Drama on the High Seas
I'm a member of a local branch of the Sub Aqua Association (SAA) and seem to spend most of my weekends underwater.
The August Bank Holiday weekend is traditionally the time when my dive club gets together for our annual BBQ and dive extravaganza.
This past weekend was slightly more dramatic than past years events!
We arrived at Beadnell Bay at around 8.30am on Sunday morning. Weather and sea conditions were good and we enjoyed a good days diving. The only hitch on Sunday was when my partner, Doug, turned on his air cylinder and blew his pressure gauge.
It could have been the end of his diving that weekend but as I was carrying a pony cylinder and we were only planning on shallow 10m dives I was able to loan him the pressure gauge from my pony.
At the end of the days diving we headed back to the beach where the non-diving wives and partners had set up the BBQ. We enjoyed a couple of beers with the traditional burgers and sausages and even found room on the grill for a large lobster that we had managed to catch on one of the dives!
Sunday saw yet another early start as we headed out for more diving. We planned to dive the wreck of the Corrington, just off Holy Island.
The boat we were on was the dive RIB 'Moby', owned by Doug's best mate Graeme. He runs a dive charter business specialising in Farne Island diving.
The boat is normally chartered out to divers wanting to experience diving at the Farne Islands which is famed for it's underwater scenery, vast shipwrecks and seal encounters.
On this particualar day there was no charter, it was more a 'family' outing with myself, Doug, Graeme, his wife and 3 children and a couple of friends of ours who are also divers.
We left Beadnell Bay and headed out towards Holy Island. Conditions were good, although there was a slight swell, causing waves to break over the front of the boat producing a lot of spray. I was standing by the cabin door attempting to shield Graeme's youngest daughter from the majority of the spray.
We got about a mile offshore and 4 miles north of Beadnell before she commented that she could smell something funny. A quick look into the cabin revealed plumes of thick smoke.
I quickly shouted to the skipper, Graeme, to stop the boat as we had a fire on board.
Luckily, Graeme is an excellent skipper with lightening reflexes!
He quickly took control of the situation and grabbed the nearby fire extinguisher.
At this point we weren't sure what had caused the fire, so the battery was isolated and a call was quickly put into the Coastguard. We weren't sure if the fire had caused problems with the ship to shore radio so one of the divers on board used the mobile phone in his dry-bag to put in a '999' call.
By complete coincidence, Monday was also the day of the annual lifeboat fete at nearby Seahouses Harbour. The all-weather lifeboat had been launched as part of the festivities and came to our rescue as one of the mechanical engineers on board reported seeing smoke pouring from a vessel at sea.
We managed to get Graeme's wife and children onto the lifeboat before it seemed that fire broke out again. This was controlled using a second fire extinguisher given to us by the lifeboat.
We ended up having the all weather lifeboat towing us back into Beadnell Bay, with the in-shore lifeboat on stand by to tow us into the shallows of the bay where we were met with a large audience and a couple of fire engines waiting to check out the boat.
We never did manage to get our dive, but we are lucky things turned out the way they did.
They could have been a lot worse.
It turns out that the fire was an electrical fault on board. Simply 'one of those things' that sometimes happens.
The full lifeboat report can be found here on the RNLI website.