Farne Islands – August 2011
Accomodation: Springhill bunkhouse
Skipper: Graeme Harrison, Moby
Dive sites: The Hopper (so good we did it 3 times!), Crumbstone
Divers: Emma Keeley (organiser), Jenny Swanson, Laura Davison, Claudius Kerth, Martin Wilson, three friends of Laura’s (Charles, Neil and Craig).
Water conditions: Average temperature around 13C, good visibility.
Weather conditions: Glorious sunshine!
Em had kindly arranged a Farnes trip for me to coincide with my trip back to the UK…seals were what I wanted and seals were what we got! Later in the summer is often the best time so dive the Farnes, as the pups have grown up and the seals have already had a summer to get used to divers and become more playful. We also got lucky with the north-east weather, and it was calm enough that only a few were seasick (when Claudius’ Darth Vader breathing starts, it’s a sure sign he’s about to lose his delicious bacon, sausage, black pudding, hash brown, grilled tomato, scrambled egg and mushroom breakfast over the side).
Although I’ve dived the Farnes a lot before, this was the first time I’ve dived on Moby, the big yellow RIB. The skipper is lovely, it’s a quick trip out to the islands, and he puts you on some great sites. It’s not the best boat for twinsets as I found out, but it’s a nice way to teach the little tricks of diving from a RIB to people without having to find Sheffield RIB accommodation that is asbestos-free. Help is needed to get kitted up in the small space, and get kit and people (especially short people with frontal padding) back in the boat. It was calm enough that we could dive a site called ‘The Hopper’, a series of three gullies in a line, with the last gully opening out into a patch of sand at about 22m that’s a favourite sleeping spot for seals. They were so plentiful that we did three dives here, all of which were great. A top tip is to follow gully number 3 a the end of the dive until it gets shallower, so that you can have a nice gentle ascent, extend your dive time and often, the shallower you go, the more playful the seals get.
The final dive on the Sunday was the Crumbstone, drifting through a gully on the surface and then diving around the back of the island. There were bits of wreckage and lobsters to be had (if you are handy with a kelp stalk) and the scenery was nice, but Em and Laura had by far the best dive, by ignoring the skippers advice and staying just by the gully instead of moving on to the back of the island. They were in seal soup with 10+ seals around at any one time, and had some fantastic encounters. They were also shallower so had better light, visibility and dive times. I was quite jealous of that their cunning plan worked so well…even as a creaky older diver I have a lot to learn. However my fresh lobster lunch with a cold glass of white wine the following day helped ease the pain a little.
It was also the first time that SUSAC had stayed at Springhill, a farm that has camping and bunkhouse accommodation. It was great – ensuite rooms (creaky bunk beds and narrow single beds, but still comfy. Take a pillow though!), a good self catering kitchen, free but intermittent WiFi and a fantastic view out to the Farnes and Bamborough Castle. Be warned… if you’re intending to self-cater, check how many are booked in to the bunkhouse first. There were 8 of us and a couple of families with young ‘uns (about 15 people in total) and the kitchen is well equipped but small. If the bunkhouse was booked out to it’s 32 capacity, trying to cook alongside everyone else would be a nightmare. But running a bigger trip up there would be feasible if you booked the place out for yourself, and took up big pans and big baking dishes (and an extra barbecue or two). Just don’t let Laura shop for it… you’d need a lorry for all the food if she did.
Once the RIB leaves Beadnell it doesn’t return until after the second dive. Not ideal for those with a weak bladder! Graeme will do 2 waves in a day, we were on the second wave which isn’t ideal. When we arrived back the toilet blocks were closed, bad news for even those with strong bladders!!
As Jen’s report has already pointed out, the kitchen in the bunkhouse would be very cosy if it was full.
Air and nitrox fills are available from Sovereign Diving. Thanks to Laura’s epic Makro shop we self catered for the weekend.