Spare Rhibs to Oban, 5th May 2013

The plan was brilliant in its simplicity, we were going to take ‘Deep Dancer’ out for its early season shake down with support provided by Dave in ‘Grace Cameron’ should anything unexpected happen and possibly be joined by Alan who was diving with Neil having brought ‘The Butcher’ across to its Oban ‘mooring’ for the summer.

As with all good plans, the odd spanner can get thrown in and today was no exception. Arriving at the boat shed we found the brakes on Deep Dancer’s trailer were rather sticky and having tracked the fault to the Bradley hitch we made a few calls and Dave kindly agreed to run a two wave days within Kerrera Sound with Jane and guest providing additional boat crew. As it transpired the weather would not have allowed traveling much further anyway but it is always enjoyable diving off a Rhib.

Travel across to Oban takes a much followed routine these days, the pit stops and coffee shops being well-known. Arriving at Oban it was a relief to see the relatively calm sea as we turned down Kerrera and arrived at Puffin to see the rest of the team assembled and Grace Cameron prep’ed for launching. (That would be Chris and Steve in catch up mode again would it ? – Ed). Tanks loaded and the boats launched and we were off up the North Channel to Maiden Island. Entering the Oban bay and the North Channel, the sea state got a bit choppy and Dave pushed us close into Maiden to kit up before dropping in on the Southern tip. As usual the path finders were in post-haste followed by the ‘P-team’ and last but not least Bethan and ‘the Camera’.

Dropping close into the wall at about 12m we reached the sandy bottom and were moved briskly along by a rather stiff current which provided a very entertaining drift over numerous eyelash works, until we deemed it prudent to take a bearing and start trying to swim up current hauling our way along the bottom back towards Maiden Island. Somewhere on this leg we came across an interesting find , a scattering of live .303 ammunition, obviously dumped at some time during or just after the Second World War. Accepting that we were not making significant headway the urge to ascend started to kick in but just as we were about to deploy DSMB and start the ascent when we heard the CalMac ferry passing overhead. Not wanting to foul his props we decided to wait for a few more minutes before coming up.

Lunch was taken in the ‘Crew room’ at Puffin, no stove lit today, but a far better option that standing outside in the rain as a heavy spring shower came through.

The second dive was in South Kerrera, in one of the small bays just north of Gallanach bay, at a point where the maps indicate there is an old Iron Age fort. Once again the pathfinder went in first (well they are the quickest to kit up! – Ed) this time followed by Steve, Paul and Chris diving in a three. Better vis perhaps but onto sand and with a few scallops in the bag we followed the slope up to find a boulder reef at 9m and a small wall. Not an exceptional amount of life today, sometimes this site can be very colorful. We did our safety stop bobbing around a goody bag , secured to a SMB, all very sociable really.

All hands to assist recovering the boat although we did have to wait for a while until a rather large rib had been recovered and washed down. While we waited we chatted to Fyne Pioneer’s Simon Exley who was diving the Sound of Mulls wrecks and was on his way down to Crinnan.

That was it, another days diving. All that was left was to grab a quick air fill (very reasonably priced – ED) and head for home.

While the weather could have been a little more ‘summerish’ everyone seemed to enjoy themselves although it was a bit cold immediately apres dive. A big thank you to Steve for organising the trip and a massive thanks to Dave for saving the day and taking us out in Grace Cameron’

No photos from me today but Paul might add one or two later one.

A Sunday Dive Insh Island and Easdale

After seeing the two low weather systems headed up each side of the Country we weren’t quite sure what to expect, however the shipping forecast was favourable for Sunday with light winds of 5-10 miles an hour.  After Chris had offered to drive, Steve and I jumped into his car at just after 6am on the cold and damp Sunday morning and did the two hours trip across to Puffin Dive Centre were Alan and David were to meet us with their Rhibs at 9am.  The weather cleared and we could see snow on the tops of the mountains as we headed along Loch Earn and then the A82 to Tyndrum. Arriving at Puffin for just before 9am we prepped the boats. The wind was slight, but enough to give you a chill. High grey cloud hid small brushstrokes of distant blue.

