Handa Island and Loch Laxford Sept 2016

We decided to try September this year to see if we could get calmer weather for our trip to Scourie, unfortunately not, however we were able to launch the Rhib from the beach at Tarbet.  On the Saturday the winds were blowing 15-16 mph from the South and as the tide changed on the flood we noticed the wave action increased so we were only able to dive safely around Great Stack on the North side of Handa Island.

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We dropped our divers South of the Great Stack so that we could swim through the cavernous interior, there was some swell and the seabed was covered in smooth rocks a orange Scorpion fish was the only life we saw, heading down into area to the north of the stack we could see the waves crashing into the top of the rocks some 20 metres above us.

I could see some jewel anemones, mixed with large colonies of Orange Parasmittina trispinosa and white branching Bryozoa, we headed west over some boulders to a cave at the base of the cliffs, then headed back around the rock to the north of the Stack, Eddy found a Crab for his BBQ and we headed for the surface.

After lunch on the beach at the East Side of Handa Island we headed across to the Pinnacle about half a mile North of Tarbet, which was now dive-able with the change in tides. We dropped a shot onto the east side at about 10 Metres depth, the rock is covered in lots of interesting channels and we followed one of these down to 30 metres. Despite the gloom we could see the rocks down to 50 metres depth, then to our left a Crawfish standing proud on a ledge, we headed further round the pinnacle to spot a second Crawfish before heading back up to the surface.

On the Sunday the rain had passed, so we had the sun, but the wind and swell limited our options so we decided to head to Loch Laxford from Tarbet for a dive.  Hayden, Mark and I dropped down to 30 metres, after heading along the reef covered in feather stars, we found a couple of Ling and Hayden spotted a Octopus hiding in the rocks.

As we returned to the surface there were shoals of whiting swimming above the kelp.

 

“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….

Sunday shore dive : 12th October 2014

Another club rhib trip was scheduled for Sunday and by the preceding Wednesday was fully subscribed showing the enthusiasm that has pervaded the club.
As it turned out we did not actually take the boat out due to a few call offs and a technical problem discovered at the last minute. However, three members did decide to make the most of it and go shore diving anyway.

The trip started, after a false start, with Steve and Chris descending on Tara for breakfast as Paul assembled his camera , and , having had a rather tasty sausage sandwich, spicy and succulent, in the luxurious surrounding of their new home, we headed off toward Crianlariach and on to Tyndrum where the venue for the day was settled. After a quick detour via the Isles of Skye hotel to check out the launch for a new a new dive site, we arrived at the Slates in damp but calm weather and unpacked the car.

What a variety of kit came out of the car, singles, twins, and a rebreather and as expected Steve was fully kitted up and waiting for the rest of us as we completed our faff checks. Buddy checks at the water and we were off down to 20m where Paul demonstrated an almost perfect rescue from depth as a drill to complete his Advanced Lifesaver award and become a rescue specialist in doing so! Continuing the dive, we traversed around the reef reaching the point before turning and retracing our steps back to the entry site after over an hour underwater. Quite remarkable was Steve’s ability to come up with a reserve in his 12l on this dive! There was some very nice fish life out today, blennies, rock cod, wrasse and pollack with all the hard surfaces covered is squidgy life.

sealoch anemone

The light was quite good today and while the water had a distinctly greenish hue to it the Sea Urchins were positively shining.

Feeding urchin
Feeding urchin

After a good two hour lunch break we went back in but this time went exploring in the East bay out from the slate sheds. Once out onto the slope beyond the confines of the bay, the dive is rather good. Occasional boulders provide reef habitat from nursery shoals and holes for larger fish such as the large ling that we saw , to hide in. Flat fish, scorpion fist and even if somewhat rarely, skate are seen here. The topography was at it’s best below the 20m mark (low water) at the furthest point in the dive, where small shelves and walls stepped down into the deep. It was here we turned and made our way up-slope finding a glacial slab, polished smooth by ice. A couple of Facelina Botoniensis slowed us down for a while, presenting a wonderful photo-opportunity as they raced across the slab. Above the slab, gravel gave way to sand and kelp and the surface. A rather splendid second dive.

That was it for the day, save to rush back to tea and cakes at Tara’s!

A few extra photos – Paul

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Learn to Scuba dive with Perth BSAC

Perth BSAC is starting their try dive season again soon.  For anyone who wants to see if diving is for them and try diving in the safe confines of a swimming pool then it’s time to get in touch and book your space.

Being located on the borders of the Scottish Highlands but within the Central belt, Perth is ideally situated to access many of the most popular dives sites throughout Scotland. It  is a great place to learn and start your diving career.

You can contact us https://perth-bsac.co.uk/contact-perth-bsac/

 

The Caves and the Chana, Sunday 16th March

Two divers ventured out on Sunday. Leaving Perth in glorious spring weather, by Crieff we were in cloud and by the time we were driving down Loch Lomondside it was raining. The Pit Stop cafe was the start point for the day where we finalised our plans and having had a bacon roll and a coffee drove down to ‘The Caves’ where much to our surprise we came across some friends from the Regional training.

