Divernet


Friday, start of June
Andy and I are sharing the driving. Ive told him to pick me up just after lunch. Well break the trip at a B&B in Inverness tonight, and drive on to Scrabster for the ferry across tomorrow.

Saturday, on the ferry to Orkney
Do you have any idea how far it is to Inverbloodyness It took Andy hours to drive to Scotland, then hours to get to Edinburgh, then we looked at a map and it took a lot more hours to get to Inverness. The B&B was closed when we reached it and Andy had to ring the doorbell and bang the knocker for ages before somebody took some notice.
The chap who eventually responded explained that he lives at number 19. The B&B is number 17. Andy apologised for disturbing him, and for throwing the brick.
Left early this morning and drove up the east coast and across the moors to Scrabster without seeing a single car coming the other way. We started out slowly on account of the brick having gone through our windscreen last night when it was thrown back, but then I realised that if Andy wore his hood and mask we could still make good time. He really should have taken them off before stopping to ask directions at that Post Office, though.
The ferry is huge, and its amazing how close together they park the cars.
Ive always loved being on boats, and Andy has gone to fetch us some beer, so Im sat on the open deck in the warm sunshine. The sky is bright blue, though it is a bit windy.
Im really looking forward to this part of the trip. Ill see Scotland dwindle and Orkney grow and go past the Old Man of Hoy and Ill have crossed the famous Pentland Firth! Wow, here we go! The boat has cast off, the gulls are circling and were just edging out of harbour and into the clear waters of the Fi...

Saturday evening
We wont talk about the crossing - Im better now - except to say that the ferry company is paying for the already-broken windscreen along with the damaged bodywork. Good thing the cars were so close together, otherwise it could have been far worse.
The digs are fine, though a bit cramped with 12 of us. Things would be easier if Jim and Jane hadnt decided that they couldnt bear to miss the opportunity to dive Scapa Flow, even though it meant that the trip would be their honeymoon. Under the circumstances we had to let them have one of the bedrooms to themselves, which leaves the rest of us to share the other one.
Well discuss the dive plan and the sleeping plan in the pub.

Sunday
I slept on the floor. Given the alternatives, it seemed the best plan. Didnt get much sleep, but woke to the smell of frying bacon. Weve done a rota, and well all take our turn to do breakfast. Today it was Bill and Tall Dave, and theyd done a big fry-up with extra lard and added fat, because we expected to need all the energy we could get, as our first dive was on one of the battleships!
Jim and Jane decided to have a lie-in and not dive because theyre a bit tired.
The dive boat seems fine, but the skipper is a dour Scot, as they say up here. As soon as we were all aboard he gave us a full briefing on the way he conducts diving from his boat (The wrecks are buoyed. Ill take ye close. Ye jump in when I tell ye an not afore!), then asked where we wanted to dive first.
We all kitted up as we headed for the wreck. Andy was using a twin-set for the first time, but I stuck to my usual 15 litre-and-pony set-up, and just added a few tools.
I know wrecks should be left alone, and brass in Scapa is as rare as rocking horse poo anyway, but you never know.
When we got to the wreck, the skipper leant out of his cuddy, pointed to the water, and yelled Noo!.
Andy was first in, and went straight under. I found him pinned face down on the hull. Although hed filled his suit with air, and filled his wing with air, he wasnt going any place but deeper.
He looked a bit panicky, so I messed around a bit to try to relax him. In retrospect, turning his air off and pretending to swim away probably wasnt a good idea, but Andy is a good lad and he took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
Finally got him to the surface using a lifting bag and our delayed SMBs, and we towed him in and beached him near Lyness.
Over lunch, we discovered that hed worked out that if he needed one weightbelt with one cylinder, hed need two with twin cylinders.
Afternoon dive on an unbuoyed blockship, so we put Andy in first with a rope tied to his pillar valve so that we could use him as a shot, then pulled him up at the end of the dive.
Back to the digs for a shower and then off to the pub.

Monday
Little Dave and Tony did breakfast today. Tonys in the Territorials, and he borrowed a case of rations for us. Good stuff, too, goose-liver pate on toast and some nice oily sardines. Just the job, as the weather is starting to cut up and blow a bit.
Jim and Jane decide to give diving a miss because of the weather.
Dived two cruisers. Or we might have dived one cruiser twice; its hard to be sure when you take the nitrogen narcosis into account. Anyway, there was lots of rusty metal and an occasional gun, so Ive put the cruiser names I can spell in my logbook.
Andy had his weight much better sorted today. He was still only able to crawl around the wrecks on hands and knees, though, so I kept swimming back to tell him about the things he was missing.
Wanted a shower when we got back, but Louise got there first, and she needed to shampoo her hair twice and put on conditioner and everything, so all the hot water was gone.
The lads asked Sarah to explain to her that this wasnt fair, because she would be able to relate to her better as another woman, not because were frightened of her.
Went to the pub without a shower.

