Diving Malin Head – June 2017

I can not remember the first time I got to hear about the wrecks of Malin Head but I do remember that I first booked to dive them in 2013. The Aug 2013 trip to Malin Head (see blog post here) was a great success but we didn’t dive the wrecks of Malin Head! The weather was not favourable and ended up diving the Irish Sea around the Isle of Man.

A group of very good friends (Andris, Nick, Aileen, Laura & Geoff) went back to Malin Head in 2016, sadly I could not join them because I had signed up for a 26 mile walk (wearing a kilt !!!).

The before photo!!!

Having had great time Andris decided to go back exactly the same week a year later and of course I signed up as soon I was invited (was not going to miss out on diving for walking – again!!!)

The trip was organised by Barry McGill’s InDepthTechnical out of the Donnald Cullen’s Mevagh Dive Centre. Accommodation was booked by Barry at Mevagh House B&B.

The trip started on Friday 02/06/2017 with me travelling to Cairnryan near Stranraer to get the ferry to Belfast.

Screenshot from 2017-07-15 21-31-39.png

The big advantage of driving (opposed to flying) to a diving destination is that it is much easier to load all you need to the car without the stress of complying with airlines weight / volume limitations and I love it!!!

The ferry to Belfast was busy but a very pleasant journey and after a few more hours of driving I made it to Mevagh dive Centre in Carrigaart where after checking in with Donald I got into preparing my gear for diving.

Shortly after that I got to meet the rest of the group who were already there and just like me (very excited) were making ready for a week of diving.

Admittedly I was more excited as this was my first time and going by last years reports and past years photos the expectations were high!

Not before long, by mate Andris and Matt with Danni arrived.
I was so excited that I would get to dive with my regular diving buddies Andris and Matt once again since I 2013!!!.
Saturday morning we made our way to the marina and boarded the Laura Dean.
The Laura Dean is a pretty awesome boat with loads of space and quite quickly we settled in our stations that we would keep for the rest of the week

The first dive of the trip was the U-89 (see links in Wikipedia, U-Boat Net and Wrecksite).
This was my first dive in Malin Head and excited as I was nothing had prepared me for the awesomeness of that dive. Visibility was great (albeit a bit dark) and she was very much ship shape (or submarine shape I should say).
Although I did spent most of my time around the conning tower did managed to visit the bows and the stern.

Photo of U-89 courtesy of Barry McGill

The next dive was on the wreck of the SS Justicia one of the Malin Head Celebrity wrecks and one I have been looking forward to dive.

Photo of SS Justicia’s Anchor courtesy of Rick Ayrton

The next dive was one of the most famous of the Malin Head Classics because it is one of the most photogenic wrecks that I know of.

Photo of American Sherman Tanks of SS Empire Heritage courtesy of Rick Ayrton

The wreck of the SS Empire Heritage is known because of the American Sherman Tanks that was carrying when attacked and sunk by U-482.

Having started our diving week with epic wrecks like that the expectations were high and indeed Malin Head did not let us down. Monday we set out to dive the HMS Audacious.

Photo of the legendary guns of HMS Audacious courtesy of Rick Ayrton

I made an attempt to head to the stern but proved to far and decided to leave it for another day!!! Had to go back!

At this point I was a very happy bunny because I had achieved the main objective of my trip which was to dive the Malin Head Classics and from now on anything would be a bonus!!!

The SS Rosscommon was a cargo ship torpedoed by SM U-53 and sunk. The cargo was crockery and made for a very impressive dive!!!

Photo of the SS Rosscommon Cargo courtesy of Rick Ayrton

And finally the last dive of the trip was a return visit to the wreck of the stern section of the HMS Audacious.

Photo of the stern of HMS Audacious including the Prop and two rudders courtesy of Rick Ayrton

Although the photos are pretty amazing seeing these wrecks in person was absolutely awesome and I loved every minute of it.

Overall we did 6 dives and about 12 hrs in the water which was pretty impressive considering that the weather out there can (and does) get wild!!!

Other than diving Donald was absolutely amazing looking after us from preparing breakfast to filling cylinders at the end of the day for the next dive to dropping and recovering the shot line and trapeze and making tea for us on the boat, NOT to mention the George Foreman Sandwich Toaster aboard the Laura – Dean!!! (Which should be included as a mandatory bit of kit an ALL UK Diving boats!!!)

Apart from diving we had the chance to go for walks around Carrigart and enjoy the stunning scenery and a number of pubs / restaurants to have dinner (including Carigaart Hotel and the Singing Pub) out of which, I have to say, my favourite was the Logue’s Bar with the epic Black n Blue pizza!!!

