We decided to try September this year to see if we could get calmer weather for our trip to Scourie, unfortunately not, however we were able to launch the Rhib from the beach at Tarbet. On the Saturday the winds were blowing 15-16 mph from the South and as the tide changed on the flood we noticed the wave action increased so we were only able to dive safely around Great Stack on the North side of Handa Island.
We dropped our divers South of the Great Stack so that we could swim through the cavernous interior, there was some swell and the seabed was covered in smooth rocks a orange Scorpion fish was the only life we saw, heading down into area to the north of the stack we could see the waves crashing into the top of the rocks some 20 metres above us.
I could see some jewel anemones, mixed with large colonies of Orange Parasmittina trispinosa and white branching Bryozoa, we headed west over some boulders to a cave at the base of the cliffs, then headed back around the rock to the north of the Stack, Eddy found a Crab for his BBQ and we headed for the surface.
After lunch on the beach at the East Side of Handa Island we headed across to the Pinnacle about half a mile North of Tarbet, which was now dive-able with the change in tides. We dropped a shot onto the east side at about 10 Metres depth, the rock is covered in lots of interesting channels and we followed one of these down to 30 metres. Despite the gloom we could see the rocks down to 50 metres depth, then to our left a Crawfish standing proud on a ledge, we headed further round the pinnacle to spot a second Crawfish before heading back up to the surface.
On the Sunday the rain had passed, so we had the sun, but the wind and swell limited our options so we decided to head to Loch Laxford from Tarbet for a dive. Hayden, Mark and I dropped down to 30 metres, after heading along the reef covered in feather stars, we found a couple of Ling and Hayden spotted a Octopus hiding in the rocks.
As we returned to the surface there were shoals of whiting swimming above the kelp.
Steve and I had been planning to do the Meldon for several months now and the opportunity came up.
So Paul, Steve, Gary, Izzy, Mark and Taylor headed out at 9am on Deep Dancer, our Club Rhib, from Puffin Dive Centre near Oban. The trip in good seas takes about 40 minutes and is 15.4 NM, in the morning we had calm seas although we were aware of the Rain and Cloud Forecast for the rest of the day.
The Meldon is a great wreck for Novice / Ocean / PADI Open Water divers as there is little or no current on her and she is a relatively intact wreck. The Rudder post breaks the surface at low water and there is lots to see including the Cast Iron Propeller and Rudder, Boilers which are open on the Port Side and the Bow which has fallen over but is very scenic, surprising to see when you consider that she would be exposed to Winter storms from the South.
The Meldon Launched in 1902 at Newcastle is a 1572 Tonne 310 ft Long Steamship, Steel hull construction. On the 3rd of March 1917 while carrying a cargo of Coal from Wales she struck a mine in the Firth of Lorn laid by a German U Boat. The Captain headed for the south Coast of Mull where the Crew got off the boat, she sank with the Stern near the shore, perhaps the Captain thought he could save the ship and was making repairs before a pump failed?
Diving the wreck there is broken shell coarse sand around the wreck with plenty of Sugar and Forest Kelp covering her, on the Stern section she has Elegant Anemones and Dead Mans fingers. The Visibility was about 6-8 metres and you could see she is home to Ballan Wrasse and Pollack, this wreck is 300 ft long and towards the bows section she is more broken up. Definitely a pretty and enjoyable wreck, easily covered in one dive and if we’d have had bright sunlight the wreck would have been a lot more colourful too.
We headed further along the coast to Carsaig Quay for a picnic stop, the clouds were low and a steady drizzle coupled with Midges didn’t make this an ideal stop.
Although in better weather we would have a chance of spotting Eagles hunting on the Southern Slopes of Mull. We Dived the Fish Trap Just South of Carsaig Quay as a second dive which was a gently sloping reef dropping to sand at 20 metres. Gary and Izzy found an Octopus on their dive. With the Tide and Swell changing Deep Dancer was slower on the return run to Oban taking about 1.15 minutes. It’s great to get out and find new dive sites.
I organised a trip down to Coldingham and St Abbs to show some of our newer divers what the Berwickshire Coastline has to offer.
We have been lucky previously with trips on the West Coast including Skye, Summer Isles and Handa Island so thought I’d try and see if we could have some luck on the East coast. There had been a strange weather pattern with weak systems sitting over the UK and a Large Low Weather System (later to cause the near flooding of the Louvre in Paris) moving over Mainland Europe and then heading slowly North which was threatening to bring in Northerly cold weather to the East Coast. Fortunately for us the winds calmed down on the Thursday night to 5-6 mph but I wasn’t sure of what visibility we were going to get.
On the Sunday morning we decided to do a morning dive on the Glanmire a steamship that ran aground on St Abbs head on the 25th July 1912 in poor visibility. After all the crew and passengers were rescued she drifted off the Rocks and sank a few 100 metres off the Lighthouse. The Glanmire sits in 32-24 Metres depth and the hull has opened up to show the two boilers and large steam engine.
