Kintallen Wall, Sunday 2nd March 2014

Having advertised a club trip two divers made it out on Sunday to join a couple friends from Fyne Divers across in Ballachulish. deciding to dive Kentallan Wall over the morning coffee saw us drive the short distance around the coast towards Oban to arrive at an almost full dive site. The view across to Morven here has got to rival any views from a dive site on Mainland Scotland.

The tide was on the flood so a clockwise circuit was decided on and the teams, diving in two loose pairs reported varying degrees of success in finding the edge of the wall. Paul and Chris drifted slowly along the wall at the 25m mark eventually finding the hanging rope and heading for home while Edwards and Claire who were perhaps further West reported rocks, shelves and a mud slope which they followed down to the 30m mark.

A short break in the Hotel for lunch before the second dive. E&C were training which left the second pair free to explore the Northern reef in what turned out to be an interesting dive. Initially over sand and stones where anchor chains and mooring rubbish littered the bay, the bottom sloped onto silty mud with scattered sea-pens while on the return trip the small wall and slabs of the reef provided interest. Some interesting life on this dive which while scattered around more than made up for the flat nature of most of the dive.

Acanthodoris pilosa
Two good dives again today in very reasonable visibility for once though only one type of nudibranch spotted today which was far to small photograph ! (or was it? -Ed)

Diver training Loch Linnhe, Balnagowan Island. 22nd April 2012

With the East coast at Eyemouth reporting a 2 meter swell, Paul towed ‘Deep Dancer’ across to the West where we had an easy launch from the Loch Linnhe marina slip and easy access to some sheltered diving.

Steve was Dive managing today and the plan was for some open water training and experience building for Liz and Kim, while Hamish had the opportunity to put Paul through his paces. Bethan had decided to join us as a non diver to gain further boat handling experience and manage the slate, while I was relegated to the ‘grumpy old git at the back’.

Finding a sheltered site was a delightful challenge today in the Spring sunshine and Eilean Balnagowan, the small rocky island just south of Cuil bay was selected. Having been driven out there by Bethan we explored the edge of the West side of the Island, the theory (and the chart) indicating that the bottom was sandy and less likely to be easily stirred up and if we could find a flat bit, suitable for training.

We found what looked to be an excellent site at the little bay on the North West tip of the Island, a small bay with a sandy bottom which progressed to a steep slope. Bethan duly drop in wave 1 and then practiced MOB drills and diver retrieval while keeping a close eye on the bubble trails and stood by while an errant fin was reattached. When the divers surfaced a perfect pickup was delivered, so a great well done ! Steve and Liz reported a good fun dive, practicing buoyancy drills and then enjoying a gentle drift southwards on the ebbing tide. Hamish and Paul surfaced on the dot according to the plan having explored the slope. Neither group reported exceptionally good life but the vis was excellent.

Wave 2 was dropped in at the bay and performed drills before moving Northwards around the little shoulder of the bay. Shingle sand led to a small slabby wall which while short on life gave a good perspective to the dive. No problems reported other than a leaking mask that needed clearing continuously, but hey that was one of the drills ! Another expert recovery by the helm before zooming back to the marina through a stinging hail to tie up on the pontoons.

We thought we would move the boat back to the slip to swap the tanks over but the engine decided it did not want to start. No amount of cajoling would get it going so we decided to have lunch and give it a rest while we had a chat and reviewed the days activities. Returning to the boat, it still refused to start so being mindful of the time we decided to return to Perth at a reasonable hour.

Stopping at The Green Welly for fuel, Kim was spotted by Izzy who was returning from Oban with Gary and Alan who reported a couple of terrific dives off the South tip of Lismore and a picnic at the lighthouse. The next stop was the Crianlarich hotel for coffee and cake before driving back to the club hut to wash the boat down and put it to bed.

Another very pleasant day with hopefully some useful skills imparted and further experienced of Scottish diving gained. Thanks go to Steve and Paul for organising.

Site: OSGB
N56 38’8″ W5 20’10” “Camas na dobhran”

No camera with me today, but you know who had one !

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Sunday 26th, Shore diving Loch Linnhe and Loch Leven

Sunday diving, 7:00am at the Club hut, packing copious amounts of kit into groaning cars, all sounds a bit familiar really, but today there was a certain buzz about the affair as a group of enthusiastic divers converged at Burnbrae HQ for the trip across to the West coast. Five club divers and one guest made a good team and as soon as Harris had a bit of momentum we were on our way and with a short ‘coffee’ stop at the Green Wellie we arrived at the Picnic site on Loch Linnhe, just north of Corran Ferry to an over cast sky and a light drizzle, all part of the plan to encourage a quick change into drysuits…

The order of the day was a couple of shore dives to give folk a chance to have a shake down after the winter and the Picnic site offers a good venue with easy access in pleasant surroundings with some interesting life.

