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2012 Scapa

Fri 15th Apply the Ointment
Bill arrived prompt at 0700, we loaded my kit, pumped up the tires a bit and hit the road. We had 635 miles to do until we got to our B&B, Bill and I had a good chin wag, he asked me to txt Mark to remind him to apply his ointment, not quite sure what this was about, but I did as requested. Soon we were stopping for the first driver change. I took over and we cracked on.

We had some more chin wag, some interesting stuff, such as Charlie likes licking Julia’s feet, and Thomas likes licking Julie’s feel. Seemed perfectly normal at the time.

I txt Amanda to ask her what her offal order was, ie a mixed bag of scrotum and eyelid, she replied quite shocked saying this txt must be meant for someone else, soon the confusion was cleared up and her order placed with strict instructions of what to buy, from where, when and how to store it.

We arrived at Creag Na Mara B&B just before 2000, the journey had been pretty straight forward and uneventful, some very minor delays and pretty good weather all the way. We were greated at the door and ask to fill out the guest form, we weren’t sure what the reg was for Bills van and were soon informed to just put ‘van’ in the box. We were shown to our room and were very pleased to see that it was the same room we had last time, Bill settled down to phone the dog as he was missing him, he then turned the tv on, it had football on it, so he turned it back off.

Sat 16th Jackass
We left the B&B, and got the 0930 Pentland Ferry at Gills bay, a nice smooth crossing, but no dolphins this time. We were soon in Stromness but couldn’t find MV Invincible, it crossed our mind that we might have the wrong weekend or should we be in Shetland instead. We soon found the boat moored up behind the ferry terminal, 4 Dutch fellas were onboard already, and they told us we’d just missed Ian. We loaded our kit and found out if was just the 6 of us, and better still the other 4 were staying in a hotel so we had the whole boat to ourselves to sleep on. Bill took Graham’s cabin first on the left as it has a nice long bunk, and I took Mike and Amanda’s love shack, it still smelt of farts in there; amazing that they linger so long.

We got a bite to eat in Julia’s cafe, the beef and gravy roll is highly recommended by Bill, I had a tasty burger with pickles. We met Ian and Fiona at the boat at 3pm and had a chin wag. We asked if they’d seen any whales and Ian told us about a humpback that had been caught in fishing roaps in the flow, a local had dived with it and cut it free. In a tv interview he’d been asked was he not scared, he’d replied no, I had a knife, the whale was unarmed.

We bought some food for the evening, and had a walk about town, then came back, Bill tinkered with his new GoPro camera, had to have a helo2 training session (as he’d seen the light and sold his vr3), and then we watched some jackass before hitting the bunks.

Sun 17th Phal Curry
I was up at 0700, Bill of course had been up since about 0430, we had a cup of tea and some toast and started preparing. Everyone was onboard about 0800 and we set off for our first dive on the Coln. Ian gave the briefing, wreck on the right for the stern.

As we descended the light started to fade, at 35m it was pretty black, and the viz only 4 maybe 5m. We kept the wreck to our right and headed to the stern, we found the two guns just after the blast damage, we turned about at the stern and worked our way back up the wreck, after about 20mins or so we ascended to about 25m and swam along the top rail, we met our new dutch friends coming the other way. After about 30mins we started our ascent up the shot, my right arm was slightly damp and it was cold. Bill was on air, and I had a 25% mix, I only had a minute of so of stops and it had cleared by the time we reached 6m. Bill had decided to blind me with his torch, as he had strapped it to his camera. My stuffing DUI is leaking again, the silicon seal around the dump looks like the culprit.

Soon after getting back on board Fiona called us for a lovely English breakfast, it was an English one as it had no haggis. During the interval we moored up at Lioness and had a look around the museum. Bill cursed his mobile provider for having a rubbish signal as he couldn’t get onto his facebook account to see what folks were saying about him. I cleaned up the shoulder dump silicon and retightened it as best I could.

