Midweek diving – Island Rocks at The May Island

Stephen our Training Officer organised a midweek Wednesday evening dive with Shadow Marine Charters Owned by Steve Haddow, based in the Forth, a great boat for several of our Ocean Diver Trainees to have their first experience of Hard Boat diving. “The Mako” is a purpose built Diving Hard boat with ample cabin (Tea & Coffee), head (toilet for landlubbers), plenty of space to kit up and most importantly a lift!

10 Perth BSAC Members departed on the Mako from Anstruther Harbour at 6:30pm heading out to the Isle of May, our plans were to dive the North East Side of the Island an area known as the Island Rocks due to the SS Island (Formerly the Danish Royal Yacht) which ran aground the May Island in Dense Fog on the 13th April 1937. Hayden and I dropped into 12 metres of water and descended onto Reef with kelp attached. between the rocks you could see the Debris field of broken plates, Spars and pipes probably from a mixture of wrecks. Most wrecks that run aground would be smashed to pieces during the winter storms and the North East Coast of the May Island is completely exposed to the North Sea Storms, as we headed North West at about 16 metres depth, from the wreck site we came across a Rock Covered in Dead mans Fingers (Anemones) and as we worked our way round it you can see the areas of broken shells and dark pebbles where the storms have scoured the sea bed.

In amongst the rocks we spotted several Velvet swimming crabs with their distinctive red eyes and a Butterfish hiding in a crevice, I like Blennies as there faces are always full of character. Hayden and I head back up over a sparse rocky reef covered in not much more than Barnacles and a couple of Velvet Swimming Crabs waiting to moult and reproduce.  We were starting to run low on Air so headed inshore to 10metres before I deployed my Delayed Surface Marker Buoy and we headed to the Surface.

Once we returned to the Surface Sue gave us a cup of Tea (Thank you) and as I de-kitted listened to Hamish and Colin who had found a Ling & 4 Nudibranch!  We headed back to Anstruther and I had Fish and Chips firmly in my mind and after we emptied the boat headed up to the Anstruther Fish Bar for a well deserved Haddock & Chips.

 

 

 

Night dive on the Primrose Wreck – Isle of May

Steve had organised a trip to dive the Primrose a wrecked Steam Powered Trawler that came aground on the Isle of May in 1902 and then slipped below the waters about 300 metres to the East of the Southern tip of the Island. The Weather was looking dark with clouds adding to the atmosphere the sea state was not too bad with a small swell from the south East. We were using Steve Haddow’s boat the Mako based at Anstruther which is a well equipped Catamaran with a Dive lift on the back of the Boat. Steve was planning to put a permanent shot on the wreck for ease in the future and after sorting out the shot we kitted up and jumped into the sea, we were the last in following eight divers descending 31 metres onto the wreck.

With shot on the boiler and the Steam engine a stern of it, with the wreck sitting on the bottom upright we worked our way over to over to the Starboard side and headed towards the Bow taking a few shots of the other divers that had headed up the port side a minute or so before us (Small wreck about 25-30 metres in length), the bow is now only about 60 cm proud of the sea bed covered in Brittle Stars on hull plating and and Dead Mans Fingers on the spars.  Heading back along the port side the sea bed was covered in course sand and broken shells with Squat lobsters hiding in the debris on the sea bed, also just on the edge of our torch light we could see the Cod and Poor Cod swimming watchfully, these strange invaders of their territory with their bright and multicolored HID, Halogen and LED diving torches.

This is a lovely wreck with lots of life on it including Dahlia Anemones, Conger and Wrasse definitely worth looking under the spars and wreckage, we headed to the stern and found the propeller still intact rising 1.5 metres vertically from the sea bed and as we headed back towards the Engine and Boilers on the Starboard side the Mooring Bollards could be seen with several Urchins grazing on them. Colin and I had been using Nitrox 30 to give us more “no-deco” bottom time and the 20 minutes on the wreck was plenty of time to do a full tour of the wreck,  we headed back up the shot which was tied off to the Engine, as we headed up to the 6 metre stop I noticed several Lions Mane Jellyfish floating by in the gentle neap current. What a fun dive and a totally different feel to diving it during the day!  Thanks to Steve for organising the dive.

