A seally weekend in the Farnes

A trip report by Cathy Kremer

Video: Matt Brown

I was glad when I managed to sneak in very last minute on the August weekend in the Farnes, looking forward to diving with seals!

Most of our group arrived on the Friday evening and settled in at our accommodation at The Hides in the North Northumberland village of Seahouses. Jill and Errol, who had been camping close by since the Thursday, announced windy and chilly weather to the group, but it got better for the weekend. It was though still rainy that Friday night and a nippy wind blew on Fiona, Kishan and me when we made our way to the nautical-themed Olde Ship pub where we joined Matt and Sasha.

The diving was off a big and comfortable hard boat with a lift operated by Billy Shiel out of Seahouses harbour. For the first dive of the trip, we were dropped at Big Harcar on the northern side of the Farnes where some seals were watching us while jumped into the water. As suggested during the briefing, Fiona and I moved along the isle looking for seals, but we only encountered one of them at the beginning of the dive. We then decided to move back to where we had originally come from. Doing so I noticed some dragging and it took me a while to realise that one of them was biting my fins.

Video: Matt Brown

Once we got back to the drop in point, we tried to attract the seals who were hanging out lazily on the rocks and managed to get some good seal action!

The second dive was a scenic dive along the North Wamses, where we saw dead man’s fingers, spiny and sunstar starfish, velvet crabs, edible crabs, as well as common and spiny squat lobsters. On our safety stop we watched a very nice lion’s mane jellyfish dancing in the water.

Photographs: Cathy Kremer

We ended the day with drinks at the Black Swan pub near the harbour, followed by Italian food at the local pizzeria (the Black Swan’s food is definitely a recommendation for the next trip to the Farnes!).

The next day the village was bustling with tourists. The pier and dive boat were also busier, and we were joined by another group of divers on the boat.

First Sunday dive was Northern Hares at Longstone island. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky and despite our best efforts looking for seals in the kelp we couldn’t find any, save for the odd one lying on the rocks.

We then headed over to Knivestone for the last dive for our trip. Some seals were waiting for us when we arrived, but they were a bit shy to get into the water. While we hovered in the gully looking out for the seals, Maisie, who sat out the second dive of the day, couldn’t keep out of the water and went on a snorkelling adventure, trying to herd the seals into the water. We then enjoyed the wreckage of the German steam ship Abyssinia. Its large boilers stand proud on the seabed and are covered in soft coral growth.

Photographs: Left and Middle (Nick Barter) Right (Cathy Kremer)

That last dive was a very pleasant end to the trip, big thanks to Sasha for the planning (and for driving the van all the way up and down to London) and to everyone else on the trip – Errol, Fiona, Jill, Kishan, Maisie, Matt, Nick B (and son Leo). I had a great time!

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