Monday, 1 June 2009

Farne Diver Get Charter

First published in Dive Magazine Jan. 2005
Get charter - Farne Diver
By Mike Clark
The Farnes have become a firm favourite with generations of divers. Mike Clark boards a boat with a skipper from the new wave…
The Farnes have become a firm favourite with generations of divers. Scott MacDonald boards a boat with a skipper from the new wave

I first dived the Farne Islands off Northumbria 18 years ago, with skipper Stan Hall. Stan's eldest son, Lee, now continues his long-standing family business, offering diving charters on the Seahouses-based Farne Diver. Lee Hall, 29, is a fantastic skipper and incredibly laid-back. The man commands respect though, as he demonstrates his outstanding knowledge of the area in a characteristically low-key manner. For instance, when he told me that he would drop me exactly on the prop of the wreck of the Abyssinia in 5m of water, I was impressed. However, dropping me 2m south of the bow of the Britannia at a depth of more than 30m was quite outstanding. Lee is also a useful source of information on the resident grey seal population and knows all the best sites for providing divers with good encounters with them. The Farnes are well known for their confused seas and the tidal rips. You need a skipper who will find the optimum site for protection from the tides at any given time. Much of Lee's experience comes from his father, who has taken divers out of Seahouses for 30 years. Lee started going out on the boat with his dad when he was just five years old and has absorbed a wealth of knowledge about the area. He also worked on trawlers for seven years before taking divers out full time. He's been working with divers for seven years now.Farne Diver is a no-frills working boat. She is comfortable for ten and the wheelhouse can cram in most of this number, but apart from that there's no other shelter. There is a large shelf at the stern of the boat which is ideal for stowing cylinders on the way out to dives, and the sizeable engine hatch makes a handy seat for kitting up. The downside is that you find yourself squeezing past divers every time you walk up and down the boat. The only other seating available is inside the wheelhouse or on the gunwale, which is quite shallow, only coming up to a diver's knees. The galley is typically basic, with just a couple of gas rings for heating up those welcome cups of tea and coffee. The head is also found down here and is big enough for a drysuit-clad diver to disrobe in privacy. Otherwise, the forward section of the boat is mostly used for stowage purposes.The Farne Diver isn't fast but her average cruising speed of 8 knots is more than adequate for Farne diving, and even for the longer cruises to wrecks such as the fantastic Somali. The standard dive boat ladder makes entering the boat relatively stress-free, even with a heavy twin-set.The wheelhouse does have some electronics onboard, including GPS, a sounder and radar, although I don't think Lee needs to use them unless one of the area's harrs (thick sea fogs) comes in.I've always enjoyed diving from the Farne Diver, and much of my pleasure has obviously derived from the coastal scenery. That said, a lot of my good times here have been thanks to Lee's abilities as a skipper. He has an uncanny knack of predicting what you will encounter on the sea floor, even though he is a non-diver himself.
What we liked The skipper's laidback style and undoubted ability.What we didn't like It can be a bit of a squeeze when divers are kitting up.Boat: 12m-long Cheverton general work boat Moored: Seahouses Harbour Engines: 120hp twin Perkins Date of manufacture: 1996 Cruising speed: 8 knots Head: one standard marine head Maximum passengers: 12 Optimum

Contact: 01665 720615, website:


Well What can i say, this is one of the very best wreck dives i have ever had. Thirty miles out of Eyemouth on Ian and Jim Easingwoods new boat Silver Sky. I dropped down on a very intact armed American freighter. Gun's, Alternate steering wheel, compas binnacle its all there covered in swathes on orange and white dead mens fingers. Its AWSOME.

