Farne Islands, May 2014

We booked our trip with Farne Diving Services before Christmas. At that time we were given 2 weekends to choose from as all the others were already taken. We chose the second one, May 31st hoping that it would be a bit warmer.

The accommodation looks like it is a converted stable block. It’s basic but clean and comfortable with plenty of rooms, all ensuite, twins, doubles and a couple of family rooms with TV and tea making facilities. There is also room for a few tents or camper vans. The hearty breakfast is served in Lee’s house across the road.

The boats, Farne Diver and Farne Diver 2 are spacious with a stern lift. Tea and coffee are served between dives. Air is available from the Sovereign Diving dive shop in Seahouses.

Lee is an excellent skipper. As we had several novices with us we asked for safe shallow sites and that’s what he gave us without sacrificing interest. He gave excellent instructions and clear descriptions of what we would see. As a result it was a very easy trip for our dive managers to manage and all of our divers enjoyed their trip.

At this time (June 2014)  the boat costs £420 a day and the B&B is £25 ppn. So the whole weekend cost us £120 each. As always we shared cars from Nuneaton to cut transport costs

Boat and Accommodation provided by: Farne Diving Services

On the Friday evening 10 members of Marlin Sub-Aqua Club and 2 friends of Marlin met at the Caster Arms in Beadnell looking forward to a weekend of diving. The forecast was good, kit was ready and we prepared for an early start on Saturday morning. The experience of the group was varied, from  a newly qualified Ocean Diver, to an Advanced Instructor and every grade in between so buddy pairs had been chosen carefully

Whilst we were at the pub we received a call from the skipper to say that he had a problem with one of his boats and that we wouldn’t be diving until the afternoon. We were to meet him at the pier in Seahouses at 12. Never mind, we could have another drink and a bit of a lie in in the morning.

cylindersAfter breakfast on the Saturday we decided to make our way to Seahouses anticipating that the car park would be full and that we would gradually move our vehicles nearer to the loading point as people departed. What a surprise, when we arrived there was barely a car to be seen and we all parked close to the steps.

We spent a couple of hours looking around Seahouses and then returned to sort out our kit.

By 12 o’clock we had separated our cylinders and kit into 2 heaps (1st dive 2nd dive)  and had a plan for getting everything down quickly making a chain of bodies. 2nd dive cylinders first to be stored away followed by bags then 1st cylinders. We were good to go.

We watched as boat after boat dropped off and collected bird watchers but no sign of our dive boat. We scanned the ocean excitedly pointing at every boat that came into view, that must  be ours surely. By 1 o’clock we were considering joining the birdwatchers when we received an apologetic text from the skipper. He was having difficulties with his morning divers and promised to be with us in 10 minutes. They finally arrived and took a depressingly long time to disembark. We were chomping at the bit. At last we could put our plan into action. We put 2 of our more mature chaps on the boat and the rest of us passed kit down the steps and on to them like a well oiled machine. In just a few minutes we were away.

Hugh our AI takes up the story:-

I just love The Farnes, that group of islands off the Northumberland coast. Imagine my excitement when my new club announced this trip a few months ago. It was full in 10 micro-seconds and I was on it. I had first dived the Farnes nearly 25 years ago with Stan Hall. He is now retired and his son Lee Hall has taken over operations. This must be my 5th trip here now.

We were all buddied up and my buddy for the weekend was Kalli who had recently passed her Ocean Diver training. We kitted up on shore and link delivered all the kit down the pier steps onto Farne Diver 2, a hard boat licensed for 12 divers and with that all important exit lift on the stern.

Then we were off and soon at the first dive site “Big Harcar”.  (This is where the paddle-steamer ‘Forfarshire’ ran aground in 1838 and Grace Darling & her father famously rescued 9 people – Ed)  It was a wall dive but not deep…. A sort of shake down dive for all as some had not dived in the sea before or had not gone very deep. There were starfish and brittle stars under the rocks, squat lobsters and crabs. It was cold at only 9˚C. Thank goodness for drysuits. Then, a lobster. Always my favourite.  I managed to coax it out but Kalli threw a wobbly. She doesn’t like them. Then a large crab, I showed her how to hold them so they don’t nip you. More starfish and as we neared the end of the dive we saw some dead man’s fingers on the rock wall. My signal for this was swiping my hand across my throat to indicate death and wiggling my fingers but she didn’t understand. Then it was time to ascend. So up with the DSMB and as explained on a dry run, she ascended slowly and we were soon on the surface. Dive time 42 mins and max depth 14.6m.

