Sunshine and shipwrecks in South Shields

Friday night and 10 intrepid Robin Hood divers tootled sedately up the A19 to make South Shields in time for last orders. Well, 9 actually because Graham decided he’d rather get up at 4am and arrive saturday in time for ropes off. After a peaceful night in the Atlantis Guest house on Ocean Road we awoke fresh and ready to go. All we needed was a hearty full English breakfast to get us ready for the day. Sadly the breakfast nazis wouldn’t cook sausages until 8am so most of us just made do with bacon and eggs. Except Bob who had patiently waited since 5am and held out for his full English. 8am came and went and it soon became apparent that Bob was not going to be waving his sausage at us any time soon and in the end he too made do with his Bacon and eggs. Poor Bob.

We were boarded and loaded with our usual slick efficiency and soon at sea on Spellbinder, with Allan at the helm and Mark on coffee duty, the sun shining and the sea flat. We decided to aim for the wreck of the S.S Mars which sank in 32m of water in 1939 after being struck by a mine. The wreck was nicely shotted by the boilers and we enjoyed a decent dive amongst the plates and debris. Those mines must have been serious bits of kit because the wreck is well broken up. There was an absence of fish life, but what it lacked in fish it gained in visibility and it made for a pleasant change to be able to find our way back to the shotline without too much difficulty.

As it was only 11am we decided to wait until after dive 2 for lunch and instead had a nice surface interval of tea, coffee, hot chocolate, hobnobs and blue ribband biscuits. Terry slapped on the suntan oil and settled back to off-gas.

Dive 2 was an old favourite, the Pandora. Having dived this several times before it was really nice to actually see it! The propeller is a little more exposed than in the past and you can now clearly see the previously buried blade which has sheared right through. Following the prop shaft back to the boilers we once more found the shot with ease, thanks to Tim’s strobe. Still a lack of fish life, the odd wrasse and lots of squat lobsters darted about the wreckage. The Bow, which stands a little proud of the sea bed, did however have a shoal of bib inside which were a welcome distraction. Again the visibility was probably the best we’ve had on the wreck.

Back on the boat we barely had time to take our kit off before being handed a steaming bowl of sweet and sour chicken and egg fried rice. More tea and we began to head back to port. Allan the skipper suggested somebody jump in on the Eugene Chandris as we passed to check on the state of the viz.  Tim volunteered to do the job. The next time the skipper looked he had a boat full of kitted up divers ready to jump in! The quick look turned into a 40 minute dive with Graham reporting he’d seen a lobster bigger than Terry! Pablo was so impressed by all the bullets and ammo that he didn’t want to surface, but surface we did, after a cracking day’s diving.

Saturday evening, and Ocean road transforms into the North East’s answer to the West End. Minus the culture, and with more of it’s share of drunken neds. We opted for a nice meal in an Italian restaurant and a walk along the sea front. If anybody wants any pizza we have a bit left over!

Sunday morning arrived and we finally got to enjoy the full English breakfast which elluded us the previous morning. The poor lady was alone in the kitchen but had Bob’s breakfast ready and waiting for him!  With images of Tim’s bedroom parading and stories of seasickness onboard spellbinder Amanda didn’t look particularly hungry. Funny that.

The first dive was a wreck none of us had done before. The H.M.S Elise. The armed fishing trawler sank in 1918 after hitting a mine, or a torpedo. There are conflicting reports of her sinking, but WE all know it was a result of the unfeasibly large boiler she was carrying! For a small trawler, the boiler was enormous! This wreck was covered in life. There were lots of bib and lobsters under every plate. There is a gun somewhere on the sea bed but despite a good search we couldn’t locate it. At a depth of 30m this was a perfect dive for nitrox and everybody agreed that it was a really lovely little wreck.

Dive 2 was my old favourite the Cider Wreck. In the past I have found some lovely pottery on this site and this dive didn’t disappoint. Nestled right under the quite impressive anchor was a beautiful little glazed pot. Tim also spotted a cracking little pot, and about half a tonne of fishing weights, which he dutifully wombled off the sea bed. There was a lot more life on this wreck, particularly the section between the boiler and engine block where a large shoal of bib and a two foot long cod congregated. It was quite a special feeling to hover amongst them and just enjoy the moment. Again the visibility was superb, and the boat was buzzing with excited divers whilst we tucked into our chicken curry.

Dive six of the weekend was another go on the Eugene Chandris, or was it the Oslo fijord? The site is big enough to still find things missed on the first dive and Keith spotted a large shell casing, which on closer inspection proved to be stuffed full of cordite! With all divers back on the boat we packed up our kit, thanked Allan and Mark for a cracking weekend and convened in the bar for a deco beer.

Sun, Seals and Soggy Suits

As trips go this one was a bit like the Hokey Cokey. Divers booked on and off with a vengeance, but on the morning of July 21st, (first day of the summer holidays) we boarded glad tidings 7 with 15 divers: members, members of old, and members of the future. Some of us even had full cylinders! 

The sea was mirror flat and the sun had the decency to hide behind some light cloud so we didn’t fry in our suits. The first dive was hopper rock, with a depth of 25 m and a water temp of 12-13 degrees. I was glad about this as the sea managed to ingress into my usually sound dry suit. I let my buddy know when it got to my elbow, but continued the dive as the visibility was great and the shoals of herring made for a delightful spectacle. A few seals were out but I must’ve had my repellant on as none paid us much attention. I think they were all playing with Sam and Andy Pepper! Sadly the water level inside my suit eventually made it to my armpit, the 13 degrees didn’t feel so warm then, so up went the smb and I got back on the boat to wring out my under suit and dry off in the sunshine. Hobnobs and jelly babies later (Lee signed his contract to join the club by eating 2 club hobnobs) , we deliberated on the best site for dive 2.

Longstone End was the site for our second dive. A slight drift made for an effortless glide with the rock on the left. Passing a sizeable cod, flat fish, pogge , sea scorpion and Ballan wrasse on the way. The rocks were covered in life and there were several large crabs and lobsters scuttling around. This time the water inside my suit overtopped my armpit and redistributed down to my feet so it wasn’t as long a dive as I would have liked. The cuff dump seemed to be the smoking gun so we did some on board maintenance involving pulling it to pieces and putting it back together again. It seemed to do the trick  Back ashore we stopped off for a deco beer in The Ship joined by the Italian contingent from the boat. Abbiamo passato una bella giornata!