Today was a check out dive for the upcoming Trimix course that both Steve and I were doing and as Steve chuckled mercilessly I struggled down the culvert with a twin set and stage to arrive at the waters edge exhausted….

We buddy checked and literally slid into the water when the first of several kit problems surfaced. Having mounted my torch battery on my twin set I was peeved to realise it was the same side that I carried my stage which meant that I was lopsided, well until that is, I had drained the right hand cylinder! Next issue was the torch was playing up ! Looks like a connection problem with the umbilical so resurfacing to ensure it was securely screwed into the battery and we were off, again. Vis was not that good but improved with depth and as the life ran out and we moved onto mud we decided to turn and explore the boulders. Perhaps too early in the season for any really good life, only the usual suspects were on show though a good sized lobster did put in a surprise appearance. Problem three presented as I switched to my stage and the regulator started free flowing (which it did not do on descent) but as we were within our no-stop times it was not a real problem but highly preferable finding out now rather than with a hard ceiling to contend with! We finished the dive by gently drifting with the flood current to surface beneath a canopy of trees somewhere on the side of the loch which presented the slight issue in finding the exit point. By swimming out from the shore we were able to spot the culvert a mere 25 meters away and made our exit. All that was left was to haul ourselves up the culvert and land exhausted at the cars having completed another good dive and necessary check out. (Annual medical! – Ed)

Back to the Pit Stop for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and then a delightful drive to Loch Fyne to check out the access to some dive sites and then across to Taynuilt on Loch Etive where I introduced Steve to the delightful little wreck of the Chana.

Loch Etive was dark today and the water temp struggled to reach 7 degree but once on the wreck visibility was good enough to see all we needed to as we explored. I had the chance to have a close look at feeding Horse muscles and a cheeky little blenny that had made a home in a pipe hole. Hatches, rudders, props and wheel were all checked and the little portable generator on the deck made an interesting discovery. Having circled the wreck twice we made took a bearing for the shore and made our way back via the bottles and rubbish that has piled up hereabouts over the ages. A tea pot and a wine glass stopped us for a while before we surfaced slightly further along the shore than we had planned.

The trip home was broken at Crianlariach before arriving home somewhat later than usual but today we had been exploring !

Kintallen Wall, Sunday 2nd March 2014

Having advertised a club trip two divers made it out on Sunday to join a couple friends from Fyne Divers across in Ballachulish. deciding to dive Kentallan Wall over the morning coffee saw us drive the short distance around the coast towards Oban to arrive at an almost full dive site. The view across to Morven here has got to rival any views from a dive site on Mainland Scotland.

The tide was on the flood so a clockwise circuit was decided on and the teams, diving in two loose pairs reported varying degrees of success in finding the edge of the wall. Paul and Chris drifted slowly along the wall at the 25m mark eventually finding the hanging rope and heading for home while Edwards and Claire who were perhaps further West reported rocks, shelves and a mud slope which they followed down to the 30m mark.

A short break in the Hotel for lunch before the second dive. E&C were training which left the second pair free to explore the Northern reef in what turned out to be an interesting dive. Initially over sand and stones where anchor chains and mooring rubbish littered the bay, the bottom sloped onto silty mud with scattered sea-pens while on the return trip the small wall and slabs of the reef provided interest. Some interesting life on this dive which while scattered around more than made up for the flat nature of most of the dive.

Acanthodoris pilosa
Two good dives again today in very reasonable visibility for once though only one type of nudibranch spotted today which was far to small photograph ! (or was it? -Ed)

Sunday diving, Loch Long 28th July 2013

It was a rather damp when Steve and Chris arrived at the Three communities tea room at Arrochar (the Pit Stop cafe), not the dreach miseries of a depressing winters day but damp nevertheless. A mug of tea and a bacon sandwiches put the world to rights as we joined Maureen and Fred and waited for Alison and Emily to arrive.

The venue today was Conger Alley and to avoid the long carry we decanted all the heavy equipment at the top of the access track before parking the cars in the layby and changing in relative safety. For those that don’t know, this is an exceptionally busy road and traffic is a significant risk.
Changing in a steady drizzle although warm was unpleasantly sticky and with the midges being out there was a certain urgency to get into the water.

There were two teams on the first dive, Maureen and Fred off for an experience dive, putting their honed buoyancy skills to good use and showing off their rather nice new kit. What a transformation and well done! Both enjoyed a leisurely exploration of the reef. Kudos to Mo at Puffin, who certainly has done a good jobs somewhere along the line. Steve was taking Emily in for OO3 and I tagged along for a bit of experience. The lesson initially went well with all the mask clearing work completed. A few problems with equipment configuration led to issues with the AS ascent so the drills were suspended and we returned to shore. Have to saw the vis in the surface layers was appalling.

