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.

 

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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! 🙂

Diving the Arizona Wreck off Elie in Firth of Forth

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:

Third time lucky! Bell Rock and the Wreck of the SS Ugie

We had organised several trips to the Bell Rock over the last few years but due to poor weather plans had changed.  The Bell rock is a almost submerged red sandstone reef approximately 12 miles off Arbroath.  The Bell Rock lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson for Trinity lighthouse and completed in 1811 the same foundations are over 200 years old. which is impressive when you see that the Lighthouse is constantly being besieged by the seas.

We headed out from Anstruther on the Mako, a hardboat owned by Steve Haddow to Dive the SS Ugie a steamship Trawler which sunk on the 16th March 1900 after a collision with the Dundee Trawler Taymouth then travel onto the Bell Rock for our second Shallow dive on the reef.

The weather was in our favour and after Steve put in the Shot we noticed that the tide was still running but need to keep to a tight time table, Derek and I were the third Pair of divers in the water and after a long swim to the seabed. The shot had dragged off the wreck and after a 100 metre swim against the current we reached the midships of the the wreck in 34.5metres to the seabed.  The Midships of the wreck was broken up but you could swim inside the hold and then we headed towards the Stern of the wreck she is covered in lots of life including a few large Lobsters,  The Ugie is about 130 ft long according to Bob Baird but we only had a short window to explore the stern section.

We headed across to the Bell Rock enjoying the sunshine and calm seas.  After a cup of Tea Derek and I dropped in to dive the Reef and the remains of the HMS Argyll which struck the Bell Rock in a Storm on the early hours of the 28th October 1915, all the crew were rescued which included a heroic effort by the Lighthouse keepers. After being blown up by the Royal Navy she was heavily salvaged and in the summer of 1970 the two massive manganese-bronze propellers weighing 14½ tons each were recovered by the Local Condor Sub Aqua Club.

Most of the reefs are covered in Kelp and the average depth varies between 9 -13 metres we found some plates and ribs as well as a , Gary and Izzy found an Anchor probably from one of the many ships that have been wrecked on the the Bell Rock Reef, we also found some large Bollards which we reckoned were from the Argyll.  We didn’t see too much life other than juvenile Cod and Two Spotted Wrasse, overall an interesting dive and one to tick off the list; the highlight was being able to see the Bell Rock Lighthouse up close a feat of British Engineering.

 

 

Perth BSAC Summer Isles Trip August 2014 – Fair Weather Five and Boston Stirling

After a Five hour drive up to Altandhu we pitched our tents quickly at the Port a Bhaigh campsite encouraged by the Midges we quickly headed off to the Am Fuaran Bar stopping to watch the beautiful sunset over the Summer Isles to plan our diving on the Saturday. 

Sunset from Altandhu
Sunset from Altandhu

After a full cooked Scottish Breakfast (Potato Scones included) we headed off to Old Dornie Harbour a 5 minute drive from the campsite to launch our Rib. Old Dornie is a excellent base to explore the Summer Isles with a short 10 minute ride you can drive across to Priest Island or 20-25 minutes to the Fairweather five on the other side of Loch Broom.

We decided to head across to the Fairweather Five as our first Dive arguably one of Scotland’s most prettiest wrecks the best marks we had for her are 57.56.350 N and 005.21.343 W which were spot on thanks to Andy Holbrow – Atlantic Diving Services in Achiltibuie.  After a bumpy ride across Loch Broom fortunately she was already buoyed with the seabed about 32 metres and the superstructure rises up to 19 metres so she is easy to spot on a sounder. 

I jumped in with Spike to take some photos of the Wreck and this is what we found:

What a dive! The plan was to dive the Key hole on Priest Island but the Atlantic Swells were against us making the dives dangerous, so we headed across to Three Skerries called Sgeir Nam Mult.  While preparing to dive Bethan’s Pony was so excited it jumped in first!  With the Man overboard button pressed, a shot deployed Chris and Bethan mounted a successful search and rescue mission.  Steve and I jumped in just on the Western Edge of the Skerries with the Kelp line at 18 metres we descended to 27 metres to spot Long spined Bullhead (Scorpion Fish) and a Ling hiding amongst the boulders. A second good dive.

