Neil and Mark go Clyde diving …. a visit to the Wallachia and Akka

The Clyde

The river Clyde flows through Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, and onward into some of the deepest coastal waters in Britain. The firth encompasses a number of large and small islands, and several Sea Lochs that creates a body of water stretching from Southern Scotland to the tip of Loch Fyne. The Clyde Sea Sill has been a designated Marine Protected Area due to its importance for local fish stocks and other higher marine predators. There are common sightings of seals and porpoises, with dolphins and some whale species spotted occasionally.

2 old boys with bad shoulders and stiff backs ….

I was staying home with Frank as I had been hard at it with work and just did not want to do anything on Saturday but stay in bed. But that devil on my shoulder Neil Farmer wasn’t going to let me do that !!  He rang and I heard .. Hello old boy, I have booked us on a Rhib (rigid hulled inflatable boat) out of Inverkip marina. Be at mines for 8.30am Saturday…

Neil and I heading into the Coe gorge to do battle many moons ago  😄

We have stories Neil and I , many of them , starting back when I was a super keen kayaker heading North to the highlands in search of flooded burns and waterfalls every weekend. He welcomed me into his kayak gang of Glasgow’s Elite, ” the dream team” 😆, over 25 years ago now !!  We bonded big time and have followed each other all over the world since !  From expedition kayaking in the high Himalaya to diving in the cold deep North Sea we have kept each other going even when we have both felt like retiring from the game many a time !  That devil just wont go away 😄😄 To be honest he deserves a full post to himself , now this would be a great read …  I love the big bastard ! #manlove❤️ 😄…

Inverkip Marina

Saturday arrived and I dragged myself out of bed, drove the 2 hours to Glasgow, living in the Borders is great for Eyemouth where I regularly dive but the west coast is a mission ! anyways I arrived at Neil’s door 8.30 am,  sharp as usual ..  no sign of Neil … I rang him , just up he says, give me 5 mins while I have a shower … Nothing new here then , if hes ever ready on time I will know something is very wrong !   However we were off out of his in good time to make our Inverkip schedule.  Here we would meet Jason Coles from Wreckspeditions , a charter company which is presently  making a fine name for itself up there on the West. Oh and he makes tea … did I mention the oh soooo fine Tea mmmHmmmmmm 😀

collectors items !! <3

We arrived at the dock and Jason was there to meet us , he introduced us to Peter, a cracking fella/diver  and he even turned out to be the author of two favourites from my book collection. They are Clyde and Argyle Shipwrecks , two beautifully researched and illustrated book on wrecks and history , seriously very good books.

The Starfish Enterprise ..

Jason was a gent and helped us dockside with all our gear. He introduced us to the Starfish Enterprise… his fast Rhib , a vessel well equipped for diving. We loaded the Rhib , ran through the safety procedures and soon headed out the Marina to a beautiful calm sea …

A calm Firth of Clyde

We arrived at the Akka, the largest of the Clyde wrecks at over 5000 tonnes. We found her  in good conditions with little current , soon we were diving …. Neil and I dropped off the Rhib backwards and made our way to the shot, dropping quickly to get clear of the surface current . We bubble checked at 6m and disappeared down the line … soon we were on the Akka , an iron ore transporter ship from Stockholm sank after grounding herself on the Gantock rocks.

The Akka

It was sitting in a maximum of 40m of water , the deck approximately 20-23m. With our good viz of 6-7m it made for a great dive. We circumnavigated the wreck checking out the wreck itself and the teaming wild life living on it .. after a full tour we headed back up the shot which was marked by my new Trojan strobe !!  which by the way is fucking Awesome with the capital A !! its like Blackpool illuminations on the line  😀   Everyone commented later on its eye blinding brightness  ! 😀   I bought it here :  TROJAN    It arrived quickly 3 days later , and has marked my every shot since … perfect !

Neil Decompressing on the line ..

Soon enough  we were headed to the second wreck of the day the Wallachia, a 1077nt iron steamship sank in 1895 after a collision with a Norwegian steamer .. the Flos.  This wreck had very strong surface currents , making it difficult to hit the shot and indeed I was hanging on it like a flag in the wind while trying to descend and given this is very close to a CAlmac ferry route it was a nervous moment. I certainly didn’t want to be aimlessly floating around in the Clyde while a big ferry was going around.

illustration by Peter Moir who we were honoured to be diving with that day

Once at 5-6m the current was gone and at 30m although dark and very gloomy the viz was good at around 5-6m and we proceeded to execute our dive following the hand rail round the entire ship , exploring as we went ..

it was another good wreck , intact, full of life and historic …  Indeed Rod Macdonald had this to say … The Wallachia ranks alongside the mighty Akka as one of the most important of the innumerable shipwrecks in the Firth of Clyde.  At 259 feet in length she can be easily explored in one dive and her fine lines, so distinctive of 19th century steamships, appreciated.  She is a relic from a bygone age, a tantalising glimpse of the majestic days of steam.  

