“Shake down”

Getting organised this year just seems to have been hard ! Mid March and I felt I needed a shakedown dive as it had been so long since I’d been in the water, I was starting to lose interest. To be honest the winter weather had promised snow conditions and the lure of winter-sports held sway in the weekend’s activities but fickle as the weather is, the few days when I could actually get time off coincided with gales, closed snow gates and a general lassitude that saw me going no further than the shops. But March and still thinking about shake down dives seems almost implausible for an all year round diver. And we won’t mention Man-flu. Was I going to get in, could I still do it and would the kit actually work.

Nothing was further from my mind than diving when I rang Paul up for a social chat, “how you getting on ? what! the girls are off doing what! Oh! er Sunday, will be out late on Saturday, where, don’t know where that is but I’ll find it, keep your phone on ?” Lassitude, effort, followed by grumpiness and then the realisation that all the shinnies were spread around the house is various states of dis-assembly – “Oh Sh*t!”.

First off I had to find the shed keys to fill tanks, then I had to find the tanks buried as they were under tarpaulins and general garage gauno. An hour later and behind schedule saw standard OC equipment thrown in a bag and a mental note to find hood and gloves and not to forget the undersuit, BCD and weight belt when I packed the car. 01:30 am I found a pillow and drifted into the arms of Morpheus quietly swearing about …. everything.

I’m not sure if the dog or the alarm woke me but with lots to do I was up and still half asleep packed the car, remembering the torch and there was something else I couldn’t quite remember so walked the dog. Ah that was it, the undersuit, where did I put that.

The plan was to drive across to Finnart terminal and meet up with Ewan and Paul who would drive up from near Dunoon in Ewan’s boat Carrick Castle to pick us up. I met Edward at the ‘overspill’ car park and having informed the incumbent Dive School that there would be a boat coming in to pick us up (very considerate – Ed) set the kit up and transported it down to the low water mark. Ewan and Paul were just about on time and having stowed the kit aboard we crossed the loch to Cnap point below the beacon on the north shore. The sun shone and the weather was fine,

The chart suggested a small wall and the topography looked interesting so having moved over the ‘wall’ a couple of times with the depth sounder we decided that two waves was safest and Edward and I kitted up, buddy checked and rolled off on the point. &^^$$£$%%^&^&*& , the surface layer had zero vis! Literally side by side, we descended and luckily once through the fresh water, the vis cleared and we landed on a small wall and gully that led down past an anchor to boulders. Lots of plumose anemones, shriveled up in the dark and cold covered the glaciated rocks while a few small pollack swam nervously past, flashing in the torches before escaping into the darkness. A scallop or two, small and lonely were left and horseman anemones, large and fat provided a dash of color in a greeny grey world. Perhaps the highlight of the dive was a large mature pipefish, fattened by eggs it was carrying. Edward and I descended until we reached mud and just edged into a decompression penalty before returning to practice a couple of drills in the shallows while doing our stops.

The pickup was excellent and very professional, mind you we would not have expected anything else! Diving pairs swapped over, Paul and Ewan dropped in on the point and followed a similar route, spending more time at the anchor and on the life encrusted boulders that provided the photo opportunities for Paul. Excitement was briefly injected to the job of surface cover when two MOD Police rhibs sped rather close to the divers and we had to position ourselves to divert them away. The MOD use the far side of the loch for high speed travel in deference to the popularity and use of the Finnart dive sites, so we must have provided some variation to their patrol routine. Paul and Ewan’s bubbles moved up-slope and a DSMB popped up which they quickly followed. After recovering them we skimmed back across to the A-frames to beach and disembark the kit after a excellent little dive. With everything unloaded, Carrick Castle majestically disappeared down the loch and all that was left was to pack the cars and head home.

An excellent day. Thanks to Ewan for providing the boat and the Edward and Paul for the company.

From a collective shakedown perspective , I was over-weighted but also a little cold, but things will warm up soon. My trim was all to pot, tank way to far up the BCD and the trim weights I had in the jacket for pool use (and forgot to take out) didn’t help at all. Seemed to be a lot of dangly bits and revisiting how gauges, torches and regulators are stowed is no bad thing remembering to check you can reach them underwater. I think this months Diver mag had an article about getting back in the water and yes we had issues with DSMB reels running smoothly and tangled lines, computer batteries saying no and the proverbial mask straps and buckles….

Advertisements

St Abbs on Tiger Lilly, Sunday 3rd July 2011

With a few people on holiday it seemed a good idea to try the commercialism of St Abbs for once and get a few people together to book individual spaces aboard one of the many hard boats that operate out of the harbour and enjoy some easy low hassle diving.

