YE KEN HOW TO GET A WOLFIE OUT OF ITS HOLE, don’t ye” So begins one of Peter’s pre-dive briefs. “Ye stick yer hand in its mooth, and once it bites and it’s got its teeth in, ye pull it oot!”
Divers who have not been on Peter’s boat before tend to regard this information with equal measurements of fear and incredulity. This is all part of his unique dive briefings, or “bullsh*t”, as Peter likes to call it.
Us old hands just smirk and nod at each other as we’ve heard it a hundred times before, but it never gets stale – very much like St Abbs in Berwickshire.
Having dived here for many years, hundreds and hundreds of times over, it just never loses its lustre.
St Abbs is one of the places in Britain where we have wondrous diving right on our doorstep. Why go abroad, when you have everything you need right here You want wrecks You got it.
You want stunning wall dives Just get in the boat. You want marine life It’s there in spades. There are so many spectacular dive sites, it’s hard to choose between them. Being relatively local, I’ve been able to experience most of them and get to know them well. But if you’re visiting only for the weekend or even a day, you really should aim to take in Black Carr and the Skellies.
Black Carr is only a short boat-ride out from the harbour, and is made up of a series of large rocks and pinnacles that create some impressive wall-diving and reveal underwater vistas covered in dead men’s fingers, Devonshire cup corals, dahlia anemones and much besides.
With a rev of the engine and a quick nod, Peter drops us at the back of Big Black Carr, where the effect of the swell is substantially reduced.
We follow the foreboding lump of rock down to about 15m before swimming round to the front, and start to pick up the beginning of the wall.
We always say that there is no such thing as a bad dive on Black Carr, because no matter what the conditions, you always find something to surprise you. Today is no exception.

KEEPING AN EYE ON THE crevices dotted among the urchins, anemones and brittlestars offers us tantalising glimpses of squat lobsters, edible crabs, shrimps, flounders and some lobsters of epic proportions.
There is no way crusty old crustaceans like these specimens would fit into one of the lobster pots scattered around the seabed – some look almost big enough to pull a boat under!
Watching Elaine and Mary-Ann staring face-to-claw with one of these affords us plentiful entertainment, with the girls eventually giving way to the old fella and letting him amble on his way.
Swimming past the old anchor at 23-24m (it’s a good reference point if one is required) there are a selection of hidey-holes where wolf-fish can always be found, and this is where we see the first of many of them.
Everybody knows about wolfies, and everybody wants to see them. Look hard enough and you’ll find them.
Occasionally you’ll see them out of their holes and swimming around, but more often than not you’ll find an impressive set of teeth grinning at you from the hole in which they lurk.
It’s not uncommon to find several wolf-fish sharing a hole, so don’t be surprised when you think you’ve found one if a second, third or even a fourth head appears to see what’s going on.
Yarrell’s blennies and John Dorys can also be seen here occasionally, though unfortunately not this time round.
However, we’re fortunate to come across an octopus sitting out on a rock at around 22m. It seemed happy to pose for a while before creeping under a ledge to recover from the dazzling lights.

BLACK CARR IS RIDDLED with towering pinnacles and also tempting swim-throughs, which we meander in and out of as we drift to the shallows to complete our safety stop.
On route we soak up the quality of the vista beneath us as it scrolls by, with the odd lion’s mane jellyfish wafting along.
Back on deck with a cup of tea in hand, we pootle back to harbour for well-deserved bacon butties and a brew while waiting for the second dive.
The boat ride out to the Skellies takes a little longer, up to 15 minutes, because it’s around the headland, so you have some time to prepare your kit or view the lighthouse atop the Craigs.
The Skellies are a series of gullies running north/south roughly parallel to one another. They are covered as far as the eye can see in anemones, brittlestars, sea urchins, nudibranchs and all sorts of hidden gems.
The site is sometimes referred to as Anemone Gullies, but it’s widely known as the Skellies simply because the gullies start not far from the entrance to Skelly Hole, and it’s from here that a lot of people like to begin the dive. It’s well sheltered and relatively shallow at about 7m, with a sandy bottom.
We drop in right on top of the Skellies and glide down to the first of the gullies, heading north to pick up some depth.
With the gully covered in shell-sand and a selection of rocks, you can easily hug the bottom without fear of stirring things up too much.
But elbow room can sometimes be at a premium, and it’s single file for much of the time, so people with big camera rigs be warned!
It pays to take your time here, because so much will be going on that you can miss if you’re not careful.
Close inspection under ledges and shelves reveals lobsters, crabs and the odd octopus or two, and cracks in the gully walls are ripe for finding wolf-fish.
If fortune favours you you’ll see a wolfie sitting in the open with its football-like head trained on you for a second before it darts into its hole.
As our gully starts getting wider, we come across a lovely big anglerfish sitting on the bottom.
This is unusual, because we normally tend to see them in among the rocks. But never prone to look a gift fish in the mouth, we spend some quality time taking pictures and generally enjoying our new friend’s company, before watching him swim off into the depths.

