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2011 Scapa

Fri 30th September – get me out of here
Little Willy arrived at 0855 to pick me up, unusually he was late, but lucky for him so was I as I’d not dropped the boys off to school yet. We were eventually on the road for 0930. Bill drive the first 160 miles, and we stopped for our first pee break and driver swap. After the first few minutes I realised I’d been destined to drive a white van all my life, fantastic. Some time later we drove through the Scottish boarder, eventually arriving some 11.5h later at our B&B at East Mey. Throughout the drive Team-David had been phoning to check our progress, and of course we were always in front and going faster than them (obviously obeying the speed limits at all time). Team-GT txt at almost 8pm to say they had just hit the road; what joy to spend 12h in the car with Mark, Lucy and Mike B (who was tooled up with 5 hard core films to ensure the journey passed as quickly as possible, clearly this was not enough as he txt us get me out of here just before we hit the sack, oh what fun he must be having).

Sat 1st October – Amanda’s dumplings
Bill & I had a lovely nights sleep, we got up and went to get breakfast. The lady from the B&B was delighted to receive a request for a full english. We checked we’d left nothing but a smell behind at the B&B. Soon after we arrived at the ferry port at Gill’s Bay ready for our 1h voyage to St Margaret’s Hope. We were very delighted to see Team-GT had arrived in one piece, GT was looking quite drained, and Lucy positively psychotic (ed: this is a look for that time in the morning), poor Mike B, what had he been through in the night. Mike explained that Lucy had tried to kill them on a few corners whilst demonstrating her Lewis Hamilton driving skills keeping the happy line; Lucy later blamed this on Marks sub-standard vehicle which has no brakes to speak of (Mark spent some time waffling on about why this was the case). We were all delighted to discover that Mark had forgotten his sleeping bag!.

Soon after the ferry departed we saw at least 10 porpoise jumping in the water, about 15 mins into the crossing a red helicopter hovered above the stern starboard side and dropped a man on-board as part of an exercise. Lucy was asleep throughout; I of course had tried to wind her up, but backed off after a suitably stern warning. Sometime later we arrived at St Margaret’s Hope, and set off on our final part of our journey to Stromness. We arrived around midday, parked up and got a bite to eat at a local cafe. We met Ian the skipper about 1pm and started loading the boat, everyone assembled their kit, then we set off to visit the local dive shop and have a general explore. We had a cheeky Guinness (or 5) at the Ferry Inn and then headed back to the Invincible to try Amanda’s dumplings. We were relieved to discover Amanda had cooked chilli instead (which was most delicious). Bill and I washed up, this seemed like a good idea until we realised that Amanda had used everything she could lay her hands on. We need a new name for her….. We were forced to do some dive planning and drink some more Guinness.

Sun 2nd October – SMS Köln & SMS Brummer
It was hot in the night, well in the top bunk at least, Bill recon’d that he’d had a good night’s sleep, but clearly had been contributing to the hot gas that had built up at the top of the cabinet, the part that I was having to breath. I had to open the curtains in the night and slept with just my pants on to maintain a bearable temperature. We got up about 7am and had some tea and toast, the boats engines started shortly after and we set sail for the wreck of the Köln. Bill and I jumped in about 0845 and descended the shot line. The lies on it’s side, we descended almost to the bottom reaching 33m, and swam along until we found an enticing entrance into the wreck, reeled off and headed inside, the silt was pretty bad so we turned about after a minute or so. It was quite dark but the viz was 10m+. We ascended slightly and swam along the side of the wreck putting our heads in various holes and having a good general explore. Mike B and Dave were on the bow as we reached it, we turned about and swam along the rail, we then dropped back down the side, and swam into a few holes to explore inside, this time with a good drop below us and no real risk of silt. We swam nearly the length of the wreck until we reached the major blast damage, we saw Mike and Amanda below us, and then met Mark and Graham. We swam back to the shot line (I nearly lost my camera at this point!). We started to ascend but paused for a moment whilst we watched the most peculiar sign language exchange between Chris and Lucy, it appears that Chris couldn’t be bothered to continue the conversation as he swam off in the other direction. We continued our ascent, as we reached 6m we could see Mark there on his stop, he must be in season as the water was very, very milky around him.