Ringing Paul Crowe from Rock House and DiveStabbs, it was easy enough to arrange a couple of dives and with ropes off at 09:00am, five of us made an early start and arrived in plenty of time to find Paul, join a group from Sunderland and help with the task of loading tanks and bags aboard “Tiger Lilly” before the short trip out to the dive sites.

Regardless of the fantastic weather we experienced, a rather large swell albeit on an otherwise calm sea was rolling in from the North, breaking heavily on the shore and skerries and promising added spice to the days diving, it was not therefore surprising that the more experienced members of the party had kitted up and were sitting ready to dive before we had left the harbour !

The first dive of the day was Anenomie Gullies off the Skells and while I dived with Steve, Colin joined Gary and Izzy. After shuffling across a pitching deck, like a drunken penguin we flopped into blue water and made a free-fall descent to hit the top of gullies at 18m which were encrusted with deadman’s fingers and an amazing variety of anenomies.



Luckily it was a marine conservation area.
The viz was initially a little disappointing with particulate matter in the water column but this improved with depth as we swam seawards, soon the anticipation of finding life in every nook and cranny took over as the swell moved us to and fro along the gullies. A lobster provided a bit of sport as we teased it out of its lair before of course putting it back unharmed. The other party reported three wolf-fish and a scorpion fish as well as an octopus. After nearly an hour in the water we surfaced to be retrieved by tail lift onto Tiger Lilly, a truly delightful experience when compared to climbing up a ladder or even into a RHIB.


A quick turn around saw the gear stowed below benches and the bottles offloaded before we disembarked and the next wave of Sunday trippers boarded. To degas we spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the sun, eating sandwiches and setting the world to rights.


The afternoon dive was the Black Carr where we jumped into 10m and straight down against a reef to shelter from the easing swell. This time Colin joined Steve and I and we had a merry chase around the skerry where we found an old and very large anchor.


conscious of the bottom time (no really!) and the contents gauge, slightly shallower depths were sort and we ascended off the reef and onto rocks above, where we found a knarley old wolf fish and gardens of anenomies and Deadman’s fingers, here we spent time will numerous tame Ballan wrasse and passing Pollack that seemed unconerned with our presence. Finally it came time to ascend and we slowily drifted upwards over an amphitheatre covered in life through a cloud of jelly fish to end what was a remarkable days diving.


Tea and cakes in the harbour cafe and a final chinwag in the sun before we set off home after a very easy and incident free day.
Another great day out with the club!






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.

Easter at Oban, 23rd-25th April 2011

People started to gather over Friday and by evening a lively party spirit was evident at the caravans by Puffin boding well for the weekend.

Evening social

On Saturday morning with perhaps an eye open for the Garvellachs, the boats were towed down to Cuan where Spike’s boat and Deep Dancer were launched from the ferry slip. Deep Dancer decided to play tricks on us and refused to start opting instead to remain silent until Tony performed his Lazarus act, laying his hands upon the errant deadman’s switch and bringing the engine roaring to life.

The boats motored south to Shuna where Deep Dancer’s team went in under Shuna House near the slip at Port an t-Salainn reporting a mud slope and a forest of phosphorescent sea pens. Spikes boat went exploring around the corner on the west side of the island. For lunch the boats were anchored in a sandy bay on the south-west tip below Shuna Cottage where we enjoyed a relaxing couple of hours in the sun, watching sea kayakers paddling past.

Boats moored below Shuna Cottage

Second dives of the day was a lucky dip affair off the West side of Shuna. We found a steep sand and bolder slope which provided some interesting life including slender sea pens and some vintage scallops. All divers retrieved without incident and an enjoyable boat ride back up to Cuan where we had the opportunity to take Deep Dancer into the tidal race for a bit of boat handling practice.

Flat fish of Puffin

The evening activities had started by the time we got back and a couple of enthusiastic divers opted for a night dive off Puffin dive centre. Numerous flat fish , poor cod , butterfish and bleneys being more inquisitive than usual were seen.

On Sunday morning the boats were in the water early and the day trippers arrived from Perth. With the weather looking fair Deep Dancer and Am Fheoladaire set off up Kerrera Sound and towards Lismore taking advantage of calm seas. Identifying interesting sites off the SW tip of Lismore interesting, gentle drifts were enjoyed along a “pick your own depth” – slabs/wall. As part of the entertainment for the day a small lesser spotted dogfish caused delight in Alan’s boat before it was released. Due to visibility closing in we motored back towards Oban taking lunch on Kerrera. Spike’s boat headed south to South Kerrera Sound light for shake down dives.

Skate: Dipturus Batis

The afternoon dive was off Maiden Island where a good bag of scallops was collected. One bag which was sent up,caused a hazard to shipping as the Calmac ferry steamed over it. Chris and Paul reported a little skate Dipturus Batis off the south tip which is an unusual site these days as they are threatened with extinction through over fishing. Fred and Maureen providing boat cover and Fred subsequently brought Deep Dancer home with a display of impressive boat handling skills.