200 Metre walls, Lost in a storm and Sun Sets over Islay

After picking Steve up from Larne Harbour at 10:30pm we headed west chasing the sunset via the Antrim Coast watching it casting its golden, reddish rays diffraction through thicker atmosphere that surrounds the earth and provides us with the precious air we need to survive.

Upon reaching the cliff tops near the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge we stopped briefly to watch the light sky in the North and the Shadows of the Islands of Islay and Jura 20+ miles away with the Light houses on Rathlin periodically flashing to warn ships navigating to and from the Atlantic into the Irish Sea.

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After a good nights sleep and cooked breakfast Steve and I headed across to Ballycastle to meet the dive boat run by Richard Lafferty Owner of Aquaholics, an experienced Skipper familiar with the unusual currents and eddies that run around Rathlin Island. Our first dive was the Arches on the back wall of Rathlin Island. When diving this site you drop down onto kelp which due to the good visibility varies between 17-20 meters deep then descend a slab covered in dead mans fingers to about 26 meters and head west looking for the arches. There are three arches but I have only found one at ~ 25 meters. After this you can move across onto the Wall which drops to about 45 meters and then work your way across heading up to the Kelp when you are finished.

Our Second dive was the Pinnacle the top of which starts at 2-3 meters below the surface, covered with kelp which extended down 17-20 meters, with the wall dropping vertically to 200 meters a dive not for the faint hearted!

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After finishing diving at 2pm we headed across to the walk across the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge built originally by Salmon Fishermen who would entrap migrating Salmon into net traps.

The Second days diving was back at Rathlin and the Sea mist had descended but we had a clear run to the Lochgarry wreck and then were planning to dive the back wall of Rathlin again, unfortunately the Fog had come in and you couldn’t see the Cliffs which were only 100 Metres away, So we headed back to Ballycastle Marina and dived the Templemore Wreck a shallow wreck with lots of life on it including Congers, Ballan Wrasse and juvenile Crawfish. I’ve included a brief video of the Back Wall of Rathlin and Templemore Wreck.

After finishing up Diving we headed down to Belfast and visited the Titanic Experience a chance to do a 3800 metre wreck dive but without getting wet!

On the last days diving we stayed local to Portrush and Portstewart diving the Large Skerries a Reef / Set of small islands that stretches a mile or so near Portrush and then a second dive on the foul ground near the headland at Portstewart which is covered in lots of small life, dog fish and a good hunting ground for Octopus I have been told.

 

 

Scapa Flow 18th-25th May

Written by Steve, and posted on his behalf:

A few challenges had to be overcome even before we embarked on the freight ferry bound for Stromness …

First, we were short of divers! Bethan, Hamish & Steve quickly signed up but no skipper will run for only 3 divers!

Luckily, John Thornton, skipper of the good ship M.V. Karin, contacted us to advise he had a couple of guys from Weston-Super-Mare, then Bethan applied pro-active marketing techniques to persuade MUSAC pals Mike & Becca to join us, Steve twisted Colin’s arm so he agreed to join us and we had ourselves a very competent dive team!

Then, the ‘Hamnavoe’, the big passenger & vehicle ferry which runs from Scrabster to Stromness broke its crankshaft, Steve’s car spring and shock absorber broke and his dive torch flooded & needed replacing!

Northlink Ferries offered to take us across on their freight ferry, which put us on Orkney about 3 hours earlier than Plan A, Steve’s car was fixed & he took delivery of his new dive torch the day before we left, so problems all sorted!

We were warmly welcomed aboard M. V. Karin by Bill, chief crewman & ace chef; cabins were quickly allocated, luggage stowed and dive kit assembled.

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Skipper John Thornton came aboard, introductions were made, engines started and then we headed off for our shakedown dive, the wreck of the SMS ‘Karlsruhe’, lying on her side in about 26m, fairly shallow by Scapa big wreck standards.

