Handa Island and Loch Laxford Sept 2016

We decided to try September this year to see if we could get calmer weather for our trip to Scourie, unfortunately not, however we were able to launch the Rhib from the beach at Tarbet.  On the Saturday the winds were blowing 15-16 mph from the South and as the tide changed on the flood we noticed the wave action increased so we were only able to dive safely around Great Stack on the North side of Handa Island.

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We dropped our divers South of the Great Stack so that we could swim through the cavernous interior, there was some swell and the seabed was covered in smooth rocks a orange Scorpion fish was the only life we saw, heading down into area to the north of the stack we could see the waves crashing into the top of the rocks some 20 metres above us.

I could see some jewel anemones, mixed with large colonies of Orange Parasmittina trispinosa and white branching Bryozoa, we headed west over some boulders to a cave at the base of the cliffs, then headed back around the rock to the north of the Stack, Eddy found a Crab for his BBQ and we headed for the surface.

After lunch on the beach at the East Side of Handa Island we headed across to the Pinnacle about half a mile North of Tarbet, which was now dive-able with the change in tides. We dropped a shot onto the east side at about 10 Metres depth, the rock is covered in lots of interesting channels and we followed one of these down to 30 metres. Despite the gloom we could see the rocks down to 50 metres depth, then to our left a Crawfish standing proud on a ledge, we headed further round the pinnacle to spot a second Crawfish before heading back up to the surface.

On the Sunday the rain had passed, so we had the sun, but the wind and swell limited our options so we decided to head to Loch Laxford from Tarbet for a dive.  Hayden, Mark and I dropped down to 30 metres, after heading along the reef covered in feather stars, we found a couple of Ling and Hayden spotted a Octopus hiding in the rocks.

As we returned to the surface there were shoals of whiting swimming above the kelp.

 

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Easter at Oban – Lismore, Insh and Kerrera

First thanks to Steve for organising the Easter Trip our traditional event to kick of the summer dive season.  On the Friday Chris and I did a couple of productive dives with  a first dive collecting a few Scallops for Tea and then a wall dive off Bach Island just to the South Of Kerrera, this wall tends to be hit by strong tides on the Ebb, but is protected during a Flood tide.  The wall was dark with lots of sediment / plankton in the water but worth it as it is covered in Elegant anemones, Dead Mans fingers, Colonial Sea Squirts, and we saw a few Flabellina pedata and other species of Colourful Nudibranch, nice and worth braving the 7 degrees Celsius water.

Sunday Diving –  John and Eddie two of our Ocean Diver Trainees enjoying lunch & the View of Mull on the Island of Kerrera.

Dolphins at Insh Island, Easdale: 6th October 2013

06:00 am, What! Another early start ! It’s that time of year when dragging yourself out of bed while it is still dark to go diving is a real test but we did well arriving on time at the club shed to load the boat and set off for Oban. The objective of the day was to firstly get some diving in and to allow Neil to complete his Dive Management practical session.

Plans were a little fluid this weekend with a couple of people coming down with colds and back problems but such was the turn out that we still had a full boat , a good chance to get Deep Dancer out and exercise her engine putting in some time on the water. Of course the first problem was starting the engine which was reticent to say the least, still we are getting very adept and cleaning the plugs, ululating and rending cloth before Paul laid his hands upon the console and she coughed into life. With a boat brief and radio check completed it was time to get the show on the road! So a couple of extra checks to ensure the gear linkage was secure and that we could stop and restart the engine and we were away.

The trip down to Insh Island was rough and Paul did a good job punching his way through a nasty chop to arrive at the northern end of the Island. The small Island and the skerries were not an option today due to the swell and waves but there was sufficient shelter in the little bay to the NE of the Island to allow safe diving. Chris and Euan were first in and found a sandy bottom, good for a few shells but not of great interest. The visibility was reasonable though a fine sand stirred up easily the tide then drifted it with you so you had to continuously move out of the silt trail you raised. The divers found themselves in an eddy and having tried to go south in the direction of the tide eventually gave up and drifted North where the current took them. Towards the end of the dive they reached the reef that joins Insh to the Northern skerries where small walls provided a little interest. Unfortunately the current meant that the dragging an SMB stopped the divers sheltering in the kelp and they surfaced slightly earlier than plan. Mo and Fred went in in a similar place and reported a reasonable dive within the bay, having a good long dive and making a safe ascent. A quick change over on the boat and the dive manager sent the next wave in who followed the edge of the reef taking a few photos and picking up the occasional scallop.

With a full team recovered we decided to head back to Puffin dive center rather than go across to Easdale for lunch as the afternoon was chasing. The trip back proved to be one of the great highlight of our diving this year and goes to show that diving off boats is about the day as much as about time in the water. Half way back the shout went up ‘Dolphin’ and we throttled back to watch. Initially a few animals were surfacing and we weren’t sure how many there were, three or five perhaps. Clearly something was going on and as we watched a tight group started splashing about with much tail waving, a smell of fish suggested they could have been feeding but it was most likely that the smell emanated for the old diver that we keep in the stern of the boat. However the splashing was only the prelude to the main act , dolphins started to jump with supreme grace and it was slight disappointing when the school drifted away from us. With everyone enthralled we set again towards Puffin but the dolphins decided they had not finished with us and started jumping, easily clearing six or even eight feet out of the water. Initially in ones and twos, some right next to the boat and then in synchronized form giving us the kind of show you would have paid top dollar for in Orlando. Here it was off the West coast for free !

