Isle of Man 2014

Reports on our previous club dive trips and some of our day diving activities

Isle of Man 2014

Postby Maria H » Sun Jul 13, 2014 7:28 pm

Wow, what a week!
Ask each of the party what the highlight was, and you will get several different answers. Sean started off the week with his favourite food & drink combination:

Here are a few of mine:
Clan Macmaster and Calf Sound drift
Sean described this one as his favourite, as it was like 3 dives in 1: it started off with a seal playfully darting around, and then we moved on to explore the wreckage of the Clan Macmaster, a large steamship that sank in the 1920s, which is covered with marine life. We then had an excellent drift through Calf Sound.

Creg y Jaghee
I had to include this one, as I just love the name! This was a gentle drift along large boulders that are full of dead men’s fingers. I was intrigued by this fish, which Liz (after some research) identified as a Shanny, a member of the Blenny family.
A Perfect Day
The plan was to dive The Burroo and then The Puddle. On the way out to The Burro, we saw porpoise, then we approached the “drinking dragon” or Burroo.
Tony first talked about the Burroo several years ago when we used to go on the Madog to the Isle of Man, so I added it to my wish list.
Wow! We drifted through gulleys that are absolutely covered in life: dead men’s fingers, plumose anemones, jewel anemones, snakelock and dahlia anemones all compete for space at this high energy site. The place is full of fish – dogfish, various species of wrasse and Pollock. The crabs and lobsters are clearly well fed. This was possibly my best ever dive in British waters, though my view on that changed as the week progressed.
Next dive was The Puddle. Despite its unpromising name this is a sheltered bay, and is home to a seal colony, and so we watched the seals at play.
Evening entertainment was the Southern 100 motorbike racing, and also motorbike and sidecar racing. We discovered a new side to Helen, when we realised there had been a crash on the corner, and she squealed that she thought she’d caught it on film. Hadn’t realised that she was an ambulance chaser! Al is now on a quest to persuade Catherine that she’d look good in a sidecar, though I don’t think Catherine is convinced.
Chilling out with a glass of wine at the end of the day, I reflected that it doesn’t get much better than this!

Sugar Loaf Caves
I’ve done this dive a few times, and it’s always a highlight, but this dive was in a different class….
As instructed in the dive brief, we went in to the Cave of Birds and explored the cave, then swam behind the Anvil rock, then through the Fairy Hall and round the back of the Sugarloaf rock. The cave walls are full of life, and I just love taking photos of the silhouette shapes you get with caves.
As we rounded the Sugar Loaf rock, we were treated to a colony of guillemots, plus some Manx shearwaters dive bombing us. Apparently, divers’ bubbles reflect the light in a similar way to sand eels, and so we attract the feeding birds. In nearly 2000 dives over 30 years, I have never experienced anything like this! We spent over 30 minutes bird-watching underwater, and at one point I was lying on my back on the seabed just watching and taking photos. I was excited to see one bird underwater the other week in Shetland, but this just blew me away, and is in my top 3 dives world-wide (behind the feeding frenzy at Roca Partida in Mexico).
We didn’t just go diving
Michelle offered her services as a tour guide and we all piled in to the mini-bus (think “Care in the community” and you’re getting close) and we headed off to see Laxey Wheel, and had a nosey round Castletown.
The logistics
My previous dive trips to the Isle of Man had all been on live-aboards from the mainland, and I’d assumed that the cost of travelling across by ferry would be prohibitive, but it worked out really well. We went across as foot passengers from Liverpool, and checked the luggage in. 3 hours later, we arrived in Douglas and Michelle from Discover Diving was there to meet us and take us to Port St Mary, where we stayed in a flat above the dive centre. The dive shop is well-stocked, Michelle is extremely helpful, and the boat is good. What more do we need?

It was a excellent week, with a great group of friends. Thanks to everyone for making it so memorable.
Maria H
Diving Officer
Posts: 1421
Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:05 pm

Re: Isle of Man 2014

Postby Ian C » Mon Jul 14, 2014 7:38 pm

We gathered at the ferry terminal for the 11.15 Steam Packet catamaran service to the IOM.
The crossing was smooth and took around 2 hours 45 minutes.

