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(Part of) Submarine Week Marine Quest Eyemouth
The following is part, blog, part travelogue I guess, I enjoy writing and hopefully no-one will mind my ramblings popping up on here from time to time.
Despite the weather fronts battering the west coast, Iain at Marine Quest was pretty sure we would be sheltered enough to get at least the first day done and possibly the second, so with some trepidation knowing that day 1 would be my deepest test to date on a re-breather I headed north.
Regardless of dropping my tins in a full week ahead, the shop managed to mess up the mixes and all 4 were off, well off, the 3 trimix bottles (2 dil, 1 bailout) were down at 8-10% HE when I arrived to collect them the day before heading up. So with little time to spare I ended up with some workable but magical and unusual mixes.
Dive 1 was the U714 in around 57-58m a Class VII U boat, not far out of Eyemouth, relatively well intact with the usual sections of missing pressure plate due to the ravages of the years. Plenty to see though including the screws, attack periscope, life rafts, tubes and open hatches revealing the darkness of the inner sanctum of what is after all a war grave.
The shot was just off the starboard side and although dark the visibility was tolerable. I deployed my strobe, having been more used to reeling off or blobbing off this was a new toy to play with and on this dive it worked well, not so on the later dives though, but more of that later.
As usual though I managed to teach my something useful and raise my heart rate for added thrill value on top of the excitement of diving at a new depth on the re-breather, on an intact German sub.
As mentioned elsewhere I bungee my second stage deep bailout reg, often this leads to an initial free flow when I splash and a gradual depletion of bail out, so this time my plan was to pressurise the lines, switch it off and then complete a flow check on the way down (all valves either open or closed as required), then test the BOV at terminal depth as usual as part of my regular pre-dive checks when arriving at the bottom of the shot. PO2, buoyancy, BOV, torches, orientation etc.
I duly puffed the correct PO2 gas back into the lungs retaining only enough to purge the BOV, purged and sucked............you can guess the rest. I went straight back onto the loop, now correctly opened the BOV stage valve and tested it again..............with a small amount of coughing and self-flagellation.
Again as mentioned elsewhere this should have been a 3 stage dive based on my previous pre-conceptions, regular readers will however be familiar with several instances of my pre-conceptions (usually formed in front of this thing, or in the comfort of my van), being over turned when faced with the reality of the situation.
Today was no exception and with the gentle assurances of the skipper and a much more grizzled and salt soaked elder, I took 2x7's, a 50 and a 17/49, on the basis that there would be richer stuff available from the boat or from an-other on the shot.
Anyone got an 80 they want to part with.....................
The following day had been looking marginal but Iain and his family have lived in the area and earned their livings from the sea for so long that he was pretty confident that we would get at least the 2nd day done, his contention was that the eye of the low pressure would be pretty much directly over us. The plan was to head up to Dunbar to dive the U74E, but we would have to wait and see what the weather gods would deliver.
Overnight was breezy, but sure enough the day dawned and it was calm and at 0730 we gently chugged out of the antique harbour past the softly snuffling harbour seals and out into a slate grey morning.
The U74E lies in around 45m of water and was a mine laying submarine, 1 of Nazi Germany’s Children of Sorrow, only the forward section from just behind the rear deck mounted gun is still visible. Either the stern section is buried in the silt, or according to various rumours, theories and myths, it was blown off by a mine being prepared for deployment and lies else-where, as yet un-dived and undiscovered. I recall diving the bit that is definitely there in the late 90’s, but nearly ended up getting dragged off it by a grapple and having a bit of an incident with CO2/narcosis (we were on air) after too tight a neck seal, so didn’t recall much of it.
We splashed and headed into the darkness of the north-sea, (all valves in correct orientation this time). Brian had dropped first to sort the lazy out and when I got to his strobe, I still couldn’t see the sea bed or the wreck, as it turned out I was about 3m above it, dropping the last section I came across his reel tied off and leading into the gloom.
Here I made………a minor miscalculation. I was pretty sure I would be back up before Brian, so decided to just follow his line on the basis that it would still be there for me on the way back. A short swim of a few metres and I drifted over the enclosed hydroplane, and the wreck’s port side bulging pressure hull loomed above me. I rose up onto the highest point and found Brian’s reel on the wreckage, happy days, I did my usual checks and eyeballed reference points for the return.
