Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe, The Slates and Kentallen

Firstly a big welcome to Bethan who celebrated her first Perth-BSAC club dive on Sunday, taking it all in her stride with a solid performance of non-faff diving obviously learnt from her University days. With some initially inclement weather we had an interesting day with the morning being spent at The Slates at Balachulish before moving around to Kentallen in the afternoon.

For the morning dive we went in under a rain laden sky but flat calm surface and had excellent visibility while we circumnavigated the slate spits. At the point there is a very steep boulder slope, encrusted with sea squirts and anenomies with poor cod, ling, two spotted blennies and wrasse hiding in the rocks and pollack or saith cruising by.

small scorpion fish

One pair explored the bottom of the slope where it shelved and gently dipped into the middle of the loch, while the other pair maintained a constant depth and navigated around the reef. Both teams reported good life and excellent vis.

Lunch was a wet affair sat on the benches on Kentallen pier, in the rain, pondering the second dive. Encouragingly as we kitted up it brightened and patches of blue sky in the west suggested better things to come and by the end of the dive summer had returned. From the end of the Kentallen pier the reef is a good ten minutes swim but well worth it. Dropping onto a Peacock worm covered face we gently drifted along with the current.

Peacock worms

If you dive this site it is important to leave yourself enough air to avoid the long surface swim back to the pier, so with 120bar we started our ascents to the top of the reef and headed back to the shore past boulders, home to some delightful plumose anenomies. Exiting to the South of the pier is a mistake and we should have swum around to the slip instead of clambering over slippery rocks.

To finish the day we spent a pleasant hour in the Holly Tree Inn enjoying the views overlooking Loch Linnhe and Moidart.

a few more photos here

Shore diving Loch Linnhe

The latest fashion
A small team enjoyed the delight of the continuing good weather and went shore diving on Loch Linnhe on Sunday. Meeting at the Holly Tree Inn car park , Kintallen for 09:00 am was a test but the team mustered on time and was in the water before 10:00 having walked the site and done a dive briefing.
What a difference bright light and good vis makes. The wall, seen previously within the confined of a torch beam, was perhaps less impressive. The bottom was flat at 33m (low tide) where silt and stones disappeared off into the middle of the loch. The wall was not quite as festooned with life as previously though a string of lost crab pots near the end were covered in seasquirts, sea oranges and peacock worms that snapped back into their pipes in waves as we approached.

With No Stop time exhausted and a decompression stop indicated it was time to ascend and start the underwater fin back to the pier. Just at the top of the slabs a couple of little nudibranchs (Favorinus blianus) created interest before heading in, completing our decompression as we did so.

Having used the Holly Tree Inn’s car park it was only right to use their coffee shop and we had a pleasant hour looking across Loch Linnhe enjoying their hospitality. (Highly recommended, three scallops: the Editor)

After lunch, rather than replay the mornings dive we decided to do something different and set off down towards Appin and the Shuna Layby dive site. Lunch was taken on the remnants of an old concrete breakwater and as the weekends batch of kayakers set off for their tour of Shuna we kitted up for the second dive.

Getting ready for the second dive

This site was a pot luck affair and while the initial sand hosted flights of Queen scallops it rapidly gave way to mud. In a field of sea pens we turned around and started back picking up a couple of large scallops against the rocks where the dredgers were unable to apply their destructive powers.

Skate in Shuna Sound

Gary and the skate

And that was it, another good day out with the club, fantastic weather and new sites.

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
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
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
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.

BSAC North Scotland Regional Diving, Loch Duich 16th April

Northern Region held a diving weekend based around Loch Duich which was well attended by an enthusiastic and varied group of divers from all over Scotland. While most people camped, some stayed in the Ratagan hostel and some folk slumbed it in the Kintail Lodge hotel.

On Saturday, sites on the Southern side of the loch, towards Totaig point were dived with some interesting drifts being reported.

On Sunday I made an early start and joined the rest of the participants for the day. Surprisingly it took just 30 minutes longer than the trip to Oban, which is certainly something to think about.

Sundays dive sites were ‘Dornie Corners’ just short of Eilean Donnas castle and ‘Jacobite bay’ at the Kintail Lodge hotel. Both interesting dives with a variety of topography and life.
You can see some of my pictures here

‘Dornie Corners’ were found to be a sand and mud slope which ended on steep glacial slabs that disappeared into the gloom. The dive set off down the slabs and drifted at a desired depth until bottom time expired. Some interesting life floated by including the colonial sea squirts and shoals of queen scallops. Putting in a couple of stops on the ascent seemed sensible today and stopped the alarm screaming!

Second dive was near the Kintail Lodge hotel on the old road that turns off by the Jacobite restaurant, here a little sandy bay leads gently down to 15m (although does go further) where the beast that I had come to see was reported. The fireworks anenomie is a fantastic sight, at over 50cm across it stands out like a light house. Quite an interesting site as we also found all three sea pens, a forest of sea cucumbers and a docile Pipe fish.

