Drills and Thrills, Oban, Sunday 22nd July

Saturday, in Perth, was probably the best day of Summer so far. Blue skies, perfect temperatures and the occasional fly, lazily passing, irritating in it’s intensity. A pleasant day as the evocative aroma of a hundred barbecues, dragged from their garages, overwhelmed the peace of early evening. In short a good day. Sunday was not. Whitecaps sweeping up the Sound of Kerrera and grey water looked uninviting as rain clouds dashed across the knockan landscape of Kerrera.

Regardless it was a good turn out to what had been themed as a diver drills day, a project of Steve’s who had organised three boats and and many divers to fill them. 09:30 in the water was the plan and spot on time the new ‘Plan B’ and ‘The Butcher’ were launched. Plan B offering recreational dives while The Butcher acted as a diving platform for a dry-suit familiarization and rescue drills. The remaining folk were in ‘Deep Dancer’ and although last in the water, had taken the opportunity to do a briefing and perform a dry run of the DO4 drill in preparation to the open water session. Having launched, they motored down to Horse Shoe bay on the East side of Kerrera to look for a suitable site. Finding the bay a little shallow, though adequately sheltered the boat moved down to a site on the inside of the Sgeirean Dubh reef that is home to the South Kerrera beacon. A few seals bobbed around but were not encountered underwater. First wave in did a good lesson manoeuvrings a shot weight around and after nearly an hour under water lifted it successfully to the surface. The second wave repeated the lesson and again the shot was moved and lifted appropriately before divers and shot were recovered into the boat and a return to Puffin made. Has to be said that the return trip was much more pleasant than the trip out although one particularly large hole was found !

Back at Puffin, ‘the Butcher’ and ‘Plan B’ were getting ready to depart for the second dive of the day having reported a successful set of drills and some low vis pleasure dives near the Red Lady light at the northern end of the channel. The second site was to be Heather Island with the drills being performed along the sheltered edge on the NW side.

Deep Dancer’s team opted for a recreational dive in the afternoon and set off for Heather Island where an encounter with a washing machine was reported. A dramatic description of a piece of free floating kelp moving briskly in one direct while divers moving just as briskly in the other had a smattering of heroic saga about it. This was however confirmed by several pairs in the other boats. Large shoals of sprat were reported. The vis was very patchy today. Finally one pair of divers remained at Puffin and dived the pontoons, reporting a very pleasant (surely not -ed) dive where a good deal of life was observed including some very striking pouting.

The boats were recovered and washed off in a very efficient manner with those more familiar with these operations showing the way. Apart for a minor incident with a new tyre getting a nail in it, that was it. The boats were returned from where they came and various refreshment stops made before ending up at the club hut and calling it a day.

Thanks today are due to Steve for organising the event, to Alan and Sue for making their boat available for training , to Dave for bringing the new Plan B along for some recreational diving and to all the people who made the event such a worthwhile day. A special thank you goes to our mystery or was that celebrity instructor who joined ‘The Butcher’ for the day.

No photos today as we were training but as the vis was appalling I doubt we would have sen much anyway.

Loch Creran and Bonawe Quarry, Sunday 29th April 2012

A small team of Izzy, Gary and Chris, met at Colin’s and were joined by Frank, a guest for a trip across to the West coast to explore a couple of sites, that as a club we don’t dive that often.

After a short detour to Puffin Dive Center to pick up a set of regulators we headed North to a site know as “the Steps” on the south shore on Inner Loch Creran and arrived to find blue skies, a flat calm loch and temperature soaring into the 20s. Was this the start of summer we asked ourselves as we kitted up and then sweated profusely awaiting our turns to dive. Today’s plan was to dive in waves with the shore cover also minding Hamish (the dog) who on arrival had immediately found a grass snake so was keen to explore the brambles and under growth for other exciting residents.


On entering we were met by a swarm of Moon Jellyfish which distracted us for a minute or two before we pressed on. Once out of the little bay, the bottom shelves steeply over a bed of Horse muscle shells and then over a set of little steps before flattening where mixed sand and rocks and ultimately sand or gravel takes over. A small wall or reef to the left of the bay provides a good substrate for squidgy life and at its base large numbers of queen scallops had gathered that flew off as we disturbed them.

