The vans were all packed carefully with several tonnes of kit and baggage and cool bags and beers and we set off on yet another Manx adventure. The steampacket company duly delivered us all safely to Douglas and we arrived at Mike keggan’s place in Port St Mary by teatime. We unpacked the above mentioned tonnage of kit and organised it into our allocated boat boxes ready for the morning. Then it was off for a curry dinner and back to the house for a restful night’s sleep. Or at least that was the plan…only we hadn’t banked on Jonathan’s impressive Massey Ferguson impersonation! I read recently that if somebody tells you you snore they have seriously thought about killing you but decided to let you live, so it’s testament to Jonathan’s personality that he survived the week!
The forecast for the next few days was for increasing winds so we opted to make the most of a calm day and do three dives. The first of which was the Burroo, a scenic wall dive festooned with luminous Jewel anemones and infested with very curious cuckoo wrasse, one of which actually attacked my arm! A fleeting glimpse of a seal and decent enough visibility had nicely whetted our appetites. Dive two was the infamous SS Clan Macmaster. This was a huge cargo ship which ran aground on Thousla Rock in the Sound of Calf in 1923. She was 420ft long but is now well broken up and flattened and covered in red seaweed. The boilers and prop shaft are still clearly visible and a resident seal likes to come to say hi to divers. After a pleasant dive on the wreckage we ‘jumped’ into the impressive currents of the sound and dived the drift with excellent viz making it easy to remain together. The wrasse and shoals of saith were going mad in the flow and at one point I was totally enveloped in fish! Time to surface and a quick cuppa and piece of ginger cake before dive three.The sugarloaf caves are an atmospheric and impressive site. The first cave is called the cave of birds and is a dead end but has a resident seal. The second cave is called Fairy Hall and is open to the surface so has shafts of light within. All in all a cracking day.
The first night’s cooking team did us proud with copious quantities of spicy meatballs followed by cheese cake and vienetta ice cream. Barry was issued a cheese cake challenge to raise money for charity but after much stomach rubbing and sweating he admitted defeat and the cheesecake survived another night.
The promised winds arrived over night, both from Barry’s over pressured gut and the weather gods. It was not looking overly likely we’d dive at all so we were happy to drop in on a sheltered bay known as Garden bay. Now re-named lost torch bay due to Tim losing his lovely new back up torch. We did get to see a small basking shark though which in the choppy sea was a good spot by young Tom. Craggy jeggy or eggy weggy or whatever the next dive was called was another sheltered bay with large boulders and plenty of life. Andy C ‘s pink mask was a great attraction for the local gangs of wrasse and we spotted congers and lobsters along the way. Andy had obviously been inducted into the gang as he turned to a life of crime, stealing in broad daylight the valued cargo of Mr Kiplings Bakewell slices and then forcing other members of the team to eat the evidence! Shocking conduct and not expected from a respected ex fire officer , he’s lucky to escape a birching!
Day three was blustery again but our intrepid group braved the large and mountainous sea with courage and bravado. Well some of us cried a bit and pleaded to go home, but it all ended well 🙂 We dropped into another sheltered bay called Gibdale bay and spent 10 minutes wading through kelp, which in 8m in a twin set stopped being fun almost immediately. We were about to give in and abort the dive when the kelp cleared and a little opening appeared with a gravelly bottom. Then the seals came! Lovely, playful little fellas which kissed and shook paws as we spent the next 40 minutes being chased around the same rocky swim through.
Dive two was, yep you’ve guessed it, another sheltered bay. We started at a pinacle then swam along with not a lot to look at apart from some sizeable pollock. The weather was taking its toll on our options but at least we got in somewhere.
Our final day was almost blown out completely and with the skipper sucking air through his teeth and shaking his head we delayed a final decision on diving for a couple of hours and went to the calf view point cafe for some cake. Having decided it was diveable we settled on the wreck of the Citrine for our last dive. In 15 m of water it’s nice and light and the boilers still stand proud. There were congers and lobbies and the usual subjects. Keith gave himself a hernia trying to lift a lump of some non- ferrous metal and we all had a good long poke around the wreck.
The trip home was brightened up by some nice customs officers arresting Ruth and team at the ferry port for smuggling dangerous air. Lucky they didn’t spot all the knives eh?
All in all it was another successful trip and whilst we had not had the best of the weather and had been limited in sites, it at least gives us a reason to return. Sorry Mike , we WILL be back !