The Invincible picked us up, we’d completed a 47 minute dive, and soon after getting de-kitted we were stuffing our faces with a full Scottish breakfast (it looked like an English breakfast to me). Mike & Muter (the German version of Amanda’s name from Shetland) had completed a 67 minute dive, that’s it, we’re on nitrox in the afternoon which should give us almost 50 minutes on the bottom, and a total run time of 70 minutes. After all it is a competition no matter what anyone says. During the surface interval, Ian filled the cylinders and we set off to see the (closed!) Scapa Flow museum at Lyness. We took a few pictures and headed up to the cemetery.

The second dive was on the Brummer, the wreck was on its side but broken up compared to the Köln, and not so atmospheric. There were a few small holes to explore, but Bill kept me under wraps with a stern wagging finger. We had a good explore over the hour we in the water. Once back in Stromness we ventured to the dive shop as a few folk had to get their kit rebuilt and suits fixed, remarkably Mark had completed his first day without any kit failures. We walked down to the cafe as Mike L had suggested we needed to eat a pie, what a brilliant idea, unfortunately they didn’t have any so we had toasties and burgers. In the evening we ate at The Stromness Hotel, we had a nice meal, Noo-Noo was quite concerned that he wouldn’t get his fair share of chips, he did, and subsequently ensured nothing went to waste. We went back to the boat and had a couple of beers before going to bed.

Mon 3rd October – SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm & SMS Karlsruhe (Mike L’s birthday)
We woke up to the sound of the engine starting, well technically we is incorrect as Bill had been up since early doors pacing up and down getting ready to go. We had tea and toast and got our kit ready to rock and roll, the first dive would be early as the wind had built up over night (and not just downstairs), we would be diving the Kronprinz Wilhelm a 25k ton König class battleship. We arrived at the site, and Bill & I were first in, we descended the line and Bill’s spare, spare, backup dsmb became unravelled, so we sorted it on the shot line before continuing. As I watched Bill finning around the wreck I was really envious of his side-slung setup – he just looked so good, I was obviously narced off my trolly. (Dave looked ridiculous with his stage cylinder on his back rather than side). The wreck was huge, but quite broken up in parts, we descended to the seabed past the rudders; it was difficult to get our bearings because of the size of the wreck. I found a small flatfish and signalled to Bill as if it was something really exciting, and there were lots of common crabs hiding in holes, we started to ascend and then travelled along the hull. A Ling forced itself between the holes in the plates as we swam past. I wasn’t happy that Bill had 10 mins more deco than me but deep down I knew he had the better computer (it must be good, because it was designed in 1972, which is about the same amount of years of deco you get from it). Yet again we were first in last out; remember everything is a competition. Disorientating dive but still good, after chatting with M&A we found out that we’d in fact swam past 4+ huge guns, hmm, we only remembered one, should have done it with a squirt of the magic gas.

The weather was picking up so Ian filled our cylinders and we had a shorter surface interval before diving the Karlsruhe. This wreck was really atmospheric as you could easily identify the guns, teak decking and fire control area, we had a great dive. Bill was getting used to me darting inside the wreck like a ferret down a hole, and just followed. We returned to the shot for our ascent and completed our deco, this time I had more deco than him (which probably mean his vr3000years has gone wrong). And got back on the boat for a welcome cup of soup. In the afternoon we slept, went shopping, or sorted kit before an onboard meal cooked by Dave’s crew; a delicious red and green thai curry followed by strawberries and cream and jaffa cakes (not tape). Noo-Noo was most put out when he was offered only rice as seconds, once he’d gone the hidden leftovers were dished out. The rest of the evening was spent drinking, playing cards, or having an early night.

Tue 4th October – Hard Hat
We woke after a nice 10 hour sleep, well Little Willy had been up since 5am to check out the white horses and the wind that was so strong he struggled to stand up in it (a side effect of not weighing anything). Sid, Chris, Mike, Muter and Lucy were all still in bed (Mike L really had had a good birthday!). The skipper had said no diving today, duty of care and all that, Bill phoned the hard-hat folk who said they would be with us at 10.00am. We sat in the galley having a general chit chat, Bills legs were vibrating and his hands tapping the seats, I commented to him that he couldn’t stand not doing anything, his response was I have that attention thingy; we know.

