Scapa Flow, November 2020

Boats for Scapa Flow book up quickly, and with 2019 being the 100 year centenary of the end of WW1, 2020 was a busy year. We managed to get a booking for one of the last weeks of the season in 2020. This was booked over a year in advance so 12 divers we were ready to go, with nothing to do but sit back and wait for the trip to come around.

Then COVID hit and the world was turned upside down. For most of the year it looked like the trip could not happen, we were prepared to admit defeat and postpone on numerous occasions. We saw a few of the original 12 divers pull out along the way for various very good reasons, but we did end up with a full compliment of 12 divers.

Rules related to what we could and couldn’t do seemed to change weekly in the run up to the trip, but in the last days before we were due to depart the rules relating to travel to Scotland changed, the skipper of the boat we were on made sure we were compliant with all relevant travel and accommodation rules and we were able to travel.

Due to the collapse of the regional airlines we had to drive. It seemed like an intimidating journey, but by splitting up into 4 vehicles and with a very eclectic selection of music and chat, the miles flew by. We spent an overnight in Inverness on the way up to break the journey, and on Saturday October 31st we boarded the ferry to Stromness.

The omens were not great; we had 60mph winds, rough seas and a ferry that had difficulty getting to the dock in Scrabster to pick us up! We got out on the last ferry, all the subsequent ferries that day were cancelled due to the weather.

When we arrived in Stromness we were met with driving rain and high winds. The skipper and her husband, Emily and Ben Wade, met us and we loaded our gear onto the boat. At that point it was hard to believe we would be getting much diving done! However, the process was made more bearable by the presence of a winch to load our heavy gear.

Sunday November 1st was, as we suspected, a no diving day. The high winds continued but we filled the day with a whistle stop tour of Orkney, visiting the Italian church, the Churchill barriers, the ring of Brogdar and Skara Brae. We ended the day with a walk along the cliffs with the rough seas crashing against the coast.

Monday was altogether different and we were able to get out on the boat (the Huskyan). On the first day we covered two very impressive wrecks, the Dresden and the Karlsruhe, really brought to life by the fantastic briefing delivered by the skipper, Emily.

Tuesday we dived the very impressive and huge Kronprinz Wilhelm battleship and the Cöln, which was a very intact cruiser.

Wednesday put us on the Markgraf, another battleship, and the Karlsruhe again.

Thursday was another windy day but Emily found us 2 sheltered dives, the F2 and the V83. Two very nice dives and a pleasant change to do a shallow and light dive after the deeper dives of the previous days.

Friday was our last day and we were met with fantastic weather. We dived the Brummer and the Cöln. A great end to the trip.

We sailed back at 09:00am on Saturday November 7th and all drivers did well to make the journey back in one hit. Again, the journey flew by with great company and the chance to hear more music that was new to me!

Stratford Divers is a fantastic group to dive with and travel with, and this trip exemplifies the qualities of the members. Living with the uncertainty of whether the trip would happen, making the most of days when we cant dive, making a 10 hour drive feel like a quick jaunt to the supermarket. The group was excellent, the boat was fantastic as was the skipper and crew. I think we are looking forward to running a similar trip one day in the future…maybe post virus!


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