Lots of kit sorting and fettling.
AND theory training both within the branch and from BSAC national – all over the internet.
The club has run Ocean Diver, Sports Diver and Dive Leader theory lessons. BSAC is running Advanced Diver theory and some SDCs.
We have one person passed Dive Leader theory and three passed Sports Diver theory. Well done Steve, Ben, Phoebe and Scott.
We are all now desperate to get into the water !!!!
Lots of kit sorting and fettling.
Forecast for 3m swell?!?!? Should we take our dive gear ? Good job we listened to Paul and not Richard !!!!
Despite the awful weather earlier in the week the weather was improving. So we drove up in sunshine full of hope. The never ending debate going on. Where should we get our Friday night fish and chips. Giacopazzi’s won, what a great choice http://www.giacopazzis.co.uk/
A very chill evening so taking all the wearable gear into the bunkhouse for maximum benefit in the frosty morning. A nice leisurely start to the day (courtesy of the tides). Paul was promising nothing except the ability to put us in and get us out.
So the first dive was from West Hurca drifting toward St Abbs. A really nice drift, visibility about 2m and not much life except the crawling kind but good to cover anemone gullies. Just over 30 minutes was enough for us all at 8 degrees.
Lunch interval, so a rapid traverse to the café for Cullen Skink (the best in Scotland).
After lunch the intrepid 5 (losing Richard) took to Black Carrs. It really was black, like a night dive, forcing focus on the torch beam but better vis of about 4m. The highlight being the anenomes out and feeding and their glorious colours – pink, white, mixed, reds.
Diane had done most of the dinner preparation so a quick round of spud bashing and we were ready for the New Inn (walk for the hardy). Then a return to a sumptuous Christmas dinner followed by who can remember what.
Lazy Sunday with breakfast in the café. Not quite the plan but it worked out well. So fully fuelled a few of us went for a walk round Gibside with the obligatory coffee (near Newcastle https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside). Well worth a visit.
A reasonable forecast prior to the weekend but very changeable day by day as we got closer. What would actually happen ?
So we arrived Thursday evening to be greeted the waves breaking and Paul saying ‘it will be what it will be’, ‘there’s certainly going to be swell tomorrow’. and so it was.
Undeterred we set off for the Isle of May under a grey cloud and on a swelly sea. The further we went the more we could see sunshine behind us (the wrong way !) but the swell was lessening. Looking round the island the swell was from the SE making the NW the only ‘safe’ area.
A short lunch break and we were ready again, For the bits of the Albany wreck. Ribs and hull plates with various scattered items along the sea bed. Life clustered in and amongst including conger and lobster.
Quite a long haul back in worsening weather (the rain – URGHHHHH), Then a quick change and out to Eyemouth for tea.
With no promises for Saturday we awoke to sunshine and calm seas. Needing to stay in the shelter of the bay Black Carrs and Ebb Carrs were selected. Good choices. Octopus, Angler fish, Ling, shoal of juvenile pollack, wolf fish all sighted as well as lots of lobster and crab.
As evening drew close we saw the best of St Abbs in the sunshine as we prepared for our dinner at the New Inn, Coldingham.
Paul warned us about Sunday and so no one was surprised when diving was cancelled. So an opportunity for a leisurely start and early set off for home.
Many thanks to Paul and Rachel (Dive St Abbs, Rock House and Shore Diver).
There is a lot more to a six day liveaboard diving trip than exploring rusting hulks and chasing marine critters. In fact, during this year’s Orkney trip, over the six days and, assuming an average dive time of 45 minutes, each of us only spent 9 hours underwater. Of course, some of us – notably your humble author, spent quite a bit less than this, but more of that later.
So, what else diverts us during the remaining ninety six hours or so – the time remaining that we are not asleep at night?
Eating and drinking, as in all trips, or indeed any holiday, is of vital importance. Let’s face it most holidays are merely filling in time between meals. We were blessed with food of the highest culinary standard provided by the efficiently delightful Rachel. She provided tasty, yet balanced meals catering for the varied capacities and idiosyncratic tastes of the assembled diners. Of course, the carefully crafted and balanced diet was totally undermined by the large quantities of sweets and biscuits eaten in between those meals.
Drinking is a vital pastime which, it goes without saying, was indulged to strictly moderate levels – unless it was your birthday. However, it is essential to oil the wheels of social interaction and ensure, for the older members of the group, a regular and vital exercise regime through the night. The quantities of cans and bottles deposited in the various recycling bins, clearly evidenced the commitment to the pastime.
The old traditionalists
There is also ample time, for some, to pursue a strict exercise regime and for others to strictly not pursue any exercise regime. For most, gentle evening strolls enjoying the beautiful Orcadian sunsets was sufficient to maintain a modicum of physical fitness. However, on one occasion, the desire for an evening libation, spurred the group to a furious route march to a far-flung hostelry.
In between dive sleeping and reading was another favourite pastime. Usually it was more of a case of reading then sleeping rather than any lengthy retreat into the fantasy of prose.