Neil holding on to a mussel sprat covered shot line in strong surface currents …

All too soon we were heading back up the shot and the decompression was done..  Jason was on hand to expertly extract us from the sea and fill us full of tea and jammy dodgers …  nom nom yassss !!

Jason shoots in to safely pick us out the current

Neil and I had a great day with Wreckspeditions, great diving , expert cover by Jason and of course his service was outstanding , I really cant wait to go back … cheers fella … oh did I mention the tea and jammy dodgers ???  maybe I did 😀

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Diving the Nj Fjord …. Day of the Bell !

Invincible blowing up after being struck by shells from Lützow and Derfflinger

The Battle of Jutland was the largest naval battle of any World War, fought between 31st May and 1st June 1916, in the North Sea near Jutland, Denmark.Germany’s High Seas Fleet intended to lure out, trap, and destroy a portion of the Grand Fleet, as the German naval force was insufficient to openly engage the entire British fleet. This formed part of a larger strategy to break the British blockade of Germany and to allow German naval vessels access to the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Great Britain’s Royal Navy pursued a strategy of engaging and destroying the High Seas Fleet, thereby keeping German naval forces contained and away from Britain and her shipping lanes.[4]    .The plan didn’t succeed, but the battle is considered to be won by the Germans, giving the Royal Navy a heavy blow.

HALT !!

The N.J.FJORD was the infamous ship that triggered the battle of Jutland when as it sailed unknowingly through the middle of the two great fleets the small steamer from neutral Denmark was stopped by the German vanguard, the engine had to be put on hold with the result that it let off steam.    The escape formed a big with cloud, which was seen from the nearest British ships  They were sent off to investigate the matter, and so the battle started ……..BOOM !   The Ship was subsequently sank by the UC-31 German U-boat and thought lost forever .. 

N.J. Fjord

Lost for almost 100 years its a piece of history that was thought gone, lost to the sea forever. But back in 2013 a team of expert divers had been hunting for this particular wreck and on June the 19th they sailed out of Eyemounth onboard the Jacob George from Marinequest  and they hit pay dirt .. here is that amazing story..  NJ FORD DISCOVERY     The discovery of the wreck that day and this subsequent retrieval of the bell will force a rewrite of the history books ….. 

Above is a fantastic video from that very day the bell was recovered. Edited by Brian Goddard , one of the original discoverers of the NJ Fjord .

I was lucky enough to be asked along …. and this is the story.

Leaving Eyemouth early …….

Early Monday morning on the 20th August a small band of intrepid divers and their captain set sail in perfect sea conditions to a beautiful sunrise … the mission to retrieve the bell from the NJ Fjord steam ship sank in 1917 and found in June 2013 no doubt to the delight of naval historians everywhere…..

Calm seas ahead

The journey out was a long one but the sea smooth and the banter good. A lesson in solenoid servicing from Brian Goddard to save they day when Alans rebreather wouldn’t fire helped pass the time. As did the great stories from everyone on-board .. When you fill a boat full of adventurous nutters you could write a book every time  …. Nicola , Maggie , Simon , Tim , Liam , Stevo , Alan, Ian  and Brian …. a life time of great adventures each !!

Battle of Jutland

After several hours of sailing we were finally above the wrecks position and dropping shot , the conditions were perfect , weather and viz to rival the Mediterranean and a piece of history below us , these days don’t happen very often … Zissou factor 10 !

Brian Goddard legend of the deep ..

With all the regular training I had been putting in I was confident in my skills to execute the dive, still I was comforted by the fact I was buddying up alongside Brian Goddard, a top diver who has been instrumental in the discovery of many a North Sea mark including the NjFjord. A North Sea legend to be honest.  I knew I was in good hands and I was sure to get a great dive.

readying for action …

We geared up and made ready , the plan was that Stevie , Liam and Tim , all very experienced divers would go in first as they would be instrumental in recovering the bell ..  Liam was the discoverer of the bell and although unable to raise it on his original discovery he had noted the position. They would head there directly and begin work as soon as they were down on the wreck. Brian And I would dive soon after . I checked and double checked my equipment then waited patiently ……………….

good to go ….

Ian dropped the first team into the water at the Buoy above the shot line then circled back round for Brian and I to go . We quickly dropped down to 6 metres and bubble checked , all clear … we dived to the easy shot clip and left our identification markers before continuing to the wreck … as I descended I saw it from high above, the viz was staggering , 20 to 30 metres and ambient light !  this far out to sea the conditions are world class … ..

The wreckage strewn out below me was amazing , what a wreck , 100 years and still in fantastic condition.. Brian pointed to a particular section and we finned across , here the bell was being prepared for recovery .. as i saw it there on the wreck , where it had been hiding for nearly one hundred years , a priceless piece of ours history lying before me ..

Brian now took me on a tour of the wreck and it was the best UK dive so far in my UK diving, with the fantastic viz and ambient light I could see everything pin sharp and here I was right in the middle of such a historic wreck.

