Diving at Craster - 28th - 30th July 2023

Phil prepped and checked Top Cat mid-week before he towed her to Craster on Friday evening after work. The journey was smooth therefore we arrived at The Cottage Inn just before 10pm to meet up with Tim, Steve, Mark and Anna. Phil’s detailed dive plan for Saturday was discussed again with the most recent weather forecast factored in.

We had an early start at 6.30am to transfer second dive cylinders into one car, which was to be left in Craster. All other kit was moved into the remaining two cars. We drove to Beadnell Bay car park, (already busy with dog walkers, runners, and swimmers, plus a very well-turned-out horse and rider) to set up our kit, prepare and load Top Cat ready for a tractor launch. Breakfast was eaten at The Landing Café.

The launch was faultless. We had a pleasant journey to our first dive site, Gull Rocks near Dunstanburgh Castle. We made sure we avoided the fishermen on the cliffs. The vis was 6/7m and the water temperature a reasonable 12C. The site was a cliff edge leading down to a series of ledges and bed rock at 15m. The kelp line finished at about 6m to be replaced by Hornwrack and a variety of short red seaweeds which were home to Sea spiders and Sea Hares. Cracks and crevices were full of Squat Lobster, Leopard Spotted Gobies, Velvet Swimming and juvenile Edible Crabs. Light Bulb and Gas Mantle Sea squirts, encrusting sponges and Antennae hydroids added colour. The site was full of lobster. Best finds: a lobster eating a dead crab, a Sea Lemon laying eggs, Catshark, Pipe Fish, Sole, a large shoal of Saithe, Ballan Wrasse, and several large Pollack.

Our second dive was the Acclivity, a small coastal tanker which was carrying a cargo of Linseed Oil when it sank in 1952. It lies on its port side in 30m, approximately 3 miles from Dunstanburgh Head.  The wreck was located, and we waited for the tide to ease before it was shotted. The plan was for the first buddy pair to dive at the beginning of slack water for 35 minutes, the second, to follow with no time restrictions and the third to attach a lifting bag to the shot, before diving the last of the slack water window.  What a brilliant dive. Vis was 15m and we could all see the whole of the wreck laid out on a rocky seabed as we descended. The seabed itself was dotted with Deadmen’s Fingers and the occasional large Dahlia Anemone. Every sheltered area on the wreck teemed with Saithe. The propeller, winches, derricks, anchor chain and pipework were easily identified, Where the hull panels and decking had rotted away there was a lattice work of exposed ribs and super structure which provided Lobster, Velvet Swimming Crabs, Squat Lobster, Butterfish and Pollack with shelter from the current. Best find was three Long Clawed Squat Lobster eating a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish.

The shot was pulled up and stowed.  We returned to Beadnell Bay for the tractor recovery. Top Cat was de-kitted before we drove back to The Cottage Inn. We met at 7.30pm in the dining room for a well-earned evening meal.

The forecast for Sunday was for Force 5/6 South-westerly winds which scuppered Phil’s plan to dive The Nidelven. We thought we might be able to dive from the Little Haven Slip at South Shields and as it was on the way home, we called in on the off chance that it was possible. Unfortunately, it was locked as the Sailing Club had cancelled their regatta owing to the weather. We went back to the club house, to meet Tim and Steve. Top Cat was thoroughly washed and everything put away.

Thanks to Phil for towing Top Cat and for his meticulous planning, research, and organisation. A fabulous weekend diving with buddies Tim, Steve, Mark and Anna.

Pat S