The second dive was on the Brummer. Same as the Coln, keep the wreck on the right for the stern, as we reached the bottom, I checked on my good buddy, his crotch strap was hanging loose, for a moment I pondered if it was soon new we of wearing the side slung monkey suit, but figured not, so at 32m Bill thrust his crotch in my face whilst I sorted him out. We had a good explore, the viz was about 4-5m again, we reach the stern and came back along the deck side, reached the shot and carried on towards the bow, there wasn’t much to see so we turned about and started our ascent when back at the shot. We had 16 mins of stops, déjà vu, nitrox all round tomorrow. My stuffing suit was still leaking, so it was a cold left shouldered stop.

Once back onboard we sipped a lovely home made Fiona special soup, perfect.

Bill questioned why I had hooked his crotch strap through his weight belt, I reminded his that this was the strap that he presented me underwater.

Now this DUI TKS of mine same brought much fun and much rage and fury, would I buy another, well maybe yes, but certainly not at list price, has it done well, hmm difficult to say, it’s done about 280 dives in 6 years. So off I went to see Ben at scapa scuba to see if he could nurse it along for another season, I’ll tell you how this went tomorrow, as Ben assured me for 25 Scottish pounds my suit would be sorted and back on board by morning.

We grabbed a bite to eat at the Stromness Cafe Bar and then went back to the boat, I had to have a power snooze, Bill went to eat his nuts (and seeds -ed).

We cooked dinner, well Bill did, a beautiful phal curry, chicken, mushrooms and onion with boiled rice, it was particularly brilliant man food, congrats to Bill for some particularly brilliant man cooking, rar.

Mon 18th Puffin!
Today our first dive was on the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the first battleship that we dived. We dropped in, the Dutch guys were in front today, and we went round them at the bottom of the shot, we kept the wreck on our right and started exploring, the viz was only a few metres and was quite milky. I went in a large hole, spent a minute or so there and noticed a flasher behind me, it was Bill signalling for me to gtf out. We continued swimming along the wreck, it was quite broken up, and difficult to recognise, after 20 mins or so we ascended up onto the hull there were lots of anemone, some crabs to keep Bill happy and some shoals of fish. I deployed my blob, Bill later commented that I must be very heavy as I’d fully inflated it on the bottom before releasing it, little did he know I was holding onto a plate. We didn’t see any guns, later the skipper reminded us that the shot had been tied to one, we put it down the the poor viz, and the Dutch guys being at the bottom of the shot.

We had a lovely breakfast once back on board and debated with skipper and the Dutch dudes about what dives were next, they only wanted 30m max, and were dead set against diving 3 dives a day; they wanted Wed off.

Next dive was on the Karlsruhe, Bill was getting flustered with his monkey suit, he was faffing like a big girl, so to help de-stress him I chucked myself in and waited on the shot shouting hurry up. The first of the guns was at the end of the shot, we had the whole wreck to just Bill and I. We had a potter about, in and out a few tempting holes, and swam a circular route around the wreck until we came back to the shot to find another gun next to it. We spent another 10 mins or so exploring in the milky water and then ascended. We’d spent 35 mins on the bottom and had no deco.

We had some lovely soup with a bun, just what we needed, and then settled down below to warm up, chill out, and have a power snooze.

The third dive was the Gobernador Boreis (a broken up Chilean steamer)! It was very broken up, but had some good swim throughs and as it was mostly in 16m was very light. We fed the fish an urchin, they seemed most appreciative, Bill showed me his helo, he must be very intelligent as he’s able to read upside down! Like a fool I was running low on gas, I should have had a few bar of air squirted in, but instead decided it was much more exciting to live on the edge, 29bar was the final straw and I finned back to the shot and started to ascend.

On the way back in, we spotted some form of water fowl with a fish in its beak, bobbing on the waves, I asked Bill what he though it was, he told me it was a bird. It was later confirmed as a puffin (still with a dark beak).

We had fish and chips for tea, and then a cake, and then some shortbread, oh and some guinness, Bill had tea. We watched Assassins DVD and then got some zzzzs.