All dives completed without incident and apart from a set of keys going missing which delayed departures, an enjoyable day had by all assisted by some very reasonable weather.

Dive site 1: N57°15’31” W5°29’16” Dornie Corners, Loch Duich
Dive site 2: N57°13’26” W5°24’54” Jacobite bay, Eilean nan Gall, Loch Duich, Kintail Lodge Hotel area

Heather Island, Oban 3rd April

Thanks you to Steve for the following contribution.

Had a good day over at Puffin yesterday with thanks due to Alan & Sue (for boat & boat handling) & Dave who took Neil in for his 2nd day of open water diving.

There was a brisk south westerly blowing which restricted our options so we headed to Maiden Island in the morning (where a good haul of scallops was collected!), then Alan, Izzy, Gary & I did the wall on the outside of Heather Island for the afternoon while Dave took Neil in for a shore dive at Puffin (Sarah & Karen Dobbie acted as shore cover for them) to work on buoyancy & finning skills.

A swiftly executed & successful day with diving completed & the boat recovered by about 3pm, so back in Perth around 5.30pm!

Britain’s Secret Seas

Have you seen that Britain’s Secret Seas is going to be shown over the next few weeks. Well worth a watch.

Info from BSAC head office advertises this as “The stunning series showcases Britain’s magical marine life and mysterious wrecks. Presented by a group of experts, the team is led by explorer, experienced scuba diver and BSAC member, Paul Rose. Due for transmission on Sunday 8th May at 8pm on BBC2, the series has taken the ‘Top Gear’ slot and is expected to have a high audience. (The transmission date is subject to change, better record it as we’ll not be back from diving!).”

They also suggest it might prompt some interest in diver training. So if you get any enquiries then please let Maureen know so she can provide details. Maybe we can get a few try dives lined up for next year if we get the vouchers ready.

If anyone wants to dive the “biogenic reefs” (or is that Reeves or reefies), then young Hamish knows where to go !

Kerrera Sound, Oban, 20th March

Todays thank you go to Alan and Dave for arranging this Sunday’s splash which saw a relatively large team of 8 divers departing Puffin Dive centre just after 9 o’clock.

The days highlight for me was Neil’s first open water experience just off the shore in Gallanach Bay, South of Puffin. Neil coped admirably well, the weeks of pool training on Wednesday evenings having paid dividends and apart from a few issues with air migration within his suit, the dive was completed without incident. In fact we had a very interesting if rather cold dive, seeing a large and varied selection of life as we moved from a shelving shingle bottom onto the edge of a small boulder slope.

Neil on his first open water dive

Izzy and Alan went in close by at the point and reported good vis. Dave’s boat went off to slightly further down the sound to Aird na Cuile ably piloted by Sarah with Paul and Colin taking their cameras in while Gary and Dave enjoyed a scallop hunt. With the weather closing in and a few showers coming through we headed back to Puffin for lunch to take advantage of the Crew room and it’s stove which Sue litterally filled with wood to create a warm fuggy atmosphere that had everyone warmed up in no time.

Napier Uni was out on a trip and a hardy bunch they were too. Memories of student days diving in wet suits came flashing back as we shared the fire with shivering, wetsuit clad students who looked miserable until somebody said ‘Dive’, then it was all change as they charged back into the water. Here’s to you Ahab !

Lunched, warmed and ready to go again, the small flottila motored off down to the Sgerien Dubha light at the south of the sound where the plan was for the experienced divers to go off the Northern tip of the skerrie while Neil and I made our way along the inner reef. With grey seals in the water and getting ready to haul out to pup on the skerry we hoped to see some on the dive but it was not to be. Instead we descended onto a shingle bottom which gave way to small walls as we drifted northwards until we found silt at the point. This was the most interesting part of the dive with sea pens , scallops and Neil reporting a pipefish. Alan and Izzy were back in the boat by the time we surfaced as were Paul and Colin who reported a large wolf fish.

Scuba Diving Southern Sound of Kerrera

So with all in order we left ‘Plan B’ in Sarah’s able hands to pick up Gary and Dave and headed back to Puffin to haul out, hose down and clear the slip.

Hopefully photo’s from Colin will appear here wip

Insh Island, Easdale, Sunday March 6th

Alan and crew were out again on Sunday and a very good and varied trip it was too. From Puffin we headed south to Insh Island on light seas and had it not been for a slight headwind they would have been flat calm.

Map of Insh Island and Easdale

The first dive of the day was on the NW of Insh Island where we dropped onto kelp and sand in 12m before venturing out onto a gravel bottom to 25m where a good bag of large scallops was collected. No dredging is allowed around this area so the bottom is not disturbed. Visibility at 20 m was very good but there was a significant oiliness to the top few meters of the water which we crept into as we ascended boulders and sand at the end of the dive.