Buddy pairs Hamish & Colin, Becca & Mike, Bethan & Steve and our new friends from Weston, David & Simon all slipped down the shot, excitement mounting as the hull came quickly into view at around 12m. Lots of big holes on the superstructure side of this cruiser which is covered in plumose anemones, deadmen’s fingers, starfish, urchins and crustaceans but didn’t spot any fish.

Buoyed up by our first dive we steamed back to Stromness, had a reviving shot of Drambuie, then headed ashore for a pint or two at ‘Flaties’ bar.

After an early night, Sunday morning saw us steaming to dive the’ light’ cruiser, the SMS ‘Koln’ lying on her starboard side in about 35m. She seemed huge even though billed as ‘light’ cruiser at 5,620 tons! This is a stunning dive on a nearly intact vessel, with lots of holes into the hull, Bethan & Steve resisting the temptation to be drawn inside without a distance line, but gained satisfaction from returning to the shot just as our no deco bottom time ran out!

After lunch spent in the warm sunshine at Hoy where civil engineer Mike admired the experimental wave electrical generation machines, we headed to the wreck of World War 2 German escort vessel ‘F2’ similar to a destroyer. She’d sunk at her mooring in 1946 following capture early on in the war. Amusingly, a salvage company had removed the ‘F2’s guns and placed them in the barge ‘YC21’ but the barge then sank as well, so you get two wrecks for the price of one, the two vessels being connected by a rope which you follow from one wreck to the other and back again!

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A few of us then had a 3rd scenic dive come scallop bash under the gun emplacements at Howton on the Isle of ????? to round off the afternoon.

The more sensible members of the team had an early night but Hamish & Steve after a very pleasant dinner at the ‘Royal’ Hotel were drawn to the delights of Drambuie and swapping diving yarns with Bill before hitting the sack around 0100 ish, hick, hick … !

Hamish was suffering from a leaky dry suit by Monday and dropped his own DUI suit into Scapa Scuba to have a new zip fitted, enabling him to test a loaned neoprene suit for a change, care of Scapa Scuba. The loan suit stayed dry only for a couple of dives, then fortunately Scapa Scuba leant him another one, so Hamish used 3 suits and 4 zips for the week’s diving!!

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Hamish modelling drysuit #2

Monday morning saw us on the SMS ‘Brummer’ a 4,308 ton fast mine-laying cruiser which lies in 36m. In vis well above 10m we could see everyone as our dive commenced! John had instructed us all the return up the shot since it was a misty, rainy morning topside, so we put the distance lines into use (thanks, Colin – we did follow yours for most of the dive!). This wreck is huge, the vis making its size very apparent, with lots of large holes and swim throughs. All seriously impressive stuff!

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After lunch we headed for the U-boat wreck ‘UB116’ lying in 29m northwest of Quoy Ness on Flotta. She was the last vessel to be sunk in Scapa Flow at the end of the First World War and the only submarine we dived this week. Bethan skilfully operated the distance line from the bottom of the shot; Colin took an impressive video with his ‘Go-Pro’ camera, again in vis well over 10m; a great dive was had by all!!

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That evening Steve was drawn to the Scapa Scuba Dive Shop and treated himself to a new Suunto Vyper Air dive computer, having already bent his old Aladdin Pro (air only!) computer while diving on nitrox! Luckily, Simon knew how to set this up since in the absence of an internet connection to download the instructions, Steve remained puzzled as to the intricacies of its operation – thank, Simon!!

A bonus to round off the evening was that Eco Kim & her friend Anna, who were on holiday in Stromness for the Orkney Folk Festival (hope to have you in the Orkney dive team next year, Kim!), joined us aboard M.V.Karin for pre bed time coffee having bumped into the rest of the team at the pub.

Tuesday morning we headed down the shot to SMS ‘Kronprinz Wilhelm’, the first battleship, at 25,388 tons and 575 feet long, an absolutely enormous wreck. After a strong fin to cover as much of the wreck as possible, (no need for the gym this Tuesday!) allied with quality pilotage by Bethan, we passed the shot but with some time still available headed away from it again, then missed it so resorted to the DSMB!