Tue 19th Portholes lovely Portholes
Today the first dive was on the Markgraf, Ian gave the briefing, only Bill and I were diving this wreck, in we went, Bill had given me strict instructions, he’d descend first as he didn’t want me zooming off, I was not allowed in any holes, and I wasn’t to swim off too quick on the bottom. The good news was that once at the bottom Bill didn’t seem to care as he was preoccupied with the brittlestars; he was diving 27%, and I had 27/31, my end was something like 18m, nice.

It was dark but the viz wasn’t too bad, straight away I pointed out the first gun, we swam with the wreck on our right heading to the stern, soon we found another gun, or rather I did, and then another. Bill was checking out a sea urchin, and gave me the ok as I pointed out the third gun. We continued along the wreck just above the seabed, I found two more guns, much smaller than the first three, later on Ian said they were probably anti aircraft guns. Soon I was overjoyed, I spotted a porthole, it was open with the glass still in place, the inside of the wreck was silted up level with the porthole. As we continued I saw another 3, all open with their glass intact. I pointed them all out to Bill. It was difficult to tell for sure, but they looked brass, this was the officers mess. We continued to the stern, as we looked up 18 minutes into the dive we could see the huge pair of rudders, we swam between them sticking out from the upturned hull and continued our way to about midships. I had 17 mins of stops, so deployed the blob and off we went. Bill had much less, there is something really odd about the suunto algorithm, why on earth does it penalise the use of helium so much. We did our deep stops and gas switch, at 10m Bills deco reg decided to free flow, haha what great fun. We sorted it out (I turned the bottle off, he soon figured this out), we completed out stops and surfaced after 52 minutes. Nice, no leaks, and not too cold despite a long stop.

Once back on board we did some raving about how great the dive was, Bill remembered all 2 of the guns, despite my pointing out 3, he swears blind he wasn’t checking out the urchins. We had a great breakfast whilst team Holland dived the Karlsruhe. Cracking.

The afternoon dive was on the F2 and and the salvage barge YC21. Team Holland went in a minute before we did, one of them had not put his fins on, I thought it would be funny not to tell him as he marched down to the lift, but Bill is not as evil as I am. We dropped inside the barge and explored, there’s a vice on the bench, a generator and welding kit, I wasn’t sure what any of it was but Bill explained afterwards. I didn’t recognise the anti aircraft gun, but it’s quite obvious on Bills video. We dropped down the outside and swam around the wreck, a lot of the wood has rotted away from the sides exposing the copper pins. We followed the guide rope across to the F2 and had a good explore round this very broken up wreck. Along the way we collected a few scallops, then back along the guide rope to ascend the shotline, we got a few more scallops. Yet again the suunto did its magic, bill had 24%, and I had 24/16 after a little air top from my mornings gas. I had 4 mins no stop time left, bill had 24, why???  We ascended and got back on board.

Once back at Stromness we paid our daily visit to Scapa Scuba, I bought a few clips and a decent stage strap to get rid of the fluffy home brew version on my now scratched up 11. We had a snack in the cafe, the lady asked if we’d stolen her blutak, I had not but Bill looked sheepish.

We prepared the scallops, pan fried some chopped onions, added chopped mushroom, chilli and garlic, then added Guinness and the scallops, it smelt nice, and fortunately tasted nice too. Awesome. This was our starter, for mains we had fillet steak in a crusty role with fried onion.

We watched Mission Impossible 3, Bill stayed up until midnight, well past his bedtime.

Wed 20th Big Gap
Today we had a day off, we got up late, Bill didn’t surface until 8am! Fiona had offered to come and cook us breakfast, we said we’d sorted it so she kindly dropped off some sausages, haggis, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs and beans. Bill said he couldn’t face a full on breakfast as he was still too fat from the scallops and steak, I didn’t have the same concerns.

First job first was to swap out the home brew stage strap, off it came, and after a bit of faffing to optimise the new one it was on and in place, I swapped a few clips, and sorted out my regs. Bill had some crystalube O2 grease, it’s perfect for low pressure inflator hoses, so on it went.

