Orkney – August/September 2017

MV Halton – Bob Anderson with Hannah and Fiona

Our expedition to Shetland – Fair Isle – Orkney, has become a shortened ferry crossing to Kirkwall in Orkney only, due to the predicted high winds and no diving in Shetland. Our intrepid leader, Richard managed to get us a refund on the ferry and organise taxis waiting at Kirkwall at 11.00 pm on a Saturday night (fortunately given the extreme distance between ferry terminal and harbour).
There was no sign of the poor weather as we set out for Kirkwall on the ferry enjoying a beautiful sail and sunset. Given the late change of plans and Bob’s steam down from Shetland on Friday night / Sat am the diving plans were up in the air. Then there was the midnight kit load and set up.

A late first dive next day became a scenic one against a rocky wall. Plenty of big gullies and 3 octopus spotted hiding in the rocky holes. A nice shakedown, given many of the group had not done much diving – July St Abbs having been cancelled due to bad weather. Great reviving lunch of leek and potato plus blue cheese soup given the swimming against the current which was running reasonable strongly.
Wreck of the Cotavia, 2nd up late in the afternoon. Deep but great viz with huge boilers and a plate stood upright against the block. Lots of life but just not enough time. On the surface some of us had to swim hard back to the boat. Our DO, Matt, opted to take to his bed due to the excessive exercise at his advance age ! A long and slightly lumpy steam round the islands to get into the relative shelter of the flow at Lyness at 10.00 pm. A quiet night with everybody up and at it for the 9.00am appointment with the Koln. 36m to the bottom, lying on it’s starboard side relatively intact for the cruisers. Most opted for the bow excursion.
A delicious lunch of sweet potato soup with a suitable digestion interval led to 2.00pm at the Brummer. Slightly better viz but the lighter built ship has ‘dropped’ more that her cousin. Several saw two seals both from the wreck and the shot line. Diane tried knitting with lion’s mane tendrils on the shot line as it appeared out of the mass of bubbles from the mass of divers on the shot line. Richard and Frankie were nothing like as creative and were merely stung.
It being Frankie’s birthday we were treated to an impromptu cake and candles for dessert after the delicious pork and cider casserole. Frankie did manage to blow out all 44 candles and wished to go to the pub in Stromness. It did come true !!
A fine morning and off to the Dresden. A little more canted over and top plates dropping but still enjoyable with features and guns a little clearer. Lots of shoaling fish and a few more lion’s manes near the shot. Into Lyness (Hoy) for a little walk to the naval cemetery and tea (best china for a change) and scones at the museum. A short trip over to the F2 and Barge. F2 bow section mostly there but midships and stern salvaged / spread over sea bed. Lots of fish life especially wrasse of all types, followed line to Barge with salvaged gun and vice(s) and then back. A liesurely 60 minutes with no bottom time concerns (18m).
The evening found us docked at Burray next to Andy’s boat, the Jean Elaine. A brisk walk after dinner to the other side of the barrier (beach beyond dunes) cleared the cobwebs and got us ready for a pint in the hotel bar. The imbibing continued back in the rum bar (the boat saloon).
UB116, a late German casualty of the first war, is well blown apart at 29m. The central body has recognisable shapes and features but is quite distorted in some areas. Only one pair found the remains of the conning tower (from the briefing off at 45 degrees). Alex and Will did a defined search pattern to locate it. Only problem for Alex, given Bob’s briefing about it looking like the sub from the ‘Yellow Submarine’, was the song (Beatles – only for those of a certain age !) repeating over and over in her head. There were conger, ling and octopus as well as shoals of small fish. On a very white sandy bottom it felt very bright with good vis before divers feet stirred it up a little. Everyone enjoyed this one, so good even Syd did 10 minutes deco.
Adventure was on the agenda for the afternoon. A drift down Burra Sound over the block ships. Turned out to be quite gentle on the Skye scale. Only 3 pairs were separated but that may have been deliberate. There were certainly fast and slow pockets, as well as the occasional lumps of metal. Continuing the theme, after docking at Lyness and reviewing the new museum exhibits, a walk up to Wee Fea. A thorough exploration of the observation block gave outstanding views over the whole of Scapa Flow. There is an Anchor bar with entry hidden at the back of the hotel block that we persevered and located.
Another bright and still morning dawned for an earlyish start. Horrors !!!!! The midges appeared in the calm. Everyone hid indoors until the boat got underway. Kronprinz Wilhelm, the shallowest of the battleships was our next dive. Quite dark underneath, boat is turned turtle, but lots of life on the bottom (top).
Highlight of the week for some – Tabarka. 12.00 for the tides. It has deteriorated from previous years. The gap in the middle is much bigger, the clearances have reduced with the plates dropping. On the plus side, we were on super slack, so we could explore round as well as inside. The light streaming through the holes still makes this spectacular.
So an afternoon and evening in Stromness. A nice walk round the town, then up the hill, a pre-dinner drink, tea and then a fiddle group to entertain us in the Ferry Inn.
This morning Hannah educated us on nautical matters as the ‘boutique’ cruise ship (ugly cattle) docked beside the Halton. Derricks not cranes. Posh is teak not steel caps.
Off to the Dresden again with Bob putting in the shot that should be on the stern (deep entry, shallow exit). Steve demonstrating superb leadership skills by getting Karl to lift the weight onto the deck, so he could tie it in.
Oh no. Our final dive. The Karlsruhe. Much more distressed than the other cruisers but more ‘accessible’ and at a more convenient depth (25m). A lovely dive to finish with lots of identifiable metal and life.

