St Abbs and Scoutscroft Weekend

12th – 15th May 2012

By Richard Booth

The week started promisingly with bright hot balmy days and light winds. As the week progressed however, so the forecast for the weekend became more doom laden with TV weather forecasters predicting heavy rain and stiff on-shore winds.

Friday afternoon arrived and members from Durham City Divers and Tyneside 114 BSAC club assembled at the Greenend Gully dive site, near Eyemouth, for the first dive of the weekend. Despite the overcast sky, gear was quickly assembled, air turned on and the short hike was made down to the waters edge.

Once under the surface it was an easy swim down the main gully, before levelling out at 15 metres at the exit from the gully out into the open sea. With the kelp streaming in the strong spring tide current some caution was exercised in not straying too far from the relative shelter of the gullies that make up this underwater marinescape. Small lobsters were observed lurking amongst the rocks and crevices. Underwater visibility however was limited by a combination of a rich plankton soup and an overcast sky but was still a respectable 4 metres plus. After half an hour in the water we returned back up the main gully back to the safe exit provided by the concrete path out of the water.
The plan was to complete a second dive at this site, but the sky suddenly darkened as a small squall blew in, with white horses on the waves and a rising swell that destroyed the previous calm water surface of the gully and ruled out any further prospect of diving this site again that day. Reluctantly we packed our kit and headed off to the Scoutscroft campsite near Coldringham, to pick up the keys for the pre-booked static caravans. Would the weathercaster’s worst predictions be confirmed for the rest of the weekend?

That evening solace was sought in the Anchor public house where we heard grisly tales of headless seals being washed up on local beaches, the apparent victim according to some of the locals, of a rogue mako shark!

Saturday morning dawned with a more promising bright blue sky and light to moderate North Easterly winds. The party assembled on the pier at St Abbs and dive gear was gingerly lowered down the steep harbour walls exposed by ebbing spring tides down onto the waiting dive boat, the MV Topline, skippered by Paul Crowe its amicable owner.
Once all were safely aboard, the Topline headed out of the harbour for our first boat dive of the weekend near Wuddy Rocks. This site offers a measure of shelter from the north easterly swell, which allowed some of the more ‘rusty’ members of the group to become safely re-acquainted with the rigours of diving in UK waters. Indeed these waters proved to be a cool 8 degrees centigrade with underwater visibility of between 3-4 metres. Amongst the rocks and kelp numerous small beasties were observed including pipefish, scorpionfish, octopus and small crabs; Shy ballan wrasse skulked amongst the numerous rocky gullies that litter this area. After 40 minutes it was time to send up delayed SMB’s, re-board the MV Topline and return to the harbour.

Between dives wholesome refreshments were obtained at the small café on the harbour side, with the opportunity to sit outside at the tables basking in the bright sunshine. What had happened to the predicted poor weather?

For the afternoon dive, the MV Topline headed out to the Black Carrs. This is a site that is swept by strong tidal currents. It is an area that consists of a series of rocky underwater gullies whose walls are covered in a thick carpet of soft corals. On the floor of these gullies can be also be found large colourful anemones, with their stubby tentacles floating in the currents awaiting their next unfortunate victims that are swept along in the tidal streams. Underwater visibility on this site proved to be a more respectable 6 metres. Some shelter from the strong spring current can be obtained from the lee provided by some of the deeper gullies on this site. Delayed SMB’s however are a must if not diving on a conventional SMB, as the strong current will inevitably carry divers some distance down the coast.

That evening Deborah Patton, despite the rigours of diving earlier that day in only a 5mm wetsuit, demonstrated her culinary skills by cooking a delicious chicken curry for the assembled party of 12 hungry people. This meal was followed by a series of ‘drinking games’ under the able direction of the master of ceremonies, Richard Smith. With the prospect of a hard days diving to come the following morning, all retired gracefully to bed and thankfully none too worse for the wear.

Next morning we arrived at St Abbs to the news that another headless seal was floating in the harbour.Was there any truth in the tale of the killer mako shark? On a more positive front, the weather forecasters were wrong again as we looked down upon the MV Topliner bobbing in the harbour bathed in bright sunshine. We had also been joined for the day by three other members of Tyneside 114 club, Andy Moss and Michael and Mick Pattison. The wind however had swung around to the south and was blowing quite briskly, again limiting the range of available dive sites. We therefore headed up the coast taking advantage of the lee provided by the promontory of St Abbs head, to dive the site known as The Skellies. They say great minds think alike and we were soon joined by most of the other St Abbs dive boats on this site. Dropping down to the seabed it was soon evident that the current was again running quite hard. The underwater visibility had also deteriorated from yesterday, possibly due to the sheer number of divers on this site, although the increasing swell did not help matters much either.

Despite the limited visibility the dive still proved to be an exhilarating experience floating speedily over the rocky gullies below. Whilst lacking the rich plumage of soft corals to be found at other sites like the Black Carrs, the Skellies nevertheless still provides wonderful diving when conditions are good. Somewhat reluctantly SMB’s were fired off to the surface and we ascended to await the MV Topline picking us up before heading back to St Abbs harbour.

The plan was to complete another boat dive, but unfortunately the group all received a contaminated cylinder fill, resulting in the cancellation of the afternoon dive.

This proved to be something of an unfortunate end to an otherwise excellent weekend. The weather gods had proved to be reasonably kind to us, despite the predictions of the TV weather forecasters and indeed we all came away with a touch of the sun on our faces.

Many thanks to Dave Hyde and Peter Freedman for their hard work in organising the weekend. All being well I will put my name down for next years trip as soon as dates have been identified and booked.

Dive charter: MV Topline
Skipper : Paul Crowe

Tel : 018907 71945
Mobile: 07710961050

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