So, after coordinating with the local dive skippers we used the permanent shot which is positioned a short distance from the boilers to descend onto the wreck. With it being neaps this also gave us a bigger slack window to dive the wreck.
Normally for me I’m used to 6-8 metres visibility on the East Coast and was amazed to find I could see the wreck laid out from a depth of 14 metres. With a cold start to the year and water temperature of 9 degrees Celcius, the Algal Blooms hadn’t hit us yet and we were fortunate to get 20 metres vis. The Glanmire was stunning, you got a real feel for the size of the wreck (1141 Tonnes Gross) which had a mixture of Wrasse and Pollack on it, I didn’t see any schools of Saith yet, later in the Summer perhaps? The wreck was covered in Deadman’s Fingers, a few Horseman Anemones, Spider Crabs and Lobsters and Edible crabs hiding in the plates of the wreck.
After heading back to St Abbs for lunch the second dive was to be Cathedral Rock only 2 minutes in the Rib from the Harbour. This dive is potentially best done at low tide as the rocks are submerged at high tide and the Charts on Navonics or Garmin are no help. At high tide only Little Green Carr breaks the water and the Rocks that form the Reef, which include Cathedral Rock, are approximately 30 – 40 metres to the south of Little Green Car. Be careful, Cathedral rock is the 2nd Rock in and from memory should line up on a 120ish bearing from the Gully that comes out of the Harbour wall, and yes you can do it as a shore dive.
We dropped Steve and Ben then Hamish and Eddy near the rock first and thankfully I had got it right, had been a few years since I had dived here, phew! Hayden and I dropped in on the 2nd wave and I’m glad I had sorted out my strobes and Lens as one of the regulars, a Ballan Wrasse, popped over to say hello. I then took Hayden on a tour of the Arches, looking at the mixture of Anemones covering the ceiling of the arches and the pool of air caught in the roof of the second arch (Reminded me of the up turned Bath at Dorothea Quarry, that frequented the top of the tunnel) before exploring East to find any reefs. Returning back to Cathedral rock from the East we were met with amazing walls of Dead Mans fingers.
The comment from Hayden was f***ing awesome which I assume meant the second dive was even more spectacular than the Glanmire. You can’t beat British diving at its best! 🙂
After two weeks of settled Weather, we decided to head out from Oban on Deep Dancer down to the Gavellachs (Islands of the Sea) and try one of the Channels between the Islands.
Usually strong currents provide divers with lots of life to see and we were not let down this time, however as with all these dives care must be taken to dive them on neaps and close to slack water.
Dropping at the Blue Pin we dropped down to 16 metres and the Viz was about 5-6 metres with lots of Kelp and then Patches of Reef covered in Dead mans Fingers and Elephants Ears Chris and I worked our way round towards the channel where the current picked up condisderably. We followed the Kelp using it to help keep out of the main current and slow our drift.
We had heard that the Crawfish were out but didn’t manage to spot any this time.
A small team took a day off to go for a sneaky dive in Loch Long at the A-frames.
The dive was a checkout for a newly qualified CCR diver so a relaxed trip with a certain amount of kit reconfiguration in evidence. As expected attention was paid to harness adjustments and coming to terms with the order of pre-dive checks before actually getting into the water for a weight check. It was also really useful to rethink the buddy check as applied to CCR diving.
The dive itself was a very gentle bimble to a maximum depth of 15m to look at the pylons, stopping regularly to check PPO2 readings, cell mVolts and practicing basic drills. With the extra time in the water offered by the CCR there was still loads of time to enjoy the marine life with numerous transparent shrimps hiding under rusting plates.
Getting really close to these was very pleasing and we watched then for several minutes before bimbling on. The usual mix of squidgy life and swimming crabs provided interest as well as some enormous edible crabs that had started to dig into the mud to incubate their eggs.
An hour later and with a boat propeller sounding about us we thought it time to make an ascent, not 10% sure of how far we had drifted and then swum back. Surfacing the weather had deteriorated and grey rainy weather, fading in twilight had replaced the broken cloud that we had entered on. We were about right with the navigation and only a short swim brought us back to the entry point, where in the shallows the cold surface water took it’s toll on the hands.
All in all a very cheeky and enjoyable dive snatched from some very changeable conditions.
Steve organised a Wednesday evening dive on the Mako with Steve Haddow to dive a World War two wreck the Arizona (Not the one in Pearl Harbour). the Arizona was a Merchantman carrying 600 tonnes of Coal from Methil, unfortunately she hit a mine and sunk with 5 of her 8 crew lost with her. What remains today are a flattened hull section with ribs sticking out of the sand and the main feature her Engine, I understand the Navy swept her with a wire to a depth of 11 meters to reduce the chance of a hazard to shipping now she is home to lots of marine life.