Black n Blue Pizza – Not to miss!!!

Overall an absolutely great trip organised by Barry and Delivered by Donald. Really looking forward to go back and do it all over again next year!!!

Happy Malin Head Classics Divers!!!

Many thanks to the team for being excellent company throughout the trip

  • Martin Timoney
  • CM Ó Braonáin
  • Brian Kelly
  • Ron Hucker
  • Rick Ayrton

My buddies for looking after me

  • Andris Nestors
  • Matt Speed

and of course

  • Barry McGill for organising it and
  • Donald Cullen and Dean Cullen for making it happen

Diving the Coast of Normandy – July 2013

So it was that time of the year! My annual pilgrimage to the south coast and diving out of France. In the past it was the most challenging trip of the year (logistics wise) as I had to get myself prepared for 3-4 days of repetitive gas diving without any access to O2 (Oxygen) or He (Helium) fills.

The plan was simple get the boat Steve Johnsons Channel Diver from Brighton Marina and head out to France. Mid Channel dive a wreck and continue to France after the dive. Arrive in France go for dinner and then the next day head out of FeCamp and dive a wreck in the coast of Normandy. After the dive return to France for more croissants, baguettes and smelly cheese! Finally on the third day Leave escargos and fromage and head back home with a dive on the way back.

Now that sounds simple right?

Yes but there is a twist. The boat does not have O2 or He. So if you are an open circuit diver you need to take with you enough gas for the whole of the trip. For someone like me who likes breathing (A LOT) that means about 3 twinsets and 4 stages minimum. Now that is a lot of gear!!! (I know – I ‘ve done it twice now!!!)

Fortunately I have recently moved to the Dark Side and got my self a “breather” or a rebreather (for those not initiated into the tek-diving slang) and with my gas logistics issues resolved I should be all good to go right?

Well not quite. See in the mean time I moved from London (very close to Brighton) to Aberdeen (nowhere near Brighton) so this year’s trip it was still a challenge because although gas management was not an issue driving was!!!

And of course typical of me a week before the trip I changed jobs so had to give back my company and only car I had!!!

CaptureGoogle Maps extract showing Start of trip Aberdeen, Brighton and FeCamp

So having hired a car I loaded my kit and headed south. An early start at 05:00 helped missing traffic and soon I was on the M26 heading down. The trip was boring but uneventful and I was very pleased at that!!!

On arrival to Brighton it felt like I was already on holidays in a different country as the heatwave had girls in bikinis lying in the beach or the park!!! Success! I was definitely on holiday mood.

I checked in to my hotel with a grumpy and miserable receptionist (see review I posted) and headed out to the beach for lunch and a well deserved drink!!!

Tuesday morning I checked out and headed to the marina to board Channel Diver and meet the rest of the crew.

My mate Andris Nestors was already there loading his gear on the boat and I followed promptly. As soon as I made my way to the boat I was greeting by friendly faces! Broady and Nicola were there, of course Steve (our skipper) and Nigel Ingram and Tommy with whom I had done similar trips in the past! Excellent 🙂

All gear was loaded we headed off to France. The weather was simply stunning. Hard to believe we were about to go diving  la Manche

The first dive was the HMHS Lanfranc.

HMHS_LanfrancPhoto of RMS Lanfranc before her requisition as a hospital ship in 1915

HMHS Lanfranc was a hospital ship (6287 grt) torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat UB-40 on 17 April 1917. 17 British and 17 German patients were lost  Some 570 survivors were picked up by the destroyers HMS Badger and HMS Jackal aided by HMS P 47 and the French patrol boat Roitelet, and taken to Portsmouth. For  further info see: the Wreck Site

The first dive wasn’t exactly a great success. I jumped in with Andris but early in the dive I realised that both of my computers were set to the wrong gas. 😦 I managed to successfully communicate it to Andris but somewhere in the fuf we got separated and at that point decided to ascent. Once on the surface Steve picked me up, I updated the gas on both computers and soon I was back in the water descending the line to Lanfranc. As I was on my own and the current was picking up I kept the dive short and headed back up not before long.

After the dive we continued our journey crossing the channel untiGrand_Pavois_ranch_doorl we made it to Fecamp. On arrival to the marina we checked in to the hotel Grand Pavois which Steve had booked us. After checking-in (which took a while – but then again we were a big group) and a quick shower (still impressed with the ranch-style bathroom door, the double sink and the lack of curtains) we made our way to the local restaurant for beer and steak-frites!!!

