With a few people on holiday it seemed a good idea to try the commercialism of St Abbs for once and get a few people together to book individual spaces aboard one of the many hard boats that operate out of the harbour and enjoy some easy low hassle diving.
Ringing Paul Crowe from Rock House and DiveStabbs, it was easy enough to arrange a couple of dives and with ropes off at 09:00am, five of us made an early start and arrived in plenty of time to find Paul, join a group from Sunderland and help with the task of loading tanks and bags aboard “Tiger Lilly” before the short trip out to the dive sites.
Regardless of the fantastic weather we experienced, a rather large swell albeit on an otherwise calm sea was rolling in from the North, breaking heavily on the shore and skerries and promising added spice to the days diving, it was not therefore surprising that the more experienced members of the party had kitted up and were sitting ready to dive before we had left the harbour !
The first dive of the day was Anenomie Gullies off the Skells and while I dived with Steve, Colin joined Gary and Izzy. After shuffling across a pitching deck, like a drunken penguin we flopped into blue water and made a free-fall descent to hit the top of gullies at 18m which were encrusted with deadman’s fingers and an amazing variety of anenomies.
The viz was initially a little disappointing with particulate matter in the water column but this improved with depth as we swam seawards, soon the anticipation of finding life in every nook and cranny took over as the swell moved us to and fro along the gullies. A lobster provided a bit of sport as we teased it out of its lair before of course putting it back unharmed. The other party reported three wolf-fish and a scorpion fish as well as an octopus. After nearly an hour in the water we surfaced to be retrieved by tail lift onto Tiger Lilly, a truly delightful experience when compared to climbing up a ladder or even into a RHIB.
A quick turn around saw the gear stowed below benches and the bottles offloaded before we disembarked and the next wave of Sunday trippers boarded. To degas we spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the sun, eating sandwiches and setting the world to rights.
The afternoon dive was the Black Carr where we jumped into 10m and straight down against a reef to shelter from the easing swell. This time Colin joined Steve and I and we had a merry chase around the skerry where we found an old and very large anchor.
conscious of the bottom time (no really!) and the contents gauge, slightly shallower depths were sort and we ascended off the reef and onto rocks above, where we found a knarley old wolf fish and gardens of anenomies and Deadman’s fingers, here we spent time will numerous tame Ballan wrasse and passing Pollack that seemed unconerned with our presence. Finally it came time to ascend and we slowily drifted upwards over an amphitheatre covered in life through a cloud of jelly fish to end what was a remarkable days diving.
Tea and cakes in the harbour cafe and a final chinwag in the sun before we set off home after a very easy and incident free day.
Another great day out with the club!
An early start of 6:15 at the boat shed you have to be kidding ! And yet everyone made it with ‘Deep Dancer’ checked, hitched and away by 06:30 to catch the tides. Today’s trip had an impressive turn out with seven divers (Izzy, Gary, Maureen, Steve, Neil, Chris and Spike) in the Perth-BSAC Club boat and another four (Dave, Phoebe, Alan and Hamish) in Dave’s , which we were meeting in Anstruther. Brilliant weather greeted us as we rolled down towards Anstruther catching that first view of the Isle of May, covered in a last veil of cloud, lingering wisps of chiffon, light and watery. The clear sky and in bright sun gave the impression today, that the May was not that far away.
The launch from Anstruther is an easy one and the two boats ‘Deep Dancer’ and ‘Plan B’ where soon heading out to the May on a deep rolling swell with Gary driving Deep Dancer, giving us all a lesson on rhythm, throttle management and a smooth ride.
First dive was the SW tip of Maiden Hair where the various teams were diving with inquisitive and friendly grey seals as they explored the gullies in excellent vis before using the current which gave a gentle drift Northwards along the West side of the Islands. Everyone reported lobsters but the ones seen by Maureen and I were berried and left for another day. We spent a very pleasant 45 minutest in the gullies swimming through the skerry and then back encountering seals as we did so and finishing where we started being buzzed by even more seals as we made for deep water and a pick up.
Lunch was taken at the high water landing amidst the cacophony of nesting birds on the cliffs and Sunday yachties and birdwatchers.
