Gallanach bay, Puffin Dive Centre. Sunday March 13th

Snow, sleet, wind and the accompanying travel advisories… time to go diving !

Just the two of us this Sunday and very much a plan B, plan A having been blown out, but a cunning plan B as it gave us the opportunity to have a walk round the dive shop and take advantage of a free suit pressure test. The crew room proved to have a wood burning stove that Hamish cranked up until it glowed red, warming the very soles of our suits.

Kitting up in the snow

First dive set off straight out from the end of the pier on sand and rock but rapidly moved onto silt where we followed discarded scallop shells and sponges as we descended steep mud into the Kerrera channel until both the light and life ran out. Slowly ascending with a slight drift south as we climbed out of the channel we found a solitary phosphorescent sea-pen amidst a field of feeding peacock worms

The half time break saw more wood and even more heat getting pumped out of the stove in the crew room and as sensation returned to hands thoughts of a second dive crystallised.

This time we planned to do a clockwise circuit so set off to explore the shallower reefs and rocks where we found sea lemons

sea lemons mating.

before dipping down onto the mud.

On the ascent we can across this little flatty
flatty having a stand off with a crab

before hitting the small reefs for the last time and the warmth of the crew room.

more photos here

Loch Leven, Wreck and Slates, 13th February 2011

Sea Pen (Virgularia mirabilis)
A small group of winter divers equipped with the latest gadgets went in search of wrecks in Loch Leven this Sunday. Sidescan sonar perhaps, GPS, ROV, none of that, we’re talking heated waistcoats ! Toasty was the expression of the day. Being toasty however did not stop us getting soaked before we started the dive as we changed in heavy sleet.

So back to diving: The site , known as The Old Cemetery site, is easy enough to find and the wreck, or what is left of a small sailing skiff, lies on the bolder slope between 4 and 7m. Just enter a little left of the burn below the picnic benches, head straight out and when you get to 5m turn left and continue along that contour. You will find the wreck within 5 minutes.

We missed it first time finding a group of large worked stones further out at 12m but found it on the way back

Video of Hamish finding the wreck

The site is a very pleasant dive, a small boulder slope to 8m and then onto muddy bottom with Queen scallops galore, sea squirts and tube worms. Would be better in summer in high light but we had a very reasonable dive.

Queen scallop

When we surfaced it was still raining so we decided to go in search of a warm pub. Ballachulish was closed so a quick run round to the Holly Tree Inn at Kentallen resulted in a rather excellent bowl of soup, a great view across Loch Linnhe and the sight of divers exiting from their dive. Now it is important to get a good surface interval and I can’t think of a better place to do it !

Second dive saw us at ‘The Slates’ where we met Paul, Frank, Alistair and Dave, some of the people from Saturday’s Regional training session at the tea Rooms. Changing back into damp suits, always a pleasure, never a chore, we headed into the gloom in search of dogfish. Unfortunately a technical problem with a torch (did we carry a spare ?) kept us in the first 15m where we could use ambient light. Finding two enormous anchors and various chains we drifted East at 15m before ascending back into an eddy that brought us back over occasional boulders covered in encrusting tube worms, tunicates and a solitary King scallop.
The weather had cleared somewhat by the time we came out but everything was damp and another warm up session was required where amongst other thing we discussed the best place to keep Hamish’s hat

The badgers hat

A few more photos can be seen here These are Hamish’s first attempt at underwater photography and I am assured that they will improve. My attempts are demanding a better use of light source or I am told a diffuser whatever that may be.

Diving the West side of Kerrera. 7th February

A challenging day
A big thank you to Alan for organising this Sunday’s trip to Oban.

After Fridays storms it was unlikely that the diving around Oban would be up to much and it was with a certain amount of amazement that Paul and I arrived at Puffin Dive Centre to find a calm sea. We were a little late and Alan’s boat was just about ready to be put in the water for the first time of the season and Alan, Dave and Phoebs waited ‘patiently’ as we quickly got ourselves changed and the kit ready for two dives off the SW tip of Kerrera.

Kerrera Island by Oban

A quick ride down to the area of Bach Island saw a tidal rip around Rubha na Feundain with fresh ‘clear’ water from the West pushing into the Sound of Kerrera. A reef, an extension of the point produced a small standing waves and promised a terrific drift dive.

Rubha na Feundain from the west
Rubha na Feundain from Alan's rhib

David and Phoebs went in first and reported very poor visibility with a layer of fresh water on the surface and an uncomfortably strong current and suggested that we went in around the corner towards Port Dubh. This we did, dropping onto kelp and found that the visibility improved with depth and the current encouraged us downwards onto sandy slopes, the land of scallops! Energetic finning had the contents gauge falling at an alarming rate so we clawed our way cross current up the slope with our bag of booty, it became clear after 20mins that an open water ascent would be required and the DSMB was deployed to lift the scallops and we soon followed it. Rather a challenging dive.

We had lunch at the pebble beach of Barr-nan-broc Bay and the weather remained clear, calm and mild.

The second dive was at Rubha na Lice on the Western side of the Island. Alan joined David and went in first followed shortly afterwards by Chris and Paul who found a shallow reef with a small 5m wall.

Good life on the sheltered reef

This wall gave shelter from the current and held a good assortment of life ranging from cup corals to deadman’s fingers and plumose anenomies and a good smattering of scallops that had gathered at the base of the wall. The visibility on this dive was much better and had good ambient light at 20m. Ascending to the top of the wall, slabs continued upwards into kelp and coarse sand where white burrowing anenomies were found. All in all a much better dive !

Paul has published his photos here

Second dive profile

Dive site 1: Rubha na Feundair , Kerrera Isle, Oban. 56°22’50N 5°35’19W
Dive site 2: Rubha na Lice , Kerrera Isle, Oban. 56°24’32N 5°33’45W

credits: all underwater photos taken by Paul