Politically the Isle of Man is not actually part of Great Britain, so technically this was not UK diving. 8-)

We were greeted at the 'other side' by Michelle of Discover Diving who gave us a brief but informative narrative about the Islands history and pointed out some of the sights as we made our way to Port St Mary at the south west tip of the island.

Endeavour is a 40ft Lochin purpose built diving support vessel. She is UK MCA Cat 2 coded for 12 passengers and two crew. She is also fully licensed to operate in Manx territorial waters. Fitted with a stern step-on winch lift (so there is no ladder). On board there is a toilet, kettle, microwave and small fridge. The boat is equipped with two chart plotters, sonar, proton magnetometer, two VHF radios, radar. Powered by a 12 litre, 6-cylinder turbo charged Scania 600hp diesel engine. She carries up to 1200 litres of fuel, giving her a maximum journey range of 300 miles.

The visibility is reputed to be consistently good and water temperatures in the Irish Sea range from around eight degrees Celsius in the winter to 16 degrees Celsius in the summer which means diving is a year round activity.
Michelle explained that the IOM was suffering from an extended plankton bloom ‘of the wrong kind’ which meant that there had been no basking shark sightings and the visibility was reduced to around 4-5m


The dives, in chronological order:

The S.S. Citrine, a 650 ton coaster that ran aground in 1931. Although very broken up and scattered, there are still many recognizable sections, though some are rather rusty. The boiler, engine, propellers, anchor and chains can be found. Visibility is generally good.

Fine bay

In the southwest corner of Bay Fine is the magnificent Stack Fine. The top of the pinnacle is at 15 feet (5 m) and, on a calm day, it can be seen from the surface. The north face is covered in plumose anemones—white, pink and green. Lots of friendly wrasse keep you company but you may also see ling, pipefish, tompot blennies, rocklings, edible crabs, lobsters, brittlestars and burrowing anemones. On a sunny day, the light on the kelp is fabulous.

Clan McMaster

The Clan MacMaster was a 6535 ton steamship on its way from Glasgow to Liverpool when it struck the rocks of the sound in thick fog in September, 1923. Nestled into the rocks in the Calf Sound, the boilers stand tall and the prop shaft runs the length of the wreck. Storms have broken the back of the wreck and, over the years, dispersed the wreckage about the west side of Thoulsa Rock.
The end of the dive was meant to be a drift through the sound, however most of us found ourselves pushed into the smaller and shallower channel between Thoulsa rock and the Calf. Unable to fight the current, we were carried through and ended up amongst kelp and some friendly seals.

Creg y jeggy

A sheltered site in the entrance to the Calf Sound.
The sea bed here is littered with large boulders creating overhangs, gullies and lots of nooks and crannies. Some of the rocks are covered in dead mans fingers, others are barren other than a covering of purple and red coralline algae and the occasional yellow sponge. There were large edible crab and lobster. This was also our first encounter with cat sharks.

Tuesday was a late start so we had a morning visiting some of the Island's tourist attractions.


A steel barque that sank under tow. Three of the four masts are said to lie visible on the seabed but appeared to be covered by silt. The keel is uppermost, but as the plating is starting to break up there is lots of tangled wreckage to explore. You have a chance to look through the ribs at either end of the wreck and this is where we found most of the life.
It was fun to see my reflection in steve's bubbles on the way down!

PSM Ledges

This was an early evening dive in the hope of seeing octopus. Sadly they did not come out to play but there was plenty of cat shark activity among the rock gullies with overhangs and lots of lobsters. Perhaps it was a little too early.

The Buroo

The ‘Drinking Dragon’, reputed to be one of the best dives in the Irish Sea, and some would say in the British Isles. The Buroo is the southwestern point of the Calf of Man. Best tackled at slack due to the strong currents, it can also be a great drift dive.