During the evening Neil took his boat out to charge the battery and some of us enjoyed a tremendous cruise up and down Kerrera sound. On return two keen divers were waiting for it to get dark for a night dive off the Puffin dive centre where a similar array of life to the previous evening was reported as they provided a light show spectacle for those watching from the pier.

Monday saw Am Feoladaire and Deep Dancer heading the 8 miles south to Insh Island in glorious weather and calm seas. The wall of the NE tip was dived and good life reported with colonial sea squirt and soft corals in abundance. Lunch was taken on Easdale Island in sunshine.
The afternoons dive was a pot luck affair and a reasonable site was found off Rubha Lagain Aillidh on the mainland just north of the Easdale cliffs.

Rubha Lagain Aillidh

Dive sites: OSGB
Saturday
Dive site 1: N56°13’26” W5°35’23” E Shuna Island, S Sgeir Chreagag below Shuna House, Port an t-Salainn
Dive site 2: A secret clam bed somewhere in Shuna Sound
Dive site 3 N56°13’20” W5°36’49” West side of Shuna: S Port na Cro, Port nan Sea-ramhach
Dive site 4 N56°12’35” W5°37’5” West side of Shuna: N Rubh’an Trilleachain
Sunday
Dive site 1: N56°28’48” W5°34’45” W Lismore, Bagh Clach an Dobhrain
Dive site 2: N56°27’51” W5°35’46” W Lismore, Rubha Cloinn Mhic Leoid
Dive site 3: N56°22’53” W5°32’7” Kerrera Sound , Sgeirean Dubha Light
Dive site 4: N56°25’54” W5°29’28” Oban ,E Side Maiden Island
Dive site 5: N56°25’47” W5°29’24” Oban ,SE Point Maiden Island
Dive site 6: Puffin Dive centre pontoons
Monday:
Dive site 1: N56°18’54” W5°39’32” Sgeir Beul na h-Uamhaidh
Dive site 2: N56°19’10” W5°37’31” Rubha Lagain Aillidh

Perth BSAC Trip to Oban Easter 2011

All in all a very worthwhile trip blessed by good weather. Thanks are due to Steve for his organisation and for everyone for mucking in.

Diving the West side of Kerrera. 7th February

A challenging day
A big thank you to Alan for organising this Sunday’s trip to Oban.


After Fridays storms it was unlikely that the diving around Oban would be up to much and it was with a certain amount of amazement that Paul and I arrived at Puffin Dive Centre to find a calm sea. We were a little late and Alan’s boat was just about ready to be put in the water for the first time of the season and Alan, Dave and Phoebs waited ‘patiently’ as we quickly got ourselves changed and the kit ready for two dives off the SW tip of Kerrera.

Kerrera Island by Oban


A quick ride down to the area of Bach Island saw a tidal rip around Rubha na Feundain with fresh ‘clear’ water from the West pushing into the Sound of Kerrera. A reef, an extension of the point produced a small standing waves and promised a terrific drift dive.

Rubha na Feundain from the west
Rubha na Feundain from Alan's rhib


David and Phoebs went in first and reported very poor visibility with a layer of fresh water on the surface and an uncomfortably strong current and suggested that we went in around the corner towards Port Dubh. This we did, dropping onto kelp and found that the visibility improved with depth and the current encouraged us downwards onto sandy slopes, the land of scallops! Energetic finning had the contents gauge falling at an alarming rate so we clawed our way cross current up the slope with our bag of booty, it became clear after 20mins that an open water ascent would be required and the DSMB was deployed to lift the scallops and we soon followed it. Rather a challenging dive.

We had lunch at the pebble beach of Barr-nan-broc Bay and the weather remained clear, calm and mild.


The second dive was at Rubha na Lice on the Western side of the Island. Alan joined David and went in first followed shortly afterwards by Chris and Paul who found a shallow reef with a small 5m wall.

Good life on the sheltered reef

This wall gave shelter from the current and held a good assortment of life ranging from cup corals to deadman’s fingers and plumose anenomies and a good smattering of scallops that had gathered at the base of the wall. The visibility on this dive was much better and had good ambient light at 20m. Ascending to the top of the wall, slabs continued upwards into kelp and coarse sand where white burrowing anenomies were found. All in all a much better dive !

Paul has published his photos here

Second dive profile



Dive site 1: Rubha na Feundair , Kerrera Isle, Oban. 56°22’50N 5°35’19W
Dive site 2: Rubha na Lice , Kerrera Isle, Oban. 56°24’32N 5°33’45W


credits: all underwater photos taken by Paul