Isle of Man Dive Trip 2022 Report
As part of my Advanced Diver course, I had to arrange and organise a UK dive trip for at least 2 days of diving with travel and accommodation, so I opted for the Isle of Man. As I was told the visibility was always good regardless of the conditions. I made my enquiries with Discover Diving Isle of Man, and I was pleased with my conversation with Discover Diving, so I went and sent an email to all club members, and with a good response the trip was booked. This all started in November 2019 pre COVID and a few false starts due to LOCKDOWNS, but we eventually made it.
The dive sites were planned day by day.
Travelling to Isle of Man.
1st Dive: Kione 1 at (08:43)
2nd Dive: Castletown Bay at (11:04)
1st Dive: Kione 2 at (10:00)
2nd Dive: Garden Rock at (12:50)
1st Dive: The Afton Wreck at (09:20)
2nd Dive: Port of Mary Ledges at (12:05)
3rd Dive: Sugarloaf Caves at (15:03)
No diving due to high winds.
Saturday 2nd July 2022
Set of from Pen Llŷn 7-7:30. David driving Brett and Melanie and Dewi driving Mike, Andrew and Laura. Made it to the dock at Liverpool with plenty of time to stretch the legs and take in the waterfront- the dock was right next to the Liver Building. Parked up then headed to the passenger lounges where some refrained from the ferry equivalent of an airport pint (it doesn’t matter what time of day it is- if it’s the start of a holiday it’s time for a pint) and others didn’t!
Docked at Douglas around 14:00 after a smooth ish crossing with the sun out to greet us. Headed straight out on the road South, past a mystery golf course and were in Port St Mary in no time. Parked right outside Discovery Divers the dive shop and took our up to the accommodation. The 10 flights of stairs got us thinking we’d need to check the tables for altitude adjustment but the views from the lounge across the bay were just about worth it! Headed down to the shop to sign paperwork and get a plan for the morning before Dewi and Mike made a run for the nearest pub to watch the SA v Wales rugby and the rest of us went down to the harbour for a walk to check out where we’d need to to be in morning. Our first Chinese take away of the holiday and an early night followed.
Sunday 3rd July 2022
Day 1 diving in the Isle of Man
It was an early start, to be at the boat by 7.30am. Some folk got up very early to make sure they didn’t miss the start, others didn’t sleep well (sonorous noises in the night) and so were awake anyway. Others just got up at a reasonable time. The boat was in Port St Mary’s harbour a short distance from the accommodation. The tanks were taken by the minibus to the harbour. It was a long way down to the boat from the harbour wall, but after several trips up and down the steps, all gear was loaded, cylinders set up and gear stowed. Off to the Calf of Man SW of the port. It was not flat calm, but it was OK (some folk had anti-seasickness tablets anyway).
First dive was down a boulder slope to a sandy/gravel bottom at about 20 ish mts with sea cucumbers in the gravel. One of the most notable things about the dive was the number of fish. Cuckoo wrasse of all sizes, large, very colourful males and smaller differently coloured females everywhere. Rockcook in abundance too and corkwing wrasse. Many pollock and a couple or three conger eels of varying sizes. Crabs, lobsters, deadmen’s fingers, jewel anemones etc. A very nice dive, lots to see and a leisurely ascent up the boulder wall, between boulders all covered in life.
Back to Port St Mary to change cylinders then out north east to Castletown bay for the second dive (in the water for 11 am). This was quite a different dive to the first. A reef in the middle of the bay going slowly down to sand covered in seaweed. Looked for channels in the weed but didn’t find them. Lots of fish life again including large ling, crabs, cuckoo wrasse, rock cook, pollock etc. Nice dive again.
Some people had damp or even wet dives, Brett found a hole in one of his cuff seals and ended up with more water in his suit than he wanted. Mike found that his inflation point was not tightened up and he was also wet. The water temperature we were told by those who sampled it best was not as warm as the last shallow dive on the Llyn. As we were back in by 1pm suits could be dried and sleep caught up on and a new cuff seal was put on Brett’s suit in anticipation of a dryer dive tomorrow. Other peoples suits just had a general egress of water in nether regions which could not be fixed (but the suit is fine – its only a few years old!!! And not worn out yet!).
Evening meal was in the Italian restaurant a couple of doors away. Very nice food and bring your own bottle – the Co-op next door did a good trade in bottles of red wine. Sleep, for some was sound.
Monday 4th. July. 2022.
Dive Site. Kione 2.