So nine hardy divers and two even hardier Coxswains headed South, the six nautical miles to Insh Island to dive the wall on the North East Corner of the Island, I had dived this once before and typically it has lots of life on it. We had a Ebb Tide and dropped in on 10 metres and drifted around the corner before heading down to find the wall. On Grace Cameron, Chris and David went in first and Steve and I followed after a a last minute kit re-configuration due to a burst high pressure hose (Always worth carrying spare kit!).

Steve and I headed down the slope finding the wall at 16 metres and noticed a strong down current pulling us down southwards, so we kept close to the wall and started taking a few photos while dropping to just over 30 metres and finding an overhang which gave us some protection from the currents.  With overcast skies I was glad to have my bright torch today, as it was dark but the water clarity was good. The wall had a mixture of sponges, Feather Stars, tube Worms, squat Lobsters, juvenile cod, several species of brightly coloured wrasse and as we headed towards the shallows the kelp forest which started at 16 metres. Here you could clearly see the current running over the Kelp, so after putting up the DSMB we drifted south with the current to be picked up by Tam and Chris and Dave who by now were already back on board.

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After picking up all the divers we headed across to Easdale Island, the famous venue for the World Stone Skimming competition, where we chilled out having lunch in the shelter of the harbour, chatting to the Locals as well as the local dogs that wanted to see if they could benefit from a free sandwich or tasty snack.  The afternoon dive was a scallop dive and it was good to see the habitats undisturbed by trawling. Hand picking scallops allows us to be selective and not affect non targeted species of animals such as sea pens.   With the Benefit of Cox’s we were able to save two hours and were back in Perth for 6pm on the Sunday Evening.

Thanks to Steve for organising the trip and Alan and David for the use of their Boats.

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!

Alan’s reef, Kerrera Sound. Sunday 4th December 2011

It was Steve’s turn to drive today and I got to ride in his suped up Subaru, pre-warmed on the chilliest start of the year. That was the plan anyway but having dropped the exhaust just before Lix Toll and having to wait for the very nice RAC man to come and provide a running repair we found ourselves frantically trying to contact Alan whom we were due to meet at Puffin Dive center to advise him of our delay and suggest we would join him in the afternoon. Four and a half hours after leaving Perth, we rolled into Puffin as Alan, Dave and Tam were returning from their morning dive off Maiden Island.

Alan reported 1-2m vis and Tam reported a squall that had come through whipping the bay into wall to wall white horses. Dave and Alan had been blissfully unaware of this as they enjoyed a rather productive dive. Tam’s plight sounded only slightly more fun than watching the snow flurries at the Lix Toll garage.

Lunch in the Crew room saw everyone warm up as general diving banter was hurled around and all too quickly it was time to venture out and load Alan’s boat for the afternoon trip. The plan was to dive a reef that Alan had found previously where a broken wall reached 45m some 20m off the shore. Located on the southern of two little points just south of Ardantrive Bay, east of Mount Pleasant farm and identified by a metal spike sunk into the rocks, Steve and I rolled off the boat into a layer of cold, fresh water. Final OK’s and we quickly sank to find warmer water.

The dive was dark but some light penetrated down to 15m but beyond that a torch was essential. The broken wall was silty grey and had a scarce smattering of encrusting life but turned out not to be as dramatic as some of the walls in the area. At the bottom we found twisted wreckage, possibly a gantry and set about picking up the odd scallop. I managed to drop my torch head (it’s an umbilical) and everything went black for an instant as the head came to rest in mud. As an exercise it was quite interesting as I fumbled with a goody bag, feeling lucky I hadn’t grabbed a crab! Looking around we had about 4m vis as I watched Steve illuminated by his torch, scarring the wildlife.

Conscious of the depth I was keen to ascend to eke out the air in shallower water, so we slowly ascended steep sand and gravel where we came across a pipe fish that was determined to play dead. Further up we found an enormous concrete cube, artistic in it’s architectural rococo style, clearly a mooring block of sorts but unattached and age unknown. Possible associated with the flying boats but who knows.