Of course, the nine hours under the water involves support and ancillary activities such as kit fettling, nitrox analysis – for those willing to pay for it, and equipment repair with the help of the of the very efficient overnight service of the dive shop in Stromness.
This trip brought new innovations. We had the newly devised MOTD Awards which were nothing to do with football and actually meant Muppet of the Day (perhaps it was about footballers?). There were several, variably deserving recipients of the award who I will not embarrass by naming here. The sloppy grin and pinkness of your author’s cheek, gives away my identity as one. It was possible that I might have received on more than one occasion but a sense of fair play on the part of our revered leader meant the award was more widely shared out. An overall weekly winner has yet to be announced.
More excitingly, there were new DIVE BRIEFING innovations (this has to be in capitals as it always must be shouted very loudly).Bob delivered his first 3D model some undersea pinnacles called “Nipple Rock”, using a handy blanket. Whether the model was meant to allude female mammary glands only Bob can say. It was a tour de force and left us all open mouthed in admiration. However, even this momentous new innovation was eclipsed by application of the latest cutting edge technology in the form of a 3d printed version prepared by Ainsley and Rachel. It was of a separated item of wreckage photographed on the sea floor then rendered into vibrant orange three dimensions. The only disappointment was the actually item of wreckage proved not to be bright orange as the model suggested it would be.
Another first was that Bob abandoned ship for two nights and a day and left us in the youthful but very capable hand of Ainsley and Rachel. Ainsley proved to be a master steersman and professionally overcame the elements to extract The Halton from a quay in strong winds. Rachel delivered more traditional dive briefings with a thoroughness and a great deal more beauty than is generally available from Bob. We were suspicious of Bob’s reasons for time off but were too polite to mention them.
Undersea Beauty I
Undersea beauty II
And the diving? Divers go to Orkney for the remaining wrecks of the scuttled WWI fleet and often never venture from Scapa flow for the entire week. We are more intrepid and venture out to the other island and this time tied up in Burray in the west and Westray in the north. We also managed a couple of hours for late breakfast and love gift purchases in Kirkwall. We also made an attempt on a much lauded site well out into the Atlantic called North Shoal. However, the sea state was against us and after 5 hours bobbing about there was concern over retrieving divers and a general lack of enthusiasm to dive. Round we turned and eventually dived in the shelter of the islands. Typically, our nauseous author spent the whole time in his bunk.
In the flow we enjoyed the variety of diving that is characteristic of Scapa Flow. We dived a battleship (Kron Prinz Wilhelm). All the three battleships in the Flow turned turtle when scuttled and only brave and intrepid divers venture in the dark recess to see the juicy bits partially buried in the silt. The cruisers (Karlsruhe, Coln, Brummer and Dresden) are much more rewarding as they lie on their sides making the most interesting deck paraphernalia available for exploration.
Tabarka -the undersea cathedral
Extreme scallop preparation on the Barge
There is plenty of other diving with block ships (Tabarka) and, possibly your author’s favourite, the F2 and barge.The irony of the story of these two wrecks is that the barge sank whilst part of the salvage attempt of the U boat, the F2. It sits there on the bottom with a couple/three of the U boats guns which will never again see the light of day.
The beauty of diving in Orkney is that there is diving for all tastes whether you are a young techy or an old traditionalist. This trip typified this and with generally benign weather, sociable company and the professional and, mostly polite, care of Bob and the crew of The Halton. We all sped home tired but fully satisfied with our experiences. Actually Karl and overnighted in Edinburgh and found ourselves the only the only westerners in a Chinese restaurant.
Our sincerest thanks to Richard Ward for organising yet another successful trip.
Liveaboard Blue Adventurer – Strait of Tiran/ Northern Wrecks from Hurgada – 24th April
Still places left on the boat.
Interested contact Ray.
A glorious weekend with the most divers from our club ever. 15 on Saturday and 14 on Sunday. Used all the accommodation and both waves !
Black Carr, West Hurker, Glanmire and Tye’s Tunnel. Great dives with a bit of current running round the headland. Interesting.
Wolf Fish, two Octopus and the usual crawling suspects. Viz fine at 4-5m. Water temperature was a warm 10 degrees. 50 minute dives from some with 40 minutes the norm.
Great accommodation and boat with Paul and Rachel at Rock House and aboard Shore Diver.
Blown out Saturday. This is the UK after all !!!
A great days diving Sunday. Fantastic viz to say a storm had been through.
Blue Caps and Hares. Seals mainly sunning themselves but in the water around Blue C aps and some good interactions. See Facebook video segments.
Thanks for the pictures Victor.
I had my first visit to the training quarry (Capernwray) yesterday and it was good. Water was 7 degrees C but felt warmer (Matt’s computer said 8). Surface temperature was 14ish, so very nice. Visibility was OK, not the outstanding of the website ! But I saw two of the big Sturgeon, so very happy.
Time to start booking your open water dates either for training or just to get wet !
Let me know, ideally for rest of month, April and May