Ian arrived at 10am, and we helped him unload the empty O2 and He Js, easy peasy when there are 3 of you, probably a massive faff on your own.

We set off on a circular tour of the island, stopping to have a look at the neolithic ruins at Skara Bray, we got in on an over 60 plus child ticket. The ruins are next to the sandy bay, the sun was shining and the sea was a lovely blue. We had a drink and a cake in the visitors cafe, 4 staff working in there and still a huge queue, must be Orkney speed.

We drove further round the coast stopping off at a few sites, we found a huge old boiler, (the sort from a ship) on one of the bays. We carried on to Kirkwall, and did a bit of shopping, we had an icecream, then visited the wireless museum, Bill was in his element tapping out profanities on the morse code key, he then complained that the gap was too big, not sure if this is a normal problem for him. We popped into tesco and bought some provisions for our second curry of the week, I topped up on Guinness and we headed back to Stromness.

When we got back there were a couple of fellas repairing the concrete harbour wall right next to the boat, we got on board and did some fiddling. Later on we started the curry, we had chicken, onion, chilli, garlic with a jalfrazie sauce, with rice and jepattis, yum yum, again we did not have room for cheese and biscuits. We watch the Skeleton Key, Bill made it half way through then had to go get his beauty sleep, I being hardcore made it to the end (and obviously I don’t need any beauty sleep).

Thu 21st Penguin Attack
First dive was on the James Barry, we set off from Stromness, Bill started flapping about being ready on time, soon he was in his dry suit, I started to get flappy too so put mine on, Ian appeared and congratulated us on being ready one hour early, I took my suit back off, Bill put his monkey suit on and clipped on his cylinders and sat there banging his fins on the deck.

We arrived, chucked ourselves in, and descended the shot, I got to 10m and got a bit confused about the stuffing computer being potentially in guagemode, after a few seconds it was apparent that the left hand bottom was showing max depth hence why it was counting, looser. One button press later and we were on our way, we got to 30 odd metres and could see the hull, she lay on her port side pretty much at 90o, the shot line brought us to the stern. The viz was cracking, somewhere between 8 and 10m, the wreck was covered in small fish. There are lots of ropes all over the place, and extreme caution advised, the current was running at the bottom from bow to stern making it hard work, there are lots of open hatches, and the holds are open too, this would be excellent to explore inside if the correct wasn’t quite so strong. We found a large closed but intact porthole, a conger, and a dog fish.

The second dive was on the U116, a sub sunk by remote mine detonation after being detected by hydrophone. It’s very broken up, there are ballast tanks scattered around. We swam a circular route, the light was good, and the viz about 4m, even so I managed to loose Bill for a minute or so, soon we spotted each others torches and then continued our tout. We got back to the shot and decided to do a second circular route before ascending. On the stop, BIll pointed at something over my shoulder, just for a moment I felt that eery feeling wondering what exactly was coming, I turned to see a very terrifying bird swimming around us at 6m (team Holland had dived the U116 during our interval and reported seeing a penguin). Somehow Bills computer had changed so it’s last stop was at 3m instead of 6, the outcome was a longer stop that we’d had bottom time, 66 mins in total, Bill had said prior to going in that he didn’t want a long dive as he’d get cold!

Later in the day we did a bottle dive near the peer at Lioness, we had a good rummage and found a few nice bottles, I used to have loads which I collected as a kid, but SOMEONE put them in the glass recycling!!! We got a few scallops too, we ascended after about 50 mins, Bill was winging that he was cold; a known side effect of being skeletal. We ascended, bringing the bottles up on the lift bag, at 5m it got a bit too buoyant for fun so it had to go up on its own.

Back on board we checked out our treasure and had some soup. We’d done over 3 hours in the water today.

Later that evening I cooked the scallops, just a bit of garlic and jalapeño chilli, pan fried, yum super tasty. Bill didn’t want any so I ate them as starters before getting some chips. We watched Battlefield Earth, a flic with Jon Travolta, it was dire, had a rubbish story line but made easy watching, oh and we had cheese crackers.