So we said our goodbyes to ‘5*’ Fiona and Hannah ‘banana’, our fantastic crew for the week, and to Bob, a truly great skipper and diver. Reorganising the dive plan after being blown out from Shetland and giving us the type of diving we were looking for in the best possible conditions each time.
And finally thank you to Richard for organising it all. A little frustrating at times I know.

 

Ray

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Farne Islands June 2016

23rd, 24th and 25th June
Ben, Ellie, Hannah, Chris, Steve, Matt, Kate, Jill, Karl, Ray, Peter, Syd. A team with some new to UK sea diving divers hoping for seals, and not to be disappointed. Into Seahouses after a Friday night drive and the Old Schoolhouse B&B. This made a good place to stay – close to the wild night life (and pubs, and fish and chips) of Seahouses, close to the fill station (special tanks to Steve’s van) and close to the harbour for a quick drive to the dive boat. The boat fitted us all comfortably with space for spare cylinders, sandwiches and typical diver health food picnics.
Dive 1 on Saturday morning: North Wamses. Easy diving down to around 17 metres with a very serene wall dive, with gentle sloping, lots of big rocks to explore and plenty of gullies. All of this was accompanied by some very close to the face and fin-nibbling seal encounters. Cute and curious. All the new to UK sea divers had successful missions and no incidents. Dive 2 was Big Harcar, a 15 metre rock, gully and wall dive with some very laid back seals snoozing in the gullies. Lots of soft coral, plumose, crabs, dead men’s fingers, but too distracted by seal spotting to pay too much attention to other life. Saturday night saw us eating in the Ship Inn with good pub grub and a fine selection of ales. The other pubs of Seahouses were sampled too, including some interesting live music that had heading for the next pub at pace. Sunday’s dives, after a fortifying breakfast, took us into The Hopper, an approx. 19m deep gully/crevice incised into the island with lots of current about 20m out of the mouth (don’t pick that up, said the skipper). The “hopper” itself was full of seals, surrounded by seals and a great place to see and hear seals. Plenty of squat lobsters, scorpion fish, velvet swimming crabs and anemones at the mouth of the gully to make a short seal dive longer and full of variety. Most surfaced fine, but an errant pair got caught in the current that was to have been avoided and ended up drifting out for a longer pick up. Dive 2 on Sunday was on Little Harcar, another 17m-ish dive with life-filled crevices, rock, nooks and crannies. Great attention from the very playful seals on the ascent.
This was a great trip for all divers, but worked especially well for those new to UK sea diving and new to UK seal diving. Thanks to Ray for the organisation and to all involved for a great weekend of diving in good company.

Karl

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Tropical Loch Fyne – May 2017 !!!!

It is in the nature of a true Englishman (and woman), to view with some scepticism the likelihood of fine weather in days to come. It is doubly so in the caser of English scuba divers who travel on dive trips hoping for the best but expecting the worst. So it was with the trip to Loch Fyne. All the indications were for excellent, sunny weather and calm seas – we feared the worst.