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A much easier passage back to Puffin followed, with a following wind we made better time and having secured the boat spent a leisurely hours over lunch, ‘grilling’ the Dive Manager on his theory (he he he he!).

Ardnachuil bay was the next site, a short ride from Puffin and while not calm, a safe option. Chris and Euan were in first and having bushwacked their way through the swell and the kelp, found a sand and gravel slope disappearing off into the depth. Chris reported a couple nudibranchs with dendronotus-lacteus and it’s brilliant white body easily spotted standing out on a brown kelp frond and being a new one for him. (No camera today so I’ve included a link from the Scottish nudibranch site – Ed) later in the dive, they also found a small red sea hare, perhaps the smallest one, you could possibly imagine being less than half a centimeter long. Mo and Fred reported a short dive, struggling to get out of the kelp in the challenging swell they encountered. A good effort in challenging conditions and as it had a safe outcome merits a success in my books.

With the second wave of divers in the water, the opportunity for a bit of boat handling skills development was presented and man over board and indeed board overboard skills were practiced before standing on station over the divers waiting for them to surface. Paul and Steve surfaced and having had a stern debriefing from the Dive Manger they were allowed onboard before we departed for Puffin. Well done to the Dive manager there for demonstrating control over the group! The boat was recovered and kit washed down on the slip and with a final debrief from Neil the day was wound up with the boat heading off to the club store followed by Chris and Euan.

Congratulation go to Neil for successfully completing his Dive Manager practical as part of his Sports Diver grade training, he did exceptionally well keeping control over some experienced divers with an accumulation of years of bad habits. The committee have yet to validate his qualification level but I look forward to diving with our newest qualified Sports Diver in the not too distant future.

Thanks to Steve for organising another successful days diving and to Paul for towing Deep Dancer.

Photos Added PS

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.

Farne Islands 21st August 2011

The news from the front or at least Paul’s Parents place was warm weather, clear skies and no swell to be seen, almost unbelievable considering the grey overcast weather we were having in Perth, but true enough as we drove South the weather improved and the knotted hankies, rolled up trousers and a craving for fish’n’chip appeared as we arrived at Seahouses.

Arriving early gave us the chance to meet up and have a natter and move the kit to the winches in good time to load the boat for a 14:30 ropes off. We were on Glad Tidings VII today, one of the larger dive boats with a tail lift, absolute luxury, though the facilities below decks were basic.

The first dive of the day was the Somali, a slack water dive and today at low water, lying at 26m. The boat crew placed a shot which landed towards the stern and we all slid down it to accomplish various circuits of different lengths dependant on our air consumption. Fred and I did an out and back plan, finding twisted metal and a few friendly wrasse. Having seen some of the wreck we re-ascended the shot to be picked up by the boat, quickly followed by the appearance of various DSMB’s.

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All back on board we were supplied with tea or coffee and we steamed across to the Farne Islands, past Staple Island and under the Longstone light to spend a pleasant surface interval watching seals. Aware of the time we jumped in for the second dive on a set of gullies and landed in lobster city, clearly the benefit of not over fishing and a no-take policy. (Seahouses has a no landing policy). The dive drifted gently along life encrusted walls and sandy gullies where the seals came to investigate strange bubbling animals before gliding effortlessly off into the gloom. Superb.

All to quickly the dive ended and with all teams aboard we steamed back to the harbour before retiring to the Olde Ship Inn and a well earned pint after an excellent day


dive sites Somali, Farne Islands

Boat: William Sheils

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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.

Shore diving Loch Linnhe

The latest fashion
A small team enjoyed the delight of the continuing good weather and went shore diving on Loch Linnhe on Sunday. Meeting at the Holly Tree Inn car park , Kintallen for 09:00 am was a test but the team mustered on time and was in the water before 10:00 having walked the site and done a dive briefing.
What a difference bright light and good vis makes. The wall, seen previously within the confined of a torch beam, was perhaps less impressive. The bottom was flat at 33m (low tide) where silt and stones disappeared off into the middle of the loch. The wall was not quite as festooned with life as previously though a string of lost crab pots near the end were covered in seasquirts, sea oranges and peacock worms that snapped back into their pipes in waves as we approached.

With No Stop time exhausted and a decompression stop indicated it was time to ascend and start the underwater fin back to the pier. Just at the top of the slabs a couple of little nudibranchs (Favorinus blianus) created interest before heading in, completing our decompression as we did so.

Having used the Holly Tree Inn’s car park it was only right to use their coffee shop and we had a pleasant hour looking across Loch Linnhe enjoying their hospitality. (Highly recommended, three scallops: the Editor)

After lunch, rather than replay the mornings dive we decided to do something different and set off down towards Appin and the Shuna Layby dive site. Lunch was taken on the remnants of an old concrete breakwater and as the weekends batch of kayakers set off for their tour of Shuna we kitted up for the second dive.

Getting ready for the second dive

This site was a pot luck affair and while the initial sand hosted flights of Queen scallops it rapidly gave way to mud. In a field of sea pens we turned around and started back picking up a couple of large scallops against the rocks where the dredgers were unable to apply their destructive powers.

Skate in Shuna Sound

Gary and the skate

And that was it, another good day out with the club, fantastic weather and new sites.