Stallion Rock and The Minard Islands, Loch Fyne. 21st October

On Sunday we had a superb turn out for a boat trip, taking the Club rhib across to Loch Fyne and being joined by David with his new boat. A 6:30am start was called due to low tide, coming off springs and the shallow slip at the Argyll Caravan park. By ca 09:00 everyone had arrived and the boats had been launched before a quick briefing from Bethan on the day and we were off down the loch on a flat calm surface making excellent progress.

Stallion Rock was exposed at low water and we dropped the pathfinders off, rolling in at intervals off Deep Dancer, while Dave’s boat dived in waves. Considering we had five pairs of divers in the water it was surprising that we didn’t actually bump into each other but it’s a big wall. Bethan and Chris jumped in on the exposed rock itself and went to explore the bottom of the wall before coming up to the 20m mark and gently drifting along the wall with the ebbing tide. An impressive amount of squidgy life with sealoch anenomies, sea squirts, encrusting and cup sponges and squat lobsters in every available crevice you could shine a torch into. Half way through this dive we come across the overhangs at about 23m which would have merited exploration (next time!). Finally with NST reaching zero we slowly ascended finding sand at ca 10m, a solitary scallop and a large berried crab. A couple of minutes watching a sea gooseberry was spent as we paused for a safety stop. Finally up with the SMB and a perfect pickup from the coxswain to find all divers from Deep Dancer returned and the second wave from David’s boat in the water about to surface.

A little colder than people had come to expect recently but everyone reported a good dive. Having retrieved the final diver pair we set off down to the Tea Rooms at Furnace where we landed for a coffee and cake and a short break before the short hop over to the Minard Islands.

Most divers explored the SW tip, taking advantage of the incoming tide and exploring either side as they drifted over broken rocks and past walls. There are some excellent walls on this dive with a good covering of plumose and an enormous dahlia anemone. Bethan spotted a pipefish which I carefully caught and to see if it was carrying brood, (which it wasn’t). before returning unharmed. A small butterfish wriggled across muddy slabs leaving a silt trail that gave away it’s movements and numerous juvenile flatfish, iridescent green and with protruding eyes lay still until panic caused them to flee. Cold set in and I signaled that it was time to go up so we again found shallow sand and shell beds before putting up the SMB and being retrieved by the boat. Again people were reporting good but cold dives with a bag of scallops having been retrieved from over 70m somewhere nearby at a secret location…… Waiting for the second wave from David’s boat we stowed the gear and enjoyed the mild weather as the sun started to shine.

Divers up and then a quick trip back to the caravan park to recover the boats, debrief and set off back to the club hut to wash everything down after a very successful days diving.

I am happy to report that in consultation with the DO and TO, Bethan successfully completed her Dive Management skills module which should allow her to complete her Dive Leader grade training once the committee endorse it. Well done to Bethan for organising such a successful day , thanks to David for bringing along his boat, and to Tony for towing Deep Dancer. With so many experienced divers, these trips are always a pleasure. With people helping out and sorting things before being asked, so thanks to all of you who mucked in.

I was very lazy and didn’t take a camera but the usual paparazzi were present so photos will be added as they come in.

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Plan C , Sunday 17th June 2012

With the Bell rock being blow out for the second year running despondency crashed into the weekends diving plans as miserable weather got the better of diving on the East coast.

Steve, Colin and I, determined to get out and dive somewhere, drove across to “the Lochs” where all being in one car , we took advantage of the limited parking above the Caves just past Arrochar on Loch Long. I don’t think Colin believed us that this was the first site of the day but soon we were kitted up and abseiling down the culvert to enter the loch just before high tide.

Today saw everyone using Nitrox and while we were not intending to extend bottom times we were hoping to feel less fatigued on the way home. Having done our buddy checks at the car and then a bubble check at 3m we continued down the initial horse muscle shell bed before reaching our MOD in a field of sea loch anemones where there was still some ambient light reaching us from the surface. Here we started on the first of the days objectives, a close encounter with the fireworks anemone. Initially our search was unproductive and it wasn’t until we had started to ascend that Steve found the first of these fantastic animals.

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Moving up the slope Steve took the lead and we cruised across to the boulders where forests of Peacock worms snapped back into their tubes as we disturbed them. Finally having reached the pinnacles area we turned to come back at around 10m to satisfy the 5 minutes decompression penalty that we had accrued. From a life perspective there was a great variety on show at this depth. Not only the famous plumose anemones, but a very good variety of fish life with one spot shinnies, saithe, pollock and wrasse (both corkwing and ballan). Unfortunately we also came across the fishing line and witnessed the damage it can do picking up a crab so well wound in line that it couldn’t move its legs and was caught as a fly in a web of monofilament. Steve produced his keep bag and we popped it in, taking it back to shore where we did our best to remove the line before releasing it back into the loch.

That was it for the morning session save for the midges which were particularly fierce, chivvying us along and away down the road to the A-frames site where we though that a slight breeze might keep them at bay. As it turned out, the A-frames proved to be a very popular site with two Glasgow based dive schools and several independent divers all splashing about doing various exercises and drill and with just over a two hour surface interval we joined them.

With his recent knowledge of the site Steve had the honor of leading this dive and took us on a fascinating tour of the remnants of the pier stoops that were covered in squidgy life. Of note was the gas mantle sea squirt (Corella Parallelograma). Having explored the bottom of the A-frame and reaching the MOD of one of the gas mixes we slowly turned and made our way back up the slope coming across two fireworks anemones and an enormous and solitary Dahlia anemone. Taking a few extra minutes in the kelp we saw butter fish and various crabs covered in camouflage before surfacing just about were we went in after a much better dive than expected.