We were lucky enough to enjoy a sunny evening and 5 to 6 metres of visibility on the wreck. Photos below:
First thanks to Steve for organising the Easter Trip our traditional event to kick of the summer dive season. On the Friday Chris and I did a couple of productive dives with a first dive collecting a few Scallops for Tea and then a wall dive off Bach Island just to the South Of Kerrera, this wall tends to be hit by strong tides on the Ebb, but is protected during a Flood tide. The wall was dark with lots of sediment / plankton in the water but worth it as it is covered in Elegant anemones, Dead Mans fingers, Colonial Sea Squirts, and we saw a few Flabellina pedata and other species of Colourful Nudibranch, nice and worth braving the 7 degrees Celsius water.
Sunday Diving – John and Eddie two of our Ocean Diver Trainees enjoying lunch & the View of Mull on the Island of Kerrera.
Getting organised this year just seems to have been hard ! Mid March and I felt I needed a shakedown dive as it had been so long since I’d been in the water, I was starting to lose interest. To be honest the winter weather had promised snow conditions and the lure of winter-sports held sway in the weekend’s activities but fickle as the weather is, the few days when I could actually get time off coincided with gales, closed snow gates and a general lassitude that saw me going no further than the shops. But March and still thinking about shake down dives seems almost implausible for an all year round diver. And we won’t mention Man-flu. Was I going to get in, could I still do it and would the kit actually work.
Nothing was further from my mind than diving when I rang Paul up for a social chat, “how you getting on ? what! the girls are off doing what! Oh! er Sunday, will be out late on Saturday, where, don’t know where that is but I’ll find it, keep your phone on ?” Lassitude, effort, followed by grumpiness and then the realisation that all the shinnies were spread around the house is various states of dis-assembly – “Oh Sh*t!”.
First off I had to find the shed keys to fill tanks, then I had to find the tanks buried as they were under tarpaulins and general garage gauno. An hour later and behind schedule saw standard OC equipment thrown in a bag and a mental note to find hood and gloves and not to forget the undersuit, BCD and weight belt when I packed the car. 01:30 am I found a pillow and drifted into the arms of Morpheus quietly swearing about …. everything.
I’m not sure if the dog or the alarm woke me but with lots to do I was up and still half asleep packed the car, remembering the torch and there was something else I couldn’t quite remember so walked the dog. Ah that was it, the undersuit, where did I put that.
The plan was to drive across to Finnart terminal and meet up with Ewan and Paul who would drive up from near Dunoon in Ewan’s boat Carrick Castle to pick us up. I met Edward at the ‘overspill’ car park and having informed the incumbent Dive School that there would be a boat coming in to pick us up (very considerate – Ed) set the kit up and transported it down to the low water mark. Ewan and Paul were just about on time and having stowed the kit aboard we crossed the loch to Cnap point below the beacon on the north shore. The sun shone and the weather was fine,
The chart suggested a small wall and the topography looked interesting so having moved over the ‘wall’ a couple of times with the depth sounder we decided that two waves was safest and Edward and I kitted up, buddy checked and rolled off on the point. &^^$$£$%%^&^&*& , the surface layer had zero vis! Literally side by side, we descended and luckily once through the fresh water, the vis cleared and we landed on a small wall and gully that led down past an anchor to boulders. Lots of plumose anemones, shriveled up in the dark and cold covered the glaciated rocks while a few small pollack swam nervously past, flashing in the torches before escaping into the darkness. A scallop or two, small and lonely were left and horseman anemones, large and fat provided a dash of color in a greeny grey world. Perhaps the highlight of the dive was a large mature pipefish, fattened by eggs it was carrying. Edward and I descended until we reached mud and just edged into a decompression penalty before returning to practice a couple of drills in the shallows while doing our stops.
The pickup was excellent and very professional, mind you we would not have expected anything else! Diving pairs swapped over, Paul and Ewan dropped in on the point and followed a similar route, spending more time at the anchor and on the life encrusted boulders that provided the photo opportunities for Paul. Excitement was briefly injected to the job of surface cover when two MOD Police rhibs sped rather close to the divers and we had to position ourselves to divert them away. The MOD use the far side of the loch for high speed travel in deference to the popularity and use of the Finnart dive sites, so we must have provided some variation to their patrol routine. Paul and Ewan’s bubbles moved up-slope and a DSMB popped up which they quickly followed. After recovering them we skimmed back across to the A-frames to beach and disembark the kit after a excellent little dive. With everything unloaded, Carrick Castle majestically disappeared down the loch and all that was left was to pack the cars and head home.
An excellent day. Thanks to Ewan for providing the boat and the Edward and Paul for the company.
From a collective shakedown perspective , I was over-weighted but also a little cold, but things will warm up soon. My trim was all to pot, tank way to far up the BCD and the trim weights I had in the jacket for pool use (and forgot to take out) didn’t help at all. Seemed to be a lot of dangly bits and revisiting how gauges, torches and regulators are stowed is no bad thing remembering to check you can reach them underwater. I think this months Diver mag had an article about getting back in the water and yes we had issues with DSMB reels running smoothly and tangled lines, computer batteries saying no and the proverbial mask straps and buckles….