An evening splash at Fifeness, 18th June 2014

Crail was definitely cooler than Perth when we traveled across for an evening dive and BBQ, by almost 10°C in fact ! It looked deceptively calm with small waves breaking on the reefs as a high tide filled the gullies.

With a strong snorkeling contingent exploring Fifeness harbour (sic.) five divers kitted up to explore the gully below the WWII pillbox at the Coastguard station (now closed). After a few hiccups with direct feed hoses that didn’t fit and needed to be swapped, we were off in two groups to explore and dependent on the vis, throw in a few drills for the Ocean diver trainees. Chris and Aileen managed to slip off first and having been helped into the water by Gary found excellent vis above a sandy bottom and large brown kelp covering the rocks. Picking up the reef the colorful life was appreciated and a lobster tickled. This turned out to be a recently molted male, with a soft carapace so was returned unharmed. The brightly colored Galathea squat lobster was abundant hiding as they do in cracks and on the underside of overhangs. A good show of fish life hovering at the limit of visibility also made life interesting. Last winter’s storms seemed to have scoured the boulders a little and much more kelp was present that I can remember and loads of wreckage, rusted spares and plate fragments littered the sea bed adjacent to the reef. All interesting stuff.

(Ed – There are numerous wrecks hereabouts and speculation may suggest the metal came from the Vildfugl a 20th century motor tanker lost 1951 or The Brothers a 19th century Schooner lost 1856, and the Downiehills , a steam trawler lost 1926. All would have had some metal on them thought The Brothers and Downiehills had wooden hulls. While completely speculative the amount of rusted plates and spares suggests a metal hull and you can draw your own conclusions as to the likely vessel they came from. Storm and surge action concentrates wreckage in gullies so it is more than likely a scrap yard of multiple wrecks. Interestingly enough, another vessel that came to grief here, the Annette, a brig, lost 1879, was carrying a cargo of pit props and we certainly found several of those.)

We turned with ample air in reserve as Aileen was having a leaking mask day and returned to find a sandy bottom to practice AS drills and ‘ellami calls. No real issues were experienced but it would have been much easier without a flooded mask, still if you have confidence enough to rescue someone when things are not going well you are doing better than most!

The second team, Duane, Andy and Steve, followed us out, passing us towards the end of the reef. Again they reported good and varied life including lobsters of various shapes and sizes and found time to complete AS drills, another good result.

Returning to the shore, we were landed by Gary and Izzy who were providing shore cover and once everyone was back on dry land we joined the BBQ throwing our sausages on the monster grill that Neil had brought. Chat, stick throwing for the dogs and a chance to catch up and meet various family members saw us spend a hour or so before approaching storm clouds, a drop in temperature and the fading light saw the party disperse.

A very pleasant evening with a good result with a couple of open water lessons signed off. Thanks due to Steve for organising another dive, Neil for bringing his BBQ and Izzy and Gary for providing shore cover and of course all those who came along and made the evening such a social success

fifeness map

this extract from RCAHM shows all the wrecks that have come to grief on this part of the coast.

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)

Buoyancy and Trim workshop 27th April 2013

This week Steve drove and having been picked up at 07:45 Paul and I enjoyed the chat as we drove across to the Tea Rooms at Loch Fyne for a Buoyancy and Trim Workshop that was being run by Fyne divers.

The day started with a briefing and theory lectures which were delivered in the cafe and while this was going on the shot lines were placed in the bay for the lessons. Found a rather impressive nudibranch (Cadlina laevis) on this dive, not seen one of these on this reef before, lots of Pleurobranchus membranaceus around today with egg whorls but these are getting past their best.

dive one: The first session of the day was where the training was delivered in the form of practice and skills review. Starting at a 6m stop and buddy check and then working on buoyancy. Reaching the shot line we made short ascents and then hovered at the marks on the line. 9m, 6m, 5m, 4m, 3m 2m all saw 2 minute stops and then 30seconds at 1m. Decompression stops can be rather tedious and people hae strategies to alleviate boredom. Today the life in the surface layer, with sea gooseberries and other minute jellyfish and plankton was very pronounced and intriguing.

dive two is the assessment putting into practice what has been learnt on the previous dive or a further fine tuning if any is needed. This time having done our stops we made a vertical descent to hold a 6m stop then continued to just off the bottom before swimming back along the reef where we annoyed a rather sleepy dogfish for a while.

That was it, all that was left was the removal of the shot lines. Alistair and I went in for these and had a slow dive along the inner reef on the way back which gave us the chance to find some interesting life. Three dogfish and a large scorpion fish as well as a friendly Ballan wrasse. All the flat surfaces on the reef were covered in grey fish eggs several dogfish and this short spined scorpion fish.
scorpionfish

With all lessons completed and dives logged we had time for a final coffee and chat where the certificates and log books were signed before being turfed out of the cafe and enjoying the delightful scenery on the way home. Some new faces today and some folk we haven’t seen for a while and hopefully all had fun.

