The Slates, Loch Leven. November 18th 2012

A small team of keen divers ventured out on Sunday for a leisurely dip at ‘The Slates’ at Ballachulish in Loch Leven. A reasonably early start saw three cars carefully making their way on icy roads towards Crieff where I for one had a very exciting moment when the car decided to firstly to go in a straight line when I wanted it to turn and then perform a slow waltz before coming under control. A salient reminder to pack the cars carefully, keeping as much weight forwards as possible and of course to treat the winter roads with the utmost respect !

With the roads starting to improve once we got to Loch Earn we reached Tyndrum and had a short break, a coffee and a chance to stretch our legs after a very exciting couple of hours. Next stop Ballachulish over Glen Coe where the first of the blue sky edged through the clouds and the tops held more that a dusting of fresh snow .

On site we had a briefing and then wave one comprising Kim, Briagha and Chris, went in to do a Ocean Diver, dive leader review exercise and I’m happy to report that Chris passed. Staying in the bay area we swam between the large anchors, over chains and poked our torches under boulders before surfacing at the perscribed time. An enjoyable dive which apart from a few buoyancy problems at the start went very smoothly. Notable were the numbers of Queen scallops swimming around.

The second wave had a few buoyancy issues and apart from a few choice expletives of a frustrated dive didn’t have much to report. Next time guys.

Keeping an eye on the time and momentum going in the group, wave one went in again to do the second part of the exercise which I am happy to report was successfully completed by Briagha who had now completed all her Ocean Diver course training. The dive itself was quite interesting with lots to see including a brilliant Cuckoo Wrasse and his mate, a good sized Corking Wrasse, a very large Common Sunstar, loads of brittlestars, sealoch anemones and sea squirts and hermit crabs and gobbies by the bagful. Briagha also found her first scallop. As we surfaced a heavy rain shower was soaking the surface crew so we didn’t hang around for long, decamping into the local, highly recommended cafe (Craft and Things) for a hot drink and something to eat. I can positively recommend the hot chocolate and marsh mallows which looked absolutely scrumptious.

That was it, a quiet drive home on much improved roads getting back at a very reasonable time.

Thanks all for coming and well done to Briagha on the successful completion of her Ocean Diver training.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne Tea Rooms, Saturday 10th Nov

Saturday saw a good turn out for the monthly diver training program run by Fyne Divers at the Loch Fyne Tea Rooms at Crarae. The weather was somewhat mixed ranging from cold wintry showers to grey and overcast with epic cloudscapes that even Turner would have appreciated. The water however was relatively warm (still above 11 degrees) and the visability was good for the site.

With the trainees all managing to complete at least one open water skill everyone came away well pleased with what they had achieved. Indeed a few compliment were passed back from the resident instructors about the level of skills displayed which reflects well on both the individuals concerned and the club as a whole.

These events are really useful for some of the skills we teach as they set aside the day to dedicated training. Rather than fitting in a lesson after a dive, this concentrated approach, akin to an SDC, allows us to provide the focus necessary to achieve progression and assure the standards that BSAC deliver. It’s not just the trainees that benefit, instructors have the opportunity to hone their teaching skills, planning and condensing lessons into the available time and delivering to a new audience every month, quite challenging and fun !

Well done to all !

No photo’s today as I don’t carry a camera when teaching. However the life on the reef was quite good, with numerous enormous female crabs, dug into the boulders and incubating large orange egg masses. A few very large ballan wrasse patrolling the inner reef and the odd pollack as well as a myriad of blennies and smaller fish . All very colourful.

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.

Diving at Lossiemouth ? Well almost !

Where is Lossiemouth you may well ask and the answer is three and a quarter hours from Perth. Up the A9 and turn right at Aviemore and keep right on until you reach the sea or to be precise the Moray Firth.

Today’s trip was all about training and practicing some of those drills we talk about a lot but never quite seem to get around to doing. Indeed why should we as they take up valuable diving time! However having embarked on the journey of being an instructor I thought it pertinent to be sure that my skills were up to date and to take the opportunity to give them a polish before trying to impart them to new trainees or other club instructors and so it was that I joined an SDC run by the BSAC North Scotland Region to get put through the my paces on a diver rescue course and hopefully come away with the BSAC Lifesaver Award.

