ts 10am on Friday morning and 9 of us met at Waterfront Scuba, to collect tanks and buy those last minute bits of equipment, The weather forecast wasn’t looking fantastic, Sophie was already in Seahouses, local divers were predicting being blown out and having spoke to Graham our skipper, chances of diving were 50/50. However the BBC weather showed the wind dropping so eventually we loaded up the van and cars and set off around 11.
We arrived at our cottage in Seahouses around 7 and it seemed to be a nice evening, clear skies and just a bit windy, however by 8pm the wind was up again and it was seriously raining, so much that we had to drive to the pub! During a few drinks and a meal we got a call from the skipper advising that the weather was so changeable he wouldn’t be able to make a call until the morning and so instead of us arriving at the harbour at 7, we should have a lie in and wait for him to call us at 8am once he had surveyed the conditions.
We were all up at 6.30am, the sky was clear, it was a bit windy and pretty cold, but looked to be a nice day. Andy Pitcher had put together the dive plan and buddy pairs for theweekend and over breakfast carried out the initial dive brief. At 8am Graham called us, diving was on, although conditions were a bit ‘iffy’ and it wasn’t going to be the best visibility and may be a bit rough. 30 minutes later we had gathered our kit together and were out of the cottage for the short drive down to Beadnell harbour. We met our RHIB for the weekend ‘Moby’. After kitting up in the car park and loading everything we needed on the boat, it was a short walk across the sand whilst the tractor launched the boat. We then waded out through the pretty cold and quite rough water and climbed aboard, some with more skill that others, any maybe a few were dragged on boat.
We set off for the ride out to the Farnes, a group of islands about 3miles offshore. It was a pretty bumpy ride and we were getting very wet on the way out, As the weather had been so poor the night before we were going to be limited to diving only shallow and very sheltered sites particularly as this would be the 1st UK sea dive for some of the team. Graham checked out a number of sites and it was nearly an hour before we found what was to be the only place we could dive. We were in a fairly sheltered bay. After a dive briefing from the skipper it was time to kit up. It was a fairly roomy RHIB, but still space was tight and it took a while to get organised, however we soon had a system in place, with 2 divers assisting kitting up and we were soon ready to dive. The 1st wave of divers rolled in and it was soon found that a lot of them were underweighted, so there was some swimming back and forth to the boat to collect spare weights to get everyone correctly set up and ready to dive.
There were a few seals on the surface and we dropped down into pretty murky water in about 9m onto the kelp, Visibility was around 2m with a slight current and a water temperature of 12°. Dive plan was to swim in a roughly Westerly for about 20m and then to turn and swim back. There wasn’t a huge amount to see, down there, but it was a good oportunity to get used to the conditions. There were a few problems, one lost buddy who both followed the correct proidure and let up SMB’s and surfaced after a minute and a few divers who were feeling the cold and had weight problems and didn’t actually make it down, but in general we all surfaced after around 30minutes and were collected by the boat. Again there was plenty of laughter as we were in turn dragged over the side of the boat and dumped at the back.
The skipper provided us with Coffee , Tea and Soup and a good supply of biscuits and sausage rolls and after a short surface interval we changed tanks and got ready for the next dive. By this time the tide had turned and the wind had picked up, We again checked out a couple of sites and decided on what was going to again be our only option. By this time the swell was quite large against the rocks and a number of the team had decided to sit this one out, there was a quick discussion, a couple wanted to go in, but Andy Pitcher made the sensible call that it was getting too rough and we decided to forget the 2nd dive and make our way back to the harbour. The Journey back took a fair while as the seas were now quite heavy, there were some huge waves and those sitting at the back of the boat were pretty much underwater for most of the journey, Kit Kat’s taste a lot nicer when you don’t have a mouth full of sea water. On reaching the harbour we were again in the
water, assisting with getting the boat back on the trailor so the tractor could pull it out.