Wednesday morning we decided to have a look at the hotel’s breakfast which was not included in the price and as I do have a soft spot for salmon, brie and baguettes the call was made to stay at the hotel for breakfast! YeY!!! 🙂

After breakfast we made our way back to the marina where Steve was waiting for us to go diving! The plan was to dive an unknown mark that Steve had picked up on a previous trip. On arrival to site and after the shot line went in, myself and Andris descend to the wreck. Initially it was a bit confusing but after a while it became evident that although this wreck was a man made structure it was not a ship. It turns out it was some sort of a platform or maybe a Mulberry Harbour?

Loads of life and some dinosaur sized lobsters!!! a pair of fishermans? (longjohn style) trousers at the bottom and a MASSIVE buoy inside the wreck kept us amused and resulted in a total runtime dive of 100 min! 🙂

Although we had not discovered a Spanish galleon loaded with gold doubloons, our unknown wreck proved to be equally amusing and enjoyable!!!

Back to Fecamp and after the obligatory “cheeky half” at the La Fregate of the Hotel de la mer and a shower (in the bathroom with the ranch door and without shower curtains) we headed to the La Grillade


for my Chateaubriand and Nigel and Tommy’s share of humongous plate of meat!

Thursday morning after another excellent breakfast (smoked salmon and brie with fresh baguettes and croisants) we checked out and started our return journey. Halfway we stopped at the HMHS Lanfranc for one more dive and (unlike the Tuesday dive) everything went to plan and dived all the way from the bows to the stern!!! 🙂

In the evening we off loaded the boat, said our goodbyes and loaded the cars for the next part of the trip. Me and Andris were heading to Eastborne to dive with David Ronnan and Sylvia (Dive 125).

On arrival to Eastbourne (a short drive from Brighton) we checked-in to our regular hotel (The Cavendish in Eastbourne)

cavendishphoto of room from expedia.com

and headed to the restaurant for beers and a well deserved dinner! As the load time was a very civilised 11:15 we left all the fuffing for Friday morning.

Friday morning after a full English brea_teamakfast (brie, salmon, baguettes and croissant are good but…) he headed to the Sovereign Marina to meet with Matt Speed (the third member of the A-Team) was going to join us to dive Caleb Sprague!!!

Once we loaded the boat and out of nowhere Chris Hall appeared! It is nice being back in the south Coast and diving with Friends!!!

On January 31st, 1944, the British steamship Caleb Sprague (1813 grt) was torpedoed and sunk by German motor torpedo boats , S.E. of Beachy Head on a voyage from London to Newport.

Twenty-two of her crew of 27 and three of her four gunners were lost. (information from the wrecksite)

1108_wt118_caleb_sprague The Caleb Sprague  (Source – Divernet: WRECKTOUR 118)

Myself, Andris and Matt descended to the wreck which kept us busy for around 40 minutes (and that was excluding the Lobster hunting time!!!). Once we had enough (to see and dinner) we made our way up and surfaced at the planned 2 hr runtime.

Sadly that was the last dive of the trip. Back on the beach we unloaded the boat said our goodbyes and I headed back to the Hotel for my last night south (by that time it was too late to start the return journey).

Saturday morning I started the long journey back, which ended even longer as the stupid sat-nav sent me via the M1 (YIKES!!!) and ended up back in Aberdeen about 17:00 in the evening. Knackered! But what a great week!!! Great dives! Great catching up with friends! Awesome weather!!! What more could anyone ask for!!!

Many thanks go to:

  • My favourite dive buddy Andris Nestors
  • Matt Speed, Broady and Nicola, Steve Johnson, David Ronnan and Sylvia Pryer

Great to see you, excellent diving with you and looking forward to see you all again soon!!!

Diving The Isle of Man with Deeside SAC

The diving trip to Malin Head that didn’t happened!

Last September Mike Ferguson from my local branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) the Deeside Sub Aqua Club (DSAC) organized a trip to Malin Head out of Al Wright’s MV Salutay. Read more about Al here and on IANTD’s Operation Pedestal page. I was invited to join but kindly declined as although qualified to dive I would be the only Open Circuit diver on the boat and that would

  1.   make it hard to buddy with any CCR diver
  2.   make gas logistics a nightmare
  3.   make for a very expensive gas bill!!!

The trip was a success although visibility was not great because of an out-of season Plankton Bloom.