To get on this wreck contact Iain or Jim at Marinequest

Green Ends Gully


Just outside the southern extremity of the St. Abbs and Eyemouth voluntary Marine reserve, lies a little known dive site that is regularly overlooked by the masses. In fact I had to ask directions to find it, as it’s around 10 years since I last dived the site. In that time, Eyemouth Harbour has been massively reconstructed and the old access to the site no longer exists. Thankfully though, the dive site remains unchanged.
There is a car park right at the head of the gully and it’s only a very short walk to the entry point, along a concrete path. You can almost get straight in if it’s a high tid
e but if the tide is low, it can be a bit of a guddle. The effort is well worth it though as depth is quickly gained and the narrow confines of the kelpy access route are quickly left behind. Soon the depth becomes 8 metres within a sheer sided gully around 5 metres wide. Pipefish are commonly found here in clumps of weed on the seafloor. Around 20 metres along the gully the depth starts to drop off again and on the left hand side a large flat slab of rock forms a massive overhang. It’s full of cracks and crevices with larger recesses at its base. The first thing that struck me was the colours. There were the usual Dead men’s fingers in orange and white, but the rocks themselves were covered in yellow, pink and orange encrusting growths that made the site very pretty. Looking more closely at this area you will find Yarrels Blenny’s, Scorpionfish, Lobsters, Squat Lobsters and loads of Nudibranches. For macro photographers it’s delightful, with all that colourful negative space to fill.
Opposite the overhang a gully branches off at right angles from the right hand side of the main gully. Depth shallows and small rounded boulders cover the seafloor. There is said to be a nice archway in here on the right hand side but I didn’t find it on this dive, although I have seen it on my previous dives. I found the main gully much more interesting. Heading o
ffshore from the overhang through a narrow gap a nice sandy floored gully 13 metres deep is found at the seaward end of the main gully. By following the dive around to the right. Just offshore is a submerged reef rising around 5 metres off the seafloor. There is a little more tidal movement here so there is lots of life to see. Velvet backed swimming crabs fill every crevice in this site, which has a reputation for Octopus sightings although 2008 has been a poor year for seeing these creatures. The course sand at the base of this gully is home to Prawns, tiny Flatfish and goby’s that lie partially buried in the sand. A couple of large boulders mark the end of the gully. They are covered in soft corals including Plumose Anemones, which confirm that the tide affects this area. It’s also a good feature to mark the end of the dive. Now the diver just needs to retrace their route back to the main gully, past the overhang and back to the exit point. Planning to arrive back here at high tide makes the exit a lot easier on the heavily kited diver.
A very rewarding dive from the shore that demands little effort.
Take the turnoff from the A1 for Eyemouth and follow this road for 2 miles unti
l a roundabout is found. Take the exit marked Aquastars dive shop. Once at the shop a track is found at the seaward side of the large new Harbour building. One hundred metres along this and you arrive at the car park.
The car park can acc
ommodate around 4 cars but it’s a squeeze. This site is a favourite training site for Aquastars so their jeep is often parked here. From the car park it’s 50 metres at the most until you are at the entry/exit point.
Tidal/weather considerations
In the gully there is next to no tide but once out onto the reef at the end of the gully a moderate tide can be experienced. The site is fairly sheltered apart from Winds from the east or the north. Any wind of moderate force or over from these directions will make shore diving here dangerous.
Air fills/local dive centre contact-
Aquastars Dive CentreGuns Green Basin, Eyemouth, Berwickshire, Scotland Tel.07949 808565 FAX.018907 51470.
Fully stocked diving and watersports shop (Going Online very soon!)
Compressed air to 300bar
Nitrox fills from our "state of the art" membrane system.
PADI Training Courses
Guided dives
Diver Rest Room
Equipment hire

Equipment service and repair
Snacks and drinks
Marine Quest Boat Charter'The Harbourside'33 Harbour RoadEyemouthBerwickshireScotlandTD14 5HY
Web +44 (0)1890 752444 or 07780 823884
Air available. Also Home of the Harbourside Café and its fantastic home baking.
Harbourside Accommodation is also available through Marine Quest
The Harbourside has a large lounge room with TV and free Wi-Fi Internet access, a breakfast room, a large drying room, and on-site 02 clean air. All rooms are en-suite. The Harbourside can sleep up to 15. Please contact us for full details and to book your whole trip.
Facilities on site (or if not, where do you go for toilet/food/changing)
As per the two dive centres above and also the harbour buildings of which Aquastars forms part, Showers and Toilets available here.
As said food and snacks available from the Harbourside Café. Eyemouth is a large town and has a variety of pubs, restaurants and chip shops etc.
Local BSAC Club contact
BSAC 21 in Edinburg
Mike Clark