Not much fish life around today apart from the ubiquitous Gobbies. Having descended to the foot of the wall in what can be described as superb visibility, we took a clockwise circuit across the mouth of the bay where a field of sea cucumbers and small rocky slabs covered in Green urchins and a solitary fireworks anenome provided interested before we eventually ascended to the base of a boulder slope.

It was here that we found the beastie that we had come to see, the Sepulid worm that forms rare biogenic reefs. We found them, but you have to be a cunning photographer to get a good snap, if they detect any movement or noise from your exhaust bubbles, they snap back into their tubes. Needless to say I took several excellent photos …. of the worm tubes….

To make the most of the sunshine the barbecue was lit and a few sausages burnt before we moved sites stopping off at a very pleasant cafe at Columba Bay where we sat outside enjoying the sun.

The second dive site was the Bonawe Quarry site on the North shore of Loch Etive, here we were going to look for the little wreck of the fishing boat, sometimes know as the ‘Kingfisher’. This proved to be a bad choice as the breeze was blowing directly into the harbor and the visibility proved appalling. The first wave went in and very quickly came up again to inform us they were changing their dive plan to investigate the rocks of the causeway. They surfaced to report finding the old car wrecks but visibility of less than a meter. Not good! The second wave went in and were somewhat luckier, finding the running line that links the shore to the derrick and then the wreck. The derrick was found, with someone’s head, before moving on to the wreck where a slow clockwise circuit was made being very careful not to stir up the bottom. Unfortunately we weren’t careful enough and having got around the A frame at the stern of the wreck we re-entered our silt trail and decided to take a compass bearing to the causeway and work our way back via the cars to the entrance point.

All in all a very dark, low vis but atmospheric dive but certainly not the worst one I have ever done.

As everyone was getting rather hungry we decided to stop at the Crianlarich Hotel on the way back for a spot of supper. This is proving to be a regular stop, being about half way home and providing a friendly and convivial atmosphere. Salmon, venison and Cumberland sausages were ordered and the stalkers dispatched while we waited non to patiently for our tea. After some lively banter all fell silent as the important business of food was resolved, a process that didn’t take too long. With dinner finished all that was left was the remainder of the trip home and washing the gear off.

Certainly a day of two very different dives and hopefully the start of some long overdue Summer weather. Thanks are due to all who came along and made this trip possible.

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Diver training Loch Linnhe, Balnagowan Island. 22nd April 2012

With the East coast at Eyemouth reporting a 2 meter swell, Paul towed ‘Deep Dancer’ across to the West where we had an easy launch from the Loch Linnhe marina slip and easy access to some sheltered diving.

Steve was Dive managing today and the plan was for some open water training and experience building for Liz and Kim, while Hamish had the opportunity to put Paul through his paces. Bethan had decided to join us as a non diver to gain further boat handling experience and manage the slate, while I was relegated to the ‘grumpy old git at the back’.

Finding a sheltered site was a delightful challenge today in the Spring sunshine and Eilean Balnagowan, the small rocky island just south of Cuil bay was selected. Having been driven out there by Bethan we explored the edge of the West side of the Island, the theory (and the chart) indicating that the bottom was sandy and less likely to be easily stirred up and if we could find a flat bit, suitable for training.

We found what looked to be an excellent site at the little bay on the North West tip of the Island, a small bay with a sandy bottom which progressed to a steep slope. Bethan duly drop in wave 1 and then practiced MOB drills and diver retrieval while keeping a close eye on the bubble trails and stood by while an errant fin was reattached. When the divers surfaced a perfect pickup was delivered, so a great well done ! Steve and Liz reported a good fun dive, practicing buoyancy drills and then enjoying a gentle drift southwards on the ebbing tide. Hamish and Paul surfaced on the dot according to the plan having explored the slope. Neither group reported exceptionally good life but the vis was excellent.

