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.

Diving the Tea Rooms with Fyne Divers on the BSAC Regional training day, 12th May 2012

No milk, 6:30am staring at the coffee and cereal and no milk. What a start to the day. It must have been habit but for some reason I checked my phone messages and there it was, a call from Colin asking if there was any diving on offer. So texting back so as not to disturb the entire Robertson household, I picked him up at Burnbrae and we were off to Loch Fyne and a visit to Fyne divers who were holding the monthly BSAC regional training day at the Tea Rooms.

Loch Earn was calm and there was a little snow left on the hills so it wasn’t a day for speeding especially with all the weight in the boot of the car causing it to feel light on the corners. Didn’t take long though and soon we were enjoying a bacon roll and coffee waiting while all the administration was completed for what turned out to be quite a large gathering.

The morning dive saw Colin having a recreational dive and paired with someone who had not been in the water for a few months so had the opportunity to put his dive leader hat on and lead an unknown buddy around the reef. No problems reported and an enjoyable dive was had by both parties. I was on instructor duties but clearly having heard this the student didn’t show and so I was asked to take Ian, who had also not been in the water for a while around the reef. I thoroughly enjoyed this dive, doing the clockwise circuit from the boom and finding some interesting life including rather long bootlace worms and wrasse of various sorts as well as a shoal of small ‘haddies’ cruising along the top of the reef.

can you see it ?
For the first time ever at this site I came across this little chap, which of course was left as we don’t encourage foraging here. Rather leaving the life for students to enjoy on their initial dives.

Soup and crusty bread for lunch and some good chat with the students and instructors.

The afternoon session saw Colin repeating his dive of the morning again seeing a good variety of life and having a pleasant dive while I had the pleasure of diving with Trin, a student from Edinburgh who completed the OS3 practical session. Because of the numbers today, the afternoon session dragged on a bit as we accommodated everyone getting their dives in and we waited until everyone was out of the water before heading off home just before 17:00.

Driving back past the Glen Orchy road we decided to go and have a look at the lower pools under the bridge and took the opportunity to wash the kit in the fresh if somewhat peaty water. The entrance below the bridge over slippery rocks required care but once in the water the topography was impressive if somewhat dark especially as the gorge narrowed under the bridge itself.

There is very little life in fresh water in comparison to the sea and today we didn’t see any fish life at all. These toads took a moment to recognize before we moved on. Having got as far as we dared we let go and drifted gently back to our entry/exit point, being washed around large boulders in the steam after what can only be described as a very pleasant and esoteric dive.

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thanks to Colin for the use of some of his photos.

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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The wrecks of Bonawe quarry, 4th September 2011

There was quite a lot going on this weekend. Hamish and Bethan went off down to Hawes to successfully complete a BSAC Regional PRM course under the watchful gaze of a National Instructor and other Advanced Instructors. This sets them both well on their way to completing their Dive Leader training. Worth noting comments that these events have been under subscribed and we should perhaps support these guys more as they invest a lot of their own personal time in providing this training.

Alan and family were across in Oban with a few divers and went exploring the Garvellachs where they found disappointing vis but exciting diving. Paul and I were planning on a quick shore dive.

For once the weather was kind and we had a glorious drive across to the West. Paul and I bimbled our way around to Bonawe quarry on the Northern shore of Loch Etive.

Paul parked up on the concrete standing close to the entry point and we kitted up for what was planned to be an extended exploration of the site with opportunities to play with photography lighting. As it turned out my new toy was being temperamental and had other ideas.

Entering the water we descended a steep slope picking up a cable that led us past mooring blocks and a derrick to the wreck of a small clinker built fishing boat in about 12m. The boat was sitting upright and had obviously been there a good while as it had been eaten away and was fragile to the touch. The wheel house provided some fun but I couldn’t get in with the tanks on. Having swam around the wreck and kicked up the silt we decided to explore elsewhere and continued the outward leg to look for some life, the floor of the quarry being bare save some worms, gobbies and a solitary gurnard.

Finding rocks at the mouth of the quarry we came across this little solitary jewel.

Eventually it was time to start the reverse leg and returning back to the entry point we diverted towards the western edge and came across an old car amongst the boulders. It looked a little like a A-series MG but covered in rusticles and brittle to the touch its days are numbered. No souvenirs to be found this time. Nearing the end of the dive we found a discarded net that gave an amazing spectacle, an underwater sculpture and the chance for a few more photos. I unfortunately picked up some fishing line here around my fins and Paul was able to demonstrate the value of a pair of shears as he set me free !

Hopefully Paul will add some on his photos

As it was a very pleasant afternoon and getting rather warm, we decided to follow the coast round past Castle Stalkers and try out luck on a new open water site opposite Balnogowan Island but first the surface interval. Paul had been planning and had brought a disposable barbecue and a couple of burgers so we settled down to enjoy a delightful hour or so in the sun overlooking Ardgour.

The second dive of the day was the Telephone Exchange site, neither of us had dived it before so we were both looking forward to something new. Parking through the gate at the telephone exchange on the old road, we lugged our kit across the main road, down a banking to a cobbled beach and a walk in entry. Sand with the occasional scallop gave way to mud and seapens at which time we turned and retraced our steps keeping an eye out for rays that frequent this site. None today though.

On the way back we had to rely on the compass as the tide changed and tried to push us along the beach across several confusing banks. Just below the kelp line we came across another delightful nudibrach busy laying eggs on its food source.

All that was left was to lug the gear back along the beach, up the slope, cross the road, through the gate to the car (pant, pant, pant!) and call it a day after a couple of really cracking dives.

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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.

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.