Five of us and Three Scottie dogs headed across to Loch Fyne for a final dive of the year and an excuse for lunch at the George Hotel in Inverary to celebrate the end of 2011.
After leaving Perth at just after 8am and viewing an amazing sunrise (mixture of purples oranges and reds) in the rear view mirror we arrived at Furnace Village Loch Fyne for 10:20 just as the rain started. Four of us kitted up and headed down to the rocky shoreline for buddy checks. With the warm winter the water was still a hot 9 degrees Celsius on the surface and 11 degrees Celsius below the halocline ( Where Salt water / Fresh Water meet) Typically the fresh water sits on top of the Sea water in the Sea lochs where tidal currents are minimal.
Spike and I headed right while Chris and Steve headed left and they came across Dogfish City all grouped around one area. We descended to 26m to the bottom of the rock slope instead of sand and silt the bottom was covered in bark and plant material which had attracted quite a few Squat lobsters, Hermit Crabs and on the rocks several species of anenomes, we headed right to see if we could find a snake lock anenome Spike had seen here in the past we came across a Bootlace worm and Hermit Crabs (With Cloak Anenomes on the shells), after reaching the sandy slope we turned back heading up the rocky slope.
On several rocks we could see egg clumps being laid by large whelks approximately 8cm in length, we came across lots of Sea squirts and Black gobies and Leopard-spotted gobies quite happily living together with Squat lobsters. Several of us noticed as you got close to the rocks at 11 meters upwards with all the rain on the surface the fresh water was leaching through the land out of the rocks and you could feel a difference in temperature.
It was still raining when we got back to the cars and Spike provided wee dram to warm us all up and we headed across to the George Hotel for a pint and Lunch some of us had the Beef Stew and the Fish and Chips before heading home. The rain had fallen as snow in the hills from Tyndrum to Crieff during the day enjoyed driving back in the snow.
Somebody had been eating too much Christmas turkey and was needing some exercise or new toys were to be proudly shown off to other members as the phone started ringing incessantly on Wednesday afternoon. Christmas pudding lassitude made finding the phone difficult but Paul’s enthusiasm soon saw an eager group assembling at the club hut at the socially acceptable time of 08:00am having been promised a sunseeker charter boat, with heated cabins, diver lift and a full Christmas lunch. I should have seen it as a sales pitch but those mince pies had done a number on me and the reality, a rain drenched car park somewhere on the West coast hit home hard. Still we’d bought the bill of goods and were now committed so might as well make the best of it.
Opportunistic diving with a short weather window is a skill that requires careful planning if you are to get it right. Phone calls to the Coastguard, weather and tide reports all suggested that bright weather in the morning would be followed by afternoon showers so the idea was to dive in the morning and then find somewhere with a real fire to enjoy a couple of hours socially before returning home at a reasonable hour. The site today was the outer reef at Furnace Quarry, sometimes called Dog Fish Reef and always an enjoyable dive, suitably close to The George‘ at Invararay
All very logical but the rain came through early as we walked the site, agreed a plan and changed in rain, heavy rain that had left a film of water on my inner suit before I had it zipped away. Paul and Spike were paired and were waiting at the water edge as Steve and I joined them. Buddy checks all round saw us entering the water with surface cover being provided by Fergus, Mollie, Hector and Tara, the water was surprisingly warm. The plan was that Paul would check out his ears having recently recovered from a ear infection and while he was doing this Steve and I would stay close by so that if he had to bail out, Spike would join us and we would dive as a threesome. As it turned out all proved to be OK and Paul and Spike moved south where they reported good life on a rock,sand and gravel slope including snakelock anemones and then the usual inhabitants of a sand/mud/detritus loch bed.
Steve and I descended the sunken concrete pontoon and briefly headed out onto the sand where numerous juvenile flat fish and a large scorpion fish were found as well as the usual squat lobsters and hermit crabs. The interesting life on this site is on the rocks themselves so we turned round and made our way back to the reef discovering dogfish city with over a dozen dogfish concentrated in one location in the bottom rocks.
Traversing the reef we came across a cushion star that due to the light conditions and when hit by the torch beam, appeared to actually glow red and orange. Clearly this was a case of festive narcosis.
Another unusual echinoderm drew our attention. This multi-armed common sun star, although widely distributed, is the first I’ve seen on this site.
One the of the characteristic beasties of this type of topography in the lochs is this worm. These tubes grow quite long and the beasties tend to be nocturnal so the best time to see them is on a night dive. As we neared the end of the dive we came across the large Ballan wrasse that lives under the concrete pontoon but he was having none of it today and swam off quite briskly as Steve and I slowly ascended from our safety stop though cold oily water just a couple of minutes after Paul and Spike had surfaced.
A cracking dive and having quickly packed up (it was a longish rain shower) and toasted the last dive of the year, the task of finding somewhere to warm up and have lunch was at hand. Luckily the George , Beef stew and Fish and Chips was the order of the day and solved the problem and indeed had they not shouted last orders (afternoon closing !) we would have been there still.
All that was left was for the designated drivers to drive home which saw heavy rain turning to snow with roads covered in slush over Glen Ogle. Another great day out with the club, thanks to Paul for organising it.