LOBSTERS ARE VERY COMMON HERE and sometimes it can put you in mind of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, only with lobsters – loads of them just sitting on ledges, watching and waiting, antennae waving back and forth.
Because of the lobsters there are rather a lot of pots about, so you do need to pay attention to avoid getting snagged on one of the attached ropes.
I suspect that the fishermen would throw you back for being too small if they hauled you up!
Big shoals of pollack and regular sightings of ballan wrasse and ling are also common, as are the sand-eels that come out from the bottom to swarm through the gullies like ravening locusts.
The sand-eels in turn bring out the guillemots, which is a bit disconcerting to begin with, as the first you know about them is a black shape streaking by out the corner of your eye.
Sit in one spot for a while, however, and you’ll see these amazing birds bombing into the water past you and sometimes deeper than you, before grabbing some eels and heading back to the surface.
A quick eye and quicker shutter speed will sometimes net you a good shot of the avian visitors to the aquatic realm.
Prawns skitter about the ledges, and nudibranchs slouch across the rocks in numbers, some of them having grown to ridiculous size. Scorpionfish and lumpsuckers hidden among the anemones and strings of kelp can also be found by keen-eyed divers.
It’s easy to swim from one gully to the next to maximise your sightseeing and your bottom time until you have finally overdosed on the sights and are ready to go up.
Running close to 78 minutes and 60bar, we scull south along the gully to make our way to the shallows before going over the top to drift among the rocks and kelp.
We get lucky just before our ascent, and come across a rare find here – a conger eel. They are very shy here. This one is well wedged under a boulder with a couple of lobster bodyguards, but with patience we manage to coax it out a little for a photocall.
With the familiar chug of the engines circling above us, we complete our safety stop and climb back on deck to swap stories of what we saw, brag about best pictures and drink hot tea.
The next group of divers is lined up on the harbour wall, waiting to get aboard. We exchange shouted information about where we were and what we saw. We can see that they’re itching to get onboard.
As we moor up and carry our kit the short walk back to the car, the harbour is bustling with activity, with RIBs launching from the slip, sight-seers wandering around, Lenny the Harbourmaster directing vehicles, surface intervals being carried out at the cafe and the hardboats preparing for their next adventure.
It’s no wonder that divers from around the UK flock to St Abbs. With quality dive sites in abundance, experienced skippers ready to swap stories, friendly locals and all the amenities on site you could want or need, St Abbs remains one of the premier dive locations in the UK.
And with it being right on my doorstep, I know I’ll be lucky enough to get to do it all over again next weekend. Make sure you do it next year.

FACTFILE
GETTING THERE: St Abbs is within easy reach of the trunk road network. To get there from the South, turn off the A1 at the B6438 junction six miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. In Coldingham a small signpost directs drivers down to the sea. It costs £5 to park all day in the harbour car park.
DIVING: Pathfinder, Paul O’Callaghan, www.stabbsdiving.com. Selkie, Peter Gibson, www.stabbs.org/selkie.html. Stingray, Graeme Crowe, www.stingrayboatcharters.co.uk. Tiger Lily, Paul Crowe, www.divestabbs.info. Wavedancer, Billy Aitchison, www.divestay.co.uk. The dive shop Scoutscroft Dive Centre is 1.5 miles from the harbour and can’t be missed – you pass it on the road down and there are two large J cylinders by the entrance. It is part of the Scoutscroft Holiday Centre, www.scoutscroft.co.uk/diving.html<
FURTHER INFORMATION: www.marine-reserve.co.uk