Wave 2 was dropped in at the bay and performed drills before moving Northwards around the little shoulder of the bay. Shingle sand led to a small slabby wall which while short on life gave a good perspective to the dive. No problems reported other than a leaking mask that needed clearing continuously, but hey that was one of the drills ! Another expert recovery by the helm before zooming back to the marina through a stinging hail to tie up on the pontoons.

We thought we would move the boat back to the slip to swap the tanks over but the engine decided it did not want to start. No amount of cajoling would get it going so we decided to have lunch and give it a rest while we had a chat and reviewed the days activities. Returning to the boat, it still refused to start so being mindful of the time we decided to return to Perth at a reasonable hour.

Stopping at The Green Welly for fuel, Kim was spotted by Izzy who was returning from Oban with Gary and Alan who reported a couple of terrific dives off the South tip of Lismore and a picnic at the lighthouse. The next stop was the Crianlarich hotel for coffee and cake before driving back to the club hut to wash the boat down and put it to bed.

Another very pleasant day with hopefully some useful skills imparted and further experienced of Scottish diving gained. Thanks go to Steve and Paul for organising.

Site: OSGB
N56 38’8″ W5 20’10” “Camas na dobhran”

No camera with me today, but you know who had one !

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Easter training weekend at Oban 6th to 10th April, 2012

This Easter, in traditional style, saw a cheery group of Club members gathering at Puffin Dive Centre, the majority of us at the 3 Anchorage caravans & B & B, but with Lynda, Tony, Lis & Stan in a caravan up at the Oban Caravan & Camping Park just along the road, John & Avril checking out the pleasures of “Glamping”,Neil & cousins moored in Puffin Harbour aboard “The Maestro”,  Izzy & Gary applying discretion by joining the party just for Easter Sunday, focusing on abandoned weight belt recovery operations. 

Kim & I plus friends Anne &Ian, formed an advanced guard arriving on Thursday evening to enjoy one of Anne’s 6 star Michelin Guide style dinners plus the odd glass of red wine …hic!!, hic!!, hic!!

Following a hearty breakfast & leaving Anne & Ian to check out the delights of a (slightly) damp Oban, Kim & I spent a busy morning working on buoyancy & trim in the harbour finishing just in time to see Tony & Lynda arrive with “Deep Dancer” and Lis & Stan too.

A quick launch for “Deep Dancer” & we were off to Gallanach Bay, where Kim & I had the luxury of Tony, Lynda & Lis to help us in & out of the water! Lis enjoyed her first drive of “Deep Dancer”, the day’s diving rounded off with Lis & I checking out the hermit crabs, starfish, sea urchins, squatties and other delights of the harbour reef.

Friday’s partygoers gathered at our caravan where we enjoyed some of Stan’s wide repertoire of music & brilliant banjo playing!

Saturday dawned dull but fair with only a light north westerly breeze to bring a slight ripple to the Sound of Kerrera.

Unfortunately, family health issues prevented David & Tam from joining us but Alan kindly allowed the Club to use “Am Feoladair” skillfully coxed by Tony & Lynda & joined by Maureen & Kim. Spike, Lis, Neil, Fred  & I manned “Deep Dancer”, both boats heading off in formation for a rather pretty dive at Ardmore Bay on the southern shores of the Isle of Kerrera.

After deco & a picnic lunch, Paul & Tara arrived, Paul joining the party for a wall dive at Ard-na-Cuille.

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Meantime, Karen had done a try dive with Puffin & returned grinning from ear to ear having observed more species in Puffin Harbour than ever get mentioned in a full programme by Monty Halls or Miranda Krestofnikof!! (sorry about the spelling, Miranda!)

Saturday evening Neil kindly brought his large BBQ which formed the focal point for our annual Easter BBQ party which I think it is safe to say, was enjoyed by all with lots to eat & even more to drink … hic, hic, hic…  !!

The party ended in Alan & Sue’s caravan, though I’m afraid I’d wilted by this time & hit the sack by midnight!

