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.

The Lochs, 28th August 2011

"I don't do shore diving"

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

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



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

Limacia clavigera


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Dogfish Reef, Furnace, Loch Fyne 30th January 2011

Vase Coral (Haliclona ureolus) with seal loch anenomies (Protanthea simplex)

Sunday diving in winter really doesn’t get better than this, an interesting dive, good weather and enjoyable local amenities. Dogfish Reef is an excellent example of one of the many accessible shore dives in Loch Fyne and with the good visibility that we encountered and ambient light penetrating all the way down to the bottom of the reef it was a marked contrast to the dark and dismal dives of the inner lochs.

A fresh peppering of snow on the hills and a noticeable oily layer had surface temperatures in the 4-5 degrees but below 6m we had a balmy 9 degrees. With fins on at the water’s edge, the first dive saw us following the kelp and then sinking down the steep boulder slope to a respectable depth, turning left and searching the nooks and crannies for dogfish. I was about to give up when the flashing torch indicated success and the first of four fish was found hiding in the rocks. Four dogfish and big ones too!

This was the lesser spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) as can be seen from the nasal flaps which extent to the lips.

This site has a fantastic coverage of sealoch anenomies and a few striking example a soft corals. Haliclona ureolus

So with limited bottom time we took the diagonal return across the boulder slope enjoying the delights of blue corals

Blue encrusting sponge

and prawns, crabs and corkwing wrasse and all sorts of worms and tunicates.

The second dive was similar though having taken some local advise we went just 5 m deeper and reached dogfish city, in one small patch of rocks there were dogfish in twos and threes in every crevice in the boulder slope. Within five minutes the novelty of seeing them wore off, there were just too many and we moved on as we were limited in our bottom time. We traversed and returned across the slope slightly deeper finding a section of the reef covered in the anenomies and ending at a sunken concrete pontoon which signalled the start of out ascent and brought us back nicely to the entry point. A massive ballan wrasse was to be found here in the middle of the pontoon.

The life continued to enthrall us, even in the shallows where we watched dancing sea gooseberries. Shining a torch on these resulted in bioluminescence radiating down the internal filaments.

All in all two very good dives.

To warm up we ventured into the George at Inverary and entertained ourselves by enjoying strange brews from the landlords taps before driving back over the Rest and be Thankful to get back to Crieff by 17:30.

a few more photos here