Shore Diving at Eyemouth Green Ends Gully 2nd September 2012

With Spring tides and sunny weather forecast (gentle south westerly winds)  I thought it would be a good chance to dive some of the best shore diving in the UK,  Eyemouth 30 years ago was a busy fishing port with many boats and several Fish Markets a week, Landing Lemon Sole, Herring, Lobsters and Edible Crabs. Now there are a few fishing boats in the Harbour and next to the Old Customs House a Yacht Marina and New Harbour Building which has the Aquastars Dive Centre with friendly and welcoming team that will give you advice on the local dive sites as well as Air fills.    With Low water at 10:30am we decided to have a late start and start diving at 12pm as the entry and exit points for the Green Ends Gully are best 4 hours either side of high tide, otherwise you have to Scramble into and out of the Water not much fun…

The first dive we did was to follow the concrete walkway to where the Sewage pipe ends (disused I hasten to add)  dropping into the water we dropped into the Kelp if you look closely there is a swim through under the Kelp which takes you down to about 8 metres ideal to test your buoyancy perhaps do a few Fin Pivots, there were lots of Lobsters in the Gully and as we headed along came across three or so creels that had been lost and then dropped into the deepest part of the dive about 14.5 metres depth before rising up to 11 metres on a slope of small pebbles smoothed by the action of the sea.  We headed out along the right wall for about 15 metres but stopped as a strong spring current swept round the edge of the rock and with a visibility of about 4-5 metres I didn’t want to get lost! so we started to move slowly back around to the other side of the Gully and when you slow down and look closely you start to spot lots of interesting things including several different Sea Long Spined Scorpions a, Prawns and Butterfish as well as brightly coloured Elegant Anemones, an excellent dive!

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After Lunch and with the water approaching high tide this made the first gully easy to access just at the top of the concrete Walk way, this Gully is Narrower than the first and has an impressive overhang dropping to 11-12 metres deep. Fed and I decided with slack approaching we could be a bit more adventurous heading out around one of the Reefs which were covered in a carpet of dead mans fingers we had to watch for a current still running between the rocks here but managed to pop over the reef into shelter and calmer waters. Another excellent dive with lots to see.

My thanks to Steve, Mo and Fred to an Enjoyable days diving and to Tara and the Scotties for being Shore Cover and lookign after the car keys.

Perth BSAC Trip to the Summer Isles and Altandhu 11th to 12th August

With the good weather continuing after our Midweek trip to the Forth, Nine of members of the club headed up the A9 for a weekend of Camping BBQ’s and diving of course!

On the Saturday morning we headed down to Old Dorne harbour just 2 minutes drive from Port a Bhaigh campsite  for 9am to launch the Ribs for our trip to the Fairweather V a trawler on  the south Side of Loch Broom about 7 nautical mile trip. After heading out for 5 minutes just to the channel between Tanera Mor and Tanera Beag we helped out two boys who had snapped off the throttle on their creeling boat. So after a 3o minute delay towing the boy’s boat back to port we got back on track.  The Fairweather V is a interesting wreck to shot as it sits out on a underwater headland which drops off either side of the wreck making it more challenging to find if the co-ordinates are off. Hence we struggled to locate the wreck and with the Help of Inverness Sub Aqua Club (who were diving the wreck of the Innisjura we just missed the wreck but the shot was 2 metres too short – Doh!

After putting a second shot down, the first divers dropped down to find HMS Vicinity, luckily Tony and Spike found the first shot which was only a few metres off the bow of the Fairweather 5 , so everyone got a dive on the wreck which was covered in Plumose Anemones and Shoals of fish as well as Ballan Wrasse Its also worth finding the Bridge of the Wreck with the Captains chairs and electronics which you don’t see in the older wrecks although we had to forgo the dive on the back wall of the Isle Martin.  After recovering the Shot we headed back towards Altandhu and 4 of us who hadn’t had a second dive dropped in to the South West and North West of Tanera Mor, Bethan And I dropped down a Kelp covered Reef with small gulleys to about 18 metres where we found a gently sloping sandy seabed with a few Scallops which we collected for the BBQ that evening at the Campsite.
Arriving back at the Old Dornie Harbour we arrived during the Awards Ceremony for the Local Fishing club competition that had been held while we were out diving, traffic jams on the West Coast.

