Freesteel Blog » 2019 » July

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 at 10:29 am - - Kayak Dive

Things go on. We did some excellent kayak diving up in St Abbs that was planned to take advantage of a student who could be in a sea kayak on the surface so we’d feel more at ease going deeper and further underwater than we’d normally venture on our own.

Our main mission was to see a wolf fish, frequently sighted on Black Carrs rock below 20m.

Here he is:

This was along the low cut down that runs due east from the rock, in a horizontal crack behind an upstanding rock. It’s probably always the same fish that everybody sees. He caught my eye as we were searching along the bottom, and I propped up a cairn on the spot so we could come back to him after pushing on a bit deeper to the brittle star carpets.

And here’s my cairn marking the spot of the shy fish’s lair.

My pics make it look a lot less pretty than what it was it was to be there in the water, but they work for me as evidence.

Our support kayaker (plus visitors) was present when we went down at this deep spot.

As usual they were nowhere to be seen when we came up. They tend to get bored and find something else to go look at, because it all seems well from the surface to non-divers who don’t know what disasters might be unfolding below the water.

The wolf fish dive was on the Tuesday 2 July 2019. It was a stiff northwest wind and swell that made it impossible to go near the coast and explore the caves anywhere further round towards Pettico Wick.

The weather and water visibility conditions had not been the best we had hoped for, but the trip had to fit into a narrow time window of people’s availability and Becka not being on a caving expedition.

We stayed overnight in a three bed shared room at Marin Quest, which was a little expensive, but it paid off well when on Monday over breakfast the boat skipper was able to give us the position of the wreck of The President at this spot: 55°52’10.0″N+2°04’25.0″W/@55.8694568,-2.0741817 in a very sheltered channel to the south of Eyemouth directly in line with a fence style.

Here’s us loading up the kayaks at the convenient concrete access path near Greenends Gully.

We overshot too far south on the paddle out. The cliffs further towards Burnmouth look well worth exploring, but we didn’t have time for that.

The dive on The President was excellent, progressively finding bigger and bigger bits of scrap steel until we finally hit the boilers. Otherwise, there was not much life.

Sam, our look-out student, spent the time watching dolphins doing leaps and flips close in.

Here’s a blurry shot from a Mark One blurry gopro to prove he saw something jumping.

After a tank changeover at the carpark, we hauled our kayaks against the wind and waves to the north of Eyemouth and into the shelter of Weasel Loch.

Sam took my wallet shopping for junk food as we did a shore dive out of the channel to look for Conger Reef.

We didn’t find the reef, so here’s a picture of a flatfish and small lobster in the rocky wasteland it was supposed to be.

We circled back to the cliff wall, which was spectacular, huge, deep and overhanging, and then found the way back in. I could spend all day shore-diving out of this loch popping in and out of the water trying to get my bearings. Maybe I’d eventually find this reef.

Back by the car we changed into wetsuits and I gave Sam a try dive, during which we saw a small lobster on a ledge at minus one metre.

Stepping back in time to Sunday, when Becka and I arrived in St Abb’s (before Sam came), we dashed out for an afternoon dive on Wuddy Rocks.

Becka managed to haul down the anchor at the start of the dive, but couldn’t stay down because she didn’t have enough lead.

Normally this is my fault for not putting enough on her weight belt, but this time it was because she’d forgot to put it on at all!

Once sorted out, we found the way into the tunnels where we tried out our new new diving torches, one wide and one narrow angle.

Up till now I’d been using a Dive Scurion Light, which Becka has appropriated into her caving gear. I’ve nearly lost or broken on a couple of occasions. I’m glad not to bother with that thing again, because a burn time of 12 hours is no use when dives are at most a couple hours a day. It’s huge and has a dangly wire between the battery and the headset.

Torches are a good investment, because one of the points of diving is to see things. Over the years they’ve become smaller and brighter, until maybe soon you’ll just have some bridge specks on the fingertips of your gloves that will emit rays when you cup your hand in a particular way.

Then we did a second dive and went looking for Cathedral Rock from the shore. Here are the instructions from Marine Reserve booklet:

To reach Cathedral Rock follow the main gulley between Broad Craig and the harbour wall. Keeping Broad Craig on your left and the training pool on your right, enter a narrow gully which drops down to approximately 5 metres. Swim to the right around the narrow gap and proceed until you reach a pile of angular boulders. From here head approximately 45 degrees to the right, passing over kelp forest on the way, until you reach a small rock face covered with dead men’s fingers. Swim past this rock keeping it on your left shoulder into a sandy gully. Cathedral Rock is on your right, just over a large boulder.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t find it.

The Lawson Wood diver guide (whose position for The President are out by 3 minutes of arc) describes the route like so:

Swim over to Big Green Carr [this is the wrong rock -ed]; keeping it to your left swim south in line with the reef. At the end of the reef you should see a low lying ridge extending at right angles in front of you; pass over this and you will meet a wall that curves to the left over a tumble of large boulders. With this wall to your right, you are now swimming east and you will reach Cathedral Rock in about 12 yards.

The problem with these descriptions is that everything is relative in terms of what constitutes a large boulder or a sandy gully. This is no use underwater where the visibility is such that you can only see one thing at a time. If you swim into a boulder that’s 2 metres tall, then it’s large if is alone on a rubble strewn plane, but small if it is surrounded by 8 metre high blocks. When you can see only than 5 metres distant, you can easily persuade yourself either way, and therefore the description is of no use. It might as well have said: turn left at the boulder that once had an octopus on it in 1998.

Had I realized that these descriptions were so utterly defective, I’d have looked online, and found this dive description:

The one thing you must do on this dive is trust your compass, so take your bearings and follow them!

On entry head right and at the end of Broad Craig there is an area of almost white gravel (actually shells and worm-casts); Take a compass bearing of 120degrees and swim approximately 30m to reach the site.

We had driven partway up to St Abbs on the Saturday and slept overnight in a layby on the A7 before seeking out breakfast in Berwick upon Tweed. The cheap eating place was packed out, so we wandered into town and hit upon the Mule on Rouge, which is where I’d be hanging out every day if I lived in this town. Unfortunately, Becka had just decided that we were now on an economy drive, because I haven’t been paying my house bills for a while, so we shared one single bagel.

On the Saturday I had been taking my telepresence robot around Makerfest Liverpool in the Central Library. It’s possible that this toy had something to do with the cashflow crisis.

Isn’t it cute?