We dressed in the dry suit, had our boots strapped on, lead hung over our shoulders and our hard hats bolted down, the instruction to start pumping was issued and finally the face plate screwed in place. We all took turns to venture to the edge of the harbour wall steps as we were shoved off (just in case we were too apprehensive). Down we went, with instruction to tap our heads on the rear of the hard hat to release air, we sank to the bottom, frantically swallowing to clear our ears, once on the bottom it took a short while to get the grip of allowing enough air in your suit to remove any squeeze and to maintain enough weight to propel yourself forward whilst walking but ensuring that you tipped your head to dump at the right moment. A good stomp forward along the side of the harbour wall, all the way to the life boat, I saw a coke can! Dave was very kindly videoing throughout, I turned about and headed back towards the other end of the harbour wall and then back to the steps ready to ascend, the way to ascend is simple, you just don’t dump, but you have to control on the dumping on the ascent, and eventually you either end up gracefully arriving back at the surface, or in some cases rocket out like a polaris missile; Mark being the funniest arriving at the surface face down fully inflated, but grinning as usual. We all had a great time and Andy at Leviathan International is thoroughly recommended, although I’m not sure I’d have wanted to have tried 30m+ in this setup for 8 hours at a time!

In the afternoon Little Willy and I went to visit the Rong o’ Brodgar (a set of standing stones) and then drove onto Kirkwall. Bill went into all the jewellery shops looking for something that Julia liked including one that had a £5k platinum ring in the window, he came out and explained that Julia wouldn’t like it. We walked up the high street and had a look round the shops then onto the cathedral, Bill trapped his finger in the door, this accident should probably have been reported to the BSAC as after all it did happen on a diving trip. A few of us ate in Stromness whilst the rest tucked into fish’n’chips. Once we got back the rest of the gang were most of the way through watching Red Dragon, once finished we watched The Hills have Eyes, Lucy spent most of the film moaning about how rubbish it was but did stay until the end to watch the final radioactive mutant have an pick-axe buried into his skull; nice.

Wed October 5th – SMS Markgraf & SMS Dresden II
I awoke early to hear bear noises coming from the freak in the bunk below me, some of you will remember I first noticed this odd behaviour in Shetland last year, well the noise was sufficient that it woke me from my slumber enough that I had to go have a pee, when I got back into the top bunk it clearly disturbed William who released the longest lorry-driver fart I’ve ever heard, it was most unpleasant; who’d have believed that seeds and nuts could generate such a ferocious gas release. We had tea and toast with marmite, lovely, whilst the boat chugged out to the battleship Markgraf, today I was diving with Wavey Davey and his side mount monkey suit, we had a 24/24 mix.

We descended the shotline, dropped down the side of the upturned leviathan and hit 40m, Ian the skipper had explained that the shot was tied onto a gun, if we kept the wreck on our left shoulder we would head to the bow, that’s what we did. It was pitch black and good viz, the torch cut through the darkness to light up the path ahead. I counted 4 guns, later Ian said we should have seen 5 if we went to the bow, but we’d done a good job to see 4! We got to the bow in 46.5m (gas mix equiv to 27m) and looked up into the darkness to see an eery green light above, we ascended up onto the hull and headed towards the stern, we saw a pair of torch lights on the side of the wreck below us. We then met Mark and Chris in 25m, I waved hello and scooted off along the deck pulling myself hand over hand to speed things up. Dave & I carried on down the hull looking for the shot line on our right, we found it and started our ascent, the hull was a little lame compared to the deck, we completed our stops and surfaced after about an hour. Once back on the Invincible, we found out that Bill & Graham had been along the bottom but had failed to see any guns, narc’d. Sid thought he and Claire were in 38m but had actually been looking at his no-stop time, narc’d, Mark & Chris has been to 40m by accident (a crime that he would pay for later), Chris couldn’t remember me waving hello, narc’d. We had a brilliant dive, clearly mix does have advantages (even if it did cost the best part of 50 quid).