See that diver, he was this big!

For lunch we cruised around Insh Island and made for Easdale where we met Tony and his Wife (former members) who invited us across to the island for a coffee, a natter and few of the local stories. A great opportunity to have a walk round and check out the pub and coffee shop as well as the amazing harbour carved into the middle of the island by the quarry men.

The second dive was superb, probably one of the best dives in the area. Heading back toward Puffin on the NE side of Insh and under Dave, the island owners home, the small skerry of Sgeir Bheul na h-Uaimaidh sits on one side of a small channel that gives an energetic drift under the small cliffs. We were dropped on the outside of this and the initial shingle and kelp gave way to rock and then a wall that was covered in sponges including the snow drop sponge, yellow fingery sponges, grey perforated sponge, cup sponges , vase sponges and a hundreds more. We did not however see the Northern Sea Fan at this site. Jewel anenomies of fluorescent green, sandaled anenomies and the ubiquitous deadman’s fingers all over. Looking closer, top shells and even a small nudibranch could be found. Finally, bottom time ran out so we ascended onto the shingle and kelp to put in a safety stop before ascending. The second wave went in where we came out and worked their way back, reporting another good dive and another bag of scallops

The journey back to was swift with Alan at the helm and dolphin sighted. A great day with at least one top class dive.

Sunday Diving at Furnace, Loch Fyne

A small team headed off to Loch Fyne on a fine spring day.

Arriving in good time at Furnace quarry we were surprised to see that the car park was almost full with a large group from a Glasgow dive centre. So while they held their pre dive briefing we nipped in to enjoy good vis before it was stirred up. A slow descent to the base of the boulders, checking buoyancy as we went saw few of the dogfish found previously to be in residence, though we did find one that provided some entertainment.

The dive school had by now traversed in above us and we had multiple torches shining down on us as we traverse upwards through them.

The deep

Half tanks saw us start the return journey and we drifted with the current back to the starting point choosing a slightly lower depth than our dive centre friends who were by now shoaling together.

Back on dry land we opted for a quieter or at least a different dive location and drove round to the Bistro where another full car park boded no good. As it turned out half of these divers were training in the bay and the other half were on the outer reef so apart from a solo diver we didn’t see anyone whilst in the water.

The profile was a typical one, along the outside reef and then back on the inside one and finishing off across the bay to exit close to the walkway.

A very enjoyable day which culminated in The George where congratulations went to Colin on recording a numerically memorable dive which was a wee cracker.

Oban, Maiden Isle and back of Kerrera

Well done to Alan for organising this trip and trying something a little different. The initial idea was to dive on the Breda but when we got there a stiff breeze and surface chop meant that we could not moor onto the wreck and the chance of spotting a surfacing diver would have been a significant risk. Discretion being the key word we headed back toward Oban and sort shelter on Maiden Island where we dived the Southern end out of the current and in good visibility.

Dropping onto sand and scallops we traversed West, ascending onto a boulder slope where colourful deadman’s finger encrusted the rocks and the occasional jewel anenomie added variety.

Deadman's fingers off the southern tip of Maiden Island, Oban

With all parties back up, finding somewhere sheltered for lunch was the next task and we went round the West side of Kerrera toward the fish farm in Port ‘a Bhearnaig on the NW end of the island where we anchored Alan’s rhib in the sand just off the boulder beach.

For a second dive, the first wave went in off Rubh’a’ Bhearnaig where a gentle current pushed us Northwards over a silty bottom, a product of the emissions from the fish farm. Five minutes into the dive I was thinking I had seldom seen such a desolate sea bottom, when a flash from a camera indicated something of interest.

Sediment on a dogfish

A lesser spotted dogfish, asleep for the day and gently getting covered by silt.

Soon afterwards we spotted a gurnard hiding in the kelp, a spot of color in an otherwise grey world.

A small gurnard hiding in the kelp off Kerrera

Ironically we then spotted a few slender sea pens and a solitary phosphorescent sea pen so all in all we saw some interesting marine life. Sea pens are typically low energy environment organisms so just maybe this site was sheltered from the currents and the silt not caused by the fish farm ! Boredom set in so we ascended slowly and got off the silt bottom onto boulders, sand and kelp where the life improved until we called time due to the cold. The other pair reported a similar dive so Alan and Garry opted for another dive on Maiden Island , this time drifting Northwards along the entire eastern side, reporting a good dive and a bag of scallops to prove it.

wee video here

a few photos here

Paul’s photos are here

Site 1: N 56° 45′ 27” E 5° 29′ 25′ Maiden Island
Site 2: N 56° 35′ 33” E 5° 28′ 52′ Rubh’a’Bhearnaig