This was highly unusual and unlike anything like what was expected according to my diving buddy’s video of Malin Head (Diving Malin Head, Ireland 2010 by Geoff Davies https://vimeo.com/14388873) and photos:

iconic Shipwrecks lying off Malin Head, Ireland – taken by fourth element team diver Steve Jones:




Therefore it didn’t take long for Mike to start organizing the next trip to Malin Head and I was invited to join the group. This time as a proud owner of a newly acquired AP Inspiration Classic I agreed to join and needless to say I was really very excited at the prospect of diving the HMS Audacious, SS Justicia and the SS Empire Heritage.

Considering that all three (Audacious, Justicia and Empire Heritage) lie at a depth of around 70m of water this makes it for a tech only trip with not much scope for recreational / non-deco diving!!! Ideally for suitably experienced divers.

As much as I do consider myself to have some understanding in the lore of scuba diving I felt I had to get myself ready and “dived-up” for a trip like that and therefore embarked in a race to get as many deco and simulated deco dives as possible to make sure that I am ready for Malin Head.

After a fair bit of diving and a lot of waiting August the 31st arrived and I packed my gear and Saturday morning headed off to meet Lorne Thomson and start our drive to Stranraer. It is amazing how much kit just the two of us had!!! One would imagine that a Range Rover would be enough for 2 (yes two) divers? Well just!
By the time we had loaded, rebreathers, stage bottles, Lorne’s scooter, tool boxes, dry suits and other random stuff there was hardly any space left for us!!!

The drive was pretty easy and uneventful and we made it to Stranraer in time to load the boat.

Photo of MV Salutay (Wikipedia Belfast Tall Ships 2009)

After the expected fuff of setting up gear, selecting cabins etc we (orderly) made our way to the local Chinese restaurant for a curry, beers and raising a pint to diving buddies that unfortunately didn’t made it to this trip.

Sadly by that time it was confirmed that the weather was too bad to make it to Malin Head and dive the wrecks of Plan A and therefore we had to dive Plan B!!!


Google Maps extract showing the waypoints of the trip we had originally planned (Dive Malin Head Wrecks)


Google Maps extract showing what we actually dived (Diving IOM wrecks – Plan B)

Sunday morning after a hearty fry-up prepared by Freda we sailed from Stranraer to dive the first wreck of the trip

“SS Tiberia, built by Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Newcastle in 1913 and owned at the time of her loss by Anchor Line (Henderson Bros.), Ltd., Glasgow, was a British steamer of 4880 tons.
On February 26th, 1918, Tiberia, on a voyage from Glasgow to New York with general cargo, was sunk by the German submarine U-19 (Johannes Spieß), 1.5 mles east of Black Head, Belfast Lough. There were no casualties.” Source: the Wreck site.


A sketch of the wreck can be found here.

Video of the wreck of SS Tiberia on YouTube here. On the way out we got to see Samson and Goliath the two giagantic cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding (the one that built RMS Titanic? – Yes! that one!!!)

The sea was a bit choppy so the decision was made to not take any scooters much to the boys disappointment. Luckily for me that meant I would get a buddy! Myself and Lorne were getting ready until Lorne started having “Cell” issues. For those of you into closed circuit rebreathers you know what that means for the rest of you not familiar with the AP Cells drama all I will say is that Cells is a critical bit of the rebreather and going diving with any warnings on them is a bad idea.

Lorne attempted to replace the cell but then it didn’t work and I buddied up with Brian and Simon and went for a dive. Vis was not exactly excellent but considering that we managed a 100 minute runtime dive that probably implies that we quite enjoyed in!!!

Back on the boat we got fed by Freda and headed out to shore.


Dessert was at least epic! (photo courtesy of MV Salutay)

On arrival to Portavogie we engaged in our favourite activity of messing around with kit. Power drills etc came into play while Al was filling our cylinders.

A scouting party was sent out to find a pub but returned empty handed as Portavogie ( which according to wikipedia comes from Irish: Port a’ Bhogaigh meaning “harbour of the bog”) is a small fishing village with a 95.9% Protestant background!!! (source: Census day 29 April 2001- wikipedia)

Monday morning after a our breakfast and a casual walk by the marina we headed out to dive the Romeo


SS Romeo (photo from The Wreck site)

SS Romeo was a British passenger / cargo ship (1730 grt) travelling to Liverpool from Scapa Flow. On the 03/03/1918 she was tricked into giving her position away by U-102 and was sunk by a torpedo with only one survivor of the 37 aboard (from the Wreck site).

During the dive me and Lorne stayed close to the bows and headed midships but we had to ascent before we made it to the stern to make the 90 min runtime requested by our skipper.