The obvious dive starts off the shingle beach onto sand and then gravel. A simple circuit of the rocky point can then be exited in the bay just to the south avoiding a scramble over slippy rocks. That was the plan and after retrieving an errant camera that decided to float off on its own, we descended into the depths where a carpet of multi-coloured brittlestars and the occasional scallop provided the majority of the life.

In the gravel these Imperial anenomes gave spots of color while towards the point a superb little wall gave the impression of depth with a dark void below before we surfaced and snorkeled to exit in the bay to walk out over seaweed and cobbles.

With all divers retrieved we had a little time for a social natter. Out with the barbeque and after a minor concern trying to light the thing with damp matches (Yes Chris they get wet if you have wet hands…) we pretended it was Spring as we munched hotdogs. It was a little worrying that once the food had gone a tight knot developed around the coals and out stretched hands searched for warmth. Was there going to be a second dive ?

It was decided to move down to Loch Leven and the Slates for the second dive to put Bethan and Kay a little closer to Glasgow where they were heading to catch a train later in the afternoon and after there short trip the we arrived to a full carpack and diver soup. Still it’s a big site and we were able to find some space and after navigating through the silt trails we found some depth and better visibility.

There was some good fish life today with a dogfish providing interest and well as this rather large scorpion fish that played possum. A good sized ling was reported as well as the proverbial saithe patrolling the edge of the reef and a nursery of small poor code that glinted silver and gold as we swam through them.

As we turned I spotted this nudibanch (Cadlina laevis) and a cluster of arctic cowries. A great shore dive this, it always has a good variety of life on show.

Conscious of the time we did not hang around and Harris was packed and shot off to Glasgow while the rest of us made our way back to Crianlarich for refreshments before driving home after a grand day out.


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Kentallan and The Slates, Saturday 19th November 2011

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Thought we would try something different this weekend from an organisational point of view after a few comments about the inclusion of the occasional Saturday in the calender.

So 07:30 on Saturday morning at the club hut saw Steve and I loading bottles for the familiar drive across to Crianlarich where plans were finalised and we turned right to Tyndrum and on to Glen Coe. Autumnal hues of pastel brown greeted us as we climbed into the hills but the rain stayed off and by the time we arrived at Kentallan a few small patches of blue interrupted the monotony of grey clouds.

Kentallan really is a good shore dive, both the dive and the amenities are brilliant. So after a quick walk of the site and having poked our noses into the hotel we kitted up, walked down to the rocks to the south of the pier and completed our pre-dive buddy checks before the long swim out to the wall. A high incoming tide tried to push us up the loch and continuous use of the compass was required as we got turned in the gentle eddies a couple of times. Still we found the boulders that mark the top of the wall and with an additional buddy check and OK pushed off into the dark abyss below…

The wall was dark today and a good torch was a blessing as we slowly swam northwards along the wall. Peacock worms and squiggy things were found on every inch but a fine sediment seemed to cover anything that stuck out or stood still as a respectably large crab had found out. Twenty minutes on the wall was enough to see a small decompression penalty accumulate but more importantly and for the enjoyment of this dive, the minimum required air for the return swim had been reached! So to avoid a lengthy surface swim we slowly ascended the wall and finned on a bearing back to Kentallan pier. I’d like to report that we were navigationally spot on, but I can’t, we missed it, coming up amongst the mooring buoys to clamber out over the breakwater below the car park.

And that was it, an excellent dive.

Lunchtime, soup of the day with a roll in the Holly Tree Inn enjoyed with a superb view over Loch Linnhe, watching the tide change.

I’d promised Steve two dives at least today, so lunch over we drove back to Ballachulish to “The Slates” where we met and chatted to a couple of groups from Dundee and Cupar. A few of these guys I’d dived with before at the Loch Fyne Tea rooms on Regional training days so today the site had a reunion feel about it.

Kitting up and marching out to the point of the larger pier saw Steve and I drop into 2-3m of fresh water before descending into better visibility. Unfortunately the surface layer effectively blocked the light and once again we had a very dark, if some what ‘illuminated’ dive. The life was again good with more fish life this time, spotted wrasse, leopard guppies, poor cod and a few small saithe patrolling the reef which was itself covered in sea squirts, saddle oysters and sea loch anenomies. Exhausting our bottom time we ascended to finish the tanks in the shallows as we traversed back to the cars along the inner arm of the pier. Another good dive.

Next stop was a visit to Klondyke Darryl who was having a successful day out gold panning in the hills above Tyndrum, then onto the Crianlarich hotel for refreshments, a quick chat and final wrap up before the journey home. All in all another grand day out with two new sites and a new ale for Steve.

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.

Lismore, Linnhe and Lorne, Sunday 10th April

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.

Shuna and North Lismore, Loch
Shuna and North Lismore, Loch

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