The previous day I was using my new Weight and Trim system from Northern Diver. I found it was too high and required slight adjustment. Easy. Once on its really comfy. There’s no chance of you forgetting to put it on and jumping in without it! Also, the previous day I had a leak in my new suit. The Dive Site looked very tempting. As Dewi and I were descending I felt the cold water around my crutch. Lovely. As the dive progressed, I got wetter. This was more than compensated for by the 15metre plus visibility and a maximum depth of 24metres. Very scenic lots of big boulders and impressive overhangs. I saw a few squashie things etc. Then under the same overhang which was leading to a small cave was a LING 1mtr. Plus, sharing the same habitat was the largest Cuckoo Wrasse I have ever seen. 30cm. Plus. The total dive time was 51 minutes. We were both now cold and wet. We decided not to partake on the second dive GARDEN ROCK! Apparently, a large rock which you swim round and round! I examined my suit and found that the Inlet and dump valves on the suit had never been tightened by the factory, this was later sorted by our host. Dewi was in his truck inspecting the inside of his eyelids. Anyone wanting further info the Ndiver weight and trim contact me. You will be surprised at the weight it can carry.
2nd Dive Site: Garden Rock
Mike and Dewi opted out as Mike got drenched and Dewi got chilled to the bone, we were told to dive a very large bolder but weren’t told we would have to swim agents the current, but it was worth it as it was very impressive with lots of life, one very large Leopard Spotted Goby and one very inquisitive male Cuckoo Wrasse. We had a 42-minute dive with a max depth of 19.8 metres.
Tuesday 5th July 2022
Tuesday was forecast, belatedly on Monday, to be the best diving weather of our stay so the skipper suggested (told us) that he planned to fit in a 3 dive day, leaving just a single dive for our last day. So it was an 8am meet at the harbourside to load cylinders for the first 2 dives.
The first dive was the wreck of the Afton which is located on the east coast, inshore about half way between Castletown and Douglas, and thus was well protected from the prevailing NW breeze. The vessel foundered in 1896 while en route from Llanddulas to Scotland carrying limestone. Mike and I had dived it exactly 16 years ago from Scott Waterman’s boat the Endeavour which, by chance, was our present dive boat. On that occasion we then endured a stormy, never to be forgotten, crossing back to Menai Bridge where the boat was then based. The wreck lies broken up on top of a rocky reef at about 22 metres, with the surrounding sandy seabed at about 26 metres. Having been abandoned by my prospective buddy, Lee, I was once again Billy No Mates, tagging along with Brett and Andrew, who were seen as the best option among the motley 3 pairs! We were last in as usual and, after untangling ourselves from the rope on the trailing buoy, set off down the shot. I immediately had trouble clearing my right ear so was pleased to see that they were descending slowly below me. The reason turned out to be a lone diver, one of 3 local lads diving with us, who was stuck at about 6 metres. Brett and Andrew took a while to realize that he wasn’t going anywhere before passing him. I found out, as I went past him, that he was unable to equalize. As I slowly approached the seabed, Mike and Dewi could be seen coming on to the reef from the south, having been unable to get on to the shot line and having landed on the sand, while Brett and Andrew were off to meet them to return Dewi’s camera which had snagged on the lift platform as he jumped in. We were right on the edge of the wreck in excellent viz. and although there was a current of over 1/2 knot on the surface there was little current on the seabed. Big congers were immediately evident. We did an anti-clockwise circuit, seeing many conger, an assortment of fish with several big crabs and lobsters hiding in and under the boilers. We then left the wreck to explore the reef where Andrew found a couple of white Christmas Tree sea slugs and a large seven armed starfish, which was moving rapidly, for a starfish, over the sandy bed of a depression, seemingly on a mission. A large shoal of big pollack were crossing the reef close by as deco took over and we had to start ascending after about 30 minutes with Dewi and Mike close by. A lovely dive but I think that the wreck was much diminished since our previous visit. The diver on the shotline never did get down. He tried again on the second dive but failed again.
After recovering the shot and enduring the obligatory cake and cuppa we chugged back around Langness peninsula and along the south coast. The plan was to dive an area called The Ledges, just to the west of the main jetty of Port St Mary harbour after a 2 hour surface interval. I found, on entry, that I couldn’t descend, my so called buddies having found a way to get rid of their shadow by failing to point out that my weight belt, which was hidden from my view, but was in plain sight of theirs, was still under the seat as we did the buddy check! I waved goodbye to Brett and Andrew as they abandoned me on the surface and headed back to the boat where Catherine, our ever willing helper for the week, was holding up the offending weight belt. The skipper dropped me back in on the best looking set of bubbles which I followed down, still equalizing very gingerly, to land on Dewi and Mike, yet again in good viz.. As predicted there was a gentle E-W current which took us straight on to The Ledges at about 16-18 metres. It was an unusual seabed, with limestone rock in flat plates, undermined along the edges, and intersected by what appeared as eroded watercourses with sandy, gravelly beds which were home to numerous anemone like sea cucumbers which emerged from tubes in the seabed to spread their tentacles in the current and which appeared to be feeding. Well, it was Mike who was passing by!! The undermined ledges were crammed with more lobsters, of all sizes, than I have seen in one spot in years, as well as squat lobster and assorted crabs together with juvenile ling and many other fish making this a very different and interesting dive. Melanie and Laura went further inshore, just a few metres shallower, and experienced a very different dive with no ledges and no sea cucumber beds but seemed to have found it interesting just the same.