The block ship, ‘’Gobernador Bories’ provided the second dive for Tuesday and Colin’s final dive of his long weekend. This is a slack water site and we had to haul ourselves down the shot against the current to reach the wreck in a rather shallow 17m. Rather pretty dive site with some kelp and lots of life attached to her remains plus some fish to view (at long last!). We checked out the remains of a hold following in the fin strokes of Mike & Becca with a few attractive photographic opportunities thrown in!

Having bid Colin a fond farewell for the journey home to Burnbrae, the joint Perth/MUSAC team headed to the Ferry Inn to enjoy a couple of drinks and try our hand at the fine art of Pool! A good time was had by all; the impression I got was that Mike would have won the gold medal, had this been an Olympic sport!

Wednesday morning we headed down the stern shot line for the light cruiser SMS ’Dresden’, 5,531 tons, lying on her port side, another impressive wreck dive, stunning in its enormity! Initially, we were in pursuit of 40m for some depth progression – but the tide was against us, only finding 37.8m so in the absence of a shovel we carried on exploring the wreck! Bethan spotted the gun and there were lots of large holes but we viewed all from a respectful distance & didn’t head inside. We ended the dive by ascending the bow line and back to the M.V. Karin for 5 star soup and sandwiches from Bill’s galley.

After lunch it was back to the F2 and barge again, this time joined by Mike since Becca was fighting the effects of a cold and elected to sit this one out. Another very enjoyable and relaxing dive at around 15m – Mike spotted an impressive Conger under the bow section of ‘F2’.

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Thursday dawned rather stormy with a north west 6 or 7 blowing! Most of the other dive boats stayed tied up for the day, but John was confident he could get us in for a couple of quality dives again! Just 4 of us accepted the fresher conditions today, enjoying another cracking dive on the ‘SMS ‘Brummer’; Bethan & I headed towards the bow between the deck rail & the top row of portholes, running along the distance line to ensure we returned to the shot, essential for the surface conditions. Mike & Becca elected to go for a long swim through beneath us, easy to follow them in the good visibility again.

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After Bill’s quality lunch we headed to the SMS ‘Koln’ again, again using the distance line for confidence and a guaranteed return to the shot! Yet another stunning dive, all still below about 3m despite the lively top side near gale!

On Thursday evening we had a very enjoyable dinner at the Stromness Hotel, joined by john the skipper and crew Bill and then Eco Kim & Anna arrived to enjoy the folk music going on in the restaurant too!!

Our final diving day dawned with calm conditions and a change in buddy pairings, Steve joining Hamish and Bethan joining Mike & Becca to plumb the depths and other delights of the SMS ‘Markgraf’. This is another huge battleship, 25,388 tons and 575 feet long! She lies deeper than most of the other German wrecks, so time to enjoy this spectacular wreck is limited. Loads of life clinging to the metal work again with Dahlia Anemones, lots of crabs, deadmen’s fingers but no fish!! This would need several dives to orientate everything and get a good idea which part of the wreck you’re on!

The final dive was back to the SMS ‘Karlsruhe’ again, where we started out on Saturday, now seeming rather shallow at mostly just 20 odd metres. Tried a bit of video – decent vis enable most of the team to be picked off with the camera!

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So that was the Scapa week of 2013. We all really enjoyed ourselves, made new friends and laid plans for a re-visit in 2014 with a view to taking in some of the northern Orkneys with more wrecks and scenic walls than in the Flow.

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Introduction to Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology – The Crannog Centre Loch Tay

Steve, John and I attended the introductory Course on Foreshore and Underwater Archaeology on Saturday. As divers, we have a great opportunity to see both wildlife, buildings, artifacts and ships frozen in time, rarely seen by others; as the cold waters and sediments of our sea, lochs and rivers preserve a rich archive of natural and human history. We were lucky to have as our tutors Dr Nick Dixon and Barrie Andrian from the Scottish Crannog Centre, two Archeologists with a wealth of experience of both Maritime and Fresh Water Sites.

