25 May 2009

Off a Land Farne Away ~ 23rd & 24th May 2009

After dark dives, abandonned dives, more dark & no viz dives, a chap's mind can wander in search of a little more fun! And where the mind wanders the fins are sure to follow. So it was that Simon & I found ourselves booked upon the Sussex Scuba trip to Farne Islands off the Northumbrian coast , north of Newcastle ( Why , aye mon , we were in the land of the Roaming Robbo's).
To be fair it's a fair old run to Seahouses where we were billeted in the Old School House (recommended by the way!) . Of course, in hindsight, going the length of the land on a Bank Holiday was a bit of a daft idea, it took about 9 hours to get there. But driving back on the Sunday afternoon missed the crowd and took about three hours less!

After the British Diver's traditional prayers over a a full english breakfast we were at the Harbour by 8.30am to board "Glad Tidings VII" , a massive hard boat with substantial diver lift, skippered by Billy Shiel MBE. It was a low tide so a lot gear (there were 22 divers on board!) was lugged down the steep stone steps (luckily the tide was higher in return!) It was the biggest UK dive boat I have been on and so there was space for all ( well, just!). From the Harbour it was a short run to the Farne Islands. The day started sunny and warm with flat seas, but by the surface interval it had become dull and overcast.

Our first dive was on Knivestone, in suitably seal infested water! We cut across the shallow 'gut' of the island/rocks where seals darted about then dropped to deeper water to check-out the wreck of the well-broken Abyssinia. Viz was in the order of 5 to 6 meters , fair for the area, excellent by Sussex standards! The only drawback was it was COLD! At 9 degrees at the surface and 8 degrees at depth, it was only a matter of time before the hands said "Enough!". In our case that was 47 minutes! Subsequent dives were shorter as our resilience to cold water ebbed!

The Second dive was on Blue Cap, sadly no seals seen underwater on this dive , but in the shallows there was plenty of kelp and furher down there were excellent displays of soft corals. being so close to the mainland we were back at Seahouses shortly after 2pm, where a visit to a local hostlery helped pass the time until we found ourselves gathered around a large table for dinner!

Sunday morning was a cracker, the sun was blazing but there was a cool sea breeze. We decided that perhaps the most defining characteristic of the Farnes were the seals , so it was to be a shallow seal dive! So we went back to Knivestone and spent out whole dive no deeper than 5 metres. And , yes, we were buzzed repeatedly by seals, one stopping to fin-nibble! Mind you the critters were so quick they were hard to capture in the camera! I think we also appreciated that extra degree of warmth in the shallows! The sunshine lasted all day making the surface interval much more enjoyable. During the surface interval we cruised by other island looking at the colonies of the many seabirds including cute little Puffins!

For the last dive we visited Crumstone a small out crop of rock . Diving to about 18 metres the visibility was better than the shallows and there was an abundance of soft corals & urchins, though little fish life (save a few reasonable sized wrasse). On this dive we found a group of Dog Whelks each about 130mm long. When the cold got the better of us we ascended and in no time were back at Seahouses loading the car in the sun for the run home.

A good long-distance week-end with all the right things in place, a few degrees more warmth would have made it absolutely perfect. Definately worth a visit.


Tad said...

nice write up and pics Chris fingers crossed for a good season down South

Jimbob said...

Looks fantastic.
Excellent photos!

Simon-T said...

Top write up Chris. Very enjoyable weekend. Diving with seals, that's one more box ticked on my "must do", dive list. Thanks. Simon

sheilab said...

Good Pics and write up. Glad you had a good time. Not jealous at all !!!
Ernie & Sheila

Robin said...

excellent write up, brilliant photo of the seal, it was a good weekend.

andrewj said...

Good write up Chris and great pics - thanks for the laughs in the pub! Cheers Andy

Anonymous said...

Nice to see your visiting the neighbourhood Chris. My local pub is a stones throw from the harbour "The Black Swan". The photos show good weather how unsual, cos apart from freezing your nuts off underwater the wind and driving rain can put off most divers.
Haw Way the ladds! the buggers have gotten themselves relagated at last. Cheers from Oz Robbo