The second dive saw the boats split with ‘Plan B’ taking advantage of the calm conditions and putting divers in on Norman Rock on the Northern point while Deep Dancer opted to dive the Western cliffs in the area of the Green Face where lobsters, wrasse (both corkwing and ballan) and guillemots ‘flying’ around the divers bubbles, were seen. The boat crew was entertained by one seal that thought the DSMB was worth playing with, a fisherman’s tale for sure had it not been caught on video.
Back at Anstruther the boats were retrieved with ample tide to spare and after quick refreshments in the Ship Tavern (3 scallop rating and a tick in the East Neuk of Fife good beer guide) we finished the dive back at the boat shed, washing down the boat and charging cylinders for Wednesday evening and the Bar-b-que dive at Elie.
This years summer trip was to North Uist where we had decided to explore the exposed scenic sites of the outer Hebrides and maybe get a couple of wrecks in the process. The trip was based in Lochmaddy, loosely around the Outdoors centre where the promise of free air was a significant draw and the Old Court house an excellent bed and breakfast. Astrid at the centre made our stay very pleasant, even providing afternoon cakes.
The plan was to meet up on Friday evening in Lochmaddy and this we did, with people taking different ferries as suited their needs. Colin and Steve checked out the local facilities and found the diving compressor advertised by the North Uist Outdoors had seen better days and while the diesel engine eventually groaned to life in a cloud of blue smoke, no amount of administrations from our resident mechanic couldn’t get the compressor to squash a gnat. Luckily there was a plan B, and by using Colin’s portable compressor and Lee Coleman’s kind offer of assistance at Clachan stores we were able to recharge cylinders throughout the trip. The success of this trip is in no small measure due to Lee’s kind hospitality, local knowledge and use of his compressor. He is due an enormous debt of gratitude.
Day 1: Saturday. The weather was to say the least challenging , grey and a stiff SW breeze but with an initial flush of enthusiasm the first of two waves set off from the old slip at Lochmaddy to dive Madadh Mor. With the first wave of divers retrieved and having reported a good dive the sea state got worse and everyone voiced thanks to Lynda for coxing Deep Dancer home through a 1-2m chop. A second wave decided that a dive in the area of the SS Burnside was the only viable option and reported a muddy and disappointing dive.
Day 2: Sunday was a repeat of the day before with the people who didn’t dive the Maddies getting a chance in the morning. The site was the sheltered NW side of Madadh Grumaidh or across the bay under the adjacent cliffs of Bruthach Dhomhmuillean where good dives on shingle sand and boulders were reported. Again the seas got up while the divers were in the water and the wind sheared to the West causing the boat trip for the second wave to be cancelled. Unperturbed we opted for a site that Lee had told us about that was used by the local club for training. The site was in Loch Eyphort below the old ruined post office and while Lynda and Tony provided shore cover, Steve and Paul, Izzy and Garry and Hamish, Colin and Chris enjoyed a very good shore dive. While in part a typical loch dive some interesting life was reported such as a large dogfish, jewel anenomies and this Polymastia sponge.
Day 3: Monday
Monday saw the departure of Paul and Tara and Colin who could only make the weekend but the evening saw the guest appearance of David who popped into the Lochmaddy Hotel to say hello.
The Sound of Harris was the days option and we drove up to Cheesebay on North Uist to launch at the municipal slip that also acts as a base of the sizable fish farming operation going on in the area. The idea was to explore the site of a 16th century shipwreck that had been discovered off Sursaigh, one of the islands in the Sound of Harris but problems with the GPS meant we couldn’t get a fix and spent a fruitless if enjoyable hour exploring the reefs and skerries of the Cope Passage. In the end we dived a site off the northern side of Sgeir a’Chuian where we found small walls covered in light bulb sea squirts and yellow sponges.
Day 4: Tuesday was to be the day we dived the SS Am Politician. Launching from Ludaig jetty on South Uist we set off to the approximate coordinates but a problem with the GPS meant we could not get a position fix and after spending some time on transects using the depth sounder decided to call it a day and find a scenic dive off the headland of Rubha Mealabhaig. The first wave was dropped in off Sgeir a’Mhill in slack water and enjoyed a splendid dive on shingle sand and small walls covered in jewel anenomies.