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We had a BBQ and were blessed with a slight breeze which kept the West Coast Midges at bay for most of the evening, I hid in the smoke from the BBQ’s when they did, we chatted with Andy the Local Diver that offered to help fill our tanks from his compressor in Achiltibuie which saved us a night of pumping cylinder with Colin’s Mobile compressor.  Andy spent the evening chatting about old times with the Club. I managed to take a few shots of the Sun setting over the Sea one of best experiences is the amazing sunsets you get on the west coast of Scotland.

After a slightly later start of 8ish some of us more worse for wear than others we packed up and headed down to Old Dornie to do two local dives, the first was Reef North West of Eilean a Char that looked interesting on the charts, west side of the Rock  looked the most interesting with kelp down to 14 metres and we followed the reef heading north between 15 and 22 metres there were rich terraces with a mixture of Red Sea weeds with , Hydroids and teeming with life shoals of juvenile cod and as we went deeper the encrusting yellow sponge sea squirts we passed a Lions Main Jellyfish with its huge mass of stinging tentacles being dragged along in the water column and along the seabed catching zoo-plankton, I then spotted a Ling (Fish from Cod Family) briefly before heading back up to the kelp park on the top of the reef.
After a hours lunch on a pebble beach on Tanera Mor looking over Loch Broom towards the mountains and we headed across to dive the Wreck of the Boston Stirling, a great shallow intact wreck lying on a 45 degree angle ideal for a first wreck dive, Bethan and I did several circuits round the wreck at different depths with lots of varying habitats.

Harris and the Rebel Alliance diving off the ‘Peregrine’ 29-31 July 2012

We spotted an opportunity for some quality diving when Chris received an e-mail from Jan Love, a key mover and shaker in the Rebel Alliance divers group, advising of spaces available on their ‘Peregrine’ hard boat week 29 July to 3 August 2012 sailing from Scalpay, an island joined by a bridge to the Isle of Harris, focusing on sites in the Minch and the eastern shores of Harris.
Unfortunately, Chris was unable to get the time off, but Bethan took little persuading to join me, then found that her best friend, Kay, a Dive Leader from the Manchester University branch of BSAC, could also manage to join us for a trip based on traveling to Tarbert on Harris on Saturday 28 July 2012, diving 3 days Sunday to Tuesday, then heading back to Perth on Wednesday 1 August 2012 arriving in time for Kay to jump on a train back to Manchester later that afternoon.
Conveniently, the 2 remaining rooms at Dunard House in Tarbert were a twin & a single so we were all set for the trip.
As ever, we marvelled at the spectacular Highland scenery on the drive from Perth across to Skye and Uig where we met most of the Rebel Alliance team enjoying a pint at the nearest pub to the embarkation slip for the trusty CalMac ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. A quick trip to the Hebrides Hotel for a sun downer finished the day!

Following a comfortable night and a full Scottish breakfast, revived and raring to get in the water, we headed to the harbor at Scalpay where all the gear was quickly loaded aboard ‘Peregrine’. We re-acquainted ourselves with Malcolm, our skipper, who we had previously had the pleasure of meeting on our Club Sound of Mull trip back in March of this year.

We headed off for the shakedown dive to start the holiday, a nearly intact wreck of a fish farm supply vessel (no one knew her name) which stood all square on the bottom at 24m not far from the shore of Loch Trollamarig. This was a beautiful site with shoals of small fish, the vessel itself being covered in Plumose Anemones with even the wheelhouse still being place. Kay, our expedition underwater photographer, warmed to her task with relish and we all had a cracking dive, being in a threesome no hardship in such clear visibility!

For our second dive, we headed south along the shore of Harris to Holm Island where the plan was to dive the Holm Island Wall, Bethan taking the lead this time to help her finish the few remaining tasks still to be signed off for her Dive Leader. A lovely dive down a boulder slope to the wall which had an impressive overhang, under which Kay spotted a small conger eel while Bethan was battling with a particularly large edible crab (the crab won!) and I admired a beautiful cuckoo wrasse.

