If you read Diving magazines there is a common tenancy to refer to the older members of the club in mocking terms  ‘crinkly divers’ being one of them!  The truth is yes plenty of old stories of how it was but also and often forgotten is that it is those divers who paved the way for better equipment and facilities for modern diving!

The truth is with homemade wetsuits very small cylinders diving did tend to be about only worrying about not freezing to death or running out of air, decompression was something to be dreamt of.

However not only was the equipment problematic but getting out to a dive site without having a club boat became an interesting part of the equation!

Enterprising fishermen soon learnt they could make extra money taking out divers for very little extra effort and this is where ‘Stan Hall’s ark’ came in.

The Farne Islands in Northumberland  has  always been  a favourite location for the Club and when you find an available boat it had to be tried if it spared towing the aging Club boat that was not always going to start!.

Well a contingent of twelve turned up for the weekend at the Farnes   booked by an ex-member of the Club. Promises of accommodation and a boat were a real hit and cheap to boot. However rather importantly he had forgotten to tell the group that one of the reasons it was cheap was no bedding supplied!  sleeping bags were rather required in May in the North East!  and pre-mobile phones  most people had left for the North East before the oversight was discovered and leaving after work initially the most important task was to make last orders!

The accommodation was a dormitory made of breezeblock  and would have been cold at the best of times, however once the alcohol wore off , one member lost it issued several rude words, banged two dustbin lids together (dustbin lids and him are another story) which was not really essential as most were awake anyway and disappeared into the night. Well actually he drove home and took the poor passengers gear with him.

It was therefore the following day when a rather ragged bunch of tired divers met Stan for the first time and were introduced to the ark alongside the quay at Seahouses. The boat was bobbing about in the harbour (never a good sign) and when given the once over an obvious question was asked? How do we get back into the boat! Stan looked at us as if we were mad and famously quoted ‘How do you think!’ You climb up the tyres hung over the side! (How stupid of us to think he might have a ladder!)

So there you have it, did we turn around and go home NO! We went out on the Ark got seasick as it rolled around (or was that the alcohol)  and bravely threw  ourselves over the side. You have to visualise that the deck was so far down stood up only your head was visible and to get over the side you had to stand on a bench and throw yourself out!

After the dive you then had to try and put a knee into one of the tyres and try and haul yourself up high enough for somebody to grab your harness and pull you bodily over the side! And then freefall into the deck!

Ask around a few will eventually own up to being on this  epic trip!

It was a story from many many years ago and to a degree forgotten about (I wonder why!) but whilst in the Farnes this last trip a chance conversation led me to believe the ‘ark’ still existed  and I now have the pictures to prove it! Just imagine tyres being hung over the side and trying to get a knee into them in a pitching boat wearing a single cylinder and weight belt, and ex navy jet fins that would not fit into anything!

This weekend we swam to the back of the dive boat where the skipper lowers a hydraulic platform  into the water for you to stand on whilst you rise into the sky so that you can walk on to the deck !  So have we changed things you bet we have!)