The Crannog Centre Loch Tay
The Crannog Centre Loch Tay

The first part of the course, provided an introduction to Underwater Archeology, different types of Sites ( Interesting to see that underwater sites compared to dry land sites tend to be richer in recovery and preservation of artifacts) and then after a break for Tea, we looked at Several of the Dating Methods used which split into Relative and Absolute such as Radio Carbon 14 Dating and Dendrochronology ( Tree Rings) and then a brief talk about the Legal aspects of Visiting Wreck Sites and recovery of Artifacts.

After Lunch we broke into groups for a talk then practical demonstration of 2D survey methods then a dry run inside before venturing outside into the water to try out the methods in Loch Tay.

After not doing too badly in the warmth of the centre, we tried doing the practical in Loch Tay next to the Crannog, Nick suggested that for shallow diving of 1-2 metres he
Doesn’t use fins in the water to reduce the risk of kicking up silt and artefacts, so I thought I would give it a go, the key is to be slightly over weighted, then be head up at a 10-20 degree angle using your toes and hands to move slowly around the site.

Definitely enjoyed the experience, and as a one day introductory course it had a good mix of theory and practical.

The walls and wrecks of Melfort and Shuna, 2nd December 2012

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sealoch anemoneA bright and frosty morning with snow covered mountains made for a delightful journey across to Tyndrum where we all met up for the onward passage to Cuan Ferry. Here we launched the club Rhib, checked her out and moved her to the steps where she was loaded with the dive gear.

Slender sea pen
Slender sea pen
‘The Bruce’ arrived and set about launching as we departed for Eilean Creachan, one of the islands at the mouth of Loch Melfort where interesting contours on the charts suggested some spectacular underwater topography. The dive plan was to put the first wave in to explore the wall on the northern end of the island and swim slowly southwards on the West wall.

Both groups surfaced reporting a very good dive with highlights being conger eels and two octopi as well a shoals of small fish. With virtually no tide or wind the boat didn’t move and although slightly cold it was very pleasant as we watched the divers bubbles. ‘The Bruce’ came alongside for a quick hallo and blether before heading off to dive around Shuna. Back with ‘Deep Dancer’ and having recovered the first set of divers the second wave went in and explored the foot of the wall initially swimming northwards, collecting a few large scallops from the mud between tall slender sea pens and finally ascending to following the top of wall back towards the boat. An old ‘Fenzy’ crack bottle was discovered and brought up for the amusement of the crew, some of who actually recognised it for what it was, before someone even admitted to having used one !

Crack bottle

Lunch was scheduled to be taken at Shuna Cottage and Gary expertly drove us down to the southern tip of Shuna where we moored the boat, changed over cylinders and had our pieces. You can’t spend too long lunching with the short days so we were very quickly back in the boat and heading up the west side of Shuna for the next dive which turned out the be a cracker.

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In went the pathfinders, closely followed by the backup team, each following a roughly parallel course swimming South. Ten minutes into the dive for some reason up pops a partially inflated DSMB and the two teams were seen to converge. What’s going on here then wondered the boat crew ? The conclusion that somebody had sent up a bag of scallops which had subsequently sunk seemed to describe the scenario so we marked the spot with a depth reading and a transit to the shore and quietly sniggered at the easy picking that would follow !(Why not the position fixing facility on the GPS/radio ? – ED) The teams then separated and continued their fin south. On surfacing they both reported good life, a few scallops and a wreck. Unbelievable, a wreck down here. But it was and proved to be a small pleasure craft lying upright in good condition with it’s rather rounded bows pointing into the shore and CQR anchor deployed. Probably about 9m long with a large cockpit, and cabins fore and aft. What a fantastic find and a great way to end the day.

On surfacing we quickly had the engine started and got back to the launch site with just enough time to recover the boat before it got dark having enjoyed a fantastic days diving.

Well done to Steve for organising a great trip and many thanks to Gary for towing the boat.

Paul has kindly placed some of his superb photographs here and they are well worth a browse.