Since the ‘Peregrine’ has an on board compressor we were able to complete 3 dives per day on this trip while only bringing one set each. In between dives we took the opportunity to get to know our hosts from the Rebel Alliance and to enjoy their warm hospitality which on the first day included a seriously yummy carrot cake prepared by Jenny, clearly their very skilful team baker!
Third dive of day one was a shallow bimble through and around the kelpie site of the wreck of the ‘Gulf Star’ of which there’s only a few remaining plates of the hull remaining in about 8m of water on a rocky reef not far from Scalpay. There were plenty of shoals of small fish around and I spotted a couple of decent sized Pollock towards the end of the dive.
We then headed back to Tarbert and freshened up prior to enjoying a tasty dinner at the Hebrides Hotel and an early night eagerly anticipating diving for Monday!

After a long steam, almost back to Skye, we enjoyed a cracking dive at Thon Cleats, a series of rocky islets, the dive being past kelp down a boulder slope to a really pretty reef where Kay and Phil (Jan’s buddy – vis was so good we could see all the divers on this reef!) broke open a couple of sea urchins to give some cuckoo wrasse a late breakfast. Phil almost had one eating from his hand while Kay maneuvered around for some photo opportunities and Bethan led us along most expertly again!
After the dive, the fishing rods were brought out to occupy some of the deco time and lots of Pollock rushed to take the bait, Kay catching her first ever fish and Phil bagging a particularly impressive specimen! Jan and Jenny skilfully gutted and filleted them having the fresh fish sealed in plastic bags and ready for the kitchen well before our second dive of the day at Sgeir Graidaigh, a reef in the middle of the Minch which we enjoyed in calm seas and warm sunshine.
We descended down a shot line then headed east to this beautiful reef, again in vis well over 10m. This site teems with life including Jan’s favourite, the jewel anemones coating the reef walls, plenty of nudibranchs, more cuckoo wrasse, Pollock, plumose anemones and a particularly large lobster spotted by Kay who moved swiftly back into his hiding place to avoid the pot!
Following a steam back to the Harris shoreline we enjoyed a very pleasant third dive around a rocky reef at Scoravick. Bethan was about to give my dive leading the thumbs down, since the first part of this dive was shallow and kelpie, but luck was on our side and about half way through the dive I came across a pretty wall dropping down to around 19m so smiles all round amongst more plumose anemones, shoals of small fish and more photo opportunities for Kay!

Our final day dawned warm, sunny and flat calm so we could hardly wait to get in the water though it was a fair steam south to the large and impressive wreck of the ‘S.S. Stassa’, a Panamanian vessel which struck the rocks on a clear, calm day in July 1966 – seems they were missing a lookout somewhere!
She is intact and lies on her starboard side and makes a stunning dive! There were large winches still located on deck with some teak decking still in place towards the stern. She had a cargo of timber, though apart from some lying alongside, we didn’t see much in the open holds we had a look in. This was, however, really atmospheric, and would warrant further exploration.
We then steamed back to visit Sgeir Graidaigh reef again in the middle of the Minch, having to take care to avoid being sunburnt on this glorious summer’s day! Kay led us around on the second visit to this isolated reef which was as beautiful as our first visit in equally good vis! More pretty cuckoo wrasse, sea urchin bashing for their benefit (and for our photographer!!), jewel anemones, Pollock, plumose anemones, nudibranchs etc., etc.!
More Pollock then jumped on board via the fishing rods, Jan and Jenny did more skilful gutting and fileting, Phil cooked these in the galley & we all enjoyed a five star fresh fish feast prior to our final dive back near Scalpay again, Bethan leading us along a wall with loads of life to enjoy (including humping crabs which we decided to leave well alone!) and more photo opportunities which Kay made the most of.
Then, just after we’d got on board and dropped off our tanks & weights, Jan suddenly appeared with a couple of bottles of Asti Spumante and cups for all to thank us for joining the Rebels!

The holiday was rounded off with us and the Rebels enjoying a lively farewell dinner at the Hebrides Hotel followed by some excellent shots of Mat’s Lagavulin whisky as night caps!

Many thanks are due to Jan Love for organising the trip and enabling us to join the Rebels for one of their main dive trips for this year.
Cheers to Jan, Phil, Jenny, Howie, Richard, Matt, Nick and Jane (and to Kay for kindly supplying the pictures).

