A small team joined Alan on his boat on Sunday bound for Inch Island just north of Easdale where after a laboured passage on a choppy sea we arrived to improving weather and the promise of some cracking dives.
The first dive was the North East tip of Inch Island off the little skerry that is fast becoming a favourite of mine. This time with an ebb tide we dropped in at the norther point and descended steep sand to find the base of the cliff just below the 30m mark and then followed this down into the land of scallops. Viz improved with depth and even at the bottom of the wall sufficient light made a torch unnecessary to find the odd scallop. As bottom time ran out, we made our ascent up the wall past a large overhang before sending up a bag of scallops up on a DSMB, Mid way up the wall the encrusting life changed from soft corals to sponges and highly coloured jewel anenomies and looking up, large pollack patrolled the edge of the kelp. All too rapidly the dive come to an end and after a decompression stop hanging off a DSMB we were all too soon back in the boat. All three groups started at the same point but reported somewhat different dives with a variety of life including a large scorpion fish and enormous clusters of colonial anenomies being reported.
Lunch was taken at Easdale where shelter and facilities made for a pleasant couple of hours and we degassed, chatting about diving and life and Saturday where we had spent time at the Gala day at Errol. I took the opportunity to check out Easdale Quarry as a dive site but the sewage pipes emanating from the little houses above does not make it look that appealing.
The second dive was the skerry just north of Inch Island, Sgeir Dubh, were we dropped into 12m onto rock with shingle and gravel and went for a scallop hunt, soon the odd snack was being put in the basket.
The journey back was again a slow affair by rhib standards as the chop had not abated but a rapid retrieval at the Puffin slip and hose down saw us heading home at a very reasonable time having had another superb days diving off Alan’s boat.
An early start of 6:15 at the boat shed you have to be kidding ! And yet everyone made it with ‘Deep Dancer’ checked, hitched and away by 06:30 to catch the tides. Today’s trip had an impressive turn out with seven divers (Izzy, Gary, Maureen, Steve, Neil, Chris and Spike) in the Perth-BSAC Club boat and another four (Dave, Phoebe, Alan and Hamish) in Dave’s , which we were meeting in Anstruther. Brilliant weather greeted us as we rolled down towards Anstruther catching that first view of the Isle of May, covered in a last veil of cloud, lingering wisps of chiffon, light and watery. The clear sky and in bright sun gave the impression today, that the May was not that far away.
The launch from Anstruther is an easy one and the two boats ‘Deep Dancer’ and ‘Plan B’ where soon heading out to the May on a deep rolling swell with Gary driving Deep Dancer, giving us all a lesson on rhythm, throttle management and a smooth ride.
First dive was the SW tip of Maiden Hair where the various teams were diving with inquisitive and friendly grey seals as they explored the gullies in excellent vis before using the current which gave a gentle drift Northwards along the West side of the Islands. Everyone reported lobsters but the ones seen by Maureen and I were berried and left for another day. We spent a very pleasant 45 minutest in the gullies swimming through the skerry and then back encountering seals as we did so and finishing where we started being buzzed by even more seals as we made for deep water and a pick up.
Lunch was taken at the high water landing amidst the cacophony of nesting birds on the cliffs and Sunday yachties and birdwatchers.
The second dive saw the boats split with ‘Plan B’ taking advantage of the calm conditions and putting divers in on Norman Rock on the Northern point while Deep Dancer opted to dive the Western cliffs in the area of the Green Face where lobsters, wrasse (both corkwing and ballan) and guillemots ‘flying’ around the divers bubbles, were seen. The boat crew was entertained by one seal that thought the DSMB was worth playing with, a fisherman’s tale for sure had it not been caught on video.
Back at Anstruther the boats were retrieved with ample tide to spare and after quick refreshments in the Ship Tavern (3 scallop rating and a tick in the East Neuk of Fife good beer guide) we finished the dive back at the boat shed, washing down the boat and charging cylinders for Wednesday evening and the Bar-b-que dive at Elie.
