A group of 8 UBUCers left Bristol at noon on Friday for a long journey up North. The three-car convoy arrived at Budle Bay caravan site just after 8, and, after a burger dinner cooked by the committee, settled in for an early morning diving the next day.
After a 6:30am rise and a full English fry up, the group headed to Beadnell to meet the skipper and his boat. After loading and an unconventional boat launch involving a tractor, the group headed off to the Farnes.
The first dive was along down three parallel gulleys on the northern side of the islands. The group paddled into the first gully, and all going to plan, planned to descend to 15m and explore each gulley in turn. Unfortunately, two of the pairs got lost so had to surface early, but two others were more successful. The gulleys were lined with Old Man’s fingers and Sea Urchins, with the occasional crab sat on an outcrop. The team’s first seal was encountered in the second gulley – initially an ominous shadow in the distance, it eventually circled back and came over to nibble on our fins before swimming away. On exiting the second gulley both remaining pairs surfaced and were picked up by the skipper. Once onboard the main topic of conversation was not the seals of the mammal kind, but rather the seals of Harry’s drysuit, which had detached earlier that day, effectively leaving Harry in a large bag of water.
The skipper then took the group to the second dive site – a wreck in the centre of the Farnes. The group descended the side of a rock wall to around 15m, then followed a trail of debris until they came across a large anchor sat amongst the debris. After some expert navigation by Edu and his compass, the group eventually managed to locate the ship’s boilers at around 20m depth. After some more exploration with torches, the team ascended and re-joined the skipper.
After an incredibly wet and bumpy journey back to Beadnell, the group headed home for a well-deserved rest and Fajitas.
The next morning was another (much more difficult) 6:30am start, but before the group knew it they were back with the skipper on the Farnes. This time with one mission – to see seals.
The first dive was back at the gulley’s on the North side of the islands, but this time in the 3rd gulley the team didn’t manage to explore. Today, a large group of seals were sat along the rim on the gulley, and the group hoped to entice the seals down into the gulley to join them. This was not the case – they just sat on the rocks and watched us from above. The team descended again and explored the gulley, and, after a couple of distant seal encounters and a good thrashing by the tide, the group regrouped on the boat.
The final ‘dive’, or as the skipper put it “snorkelling with scuba gear”, was in a smallish bay filled with onlooking seals. If the team were going to encounter seals, it would be here. The team swam into the centre of the bay and split up – some descended to around 5m, while others stayed at around 1m depth just above the kelp. Everyone had the seal encounter they were hoping for – lots of nibbled fins, stroking and playful seal shenanigans. After a good 40 minutes of seal fun the group reluctantly returned to the boat having achieved their mission.
The group of very happy divers then headed back to Beadle, packed up the cars and headed to Seahouses for lunch before heading on the 6.5 hour journey home. The group got back to stores around 10, cleaned up the gear and headed home for some well-deserved rest.
Thanks to everyone who joined us. Keep an eye out for the Farnes montage video that will be released soon!