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Many thanks to Steve, Bethan and Kay for the contribution (ed)

Midweek Evening Dive on the Blae Rock near Burntisland

With a few days of calm weather and high water slack just two hours away eight divers arrived at the Dive Bunker just after 6pm after setting up our kit on Mark’s newest Boat (Every time I visit him he has a bigger Rib this one with a wheel house, music and heating! after walking across to the slip we jumped into the Boat and headed out to the Blae Rock which stretches for about 1 mile North to South between Inchkeith Island and Burntisland. the Top of the Rock is about 9 metres and slopes gently to the East and there are 50 metre walls to the west for the more adventurous.

I have dived the Blae rock several times over the years, the visibility can vary from 2 metres to 6 metres and I hoped the Works with the new Forth Road Bridge hadn’t impacted on the visibility, with the flood tide we hopefully would get clean water from the North Sea.  After a briefing from Mark and dropping into the water just up from the shot we headed down to the Rock heading north west west Colin and I floated over the beds of Brittle Stars dispersed with the occasional Edible Crab hiding in a Patch of Sand or standing defiantly on the top of a rock.  The shear density of the life on this rock is quite unique I haven’t seen anything similar,  the main attraction is the variety and colours of Anemones is amazing I have included some photos below, as we were diving the current started to change and we found several 1-2 metre reefs which took us round to the scree Slope Mark had described and moving away from the rock the currents started to kick in and we started to drift onto the flat bottom. We decided to swim back to the rock and head back up from 20 metres to the top of the rock.

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After deploying a delayed Surface Marker Buoy we head to the surface for a final surprise – Sunset over Burntisland – Awesome!  After chatting on the the boat enjoying the last rays of the setting sun we head back to port. Thanks to Mark and his team for an enjoyable nights diving.

Wrecks of the Tay Estuary, Sunday 15th July, 2012

Another attempt at the Bell Rock saw us assemble in high spirits at Arbroath harbour on a trip Izzy had been trying to arrange for what seemed like forever. This time, were we going to be lucky ? To be fair the fact that we were actually gathered at Arbroath was a great improvement and when Neil Pattison, the skipper arrived and we started loading the dive gear aboard the ‘Tern’, things were looking up indeed.

We headed out of Arbroath harbor into rather rough conditions, perhaps Force 3-4 with white caps dotted around and a short swell coming up from the SW that was locally over 2 meters. We all settled down as best we could as we motored across the mouth of the Tay Estuary towards St Andrews bay. With the Bell Rock lighthouse remaining tantalizingly close yet distant on the Eastern horizon we yet again were not going to make it, so we motored instead for our first site across the estuary.

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SM UC-41 was 160 feet long and the wikipedia entry makes for interesting reading , this describes the sub as a mine layer that came to grief on one of it’s own mines breaking in two with the loss of all hands. Salvage started almost immediately to recover the deck gun. quote: “on the 21st August 1917 HMT JACINTH and HMT THOMAS YOUNG sweeping the Tay estuary found a German mine and found their sweep snagged on an underwater object. JACINTH dropped depth charges, oil and air bubbles rose to the surface. HMT CHIKARA then dropped more D/C’s. Two days later after oil was seen to be rising a diver was sent down. UC41 was located resting on the surface. Salvage work started and the boats 3.5 inch (88mm) gun was recovered on 21st September.”

From a dive perspective given the poor visibility encountered due to both the state of the sea and the number of divers on the wreck some of us didn’t see very much! Only small parts of the wreck were identifiable, conning tower, torpedo tubes and a hydro-plane. Not a dive for large parties in poor weather, however having said that it was a very atmospheric dive and although all the plumose anemonies were closed tight, in better conditions it must be spectacular. Colin and I spend ten minutes in zero vis, laying a line which we followed in circles before seeing something ‘upstream’ of the our companions. From observations, the sub had settled in a scour trench with max 2m height in places though most plates were less than 1m. From the more intact parts of the submarine the outer casing had eroded leaving ribs and the inner casing. Peering into the hull, where it had been opened was a very eerie sensation as the dark swirling sediment rose to greet you. Not for the faint of heart. That was it for us, conscious of both remaining air and the bottom time we set off to find the shot which we missed! Some divers did however find it to ascend in style while others, like Colin and I, sent up a DSMB and took the ‘bluewater’ ascent.