Oxygen Analysers

I have been using Nitrox as a decompression gas for some years. Recently though, I started using Apex Quantum Dive Computers which enable me to gas switch to a high % oxygen (O2) mix whilst decompressing. For divers using Nitrox mixes its imperative that you know precisely what gas you have in your tanks to avoid errors in deco schedules. In the past I would have been happy to have the dive shop analyse the mix or I would have borrowed a friends O2 analyser, knowing that I was building safety into my dive plan by decompressing on Nitrox whilst my old computer was only reading air. I would be much less happy to do that now, and whenever I use Nitrox I check my mix myself to ensure its right.
The tool required to do this is the Oxygen analyser. For this edition I was sent analysers form Vandagraph in the shape of their TEK-OX analyser (Vandagraph) and from Analox I received the Analox O2EII analyser (Analox). Both are purpose built for the sport diving industry and claim to be water-resistant and shock resistant.
Both units whilst doing the same thing look slightly different and go about their business in slightly different ways.

Both units are around the same size but both look very different. The Analox fits nicely in the hand and is very ergonomic and easy to use. It comes in a cardboard tube and has a small lanyard attached to the unit. The Vandagraph unit is easy to use too but is a little more boxy. It does come in a protective plastic box, which is advantageous for divers. This unit has a large viewing screen and is also supplied with a "Quick-Ox" adapter, which is used to take the readings, and I will explain a bit more about this later.
Both units are extremely easy to use but both go about taking the oxygen samples in a slightly different way.
The Analox unit is simplicity itself. Switch on and then calibrate the unit, Crack the tank and place the restrictive sample dome hard against the tank valve. The reading will automatically take place as the opening from the dome leads directly to the oxygen sensor face. It’s therefore extremely important to only have a gentle flow of gas from your valve when taking a reading to avoid over pressurising the sensor and gaining a false reading. I will discuss this situation in more detail later. Once you have finished taking the reading the display will freeze displaying the oxygen content of your Nitrox mix.
The Vandagraph follows the same process up to the calibration stage and then the Quick Ox adapter is fitted to the unit. This is held against the tank valve and basically it is a system of valves that let gas reach the unit’s oxygen sensor at ambient pressure. This ensures that readings are always correct, as the sensor never becomes over pressurised due to high flow rates of the gas from the tank valve. (Have you ever been in a dive store and your Nitrox mix has been reading a bit light, only for the sales person to give the valve a quick blast to bring the reading up to the desired mix? This may be that the flow rate has been corrected or more likely the sensor becomes over pressurised and the higher partial pressure of oxygen in the mix now provides a false reading!). The Quick Ox adapter is a great piece of kit and its something Vandagraph are rightly very proud of. The Quick ox also has the advantage of diverting the flow of gas away from the sensor face and this is thought to increase the life of the oxygen sensor.
I tested the units on a number of Nitrox mixes over the course of a few months. Readings for both units were basically identical. I found the Analox calibration knob to be slightly less sensitive than the Vandagraph unit allowing me to get the O2 mix of 20.9% set slightly easier but there wasn’t much in it. The viewing screen on the Vandagraph unit is larger and easier to read. Both were a joy to use and suffered no effects from being stored in my dive bag apart from the Analox cardboard tube becoming very soggy. The Vandagraph unit was well protected in its plastic x-treme case. So if you fancy the Analox model I would recommend purchasing a protective case for it.
Both units boast a range of accessories such as blanking caps for storage when not diving. Battery life for both units is said to be around a year and oxygen sensors will last between 2 and 4 years depending on use and storage methods. Both units will auto turn off saving battery life.
Both units are water resistant so if you are unlucky enough to drop them in the sea they should be OK, at worst the sensor and batteries may be affected whilst the electronic components are sealed off in a separate compartment.
The Vandagraph TEK OX with protective case and Quick Ox adapter costs £155.00 + VAT @ 15%.

The Analox O2EII costs £170+VAT @ 15%
The list price for an O2EII Case is GBP 16.75 + VAT
Mike Clark