Wall covered in sea squirts
Wall covered in sea squirts

2003: Perth BSAC is 20 years old

In 2003 Perth BSAC celebrated it’s 20th year as a BSAC diving club. That year as part of the celebrations a club trip to Gozo and Comino was organised. Spike has kindly provided the news article and attached picture from the Perthshire Advertiser which shows the members who attended (Ali was behind the camera I believe).

Perth club members returning from a trip to Malta in 2003

the article text from the PA is here (you will have to ‘click’ it to get the full text).

We are lucky that we still have several of these guys around actively participating in diving trips and continuing to guide the club, providing a wealth of experience to draw on.

(And yes, they were journalistic typos concerning the boats – ed).

Perth BSAC Trip to the Summer Isles and Altandhu 11th to 12th August

With the good weather continuing after our Midweek trip to the Forth, Nine of members of the club headed up the A9 for a weekend of Camping BBQ’s and diving of course!

On the Saturday morning we headed down to Old Dorne harbour just 2 minutes drive from Port a Bhaigh campsite  for 9am to launch the Ribs for our trip to the Fairweather V a trawler on  the south Side of Loch Broom about 7 nautical mile trip. After heading out for 5 minutes just to the channel between Tanera Mor and Tanera Beag we helped out two boys who had snapped off the throttle on their creeling boat. So after a 3o minute delay towing the boy’s boat back to port we got back on track.  The Fairweather V is a interesting wreck to shot as it sits out on a underwater headland which drops off either side of the wreck making it more challenging to find if the co-ordinates are off. Hence we struggled to locate the wreck and with the Help of Inverness Sub Aqua Club (who were diving the wreck of the Innisjura we just missed the wreck but the shot was 2 metres too short – Doh!

After putting a second shot down, the first divers dropped down to find HMS Vicinity, luckily Tony and Spike found the first shot which was only a few metres off the bow of the Fairweather 5 , so everyone got a dive on the wreck which was covered in Plumose Anemones and Shoals of fish as well as Ballan Wrasse Its also worth finding the Bridge of the Wreck with the Captains chairs and electronics which you don’t see in the older wrecks although we had to forgo the dive on the back wall of the Isle Martin.  After recovering the Shot we headed back towards Altandhu and 4 of us who hadn’t had a second dive dropped in to the South West and North West of Tanera Mor, Bethan And I dropped down a Kelp covered Reef with small gulleys to about 18 metres where we found a gently sloping sandy seabed with a few Scallops which we collected for the BBQ that evening at the Campsite.
Arriving back at the Old Dornie Harbour we arrived during the Awards Ceremony for the Local Fishing club competition that had been held while we were out diving, traffic jams on the West Coast.

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We had a BBQ and were blessed with a slight breeze which kept the West Coast Midges at bay for most of the evening, I hid in the smoke from the BBQ’s when they did, we chatted with Andy the Local Diver that offered to help fill our tanks from his compressor in Achiltibuie which saved us a night of pumping cylinder with Colin’s Mobile compressor.  Andy spent the evening chatting about old times with the Club. I managed to take a few shots of the Sun setting over the Sea one of best experiences is the amazing sunsets you get on the west coast of Scotland.

After a slightly later start of 8ish some of us more worse for wear than others we packed up and headed down to Old Dornie to do two local dives, the first was Reef North West of Eilean a Char that looked interesting on the charts, west side of the Rock  looked the most interesting with kelp down to 14 metres and we followed the reef heading north between 15 and 22 metres there were rich terraces with a mixture of Red Sea weeds with , Hydroids and teeming with life shoals of juvenile cod and as we went deeper the encrusting yellow sponge sea squirts we passed a Lions Main Jellyfish with its huge mass of stinging tentacles being dragged along in the water column and along the seabed catching zoo-plankton, I then spotted a Ling (Fish from Cod Family) briefly before heading back up to the kelp park on the top of the reef.
After a hours lunch on a pebble beach on Tanera Mor looking over Loch Broom towards the mountains and we headed across to dive the Wreck of the Boston Stirling, a great shallow intact wreck lying on a 45 degree angle ideal for a first wreck dive, Bethan and I did several circuits round the wreck at different depths with lots of varying habitats.