Regional diver training program at Loch Fyne, 8th December 2012

Doris pseudoargus
Doris pseudoargus

A rather grey and gloomy day at the Regional diver training program at Loch Fyne today. It was pleasing to see though, that even with the bad weather there was a good turn out of both trainees and divers who had come along for a recreational dive.

I had the pleasure of putting a trainee through the full drysuit course which apart from getting rather cold on the first dive was rather successful, but there again teaching fish to swim is always easy. As part of this session we swam onto the reef in rather poor vis and then up and down the slope to tune these drysuit buoyancy skills. A rather beautiful ballan wrasse interrupted the lesson for a while as it swam up to us and was only too pleased to be fed. Almost but not quite eating out of our hands!

The afternoon session was a clockwise circuit of the reef checking buoyancy control and ensuring a well controlled ascent. No problems. Again some very large fish, cod and pollack with a few small flatties as well as the usual squidgy life peppered the reef but it was very dark making a torch a necessity which is unusual for this site.

That was it, after a quick natter and signing of books in the coffee shop, people started to drift away and I drove home in the dark after another rewarding day helping out in the instructor team. I can report that the chocolate cake was exceptional good today.

Loch Creran and Bonawe Quarry, Sunday 29th April 2012

A small team of Izzy, Gary and Chris, met at Colin’s and were joined by Frank, a guest for a trip across to the West coast to explore a couple of sites, that as a club we don’t dive that often.

After a short detour to Puffin Dive Center to pick up a set of regulators we headed North to a site know as “the Steps” on the south shore on Inner Loch Creran and arrived to find blue skies, a flat calm loch and temperature soaring into the 20s. Was this the start of summer we asked ourselves as we kitted up and then sweated profusely awaiting our turns to dive. Today’s plan was to dive in waves with the shore cover also minding Hamish (the dog) who on arrival had immediately found a grass snake so was keen to explore the brambles and under growth for other exciting residents.


On entering we were met by a swarm of Moon Jellyfish which distracted us for a minute or two before we pressed on. Once out of the little bay, the bottom shelves steeply over a bed of Horse muscle shells and then over a set of little steps before flattening where mixed sand and rocks and ultimately sand or gravel takes over. A small wall or reef to the left of the bay provides a good substrate for squidgy life and at its base large numbers of queen scallops had gathered that flew off as we disturbed them.

Not much fish life around today apart from the ubiquitous Gobbies. Having descended to the foot of the wall in what can be described as superb visibility, we took a clockwise circuit across the mouth of the bay where a field of sea cucumbers and small rocky slabs covered in Green urchins and a solitary fireworks anenome provided interested before we eventually ascended to the base of a boulder slope.

It was here that we found the beastie that we had come to see, the Sepulid worm that forms rare biogenic reefs. We found them, but you have to be a cunning photographer to get a good snap, if they detect any movement or noise from your exhaust bubbles, they snap back into their tubes. Needless to say I took several excellent photos …. of the worm tubes….

To make the most of the sunshine the barbecue was lit and a few sausages burnt before we moved sites stopping off at a very pleasant cafe at Columba Bay where we sat outside enjoying the sun.

The second dive site was the Bonawe Quarry site on the North shore of Loch Etive, here we were going to look for the little wreck of the fishing boat, sometimes know as the ‘Kingfisher’. This proved to be a bad choice as the breeze was blowing directly into the harbor and the visibility proved appalling. The first wave went in and very quickly came up again to inform us they were changing their dive plan to investigate the rocks of the causeway. They surfaced to report finding the old car wrecks but visibility of less than a meter. Not good! The second wave went in and were somewhat luckier, finding the running line that links the shore to the derrick and then the wreck. The derrick was found, with someone’s head, before moving on to the wreck where a slow clockwise circuit was made being very careful not to stir up the bottom. Unfortunately we weren’t careful enough and having got around the A frame at the stern of the wreck we re-entered our silt trail and decided to take a compass bearing to the causeway and work our way back via the cars to the entrance point.

All in all a very dark, low vis but atmospheric dive but certainly not the worst one I have ever done.

As everyone was getting rather hungry we decided to stop at the Crianlarich Hotel on the way back for a spot of supper. This is proving to be a regular stop, being about half way home and providing a friendly and convivial atmosphere. Salmon, venison and Cumberland sausages were ordered and the stalkers dispatched while we waited non to patiently for our tea. After some lively banter all fell silent as the important business of food was resolved, a process that didn’t take too long. With dinner finished all that was left was the remainder of the trip home and washing the gear off.

Certainly a day of two very different dives and hopefully the start of some long overdue Summer weather. Thanks are due to all who came along and made this trip possible.

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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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Training day 19th February 2012, Loch Fyne Tea Rooms

With a few keen stalwarts daring to try cold water winter diving a small team drove across to Loch Fyne to take advantage of the calm weather. When we arrived the loch was absolutely flat with only the occasional riffle breaking the mirror.