We found out that we were the only boat that had made it out to the Farnes that day, all the others had blown out, so it was good that we had actually managed to get in the water at all. After dekitting it was back to the cottage for hot drinks, showers and sleep. Saturday night was spent with pizzas a few drinks and entertainment provided by Dave Bowdler and his friend ‘ Jack’. Dave last seen at 2am asleep with his head hanging off the sofa. Most of us were in bed long before that.
Up at 6am for a 7am depart, a quick breakfast. There may have been a few sore heads this morning and it was a bit quieter! Again a lovely bright day and a lot less wind, but pretty cold. Back in the car park it was the same routine and we were out on the water just after 8am. Sea was a lot flatter and we made good progress out to the Islands. There was still a lot of strong currents and we were agian a bit resticted on dive sites and ended up in the same location we had dived the previous day. Again after kitting up we dropped in at about 9m, Visibility was a lot better at about 5m and we found ourself swimming along a gully. Plenty of crabs and lobsters to look at although not many fish, evidence that the seals were there, just not playing with us. Again after about 30minutes the cold got the better of us and we surfaced, having dived to around 16m.
A cup of soup and an hours surface interval during which we chatted with other skippers it was found that where we were moored was the only realistic hope of diving as currents were bad elsewhere so we chose to do a dive just across the bay along a wall
Dropping in our group decended straight to 16m and we swam along the wall, loads of soft corals, anenomes, starfish to look at, along with a good selection of crabs and plently of Lobster. After 20minutes we were just about to turn around and start our return journey when we had our first seal encounter. Only a brief visit, it swam in quickly had a look for a few seconds and was gone, but at least we had seen one. Surfacing after 40 minutes it was a really good dive and we made our way back to harbour.
A group went off to explore Bamburugh castle in the afternoon and then the evening was spent in a local hotel for dinner, tiredness was setting in and we were all in bed fairly early
Woken at 530 am by the smoke alarm, an early riser had burnt the toast, we had to get up early anyway to pack and leave the cottage. Back in the Harbour at 7am it was a bit cloudy and there was a some rain in the air but no wind, the sea was dead calm and we were out on the boat ready to go at
8am. A nice fast trip out and we ended up just by the longstone lighthouse, There were seals popping up everywhere around us and it looked to be a good diver, apparently one of our skippers ‘ special sites’ 30 years of experience diving in the Islands so he knows his sites. After a briefing we dropped in.
Instruction was to decend rapidly facing the wall and we would see an entrance in a gully , which we swam straight into at about 23m. Immediately we started seeing seals swimming around us 2 or 3 at a time, just swimming by and checking us out. The gully extended in around 30m and stopped at a short wall, where we turned round, Keeping to the plan we kept the wall on the right and within 25m of leaving the gully we came to the next one, which couldn’t be located from the surface easily. We swam in seeing a number of lobsters to find one of the other dive teams parked up on th eclear sandy bottom. We were joined by a coupe of very inquistive seals who came up really close and got some fin bitting action in, The seals played with us for 10 minutes until we got boring and they were gone. At this point we had been down 30 minutes and the other divers were cold so they acsended. We continued into the next gully where we saw the biggest lobster I’;ve ever seen and had a play with anither seal. One seal was really attached to Rob and held his hand, and then tried to steal his regulator. After 42minutes the 11° water got the better of us and we joined the others back in the boat. Everyone had met the seals so the weekend was complete.
For the final dive of the weekend it was decided to repeat the last dive and as not all divers had made it into the sandy area where we played with the seals, the plan was for the 1st group of dives to place a shot line in the entrance to the gully. This was accomplished however the tide had turned and those divers were soon drifting out to sea leaving an SMB and reel tied to a rock, a 2nd SMB was put up and they surfaced after 34 minutes having met more seals on the way. It turns out that pretty much all the divers had the same problem and were drifting. Andy Pitcher did a great job and managed to stay by the shot for his dive and recovered the reel.
After a final ride back to the harbour we were all packed up by 1pm, we finished the trip off with a meal at one of Seahouses many chip shops and then started on the long drive home.
A really fun weekend was had by all, some good teamwork and everyone did something new and learned some new skills, looking forward to the next big UK trip.