Before dekitting we washed down taking advantage of Colin’s in car fresh water spray a superb idea! Steve reported a major leak in his left arm and decided to sit out any further diving until he had identified and fixed the cause. Back to Splashsport I think!

Pulling over in the first layby on the North shore of Loch Earn just past the fish farm on the way to Perth we had our final adventure of the day and washed the kit off again in fresh water. The dive followed a steep slope festooned with angling lures which gave way to mud where a single solitary trout was seen sleeping on the bottom. Large golf balls were dotted around but clearly had been there a while. As we crept us the slope we came across little life though these fresh water porifera were of interest as were minute hydroids in the shallowest rocks which were covered by an algal mat. Overall the dive was dark and the bottom silty with an interesting current that moved both ourselves and the silt that we disturbed. Colin has loaded some really good atmospheric shots of this dive and the Loch Long sites, on his website

The short ride back to Burnbrae didn’t take long and Steve got a quick demonstration of Gas blending before enjoying a coffee and setting off home to arrive at a reasonably early time after a varied and interesting day.
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Manse Point and Etive pools 20th May 2012

This weekend we had nearly all the regular divers out on various trips along the West coast. The Sunday shore diving trip was this week blessed with delightful weather as we basked in 20 degrees on the cobble beach with a stunning backdrop of the Mamores and Glen Coe hills above upper Loch Leven .

Forgoing the temptations of a pre-dive coffee at the local cafe, we were unpacking the cars and had the first wave in the water at a very reasonable time.

The dive plan was for a relaxing shore dive at Manse Point, an excellent little site that offers convenient access and escape from the crowds, as well as a little wall that is usually covered in some interesting life. Today saw Colin and Hamish diving on Nitrox and it was intriguing to see EAN% and MODs appearing on the dive slate.

The first wave in, saw Simon doing a re-familiarization dive and check-out as he hadn’t been in the sea for a while and was just getting back into the swing of diving. All went very well with no problems and true to Colin’s observations ‘a bit like riding a bike!’. Gently ambling around in good vis and ambient light there was some excellent life on display in between the brittlestars and several good sized flounders skimmed the bottom as we swam past. On the ascent we came across a remarkable glass jar and a magnificent specimen of a nudibranch (Flabellina lineata) but having left the camera in the bag they escaped having their photos taken. Ascending on 30 minutes according to the plan the second wave of Hamish and Colin and then Frank and Alistair (Fyne Divers) were soon away with Simon and Chris provided shore cover.

Hamish and Colin swam straight out to the 20 m contour, turned left and found the wall which enticed them down to explore the depths, though they reported that there was still wall below them. They came back up the side of the wall, past queen scallops to exit where they had gone in. Frank and Alistair took a similar circuit and reported some excellent fish life including ling and even a small octopus before exiting again in the bay.

For the second dive we opted to stay at the Manse Point site and with a 2hr interval behind us, the waves went in again in formation. Chris and Simon, having checked out fine in the morning dive, bumbled down the slope and headed off to find the wall before returning across the slope looking for nudibranchs and finding burrowing anenomes, sea pens and yet more flatfish.

Colin and Hamish, Frank and Alistair repeated their morning dives but extended the range further around the point before retracing their steps and exiting in the bay reporting another interesting set of dives.

So with everyone out of the water we were soon packed up and heading to Glen Etive to check out the Eas Alltcarunn pools recently featured in SCUBA. The glen was packed with campers and canoeists, some of who were enjoying the scenery from their canoes as they were transported down the glen on car roof racks !

With all the canoeists on the river we had to consider them as a ‘site danger’ and set our shore cover to watch out for them !

The pools here are more of a narrow channel which reaches about 3m in depth and shallows towards the falls. With suitable determination you can drag yourself right up to these before letting go and flying off in a sea of bubbles. Exhilarating!
In the good visibility, the smooth walls provided interesting topography and a couple of small trout more fish life than we had seen previously in the river Orchy, all to quickly it was over and with tanks depleted time to pack up and head for home (having already washed all the equipment in freshwater!!).

I have put a link here to some of Colin’s photo’s . There are some excellent shots of the River Etive dive that catch the pool party atmosphere, canoeists and all!

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.

Farne Islands 21st August 2011

The news from the front or at least Paul’s Parents place was warm weather, clear skies and no swell to be seen, almost unbelievable considering the grey overcast weather we were having in Perth, but true enough as we drove South the weather improved and the knotted hankies, rolled up trousers and a craving for fish’n’chip appeared as we arrived at Seahouses.

Arriving early gave us the chance to meet up and have a natter and move the kit to the winches in good time to load the boat for a 14:30 ropes off. We were on Glad Tidings VII today, one of the larger dive boats with a tail lift, absolute luxury, though the facilities below decks were basic.

The first dive of the day was the Somali, a slack water dive and today at low water, lying at 26m. The boat crew placed a shot which landed towards the stern and we all slid down it to accomplish various circuits of different lengths dependant on our air consumption. Fred and I did an out and back plan, finding twisted metal and a few friendly wrasse. Having seen some of the wreck we re-ascended the shot to be picked up by the boat, quickly followed by the appearance of various DSMB’s.

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All back on board we were supplied with tea or coffee and we steamed across to the Farne Islands, past Staple Island and under the Longstone light to spend a pleasant surface interval watching seals. Aware of the time we jumped in for the second dive on a set of gullies and landed in lobster city, clearly the benefit of not over fishing and a no-take policy. (Seahouses has a no landing policy). The dive drifted gently along life encrusted walls and sandy gullies where the seals came to investigate strange bubbling animals before gliding effortlessly off into the gloom. Superb.

All to quickly the dive ended and with all teams aboard we steamed back to the harbour before retiring to the Olde Ship Inn and a well earned pint after an excellent day


dive sites Somali, Farne Islands

Boat: William Sheils

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