Despite the club’s 60+ year history; and having dived from Shetland to the Scillies and St Kilda to Ireland, it perhaps surprising that we have never visited the Isle of Man. I’d been talking about trying to run a trip to the Isle of Man for some time (at least the last 2 years), but things (life!) kept getting in the way.  With being asked to stand as Diving Officer for 2019, I thought I would finally just do it, and lead the way for the club to new and hopefully exciting diving.  

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 With an early departure from Reading on the 12th July, we reached Heysham in plenty of time to catch the ferry across to the isle, and in sunshine and calm weather we reached Douglas that evening. A short car journey south and we arrived at our base for the week, Port St Mary/Port Erin about 30mins south of Douglas.   IMG_0254 medium size

 The first day dawned clear, sunny and relatively calm and after loading the boat, we headed around the for the check dive at a site called Bay Stacka. A relatively shallow bay at ~18-20m (as with a lot of IOM diving), there was an extensive boulder field and a lot of life on both the boulders and hidden in the crannies. The visibility and water clarity was superb, with a good 10-15m easily. We surfaced after a good 50 minute dive already hoping for more. After coming back in to refill our cylinders (+ the novelty of a long surface interval without having to have drysuits on!) we went out to the south end of the calf of man to the Burro, which was a series of underwater gullies overlooked by “the dragon” as our skipper Mike Keggen called it (a large rock formation in the shape of a dragon unsurprisingly!). The gullies were absolutely spectacular, colour everywhere, life everywhere, enormous crabs..it was some of the best diving I’ve done in the UK.  

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 We surfaced hoping for more, and the IOM delivered in spades.  

 The next 2-3 days were pretty much ideal diving weather, clear, calm and sunshine. We made the most of it with dives at sites like the sugar loaf caves, chicken rock lighthouse, the stack, amulty and the wreck of the Demarco. At each of these we were rewarded with superb visibility and lots of life (anenomes of all types, seals, crabs, lobster, dogfish, nudibranchs). The second day, I was ready to go and jump in when the skipper mentioned that I might want to put my fins on..  Shame faced I did.. However I was not the only person to make that mistake (more later on this!). At “the stack” Steve Capel and I were visited by a “seal watcher” for about 10 minutes who then proceeded to do an acme act and chase a dogfish around for our amusement….

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At dive site “Amulty”, the following day Paul Sanders demonstrated why the buddy check acronym should now be extended from BAR to BARF, standing for buoyancy, air, releases, fins.. after proceeding to jump in and start to swim to the shot when he suddenly shouted I haven’t got my fins on…  Finbar Sanders is now in prime position for the golden snorkel award. 

Chicken rock apparently we were lucky to dive, as the currents could be a bit unpredictable (as we found on the ascent), but very comparable to the best of the Eddystone 

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The following day we dropped in Gibdale point, which was again an excellent dive.. 15 minutes playing with seals (or is that them playing with us?), then an extensive boulder field with anemone encrusted walls, conger, crabs, lobster. Superb more please!
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The weather worsened slightly towards the end of the week, but the quality of the diving still remained top notch. After returning to reading I already have 2-3 emails asking when we can go back, so I think it’s a safe bet that Reading BSAC will return the Isle of Man, the only question is when?

Steve Merrick