Tuesday
Flat calm today, as I made sure Andy cooked breakfast properly.
Jim and Jane decided to take advantage of the really good weather to see some of the sights of the island.
First dive today was on another battleship. These things are big. Really, really big. We hit the top of the upturned hull at 20m or so. I led us down to the seabed at just over 40m and turned to swim towards the bow. Well, we would have been swimming towards the bow if Andy hadnt distracted me at the vital time, and if wed gone down the correct side, but we were actually swimming towards the stern alongside featureless steel plate.
Fortunately, I realised Andys bad mistake and we were able to limit our decompression to 30 minutes, which gave him time to apologise. Made sure he explained how wed gone wrong to the rest of the lads.
Afternoon dive on a destroyer wreck was much better. We had time to circle her twice, and we even saw some nice fish.
Back to the digs for Louise to have a shower and then time to go to the pub.
In the pub, I suddenly realised that there is probably only one wreck in Scapa Flow, and the diveboat skippers just take their parties to different bits of it and make sure they arrive at different times. Us divers would never know the difference.

Wednesday
Louise and Big Dave made breakfast. Weapons-grade bacon butties and industrial-strength tea. Louise won the post-breakfast arm-wrestling, which meant Dave did the washing-up, but Id swear there was a new swing to Louises hips as she was strapped into her undersuit.
hspace=5 Jim and Jane were going to dive today, but Jim had a stiff neck and couldnt face the thought of wearing his drysuit so they decided to have a day off.
On the run out this morning, I jokingly told the skipper my new theory about the one Scapa wreck.
Wed intended to dive a cruiser this morning but Andy and I missed it.
This afternoon we were the last pair in on one of the blockships and the run was really picking up when we hit the water.
Forty minutes later we came back up the line to find that the buoy had been pulled under by what we found was a 7 knot tidal flow. We hung on like flags for a safety stop before letting go and surfacing as quickly as seemed safe. The boat was about a quarter of a mile away.
It remained a quarter of a mile away for the next hour and a half as we slowly chilled. When we finally got back aboard, the skipper came over and asked if wed enjoyed diving a different wreck. Only time this week Ive seen him look cheerful.
Louise and Big Dave were the first to leave the pub tonight, so by the time the rest of us got back there was only the sofa and the floor left to sleep on.

Thursday
Sarah and Medium Dave did breakfast.
Jims neck was no better, so he and Jane decided to do some more sightseeing today.
Dived a battleship again this morning, managed to go down the correct side and see something interesting.
Afternoon dive really good. Andy and I were the last pair in, this time on a small, deep and relatively undived wreck. As soon as we saw the hull we saw brass, a bilge cover or something! Previous visitors had tried to remove it, but it was still swinging by one bolt.
We spent so much time on it we ran well into deco, and stirred up so much silt we couldnt tell which way was up!
Solved the dilemma by inflating Andys wing and using him as a delayed SMB. Ill go back tomorrow to get the brass. Itll make Andys stay in the pot so much more bearable!
Went to visit Andy first, then to the pub.

Friday
Last day of diving. Jim and Jane did breakfast, then decided with just one day left it was hardly worth unpacking all their kit, so decided not to dive.
Did our last battleship first, then headed to get my brass!
Everybody else was going to dive another cruiser so I kitted up alone and borrowed Louises lumphammer and crowbar. Just as I was about to drop over the side, the skipper leant out of his cuddy, took his pipe out of his mouth, spat over the side and enquired if I wanted a wee bit of plastic.
I had to say no because I havent done my PADI Explosives Specialist course yet. It was one of the few times in my diving career that I wished Id trained with the BSAC. They include explosives as a routine part of the pool training.
Got the brass!
Louise and Sarah dived the cruiser as a pair. We dont normally let two girls dive together, but Tall Dave gave them a handbag to dive around so they would feel more comfortable. Not sure Tall Dave was comfortable with where Louise put the handbag, though. He had to stand up in the pub.

Saturday morning - before the ferry
Well, the diving is over, Ive done Scapa and got my brass, Andy is out of the pot and all we have to do is drive home.
I just hope the Highland Police have forgotten about the Post Office.