Steve brought the second wave out to dive the same site but this time after sheltering in the kelp, the current provided a exciting drift.
On the return journey we once again spent a little time looking for the SS Am Politician and Izzy and Garry jumped in on a mark. Did she really pull a bottle of whisky from the wreck site of the SS Am Politician ? Izzy’s smile on surfacing says it all !
Another attempt was made by wave 1 to find the elusive Politician but again the mark we identified proved to be kelp and after a short dive and lively pickup we returned to call it a day and retrieve the boat in rather rough conditions.
On the way home we stopped at Clachan Stores and were told of a dolphin rescue that was happening and required some lifting power. Happy to help we all drove off to find the dolphin already lifted and about to be tranported to a more sheltered site. Lee later reported that the rescue had been a success and that then dolphin had swum away when released in deeper water.
Day 5: Wednesday
So not every day was destinded to be a diving day and Wednesday was to have been a day off with people riding bikes and playing golf while the ultra keen could dive if they so wished. Ironically we woke to horizontal rain and everything was stormed off. Even the locals admitted it was somewhat wet! So a social day was spent walking round the lochmaddy visitors centre and coffee shop or decanting into the pub.
Day 6: Thursday
Perhaps some of the best diving experienced on the trip, a combination of brighter skies and better weather. Opting for a sure thing on the last diving day we decided to go back to the Maddies where after descending into blue waters we were reminded of why we had come out to Uist.
Everyone who did this dive were met and greeted by this fine chap who followed us for some way along boulders and walls where nudibranchs and flatfish were seen.
Day 7: Friday
The return journey saw the trip ending in the club hut, the boat washed down and everyone heading off home for a holiday.
Dishing the dirt: well you know who you are and what you did. Paul, Hamish, Tony, Steve, Hamish again, and of course not forgetting Lynda. An additional mention of the joint effort by Paul and Steve is worth a comment as well! One for the pub I think !
Site info: OSGB chart datum
Site 1: Madadh Mor West cliffs N 57 35’37’’ W 7 5’52
Site 2: SS Burnside N57 35’23’’ W 7 9’6’’
Site 3: Madadh Gruamach West cliffs N 57 35’16 W 7 6’3
Site 4: Bruthach Dhomhmuillean cliffs N 57 35’18’’ W 7 6’8’’
Site 5: Old Post office, Loch Euphort N57 33’8’’ W 7 13’12’’
Site 6: Sound of Harris Cope Passage, Sgeir a’ Chuain NW tip N 57 41’10’’ W 7 3’48’’
Site 7: Caloas Eirisgeigh, Rubha Mealabhaig, Sgeir a’ Mhill SW point N 57 5’46’’ W 7 13’29’’
Site 8: Site of the Politician N 57 6’68’’ W 7 16’3
Site 9: Madahh Mor NW tip N 57 35’41’’ W 7 5’48’’
Alan, Sue (at the helm ably assisted by Karen & Sarah), Izzi, Gary and I enjoyed the day at Puffin diving off Alan’s boat, ‘Am Fheoladaire’, despite being greeted by a boisterous westerly breeze which restricted our options to the Sound of Kerrera.
We dived off the small white light marking the Sgeirean Dubha reef near the south end of Kerrera in the morning, in 2-3m viz at around 12-15m with a variety of small critters lurking under the kelp – crabs, starfish, sea urchins & lots of tiny fish, amongst other things. One of the highlights of the morning was a family of seals playing around on the exposed rocky part of the reef with a good view from the boat, though they didn’t join us below the surface.
We headed back to the crew room at Puffin for lunch – not wishing to get our sandwiches soggy in the hefty showers blowing by between a few glimpses of the sun! The log powered stove was duly lit & we all warmed up before heading up past Heather Island to a rather spectacular wall off the NE side of Kerrera plunging down to just over 30m and crammed full of life including squat lobsters, lots of different crabs & some pretty ballan wrasse amongst the plant life, dead mens fingers etc. This was due north east of Heather and about 500m south of Ardentrive Bay (where the marina is). Vis around 4m as along as you kept clear of the bottom, with a few scallops collected from the sea bed just below the base of the wall.