We had a smashing English/Scottish breakfast and then started to prepare for our second dive on the Dresden II. This wreck lies on its side, we descended to the bottom in 38m (we were diving on a 22/9 mix which had us equiv to 32m) and swam along its length to the bow and saw a few guns with armour plating around them. I was most pleased to be able to video one of the ploughing team at their (her) best (one that often hands out ploughing related abuse to myself and other divers). We ascended at the bow and turned about, the wreck was quite opened up, we poked around a few holes and swim throughs, this would be a cracking rummage wreck. After 35 minutes Dave & I agreed to ascend as we couldn’t find the shot on this occasion, I deployed my blob, it was a pathetic attempt, how embarrassing but fortunately I was able to inflate it fully once on the surface in case anyone saw. Dave & I had done remarkable, we hadn’t got lost, nor had to complete our dives on our own, and even more remarkable was non of Daves kit had fallen off; we were well chuffed.

Once back on board, we had the serious matter of Marks gross misconduct to discuss, we elected a committee for the task (the other 11 of us), discussed at length and then decided it was our obligation to report him to our beloved diving officer, so we did. Chris txt her to say he’d had a cracking dive. Once back at Stromness we popped up to the Diving Cellar to collect our Wantage BSAC embroidered clothing, and then accidentally popped into the Ferry Inn for a few beers. Mike, Muter and I stayed on for food, whilst the rest went back for pasta home cooking, we txt Wavey Davey but he didn’t reply; as we left the pub he phoned to say he was coming, a bit late so he got fish’n’chips instead.

Thu October 6th – SMS König & SMS Brummer
The boat engine woke us from our sleep, of course Willy had been up for hours pacing up and down wearing a trench in the decking. We had our tea and toast and started preparing for our first dive, the battleship SMS König. It started to hail at the same time that Ian started the briefing so we all hastily retreated to the front galley to get some protection from the fantastic Orcadian weather.

I was diving with Wavey again, (heard the phrase take one for the club?), we descended the shotline into the dark, hitting 40m at the seabed, the shot was tied off at the stern end, we swam along the starboard side (wreck on the right) in the dark but clear water, torches illuminating a good 5-6m, Dave pointed out a gun after only a minute, (I was particularly impressed that he knew what it was), we swam parallel to the wreck and soon saw the main bow gun pointing to the bow, it was the biggest gun we’d seen yet. We swam to the bow, right in the centre was the torpedo launching equipment, you could see straight through into the workings inside. We turned about and headed down the port side, probably covering a third of the wreck and then ascending onto the hull after 25 mins or so, we explored the hull looking in various damaged/salvaged areas and then after 31 minutes it was time to leave, we were a bit chilly and had 20 mins of stops to complete. By the time we’d finished our stops we were particularly cold and most glad to be picked up by Invincible so we could have another cracking breakfast (with haggis today) cooked so well by Fiona.

Once back onboard we found out that Muter had programmed a mix with 0% O2 into her computer, ironically the dive team had been briefed to check their computers prior to this dive, we’ve not taken the pee yet, but will do soon. Mark was diving with Bill and mentioned how cool and sexy Bill looked with his side-slung setup. Nearly all of us went below for a power snooze, I had to put my hat on as I was a bit chilly, the fools I was sharing with thought it would be funny to video me having a little snore on Daves camera, Sid popped a biscuit in my mouth to see if I was awake; nice.

The second dive was on the Brummer, this time the viz wasn’t quite so good as our previous dive on the wreck, maybe 5m, a little silty and less light. Graham and Lucy got a bollocking for unplanned deco. Once we were back at Stromness we showered and headed to the pub via the bakery, the meat pie being a particular favourite post-dive snack. We had a few lovely beers and set the world right before heading back to the Invincible to get our tea which team Noo-Noo had cooked. The food was soon scoffed down and we had a beer whilst chatting to Ian who was still working at 8pm. We went below and watched Die Hard 4.0, Muter was lusting after the old bald git. Bill went to bed and I followed a few mins later to find Bill all tucked up in his sleeping bag stuffing his little face with nuts’n’seeds.

Fri October 7th – SMS Karlsruhe, YC21 & F2
We got up to get our toast and a cup of cha, our first dive was on the Karlsruhe, Wavey and I had a good explore on our 45 min bottom time, post dive we both said we should have done the hour, as our juicy 33% kept the deco at bay. We saw a few other divers, some of which we now have video evidence showing their bottom ploughing capabilities in perfect detail. Daves cuff had split, but fortunately not leaking yet, hopefully it will last for the final dive this afternoon, other than that Dave had completed another dive without anything falling off, Bill however had lost a high pressure myflex, these don’t seem to last very long (he’s only just had one replaced under warranty, come on Myflex what’s the score??).

