St Abbs & Eyemouth, 2016

On Sunday 21st August 2016 six divers (Garry, Hugh, Jamie, Martin, Peter and Steve) from Marlin Sub-Aqua Club made their way north from Nuneaton to Eyemouth, Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders, via St Abbs for a week’s recreational diving.

Arriving at St Abbs in time for afternoon high water, two buddy pairs completed a shore dive from the lower carpark at the harbour (parking £5/day) in the summer sun. A short swim out across kelp park to Seagull Rock was immediately rewarded with clear viz at 14m in the sandy-bottomed gullies around the rock, which was covered with colourful deadmen’s fingers, anemomes, sea urchins and numerous crabs and lobsters. After an hour we returned to the shore confident that we were in for a great week’s diving in and around the St Abbs and Eyemouth Voluntary Marine Reserve.

Kit duly loaded back into the cars we drove the three miles back down the road to Eyemouth, our base for the rest of the week. We dived with DiveStay and stayed in their B&B, the Home Arms, which also provided our gas fills.

Meals, Accommodation and Gas
The Home Arms B&B provides en suite (or private bathroom) accommodation for up to twenty-four people. The rooms are well appointed and immaculately maintained, with free wi-fi available. Excellent cooked breakfasts are prepared by Zoe and her team.

For divers there is a wet kit storage area at the rear (although kit can be left on the boat securely overnight), with hanging space for dry suits, and a bench for preparing rebreathers. There is a compressor, operated by Lee, offering 300bar air and 232bar nitrox (trimix is also available although we didn’t need it).

Free parking is available over the road in a public carpark, but vehicles can be parked temporarily outside the wet area for easy loading and unloading.

Eyemouth has a plenty of reasonably-priced bars and restaurants within walking distance of the harbour. We sampled the Contented Sole, The Dolphin Bar & Bistro, Giacopazzi’s, Oblo’s (pub quiz on Thursday nights – we came sixth of nine!) and the Tavern Bar.

Diving Platform
We dived from Wavedancer 1, a SouthCat 36 GRP boat, based in Eyemouth harbour only a few minutes’ walk from the Home Arms. Kit and cylinders were transported round in DiveStay’s van. The boat is 11m long with a 5.1m beam resulting in a very comfortable kitting-up area for twelve divers. Its double-width rear diver lift enabled buddy pairs to be recovered together, but would equally well accommodate single technical or sidemount divers with ease. The boat’s front cabin offered dry space (although damp divers were welcomed in too!) with a heads and seating area. Our knowledgeable skipper for the week, Billy, was very friendly and flexible, dropping us off, and at the end of each dive expertly reversing the boat back up to the buddy pairs, which made swimming to the lift barely necessary. All in all the diving platform and our skipper’s experience could hardly be bettered.

Diving
Our divers included one rebreather diver, four twinset divers and one on a single, although kit configurations varied a little throughout the week. Run times were all about an hour. We were rewarded with low wind, fine weather (only one misty morning), and good visibility below the water, even after an overnight storm turned the harbour brown.

Our programme developed during the week, through consultation between our dive manager Steve and Billy the skipper. Depths given below are approximate. Our boat dives were as follows:

Monday

  • Wuddy Rocks (gullies), depth 16m. These are three large sections of rock that jut out from the headland north of St Abbs harbour. Lovely gullies with side-walls covered in deadmen’s fingers and sea urchins. Lots of lobsters and crabs.
  • Tye’s Tunnel, depth 16m. Access to the tunnel is via a narrow gully and you’d not know it was there from the surface. Once descended into the tunnel it opens up into a cavern with an exit hole about 20m from the entrance; we carried on however, descending further and exiting the other side of the headland. There was a drift on the headland which some pairs took advantage of to finish the dive.

Tuesday

  • Glanmire: 1888 steamship, sunk 25th July 1912 on a voyage from Amsterdam to Leith and Grangemouth with a general cargo, depth 33m. The wreck lies to the east of St Abbs lighthouse and is fairly broken up, and must be dived on slack water. It has a permanent shot near mid-ships and the boiler, with the shaft and propeller being easily recognisable, and the bow lying past a debris field on its port side. Deadmen’s fingers and hornwrack decorated the plates. Ballan wrasse, pollack, and ling accompanied us on this dive, together with moon and large lion’s mane jellyfish. Once back onboard the boat, dolphins joined us briefly.
  • Burnham Caves, depth 12m. The first of these is relatively shallow, with a large sandy/bouldery area at the front with crabs and so many lobsters it could hardly be believed, as well as nudibranchs in residence. Swimming around to the second cave felt further than it looked from above the water! This cave is deeper and narrows down at the back. The swell was up in the cave and there were a number of lion’s mane jellyfish around making this a little more hazardous, although no one had too close an encounter with one!

Wednesday

  • Fast Castle, depth 18m. On this dive Hugh and Peter were joined by Luke, a diver from Switzerland who was diving in a wetsuit – brave lad! the water was 13°C. Seals and anglerfish were seen on this dive, as well as numerous sea hares.
  • Wuddy Rocks (reef). As we descended to 18m our quarry was wolfish. However shortly after entering the water we saw a large common octopus – a highlight of the week. More deadmen’s fingers and sea urchins studied the rocks, and at depth a carpet of baby brittlestars was found. There were some large lobsters and crabs here too…however we didn’t see a wolfish!

Thursday

  • Glanmire (see above). Another good dive. This time Peter did his first proper decompression stops – well done to him! Long-clawed squat lobsters, a sponge spider crab, and common prawns were seen.
  • Thrummie Rocks, off Pettico Wick Bay, depth 16m. Gullies encrusted with deadmen’s fingers, anemones and sea urchins. Again an anglerfish, plenty of ballan wrasse and sun-stars were spotted on this dive. Some of the group saw wolfish here too.

Friday

  • The President: 1907 steamship, sunk 1928 on a voyage from Hamburg to Methil; extensively salvaged, located off Eyemouth golf course outside the marine reserve, depth 13m. The large upturned boiler remains, with some fragments of wreck around it. Gullies extended down to 18m. There was, as always, plenty of deadmen’s fingers and sea urchins on the rocks. Edible, velvet and mature common hermit crabs living in whelk shells, as well as lobsters were seen.

After fish and chips, Friday afternoon saw the group disperse back down the road to Warwickshire, tired but very happy with the week’s diving, and all promising to return again next year.