All to soon it was time to get  back to the shot line and execute my decompression plan to the surface .. after what felt like an eternity I surfaced with a big smile on my face …..  I stripped down my gear and got into my civvies before Ian let me see the bell in all its glory … wow.

Liam , discoverer of the bell and one happy diver …

A priceless piece of history sat before me .. it was Liam’s find but everyone wanted to pose with it for a photo … This was a day to remember after all 🙂    Liam wont keep the bell as I believe the bell will eventually be presented to the executives of DFDS .  the owners of the wreck and put on public display ..

Eventually everyone was out of the water and Ian set sail for port … We settled in for a long journey back to port and another round of stories began ……

squad photo …

a naked woman appeared out the sky !! honest guv

I want to thank Marinequest and everyone onboard for giving me a day never to forget…… thank you all very much..  <3

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Swimming the Fruid …. never waste the last day of a good holiday

The Fruid reservoir

 Located 9 miles (15 km) north of Moffat, the Fruid is a substantial reservoir lying on the course of the Fruid Water in the Scottish Borders. It opened in 1968 to supplement the Talla Reservoir , via a large subterranean aquapipe , it’s located 2 miles (3 km) to the northeast, in supplying Edinburgh with drinking water. It is operated by Scottish Water and covers an area of 139.6 ha (344 acres).

The past year has been a busy one! With most of my spare time spent training to become a rebreather “pilot”.  Its taken a huge number of hours of underwater training.  And many many more with my head in a book studying gas laws, dive planning, physics , biology and loads more. It’s a tough sport on the technical end , where your education is wide and in-depth and your skills must be practiced not to the point of being able to do them, but to the point of being unable to do them WRONG !    It’s a sport where death is only a minute away at any time so there are no shortcuts to being proficient enough to see in your old age.

However I did manage to squeeze in enough wild swimming to complete a swim on the last of my Scottish Borders big four, the Fruid !  It had eluded me last year because of a road closure but it still simmered away in the back of my mind.   A few long swims with the lads on Alemoor and a few longer ones on my own and I was confident in my ability to solo swim it’s length. So on the last day of my summer holiday I grabbed my wetsuit and headed to the Fruid.

Fruid Control Centre …. 70s retro

It has a strange “Logans Run” type moderno building as it’s control centre , it certainly adds to the surreal feeling of this remote reservoir , kind of like the place Quatermass might hole up in an alien invasion but hey ho …. I was there to swim 😀

Looking up the Fruid towards the Dam , eyes on the prize ! 🙂

In my usual form I started from the tributary leading in and swam a centre line to the Dam. It’s not the longest of the four , neither the widest but it had a foreboding feel to it as the sides seemed to disappear into a bottomless black … solo swimming doesn’t normally bother me and I regularly dive solo under the North Sea but today I had a slight dose of the willies 😀

Mid swim selfie ! Ugly mug gets every where 😀

However my nerves stood the test and I swam purposefully to the dam at a steady pace , but the last few hundred metres had a strange current, my head started to imagine me being sucked into the big tunnel that feeds the talla … not something I would relish but not really a danger, all the same I swam hard for the dam wall and climbed out …. I was glad to be out of the strange current, maybe I’m getting old and more cautious but the head game was strong on this one. Subsequently a few weeks later hot on my heels,  the Lauder eel Jim Finlay swam it and reported the same undercurrents so be careful in there.

Note: Learn your craft , understand water , reservoirs and your own limits … Everyone knows how to swim but now you must learn to wild swim 🙂  Stay safe !

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Diving the Upside down wreck

30 miles out from Eyemouth sitting in exactly 40m of water on a white sand bank lies the aptly named “Upside Down wreck” ….  With Marinequest in charge of proceedings we were sure for a good day … Sure enough the weather was good , the conditions right and it was dive dive dive !!

on the lift and ready to dive !!

Last time I dived the Upside down wreck was on sidemount and my bottom time ran out far too quickly but this visit I was on my rebreather so hopefully I would  dive at least a 40 minute bottom time with very little deco . So I was up for some proper exploring on this visit and its a wreck so deserving of just that …

going down …

I knew the viz was good when I could see the ship itself from 20 m above !! the white sand and the black shape came into view from high above !!  result 😀  As I dropped down onto it I saw the whole wreck !! This is how every dive should be , but its the UK and its a roll of the dice on every trip ,,, This trip I was winning !

I headed for the prop before “flying” centre above the hull for the whole length of it and then dropped down to the sea bed.

the Prop

Its a cracking wreck , beautiful big prop and with a perfectly upturned hull to explore under its going to keep you happy all day long … well we have to go topside to breath at some point … so fair enough 😀

The Hull

You can dive to the prop, shoot along the top of the hull and explore underneath before heading back up the shot for a short deco even on open circuit , it is a wreck that just keeps giving 😀 ..

Every time I have been there I have had amazing viz of between 20-30m.  The further out you get in the North Sea the better it is… if only we had perfect weather more often

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