After a longish break on the jetty for lunch we headed off mid-afternoon to dive The Sugar Loaf Caves, located about halfway to the Calf of Man to the west. We had looked at this site the previous day but it had been too swelly so we had dived a sheltered bay near Spanish Head instead. Today conditions were perfect. We all entered the first cave, the wide entrance to which went straight in from the rock face. Viz. was again excellent. There were lots of crabs and lobsters inside gullies and holes, as well as a big pogge, a fish I have rarely come across, hiding in a small hole high up in the right side wall. It was a deep, dark cave and it was 10 minutes before we turned round, coming out in less than 5 minutes. The walls of the cave were covered in mats of baked bean sea squirt, which are like jewel anemones but nowhere near as colourful. We had been carefully briefed on the dive by Dave, the remaining local diver from the morning, who was a rebreather techy, but very nice nevertheless, as the second cave was located some distance to the west, with an entry which was easily missable, particularly as the whole area between the two caves was very kelpy at about 10 metres depth. Andrew found the entrance with help from a flashing torch already inside. This was another big cavern, not dissimilar to the cave at Pen y Cil, but with a massive side passage out to open water midway through. The baked bean sea squirts were again very evident but there did not seem to be as much life as it the first cave. We exited about half an hour into the dive and, as instructed, turned left over big boulders towards the open sea. Brett pointed out the biggest edible crab I have seen for years before we descended into deeper water. Brett put up the DSMB just before we got on to a sandy bed and then spent the ascent dodging a huge Lion’s Mane jellyfish which seemed tp follow him whichever way he tried to go. He and Andrew also spotted a large lone Saithe, which made their day. This was yet another very good dive on a day when we enjoyed three very contrasting dives.
By the end of the day the skipper had announced that the weather was deteriorating on the following day so he had decided to cancel the single dive planned. No one seemed to be too fussed, especially as the diving, while good on each day, had reached an excellent peak. It did allow for a more relaxed and longer evening with somewhat more bottles of wine around, mostly red for the Gents and white for the Ladies. Late on that evening I suddenly came down with definite cold symptoms, which it seemed that my sinuses had known about long before I did, and which developed overnight into a full blown cold, so I had really got lucky in not missing any dives.
Many thanks must go to Andrew for persevering over the past 2-3 years and giving us an excellent dive trip.
Wednesday 6th July 2022
No need for weight belts today as the one dive had been cancelled due the expected windy weather.
Andrew, Mike, Brett and Dewi decided to go for a spin around the Island and headed off towards Peel to collect the order of Manx Kippers. Having acquired the kippers and a walk around the harbour and the Peel fishing fleet it was time for lunch, before successfully completing the TT circuit in a lap record for a Nissan Navara 🤣
Meanwhile Laura and Melanie went walking to Port Erin and then a train to Castletown, with a total of 18000 steps completed it had to be offset with a large helping of ice cream.
Unfortunately, David had to batten down the hatches with a cold blowing in following the three dives the previous day, or was it the waitress in Port Erin 🤔??
With everybody meeting back at the flat it was soon Pub time before enjoying our last supper at the Italian, minus David who had to make do with a Chinese for one. Thank you, Andrew, for arranging the trip, would certainly go back, great diving and company 👍
Thursday 7th July 2022
Well, the holiday was over, and we went home.
But seriously we woke up and started sorting ourselves out. One of the priorities was to settle our accounts. This was easier said than done as no one was in the shop. I went for a walk down the beach to check the ducks out again. On my arrival back the son had arrived, and we managed to settle our accounts. After this we left Port Mary and headed off to Castletown David, Mel and myself went on a detour to The Port of Peel where I had been with Dewi and Andrew the day before where we bought some kippers, traditional Manks kippers Bloody expensive that’s for sure. While here we saw black guillemots which are quite scarce around here, but also common Scota’s which are scarce everywhere. There was also a eider duck with a couple of chicks. After this we moved on and headed to castle town. We parked up and went and looked for somewhere to eat.at this point ANDREW came out of the pub and in we went. Had a look at the menu and ordered our lunch. It was alright but the lunch the day before in Peel was far better., After this we left for the terminal and checked in. shortly after the ferry arrived and everyone disembarked. It was then we got on board and settled into our seats. Once we were out the harbour it was a race with a ferry to get into port first. There was quite a bit of traffic on the sea on the way home. But we did win the race into Port. We drove off the ferry and headed home. The roads were quiet and had a good run home. Having reached David’s Mel and I jumped into the Caddy and off to Pendre to drop Mel off. Having done this, I drove home. The holiday was now over, and little did I know this was pretty much all my diving for the year. I went to bed, yes, my bed absolute heaven. Not sure it was heaven for my wife though.
It was a long time in the making, but it was definitely worth it. A special thanks to Dewi and David for volunteering the use of their cars and doing all the driving.
So Dewi and I have done our dive trips for our Advanced Diver Qualification, so it’s now up to Brett and Jake to do theirs.
P.S. Always remember before entering the water to make sure you’re wearing your weights, saying no names David.
(more images in gallery)