 

 
Interesting life continued to find us as we climbed the slope, small scallops and flat fish and a large Scorpion fish that was determined to avoid being photographed as it deliberately stirred up sand around itself. Further up the slope we reached coarse sand and contoured back towards our start point trying to stay just below the halocline in the warmer water. Finding a few more pieces of wreckage, rusting iron and discarded bottles, we eventually surfaced as the cold fresh water took it’s toll. Tam expertly recovered us from the water and that was it, not a bad dive and much better than weather of late would have suggested. Alan and Dave surfaced shortly afterwards having completed a similar dive and recovering another bag of scallops for Christmas.
 

 

 
Retrieval of the boat followed a well worn procedure and having washed it off and secured it all that was left was to have a quick trip to the dive shop for a natter, square up and head for home.  A big thank you to Alan for the days diving and Steve for organising.

 
Steve and I decided to say hello to the Badger and have a quick chat with Andy at the Crianlarich hotel. I am pleased to report that the quality of the Colonsay Ale is still excellent.

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SS Breda and Lismore Lighthouse, 2nd October 2011

If it hadn’t been for a pair of lucky shorts we would have had the same dreich weather that we left in Perth, luckily someone was suitably attired and the rain and cloud stayed off and with an exceptionally calm sea, the sunscreen came out, on October 2nd!

First dive was the SS Breda, a site we had all done many times before. Today we decided to launch from Gallanach Sands and take the short boat trip across the bay. It transpired that the most recent experience of the site was with our newest member who had dived it within the last year. Personally I hadn’t done this site since 22nd June 1987 when I dived it with one Charles Bennett, a very competent diver who was training with Dundee University (had to look it up!). The plan was that Paul and I would go in first and stir it up, I mean use our twins to maximum effect, closely followed by Bethan “I don’t use any air” and Steve Incredible who were doing a planned decompression training dive, while Deep-Dancer, the club rhib, was minded by the remaining pair.

Paul and I descended onto the bridge area and swam to the stern where we had a look at the rudder post before continuing along the port side to find a fracture line in the hull, which gave us access to the aft holds and a couple of swim throughs. Swimming forwards we had a look at the bow before finding the forward shot line where we met Bethan and Steve and another team from a separate boat. We spent a few last minutes here in better vis watching large pollack as we burned of a little deco time before finishing our stops on the line at 3m.

Surfacing by the boat we swam and clambered back in to set the remaining pair off on their planned dive.

With everyone recovered and having sacrifice the ceremonial torch to the Gods of the Breda we headed off with Bethan at the helm, to lunch at the cars and swap tanks over for the afternoon dive across on Lismore Island.

Going in in the same order we experienced a very pleasant drift along a wall picking up the occasional scallop and taking photos. A forest of feather stars gave way to a carpet of brittle stars with the odd sun star thrown in for good luck.

A spectacular tidal race around the lighthouse point with ‘wind against tide’ provided Steve with some additional challenges before turning back towards Oban and speeding back to Gallanach bay where the boat was quickly recovered with the expedient use of a long rope!



A fancy survey of the wreck has been posted on Youtube here

Some of Paul’s photos here

Inch Island, Easdale, Sunday 26th June

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.

Colonial sea-squirt

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.

sleeping wrasse

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.

Deadman's fingers

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.

Wednesday evening dive and Bar-b-que at Elie, 15th June 2011

A warm breeze, bright sun, bar-b-que by the beach what more could you possibly ask for and with a good turn out from both diving and non-diver this Wednesday evening’s splash at Elie , that was organised by Steve was a success, with OD training and recreational dives being completed without incident.

Initial reports of 38m and 41.3m were however probably exaggerate thought I am prepared to accept the first was an error with the decimal point and the second referenced the distance off shore that one particular pair had to travel to reach the 4m mark at low tide.

Shallow east coast shore diving is not for the faint hearted generally there is a swell that stirs everything up creating low viz, but when you are lucky and we were lucky on Wednesday evening, you can get calm conditions and reasonable vis of over 3m+ !

The interest of diving always lies in what you see and shallow diving provides its own challenges as generally the life is small, hiding in the kelp or encrusted on small reef systems. The trick is to take time and look for it.

Star ascidian – Botryllus schlosseri moved with the swell attached to kelp stipes while Blue-rayed limpets were found on the fronds. A group of small, dull brown nudibranchs was also seen on a patch of barnacles.

That’s it, condensation in the camera housing today so no decent pictures, links above to internet images.