The Floppy in the Farnes

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Early August saw 10 divers ready and raring to go to the Farne islands with the pleasant prospect of diving with the seals ahead of us. 10 divers meant that two boats were necessary and so Swift Diver was pressed into service, and Friday afternoon saw her hitched up behind Neil's car (on his brand new towbar - specially fitted for the occasion) ready to go. Friday night on the M1 northbound is normally heavy, but with the added prospect of roadwork's it seemed heavier than normal so we switched over to the A1 - only to find even slower traffic - again due to roadwork's. Still we made progress - not of course exceeding the allowable speed limits. Scotch corner came and went, past Newcastle and we were making reasonable progress towards the campsite. We knew we were running late - but the telephone message 'You have just missed last orders' didn't exactly lift our spirits! Nearing the campsite we were now just about the only car on the road…. And we had to be stopped at a level crossing by the only train of the night. Finally there, we (Neil, Michele and myself) met up with the rest of the camping party: Pete, Laura, Ann, Andrew, Carl and Chris. We pitched camp, partook of some light refreshment (Neil had fortunately packed some cans) and got bedded down for the night - only one problem: someone's 'sleeping bag' turned out to be half length and missing a zip - so it only made a good blanket! - So now we know of another use for undersuits!

The morning saw a prompt start and we got down to Seahouses harbour ready to catch the tide. We met up with Nigel - who had brought Lucky Dip with him but had stayed in a B&B rather than 'rough it' with us in the campsite. A quick visit to the local café for bacon butties provided the sustenance. The boats were launched, kit loaded and we were ready to go. We pottered out of the harbour, and at this point 'Swifty' could keep up with Lucky Dip, but as soon as we got outside it became clear that Swifty with four on board was struggling, she kept folding the nose back and couldn't get reliably on the plane. Two divers were transferred but still she was not keeping up. Lucky Dip was about, keeping an eye on us, sometimes blasting off, sometimes just sitting and waiting. We (eventually) got to the dive site - The Blue Caps - somewhere just inside the Longstone, we recovered our other two divers from the RIB and the first pair went in. The 'vis' was very good, the wildlife very interesting, not very many fish - but some interesting ones, as usual I had my camera so took some snaps:

Ballan Wrasse , Whiting & Crab

2tn  3tn  7tn

And there was also what at first glance appeared to be a 'lawn', which turned out to be hundreds of brittle starfish waving their arms in the water making it look like a lawn.

The considered opinion was that the problems with the floppy normally come about by not having enough air in the keel tube so whilst we (Pete and myself) were down Neil put more air in until it felt good and firm. He said (on our return to the surface) that he'd tested it and it now was much better - problem solved.

The return trip was much the same as the outward….slow and the nose of the floppy kept coming up. The second trip we started with only two in the boat but although the performance was better it was still not good. The second dive site was just North of the Longstone and the 'display' of dead man's fingers was superb ranging from:


15tn  13tn
12tn  11tn  8tn

The fine detail on some of them (the 'fluffy ones'….. I must get a book to identify the different types!) was interesting

When Neil and Laura came up after their dive they reported having found a secluded channel with seals coming in to play, other people also had reports of seals - I was envious…. we had seen some on the surface but none whilst we had been down - but there was always tomorrow's dives.

The second day's diving followed much the same format as the first; the same dives - but in the other order; the floppy was still slow, the RIB was still MUCH faster. It's surprisingly frustrating to see the RIB disappearing into the distance whilst you just plod along, eventually it starts to get bigger as you catch it up…. until they decide you are close enough and blast off again. The first dive was much the same as the second of the first day, (this time I had Michele looking after me) we tried to find the channel where Neil and Laura had seen the seals, we found one…. but no seals! During the surface period, and assuming you had a willing crew (photo) we kept checking and pumping the tubes - both keel and sides until they felt good and hard and all the time there seemed to be improvements but she still wasn't performing as well as we thought she could.

The second dive was another visit to the Blue Caps and we had a good explore - but still no seals.

Laura  10tn

The most memorable part for me was the huge (and ugly) jellyfish that there were about with the tendrils trailing which seemed determined to get wrapped round the SMB line no matter how careful you were - this example must have been 4-5m total length.

The diving finished all too soon and we were back at Seahouses getting the boats out, paying the harbour dues and heading for home, a comfy bed and a good night's sleep.

All in all an excellent trip with some good diving - even if I didn't see any seals underwater! Thanks to Neil and Nigel for organising and my buddies Pete and Michele for putting up with me!

The next day when we were cleaning down 'Swifty' prior to taking her back, we discovered the pressure gauge we should have been using to check the tubes (instead of 'hmmm that feels hard enough'). The keel tube was at the correct pressure; the sides were just about at the correct pressure….. The front tubes (what do you mean…. they are separate!) well they were a bit low…. OK one of them was VERY low. Now I want to take her out again, with the correct pressures and see if she can live up to her name: SWIFT diver!


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