There is no excuse for bad weather to affect my diving this site, because its only 20 minutes south of my home.
So I choose a glorious sunlit evening on which to drive into this pretty little seaside town.
Thistle B, Cam Smalls charter boat, is bobbing away in the quaint red-sandstone harbour. Within minutes this Offshore 105 is powering us a mile out to the island of Craigleith. I have dived the east side of the island before, but never the south.
I am pleasantly surprised. A small wall drops onto a clean, coarse, sandy sea floor in 12m of water. I note ballan wrasse flitting about in numbers, and walls covered in soft corals.
Then I see my buddys eyes bulging as a little grey seal darts between us, trying to thwart the photographer - and succeeding. I manage to fire off only a few shots before our visitor disappears.
I would gladly have explored the site for much longer, as there is a lot to see, but we have planned to do another dive at a neighbouring island later this evening.
Gaining entry into Cams boat is a simple affair, thanks to its diver-friendly staggered ladder.
As soon as the kit is off the kettle is on and the biscuits do the rounds. A quick change of film and I am ready to dive on the south-east side of Lamb.
This islet had caught my eye before, but because of the tidal race around the north of the island, I had never heard of it being dived.
The spot at which we enter the water is good, though Im prevented from entering an interesting, surging gully because my buddy is qualified only to novice level. He turns out to be a great poser, however.
Once again, the terrain is covered with soft corals, and its a scenic spot, the wall falling to 13m and, on the sea floor, fingers of reef a metre high running out through coarse, clean sand.
Back on the surface, the sun is setting as the Thistle B heads home. Talk onboard turns to the serious business of deciding which pub will provide a debriefing point. MC
I call skipper Iain Easingwood the evening before we go to confirm details. The forecast conveys a magnitude of doom that makes us both doubt whether well even get out of the harbour.
But Im in the area anyway, so we agree to meet in the morning, just to say hello and have a look at the boat.
I had dreaded the prospect of camping, but it turns out to be a windy yet surprisingly dry night.
At Eyemouth Harbour, Iains boat North Star looks familiar - not only as its an Offshore 105, but because until last year it was working from Lyme Regis in Dorset.
Sea conditions are better than anticipated and Iain predicts that we will find some shelter to dive in Pettico Wick to the north of St Abbs, though the ride out is lumpy.
We do get a wreck of sorts, the remains of the 1756 ton Odense, known locally as the Peanut Boat after cargo that washed ashore.
So little remains that I would hesitate to call this a wreck dive. Theres only a boiler and, after 30 minutes searching, some well-scattered bits of girder and winch in the kelpy shallows.
The dive gets quite nice to the north-west, where the gentle boulder slope becomes an overhanging rocky wall from 5-15m.
Abundant dead mens fingers with anemones on exposed corners, and a few caves and tunnels, render this typical of many of the good coastal sites in the area.
Back aboard North Star, we head slowly back towards Eyemouth. Iain is taking his time, so we arrive above Fold Buss at slack water.
Despite increasing squalls of rain, the sea has calmed down enough to allow us to dive a more exposed site.
Its almost black, 25m down on ridges of dead mens fingers and brittlestars that separate gullies of dahlia anemones.
Half a mile straight out of Eyemouth Harbour, the visibility is definitely influenced by the river, though from a photographers point of view I have fewer problems of backscatter in this 5m of milky visibility than I would have in clearer but bitty water.
While on the south coast last year looking for a boat, Iain also had a good look at ladders. North Stars ladder stands out from the side and then runs back along the boat at a staircase angle.
Its a design that has been popular in the Channel for years, and I am always amazed that it hasnt been adopted further afield. Im up it like a ferret up a trouser leg, a big smile on my face.
Good dives always seem so much better when they are plucked from a day that could have been written off. JL
Seahouses has changed a lot since I was last here. Or at least, the parts of the harbour I can see through the fog have changed.
It used to be a scruffy working harbour where numerous charter boats fitted into the spaces between trawlers and fishing gear. Now its a tidy harbour, with the enlarged south pier set aside for the trawlers and their gear.
On the charter boats north pier, there is more room for loading, more room for parking, and, on a foggy Tuesday morning, no other divers competing for space.
The fog lifts as Sovereign III heads out to the Farnes. The plan is to get a scenic dive in with some seals, then head north to the wreck of the Shadwan.
Given the conditions, it is not quite that simple.
Skipper Andrew Douglass knowledge of the islands and tides is challenged to the full when set the task of finding a seal location sheltered from both tide and waves.
Getting two out of three is easy enough, but in the end Andrew concludes that the best locations will work only with the other tide. We depart to catch the Shadwan at slack water, then return to the Farnes later.