People took lunch where they fancied, some folk disappearing off to a cafe while others stayed on the beach but the weather was not brilliant so with a minimal surface interval we prepared to get back into the water. Only Steve and Chris opted for a second dive and they made an exploratory visit to the base of the reef, struggling to find 30m at low tide. They did however find fireworks anemones which are always a fantastic spectacle when you see them as they seem to have a luminescent glow.

So with everyone back on the surface we had a final cuppa at the Pit Stop cafe before making our way back to Perth, getting home at a very reasonable time.

We have not dived this site for a while and it is well worth visiting though perhaps not as a training venue due to the traffic. Perhaps that will do us until next year !

Wednesday evening puddle at Campsie Linn, 24th July

Nearly four weeks of glorious summer came to a crashing end with thunder and lighting just in time to raise a few doubts about river diving on Wednesday evening, however driven by an insanely enthusiastic Paul, the cats were herded and we rallied at the Angler’s Inn in Guildtown at the appointed time.

Diving the river Tay raises a few eyebrows, locals who have an interest, whether commercial or environmental, keep a sharp watch on suspect activities and a group of divers on the Tay meets this description to a tee. So it was that we met one such local and explained our intentions who promptly hurried off to beat the drums leaving us with the equipment to strenuously carry down to the river and watch the canoeists play on the rapids for a few minutes while we caught our breath.

The overnight rain had raised the water level by about a foot but the river looked dive-able so we went in in two groups, hugging the wall beneath the linn to avoid any strong currents. The vis was not very good (Is this an understatement? – Ed) and the further into the pool the worse it got and with all light penetration gone at about 8m most of the dive was carried out within a torch beam.

Underwater obstacles are always a concern and with overhung ledges, trees and current we took a great deal of care not to work our way into a corner though we had no idea what was above us, as Steve put it, it was as close to cave diving as we would be likely to come without going into a cave!

The plan on this sort of dive is to slowly crawl along the bottom, using boulders to pull yourself along rather than fining. You creep up on the life or let it come to you and it was remarkable just how much life there actually was. Several large salmon as well as numerous smaller ones were either asleep on ledges or wedged between boulders, occasionally one shot out of the darkness and making straight at us turned at the very last instance and was gone. dum dum dum dum dum dum ….. Trout were there as well , large brown trout, speckled and dark. These were much more timid than the salmon and harder to approach. What was interesting was the number and the size of the eel population, some really large specimens gliding past while others had taken up residence beneath boulders.

Eels

Flatfish

It was interesting to see this little chap, obviously lost !

The freshwater mussel occurs in the Tay system and we came across this specimen below the falls. Clearly washed down from further upstream. Initial thoughts of relocating it to a gravel bed were tempered with it’s protected status so we left well alone. It has always puzzled me how the spat of these molluscs get back up the river system after spawning?

Freshwater muscle

Having made it across the pool we turned and using a compass made our way back finding a tree noted on the way out and then a wall, eroded with pockets where golf balls had become wedged. Finally as we started to ascend, surface eddies and current became noticeable and only avoidable by hugging the edge of the pool. Here while doing a safety stop we had the opportunity to have a good look at the fresh water sponge that appeared white on the rock. Finally, completing the stop I had the opportunity to pick up round lead shot, which looked initially like musket balls but turned out to be harling weight.

All in all a very esoteric dive, would I do it again, yes absolutely but only after another three weeks of glorious summer weather.

Thanks to Paul for organising and to Spike for coming and providing local knowledge and shore cover. Paul has loaded some excellent photos here, the water was a little murky for my camera without a strobe. Just for the record a standard summer low water for the river (bit like tides – Ed) the team recorded 17m in the middle of the pool and the water temperature was 21 degree C.

Paul’s photos, which are a lot better than mine!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 13th July, Regional Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne

Most of the club’s active members had departed for Lewis on the Summer Expedition on Friday leaving a remnant of keen enthusiasts to make the trek across to Loch Fyne to support the Regional Training event run by Fyne Divers. The training is run on a voluntary and free basis for any BSAC member who wishes to learn skills and complete lessons towards their diver grade, or just come for an ‘experience’ dive or for divers who want to practice and hone their instructor skills, as such it is well worth supporting.

This Saturday we had a very successful trip, with one club member completing SP1, the final practical session of her Sports diver qualification. Hip Hip ! We also had another club member successfully completing OS3 and while this is a refresher signifies good steady progress. As something slightly different I had the chance to supervise an A-OWI delivering a rather enjoyable and technically correct lesson plan, Well done to both the Instructor and his student, who absorbed the lesson like a sponge. An interesting experience and completely different paradigm.

In the afternoon our members had a chance to practice the skills gained in the morning session with emphasis on buoyancy control and good progress was reported. I taught DSMB deployment using the lesson plan I was shown on a recent Instructor development course and had an enjoyable and hopefully useful session with a student from Dundee University.

Have to say that while Perth basked in 26 degrees we were somewhat cooler with overcast skies and a westerly breeze. There is still plankton hanging around Loch Fyne so the vis was restricted but the water was refreshingly warm. Some large moon jellies in the water column today which added an ethereal quality to simulated deco stops

No photos today as these were training dives.