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Home arrow Dive Reports arrow Farne Islands & St. Abbs - August 2002 and the club goes back up North
Friday, 20 April 2018
Farne Islands & St. Abbs - August 2002 and the club goes back up North Print

Our August Bank Holiday trip for 2002 was to the Farne Islands and St Abbs on the East Coast near the Scottish border. Diving began on the Monday before the Bank Holiday with both our ribs launching out of the pretty harbour village of Seahouses.


The main reason for diving in the Farne Island is to dive with the seals. We found a sheltered site called Blue Cap Rock, which was surrounded by seals bobbing their heads above water at the sound of the approaching boats. Just as we were kitted and ready to enter the water, a rather large and aggressive seal popped up right by the boat, bared its teeth and let out a loud snarl. No amount of pleading with the boat handler could persuade him to let us stay on the boat!

For the first dive, we moved along the rock with the sight of a few seals swimming around us but keeping their distance. There was plenty of other marine life to see and beautiful steep walls covered in dead man's fingers. For the next dive we thought we'd try some different tactics. How about dropping down and just waiting in one place to see if the seals would come closer? Well they certainly did! Before long, they were playing all around us and tugging at our fins. It is a real shock when you spin round and come nose to nose with a seal with a huge pair of eyes staring straight into your mask! I'm not sure if it is the colour of fin, but they certainly seemed to prefer my fins to my buddies. We must have looked very comical spinning round performing pirouettes with twists with seals attached and spending most of the dive with heads stuck between legs trying to see what is going on around your fins.

I have to admit, the sight of a club diver on his back on the seabed like an upturned turtle with arms and legs waving and seal firmly attached to fins and refusing to let go is just too much! Not sure I have ever laughed so much underwater! After a while they became bored with the fins and started chewing torches and cameras instead. Time to move on. If only they would let go! Ever tried finning with seals attached? You don't get very far.


The scenery around Seahouses is stunning with Bamburg Castle in the distance. We were all scattered around in B&B's or campsites and met in a pub in Bamburgh in the evening for dinner.

The plan for the Thursday was to dive in the morning and then retrieve the boats ready for the trip to St Abbs. Unfortunately by the time we were ready, the water level had dropped and left the harbour in ankle deep water. We waited for the water to flood back in, but by this time the wind had picked up and diving had to be cancelled for the day.

We moved up to St Abbs at lunchtime, which is a one-hour drive further north just over the Scottish border. Most of us were camping at Scoutscroft so we put up our tents and then relaxed with a beer. Or that was until Chris suggested a walk to the lighthouse! The scenery is beautiful around St Abbs. There are steep cliffs and rolling hills and a coastal path around St Abbs Head National Nature Reserve. Unfortunately the walk to the lighthouse includes going up and down many of these steep hillsides and it was now raining! The view though is spectacular and well worth the effort (even despite the gale force winds, rain and soaking wet feet!) The walk continues on past the picturesque Mire Loch by which time the rain had stopped and we were sheltered from the wind.

The next day we began diving round at Petticot Wick. We dropped in around five metres into the kelp. The seabed then flattens out with a few mounds covered in dead mens fingers. As you get deeper the seabed is then carpeted in brittle stars and the current starts to pick up. My buddy had requested some SMB practice. Well he was certainly going to get it! The current then got faster, especially being spring tides. We were soon flying along with my buddy looking like superman with arm outstretched and hanging onto the SMB. The seabed was now a mass of huge round rocks and gulleys absolutely covered in dead man's fingers and breathtakingly beautiful. You have to keep an eye on what's ahead though! We soon realised the SMB was going at high-speed one side of a pinnacle and we the other! Time to let go. Or try getting a student to let go of his £70 SMB and reel!


We also dived around Wuddy Rocks where there are a couple of tunnels to explore. Another favourite is Cathedral Rock. It really is beautiful and the wrasse are unbelievably friendly. If you are really lucky, you can see a wolf-fish.

Evenings were usually spent in the restaurant on the campsite followed by the local pub at Coldingham. There is always a St Abbs underwater photographic competition on the Sunday evening with a showing of slides at 7pm in the village.

The final dive of the trip was at Wuddy Rocks. We were dropped in a cove surrounded by rocks and the plan was to swim south and find the tunnels. My buddy and I were heading south but had to move out to get round some rocks. The current picked up and before we knew it we were off at high speed heading north! We put up an SMB but by the time we had surfaced we had travelled some considerable distance. The other divers had gone through the tunnel and come up south so our boat handler was not expecting us to surface so far north. We were spotted but assumed we belonged to a hard boat nearby. Luckily the hard boat picked us up and radioed to McKie.

All that was left now was to retrieve the boat from the water before the tide dropped, have a final hot chocolate special from the café at St Abbs, and head for the M1. Another fantastic Bank Holiday trip with special thanks to our marshals Clive and Janet Everett.

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