The trip across to the west coast is always a pleasure, especially when the hills are lit by glorious early morning sunshine. Sunday however saw the weather gradually deteriorated until we arrived at the Argyll Caravan Parkto be greeted by Izzy and Gary in their high vis ‘yellas‘ and drizzle. Such are the joys of diving in Scotland. After an easy launch, we headed down Loch Fyne past Kenmore point to Stallion Rock which lies off Pennymore Point with Mo at the helm. Here, we spent a few minutes searching until Gary spotted it, a great grey whale back just below the surface and an impressive drop showing on the echo sounder on the loch side. Izzy and Bethan were first in followed by Mo and Chris while Paul and Gary manned the boat. The site itself was superb, a few small sandy shelves leading in 10m or so to … the drop. With the overcast skies and light starting to fade at the 25m mark there was still a good void beneath your fins as you were carried gently southwards along the wall. We learnt quickly to take great care not to swim too close to the wall and disturb the sediment that rested upon it as it then followed you in the current impairing the viz.
Izzy and Bethan disappeared into the depths to explore dark places and find the undercut while Mo and I enjoyed a very pleasant drift in the light. We found some interesting life such as this Yarrell’s Bleney that was moving snake-like across the wall. After passing some enormous sponges and clusters of sea loch anenomies we made our ascent as we had started getting cold, finding a couple of nudibranchs (Flabellina lineate) as we did so.
With the first wave of divers recovered, Gary and Paul rolled in and reported a red carpet affair with flash guns and spot lights illuminating the stars as they drifted by under the undercut.
Lunch ! Yes but where? In the drizzle we decided that the Furnace tea-room was a great option being en route to the Minard Islands so with Gary at the helm we cruised down to anchor in the bay taking care not to damage any training divers. As it turned out there were none at all on the reef today? Having dutifully enquired if they minded, we all sat next to the door enjoying tea and chocolate cake, though I did think that Izzy had an unfairly large slice ! After lunch, back in the boat, the tanks swapped over and the first wave was kitted up, Paul helmed us down to Eilean Aoghainn, the largest of the Minard Islands. Mo and I went in first in Coalas nan Each-uisage, the bay on the East side, enticed by kelpies and the promise of giant scallops. Good vis but not a great deal to see save some sea cucumbers, though the light and life was much better in the shallows over gravel and shell beds where there was an abundance of small colourful life. Izzy and Bethan followed on a similar dive while Paul and Gary did the steps at the SE tip reporting another good drift along walls encrusted with sponges and Dead Man’s fingers.
With all divers recovered, Bethan took the helm and drove the boat back, passing an exposed Stallion rock and apart from the challenge of a low water recovery of the boat which required an extra long length of rope all went very smoothly. Yet another successful and highly enjoyable day of club diving albeit in some rather ‘damp’ weather.
Site 1: Stallion rock, Pennymore Point, Furnace Loch Fyne.
Site 2: Coalas nan Each-uisge, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.
Site 3: SW tip, The Steps, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dive sites: OSGB
SaturdayDive 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 Sunday
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 Monday:
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
After a slight hickup due to a loose wheel nut on the boat trailer we set off about two hours late to launch the boat from Loch Linnhe marina in Shuna Sound. Here a convenient slip, with all the necessary amenities including a very friendly owner, is usable in all but the lowest tides and made for a simple lauch and secure car parking.
The objective of the day was the artificial reef on the East side of Lismore. With a calm sea, Deep Dancer made short work of the trip down and we were soon using the echo sounder and searching for indications of the reef using transects. In the end Paul said “he had an App for that” which located the reef system for us. One party reported a sandy bottom and the other pair reported reef blocks to a height of two feet with numerous crustaceans lurking in the crevices. Interestingly the sandy bottom team reported little current while the reef team reported significant current eddies. Both parties reported cold water and low vis. The main reef complex consists of 30 units made up of 4000 concrete blocks, now that’s not very big and we were perhaps optimistic to try and dive these without first placing a shot.