Back on board, the waves had got a little larger and had started to take their toll, various people had acquired a somewhat grey pallor. Not good and not much to be done about it! There was some discussion about calling the day, a quick poll was taken and we set a course for the next site, the wreck of HMT Sophron.

The story of the Sophron is linked to UC-41, she was apparently involved in the subs sinking to come to grief four days later on one of UC-41’s mines. She sits upright and is covered in life and usually enjoys better visibility than the sub. With amazing accuracy the shot landed just inside the gunwales providing a perfect descent and an easy reference for the ascent. The stern of the wreck, beautifully scalloped into the sandy bottom was covered in anemonies of cream and pink, these unlike the ones of the mornings dive were out. Moving aft over the deck, we swam over plates and poked our noses into one of the small hatches which was almost entirely silted up before moving on to the sharp bow, encrusted by anemonies. From here we swam around the port side enjoying the marine life that covered everything before returning to the shot and making a slow ascent and a brief deco stop. A very enjoyable dive, certainly the first East coast wreck I’ve done that is recognizable as a ship.

A few fun and games on the pickup before we bounced back to Arbroath. Unloading the boat saw a pony cylinder fall into the harbour which gave another opportunity for a dive. Luckily a short finger tip search found the errant cylinder.

That was it save for the fish super that was enjoyed on the harbour overlooking the marina.

Thanks are due to Izzy for organising this trip, it’s been a long time coming, due to the vagrancies of the East Coast weather but now we have tried it once, the next trip, in hopefully better weather, will be easier and we may yet get out to the Bell Rock!

Plan C , Sunday 17th June 2012

With the Bell rock being blow out for the second year running despondency crashed into the weekends diving plans as miserable weather got the better of diving on the East coast.

Steve, Colin and I, determined to get out and dive somewhere, drove across to “the Lochs” where all being in one car , we took advantage of the limited parking above the Caves just past Arrochar on Loch Long. I don’t think Colin believed us that this was the first site of the day but soon we were kitted up and abseiling down the culvert to enter the loch just before high tide.

Today saw everyone using Nitrox and while we were not intending to extend bottom times we were hoping to feel less fatigued on the way home. Having done our buddy checks at the car and then a bubble check at 3m we continued down the initial horse muscle shell bed before reaching our MOD in a field of sea loch anemones where there was still some ambient light reaching us from the surface. Here we started on the first of the days objectives, a close encounter with the fireworks anemone. Initially our search was unproductive and it wasn’t until we had started to ascend that Steve found the first of these fantastic animals.

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Moving up the slope Steve took the lead and we cruised across to the boulders where forests of Peacock worms snapped back into their tubes as we disturbed them. Finally having reached the pinnacles area we turned to come back at around 10m to satisfy the 5 minutes decompression penalty that we had accrued. From a life perspective there was a great variety on show at this depth. Not only the famous plumose anemones, but a very good variety of fish life with one spot shinnies, saithe, pollock and wrasse (both corkwing and ballan). Unfortunately we also came across the fishing line and witnessed the damage it can do picking up a crab so well wound in line that it couldn’t move its legs and was caught as a fly in a web of monofilament. Steve produced his keep bag and we popped it in, taking it back to shore where we did our best to remove the line before releasing it back into the loch.

That was it for the morning session save for the midges which were particularly fierce, chivvying us along and away down the road to the A-frames site where we though that a slight breeze might keep them at bay. As it turned out, the A-frames proved to be a very popular site with two Glasgow based dive schools and several independent divers all splashing about doing various exercises and drill and with just over a two hour surface interval we joined them.

With his recent knowledge of the site Steve had the honor of leading this dive and took us on a fascinating tour of the remnants of the pier stoops that were covered in squidgy life. Of note was the gas mantle sea squirt (Corella Parallelograma). Having explored the bottom of the A-frame and reaching the MOD of one of the gas mixes we slowly turned and made our way back up the slope coming across two fireworks anemones and an enormous and solitary Dahlia anemone. Taking a few extra minutes in the kelp we saw butter fish and various crabs covered in camouflage before surfacing just about were we went in after a much better dive than expected.

