike , we WILL be back !
In a bid to get the best Trip Sec Award I pulled out all the stops:
- Facebook event – Check
- Text messages – Check
- E-mail – Check
- A full guide to the arrangements, directions, parking, food etc – Check
- (But more on this later.)
Finally the day arrives, it’s Saturday morning and we’re on route to the North East. It’s a beautiful day (sun shining and very little breeze) and even the traffic is kind to us.
Car by car we arrive at the Royal Quays Marina and find our grassy knoll of a car park, all that is but one! The clock’s ticking, everyone’s on the boat and yet we’re still a man down. Finally John arrives, I think he was a bit stressed given a friendly fisherman warned him that his car windows had been left open, his response – “F**k Off!” :-).
“What kept you” we ask, “I got lost” he says, “bloody sat nav kept taking me to a dead end”. So – back to my event planning, “Didn’t you see the Facebook event? The guided directions? The annotated satellite photo of where to go and park?”, “No – What’s all that?” – I GIVE UP!!!
Finally we’re off and after a short sail, dive one is on the Cider Wreck. It’s flat calm and still the sun is shining. Tim’s brought along a new toy (his pride and joy), a two hundred odd pound strobe for the shot line.
In he goes to clip it on and keep us well navigated whilst the rest of us faf and finally get in the water. It’s a pleasant dive with reasonable vis for this part of the world but all too soon our damned computers are telling us to get topside. We’ve all manage well, Liz found some “spidge” (a ginger ale bottle) and some with the help of the strobe came up the shot (that can’t be said of me, Graham and Jared).
All onboard and it’s time to pull up the shot, heave-ho up she comes but what’s this? No strobe! “What the ****? * 5” Tim says and before you can say surface interval he and Keith are making bubbles again. What’s a bit of deco between a man and his strobe?
In no time at all (or so it seems to those of us with tea-coffee and hobnobs) a victorious pair surface with a strobe flashing almost as brightly as Tim’s smile.
Second dive of the day (or third for some) is on the Pandora, another smashing dive with ok vis, boilers, prop shaft and a partial prop. Again the three wise men can’t find the shot but hey ho DSMB practice is always useful 😉 . We’re not the only ones to surface under an SMB, Tim & Liz were doing so well clearing deco until some overly helpful diver starts pulling them up followed by Allan piloting the boat over the top of them. Can’t remember Liz using language like that before, she must have learned it from the kids at school.
Unfortunately at this point we’ve a diver worse for wear, Richard’s got a banging headache and in his own words admits to being a “woosy diver”.
Wow we’re really steaming on with this diving malarkey, it’s only just lunchtime and true to form our skipper Allan whips up a hot lunch of Chicken Tikka Masala to warm our cockles. It’s at this point that the Batley’s own up to having had curry the night before, “you do know we’re having curry tonight?” I ask. (Put the loo roll in the fridge).
We forgo the offer of a third dive in favour of a pint on harbour side in the Earl of Zetland followed by a snooze for some and cylinder filling for others. (By the way, the sun is still shining).
Cylinders filled, power naps done and glad rags on we’re “oot on the toon”, not quite but checking out Tynemouth for curry & beer. A great night out was had by all but the bravado may have gone a little too far for me & Keith as we foolishly take the chilli challenge, “waiter, more beer please”.
Day two arrives and after a mammoth Brewers Fayre breakfast, lots of water, headache tables and the odd case of IBS, we’re off diving again. Well, some of us at least, John & Richard bail out and poor Liz has the ‘flu aches’ and hasn’t the strength to lift her toothbrush. “Time to push off guys?”, hang on, were are the Batley’s off to? Apparently Bev’s full face mask is more useful on the boat than left in the hotel bathroom.
Dive one is a wreck called the Illius, a large amount of wreckage spread out over a big area but I can’t say that I took a lot of it in given that I had lost a weight pouch and spent half the dive looking for rocks to fill my pockets. Tim must have eyes like a hawk and found some fishing lead to help keep me down. Crisis averted we tentatively surface with some deep stops for good measure. Back on board it’s like a geology field trip.
Yet again Tim feels the need to go on a salvage mission (that man likes his deco). Not so lucky this time though, the unclipper fish has made off with my pouch an about 5kg of lead.
Dive two is a large dredger just of the coast of Sunderland. I bail out and keep Liz company (not that she needed any with her new camera to play with). All surface safely and today we’re treated with Chicken in White Wine Sauce and rice for lunch, I could get used to this hot lunch arrangement.
We kindly decline Allan’s offer of a third dive and that’s it, time to pack up and go home but not before a quick debrief in the Zetland.
All in all a great weekend, thanks to Allan and all who came and made it such a good one.