Once back on board we had a lovely full English, Mark said that Bill and I looked very sexy in our red woolly hats; we’re beginning to wonder about him. The second dive was our final dive, and the good news was that it was two wrecks for the price of one. We were dropped onto the YC21, a small salvage barge. There were bits of broken wooden decking all over the place with large brass pins through them, inside the wreck was reasonably intact, you could swim around most of the inside and the engine was still in place as were a few other bits of machinery. There was a line off the stern connecting to the wreck of the F2 escort vessel, the distance between the wrecks was about 15m. The F2 was very broken up and spread over a reasonably large area, we spend a while exploring and investigating some of the larger sections of wreckage, after 30 mins or so we headed back to the YC21 to spend the final part of our dive before ascending after an hour.

After the dive we had a lovely cup of soup to warm up, and then started stripping our kit down ready to pack up the van once back in Stromness. A good hot shower later we were moored up and left the Invincible to do one final walk up the high street, we walked up to the dive shop and met Noo-Noo coming the other way with 2 ice creams all to himself. We popped into the bookshop looking for a recommendation Ian had made and then onto the bakers for some final post-dive pies. We loaded Bills van and then popped to the pub for a few beers. I discovered in the pub that my camera had mysteriously taken some photos of some rather fat hairy wobbly bellies (and that’s just the women). We discussed the week and reviewed everyones photos before heading off to the Royal Hotel for dinner.

We were served by a lovely young lady called Megan, Dave enquired how did she end up with a Welsh name up in Orkney, Megan was quick to point out that her name was in fact Irish, to which Dave responded Do you know your parents? just unbelievable, we gave him an appropriate dressing down. We enjoyed a drink whilst we ordered our food and continued chatting about the week. Poor Megan was horrified when Dave continued taking belly photos, this is not normal behaviour. We got back to Invincible, had a final beer and put on Oceans Eleven whilst the card hustlers played in the corner. Chris was obviously loosing due to his vocab’ being limited to monosyllable words every time it was his go. Soon it was time for bed as we had to be up early, the night was a little restless, probably because Bill spent most of it passing wind.

Sat October 8th – The return home
The alarm went off at 0530, I got up to find Bill presenting me with a cup of tea, he’d been up since 0430 and had moved the van and already had two cups of tea himself. I drank my tea and gathered the last few bits together. As we got into the van we wondered what we could do to annoy our fellow divers still asleep, we very nearly cracked open a cylinder whilst shoutingquick get out, the boat is sinking but decided there would be too many injuries from people cracking their heads open on their bunks. We arrived first in the ferry queue at St Margaret’s Hope and soon were onboard, Mike and Muter arrived soon after and we all had breakfast and a coffee. Once the ferry arrived at Gill’s Bay we were on our way. Bill must have had some sort of turbo boost, he was driving like a participant on the RAC rally challenge; as we approached each corner (on the wet and cold Scottish highland roads) he took the racing line and I clenched my arse, the relief of still being alive after each corner was overwhelming. We went round one as Bill said imagine if we came off the corner and drove down there which obviously was very funny. He had clearly got into white van mode as a string of profanity came out as we got stuck being a tour coach.

Ians boat is excellent, loads of space on deck, the cabins are dry with good heating, the for-deck is warm and a great place for hanging dry suits and getting out the wind & weather, the lift is great, the toilets and showers are bang on, the downstairs bar and living accommodation is spot on, and Fionas breakfasts are awesome. And Ian and Fiona are really nice people who care about their customers having a great time. 100% recommended, and we will use Invincible again. (in fact Bill & I are going back up in June 2012)

Things we’ve learned on this trip. Muter is not symmetrical, we sympathise with Mike L as he has a lot to put up with, GT now knows how to read 35m on his dive computer, Daves side slung setup is particularly ridiculous, Claire makes very odd noises all day, Sid can’t pot the pink playing pool, Chris is a closet ginger and probably related to Mark, Lucy gets tarted up on the last night, Noo-Noo has a tape worm the size of an anaconda, Mike B now has a pin code on his phone, Bill and Steve are awesome. (ps we also found out that Mark G was groped by an old lady who tried to nick his camera at Skara Brae visitor centre).

Steve and Bill

Scapa October 2011