May Island emerges from the fog

Bass Rock – Well Nearly!

Written by Andy Moss

For many years I have been trying to get to Bass Rock, but have never got there, for one reason or another, usually bad weather.  The last attempt was also a challenge but that is another story.  Anyway, in the knowledge that unusually I had two consecutive weekends child free, I decided it was time to try again to get to Bass Rock.   In early July from a deck chair in a sweltering Wales I contacted Derek Anderson, skipper of the Oceanic, to see if he was game.  Derek was and we agreed to pencil in an afternoon dive on the 21st August in Eyemouth / St Abbs area and an early start on the 22nd August for an all day trip to Bass Rock, weather and numbers permitting.

With the dates in the diary it was time to promote the days firstly to club members and then wider to try and make them viable to run, particularly the trip on 22 August 2021 which entailed a significant distance needing to be travelled. 

Dave, Nick and Niall on Oceanic

Dave and Nick promptly agreed to accompany me on the 21st  and we were subsequently joined by Seamus from Hartlepool & Liverpool BSAC branches and Damen from Bradford, a qualified diver who had seen my post in the depths of Facebook.  Derek found a number of others and a few days before the trip was confirmed to be on.

It was then time to keep a look on the weather.  For weeks it had generally been calm and the weather good (apart from the weekend earlier in the month I had booked to go on Spellbinder which ended up being cancelled).  The sea was quite rough early in the week but the forecast proved very changeable and I started to feel more optimistic the closer we got.  The 21st arrived and after a very wet drive to Eyemouth and rush to get into drysuits we boarded Oceanic.   As usual it was calm in Eyemouth harbour but the swell outside was significant and certainly more than it had been off Tynemouth earlier in the day.

We travelled up to St Abbs Nature Reserve and found the waves crashing around Black Carr and there being a significant surge.  We ended up dropping in to the north of Black Carr and drifting south, assured by Derek that we would be picked up.  Dave, Nick and I, on our units, dived as a 3 and Seamus and Damen as a pair.  Unfortunately Seamus ended up rather wet on that dive, his dry gloves proving not to be dry and letting in a suit’s worth of cold water. 

After an hour or so, we headed to a dive site just outside of Eyemouth called Buss Fold. I had not dived this before and I understand it is rarely dived due to it being in the shipping channel.  Seamus wisely decided to sit this one out so Dave and Nick went in as a pair and I buddied up with Damen.  It proved a very good dive site covered in life and on a sunny day would have been stunning so hopefully there is an opportunity to dive it again in the future. 

It was then back to Eyemouth and an unintended consequence of the day was identified, namely a car key had been for a dive and no longer worked.  Fortunately this problem was resolved with patience and with a diesel heater.  Whilst this rewarming exercise was happening, having said goodbye to Damen who was going back to Bradford, I was dispatched to Divestay (opposite the Co op) to get some fills for those that needed them.   Time had ticked on rapidly, I still had to check into Eye Sleep, and then walk down to meet Nick, Dave and Seamus in the Contented Sole. A pub which Derek had recommended and where we quickly became ‘contented’ over a pint, starter and main course before retiring to our respective accommodations.

May Island emerging from the fog.

The 22nd August arrived and I discovered the disadvantage of the comfortable Eye Sleep Over upon receiving numerous phone calls and messages from the van crews at the crack of dawn demanding variously sausage butties  / bacon butties / coffee which could be purchased from the Spar adjoining the Hotel from 07.00.  With this important task completed it was off to the pier to hand over breakfast and then to load the boat joined by Niall, Richard, Tiago and Graham who had come up for the day and another couple of divers whom Derek had found. 

All aboard as we sail the flat sea!

Derek had indicated the previous day that surge might be an issue at Bass Rock and suggested that one dive at the Isle of May and one at Bass Rock might be a possibility, the southern side of the Isle of May being protected.  I was happy either way, not having been to either.  The sea had calmed significantly over night but there was still quite a swell and surge evident whilst passing St Abbs Head.  The plan then evolved into two dives at the Isle of May which we arrived at after a 90 minute transit.  Seeing the Isle emerge through the mist with sun on the lighthouse was special. Additionally the sea in the lee of the Isle was like a mirror.

The first dive was on the southern side of the Isle and in our pairs / threes, we drifted west with the current. It was generally quite shallow and we were accompanied by a very friendly seal much of the time. 

For the second dive we dropped in near the Alterstanes landing and on to the wreck of Anlaby which lies well broken up on the boulder slope in 10 – 15 metres depth and then drifted east in our buddy pairs.  There was a propeller somewhere, but I did not see it, so will have to go back.

As we sailed past a beautiful rock arch, we wondered if Dave saw it too!

After two enjoyable dives it was time to leave the Isle of May and make way back, with some exhausted souls having a snooze along the way.  Derek kindly offered the opportunity for a  third dive on the way back at the Skellies, St Abbs.  This was also an enjoyable but there was a very strong surge washing us back and forth demonstrating that the decision to go to the Isle of May had been the correct one. 

Back into Eyemouth and the Oceanic unloaded, some of the group headed straight home. The hungry ones went for fish and chips, which we enjoyed sat on the Eyemouth seafront.   

Overall a successful and enjoyable weekend.  A new site in the log book, but Bass Rock still remains on the to do list. Next year, maybe?

Put your phone down, the fog has cleared!