The plan today was to concentrate on weight, trim and buoyancy and possibly DSMB drills and give a couple of our newer members a chance to sort themselves out before the diving starts in earnest in Spring. As this was also the first dive with new kit for one member we decided it was appropriate to take it easy and opt for a sheltered, safe site with easy access where shore cover could be applied effectively should it be needed. The Tea Rooms was selected as the ideal venue. Although we seem to use it a lot it is a very good dive, interesting life, good topography and generally reasonable vis.

So with Paul and Kris going in first, on an ebb tide just half an hour after the turn, diving on the inner reef, John and I provided shore cover and spent a little time improving the access. Having complete a trip out past the point and back, Paul and Kris surfaced where they started and reported good vis until they reached the point here crud allegedly from the fish farm slightly spoilt things. The water temp at 9 degrees was positively balmy today!

John and I went in on the inner reef as well and after a few initial problems getting down and having added the proverbial few extra pounds we managed to see some of the life on the reef. A large ballan wrasse proving to be the highlight. Although a short dive, this was a good outcome as we had started lightly weighted and added just enough to complete the dive and still be capable of demonstrating neutral buoyancy at 70 bar.

Lunch in the Tea Rooms was as ever an enjoyable affair, lentil soup today though someone in our midst opted for chocolate soup with a side order of cake…..

Seconds out, round two. With the same pairings in the same order we now dived at low tide with the entire reef exposed. Paul kindly took my camera in and the dazed look on Kris’ face as he surface betrayed the number of snaps that had been taken. Kris had the opportunity to do his DSMB drill on the return which gave us something to watch.

note: these photos have been added in a video here but will get updated when we have had a chance to edit them.

John and I dived the inner reef again, this time without incident. John had his torch out and was busy searching for life under boulders as we swam out past the road cones and sea pens to the start of the gravel where we turned and retraced our steps past a new resident, the slightly enigmatic gnome that has now been installed. There were numerous large edible crabs today, one of which needed freeing from fishing line. I make a complete mess of demonstrating DSMB deployment, with the string wrapping around the reel handle as I inflated from my exhaust breaths, easily dislodged but not a good demonstration. Still this is why we practice…..

That was it, conscious of the time and not wanting to detain Frank, Paul had moved the cars outside the barriers by the time we made our ascent and we quickly changed, packed the cars and were off home.

A good day out with the club and a pleasure to see some new faces out diving with us.

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.

Chili dip and salsa, 18th December 2011

Cold and clear, a day for skiing, Glühwein or staring at a roaring fire. As thoughts go, this one seemed constant as icy roads led west to a rendezvous at ‘The Green Welly‘. Todays plan had been somewhat last minute as Christmas had taken it’s toll. Usually stalwart scubapros had slipped away to do their christmas shopping and things were getting so desperate that I had thought of golf!

The roads were partly snow covered and while additional care was required the drive was spectacular today. Snowy mountains, frosted pink in the early morning sun, Lochan na h-Aclaise frozen and Rannoch, a sea of white. Not surprisingly Glen Coe was busy with skiers and mountaineers. We arrived at Ballachulish with blue skies and turned into the car parking to find the place to ourselves.

Dive site today was ‘The Slates’, chosen for easy of access and while nothing in diving should be assumed, the site is usually a sure bet for conditions. The site provides a straightforward dive that can be extended to satisfy any recreational diving requirement. As far a shore diving goes, it certainly has a lot to offer.

Kitting up in the cold and then carrying the equipment across to the entry point had it’s own dangers today as sheet ice covered the car park and shore line, but with our buddy checks done we were off, to amongst other things test Gary’s new suit. Dropping into crystal clear fresh water we hit the halocline at 2m and descended into 3m vis and warm water and moved West to find the steepest part of the boulder slope.

The rocks today were covered in sea squirts, peacock worms and sea loch anenomies and all that was needed was a little light to make a very colorful dive, today however the low sun did little for us and at 10m we were in darkness.
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There is so much to see at this site, a particularly large fish hiding in the rocks proved additional interest today, it looked like a large poor cod or a haddock with spots. This encrusting sponge took my eye, takes a little time to work out what is going on but the sponge has grown around a Sepulid worm tube.

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After a relatively short surface interval the second dive went around the smaller spit. Surface water temperature of 3 degrees warmed up with depth and with Izzy picking up a couple of scallops as we descended into the blackness. Some very interesting life on this dive, a dragonette and a large scorpion fish that lay motionless as we passed. This Arctic Cowrie proved a challenge.

To avoid a walk back along the icy track we turned around after 30 mins having used up our bottom time and retraced our steps somewhat shallower and taking advantage of a good long safety stop. Within the bay the life is much poorer, due no doubt to the more brackish nature of the water, horse muscles appear here. As we were about to surface we found a small flatfish and watched it propel itself forwards using its skirt. We surfaced as it started snowing!

That was it, another day off the rocks and all that was left was to pack up and head for home. A quick stop in the Crianlariach Hotel to warm up in front of the fire before rushing off back to Perth before it got dark and the snows really started and the roads got blocked.

and that’s all folks!
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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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