With Strong winds and lots of Rain forecast for the Saturday night we headed to the Bar for some Burgers and a couple of pints, to help sleep through the rain in our tents. This definitely helped and Four of us emerged at 6:30 am on the Sunday morning to make porridge and break camp.  We had been able to put Deep Dancer on a mooring for the night to save time and we were off to the first dive site just after 9am.  All good!

Our first dive was a successful Scallop bash, with plenty of scallops to keep the folks at home happy. conciuos of time we headed across to the Island of Tamera More to dive the Boston Stirling wreck another Trawler that sank in the 90’s amazingly intact and only in 13 metres of Water. 

Here are some photos from the Boston Stirling Wreck (58°0’01” N 5°24’30” W) which is now buoyed – Green Buoy that drops to a Concrete Block and you then head along a rope 30 or so metres to where the wreck lies on its side tucked into the end of the bay please be careful that on some of the charts the Wreck is in the next bay along and you will end up diving SS Vicinity 😉  

Finally thanks to Hamish, Spike, Chris, Bethan and Steve for an enjoyable weekends diving and socializing.

 

Summer Isles – 1.8 – 3.8.14

Posted on Steve’s behalf:

Viewing the weather forecast with some trepidation, Spike, Hamish, Paul, Chris, Bethan & Steve headed for Altandhu for the second 2014 camping & RHIB diving weekend.

2014-08-01 21.29.58

All tents were pitched by 9pm on Friday & the team headed to the pub for a pre-weekend thirst quencher and a meeting with local commercial diver, Andy Holbrow, who had kindly agreed to fill our tanks as well as arranging for ‘Deep Dancer’ (DD) to be kept on a mooring by the Old Dornie slip.

Local knowledge is invaluable when finalising dive plans and the meeting with Andy was enjoyable and very informative with site co-ordinates being clarified as well as learning about intricate site details.

An al fresco Saturday breakfast preceded a speedy launch & loading of our trusty ‘Deep Dancer’ RHIB at Old Dornie and we were soon underway in fine conditions heading to the wreck of the ‘Fairweather V’.

A shot had been prepared but was unnecessary since Andy’s co-ordinates put us on top of a permanent shot mounted amidships on the wreck.
Trailblazers Bethan & Chris led the way to this spectacular wreck of a steel fishing trawler which sank on 4th February 1991 after running aground. As she was being pulled off by a tugboat water rushed into an open hatch to the engine room and she settled upright in 25-30m off the headland at Cairn Dearg.

Steve & Hamish formed the second wave with Spike & Paul the third, the broad grins on everyone’s faces on surfacing all telling a similar story.

All reported superb diving, the wreck being covered in plumose anemones and swarming with fish life in vis around 8m.

Lunch was taken on board DD as we reviewed options for the afternoon dive, our preferred site, the ‘Keyhole’ on the northeast corner of Priest Island being shrouded by white water. After looking at several possibilities we settled for the Sgeirean Glasa reef where all teams reported a site teaming with life with Wrasse, Luing, Pollock and shoals of tiny silvery fish.

With DD safely moored for the night, Steve & Bethan delivered the empty tanks to Andy’s house.

After reviving showers, we enjoyed a few aperitifs prior to well-earned dinners and a few more drinks before making a dash for the tents in pouring rain and gusty winds! Andy delivered full tanks to the camp site so all was set for Sunday.

Unfortunately, Hamish was unable to dive on Sunday; Spike kindly offered to head home with Hamish so the team was now reduced to four.

The bad weather had passed during Saturday night, chinks of sunshine appearing as Bethan & Steve swam to recover DD from her mooring.

Back on plan, we headed to the Sgeir Dubh rocks and adjoining reef. This was another pretty site, but as Chris & Bethan prepared to dive, Bethan’s pony tank quick release system released her pony which promptly disappeared to the sea bed!

15 minutes into the ensuing search and recovery exercise Bethan recovered her errant pony! Another excellent dive followed, spotting 3 dogfish.

