Diving in Loch Earn

We occasionally get asked about diving in Loch Earn so I though I’d put something up that I recently sent to a fellow diver from Aberdeen.
Loch Earn  is a typical Scottish fresh water loch.
The access is very good from both sides from any of the numerous laybys. We have used it for training dives, short evening trips and the opportunity to clean off salt on the way back from the West Coast.
It has a lot of peaty water running into it so the visability can at times be like diving in tea water and consequently when it has been raining can be pitch black anywhere below 3-10 m.  That doesn’t mean it’s not clear, just dark/black.
The water is cold in winter and has a marked thermocline in summer.  Interestingly enough, Loch Earn also has a current in it! Is it tidal or gyratory I wonder??
It has a predominantly silty bottom and we have not found any walls though in the shallows you do get small reef systems.
The life is Spartan, a few fish, trout mostly with the occasional eel and freshwater sponges and hydroids if you look carefully. You are more likely to see golf balls and fishing gear though.
There is a wreck of a coal barge at the St Fillans end, I’ve not done this. It’s tentative position is between the stream outfall at the St Fillans end of the loch (Near the public toilets) and the small island in about 15m. I’m told it’s easy enough to find from a boat with a depth gauge but as I say I’ve not done it.
You do find stuff that has fallen of boats such as batteries and even outboards and we were asked to recover a hydroplane once. At the Western end of the loch at Loch Earnhead there was a WW2 army camp and apparently they dumped lots of equipment at the end of the war, Again I’ve not looked here due to the watersports boat traffic and poor access.
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The Meldon & Fish Trap – South of Mull

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.

Route from Puffin Divers Oban to Meldon15.4 Nautical Miles
Route from Puffin Divers Oban to Meldon – 15.4 Nautical Miles

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.

Meldon and Fish Trap Dive Sites Marked with Blue Pins
Meldon and Fish Trap Dive Sites Marked with Blue Pins

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.

 

Two Classic St Abbs Dives, Glanmire and Cathedral Rock – Awesome

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! 🙂

12th July South Scotland Regional DTP, Loch Fyne

You don’t always get sunshine and apparently this Saturday’s event at Loch Fyne was a wet affair though we were able to change in and out of dry-suits in the dry and enjoyed some pleasantly warm water.

With the usual drop outs and no shows there were still loads of people looking for a dive or a lesson so after our brief, the students were allocated and the lessons started.

Maureen and Fred went off on a navigational exercise exploring the inner reef and reported finding a garden gnome. A good result this and rumors that the find was a result of narcosis were disproved by the following team who also found a garden gnome.

Haydn and Duane were out again getting instruction from Claire, the newest qualified member of the instructor team and reported varying degrees of success struggling with blocked sinuses and weighting issues associated with new equipment. But this is why we support these events, they give us a chance to find out how we deal with these issues in a relatively sheltered environment before we jump into some off shore site and end up calling out the emergency services.

Simon spent the day practicing buoyancy and pilotage skills with Steve and Edwards and great improvements were reported.

Frank, a friend of the Club, who has helped us out on several occasions was around today having recently returned from a diving trip to some exotic location and was involved in Dive Leader training.

I was working with Bethan giving her a chance to try out some instructional skills as practice for future instructor exams. Being thrown in at the deep end with a dive leader Alternate Source exercise the lesson was perhaps a little ambitious so we worked on practicing the preparation and briefing before handing over the inwater mask clearing and AS skills. (Though Bethan does them better ! – Ed). One minor mishaps saw a student coughing and spluttering during a mask clear , cause for concern as he eyed the surface……. Took a while to calm down! AS drills ok and the use of a little datum line proved very useful in controlling the ascents as we bobbed up and down. After lunch we decided to do some dive leader drills and the students took it in turn to plan and then lead the dive. Both, having led several dives before, did very well. From my point of view and as a learning point, simulating a problem by dropping a fin is NOT a good idea when the fin floats away and has to be retrieved!!! The usual problems such as swimming off in the wrong directions, gradual drift down slope and getting fixated on something were all handled very well and I have to say I’d be more than happy to be taken for a dive by both of them or more importantly to see them lead an Ocean diver! Ended the dive by completing the circumnavigation of the reef and tying a small plastic bottle on 2m of line to the 54lb weight that I have been playing with on the inner reef, the idea is that it will be easier to find.

That was it, end of another training day. (the 9th August is the next one). Once again thanks to all those who attended hope you had fun, thanks to Edward for organising and all the instructors and divers who helped out. The dive slate for anyone who is interested is here

Loch Etive, MV Chana and Loch Creran, Saturday 20th July

With most of the club divers either on the Summer Lewis trip or unable to dive on Saturdays, Kim and I found ourselves joining a few friends loosely associated with Fyne divers or the Regional training attendees.

Meeting everyone in the Green Welly at Tyndrum at 09:00am gave us a leisurely drive across, getting through Loch Earnhead before their highland games started and arriving in plently of time for coffee. We were soon joined by the rest of the team and made our way down to Taynuilt and the first site.

I had dived this site before and was confident that I could find the little wreck again but unfortunately a few of the buoys had been moved and we were left wondering which one gave the start point for finding the wreck. The plan was two waves with the last team providing shore cover. The first team would locate the wreck and mark it with a DSMB, no DSMB no wreck.

And so it was that Kim and I slowily swam out to the buoy and having got our breath back descended the life encrusted chain to the bottom where I almost landed on a large skate. Beautiful fish ! We lined off in a NE direction and found the wreck. Interestingly enough while we could not see the wreck from the chain, the chain was readily apparent from the wreck!

Swimming a couple of time around the wreck, firstly at the level of the sea bed, then at deck level where we deployed and fixed the DSMB and poked our heads into the cabin. We spend a very pleasant 30 minutes enjoying what was a shallow dive at an amazing 15 degrees C, possitively balmy.

Yes ok, there was an initial hickup with my navigation as we swam back to shore on the bottom, picking up the odd pebble (would that be ‘with rough barnacles heavily encrusting a sinking stone’ Ed — hum!) as we did so but when we surfaced we saw our DSMB signal had been received and the other team of divers in the first wave were already on the wreck. The second wave went in as we stripped out of our boil in the bag costumes.

With the divers coming out on cue, we decided to move up to Loch Creran for the second dive via a coffee shop to avail ourselves of icecream, tea and of course the facilities. So we had a leisurely surface interval before moving around to ‘the Steps’ where we had another interesting dive with an amazing variety of loch life including Scorpion fish, ling and the usual gobies and juvenile flat fish and of course one or two Queen scallops.