1. What do I need to bring with me?
- Chargers for anything you need to charge is always a good start, although we can probably manage to find something that will do the job if you are stuck.
- A towel for showering – the ones we provide are a little skimpy unless you are a racing snake!
- All duvets, bedding and pillows are provided.
- We have a good stock of tools aboard, although if you need anything specific, bring it with you.
- Sofnolime for rebreathers – it is expensive and can be difficult to source, especially in Shetland.
2. I don’t do technical scuba diving, I don’t think Scapa or Shetland is for me?
Scapa is not all deep dark and technical. We specialise in weeks allowing even relatively inexperienced divers to work up to diving the battleships in the flow. We would recommend you have some drysuit experience and are comfortable diving in cold water and happy to 35m.
Most of the wrecks in Shetland are accessible to anyone who can dive happily to 35-40m. They are also ideally suited to nitrox use.
3. I don’t like the cold?
Scapa is not always cold, summer water temperatures get up to around 14C and air temperatures although cooler than the mainland can be surprisingly warm.
Shetland is rarely much colder than Orkney, with maybe 1 degree colder in the summer.
You can use various places to check the weather, the Met Office is always a good place to start! Please bring a waterproof and something warm for the evenings.
4. It has no shops!
Orkney is not as isolated as it may seem. Stromness has a large range of shops, a supermarket, two dive shops (one offering overnight repairs and servicing) and a good selection of pubs to eat out in. Kirkwall has several supermarkets, larger stores and an airport.
Shetland has a very good commercial centre a stones throw from the boat, with many large chain stores. The only thing it really lacks is a dedicated dive shop, although one shop is stocking more and more gear. However, we can order most equipment for overnight delivery if something breaks or loan you some of our equipment.
5. Orkney is the back of beyond, what should I bring with me that I can’t get up there?
Stromness is a very nice small town. It has many pubs, which do excellent food and have a good selection of beers and spirits. But then, being divers, we wouldn’t drink lots of alcohol would we?
There is a cash point, Co-op, butchers, bakers, fish and chip shop, numerous gift shops, etc, etc. Please try to support local trade by using the smaller shops and not the supermarket.
There are two dive shops – the Dive Cellar which is the closest to the harbour. This sells a huge selection of Scapa Flow clothing if you are keen to advertise you have dived the flow.
There is also Scapa Scuba, a 5 minute walk through the town. Situated in the old Lifeboat house it is an excellent place to mosey on to have a chat about gear and has a much larger stock of kit plus can help with any technical issues. As well as the usual diving equipment, they make novelty hoods, as well as quality drysuits, even a superman drysuit…
Suit repairs can be done overnight by Ben who even delivers the suit back to the boat in the small hours, so don’t panic if you bust your zip or rip your neck seal. They also run most PADI & IANTD courses.
What Stromness has:
- Post Office
- Banks (Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, both with cash points)
- Gift Shops
- Fish & Chip Shop
- Library with free internet access
- Art Gallery
- Swimming Pool
- Laundry facilities
- Long Stay Parking
- Two Dive shops, one of which does overnight repair and servicing.
- Bus Service to Kirkwall.
- Doctors Surgery
- Recompression Chamber
- Regular ferry service to the mainland.
What Stromness doesn’t have:
- Hospital (Balfour hospital in Kirkwall has an A&E department)
- Airport (Kirkwall)
- Nightclub (Kirkwall has a small selection)
- Curry house (Kirkwall).
- Chinese Takeaway (Kirkwall)
6. Lerwick, that’s a couple of houses, a pony, some sheep and a pub right?
Noooo, Lerwick is a busy town and port with everything associated with it. There are many pubs and bars, too many to count for me. It has lots of places offering food, from take away kebabs to a stunningly good pizzeria, a Mongolian restaurant, a huge Chinese/Thai restaurant and a world famous chippie. Larger stores include a Boots, a department store which seems to sell absolutely everything, some clothes stores, a very good book shop, a massive fancy dress and joke shop (!) and the wonderful ‘Shetland Soap Company’ who do lots of home made smellies – ideal as gifts to take home.
What Lerwick Has:
- Post office
- Gift Shops
- Fish & Chip Shop
- Chinese take away
- Indian restaurant
- Wi-Fi (payable at the Tourist Info)
- Swimming Pool
- Laundry facilities (quite a long way from the boat though)
- Car Hire
- Doctors Surgery
- Regular ferry service to the mainland
What Lerwick doesn’t have:
- The airport is in Sumburgh which is about 35 mins by taxi from Lerwick.
