Contingency trips after Bell Rock cancellation

Unfortunately due to wind and swell the Bell Rock trip was cancelled. Great disappointment really as we are currently experiencing the best weather of the summer. Still the swell off the East coast would have been horrific and bouncing around in a boat for an hour and then getting the washing machine treatment at the rock would have been unpleasant if not outright dangerous. So a safety call was made by the boat skipper and the trip was cancelled and will hopefully be rearrange for later both weather and boat permitting.

So what did we do? Well the A-team went of to Oban and filled Alan’s boat and taking advantage of flat calm motored up the Sound of Mull and dived the Thesis. A good dive was reported. (If details emerge I’ll post them here later). Paul and I were still keen to get out regardless of boat space availability and decided that a bit of shore diving was the easy option. We made an early start to drive across to Loch Leven and visit the Slates for a bit of training and depth progression. Always an easy option and with the high light conditions promising to be full of interesting beasties to see.

For the first dive was off the Slates we got a wee bit of depth and explored the base of the slope, racking up a reasonable decompression penalty in the process. This also gave me the chance to get some use out of my twin set under Paul’s watchful gaze.

Several large dragonettes were scurrying along the bottom of the reef and off course the proverbial sealoch anenomies.

On the way up we came across this guy, the common ling, just a small chap but quite friendly.

For lunch we popped into Ballachulish and foraged for sandwiches which we ate slightly further along the road on the shore below Manse point which was our second dive. To access this site you pull off the road between a break in the crash barrier where very easy access down a landrover track leads to the water in 100 yards or so. This site is a series of small reefs, glaciated slabs, gently dropping down towards the middle of the loch. There are reports of currents if you stray to far out but we didn’t experience anything other than a gently eddy that brought us back to where we stated. With the incoming tide we had very good viz enabling Paul was doing his photography thing with some success.

There was some good life and a few small scallops to see on a sandy and rock bottom and on the numerous small reefs

further out brittlestars took over.

Brilliant navigation brought us back to the exact spot where we had entered. Not sure thought if this was skill or just pure luck (neither of us had a compass!)

The day was not over and the final dive of the day was a kit wash in the river Orchy. There are a couple of sites in the river, the one we chose was Easan Dubha and not the one more commonly dived site further down the glen at Eas Urchaidh.

An easy entry down slabs got us into a tail pool where the vis was initially good but with depth the light rapidly disappeared as we encountered the strong tea conditions of peat laden water.

The dive is linking four swirl holes with a maximum depths of 7m in the second hole. To join the holes you have to climb through the current before peering over the edge and dragging yourself down into the slack, dark water. Quite an experience but safe enough (honest). In the second pool we were circled by trout and salmon (no goody bags allowed!) an awesome sight. Getting into the third hole was perhaps the harder ‘climb’ but after that we swam easily up to the base of the waterfall where we could sit immediately below the water as if gushed into the pool (check out the video, it’s amazing).

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With not many bar left in the tanks it was time to surface and a last chance for fun, the drift, where you float back just in the current getting sucked over the pool junctions to be deposited back were we started far to quickly. An amazing dive and highly recommended in the appropriate water conditions, may be washing my kit more often now !

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.

Sound of Kerrera, Oban 22nd May

Thanks to Steve for the following trip report.

Alan, Sue (at the helm ably assisted by Karen & Sarah), Izzi, Gary and I enjoyed the day at Puffin diving off Alan’s boat, ‘Am Fheoladaire’, despite being greeted by a boisterous westerly breeze which restricted our options to the Sound of Kerrera.

We dived off the small white light marking the Sgeirean Dubha reef near the south end of Kerrera in the morning, in 2-3m viz at around 12-15m with a variety of small critters lurking under the kelp – crabs, starfish, sea urchins & lots of tiny fish, amongst other things. One of the highlights of the morning was a family of seals playing around on the exposed rocky part of the reef with a good view from the boat, though they didn’t join us below the surface.

We headed back to the crew room at Puffin for lunch – not wishing to get our sandwiches soggy in the hefty showers blowing by between a few glimpses of the sun! The log powered stove was duly lit & we all warmed up before heading up past Heather Island to a rather spectacular wall off the NE side of Kerrera plunging down to just over 30m and crammed full of life including squat lobsters, lots of different crabs & some pretty ballan wrasse amongst the plant life, dead mens fingers etc. This was due north east of Heather and about 500m south of Ardentrive Bay (where the marina is). Vis around 4m as along as you kept clear of the bottom, with a few scallops collected from the sea bed just below the base of the wall.

We rounded off the day with tea & scones at the Green Welly in Tyndrum on the way home after another good day’s diving despite the weather!