Back on the boat we followed the same routine. Lunch. messing around with kit and dinner on our arrival at Peel, IOM. Easy life! Just the way I like it!!!

Tuesday morning we headed out to dive the Stern part of the Romeo again as we hadn’t seen it in the last dive. Once again the conditions topsides were not great so we left the scooters on the boat and dived to see the stern of the wreck while the rest of the company as “wannabe” wreck detectives were digging into the wreck / sand / debris trying to find souvenirs!!!

And needless to say back on the boat for more food, more messing around with diving gear and then to the pub, where Brian demonstrated his hagling skills by buying two bottles of wine from the local pub. After a couple of drinks we headed back to the boat for some more food (surely one has to have dinner right?!!!)

Wednesday morning we left the Port St Mary, IOM to dive SS Liverpool. This was almost my favourite dive of the trip. I  love good visibility and ambient light. The wreck was less intact but the vis was awesome!!! 15-20 m easily!!! It was almost like diving abroad 🙂 well apart from the not so tropical temperature (although one cannot complain when the water temperature is 14 deg C) and the strong currents in the area, which is why we had to limit our run time to 90 min (much to my disappointment)!!!


SS Liverpool (photo from Divernet)

“SS Liverpool was a british passenger / cargo ship (686 grt). On a voyage from Liverpool to Slingo she hit a mine and sunk with loss of 3”. source: WreckSite (http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?10320)

After the dive we headed out to Douglas and “The British” to enjoy a couple of drinks in the sunshine while Freda was preparing dinner!!!

The downside of not making it to Malin Head (apart from not diving the excellent wrecks of Malin Head – of course) was that I missed my chance to visit the distillery of Bushmills


(photo showing unhappy Dimitris – missing Bushmills Irish Whiskey)

Once more Al intervened and saved the day!!!


Bushmills 10 Year-Old Single Malt

Thursday morning having been fed and watered we headed out to dive the SS Inkosi. Being very excited after the SS Liverpool dive there was a unanimous 2hr response when Al asked what our planned runtime was going to be, despite both Al and Mike predicting that vis wouldn’t be that great.


SS Inkosi photo from Newton Stewart SAC

Soon on the descent visibility deteriorated and by the time we made it to 30 m depth it was pretty dark but fortunately the water was clearing up!!! On the wreck despite the lack of ambient light visibility was great and we busied ourselves by looking into the holds and the loads of crockery. Heading to the stern Lorne spotted an abandoned dive / fishing boat anchor which we decided to leave in situ!

Apart from the wreck and the cargo there were loads of life especially Lobsters Crabs and Conger Eels some of the later ones were big enough to count as “scary”.

We were definitely enjoying ourselves because by the time we decided to end the dive and head up the current had picked up and we had more than an hour to surface!!!

After recovering all divers Freda served lunch and we started our long steam back. The weather got worst and we ended up heading to Stranaer where we spent the last night.

After arrival Freda served dinner and then we went back to messing around with our kit.

The last dive of the trip was to be the SS Rowan on Friday. The story of the sinking of the Rowan is anything between unbelievable and impossible.

SS Rowan was a passenger ship (1493 grt) on a voyage from Glasgow to Dublin. In thick fog she collided with the American steam ship Camak (5721 grt). Although the damage was not too bad it resulted in her stopping and then a second collision with the Clan Malcom (5994 grt) which resulted in SS Rowan sinking quickly with the loss of 13 crew members and 3 passengers. Two more of the survivors died later of the injuries (from the Wrecksite).

Al seemed worried about tides and recommended us “not to blow the arse of it” and by that we assume he meant stay to runtimes of about 90 minutes. Which we did (more or less). Sadly visibility was poor and of course dark as dark gets!

After surfacing he headed back to Stranraer loaded our gear into the cars said our goodbyes to Al and Freda and started our journey back.

Overall I enjoyed this trip very much. I got to dive every day, on some pretty cool wrecks, log 10 more hours on my unit and enjoy the excellent company I was in. We didn’t got to dive the wrecks of Malin Head but…

…well I suppose that is a good reason to book another diving trip right?! 🙂

A number of videos were filmed and I will update the links below as the videos are published.

  • Neil’s Video
  • Mike’s Video here
  • Simon’s Video

Many thanks go to:

  • Al and Freda for looking after us
  • Mike Ferguson for organizing the trip
  • Lorne Thompson for the driving and being a great dive buddy
  • The rest of the team (Brian Burnett, Simon Carter, Neil Masson, Jer Cameron and Gar Petrie) for making it fun!