Steve & Paul checked out the 30m isobaths during their dive, duly discovering Scallop city; Steve’s goody bag was quickly filled

IMG_1857

IMG_1856.

Bethan took the helm & we sped to the final dive site of the weekend, the wreck of the ‘Boston Stirling’ lying bows in towards the shore on the southern side of Tannara Beag Island. She sank in 1983, apparently while her crew cooked chips which caused a fire and in the ensuing confusion she hit the rocks! She lies on her starboard side in shallow water & is permanently marked by a green buoy which we tied onto for lunch, then dived in two waves. Again both groups enjoyed relaxing dives in good conditions to round off the weekend.

Quick recovery, kit stowed, we briefly stopped at the camp site to hose DD down prior to heading for Perth.

Unfortunately, DD’s trailer failed about 4 miles short of Ullapool, resulting in a 5 hour delay while we waited & subsequently had DD and her trailer recovered to a garage at Ullapool.

However, we’d all enjoyed an excellent weekend’s diving in fine conditions! DD will be home soon!

Isle of Skye – Chadwick, Waterstein Point and Port Napier

I was looking forward to diving the Northern tip of Skye, we had picked a neaps weekend as the tides in the Sea of the Hebrides are strong, in particular the Chadwick and Doris wrecks are tide dependent.  On the Saturday morning we headed across to the community Pier at Meanish to launch Deep Dancer our Club Rib.

The Slack on the Chadwick was either too early in the morning ( 4.15 hours Before HW Ullapool ) or about 3:30pm in the Afternoon ( 2 Hrs 10 mins after HW Ullapool ) So we headed south to Neist Point for an alternative dive site.  To get out of the current we headed across to Waterstein Head, there are several reefs, walls and Gullies to explore, as Gary and Izzy were kitting up for their dive, we looked at the swarm of jelly fish mostly Moon jellyfish and few Lions Main jellyfish moving around under the floating seaweed looking for small fry and zoo plankton to feed on.

Steve, Bethan and I dropped onto the southern tip of the reefs which gave us a nice wall covered with Dead mans fingers with boulder slope at its base dropping down to 22 metres to a sandy plain.  Swimming around the rocks large Pollack and Cod hunt for Crabs and Prawns to feed on, hidden in the rocks we found male and female Cuckoo Wrasse.

After heading 5 or so metres along the rock face we came to a gap and another Short Wall before turning south west onto a gentle slope with a current taking us on a nice drift dive. My air was starting to run low so we headed up towards the Kelp starting at about 15 metres depth.  After a few minutes looking under kelp for Craw fish we headed to the surface.

The Chadwick Wreck Dive – After lunch we headed out to the dive site on the Northern Tip of Osgill Bay

The Chadwick didn’t disappoint we dropped onto the wreck next to the main boiler hidden under the hull plates a swim through past the companion boiler, and out through a gap in the hull we find the second boiler standing on its edge with a Ballan Wrasse swimming down the side of it, we headed across the plates  and beams of the mid section covered in Dead Mans Fingers, We come across the Stern and find the Rudder and the Propeller.  On reaching the stern section moving out from the wreck we could feel the strong current pushing us North and we tucked back into the protection of the wreck to swim back up to the midships along the starboard side of the hull plates before returning to the surface.

We headed back to the Slip at Meanish to have just missed recovering the boat due to low tides, point for future reference recovery only after 2 hours either side of low water.  With the Rain coming in we headed off for dinner in Dunvegan at the Bistro in the Petrol Station a good little restaurant that has home baking and a good mix of comfort food!

On the Sunday we packed up and headed to Kyleakin on the East of the Island to Dive the Port Napier a Converted Minelayer which caught on fire in kyle of Lochalsh during the Second World War and was towed away from the Port before blowing up and sinking. It now lies on its side with the Port Side upwards  and drops away to 20 metres depth on the sandy bottom.

The hull plates on the Port side were removed by the Royal Navy who removed all the unexploded mines in 1955.  The Wreck was darker this time with poor viz possibly from the Fish Farm nearby.  The Wreck was buoyed on the Forward Mast and we dropped down here before moving to the Bows, the sheer size of the wreck which is still very much intact in shallow waters makes it such an attraction to divers.