Following the lively Saturday evening (& it’s inevitable after effects!!) Sunday saw smaller groups out with Izzy & Gary joining Alan, Niel & I on “Am Feoladair” and Tony, Lynda, Spike, Maureen & Fred keeping “Deep Dancer” in action, first heading out to Maiden Island, then just “Am Feoladair” out to the wall at Heather Island after lunch.

In the absence of scallops, Izzy spotted something yellow sticking out of the sand, Gary applying his practical Royal Marine ingenuity by using his & Izzy’s DSMBs to raise a 32lb weight belt… Emma C., if you read this give us a shout!!

After a yummy Chinese takeaway for some of us Stan kicked off the music in our caravan before we moved to Spike & Carol’s … they’d been joined by retired Club stalwarts Charlie & Maureen Kennedy, Charlie having brought along his mandolin to work something of a joint act with Stan the banjo. Reports indicated the party there went on until after 4.00am!

A wild and stormy Sunday night followed by heavy rain on Monday morning had even the most enthusiastic divers sitting in Alan’s caravan drinking coffee & wondering whether construction of the Arc should begin …

However, in true west coast style the rain stopped by 11, the sun was shining out of a largely clear sky by 12, enabling Neil, Kim  I to enjoy a pleasant little dive around Maiden Island where we collected a few scallops & Alan kindly boat handled “Am Feoladair” in the (well, nearly!) flat calm conditions!

We all headed home tired but happy – Alan, Sue, Sarah & Karen being the last to leave after their fish suppers watching the setting sun on Easter Monday!

Thanks to all who made such a good weekend!

Dogfish Reef, Loch Fyne, Furnace. 30th December 2011

 

Somebody had been eating too much Christmas turkey and was needing some exercise or perhaps new toys were to be proudly shown off to other club members, the phone started ringing, incessantly. 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 most importantly, 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 had 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 Inveraray

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 together with surface cover being provided by Angus, Mollie, Hamish 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 sand and gravel slope including Snakelock anemonies and then the usual inhabitants of a sand/mud 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 squat lobsters and hermit crabs. The interesting life on this site is however on the reef itself so we turned round and made our way back discovering dogfish city with over a dozen dogfish concentrated in one location in the bottom rocks.

This site is excellent for trying to photograph Sealoch anemonies and as Steve was poking his torch into nooks and crannies I spent a little time trying to capture one of these beautiful creatures.

 

 

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 sun star 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 to surface a couple of minutes after Paul and Spike.

A cracking dive and having quickly packed up (it was a longish rain shower), toasted the last dive of the year and the task of finding somewhere to warm up and have lunch was at hand. Luckily the George where Beef stew and Fish and Chips was the order of the day, 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 safely with 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.

Last Dive of 2011 – Furnace Village Loch Fyne

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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.

Chris provided the following report:

 

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.

This site is excellent for trying to photograph Sealoch anenomes and as Steve was poking his torch into nooks and crannies I spent a little time trying to capture one of these beautiful creatures.

 

 

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.

The Lochs, 28th August 2011

"I don't do shore diving"

Another horrendous forecast had the East coast in heavy rain and strong winds so we thought we would try and sneak a dive in in the Lochs. Driving across the weather did little to impress us but apart from a few spots we remained rain and wind free all day.

Sea loch anenomies
The first site was the outer reef at Furnace quarry or what has become known as ‘Dogfish reef’, no dogfish today but sea loch anenomies getting ready to spawn.



The dive descended down the sunken concrete pontoon to the base of the boulders, out across the mud for a while then back to the base of the slope which we traversed until bottom time was exhausted and a diagonal rising line taken to reach the outer mark where we turned and made our way back to the entry point.

Limacia clavigera


As we completed a safety stop came across this little chap, a bright orange spotted nudibranch.




Back at the car we lit a small disposable barbecue and burnt sausages while we chatted the surface interval away. A pair from West Lothian SAC who were going in, asked us if we would be shore cover, which we duly did, hanging around munching hotdogs until they surfaced 2 minutes before their planned time.

It wasn’t one of those glorious afternoons we have got used to this year (ha ha!) and we had chilled down , so to get the ball rolling again I suggested a change of venue and we moved to Loch Long to have a look at ‘The Caves’.