Before dekitting we washed down taking advantage of Colin’s in car fresh water spray a superb idea! Steve reported a major leak in his left arm and decided to sit out any further diving until he had identified and fixed the cause. Back to Splashsport I think!

Pulling over in the first layby on the North shore of Loch Earn just past the fish farm on the way to Perth we had our final adventure of the day and washed the kit off again in fresh water. The dive followed a steep slope festooned with angling lures which gave way to mud where a single solitary trout was seen sleeping on the bottom. Large golf balls were dotted around but clearly had been there a while. As we crept us the slope we came across little life though these fresh water porifera were of interest as were minute hydroids in the shallowest rocks which were covered by an algal mat. Overall the dive was dark and the bottom silty with an interesting current that moved both ourselves and the silt that we disturbed. Colin has loaded some really good atmospheric shots of this dive and the Loch Long sites, on his website

The short ride back to Burnbrae didn’t take long and Steve got a quick demonstration of Gas blending before enjoying a coffee and setting off home to arrive at a reasonably early time after a varied and interesting day.
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Manse Point and Etive pools 20th May 2012

This weekend we had nearly all the regular divers out on various trips along the West coast. The Sunday shore diving trip was this week blessed with delightful weather as we basked in 20 degrees on the cobble beach with a stunning backdrop of the Mamores and Glen Coe hills above upper Loch Leven .

Forgoing the temptations of a pre-dive coffee at the local cafe, we were unpacking the cars and had the first wave in the water at a very reasonable time.

The dive plan was for a relaxing shore dive at Manse Point, an excellent little site that offers convenient access and escape from the crowds, as well as a little wall that is usually covered in some interesting life. Today saw Colin and Hamish diving on Nitrox and it was intriguing to see EAN% and MODs appearing on the dive slate.

The first wave in, saw Simon doing a re-familiarization dive and check-out as he hadn’t been in the sea for a while and was just getting back into the swing of diving. All went very well with no problems and true to Colin’s observations ‘a bit like riding a bike!’. Gently ambling around in good vis and ambient light there was some excellent life on display in between the brittlestars and several good sized flounders skimmed the bottom as we swam past. On the ascent we came across a remarkable glass jar and a magnificent specimen of a nudibranch (Flabellina lineata) but having left the camera in the bag they escaped having their photos taken. Ascending on 30 minutes according to the plan the second wave of Hamish and Colin and then Frank and Alistair (Fyne Divers) were soon away with Simon and Chris provided shore cover.

Hamish and Colin swam straight out to the 20 m contour, turned left and found the wall which enticed them down to explore the depths, though they reported that there was still wall below them. They came back up the side of the wall, past queen scallops to exit where they had gone in. Frank and Alistair took a similar circuit and reported some excellent fish life including ling and even a small octopus before exiting again in the bay.

For the second dive we opted to stay at the Manse Point site and with a 2hr interval behind us, the waves went in again in formation. Chris and Simon, having checked out fine in the morning dive, bumbled down the slope and headed off to find the wall before returning across the slope looking for nudibranchs and finding burrowing anenomes, sea pens and yet more flatfish.

Colin and Hamish, Frank and Alistair repeated their morning dives but extended the range further around the point before retracing their steps and exiting in the bay reporting another interesting set of dives.

So with everyone out of the water we were soon packed up and heading to Glen Etive to check out the Eas Alltcarunn pools recently featured in SCUBA. The glen was packed with campers and canoeists, some of who were enjoying the scenery from their canoes as they were transported down the glen on car roof racks !

With all the canoeists on the river we had to consider them as a ‘site danger’ and set our shore cover to watch out for them !

The pools here are more of a narrow channel which reaches about 3m in depth and shallows towards the falls. With suitable determination you can drag yourself right up to these before letting go and flying off in a sea of bubbles. Exhilarating!
In the good visibility, the smooth walls provided interesting topography and a couple of small trout more fish life than we had seen previously in the river Orchy, all to quickly it was over and with tanks depleted time to pack up and head for home (having already washed all the equipment in freshwater!!).

I have put a link here to some of Colin’s photo’s . There are some excellent shots of the River Etive dive that catch the pool party atmosphere, canoeists and all!

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.

