September 3, 2013

St Abbs

Originally planned as a short weekend trip to tie in with a week’s diving across at Lochaline, this was adjusted when a couple of people had to pull out of the Lochaline trip and it was cancelled.  A quick bit of re-scheduling (and a lot of hard work) by Di Eady meant that the majority of those booked for the Eyemouth/ St. Abbs marine reserve trip, and had time, could head up on the Thursday evening ready for an extra day’s diving on the Friday.

The lucky Thursday bunch were Stan Day, Diane Eady, Nicholas Huxtable, Eleanor Jenvey, Steve Jones, Brian Nevison and Bill Owens, with Richard Croft, Rick Ranyard, Kelly Taylor and Dan Taylor following on the Friday evening.  The first group travelled in two cars for the approx. four hour drive, and apart from a little slow traffic around Newcastle, the drive was surprisingly incident free considering a large part of the trip was via the A1 in its various forms.  Having accidentally met up briefly at The Sun Inn, Morpeth, for some good food, both groups made their way to the bed and breakfast accommodation at The Home Arms, Eyemouth.

Having left slightly earlier, the initial of the two groups arrived at around 2030 to a warm welcome from Zoe, proprietress of the business.  Dive gear was conveniently unloaded directly outside the storage/ drying area, with free parking directly opposite the building in the Co-op car park.  A lovely old building with a straight view to the sea, The Home Arms has been extensively renovated by Zoe and Gary to provide comfortable modern rooms while keeping the character of the building.  Most of the rooms in the building are en-suite, with lovely showers, and there is free Wi-Fi throughout.

Around an hour later the second group arrived and all kit was stowed.  The ropes-off time for the next day was a nice late 1130, giving plenty of time for a lie-in and later breakfast for those that wanted to rest up.  Everything important sorted, it was then time to go for a wander around the town and investigate the local hospitality.  Ending up at The Ship Hotel by the harbour for a drink, the warning soon circulated that the loos weren’t the cleanest in the world.  However, everyone was friendly and the drinks were good.  Eventually everyone headed back to the rooms and a good night’s sleep.


With a mix of early risers and those luxuriating in a lie-in, the 0800-0930 breakfast time gave various options (if heading for a walk, watch out for the gulls!).  Once everyone had made the difficult choice between toast, cereal and/ or a full breakfast, it was time to do a final check of the dive gear and load it onto the Divestay van as Zoe had kindly offered to drive it all down to the dock (in between running the B&B, her beauty salon and everything else she needed to do – normally Gary or Lee’s job).  Dive gear despatched, it left time to amble around town.

Heading down to the dock at a leisurely pace, the gear was then unloaded down the walkway onto the Wavedancer II.  The boat is owned and skipped by Billy who is very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about the area.  A twin hulled catamaran, the Wavedancer II was designed with diving in mind and is fast, very spacious (inside and out), with a twin diver lift.  Divers on board and kitting up, Billy took the boat out for West Hurker, a beautiful dive with most life to be seen above 20m.  Just out of the harbour a large dark shape breached and jumped toward the headland and cries of ‘whale’ were heard; possibly a Minke whale although no further sighting were to be had.

West Hurker gave a choice of the coral and anemone covered walls or the deeper, slightly clearer, rocky bottom but there was plenty to see either way, including some rather fat sun stars, starfish and sea urchins.  The water was fairly warm, for UK sea, at around 12-14°C at the depths the group were diving at.

dSMB’s deloyed around half an hour later and following heavenly close pickups by the boat, it was time for hot drinks and muffins (thanks to Nicholas’s mum) or Billie’s shortbread.  Rounds of ‘did you see’ etc. and appreciation of a nice gentle dive with lots to investigate followed and then it was time to head to the next dive, the gullies/ Anemone Gully.

