Fantasitic Farnes!

Another fantastic August bank holiday was spent diving with Seals by a record number of Kingston & Elmbridge members this year.

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With nearly 50 divers, Len had arranged for two boats this year and as usual Billy Shiel did us proud with Glad Tidings III and VII.

I was on what could only be described as the “Elite Diver’s” boat, Glad Tidings III with Chris Knight as our dive marshall with Sandra marshalling on VII.

Over on III, with it’s side mounted lift and entry achieved by a backward roll it was nothing if not exciting. Some of the “heavier” divers got a little concerned with the top heavy effect achieved at the top of the lift but it was Howard who demonstrated how not to step off the lift, as he crashed back into the sea at the end of our first dive!

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The Outer Farnes offer some of the best diving in Northumberland however planning dives can be frustrating, the exposed situation and the vagaries of the weather often mean that plans have to be changed at a moments notice. However, we seem to have been blessed when it came to the weather.

With lashing rain and a thick sea fog on the way there and storm force winds on Sunday night, the weather gods wound it in during the day resulting in very pleasant surface conditions on all three days, though at times you wouldn’t think it to look at Gill Wilson on Glad Tiding VII hanging over the side looking very green not to mention Bret and Sarah and probably one or two more that I didn’t spot.

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The Farnes are the most easterly outcrop of the Great Whin Sill, a strip of hard dark volcanic rock that stretches through Northumberland. Many of the islands are hidden underwater at high tide, making it a dangerous area for shipping but is home one of the largest population of Grey Seals in Europe. Visitors come by boat to Inner Farne or Staple to view the Seals that can often be seen lazing on the shorelines. But we were here to see them a little closer up.

The Seals were in great form. With the big bulls hunting 1500 miles off the Northwest coast of Ireland, the pups and cows made the diving unmissable. The pups seemed particularly playful. Chris Knight got up close and personal with a particularly inquisitive youngster whilst four or five of us settled on the sea floor to watch. Tony Colato and I had a fantasitic second dive on the Monday with some great Seal interaction at 2 metres!

The main attraction for the weekend was the Seals but the sea around the outer islands is extremely nutrient-rich and clean waters meaning that kelp can thrive down to 12 or so metres to be abruptly replaced with swathes of Alcyonium and sponges, Congers, Wrasse and Lobsters with claws the size of my head to been seen.

Many thanks to Len for arranging a great weekend yet again, the dive marshalls Chris and Sandra and the assistant dive marshalls Jim and Jemil and to everyone who helped with the Barbecue on Sunday evening.

Finally, to anyone who hasn’t been on the club trip to the Farnes, particularly new members, it is a fantastic trip and well worth the drive up there so get your name down for next year before you miss the boat!