The seabed is varied with vertical cliffs, large boulders and winding gullies. Some are little more than cracks, others are narrow canyons 3-4m deep, just wide enough to swim along. The walls are tightly packed with plumose anemones. Marine life is prolific due to the currents that converge on the headland. Kelp in the shallows gives way to beds of orange, yellow and white invertebrate life that fights for the space to reach out into the current. Carpets of plumose, dahlia and jewel anemones spread as far as you can see. So concentrated is the life, it is impossible to find a space in which to place a finger to steady oneself. Good buoyancy control is essential.

Cat shark's abound, hiding in the red fringe weed and rainbow weed. Enormous lobsters and edible crabs inhabit the myriad crannies in the rocks. Ballan and cuckoo wrasse, bib and pollack were also plentiful. And... popping it's head out of it's lair...


An evening of racing
The Isle of Man is famous for the TT races but there are several other races through the year on different road circuits. This week's is the Southern 100, a series of road races on the Billown Circuit, a short 4.25 mile route beginning and ending in Castletown. In the TT, bikes run against the clock. In the Southern 100, each class of bike races together.


The Sugarloaf is bird paradise—a dramatic stack of weathered slate with every ledge packed full of nesting guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and other seabirds.

Next to the stack, a small cave system provides a relatively easy caving encounter for beginners and experienced divers alike. The main cave, “the Fairy Hall”, is T-shaped. The left arm starts at the Sugarloaf itself, the upright exits to sea and the right arm leads to a small bay. Here is found a large rock known as “the Anvil” and the separate “Cave of the Birds.” Both caves have clear surfaces. With the sun shining, this is a most beautiful dive with shafts of light illuminating the Fairy Hall or percolating through kelp in Anvil Bay. The direction of the current, if there is any, will determine your direction through the caves. Don’t swim against it. If you end the dive by the stack, make like a sea otter: lie back quietly and watch and listen to the birds. It’s fabulous!

Settle down under the stack and wait. The young guillemots may come to investigate your bubbles. It is rather surreal to see seabirds flying past you underwater.

Although referred to as a cave system, there is a clear surface throughout this dive. The waters here are shallow - we found the deepest point to be only 12m at high water.
The cave walls are covered in hydroids, gooseberry sea squirts, elephant ear sponges and beadlet anemones.

Spanish Head to Black head

This drift dive took us past vast boulders at a depth of about 20m, each with its own individual character - on one we found jewel anemones, on another dead man's fingers, on the next sponges or orange plumose anemones.

The Stack

A pinnacle with a maximum depth of 30m off the Calf of Man; the pinnacle is covered in dead men’s fingers, plumose anemones, jewel anemones, Devonshire cup corals, ross coral bryozoans, hydroids and sponges. There was plenty of life to be seen - congers, ling, pollack, cuckoo & ballan wrasse, dogfish, lobsters and edible crabs. The floor is a mixture of dead men's fingers and kelp, and the walls are solid squidge. There is just about everything; sponges, hydroids, anemones from the tiny jewel variety to fat-looking plumose anemones and, of course, yet more clumps of white and yellow dead men's fingers.

Causeway Gullet

This dive site is one of only two eel grass beds on the island, perfect conditions for sea horses. Unfortunately, none have been sited yet.
There have been a handful of unconfirmed sightings over the years, but they have never been officially recorded in Manx waters.
This area is now a Marine Nature Reserve.

Well, all good things come to an end. We spent the Friday afternoon washing our kit down before a farewell barbecue with beers and wine.

We awoke on Saturday morning to find the island cloaked in ‘Manannan mist’. Thankfully the Island was not under siege and we made it to the ferry terminal for the 3pm trip back to Liverpool.
Thank you to everyone for a great trip.

Pictures and video to follow……
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Ian C
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Re: Isle of Man 2014

Postby Maria H » Wed Oct 22, 2014 4:23 pm

Ian C wrote:.

Pictures and video to follow……

How soon is "shortly"? ;)
Maria H
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Joined: Fri Oct 23, 2009 8:05 pm

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