St Andre and the Bush – Farne Islands

20th September 2014

by Richard Booth

After last weeks ‘discovery’ of two wrecks on Knivestone reef, the plan was to return the following weekend and explore them further. Things were looking up with relatively calm conditions during the week, but with a deteriorating forecast for the weekend, dive plans had to be rapidly re-drawn on Friday evening.

So it was that a small team found themselves launching Sea Hawk out of Seahouses harbour on Saturday morning.

Heading out towards the harbour entrance we were met by a swell literally bursting through the gap. Outside of the harbour, the Rib gingerly powered its way over the swell; providing Tiago good boat handling experience in the challenging conditions. A dive on the Knivestone however was clearly out of the question. Where else to go? Nearing the Farnes it was evident that most of the charter boats were huddled close to the Blue Caps. Not fancying plunging into a diver soup we opted instead to head over to the Pinnacles to dive the wreck of the St Andre.  This particular site has the advantage of being subject to very little tidal current, but it is often a gloomy dive, being somewhat overshadowed by the nearby Pinnacle Cliffs.

Dropping the shotline, the viz looked good as we watched the line stream down into the depths. Furthermore, with no other divers around, the viz on the bottom would not have been stirred up by careless fins.

Sure enough the outline of the flattened wreckage soon loomed out of the depths as we descended down the line.

Indeed the underwater visibility proved to be exceptionally good on this dive. Exploring around the upended boiler schools of silver sided coley fish hovered around the top before swimming off across the wreckage.

The second boiler is a short distance away, but normally out of sight from each other. On this occasion however, both boilers were clearly visible, so it was an easy task to navigate between them both, before following the wreckage trail down the slope, crossing over what looked like a broken mast.

Further on, are the remains of the bow, now totally collapsed and flattened onto the seabed.

Moving back up the slope revealed the flattened plates of the hull actively patrolled by marauding wrasse keen for an easy meal.

We resisted the temptation however to break open an urchin. In some of the plates were round holes, which presumably had once held portholes. A little further on were the remains of the propeller, now minus its blades.

Close by on the seabed was the remains of the rudder blade.

One of the nice things about this dive is that the Pinnacle wall provides a nice gentle ascent and an interesting safety stop admiring the profusion of life that has colonized the wall.

For the final dive of the day, Sea Hawk headed over to the Inner Farnes for a dive on the Bush. This particular site is a reef, which is, situated a couple of hundred metres out from the Inner Farnes. It catches the full force of the ebb tide, but provides some shelter from the food current. Conditions appeared quite marginal, with the swell running in from the east. Once under the water however, the visibility again proved to be very good and enhanced the experience of slowly drifting along the steep wall admiring the rich covering of soft corals on the exposed surfaces.

Slowly moving before the divers was a large school of coley streaming up and down the wall. In the holes and cracks of the reef were also several large lobsters and crabs. Back on the surface and Sea Hawk appeared over the swell.

It was a reassuring end to a great day’s diving, despite the sometimes-challenging sea conditions.