We rounded off the day with tea & scones at the Green Welly in Tyndrum on the way home after another good day’s diving despite the weather!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Northern Region held a diving weekend based around Loch Duich which was well attended by an enthusiastic and varied group of divers from all over Scotland. While most people camped, some stayed in the Ratagan hostel and some folk slumbed it in the Kintail Lodge hotel.
On Saturday, sites on the Southern side of the loch, towards Totaig point were dived with some interesting drifts being reported.
On Sunday I made an early start and joined the rest of the participants for the day. Surprisingly it took just 30 minutes longer than the trip to Oban, which is certainly something to think about.
Sundays dive sites were ‘Dornie Corners’ just short of Eilean Donnas castle and ‘Jacobite bay’ at the Kintail Lodge hotel. Both interesting dives with a variety of topography and life.
You can see some of my pictures here
‘Dornie Corners’ were found to be a sand and mud slope which ended on steep glacial slabs that disappeared into the gloom. The dive set off down the slabs and drifted at a desired depth until bottom time expired. Some interesting life floated by including the colonial sea squirts and shoals of queen scallops. Putting in a couple of stops on the ascent seemed sensible today and stopped the alarm screaming!
Second dive was near the Kintail Lodge hotel on the old road that turns off by the Jacobite restaurant, here a little sandy bay leads gently down to 15m (although does go further) where the beast that I had come to see was reported. The fireworks anenomie is a fantastic sight, at over 50cm across it stands out like a light house. Quite an interesting site as we also found all three sea pens, a forest of sea cucumbers and a docile Pipe fish.
All dives completed without incident and apart from a set of keys going missing which delayed departures, an enjoyable day had by all assisted by some very reasonable weather.
Dive site 1: N57°15’31” W5°29’16” Dornie Corners, Loch Duich
Dive site 2: N57°13’26” W5°24’54” Jacobite bay, Eilean nan Gall, Loch Duich, Kintail Lodge Hotel area
Thanks you to Steve for the following contribution.
Had a good day over at Puffin yesterday with thanks due to Alan & Sue (for boat & boat handling) & Dave who took Neil in for his 2nd day of open water diving.
There was a brisk south westerly blowing which restricted our options so we headed to Maiden Island in the morning (where a good haul of scallops was collected!), then Alan, Izzy, Gary & I did the wall on the outside of Heather Island for the afternoon while Dave took Neil in for a shore dive at Puffin (Sarah & Karen Dobbie acted as shore cover for them) to work on buoyancy & finning skills.
A swiftly executed & successful day with diving completed & the boat recovered by about 3pm, so back in Perth around 5.30pm!
Well just goes to show! Some of us are really mad. Sounds like a really good dive though. Maybe in the summer we could go there? We were nice and cosy in our insulated house! i think I am getting a bit old for the cold weather. My fingers froze at the very thought of going out in -10+!
A small party inspired by Hamish went in search of new shore diving and arrived at Kintallan Pier just around the coast from Ballachulish bright and early having enjoyed some breath-taking scenery across Rannoch Moor.
Two reefs had been identified at this site so the morning dive set off looking for the Westerly one which was duly found at 15m and continued into the gloom at 30m. An initial wall of sea squirts gave way to fans, chitons and saddle oysters, crabs and dogfish. Drifting along the wall at about the 16m mark a sever case of torch envy was contracted as a 50 Watt Hid outshone my rather pathetic glow-worm. Air limitations and potential distance from the shore ended the drift along the wall and we swam back on a bearing picking up the odd scallop on the way to hit the pier itself. Swimming around this we exited on the slip, now you can’t get easier than that.
The afternoon dive was looking for the East reef. We think we found this but it was not an impressive as the mornings dive. We did however see some interesting life in the mud including phosphorescent sea pens and Finnus lostus.
Pint in the Holly Tree Inn sealed the day nicely and the sun shone !