Firstly I have to say that Lossiemouth is a long way north, I have driven to Ullapool as quickly but as it is a part of the country I have not visited since my school days the scenery was intoxicating, literally with all the now familiar distilleries passing by as if on an honor roll. I arrived at Lossiemouth a little late, due in part to the terrible weather and the amount of surface water on the roads and tentatively peaking over the marina sea wall I was greeted by large dirty brown waves, whose viscous curling lips dashed against the concrete, thundering spray across the car park. This is going to be interesting, though I, considering the subject of today’s course.

Venturing out into the open sea was not on and having gained permission from the harbor master we had to resort to using parts of the marina itself for our in-water practical sessions. These provided a refresher on BLS, O2 administration, snorkel rescues, victim recovery using ropes and buoyant aids, in water rescue breath during snorkel rescue and then again in full scuba equipment before putting it all together and including a CBL.

Was it worth while, an emphatic yes it was. Why ? Because while we think we know what we are doing it is only with practice that we can get it right under stress. For me several areas for improvement were identified and I’ll be practicing my basic skills with renewed enthusiasm. What was interesting in reflection was that what we do by instinct is different from what we do when remembering our training. The difference is a question of how often we practice.

If diving safety disciples can be considered in three parts, preventing accidents happening, secondly, reacting to events and rescuing divers when an accident has or is about to happen and then finally managing the situation to achieve the best possible outcome, this course covered the second element.

What did I take away ? Unfortunately rather too many things to admit to ! I will share the pain that not having prepared the O2 kit prior to an incident occurring proved to be and that for the tow and blow exercises I was lamentably far too unfit for comfort !

Oh the diving ! Yes, no well almost !

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.

.
.
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.
.
.
.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

.
.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Last Dive of 2011 – Furnace Village Loch Fyne

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Five of us and Three Scottie dogs headed across to Loch Fyne for a final dive of the year and an excuse for lunch at the George Hotel in Inverary to celebrate the end of 2011.

After leaving Perth at just after 8am and viewing an amazing sunrise (mixture of purples oranges and reds)  in the rear view mirror  we arrived at Furnace Village Loch Fyne  for 10:20 just as the rain started.  Four of us kitted up and headed down to the rocky shoreline for buddy checks.  With the warm winter the water was still a hot 9 degrees Celsius on the surface and 11 degrees Celsius below the halocline ( Where Salt water / Fresh Water meet) Typically the fresh water sits on top of the Sea water in the Sea lochs where tidal currents are minimal.

Spike and I headed right while Chris and Steve headed left and they came across Dogfish City all grouped around one area. We descended to 26m to the bottom of the rock slope instead of sand and silt the bottom was covered in bark and plant material which had attracted quite a few Squat lobsters, Hermit Crabs  and on the rocks several species of anenomes, we headed right to see if we could find a snake lock anenome Spike had seen here in the past we came across a Bootlace worm and Hermit Crabs (With Cloak Anenomes on the shells), after reaching the sandy slope we turned back heading up the rocky slope.

On several rocks we could see egg clumps being laid by large whelks approximately 8cm in length, we came across lots of Sea squirts and Black gobies and Leopard-spotted gobies quite happily living together with Squat lobsters.  Several of us noticed as you got close to the rocks at 11 meters upwards with all the rain on the surface the fresh water was leaching through the land out of the rocks and you could feel a difference in temperature.

It was still raining when we got back to the cars and Spike provided wee dram to warm us all up and we headed across to the George Hotel for a pint and Lunch some of us had the Beef Stew and the Fish and Chips before heading home.  The rain had fallen as snow in the hills from  Tyndrum to Crieff during the day enjoyed driving back in the snow.

Chris provided the following report:

 

Somebody had been eating too much Christmas turkey and was needing some exercise or new toys were to be proudly shown off to other members as the phone started ringing incessantly on Wednesday afternoon. 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 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’d 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 Invararay

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 with surface cover being provided by Fergus, Mollie, Hector 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 rock,sand and gravel slope including snakelock anemones and then the usual inhabitants of a sand/mud/detritus 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 the usual squat lobsters and hermit crabs. The interesting life on this site is on the rocks themselves so we turned round and made our way back to the reef 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 anenomes 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 common sun star, although widely distributed, 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 just a couple of minutes after Paul and Spike had surfaced.

A cracking dive and having quickly packed up (it was a longish rain shower) and toasted the last dive of the year, the task of finding somewhere to warm up and have lunch was at hand. Luckily the George , Beef stew and Fish and Chips was the order of the day and 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 which saw 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.