The Shetland Diaries

Shetland Diaries 24-31st July 2021

Saturday

Early morning start for a shorter 4 hour run up to Aberdeen. First time over the new fourth road crossing was an experience looking over at the old road bridge and the rail bridge in a bright blue sky.

Kit loaded into the ferry containers, van parked and off to join some of the group in Spoons for some lunch and a beer.

Easy boarding on the ferry but a couple of hours to wait until the bar and restaurant open – and the banter and mickey-taking has started already.

Finally, the whole team assembles (with the exception of Sarah who’s already in Shetland) for a couple of drinks and an early night due to the 6am get up. That and the fact that the bar closes at 9 due to COVID for some reason that escapes everyone.

Sunday

Woke up early to grey skies but a perfectly smooth sea and Sumbrugh Head out the cabin window.

Picked up at the ferry terminal with a quick transfer to Valkyrie, our home and dive platform for the week. An unholy amount of dive kit and clothes bags on the deck turned itself into twelve sets of kit and six untidy cabins in no time at all – well, maybe a couple of hours anyway.

First dive was the Froach Ban, a small fishing boat in 30 metres. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and had a play with the flatfish that populate the sand around the wreck.

Second dive was the Giants Legs on Bressay. This is a double arch with a cave in the back and has a massive lobster in the collapsed old roof of the cave. Also seen were octopus and swimming Black Guillemots underwater.

Dinner on the boat was an enormous amount of food so we had to go for a walk before heading to the pub to wash it down with a few beers. Found Jimmy Perez’s house by the water in Lerwick. The kyakers found some water in the evening sun. No murders as yet!

Monday

A mixed nights sleep in the cabins brought a bit of a drizzly morning. Still, that’s better than the thunder and lightning that was forecast. We also saw a family of otters swimming across the harbour while still tied to the dock kit fettling.

First dive wasn’t as described from last night’s info. Bard Cave in ten meters rather than a wreck in twenty odd because the other boat decided they were doing it instead. Glad we got a Nitrox mix for that!

Bard Cave was a good dive with a big boulder field and swim throughs. There was a succession of ever bigger lobsters in the little side caves on the way out until the bid daddy showed up with a huge red claw!

When we surfaced the boat came to us and lowered the lift into the water. Only problem was that the cable was broken and the lift carried on to the bottom in thirty metres of water – oops. Fifty minutes and a lot of bobbing about at the surface later the emergency ladder was rigged and we made it back onto the boat. For some this was the first, and hopefully last, time up the side of an ex trawler without a lift. We found out while bobbing around as a group that cold water is good for dementia – apparently!

Lift recovered we headed back to Lerwick for repairs while having lunch/second breakfast.

A late second dive on the Pionersk, a Russian fish factory ship, gave everyone a rust fix for the day and boy was there a lot of it. Not a lot of life seen but the good news was that the lift worked without a problem again.

Great meal again on the boat again, chicken curry followed by pineapple upside down cake then a quick trip to the pub to round off a pretty full day.

Tuesday

A mildly moist morning and a short run out to the wreck of the Gwadmena. This is another nineteenth-century wreck which had a slight encounter with another ship whilst stationary and sank.

The wreck is in 38 metres on sand and has been wire swept so very open but, in the style of Eric Morecambe, all the parts are there but not necessarily in the right order. The team member who’d left their heated vest controller at home arranged for it to be matter transported to their bag (where they’d left it) in order to have a much warmer remainder of the week.

A light lunch of two burgers and chips with a side salad as an attempt on healthy eating. Burp!

Second dive on the snappily named Mungers Boulders which promised the wreck of the Rognor, octopus and cuttlefish. None of which materialised of course. One member of the team had such a heavy lunch they decided a weight belt wasn’t required for the dive which turned out to be the wrong choice as it happens.

The water was a bit cold which is good for dementia-apparently.

Short run back to Lerwick for an early shower and a walk around town (and maybe a deco beer) before a big night out in the “bright lights” for a Thai banquet for twelve.

Before we left the boat, Dug the Dog left a little browny orange present on the deck next to Amanda’s stage regs. “Good boy Dug”.

