A special video report from Liz
The trip that was on, off, on, off and on again.
The North East was in Covid lockdown and the hotel rooms many of us had booked for Friday night ‘oop north’ had to be cancelled. In light of the horrible weather and sea forecast it was probably for the best as on Tuesday prior to the trip, William, the skipper was rather non-committal and I think would have called it there and then if it wasn’t for the diabolical season he was having between global pandemics and shitty weather. ‘Let’s wait and see’ he said, and that’s what we did.
On Thursday prior to the trip I rang expecting to have the cancellation confirmed and was rather shocked when he said ‘ Let’s do it!’ ‘I’ll get yea in on the sooth side o’ the island’s like’ (NE Accent needed). So a last-minute reprieve and lots of frantic kit packing and we were all set. Having cancelled our hotel Steve and I set off at some ungodly hour like half past yesterday and drove steadily up the A1 arriving in time for a Trotter’s breakfast bap and a coffee before boarding GT7 and chugging out to the islands.
The sea state was not too horrific considering it was predicting a 2m swell and we enjoyed a socially distanced deck party. The good thing about wearing face coverings in at this time of year is that it keeps you all nice and warm. Before too long we were kitted up and ready to jump into sounds of honking seals greeting seal Ben. We dived Little Harcar to a depth of between 18-23 m, the visibility was reasonably good considering the raging storms that had been through over the previous weeks and my new neoprene neck sea was watertight, so happy days. Steve and I saw a small octopus, well I saw a small Octopus, Steve was just videoing a rock wondering what on Earth I was gesticulating at. We had a few fly-bys by seals but I must have been wearing my seal repellent because they didn’t want to play. Meanwhile, Dan and Trev were getting mugged by an overly amorous lady seal who had had enough of lockdown and decided it was time to party. Keith and Amanda won the spidge recovery award by surfacing with a rather snazzy looking Camouflage go-pro like camera…How they saw it is a mystery. We still have not located its owner.
Lessons learned were that a) it’s a good idea to fill your blow and go before going on the dive, and b) If you don’t remember to fill your blow and go before diving don’t bother trying to fill it the old fashioned way as it’s a bit faffy.
Back on the boat we reminisced about the good old days when we could pass round a packet of club hobnobs and jelly babies and stagger around the deck carrying scalding hot cups of salty teacoffee. Ahhh them were the days! Amanda was most impressed with the toilet refurb that had been carried out during lockdown. She really enjoyed the alfresco facilities and the fact she could listen to the dive briefing whilst having a wee. They just need to fashion a slightly better ‘curtain’ so the whole boat doesn’t get to watch proceedings 🙂
Dive two was the wreck of the St Andre and the Pinnacles. Dive times were ranging from 44 mins to a winning 54 mins (well done Dan Atkinson). The wreck was interesting with lobbies, crabs and a few lurking cod. The reef wall had plenty of crabs and small echinoderms (look it up) and we all surfaced having been pleasantly surprised with the diving.
Back ashore we convened to the pub, the sun showed up whilst we enjoyed a post-dive beverage in the garden.
And that folks, is that. The weirdest year ever delivered one final trip for us. See you next season x
It was a later than usual season opener this year…but I can say that I much prefer the Farne Islands in July to April! When William gave me the nod that diving was going to be on I went a bit wobbly…There was a flurry of excitement as people started to pack their kit bags, with a few strange additions….face mask, flask, she-wee 🙂
We arrived at Seahouses Harbour to an orderly if not a little inconvenient loading system. However it was no great hardship and the pay-off was the discovery that we were on GT8, with only 11 of us on board, and a working toilet (she-wee not required).
So with a group of slightly nervous diver (it had been several months since we dived in the sea), we set sail to the islands. In glorious sunshine and nice calm seas everybody kitted up and with a tiny amount of tummy butterflies we launched ourselves off the boat and into some of the best viz I have seen for years! We had opted for the wreck of the San Andre and William popped a shot on the boilers for us. The wreckage was full of life with lobsters in almost every hole, and friendly ballan wrasse were welcoming us back after a long absence. We finned a lot….the current seemed to be against me wherever I went….but it was lovely. We popped up an smb at the end of the dive and we were treated to a superb display of puffins and guillemots which circled us for the entire safety stop. They really are a great sight and this trip is probably the last opportunity to get the birds this season.
Back on board we enjoyed hot drinks from our flasks…hot chocolate and biscuits was the order of the day for me, and it made a change not to have to do the sea legs swagger carrying cups back from the bow. It was also quite nice having the spare cylinders right next to your spot for the change over.
Dive two was The Hopper. The viz was again superb and the water a pleasant 12 degrees, but I was still on level 2 on my heated vest :). A very friendly seal was waiting for us on the seabed and shook some hands. I think they have been wondering where we had been all year. Another notable find was a tadpole fish. Yes that is really a thing. More lobsters, wrasse, an odd cod here and there and also plenty of soft corals and photo opportunities.
We were back on board and heading back to Seahouses when the cry ‘Minkie Whale’ went up. Now I’ve been diving the Farnes since 2002 and have never seen these mythical creatures, so I was a little dubious…however, there was the fin. It was a big beast and we later found out that it was actually a Fin Whale! This was a rare sighting here with only three previously recorded sightings at the Farnes…1810, 1831, and the last one was in 1915. We were definitely blessed and the trip was well worth the wait.
The whole thing was topped off with a socially distanced pint in The Ship and a portion of fish and chips down by the harbour. It was a great day out, and one that at times this year I doubted would happen. So thanks to the skipper William Shiel for getting us out, and all the divers for the effort they took to get dived up, kit checked, paper work sorted, and of course, for all the banter on board.