Stallion Rock and Eilean Aoghainn (Minard Islands), Loch Fyne, 15th May

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.

Yarrell's bleney

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.

Sea cucumber

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.

Paul has published his photos here

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.

Cardinal Reef and Ard na Cuille, Kerrera Sound. 8th May

Thanks to Steve for the following trip report from Sunday when he Joined Alan on his trip to Oban.

Had an excellent day on Sunday diving from Alan’s boat ‘Am Fheoladaire’ – Alan & I plus Izzy, Gary, Dave, Pheebe (Dave’s Neice from Edinburgh) with Tom Adams at the helm ably assisted by Dave’s grand daughter Ellie.

Almost flat calm in the morning with an excellent dive on the Cardinal Reef south of Dubh Sgeir (ie SW of Kerrera). Viz around 8-9m on a pretty reef with loads of life then followed a great wall down to 30m where we arrived at scallop city!

Picnicked on the Isle of Kerrera then headed back to the bay at Ard na Cuille since the promised SE wind had arrived so needed a bit of shelter for a leisurely 15-20m dive there.

I enjoyed the scallops with friends in Perth on Sunday evening – absolutely delicious!

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

Easter at Oban, 23rd-25th April 2011

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.

Evening social

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.

Boats moored below Shuna Cottage

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.

Flat fish of Puffin

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.

Skate: Dipturus Batis

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.

Rubha Lagain Aillidh

Dive sites: OSGB
Dive 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
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
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

Perth BSAC Trip to Oban Easter 2011

All in all a very worthwhile trip blessed by good weather. Thanks are due to Steve for his organisation and for everyone for mucking in.

Heather Island, Oban 3rd April

Thanks you to Steve for the following contribution.

Had a good day over at Puffin yesterday with thanks due to Alan & Sue (for boat & boat handling) & Dave who took Neil in for his 2nd day of open water diving.

There was a brisk south westerly blowing which restricted our options so we headed to Maiden Island in the morning (where a good haul of scallops was collected!), then Alan, Izzy, Gary & I did the wall on the outside of Heather Island for the afternoon while Dave took Neil in for a shore dive at Puffin (Sarah & Karen Dobbie acted as shore cover for them) to work on buoyancy & finning skills.

A swiftly executed & successful day with diving completed & the boat recovered by about 3pm, so back in Perth around 5.30pm!

Kerrera Sound, Oban, 20th March

Todays thank you go to Alan and Dave for arranging this Sunday’s splash which saw a relatively large team of 8 divers departing Puffin Dive centre just after 9 o’clock.

The days highlight for me was Neil’s first open water experience just off the shore in Gallanach Bay, South of Puffin. Neil coped admirably well, the weeks of pool training on Wednesday evenings having paid dividends and apart from a few issues with air migration within his suit, the dive was completed without incident. In fact we had a very interesting if rather cold dive, seeing a large and varied selection of life as we moved from a shelving shingle bottom onto the edge of a small boulder slope.

Neil on his first open water dive

Izzy and Alan went in close by at the point and reported good vis. Dave’s boat went off to slightly further down the sound to Aird na Cuile ably piloted by Sarah with Paul and Colin taking their cameras in while Gary and Dave enjoyed a scallop hunt. With the weather closing in and a few showers coming through we headed back to Puffin for lunch to take advantage of the Crew room and it’s stove which Sue litterally filled with wood to create a warm fuggy atmosphere that had everyone warmed up in no time.

Napier Uni was out on a trip and a hardy bunch they were too. Memories of student days diving in wet suits came flashing back as we shared the fire with shivering, wetsuit clad students who looked miserable until somebody said ‘Dive’, then it was all change as they charged back into the water. Here’s to you Ahab !

Lunched, warmed and ready to go again, the small flottila motored off down to the Sgerien Dubha light at the south of the sound where the plan was for the experienced divers to go off the Northern tip of the skerrie while Neil and I made our way along the inner reef. With grey seals in the water and getting ready to haul out to pup on the skerry we hoped to see some on the dive but it was not to be. Instead we descended onto a shingle bottom which gave way to small walls as we drifted northwards until we found silt at the point. This was the most interesting part of the dive with sea pens , scallops and Neil reporting a pipefish. Alan and Izzy were back in the boat by the time we surfaced as were Paul and Colin who reported a large wolf fish.

Scuba Diving Southern Sound of Kerrera

So with all in order we left ‘Plan B’ in Sarah’s able hands to pick up Gary and Dave and headed back to Puffin to haul out, hose down and clear the slip.

Hopefully photo’s from Colin will appear here wip