Tyneside 114 does Bass Rock. (Well, almost!)

By Brian Dinsley

Ballan wrasse

This trip had been in the making for several months as a qualifying trip for my BSAC Advanced Diver Qualification.  The target site was identified, prospective dive buddies assigned, accommodation booked and plans made with local dive charter skipper, Paul O’Callaghan using his boat, Pathfinder.

Bass Rock is one of those places that everyone would like to dive, but it just takes a little more organising than say a St Abbs trip. Unfortunately these days, there are no charter boats operating out of the nearest Harbour, Dunbar and there isn’t an air station locally available. Consequently we had to plan to make air cylinder runs on the Saturday afternoon in preparation for Sunday’s diving.

The weekend finally arrived and the 8 group members made their way up to the pre-booked accommodation near Dunbar.  The weather was looking quite unsettled, with BF4 to 5 forecast from the West on Saturday and BF5 to 6 for Sunday, frequently from the North, but since we were sitting under a deep low pressure front, wind direction was predicted from everywhere!

On Friday night a few of us staying in a very comfortable static caravan at Belmont Bay ventured into Dunbar to find dinner.  Dunbar is quite an attractive old Scottish town with a traditional fishing harbour.  There was a broad variety of eateries from eat-out fish and chips, to Italian and Indian restaurants.  We sampled the Indian restaurant and were not disappointed!

Our chariot for the weekend

During my Friday evening briefing with the skipper, I was advised that despite the sea currently being flat, the conditions would worsen over-night and therefore we would should revert to plan B and dive from St Abbs Head on Saturday.  St Abbs is just 30 minutes South of Dunbar and so it was no big deal, but slightly disappointing that we weren’t diving the rock.

We enjoyed two good dives on Saturday. The first dive was Paul’s Gully where Andy Moss and I enjoyed a one hour dive, seeing a broad variety of sea life including a pair of Wolf fish hiding in their undersea lair. The tides were approaching neeps this weekend and there was little current  making for a very relaxing dive.

Dive 2 was a trip through Cathedral Rock for some and Ebb Carrs for others.  Some of our group who hadn’t previously dived Cathedral Rock enjoyed a really good dive through the cave, accompanied by large, steely-eyed Pollock.  Andy Moss and I decided upon Ebb Carr.  As previously mentioned, tides were approaching neeps, but we were still provided with a speedy blast past Ebb Carr and views of horizontal kelp, doing the flag in a strong wind impression!  This was still a very good dive and we were rewarded with a rummage of wreckage in the gulleys at around 10 – 12 metres, including a good size ship’s boiler.

Eventually, everyone gathered back on the boat for surface interval, teas and coffee and chilli and ginger cake which was kindly provided by the Skipper’s wife.  The Skipper calls it Ginger Cake Surprise, because he’s always surprised to find out how much chilli his wife (Dawn) puts in the cake.  A good body warmer after a long dive!

Evening meal time!

On Saturday evening we met for dinner at the quite grand Rock Hotel which provided tantalising views of Bass Rock and again, flat seas!  However, with the rapid approach of low pressure from the South West, it wasn’t going to be flat for long!

As expected, the weather forecast for Sunday proved no better and on Sunday morning we woke to wind and rain.  As we drove along the coast to St Abbs for our second dive day our sea view was limited by thick fog.  Not good!

Our plan had been for an 11:30 am ropes-off to enable part of our group to dive the Glanmire (~30m) on slack water, while others were intending scenic reef diving in close proximity of the Glanmire site.  Unfortunately however, this wasn’t to be.  The weather gods had decided otherwise and so after consultation with our skipper, Sunday’s diving was cancelled and so we retired to the Harbour-side café for bacon and sausage sandwiches and zero calorie chips.  (The staff here are very helpful and will remove the calories from your chips on request! J)

Thanks to everyone who attended this trip.  It was a pity about the weather. While it ended up being just a 2 dive weekend, it was still a fun trip and we enjoyed some good dinners and good company!

Breakfast when not diving!


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