Fri 22nd Cheerio
Bill of course was up at the crack of sparrows, he’d been and got his whip to equalise our two stages so we could get a cheeky air top to help keep the expense down. I got up and was most surprised he’d not cleaned up and polished my bottles, he had though made a smashing cup of cha.

The sun was out, but it soon became overcast and the swell build up, we headed out to the Dresden, another cruiser. The shot was tied near the stern, we had the wreck on our right and headed for the bow. We soon found the guns, and had a good explore, after a few minutes Bill waved his torch at me and I came over to find out what he wanted, I wasn’t sure but there was a large starfish, he pointed at it, jolly good (after the dive he explained there was a large ling under the plate, I don’t think so). We carried on towards the bow looking in various holes, the bow is slightly split open and you can see inside, Ian had told us to look out for the large rock at this point as there was often a wolf fish there, not today, he must be on holiday. We ascended slightly and came back down the same side heading to the stern, once there we could see the anchor is still attached. After 35 mins, we ascended back up the shot, switched gas and completed our deco. The swell had build up, Ian skilfully brought Invincible about and we got back onboard to be presented with a cup of tea. My stuffing DUI is leaking again, this time there are two tiny holes worn through from the elastic bungy built into the back of it. I’ll sort when I got back, looks like this may be its last season.

We had a monster breakfast, Bill asked me if I wanted to eat his sausage, I was slightly taken aback, but quickly realised what he meant as he stabbed his fork into it and past it over.

Second dive was on the Kalsruhe, it was a bit milky, weird as Mark hadn’t been with us this week. As I swam along the wreck I could see a line laid in the inside that ran a fair distance, as we reached the point of entry I decided it was a little tight and too much trouble for the last dive. We continued to the bow and checked out the plumose anenomies,  we ascended to the top of the bow, by this point I had three sea urchins stuck on my fingers on my left hand, this was going to prove awkward dumping, videoing, and using the torch whilst trying not to break or loose the goodies so in the net bag they went. We swam back towards the shot, 35mins bottom time for our last dive.

Once back at Stromness, Ian and Fiona were off, we said our goodbyes, and then packed our stuff in the van. Mutter had sent us a shopping list, (haggis and blackpudding, with instructions where to buy it, how to get there, and to keep it in the fridge, etc), so we looked round the bins and brought her some back. Actually we went to the butchers, the lady that served us used to live in Wantage!

For tea, We had sirloin and fried onion roles, (2 each), followed by apple pie and cream, then we watched American Pie Band Camp.

Sat 23rd Return Home
My alarm went off at 0530, Bill of course was already up, good news was he’d made me a cup of tea. We hit the road at 0600, anything could happen en route to the ferry, but fortunately it didn’t and we arrived third in the queue.

The ferry voyage ran on time, and we were back on the mainland by 0850, just 656 miles to go, Bill commented it was a nasty day for driving, he wasn’t wrong, it’s this point that I remembered his RAC rally challenge driving from last year.

By 1610 we’d got 288 miles to go as we crossed the boardernot,  bad as we’d stopped for chips, drinks, pies, chocolate, crisps and cake, fuel, toilet and two driver swaps. We arrived home at 2030, not bad huh, the last 80 miles had been in heavy rain.

Ian and Fiona run a brilliant week, MV Invincible is a very clean and tidy boat, it looks fresh after her dry rock, (she didn’t look bad at all in Oct). Food is great, company is great, Ian is a good skipper, his briefings are bang on, and he and Fiona care a great deal about ensuing the week delivered what we wanted. We will be back up to see them again soon.

Things we’ve learnt on this trip:

Don’t wear your computer upside down
Make sure your crotch strap is done up
Orkney weather is much better in June than October
If you want to guarantee to see orca, bring a picture
The deeper you go, the better the viz
Trimix is more f***ing expensive than normal
Survival food must include phal curry and steak sandwiches
DUI TLS is very leaky
GoPro takes cracking video
My hood and gloves need replacing
Bill has a lot more OCD issues than I’d first realised

Steve & Bill

June 2012