The culvert entrance is a little daunting if you haven’t done it before but if you take your time it’s easy enough especially if a rope has been left in situ.

Entering into green oily water we rapidly dropped down the steep mud slope beyond the 30m mark where the visibility improved but the light had all but gone. A good torch was needed to pick out a field of Firework anenomies. All too quickly the bottom time was spent again and we moved diagonally up the slope to find the boulders and walls of Peacock worms that amused Bethan as they snapped shut as she waved her hand over them. About here my torch, the half sun one, went out, luckily just the battery running down but an interesting experience. My buddy, attentive as ever, thrust her spare into my hand before I could reach for mine. Excellent torch too.

Reaching the end of our outbound air we turned and ascended to the top of the boulders where giant plumose anenomies provided colour as we bimbled back to the entry point.

A couple of really good dives today and to celebrate we ended up in the Drovers Inn to introduce Bethan to the bear before travelling back to Perth.

BSAC South Scotland Tegional training day, Loch Fyne Tea Rooms. Saturday 9th July

The BSAC training day at the Loch Fyne Tea rooms was blessed with excellent weather and the bright sunshine really set the colours on the artificial reef giving another excellent dive. Loch Fyne was mirror calm as I passed Inverary and only a slight disturbance on the surface as I turned the corner into the Tea Rooms.

Very little was done in the way of drills today but everyone enjoyed some good diving with a good variety of life. A good sized lobster was found in the morning (returned berried!) and an even bigger one was found in the afternnon along with the biggest conger I have seen since I dived in Strangford Lough ! This monster’s picture has a sea urchin in it, for scale this was 2 inches across.

The vis was initially disappointing with a heavy bloom giving vis of less that 3m until we got below it where it improved to 7-8m. Interestingly today we were on neeps and as the tide turned at low water a good current was experienced at the point which probably explains why there is a scour trench there ! Never experienced it before though!

All in all a good day, a few pictures here.

Stallion Rock and Eilean Aoghainn (Minard Islands), Loch Fyne, 15th May

The trip across to the west coast is always a pleasure, especially when the hills are lit by glorious early morning sunshine. Sunday however saw the weather gradually deteriorated until we arrived at the Argyll Caravan Parkto be greeted by Izzy and Gary in their high vis ‘yellas‘ and drizzle. Such are the joys of diving in Scotland. After an easy launch, we headed down Loch Fyne past Kenmore point to Stallion Rock which lies off Pennymore Point with Mo at the helm. Here, we spent a few minutes searching until Gary spotted it, a great grey whale back just below the surface and an impressive drop showing on the echo sounder on the loch side. Izzy and Bethan were first in followed by Mo and Chris while Paul and Gary manned the boat. The site itself was superb, a few small sandy shelves leading in 10m or so to … the drop. With the overcast skies and light starting to fade at the 25m mark there was still a good void beneath your fins as you were carried gently southwards along the wall. We learnt quickly to take great care not to swim too close to the wall and disturb the sediment that rested upon it as it then followed you in the current impairing the viz.

Yarrell's bleney

Izzy and Bethan disappeared into the depths to explore dark places and find the undercut while Mo and I enjoyed a very pleasant drift in the light. We found some interesting life such as this Yarrell’s Bleney that was moving snake-like across the wall. After passing some enormous sponges and clusters of sea loch anenomies we made our ascent as we had started getting cold, finding a couple of nudibranchs (Flabellina lineate) as we did so.

With the first wave of divers recovered, Gary and Paul rolled in and reported a red carpet affair with flash guns and spot lights illuminating the stars as they drifted by under the undercut.