Another lovely dive with a similar diverse variety of corals and anemones, the gullies contained lots of variety and provided Ellie and Stan with their first ever wolf fish sighting.  Some energetic feeling members went flat fish chasing or tried to wrestle crabs out of their hidey holes.  There was a patch where young brittle stars were encroaching; not a good thing.

Back around 1530 and able to leave the majority of the gear on the boat, there was time after loading up the cylinders to go back for fills and heading back for showers to indulge in afternoon tea (and eye up the cakes for a later visit) at The Pantry before relaxing for the afternoon.  Dinner was at The Contented Sole and, be warned, the even the small portions of the very good food were of extremely decent size.

The unlucky few who were unable to get time off work etc. to dive on the Friday arrived and unloaded at around 2315 – just in time for a glass of wine before it was all gone.


Another nice day, if a little cloudier, ropes-off was scheduled for 0930.  Most of the way out to the first dive site another siting was made, this time of a dolphin or porpoise.  This surfaced a few times but we eventually couldn’t see it any more.

The first dive, at zzz, was around the same depths but with plenty of different environments it was an interesting dive.  The life included corals, fewer anemones, lots of sea urchins, sand gobies, crabs and lobsters, with the odd sighting of wrasse, butterfish, nudibranch and a scallop jetting its way along.  A slightly longer dive at around 45 minutes, everyone enjoyed themselves, even when Di stopped for that one special photo and mislaid, or was mislaid by, her two buddies.

The next dive of the day was at Black Carr, however Rick and Ellie stayed dry for this one as Rick had a tingly appendage (finger- what were you thinking?) and Ellie’s dodgy knee had given out when coming back onto the boat from the previous dive.

The only dive we found where there was any large amount of littering, the area had large deposits of fishing paraphernalia, including line which got more than one of the group, a weird death scene containing hundreds of langoustine heads, lager cans and tyres.

Back at around 1400, the cakes seen yesterday were calling so following showers, and naps if needed, the group headed off to claim their sugar hit (Ellie can recommend the soup!).  Takeout and takeover of the breakfast area was planned for later so it was then time for a pub crawl – not as bad as it sounds, there are limited venues in Eyemouth!

Signs of starvation encouraged the ordering of the food and around 2000 we all tucked in to some very nice food from the China Pearl.  Well and truly stuffed we retired to relax in the lounge where Bill started up rounds of Truth (no Dare) with the themes of most embarrassing, most proud and most regret.


An earlier ropes-off time of 0900, in order to allow for reasonable travel time afterwards, we headed out to Black Carr.  The weather had picked up a little and it was nice and bouncy on the way out, with Bill and Ellie catching a wave just before they were in their dry-suits.

Billie dropped us in front of a high walled passage between two of the rocks and once down a little it was much calmer.  With more kelp and rocky nooks and crannies than had been seen on any of the other dives, this was reputed to be a wolf fish hot spot.  Ellie’s weight belt unfortunately worked its way around, resulting in an amusing sight while she and Dan attempted to sort it.  A mix of rocks and sandy bottom, again there was a lot of life and the wrasse seemed to be well fed.

The second dive was the renowned Cathedral Rock and everyone except Rick and Ellie (same issues) went down to dive this gorgeous site.  If you’re thinking about doing it as a shore dive be prepared for a lot of effort (and sliding)!  A nice big double rock arch allows for backlit shots and is covered in anemones and corals.

Billie kindly docked at the other side of the harbour this time in order to make it easier to get the kit up to the quay.  The cars were brought down and everything divided up and loaded (no raffle needed as everything was claimed).  Hire cylinders from The Home Arms were returned and the rest of the kit picked up before heading down to the harbour (the other fish and chips shop doesn’t use fresh fish from the local fisherman – very odd) for a very nice fish and chips.

Fuelled up, we said our farewells and began the journey back home.  Traffic was a little heavier but we still made good time and then it was just a case of making the tough decision of whether to rinse and dry kit that evening or the following day…

Overall a thoroughly enjoyable dive trip.

Eleanor Jenvey