The wreck is only small given the missing or buried stern section, but again plenty to poke around at, including the bulbous bow, deck mounted torpedo hatch that would have been loaded under cover of the thinly armoured screen around it, what appeared to be weights that may have been attached to the mines, tiny portholes in the conning tower and the rear deck gun.
The vis was worse today, possibly due to the proximity to shore or perhaps due to a trawler that may have just hauled nets as we splashed according to Iain. This had deterred 1 diver and the 2 OC lads had headed up earlier leaving 3 of us mooching. Gradually new discoveries started to wane and it was time to depart.
Working back to where Brian’s reel had been, revealed it’s obvious premature departure, and peering into the gloom off the port side I couldn’t make out the comforting blink of my strobe, only myself and Brian had used them so there was only mine out there……..alone in the darkness. The last diver appeared around now and together we dropped over the hull to locate the hydroplane that had been so obvious on the way in.
As an aside, just adjacent to the plane there is what appears to be a conical piece of wreckage, upright standing 6-800mm proud of the sea bed, consensus on board was that it could be a torpedo buried upright in the silt, but this seems unlikely given that it would have had to have broken free and got outside the shell during the sinking. Can anyone shed any light on this?
We finned out at 90 degrees to the wreck scanning the sea bed which was writhing with brittle stars under the penetrating beams of our lights. Within a mercifully short distance, Iain’s trademark cat o nine tails of chain appeared and we started up, retrieving my strobe, but losing my tag off the lazy on the way. Deco was peaceful, but starting to chop up slightly, and I resolved to just run the reel myself in future. Reflecting on the strobe situation, I thought with hindsight it may have been better placed a little higher in the column, but given the viz and darkness a reel would have been the better choice.
2 lads had come up for the day from Selby on OC, so to ensure they got their money’s worth Iain set course for the Glanmire for a second dive, which was unexpected but welcome. En route we were treated to a Blue Planet live experience as gannets wheeled and dived like Stukas into a shoal of bait fish being harried at the surface by a school of breaching porpoises and about 6 seals. Iain was pretty sure the porpoises were not going to be around for much longer this season so we were fortunate to witness the display.
The Glanmire lies in 30m of water, inside the St Abbs reserve and is well broken, fairly large and old, she sank in 1912 and is now gloriously strewn across the sea bed, with significant features like the boilers standing proud of the bottom. Inevitably she is a popular destination, often a wreck virgins first taste of salty rust, and as such a permanent shot is in place.
Accordingly we dropped down the shot into the green, the amount of light was too great for a strobe and as a neophyte to the dark side I still wanted the comfort of the shot for the ascent. Learning my lesson from the previous dive and looking at the size and broken nature of the debris strewn seabed I hooked up my reel at the base near the huge boilers and spent a happy 45 mins gliding to and from the shot on what is a beguiling and beautiful home to a huge range and variety of marine life. What a pleasure it was when I birds nested the reel on the last return leg to know that there was no gas related time pressure to sort out the mess that I managed to create.
The most negatively notable element of this dive occurred during the deco, we had dived at low water slack so there was a fair bit of shot coiling and rolling about and it wasn’t easy for 1 diver let alone 3 to deco out on it, especially with the worsening chop. Despite having a Jon line and 2 SMB’s I gamely decided on a free hang, but looking at my profile afterwards it wasn’t the best plan.
Sadly work beckoned for me on the Wednesday, and Iain was already teeing up a day off for the remainers given the prevailing conditions.
I can’t speak highly enough of Iain and Jim and their slick operation. We stayed at their café cum B and B with a spacious drying room and gas station on tap, moments from the boat mooring. Nothing is too much trouble and Iain’s laid back and soft business nose makes diving with them a pleasure and an obvious depth of knowledge about the locale, wrecks, history, flora and fauna lends additional flavour to their offering.
His dates for next year come out soon and there are still a few left in this season weather permitting, into the new year the sea temps tend to hold through to around March before plummeting and with better viz could be a good early option after the quarries.
Last edited by JonG; 22-09-2018 at 01:07 PM.
I enjoyed your post Jon ,
thanks for the update ,
sounds like the weekends take home lessons where that sometimes theory is different than reality (and when reality kicks you in the nuts you learn throw some of the theory out of the window and compromise) and assume nothing.
I'm still laughing at the thought of Brian's face as you describe your plan for diving 714. Best way to learn, get out and do it!
Think you might be about 20 years early for the Nazi's
Originally Posted by JonG
Good point sunk in 1916 wasn't it!