Back in October 2019, one of our members, Jeff Jones advertised a couple of weekend trips to Eyemouth for 2020 with Jim and Iain Easingwood of Marine Quest. The list for the ‘mixed gas’ boat was soon full for both trips with a good mix of experienced mixed gas divers and a few relative newbies.
Well we all know what happened in March 2020 due to the Corona virus issues and the knock on effect it had! The first planned weekend was cancelled due to lockdown and closed borders. It was touch and go for the second trip but thankfully we were given the green light. The only problem was that one of the two boats had an engine failure just a few days prior to the trip starting so unfortunately, half of the group couldn’t travel.
So the remaining group all set off for Eyemouth on Friday 7th August for two planned dives.
The original plan was to dive U12 on Saturday and SS Exmouth on Sunday but the weather changed that! So Saturdays dive was to be on the SS Exmouth which was an American cargo ship of approximately five thousand tons. She was sunk by mines on July 31st 1944.
It was an unhurried start to the day due to the tide times and we eventually cast off at 10.30 hours. The conditions couldn’t have been better! Almost flat calm, sunny skies and an air temperature of about 28C or more. What more could our group have asked for? We motored about forty miles out to the wreck location. We had seals checking us out for most of the trip but better was yet to come. We think that we had around five Minke Whales joining us at various stages of our journey out. They were even right on top of the wreck site!
We kitted up slowly but eventually the skipper Iain gave us the nod that we were just about ready. Iain and Alan had already dropped a shot on the wreck and dropped the deco trapeze in as well. This would be a first for Garry, Ray and I.
All eight divers entered the water. Martin, Dave and Steve, followed by Steven and Ben then the three of us were the last group in. We dropped down the shot line, clipping our tags on to the bungee loop on the way. Then just a few metres above the wreck, we all clipped a strobe onto the shot line.
It was dark at 50 metres but clear and once our torches were switched on, it made for a nice comfortable dive. We set off for the stern with a planned thirty minute bottom time. There was plenty to see as we made our way around the wreck such as plates, WC sink etc etc. We were heading for the stern gun area but didn’t quite make it that far as we turned and went past the bridge towards the broken bow section. We were to see everything in one dive lol! It was here that I came face to face with a large seal. It did a super quick about turn when it eyeballed me! All too soon though our planned bottom time approached so we headed back for the shot line, leaving the bottom exactly on thirty minutes. We unclipped our strobes on the way up (note to self, buy a better strobe!) and then our tags as we reached them. The group all eventually came together at the six metre trapeze where will all completed our deco in comfort, as the last man up, Martin, had uncllipped the trapeze and we just went with the tide.
Once back on deck, we started chatting about what we had all seen and I mentioned the seal. Alan said that two Minke Whales had been swimming around us but none of us had seen them. It was only when Dave and Martin came back aboard that they confirmed it as they saw them swimming around at about twenty four metres or so. Some experience!
After a good few hours to get back to harbour, we prepped our kit for Sunday’s dive which was now to be on HMT Fortuna out of St. Abbs Head. She was an armed trawler of approximately two hundred and sixty tons that saw service both in WW1 and WW2. She was sunk by enemy aircraft fire.
We had an early breakfast on Sunday as ‘ropes off’ was 09.30. The trip out was a bit lumpy to say the least! Due to various reasons, there were only six diving today.
Dave & Steve led the way with Steven & Ben following with Garry and I the last pair in. It was the same regime as the previous day, clipping tags and strobes on then on to the wreck. Again the water was dark but once our torches were turned on, it was evident that the water was relatively clear so the viz was more than acceptable. We actually managed two very comfortable circuits of the wreck and saw lots of interesting features. One of which might be the ships clock.
All too soon, our planned thirty minute bottom time was up and we started our ascent. Ours were the last two strobes on the shot line so I realised then that it was down to us to release the trapeze after collecting our tags. My immediate though was ‘I’d better not screw this up lol’!
Garry and I collected our tags and I released the lazy shot and trapeze. All very simple really thanks to Jim and Ian’s set up. We made our way up, eventually stopping at six metres to complete our decompression obligations before surfacing to a slightly flatter sea.
All safely back on board so headed back for Eyemouth harbour.
It turned out to be an excellent weekend with a great group of divers. Thanks to Jeff Jones for setting the trip up and Martin Campbell, Dave ‘Lucky’ Smith, Steve McElroy, Steven Baxter, Ben Ward, Garry Bolland, and Ray Cramer for being such a brilliant group and last but not least, a big thank you to Iain and Jim Easingwood of Marine Quest for two great days diving.