Lunch ! Yes but where? In the drizzle we decided that the Furnace tea-room was a great option being en route to the Minard Islands so with Gary at the helm we cruised down to anchor in the bay taking care not to damage any training divers. As it turned out there were none at all on the reef today? Having dutifully enquired if they minded, we all sat next to the door enjoying tea and chocolate cake, though I did think that Izzy had an unfairly large slice ! After lunch, back in the boat, the tanks swapped over and the first wave was kitted up, Paul helmed us down to Eilean Aoghainn, the largest of the Minard Islands. Mo and I went in first in Coalas nan Each-uisage, the bay on the East side, enticed by kelpies and the promise of giant scallops. Good vis but not a great deal to see save some sea cucumbers, though the light and life was much better in the shallows over gravel and shell beds where there was an abundance of small colourful life. Izzy and Bethan followed on a similar dive while Paul and Gary did the steps at the SE tip reporting another good drift along walls encrusted with sponges and Dead Man’s fingers.

Sea cucumber

With all divers recovered, Bethan took the helm and drove the boat back, passing an exposed Stallion rock and apart from the challenge of a low water recovery of the boat which required an extra long length of rope all went very smoothly. Yet another successful and highly enjoyable day of club diving albeit in some rather ‘damp’ weather.



Paul has published his photos here

Site 1: Stallion rock, Pennymore Point, Furnace Loch Fyne.
Site 2: Coalas nan Each-uisge, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.
Site 3: SW tip, The Steps, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.

Lismore, Linnhe and Lorne, Sunday 10th April

After a slight hickup due to a loose wheel nut on the boat trailer we set off about two hours late to launch the boat from Loch Linnhe marina in Shuna Sound. Here a convenient slip, with all the necessary amenities including a very friendly owner, is usable in all but the lowest tides and made for a simple lauch and secure car parking.

Shuna and North Lismore, Loch
Shuna and North Lismore, Loch

The objective of the day was the artificial reef on the East side of Lismore. With a calm sea, Deep Dancer made short work of the trip down and we were soon using the echo sounder and searching for indications of the reef using transects. In the end Paul said “he had an App for that” which located the reef system for us. One party reported a sandy bottom and the other pair reported reef blocks to a height of two feet with numerous crustaceans lurking in the crevices. Interestingly the sandy bottom team reported little current while the reef team reported significant current eddies. Both parties reported cold water and low vis. The main reef complex consists of 30 units made up of 4000 concrete blocks, now that’s not very big and we were perhaps optimistic to try and dive these without first placing a shot.

“well I’m not diving that then, lets go over there” said captain pugwash indicating vaguely further down the sound. The west side of Eilean Dubh proved to be hopelessly shallow but a grey seal colony on the southern tip suggested there might be a decent site. Hamish and Chris dropped in on the Southern point finding terrible surface layer visibility before dropping onto sand and enjoying a delightful gentle drift on the incoming tide along sandy shelves, vertical 20′ walls and steep boulder slopes. One interesting artifacts that was found was a bit of bone china, a broken plate bearing the markings of Macbrayne. Now how did that get there !

Lunch time saw us landing on Eilean Dubh below nesting graylag geese who objected loudly to our presence, where we enjoyed lunch in the best weather of the year so far.

The afternoons dive saw the first wave go in on the South tip of Eilean Dubh again and reported a much warmer and more interesting dive than that of the morning. Cogniscent of the time Hamish and Chris elected to try pot luck closer to the launch site and found a site on the West side of Shuna Island where the above water topography and Paul’s App suggested there might be an interesting dive. Dropping into oily, dark tea and low vis thoughts of aborting the dive immediately sprang to mind but once through the surface layer visibility improved.

Diving a very steep sandy slope , Hamish spotted this cute little chap that we annoyed for a while taking it’s photograph. Certainly the highlight of the day for me ! With a 30 minute dive scheduled due to time constraints we had just enought time to collect a few scallops and deploy a SMB before being recovered by the boat.

A short trip back to the marina via the North of Shuna Island saw a quick recovery of the boat after the missing trailer roller had been replaced.



OSGB:
Dive site 1: N56°32’10” W5°27’10” Loch Linnhe artificial reef off Lismore
Dive site 2: N56°31’12” W5°27’32” Eilean Dubh, South tip
Dive site 3: N56°35’24” W5°24’10” Shuna Island, West side

Paul’s photos will be here wip
Some more photos here