7. What if I break some gear?
If we are at sea, or somewhere remote, we can usually sort out something – both Helen and Hazel have their own personal dive gear aboard and can help out with pretty much all problems. Tools are also kept aboard. If you damage your suit, we recommend Scapa Scuba for repairs as they have a genuine overnight service and you will not lose any dives. If we are in Shetland you really have to look after your kit, be sure your neck seals are in top condition as a torn one cannot be repaired easily.
8. I don’t quite know what I am letting myself in for…
The Scapa Flow Dives – What to Expect.
Scapa is what you make it. People always think it is deep, dark and technical. Well, it can be, if you want it to be. It can also be shallow, light and friendly! Depths range from 10m on the blockships to 45m on the battleships and the James Barrie. If you go out of the flow hunting for deeper stuff, you are into mix territory, but there are some excellent dives up there if you do.
The German Fleet Wrecks are at the opposite end of the flow to the blockships but are not tidal. The huge hulking wrecks are truly massive with many features recognisable to even the untrained and new diver. All are shotted permanently, but many people choose not to ascend the shotline and send off an SMB as the size of the site prevents them from getting back to the start. All of the cruisers lie on their sides and are shallower than the battleships. All of the battleships lie upside down with one deck slightly higher than the other, allowing us to peek underneath at the remains of the superstructure & armaments.
The Blockships are very tidal. Because of this the life on them is spectacular, and the visibility is forever – I have had 15m easily. My favourite dive there is the Tabarka, simply because it is like diving inside a cathedral. Huge interior, I am yet to see a photograph which does it justice.
Other wrecks include the V83, the F2 and the barge which sunk while trying to salvage it and contains two anti aircraft guns. HMS Roedean, where you can still find sections of the tiled galley floor hidden in the fine silt and the fishing vessel the Radiation.
The bottle run is a great second dive – an area where the detritus from the daily life on board a ship was ejected over the side. Here you can find all manner of items, from plates, bottles, cutlery and even shell cases along with the odd scallop.
9. I have a big camera and am worried about diving with it.
Helen is a budding underwater photographer, so is well aware of all of the problems associated with a camera with large strobe arms, dome ports etc. We will work with you to make sure your camera is kept safe and sound throughout the week. A dedicated plastic box can be yours for your camera to snooze in on deck, the dunk tank will rinse it clean and as much kitchen paper as you can use will also be provided. Cameras can be lowered down to you if conditions allow, or we can lower the lift platform for you to step from nearer to the water to lessen the drop.
10. General bits and bobs.
- We can hire cylinders. If space is tight in the car – use ours! Everything from a 3l pony to DIR compliant 12?s, ali stages etc.
- Be used to using an SMB. These wrecks are big and you cannot rely on finding the shotline each dive.
- Use a drysuit. A semi is bold and brave but not sensible for a weeks repetetive diving.
- Forget your compass – a wreck is a big lump of metal.
- Mobile reception can be hit and miss but T-Mobile now have 3G service as do O2. In Shetland it can be more patchy and we can sometimes be in very remote areas.
- Water temperatures go from 4 degrees in the early spring to 14 degrees in late summer.
- Nitrox is available – just ask. Trimix we need 24 hours notice to buy the helium.
- Bring your own analyser to be sure of your mix.
- Be dived up.
- Research what is here. (Rod MacDonalds book “Dive Scapa Flow” is a great start)
Most importantly is to talk to us. We can tailor a week to your needs, advising you on sites depending on the weather day by day, but if you have something special you want to do – especially the James Barrie or the Blockships please talk to us about it early on. These are tidal dives and if you leave it late you may miss the best day to do them.
Boarding and disembarking
You can board in Stromness from 1300hrs on the Saturday. We need the morning to clean the boat and get it ready for your arrival. If you arrive earlier than this please contact us to arrange access to the boat. Disembarking in Stromness is on the Saturday morning by 0930hrs, once again to give us time to clean the boat.
In Lerwick you can board from 0730hrs on Sunday, again if you wish to board at other times please contact us. In Lerwick you should aim to be at the ferry terminal by 1600hrs for boarding.