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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Easter training weekend at Oban 6th to 10th April, 2012

This Easter, in traditional style, saw a cheery group of Club members gathering at Puffin Dive Centre, the majority of us at the 3 Anchorage caravans & B & B, but with Lynda, Tony, Lis & Stan in a caravan up at the Oban Caravan & Camping Park just along the road, John & Avril checking out the pleasures of “Glamping”,Neil & cousins moored in Puffin Harbour aboard “The Maestro”,  Izzy & Gary applying discretion by joining the party just for Easter Sunday, focusing on abandoned weight belt recovery operations. 

Kim & I plus friends Anne &Ian, formed an advanced guard arriving on Thursday evening to enjoy one of Anne’s 6 star Michelin Guide style dinners plus the odd glass of red wine …hic!!, hic!!, hic!!

Following a hearty breakfast & leaving Anne & Ian to check out the delights of a (slightly) damp Oban, Kim & I spent a busy morning working on buoyancy & trim in the harbour finishing just in time to see Tony & Lynda arrive with “Deep Dancer” and Lis & Stan too.

A quick launch for “Deep Dancer” & we were off to Gallanach Bay, where Kim & I had the luxury of Tony, Lynda & Lis to help us in & out of the water! Lis enjoyed her first drive of “Deep Dancer”, the day’s diving rounded off with Lis & I checking out the hermit crabs, starfish, sea urchins, squatties and other delights of the harbour reef.

Friday’s partygoers gathered at our caravan where we enjoyed some of Stan’s wide repertoire of music & brilliant banjo playing!

Saturday dawned dull but fair with only a light north westerly breeze to bring a slight ripple to the Sound of Kerrera.

Unfortunately, family health issues prevented David & Tam from joining us but Alan kindly allowed the Club to use “Am Feoladair” skillfully coxed by Tony & Lynda & joined by Maureen & Kim. Spike, Lis, Neil, Fred  & I manned “Deep Dancer”, both boats heading off in formation for a rather pretty dive at Ardmore Bay on the southern shores of the Isle of Kerrera.

After deco & a picnic lunch, Paul & Tara arrived, Paul joining the party for a wall dive at Ard-na-Cuille.

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Meantime, Karen had done a try dive with Puffin & returned grinning from ear to ear having observed more species in Puffin Harbour than ever get mentioned in a full programme by Monty Halls or Miranda Krestofnikof!! (sorry about the spelling, Miranda!)

Saturday evening Neil kindly brought his large BBQ which formed the focal point for our annual Easter BBQ party which I think it is safe to say, was enjoyed by all with lots to eat & even more to drink … hic, hic, hic…  !!

The party ended in Alan & Sue’s caravan, though I’m afraid I’d wilted by this time & hit the sack by midnight!

Following the lively Saturday evening (& it’s inevitable after effects!!) Sunday saw smaller groups out with Izzy & Gary joining Alan, Niel & I on “Am Feoladair” and Tony, Lynda, Spike, Maureen & Fred keeping “Deep Dancer” in action, first heading out to Maiden Island, then just “Am Feoladair” out to the wall at Heather Island after lunch.

In the absence of scallops, Izzy spotted something yellow sticking out of the sand, Gary applying his practical Royal Marine ingenuity by using his & Izzy’s DSMBs to raise a 32lb weight belt… Emma C., if you read this give us a shout!!

After a yummy Chinese takeaway for some of us Stan kicked off the music in our caravan before we moved to Spike & Carol’s … they’d been joined by retired Club stalwarts Charlie & Maureen Kennedy, Charlie having brought along his mandolin to work something of a joint act with Stan the banjo. Reports indicated the party there went on until after 4.00am!

A wild and stormy Sunday night followed by heavy rain on Monday morning had even the most enthusiastic divers sitting in Alan’s caravan drinking coffee & wondering whether construction of the Arc should begin …

However, in true west coast style the rain stopped by 11, the sun was shining out of a largely clear sky by 12, enabling Neil, Kim  I to enjoy a pleasant little dive around Maiden Island where we collected a few scallops & Alan kindly boat handled “Am Feoladair” in the (well, nearly!) flat calm conditions!

We all headed home tired but happy – Alan, Sue, Sarah & Karen being the last to leave after their fish suppers watching the setting sun on Easter Monday!

Thanks to all who made such a good weekend!