A wet weekend in late April saw 12 Clidivers head for Ilfracombe and Lundy island in search of seals.
The first morning, as we loaded the boat in Ilfracombe harbour, the skipper warned us that the crossing might be a bit “On the fluffy side”. “Fluffy?”, we responded. “Well if I say rough, some people get upset”. Ah, right then. As it turned out, the ride wasn’t as bad as we’d expected (and some of us even got a nap in on the way home). As we approached Lundy, we could see seals lounging on the rocks along the shoreline, and were very keen to get in and get going. We started with a warm-up dive, the first of the season for many, on Gannet’s rock. A large rock coming up to around 3 m, there was plenty to see as we wound our way down the sides, with dozens of big crabs, edible and spider, and lobsters about—courtesy of the no-catch zone around Lundy. We were however rather surprised by the lack of fish, although the seals might have something to do with that!
After the first dive, we headed round into Gannet’s bay in search of seals. The skipper advised us to stay shallow, maximum 3 m, and to sit still in the kelp and let the seals come to us, rather than approaching them. This advice worked better for some than others, but most of us got a seal encounter in, complete with noses rubbed against camera lenses, fin-chewing, and leg-hugging. Very happy, we headed back to the mainland.
Back in the harbour, we took the cylinders to Ilfracombe BSAC to be filled. The locals kindly let us make use of their club bar while we waited, and we passed the time looking at their collection of bits of wreck and appreciating Mike’s spectacular hairstyle—the wind and spray having created something resembling a cross between Jedward and Ricky Gervais. Cylinders filled, we returned to our caravans and Hele Bay for dinner, and discovered what had happened to Lundy’s missing fish: they’re all on the menu at Hele Billy’s, the local pub.
The next day dawned rather wet. After a soggy crossing, we dived first on Brazen Ward—a shallow bay with lots of kelp, a very broken up wreck, and lots more crabs—and then headed down to Surf Point, at the southeast corner of the island, to dive the wreck of the Carmen Filomena. Rather, some of us dived the wreck, and some of us dived in the general vicinity of it. I’m told that the wreck was fantastic, like a playground for divers—but our drift dive nearby was fun too.
That evening, the skipper called early on to let us know that the next day’s diving was blown out. We headed into town for a curry, discussing our options for entertainment in north Devon. What was it to be: the Big Sheep (an establishment offering sheep racing, sheep feeding, but notably lacking in any sort of large sheep), Dinosaur World (life-sized dinosaurs and a train ride!), hillwalking, surfing, Ilfracombe aquarium?
The next morning, while Richard set off in the pouring rain for a spot of surfing, most of us settled on the local aquarium to get our fix of sealife in for the day. After wandering through a brief but exciting guide to the local wildlife, we found ourselves in the mood for fish and chips, and headed to one of the many chippies on the seafront—a small amount of guilt was assuaged by the selection of an establishment promising only fish from sustainable sources! After an afternoon variously spent hillwalking, at the cinema, or in the pub, we heard from the skipper that we were on for Monday’s diving.
After scrubbing down our caravans, we set off for Lundy for the last time. The wind was coming from the opposite direction to the previous days, so we found ourselves diving on the west side of the island. There were fewer seals about today, and the skipper mentioned that in bad weather they often head away from the island to feed. Our first dive was Devil’s Slide, which offered rocky gullies, and lots more crabs, although no seals. Next, we headed to the wreck of the Montague, lying very shallow and hidden under lots of kelp, and found ourselves playing hunt the wreck again. Lots of surge made this dive feel rather like a spin in a washing machine, but poking around in the kelp looking at bits of wreck was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.
Thanks to Dan for organising, and to all for a great weekend.