However, our pessimism was misplaced because, as is often the case, Scotland delivered on its climatic promises. We had wall to wall sunshine for five days. OK it was a bit cool and breezy in the evenings but, hell, no one was complaining as we sat on our decking and read the papers, chewed the fat or swigged beer or wine.

The diving, well nit was typical Loch Fyne diving especially as we failed again to persuade Malcolm-the skipper, to vary his routine and go a little further afield. So trips to Torpedo Reef, the Margaret Niven, where tickets were issued for access to the very small wreck, and Arran III which could be missed if you blinked at the wrong time. Other scenic dives were spoilt by the activity of the scalloping boats which make a mess of the seabed and scatter the wildlife far and wide. Where protected by rocks and reef, the seabed is spared and a more diverse and richer wildlife is available for the diver’s delectation.

We saw some great specimens – a Thornback Ray, no not Mr Dawson in a bad mood, an angler fish with its little fishing rod, ferocious sharp teeth filled mouth and strange frill. It is pure chance to spot one as they blend into the sea bed beautifully. Matt and Adam spotted a mysterious fish about which there was much debate until Ray and Frankie also spotted one and Ray managed to identify it. It was a Dragonet whose main characteristic is that it has a pattern of blue fluorescence when a torch is shone on it.

There was a strange lack of fish and even attempts to catch Mackerel during our surface interval. Malcolm assured us they were right under the boat about 10m down but our efforts were in vain. The local Gannets also thought they were somewhere else as they were diving for them some distance away. However, there were plenty of scallops and we feasted on our catch as a starter before the bbq on Sunday evening. Some also were transported south in goody bags for future, lip smacking consumption.

Non-divers enjoyed walking o’er hill and dale and through the local forests. Poor Millie, Anne and Matt’s middle-aged dog found the first full day all too tiring and completely flaked out in the evening. Anne had to reign back her walking plans to allow for Millie’s age and dignity over the following days.

The high point and most comical episode of the trip was the discovery and an old trawler, owned and run by a local trust, neatly parked on the rocks of a pinnacle we were due to dive. As the tide ebbed. Malcolm predicted a new wreck for us to dive in future visits. However, Neptune or Poseidon, or one or other of those sea gods, was in benevolent mood and the boat survived on the rocks, undamaged albeit listing at a precarious angle. It was floated off on the next high tide with the only damage being to the pride of the ‘experienced’ sailor that took it out. It would have been excellent to be a fly on the wall when he was explaining what happened to his fellow trust members.

Those who had to get back drove off sunburnt but satisfied. Others stayed on an extra night and enjoyed another fine meal at West Loch Tarbert. Finally, only Anne and Matt were left with the palatial lodgings all to themselves, more scallops for tea and a final beautiful day meandering down to Campletown. The advantages of self-employed status.

It was, without doubt, a memorable trip expertly organised by Ray that all who attended fully enjoyed. What could be better than that.

 

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2017 diving calendar

2017-dive-planning-calendar

If you want to suggest extras or just organise something please get in touch with Ray for any assistance you require

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Diving the Sound of Mull March 2017

Our annual ‘winter’ pilgrimage to Tobermory.  2nd-5th March. One not to miss !!!!

MV Halton with Skipper Bob Anderson

A glorious long weekend blessed with calm seas and a lot of fine weather (some rain – this is Scotland in March !!)

Excursion to Coll. A new walking destination for Ray and Karl !

Usuals in the Sound. Hispania always the stand out. Plus Aurania and Consul General Ellisejeffe (maybe spelled similar).

 

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Pre-Christmas weekend diving Capernwray

We had a really enjoyable weekend just off junction 36 on the M6 at Etland House, Preston Patrick, Cumbria.

Given work committments arrival times on Friday afternoon / evening were somewhat variable but we did meet up using the evening. A supposedly quiet night was the plan with the intention of a early start and breakfast at Capernwray.

Some of us managed the plan at least. We had to meet a trainee ! Two dives later and we could withdraw to the public house for an afternoon drink. Then back to our base to begin preparations for the meal. Many thanks to Jill for her food organisation and everyone who helped out. A great dining experience followed by the traditional games.

Sunday and time for a walk (or two) before the early departures. The core of the group stayed ’til Monday for extra fun!

 

 

 

 

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Training 2017

Started Ocean Diver, Sports Diver and Dive Leader courses in Feb. Can still add more to Ocean Diver.

Ray

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