Farnes Trip 2010

After narrowly missing out on the much-lauded Farnes trip in 2009 it finally came around again on the August Bank holiday, 3 days of diving with the adorable seals to look forward to. It’s a long drive north to Seahouses, but thanks to an early start on Friday we arrived in time to check out some of the local attractions. First and foremost was Alnwick Castle, ancestral home of the Percy family and, more importantly, the site of Hogwarts, playground to Harry Potter and friends. Suffice to say that some very excitable divers returned to the caravans highly impressed at having met Dumbledore and Co. and wondering which instructor they could ask to sign off a successful completion of the “Knight’s Quest”.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, ideal to get down to the serious business of diving. The Glad Tidings boats were loaded with kit and divers and in no time at all we arrived at Longstone Island, the site of our first dive. The arrival of the boat elicited much excitement from the numerous seals sunning themselves on the rocks, several of whom slipped into the water to investigate. With so many seals around divers quickly finished their kitting up and buddy checks to get into the water. The best diving here is fairly shallow, perhaps 15-20m at most, as the inquisitive seals tend to stay in the shallower waters. With visibility at over 10m we were able to see lots of seals; one even came and nibbled at the end of my fins- the ultimate Farnes experience chalked up on Dive 1! A hugely enjoyable dive and I decided there and then, while still underwater, to put my name down for Farnes 2011.

We then had a long lunch break/surface interval, where the typical British Bank holiday weather kicked in and chased the sun away. The second dive was The Cut, beginning with a swim-through a gap in the rocks, through the sea kelp which was very atmospheric. The visibility again was excellent, and although we saw fewer seals this time (who forgot to invite them?) we did see several very large lobsters and hundreds of crabs. There is a wreck here, although not much remains of it apart from some rusted pieces of metal. This dive was also shallow, only 6m or so at some points, which is always a challenge for buoyancy control – especially combined with the vagaries of local currents! Again a great dive, although it was a little choppy upon surfacing, but Glad Tidings picked us up promptly!

With approximately half the K&E divers on the boat and the rest still in the water, the club then had to deal with a real emergency – a non-K&E diver from another boat was in distress in the water close by, and club members moved quickly to assist. I’m happy to say that the diver was quickly removed from the water and given medical treatment, incuding CPR and oxygen, under the supervision of a local doctor who had been diving from our boat. The casualty was then airlifted to hospital by the emergency helicopter (guided by the ever-excellent RNLI boats that arrived to support the rescue within minutes of reporting it). A very sobering reminder of the potential hazards of sport diving, but also a confirmation that all the hours spent by divers and instructors on theory lessons and open water practice drills is worthwhile, and can in fact be the difference between life and death. Some O2 and First Aid courses / refresher sessions are being planned for those who want to ensure their skills are up to date.

Sadly, that was the end of the diving for the trip as gale force winds hit Seahouses and made it impossible for the boats to go out on Sunday and Monday. Several brave souls enjoyed a bracing hill top walk, while others enjoyed the more sedate pleasures of the on-site pool and spa. So, all in all a good trip – some top rated diving, great encounters with the Farnes seals, the satisfaction of having been in the right place at the right time to offer genuine and much needed assistance to a fellow diver, a little sunshine and time to socialise with other club members. Hopefully next year it’ll be a lot less windy and less eventful too.

By Leanne Collinson