FARNE ISLANDS by Andrew Coles

Farne Islands Trip – 25th to 26th June 2011
Louis Wheatley very kindly organised this trip to the Farne Islands on 25th to 26th June 2011, very near to his home town of Newcastle. Eight members from the club travelled the 300 plus miles by car to a small fishing town called Seahouses, Northumberland on the Friday. The journey time for most people took at least 7 hours. When we arrived, we all decided to go the pub and relax with a couple of beers at the Lodge Guest House that evening. Most members stayed at the ‘The Old School House’ which was owned by Sovereign Diving, the diving company we were using for the weekend.
The Saturday morning was an early start. We had a lovely cooked breakfast at 7.30am and had to be at Seahouses harbour for 8.00am where we waited to board the Sovereign II which was a twin engine 12 metre Cheverton. The boat was fantastic and was large enough to store everybody’s kit and it even had an electric dive lift making entry and exits a lot easier, especially for the oldies. This was luxury diving compared to the ribs we have used before. The Skipper who we had for the weekend was called Ron. Ron is a fully qualified Skipper with vast experience and knowledge of the Farne Islands and is also a qualified diver, which was very useful as he understood our needs.
The Farne Islands are situated only ten minutes boat ride from Seahouses harbour. They are separated into two groups – inner and outer Farne by Staple Sound, a stretch of water 1 mile wide. The Farne Islands consist of some 28 islets. When we arrived, the conditions weren’t that great; the sky was overcast and the sea was far from calm. We continued to circle the islands until we found a sheltered area where entry and exit would be safe. As we were doing this, many seals could be seen sitting on the islands and swimming nearby. Once we were allowed in, we descended to a depth of roughly 18 metres near to the wall of one of the islands and found a gully that we were able to dive through. The visibility was great and I’m sure we could see at least 15 metres, if not more. As we made our way along the gully we could see seals swimming in the distance and if you were sharp-eyed enough you would notice lobsters and crabs tucked away in small crevices. The morning dive lasted about 40-45 minutes and we were greeted by a hot cup of coffee when we surfaced. During our surface interval we chatted on the boat and compared stories of who saw what. Unfortunately for Louis his dry suit had sprung a leak and that was the end of his diving for the weekend. The second dive in the afternoon was very similar but it was a refreshing change to have such great visibility. Although the sky was overcast I had caught the sun, especially on my face and hands. This will definitely remind me to bring sun tan lotion in future.
We arrived back at the harbour at 4pm, left our kit on the boat for the night and headed straight back to the hotel to clean up before going to the ‘The Lodge’ pub for a lovely home cooked dinner and some well deserved beers.
The Sunday morning was also an early start. Again we had a full cooked breakfast at 7.30am before boarding at 8.00am at Seahouses Harbour. The Sunday morning dive was more exciting than normal as my diving buddy Chris and I had a face to face encounter with a seal. The seal had been sleeping upright in front of us, he opened his eyes to look at us and seemed to be disinterested and decided to carry on sleeping then thought better of it and swam off. He was only in front of us for around a minute but it is something I will never forget. The second dive in the afternoon was a shallower dive at 12 metres to view a wreck. It was a great dive but we could not stop thinking about our amazing seal encounter!
After the last dive, we returned to the harbour at 4.00pm, packed our kit into our cars and drove the 300 plus miles back home.
Our weekend in diving in the Farne Islands was fantastic, I have been on many drive trips around the UK but I think this has been the best UK dive trip to date. Can’t wait to go back!!!