A walk up to the Charlotte Fort and found a canon trained on Valkyrie. Tempting but the volume of kit on there stayed our hand. Wandered the beach next to Jimmy Perez’s house looking for sea glass, pub and then the Thai restaurant which was excellent food and a good night.

Wednesday

Another moist morning gives us the wreck of the easily pronounced Lunokhods 1 (which suggests there’s at least a 2 about somewhere) which is another Russian fish factory ship that’s broken in two and lies in forty-four or fifteen metres so take your pick. An interesting wreck with a few sort of swim trough’s and an even more interesting ascent line/SMB line combo on the way up.

It’s now midweek and energy levels are reduced. Only time will tell who’ll be the first to apply for their Dive Avoidance Specialty.

Meatballs for lunch and some laughing gnomes at the table! Queue David Bowie.

Second dive is another scenic rocks dive at Balla Skerry. Fully expected someone to bail based on the above and that’s is pissing it down but no, everyone opts to dive. Mixed results of conger, seal, octopus or nothing.

Too wet for a proper outing tonight so it’s film night, cards against humanity and a few beers.

Thursday

On a normal cruise the idea would be to run up north to Unst on Tuesday, do some diving up there and stay overnight in Unst harbour. But no, not this week – this week it’s the option to do a six hour “suicide run” up, dive the E49 submarine, then six hours back to Lerwick. Early start and a sleep in the cabin as there is no scenery to look at due to the low cloud and mist. It’s now that foggy that the boats foghorn is going but we still manage to have a “very” close encounter with a stray trawler. So much for modern vessels having AIS.

After a looooooong steam out the first dive is on the E49 which is a WWI sub sat in thirty-one meters on a sandy bottom. Those who had a mix for this depth were disappointed, as it turned out to be thirty-four or five metres, whereas those who thought they had a thin mix were rolling on the bottom laughing at them.

Fantastic dive which lived up to its hype. Very atmospheric sat on the sand with twenty or so metres of viz but sobering to think thirty-four men lost their lives here.

Dive two of the day is Lunna Wall on the loooong trip back to Lerwick.

Finally, we have the first two candidates for the Dive Avoidance Specialty. The call of the shower won out over the draw of a scenic wall. The only surprise really is that it took until Thursday to happen.

We were supposed to go along the wall and then go into an area called the amphitheatre. Out of the ten divers in the water a round number of zero made it into it. Decent wall would have been improved by some sunlight.

Finally arrived back in Lerwick after around fourteen hours at sea. Anyone who’s been out to the Pilsudski from Bridlington will know how this feels.

Friday

Single dive day today so we can get back to port with enough time to wash kit and get the five o’clock ferry back to Aberdeen.

We were all due to dive the wreck of the Glenisla but some of the group opted to dive the Froach Ban again instead.

Group one on the Froach Ban had a great dive with lots of life and acres of vis. Slight issue with the fact that some fishermen had left dozens of hooks on the descent line along with a large weight and a dead mackerel.

After a semi-patient wait group two dive the Glenisla in 44 metres which is fairly close in to Lerwick. Happy divers with not great vis but a good wreck. Minor issue with some stage regs but this was dealt with in the water.

Final lunch of chilli con carne, a rapid kit wash and pack. The volume of kit on the quayside is an impressive sight and a large price tag to leave unattended, however we did due to an opportunity for a beer in the Thule Bar (finally made it) then shuttle the (intact) kit back to the ferry port.

Funny how a tiny en-suite cabin on a ferry can feel like luxury after a week on a uk liveaboard. A number of carried on beers and wine compensated for the seven til nine bar timeframe.

At the end of a great week here’s just one thought to carry forward in life; Cold water is good for dementia-apparently!

Thanks to (in strict dive sheet order of course) Amanda, Liz, Steve, Andrew, Phil, Pablo, Rosa, Kay, Tom, Ian and Sarah for a great week.

Thanks also to Helen, Hannah and Andrew for looking after us for the week – it would have been a challenge.

Special thanks to Dug the dog for keeping up the ever-vigilant seal watch through the week and also for the little brown deck presents he left us as well.

Keith

Check out our Shetland YouTube Playlist to see an assortment of videos from the trip.

Shetland 2021 Playlist