Harris and the Rebel Alliance diving off the ‘Peregrine’ 29-31 July 2012

We spotted an opportunity for some quality diving when Chris received an e-mail from Jan Love, a key mover and shaker in the Rebel Alliance divers group, advising of spaces available on their ‘Peregrine’ hard boat week 29 July to 3 August 2012 sailing from Scalpay, an island joined by a bridge to the Isle of Harris, focusing on sites in the Minch and the eastern shores of Harris.
Unfortunately, Chris was unable to get the time off, but Bethan took little persuading to join me, then found that her best friend, Kay, a Dive Leader from the Manchester University branch of BSAC, could also manage to join us for a trip based on traveling to Tarbert on Harris on Saturday 28 July 2012, diving 3 days Sunday to Tuesday, then heading back to Perth on Wednesday 1 August 2012 arriving in time for Kay to jump on a train back to Manchester later that afternoon.
Conveniently, the 2 remaining rooms at Dunard House in Tarbert were a twin & a single so we were all set for the trip.
As ever, we marvelled at the spectacular Highland scenery on the drive from Perth across to Skye and Uig where we met most of the Rebel Alliance team enjoying a pint at the nearest pub to the embarkation slip for the trusty CalMac ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. A quick trip to the Hebrides Hotel for a sun downer finished the day!

Following a comfortable night and a full Scottish breakfast, revived and raring to get in the water, we headed to the harbor at Scalpay where all the gear was quickly loaded aboard ‘Peregrine’. We re-acquainted ourselves with Malcolm, our skipper, who we had previously had the pleasure of meeting on our Club Sound of Mull trip back in March of this year.

We headed off for the shakedown dive to start the holiday, a nearly intact wreck of a fish farm supply vessel (no one knew her name) which stood all square on the bottom at 24m not far from the shore of Loch Trollamarig. This was a beautiful site with shoals of small fish, the vessel itself being covered in Plumose Anemones with even the wheelhouse still being place. Kay, our expedition underwater photographer, warmed to her task with relish and we all had a cracking dive, being in a threesome no hardship in such clear visibility!

For our second dive, we headed south along the shore of Harris to Holm Island where the plan was to dive the Holm Island Wall, Bethan taking the lead this time to help her finish the few remaining tasks still to be signed off for her Dive Leader. A lovely dive down a boulder slope to the wall which had an impressive overhang, under which Kay spotted a small conger eel while Bethan was battling with a particularly large edible crab (the crab won!) and I admired a beautiful cuckoo wrasse.

Since the ‘Peregrine’ has an on board compressor we were able to complete 3 dives per day on this trip while only bringing one set each. In between dives we took the opportunity to get to know our hosts from the Rebel Alliance and to enjoy their warm hospitality which on the first day included a seriously yummy carrot cake prepared by Jenny, clearly their very skilful team baker!
Third dive of day one was a shallow bimble through and around the kelpie site of the wreck of the ‘Gulf Star’ of which there’s only a few remaining plates of the hull remaining in about 8m of water on a rocky reef not far from Scalpay. There were plenty of shoals of small fish around and I spotted a couple of decent sized Pollock towards the end of the dive.
We then headed back to Tarbert and freshened up prior to enjoying a tasty dinner at the Hebrides Hotel and an early night eagerly anticipating diving for Monday!