“well I’m not diving that then, lets go over there” said captain pugwash indicating vaguely further down the sound. The west side of Eilean Dubh proved to be hopelessly shallow but a grey seal colony on the southern tip suggested there might be a decent site. Hamish and Chris dropped in on the Southern point finding terrible surface layer visibility before dropping onto sand and enjoying a delightful gentle drift on the incoming tide along sandy shelves, vertical 20′ walls and steep boulder slopes. One interesting artifacts that was found was a bit of bone china, a broken plate bearing the markings of Macbrayne. Now how did that get there !
Lunch time saw us landing on Eilean Dubh below nesting graylag geese who objected loudly to our presence, where we enjoyed lunch in the best weather of the year so far.
The afternoons dive saw the first wave go in on the South tip of Eilean Dubh again and reported a much warmer and more interesting dive than that of the morning. Cogniscent of the time Hamish and Chris elected to try pot luck closer to the launch site and found a site on the West side of Shuna Island where the above water topography and Paul’s App suggested there might be an interesting dive. Dropping into oily, dark tea and low vis thoughts of aborting the dive immediately sprang to mind but once through the surface layer visibility improved.
Diving a very steep sandy slope , Hamish spotted this cute little chap that we annoyed for a while taking it’s photograph. Certainly the highlight of the day for me ! With a 30 minute dive scheduled due to time constraints we had just enought time to collect a few scallops and deploy a SMB before being recovered by the boat.
A short trip back to the marina via the North of Shuna Island saw a quick recovery of the boat after the missing trailer roller had been replaced.
Dive site 1: N56°32’10” W5°27’10” Loch Linnhe artificial reef off Lismore
Dive site 2: N56°31’12” W5°27’32” Eilean Dubh, South tip
Dive site 3: N56°35’24” W5°24’10” Shuna Island, West side
Paul’s photos will be here wip
Some more photos here
To be at the club hut at 07:30 after the summer clocks change is always hard but we all made it and after a few last minute hitches a small group of six divers were off to Anstruther to launch the club RHIB on the RNLI slip.
Todays trip gave us the chance to shake down “Deep Dancer” prior to the Oban weekend and we are happy to report that both boat and trailer were performing well.
First dive was on a reef just between Colm’s Hole and the Middens on the East side of the Island and north of the wreck of the “SS Island”.
Dropping into 12m and reasonable East coast vis, we traversed a small wall of dead man’s fingers before finning over boulders and bed rock. At a full degree colder than the West coast, the gauge read slightly less than 6 degrees and felt very chilly, especially when diving with an incorrectly fitted dump valve and the ensuing insidious trickle that eventually reached my feet!
One highlight was a shoal of fry dancing in a torch beam see here
Lunch time saw us land at the East or low water landing and take the opportunity to make a short pilgramage round the South of the island. The ruined Benedictine monastery, dating back from the 9th Century the key note of some interesting archeology.
Having ruled out Maiden Hairs rocks for a second dive due to the chop, we settled for the wreck of the Anlaby (or Ann Labbie) off the Altarstanes or Standing Head near the West or High Water landing where a few grey seals were popping up to see what we were doing. The gulls had started to claim teritorial sites on the cliffs but we didn’t see any gannets, guillemots or puffins today.
from RCAHMS site info: 23 August 1873, ANLABY, SS, of Hull, 717 tons, Master Thomas Martin, iron screw steamship, departed Leith Roads for Danzig, 23 crew, carrying coal, stranded on the west side of May Island.
In August 1880 divers were engaged in blowing up the hull of the steamer to salvage portions of the hull and machinery.
Within the bay we dropped into 5m and quickly came across rust, plates and spars
Swimming along the keel
(dropped my camera towards the end of this, must have been the excitement!)
Until at last we reached the propellors
where we had a rummage, Gary and Izzy finding a few lobsters, then turned round and retraced our tracks back the way we came where I came across my very first East Coast scallop.
Site 1: Colm’s Hole N56 11′ 7″ W2 32′ 51″
Site 2: SS Anlaby N56 11.3167 W2 33.7
Map of the Isle of May and the wreck location from CANMORE
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 !