Easter at St Abbs

16th April 2006

As the traditional start to the 2006 season gets underway Tyneside 114 once again take to the water ….. in opposite directions.

Tyneside 114 diving over the Easter weekend focussed on two places. One group headed off to the North West of England to spend two days stopping off at a B&B close to the Capenwray inland dive site with the intention of practising drills and skills prior to diving in the more exposed tidal waters of the North Sea.

Other members of the club transported one of the club RIBs up to a secure storage compound near Seahouses with the intention of simplifying the logistics of diving out at the Farnes and St Abbs dive sites over the coming summer months.  Once the club RIB was dropped off, Andy, Gordon and Richard headed north to rendezvous with Craig Billingham at St Abbs harbour for a ride out on his own recently purchased RIB.

With a combination of a stiff westerly breeze and big spring tides, diving conditions were not at their best for this part of the coastline. The team therefore headed north out of St Abbs harbour and took advantage of the shelter provided by the steep cliffs around the headland to drop divers in close to the Tyes tunnel site. Despite the westerly breeze a distinct swell was running, making for only the briefest of explorations around the cave mouth before heading out to the rocks and gully’s that lie further out from this area. Underwater visibility was not particularly good at around 3 metres maximum, having suffered from heavy rain and swell earlier in the week. The water also proved somewhat cool at 6 degrees centigrade! After 45 minutes the dive party were speedily recovered and a hasty retreat was made back to the harbour for hot bacon sandwiches and drinking chocolate at the harbour side cafe.
Rejuvenated by this experience, the intrepid party headed out once more from St Abbs to the Ebb Carrs reef which are situated a couple of hundred metres south of the entrance to the harbour. This site is best dived on slack water owing to its exposed tidal location. Despite a hard swim down from the surface onto the kelp covered rocks, the steep gully’s soon provided a measure of shelter from the strong spring tidal current. Despite the cool water, life appears to be thriving after the cold winter months.

A number of lobsters appear to have made the spring trek back from deeper water to take up occupancy amongst the many nooks and crannies provided by the scattered wreckage of the SS Alfred Earlandsen, a small Danish coaster wrecked on these rocks on the 17h October 1907. The Ebb Carrs more exposed location and fast flowing tidal current also ensured much better u/w visibility than the earlier morning dive. With all divers safely recovered, it was time to head back to St Abbs harbour for the long journey home.

Next morning, with similar weather conditions to the day before with bright sunshine and a strong offshore breeze, the dive party headed north once again with a view to exploring the headland around Pettico Wick. Once closer to this headland however, the sea became much rougher with numerous white horses and a strong swell running. Once again shelter was sought closer into the lee of the towering cliff tops and an exploratory dive was made off a large rock that broke through the surface under the lee of these dramatic cliffs.

The underwater surfaces of this site proved to be covered in a thick layer of deadmans fingers interspersed with plumrose anemones. Close by were numerous deep gully’s dropping down onto a rocky sea bed which was covered with a living carpet of brittle stars carefully manoeuvring around the numerous colourful dahlia anemones that were scattered across the bottom. Despite so much life, after 40 minutes the icy water was beginning tofeel distinctly uncomfortable upon thehands and face, so an SMB was fired off towards the surface and the dive party ascended upwards towards the waiting RIB. Once back on board, the spring sunshine soon revived frozen spirits and the team headed back towards St Abbs harbour with more great memories provided by this fantastic diving area. Hopefully 2006 will provide many more similar opportunities for club members to dive up here again.

Thanks once again to Craig for allowing us to dive with him over the Easter Weekend.