After a long steam, almost back to Skye, we enjoyed a cracking dive at Thon Cleats, a series of rocky islets, the dive being past kelp down a boulder slope to a really pretty reef where Kay and Phil (Jan’s buddy – vis was so good we could see all the divers on this reef!) broke open a couple of sea urchins to give some cuckoo wrasse a late breakfast. Phil almost had one eating from his hand while Kay maneuvered around for some photo opportunities and Bethan led us along most expertly again!
After the dive, the fishing rods were brought out to occupy some of the deco time and lots of Pollock rushed to take the bait, Kay catching her first ever fish and Phil bagging a particularly impressive specimen! Jan and Jenny skilfully gutted and filleted them having the fresh fish sealed in plastic bags and ready for the kitchen well before our second dive of the day at Sgeir Graidaigh, a reef in the middle of the Minch which we enjoyed in calm seas and warm sunshine.
We descended down a shot line then headed east to this beautiful reef, again in vis well over 10m. This site teems with life including Jan’s favourite, the jewel anemones coating the reef walls, plenty of nudibranchs, more cuckoo wrasse, Pollock, plumose anemones and a particularly large lobster spotted by Kay who moved swiftly back into his hiding place to avoid the pot!
Following a steam back to the Harris shoreline we enjoyed a very pleasant third dive around a rocky reef at Scoravick. Bethan was about to give my dive leading the thumbs down, since the first part of this dive was shallow and kelpie, but luck was on our side and about half way through the dive I came across a pretty wall dropping down to around 19m so smiles all round amongst more plumose anemones, shoals of small fish and more photo opportunities for Kay!

Our final day dawned warm, sunny and flat calm so we could hardly wait to get in the water though it was a fair steam south to the large and impressive wreck of the ‘S.S. Stassa’, a Panamanian vessel which struck the rocks on a clear, calm day in July 1966 – seems they were missing a lookout somewhere!
She is intact and lies on her starboard side and makes a stunning dive! There were large winches still located on deck with some teak decking still in place towards the stern. She had a cargo of timber, though apart from some lying alongside, we didn’t see much in the open holds we had a look in. This was, however, really atmospheric, and would warrant further exploration.
We then steamed back to visit Sgeir Graidaigh reef again in the middle of the Minch, having to take care to avoid being sunburnt on this glorious summer’s day! Kay led us around on the second visit to this isolated reef which was as beautiful as our first visit in equally good vis! More pretty cuckoo wrasse, sea urchin bashing for their benefit (and for our photographer!!), jewel anemones, Pollock, plumose anemones, nudibranchs etc., etc.!
More Pollock then jumped on board via the fishing rods, Jan and Jenny did more skilful gutting and fileting, Phil cooked these in the galley & we all enjoyed a five star fresh fish feast prior to our final dive back near Scalpay again, Bethan leading us along a wall with loads of life to enjoy (including humping crabs which we decided to leave well alone!) and more photo opportunities which Kay made the most of.
Then, just after we’d got on board and dropped off our tanks & weights, Jan suddenly appeared with a couple of bottles of Asti Spumante and cups for all to thank us for joining the Rebels!

The holiday was rounded off with us and the Rebels enjoying a lively farewell dinner at the Hebrides Hotel followed by some excellent shots of Mat’s Lagavulin whisky as night caps!

Many thanks are due to Jan Love for organising the trip and enabling us to join the Rebels for one of their main dive trips for this year.
Cheers to Jan, Phil, Jenny, Howie, Richard, Matt, Nick and Jane (and to Kay for kindly supplying the pictures).

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Many thanks to Steve, Bethan and Kay for the contribution (ed)

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

HMS Port Napier and Loch Alsh 4th-6th May 2012

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

We were lucky to have blue skies (Mostly) with a gentle NW Breeze.

After getting the boat in the water at 10am mid tide we decided to run three waves with cox’s which gave everybody more space on the boat and total wave times were dropped to 1.5 hours from the usual 2.5 – 3 hours.

The HMS Port Napier is a huge wreck Maximum depth 21 metres (mostly 14 metres)  with which can easily accommodate 3-4 dives. Diving at the bottom and at 6 metres gives you very different perspectives and there is lots of life on the wreck including, Conger Eels, Scorpion Fish, Pollock, Pipe Fish, large Edible Crabs and Pipe Fish.

On the Sunday the other divers (I took the day off to explore Sleat Point)  headed off to the Balmacara area for the first dive then headed back across to the Port Napier for a dive on the hull side of the wreck, with a successful excursion to a scallop bed 50 metres from the wreck on the shore side.

All in all a successful weekend and less than £17 per head for a day’s boat diving.

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The Divernet wreck tour guide can be found here

and in pdf format here