Picture a lump of rock sticking out of the Sea, several miles out Northwest of Ilfracombe, barely inhabited by humans, and thus very popular with seals and gulls, and all manner of assorted sea creatures busy eating each other in clear waters, under towering cliffs and sculptured inlets. Sounds a great place for a marine tour, and soaking up some rays on the back of a boat whilst you stuff another fish sarnie down the hatch.
Now picture it after a massive 4 day storm. Not quite got the picture? Neither did we, so we gave it a shot.
Sunday morning, I looked out the B&B window, rain pattered down the glass, and a heavy sea mist rolled into Ilfracombe like a scene from the old Horror movie 'The Fog'. A fair scene setter for the days outing. After a hearty breakfast, I drove down to the Harbour, where we joined our other divers loading our gear onto the Hardboat, the only vessel showing any intention of leaving the comfy confines of the harbour. As we loaded and stacked our kit in the miserable drizzle, the Skipper cheerily remarked 'It can only get better lads, we 've got plenty of free tea an coffee!'
It was a 90 min journey out to Lundy from here, but the cautious and wise were already stretching into dry suits, a wise precaution. Once loaded, the boat cut around the harbour, and soon started its battle to carve a wake and course through the lumpy tea which today was our version of coastal waters. 15 minutes into the struggle and we'd gained our first victim to the sporty pitching and rolling of the boat, which maintained its persistence till we sighted the island an hour and a half later. As we did a circuit of the island, I was wondering what sort of safari I was on, as I could see lots more white horses than fish.
Eventually the skipper found a sheltered cove cut into some rocks which was spared the worst of the conditions. There were some seals having a merry old time here, so this was the spot. 'Remember lads, the bottom is 11m, but its a bit silty, so stay out of that, it shelves up to about 8M, stay out of that too, cos in this swell the movement of the kelp will make you seasick, have a nice dive!'
The dive was everything the Skipper promised, as we picked our way through the stirred up shallows in about 2M viz. We were however, rewarded with some very close seal encounters, as they had to come in pretty close to amuse themselves at our expense, so that made it worthwhile, as a family of three surrounded me and my buddy, and tried to munch through my stab jacket straps.
As morning wore into lunchtime the wind dropped a bit, and the sun came out, making it a pleasant place to loiter and eat lunch, swap tales and show off our shark bites. In the afternoon, we had a second dive at a pinnacle stack, allowing depths down to about 30M. Unfortunately, the visibility wasn't much better, but one of our members sighted a rare and unusual sponge crab living in one of the many crevices, which was a good spot in the conditions. Our trip back to Ilfracombe was much more pleasant than the trip out, as the weather further improved towards the end of the day.