The Shadwan is a relatively new discovery, a 1538 ton steamship that foundered in a storm in November 1888.
Seeing it under water, I am amazed that Andrew found it at all. The highest point is a boiler so buried that it rises only 1.5m from the seabed. Nearby ridges of rock rise higher than that.
The wreck is only 18m deep, so I have a good hour on it, exploring systematically to find key parts.
This proves a bit of a challenge, as the hull must have rolled before settling, leaving parts of the wreck well out from where I would expect them to be. I eventually find the propeller off to the port side of the stern, and facing the wrong way.
Andrew points Sovereign III south again and makes the tea. Even in a sea from the bow. the 38ft Aquastar holds itself on a steady course while he is busy with the kettle and mugs.
North Wamses turns out to be a dive well worth waiting for. Narrow canyons cut back into the reef, theres a slope of yellow and white dead mens fingers to 20m and, inevitably, a very playful seal.
An old Admiralty-pattern anchor on a corner alludes to one of the many ships to fall foul of the Farnes.
Back in Seahouses, Andrew ties up alongside Sovereign II, now skippered by brother Toby. I get gas at the dive centre, followed by dinner and beer at the Lodge, Andrews hotel, although I am staying across the road at mum Ailsas B&B. And this is an establishment that boasts the ultimate in diving luxury - a kitchen Aga for drying out undersuits. JL
I hadnt slept much the night before, so loudly was the wind howling through the trees.
So I had been surprised to get the green light from Scott Bisset of Deep Blue Dive Centre to head south. Crossing the border to Tynemouth would, I had reckoned, take me a good three hours.
The sight of neoprene-clad individuals signals that I have arrived, though I could hardly have missed the huge blue and yellow shop sign. After a coffee, were off to the launch site and the centres 7.5m Northcraft RIB. The big 225 Honda engine powers the boat forward at a better rate of acceleration than I get from my little car! Im glad to see that the fresh offshore breeze is barely affecting the sea conditions.
Our first site is the wreck of the Mars. Green water turns black at 18m and the viz is no more than a couple of metres.
I can just make out the flattened remains of the Mars, with the odd urchin and a cluster of dead mens fingers decorating the rusty steel. Im not seeing much marine life on this very muddy wreck.
I fin on, stumbling across what I recognise as the propshaft. I decide to follow it in hopes of finding a more intact section of the wreck.
Soon the hull rises up at the stern, and I can see a single prop blade sticking up out of the mud.
My computer starts beeping and I send up the DSMB. Surface conditions have deteriorated, but Scott soon picks me out in the 1m swell. Its an exhilarating, fast five-minute boat-ride back to shore.
The second dive is on the wreck of the Eston. Once again I am 30m down and on a completely flattened wreck.
This dive is, however, a lot more enjoyable than the one before, thanks to more frequent sightings of recognisable features, including fire-hose reels, mooring bollards and winches.
Once again, I find the propshaft, and once again I end up following it to the stern, with the prop itself lying close by.
My computer is now shouting at me again, and in todays conditions there is not enough to keep me interested down here any longer.
Decompressing, I ponder the fact that despite it being such a dismal day, Deep Blue has managed to take me out to two wrecks, and to make light work of the poor weather.
Ill be back across the border to explore further, but hoping next time for blue skies and light winds. MC
|The diveboat Thistle B |
|owner-skipper Cam Small |
|butterfish among the soft corals on Bass Rock |
|A diver on the reef on the Isle of Lamb |
|Long-spined scorpionfish |
|Iain Easingwood at the helm of North Star |
|Writhing bristlestars meet dead mens fingers at Fold Buss |
|Boiler of the Odense |
|Sovereign III skipper Andrew Douglas |
|Unloading Sovereign III at the slip in Seahouses |
|Broken boiler of the Shadwan, out from Seahouses |
|Lions mane jellyfish drifts by in the same area |
|Scott Bisset at Deep Blue dive centre in Tynemouth |
NORTH BERWICK: Diving & Air - Aquatrek Diving & Marine Services, 01620893952, 07974016781, www.aquatrek.demon.co.uk
EYEMOUTH: Diving - Marine Quest Boat Charter, 018907 71676, 07780 823884, www.marine-quest.co.uk. Air - Aquastars Dive Centre, 018907 50904, www.aquastars.co.uk.
SEAHOUSES: Diving & Air - Deep Blue Dive Centre, 0191 296 0218, www.deepbluedive.com
TYNEMOUTH: Diving & Air - Deep Blue Dive Centre, 0191 296 0218, www.deepbluedive.com
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