Night dive on the Primrose Wreck – Isle of May

Steve had organised a trip to dive the Primrose a wrecked Steam Powered Trawler that came aground on the Isle of May in 1902 and then slipped below the waters about 300 metres to the East of the Southern tip of the Island. The Weather was looking dark with clouds adding to the atmosphere the sea state was not too bad with a small swell from the south East. We were using Steve Haddow’s boat the Mako based at Anstruther which is a well equipped Catamaran with a Dive lift on the back of the Boat. Steve was planning to put a permanent shot on the wreck for ease in the future and after sorting out the shot we kitted up and jumped into the sea, we were the last in following eight divers descending 31 metres onto the wreck.

With shot on the boiler and the Steam engine a stern of it, with the wreck sitting on the bottom upright we worked our way over to over to the Starboard side and headed towards the Bow taking a few shots of the other divers that had headed up the port side a minute or so before us (Small wreck about 25-30 metres in length), the bow is now only about 60 cm proud of the sea bed covered in Brittle Stars on hull plating and and Dead Mans Fingers on the spars.  Heading back along the port side the sea bed was covered in course sand and broken shells with Squat lobsters hiding in the debris on the sea bed, also just on the edge of our torch light we could see the Cod and Poor Cod swimming watchfully, these strange invaders of their territory with their bright and multicolored HID, Halogen and LED diving torches.

This is a lovely wreck with lots of life on it including Dahlia Anemones, Conger and Wrasse definitely worth looking under the spars and wreckage, we headed to the stern and found the propeller still intact rising 1.5 metres vertically from the sea bed and as we headed back towards the Engine and Boilers on the Starboard side the Mooring Bollards could be seen with several Urchins grazing on them. Colin and I had been using Nitrox 30 to give us more “no-deco” bottom time and the 20 minutes on the wreck was plenty of time to do a full tour of the wreck,  we headed back up the shot which was tied off to the Engine, as we headed up to the 6 metre stop I noticed several Lions Mane Jellyfish floating by in the gentle neap current. What a fun dive and a totally different feel to diving it during the day!  Thanks to Steve for organising the dive.

Isle of May, diving with the seals Sunday 12th June 2011

Map of the Isle of May
An early start of 6:15 at the boat shed you have to be kidding ! And yet everyone made it with ‘Deep Dancer’ checked, hitched and away by 06:30 to catch the tides. Today’s trip had an impressive turn out with seven divers (Izzy, Gary, Maureen, Steve, Neil, Chris and Spike) in the Perth-BSAC Club boat and another four (Dave, Phoebe, Alan and Hamish) in Dave’s , which we were meeting in Anstruther. Brilliant weather greeted us as we rolled down towards Anstruther catching that first view of the Isle of May, covered in a last veil of cloud, lingering wisps of chiffon, light and watery. The clear sky and in bright sun gave the impression today, that the May was not that far away.

The launch from Anstruther is an easy one and the two boats ‘Deep Dancer’ and ‘Plan B’ where soon heading out to the May on a deep rolling swell with Gary driving Deep Dancer, giving us all a lesson on rhythm, throttle management and a smooth ride.

Maiden Hair gullies
First dive was the SW tip of Maiden Hair where the various teams were diving with inquisitive and friendly grey seals as they explored the gullies in excellent vis before using the current which gave a gentle drift Northwards along the West side of the Islands. Everyone reported lobsters but the ones seen by Maureen and I were berried and left for another day. We spent a very pleasant 45 minutest in the gullies swimming through the skerry and then back encountering seals as we did so and finishing where we started being buzzed by even more seals as we made for deep water and a pick up.

Lunch was taken at the high water landing amidst the cacophony of nesting birds on the cliffs and Sunday yachties and birdwatchers.

The second dive saw the boats split with ‘Plan B’ taking advantage of the calm conditions and putting divers in on Norman Rock on the Northern point while Deep Dancer opted to dive the Western cliffs in the area of the Green Face where lobsters, wrasse (both corkwing and ballan) and guillemots ‘flying’ around the divers bubbles, were seen. The boat crew was entertained by one seal that thought the DSMB was worth playing with, a fisherman’s tale for sure had it not been caught on video.

Back at Anstruther the boats were retrieved with ample tide to spare and after quick refreshments in the Ship Tavern (3 scallop rating and a tick in the East Neuk of Fife good beer guide) we finished the dive back at the boat shed, washing down the boat and charging cylinders for Wednesday evening and the Bar-b-que dive at Elie.

Isle of May, 27th March

Map of the Isle of May
To be at the club hut at 07:30 after the summer clocks change is always hard but we all made it and after a few last minute hitches a small group of six divers were off to Anstruther to launch the club RHIB on the RNLI slip.

Todays trip gave us the chance to shake down “Deep Dancer” prior to the Oban weekend and we are happy to report that both boat and trailer were performing well.

First dive was on a reef just between Colm’s Hole and the Middens on the East side of the Island and north of the wreck of the “SS Island”.

Dead Man's fingers feeding in the current

Dropping into 12m and reasonable East coast vis, we traversed a small wall of dead man’s fingers before finning over boulders and bed rock. At a full degree colder than the West coast, the gauge read slightly less than 6 degrees and felt very chilly, especially when diving with an incorrectly fitted dump valve and the ensuing insidious trickle that eventually reached my feet!

One highlight was a shoal of fry dancing in a torch beam see here

Lunch time saw us land at the East or low water landing and take the opportunity to make a short pilgramage round the South of the island. The ruined Benedictine monastery, dating back from the 9th Century the key note of some interesting archeology.

Having ruled out Maiden Hairs rocks for a second dive due to the chop, we settled for the wreck of the Anlaby (or Ann Labbie) off the Altarstanes or Standing Head near the West or High Water landing where a few grey seals were popping up to see what we were doing. The gulls had started to claim teritorial sites on the cliffs but we didn’t see any gannets, guillemots or puffins today.

from RCAHMS site info: 23 August 1873, ANLABY, SS, of Hull, 717 tons, Master Thomas Martin, iron screw steamship, departed Leith Roads for Danzig, 23 crew, carrying coal, stranded on the west side of May Island.
In August 1880 divers were engaged in blowing up the hull of the steamer to salvage portions of the hull and machinery.

Within the bay we dropped into 5m and quickly came across rust, plates and spars

Swimming along the keel
(dropped my camera towards the end of this, must have been the excitement!)

Until at last we reached the propellors

where we had a rummage, Gary and Izzy finding a few lobsters, then turned round and retraced our tracks back the way we came where I came across my very first East Coast scallop.

East Coast Scallop

Site 1: Colm’s Hole N56 11′ 7″ W2 32′ 51″
Site 2: SS Anlaby N56 11.3167 W2 33.7

Map of the Isle of May and the wreck location from CANMORE