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.

Last Dive of 2011 – Furnace Village Loch Fyne

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Five of us and Three Scottie dogs headed across to Loch Fyne for a final dive of the year and an excuse for lunch at the George Hotel in Inverary to celebrate the end of 2011.

After leaving Perth at just after 8am and viewing an amazing sunrise (mixture of purples oranges and reds)  in the rear view mirror  we arrived at Furnace Village Loch Fyne  for 10:20 just as the rain started.  Four of us kitted up and headed down to the rocky shoreline for buddy checks.  With the warm winter the water was still a hot 9 degrees Celsius on the surface and 11 degrees Celsius below the halocline ( Where Salt water / Fresh Water meet) Typically the fresh water sits on top of the Sea water in the Sea lochs where tidal currents are minimal.

Spike and I headed right while Chris and Steve headed left and they came across Dogfish City all grouped around one area. We descended to 26m to the bottom of the rock slope instead of sand and silt the bottom was covered in bark and plant material which had attracted quite a few Squat lobsters, Hermit Crabs  and on the rocks several species of anenomes, we headed right to see if we could find a snake lock anenome Spike had seen here in the past we came across a Bootlace worm and Hermit Crabs (With Cloak Anenomes on the shells), after reaching the sandy slope we turned back heading up the rocky slope.

On several rocks we could see egg clumps being laid by large whelks approximately 8cm in length, we came across lots of Sea squirts and Black gobies and Leopard-spotted gobies quite happily living together with Squat lobsters.  Several of us noticed as you got close to the rocks at 11 meters upwards with all the rain on the surface the fresh water was leaching through the land out of the rocks and you could feel a difference in temperature.

It was still raining when we got back to the cars and Spike provided wee dram to warm us all up and we headed across to the George Hotel for a pint and Lunch some of us had the Beef Stew and the Fish and Chips before heading home.  The rain had fallen as snow in the hills from  Tyndrum to Crieff during the day enjoyed driving back in the snow.

Chris provided the following report:

 

Somebody had been eating too much Christmas turkey and was needing some exercise or new toys were to be proudly shown off to other members as the phone started ringing incessantly on Wednesday afternoon. 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 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’d 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 Invararay

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 with surface cover being provided by Fergus, Mollie, Hector 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 rock,sand and gravel slope including snakelock anemones and then the usual inhabitants of a sand/mud/detritus 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 the usual squat lobsters and hermit crabs. The interesting life on this site is on the rocks themselves so we turned round and made our way back to the reef 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 anenomes 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 common sun star, although widely distributed, 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 just a couple of minutes after Paul and Spike had surfaced.

A cracking dive and having quickly packed up (it was a longish rain shower) and toasted the last dive of the year, the task of finding somewhere to warm up and have lunch was at hand. Luckily the George , Beef stew and Fish and Chips was the order of the day and 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 which saw 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.

Perth-BSAC diving the Slates, 18th September 2011

Sometimes you just can’t get a big team together especially when special occasions, holidays or being unwell crosses you off the availability list. However a couple of folk got out with an invited guest and had a day of surprisingly pleasant weather across in Ballachulish diving the Slates.

First dive was from the end of the main jetty around into the bay deliberately exiting for the shortest possible walk back to the car. Today also gave me a chance to use my new toy after the disappointments of Bonawe quarry and was suitably impressed.

Loads of fish today, both big and small. Several highly colourful wrasse (Corkwing) as well as large Ballan wrasse and Goldshinnies, even shoals of small Pollack and lots of Poor Cod in amongst the rocks. Leopard spotted gobbies and a common ling with a few flat fish thrown in for good luck. Lots of colour too! This was a very good dive partly because we had decided to stick to about the 20m mark which was today where the life was.

At the gravel slope we ascended to 5m and completed the traverse back to the bay surfacing just on the hour.

Back at the car, a pack of sausages was brought out and a small barbecue sourced in the Glen Coe filling station was cranked up and we watched hot dogs burn as we degassed.

For the second dive we entered where we had previously exited and swam across the floor of the bay and around the smaller jetty. Arguably there was even better life on this dive or perhaps we just had better light. The highlight for me was a large dogfish and a couple of nudibranchs, one certainly the sea lemon Pleurobranchus membranaceus and the other probably Cadlina laevis both common locally. Reaching the end of our outward gas we turned and made our way back just below the kelp line, crossed the bay and hit the stone jetty where we found a log riddled with shipwork, a sculpture of Damien Hurst perspective.

Thoughts of a freshwater dive on the way home were put on hold as I had experienced a leaky neck seal and with water down to my knees was stoically enjoying wetsuit diving again. Well you can’t show any weakness in front of these guys or you’ll get hit by a shovel! The Orchy pools were set aside for another day.

A good day enjoyed by all

A small photo video here, haven’t worked out how to change the music so bear with me.

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 !

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