After a couple of hours surface time and a lot of excited discussion about what everyone had seen, it was time for the second dive and the group elected to dive with the seals.

Seals in Farnes

The site was “Knoxes Reef”. Only a shallow dive with a max depth of 7.6m for 32 mins and mostly in the kelp but the seals were fun. Darting around you, sometimes 2, 3 or 4 together.  Just far enough to keep their distance but often a bolder one would come right up to your face or nibble your fins. So agile and fast as they glided effortlessly through the water.  Also on this dive there were so many pulsing/oscillating jellyfish. And then the day’s diving was over and time for the DSMB again and the lift to get on board. Gosh I just love those rear lifts.

Back to shore and leaving most of our kit safely locked in the cabin we headed for air refills and then to the pub for our evening meal. Everyone went to bed fairly early as the sun and fresh air had tired us all out.

We were up bright and early the next day (6.45am breakfast) and after a full English breakfast for the second time we were kitting up on the boat for 8.30am. Our first dive today was at “Northern Hares”. After going over the kelp we descended into some gullies and finally down a wall and onto a broken rock/large-boulder strewn bottom. Here the true Farnes became visible. Dead man’s fingers all around and of several different shades. White, cream, orange and shades of pale yellow. But masses of them. The small rock holes and under the boulders were full of lobsters and crabs. If only I had taken my goody bag but alas The Farnes are designated as a ‘leave it for the local fishermen’ zone. There was one huge lobster that I caught and it would have made a fine meal but alas Kalli got freaked out by it so I let it go. (Good call – Ed)

IMG_3571There were now hundreds of 12 fingered sunstars of all shades and colours. If you shone your torch on them they were red and purple. I saw one Norwegian lobster, similar but bigger than langoustines but with two long slender claws unlike the common lobster. As you gaze around you admire the beauty of this under-water world and appreciate how privileged we are to be divers. Very few get to see what is down here unless you see it on the television. However it was cold and somehow I had water in the arm of my drysuit. Not nice. And then it was time to surface and Kalli helped me to inflate the DSMB and soon we were back on the boat and having a nice warming cup of tea. Dive time 36 mins max depth 17.8M

Our final dive was on “Gun Rocks”, a reef that is exposed on a low tide. Here we descended onto a pile of cannon (thought to be from a 17th century Dutch ship – Ed), First one, then five and finally one huge one at least 8-10 feet long. This was all on the kelp layer. We saw a Lumpsucker fish, only the second time I had ever seen one and in only 3 or 4 metres depth. Then over the wall and down to a plateau, Beautiful scenery and dead man’s fingers all around. Then the plateau sloped downwards. I guess we could have gone really deep but we only went down to 13m . You are so taken up with these beautiful dives that it is hard to end them.  Alas  it was time for the d-SMB again. However imagine our surprise when we ascended close to Gun Rocks and there were about 10 seals lounging on the top, sunbathing. (What a lovely sight to end the trip with! – Ed)

It is always a pleasure and privilege to dive up here. It’s a long journey north from Nuneaton but well worth the effort. Role on next year

This was a lovely weekend and our thanks to Garry for organising it. But then an even nicer surprise…. Because 12 went instead of 10 we all got a small refund. Good one Garry and Cathy. Where next ???

Hugh South (Advanced Diver) June 2014

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Thank you to everyone who dived this weekend for making it so easy to manage and so enjoyable. Also to Hugh for his report and to other members of Marlin Sub Aqua Club who have shared their photo’s in this report.

And to the couple who thought they’d made a travelogue for us on Gun rocks, but someone forgot to turn on his camera better luck next time.

Cathy Hems (Dive Leader)