Third time lucky! Bell Rock and the Wreck of the SS Ugie

We had organised several trips to the Bell Rock over the last few years but due to poor weather plans had changed.  The Bell rock is a almost submerged red sandstone reef approximately 12 miles off Arbroath.  The Bell Rock lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson for Trinity lighthouse and completed in 1811 the same foundations are over 200 years old. which is impressive when you see that the Lighthouse is constantly being besieged by the seas.

We headed out from Anstruther on the Mako, a hardboat owned by Steve Haddow to Dive the SS Ugie a steamship Trawler which sunk on the 16th March 1900 after a collision with the Dundee Trawler Taymouth then travel onto the Bell Rock for our second Shallow dive on the reef.

The weather was in our favour and after Steve put in the Shot we noticed that the tide was still running but need to keep to a tight time table, Derek and I were the third Pair of divers in the water and after a long swim to the seabed. The shot had dragged off the wreck and after a 100 metre swim against the current we reached the midships of the the wreck in 34.5metres to the seabed.  The Midships of the wreck was broken up but you could swim inside the hold and then we headed towards the Stern of the wreck she is covered in lots of life including a few large Lobsters,  The Ugie is about 130 ft long according to Bob Baird but we only had a short window to explore the stern section.

We headed across to the Bell Rock enjoying the sunshine and calm seas.  After a cup of Tea Derek and I dropped in to dive the Reef and the remains of the HMS Argyll which struck the Bell Rock in a Storm on the early hours of the 28th October 1915, all the crew were rescued which included a heroic effort by the Lighthouse keepers. After being blown up by the Royal Navy she was heavily salvaged and in the summer of 1970 the two massive manganese-bronze propellers weighing 14½ tons each were recovered by the Local Condor Sub Aqua Club.

Most of the reefs are covered in Kelp and the average depth varies between 9 -13 metres we found some plates and ribs as well as a , Gary and Izzy found an Anchor probably from one of the many ships that have been wrecked on the the Bell Rock Reef, we also found some large Bollards which we reckoned were from the Argyll.  We didn’t see too much life other than juvenile Cod and Two Spotted Wrasse, overall an interesting dive and one to tick off the list; the highlight was being able to see the Bell Rock Lighthouse up close a feat of British Engineering.

 

 

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200 Metre walls, Lost in a storm and Sun Sets over Islay

After picking Steve up from Larne Harbour at 10:30pm we headed west chasing the sunset via the Antrim Coast watching it casting its golden, reddish rays diffraction through thicker atmosphere that surrounds the earth and provides us with the precious air we need to survive.

Upon reaching the cliff tops near the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge we stopped briefly to watch the light sky in the North and the Shadows of the Islands of Islay and Jura 20+ miles away with the Light houses on Rathlin periodically flashing to warn ships navigating to and from the Atlantic into the Irish Sea.

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After a good nights sleep and cooked breakfast Steve and I headed across to Ballycastle to meet the dive boat run by Richard Lafferty Owner of Aquaholics, an experienced Skipper familiar with the unusual currents and eddies that run around Rathlin Island. Our first dive was the Arches on the back wall of Rathlin Island. When diving this site you drop down onto kelp which due to the good visibility varies between 17-20 meters deep then descend a slab covered in dead mans fingers to about 26 meters and head west looking for the arches. There are three arches but I have only found one at ~ 25 meters. After this you can move across onto the Wall which drops to about 45 meters and then work your way across heading up to the Kelp when you are finished.

Our Second dive was the Pinnacle the top of which starts at 2-3 meters below the surface, covered with kelp which extended down 17-20 meters, with the wall dropping vertically to 200 meters a dive not for the faint hearted!

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After finishing diving at 2pm we headed across to the walk across the Carrick A Rede Rope Bridge built originally by Salmon Fishermen who would entrap migrating Salmon into net traps.

The Second days diving was back at Rathlin and the Sea mist had descended but we had a clear run to the Lochgarry wreck and then were planning to dive the back wall of Rathlin again, unfortunately the Fog had come in and you couldn’t see the Cliffs which were only 100 Metres away, So we headed back to Ballycastle Marina and dived the Templemore Wreck a shallow wreck with lots of life on it including Congers, Ballan Wrasse and juvenile Crawfish. I’ve included a brief video of the Back Wall of Rathlin and Templemore Wreck.

After finishing up Diving we headed down to Belfast and visited the Titanic Experience a chance to do a 3800 metre wreck dive but without getting wet!

On the last days diving we stayed local to Portrush and Portstewart diving the Large Skerries a Reef / Set of small islands that stretches a mile or so near Portrush and then a second dive on the foul ground near the headland at Portstewart which is covered in lots of small life, dog fish and a good hunting ground for Octopus I have been told.

 

 

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.

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

HMS Port Napier and Loch Alsh 4th-6th May 2012

Loch Alsh and Isle of Skye

We were lucky to have blue skies (Mostly) with a gentle NW Breeze.

After getting the boat in the water at 10am mid tide we decided to run three waves with cox’s which gave everybody more space on the boat and total wave times were dropped to 1.5 hours from the usual 2.5 – 3 hours.

The HMS Port Napier is a huge wreck Maximum depth 21 metres (mostly 14 metres)  with which can easily accommodate 3-4 dives. Diving at the bottom and at 6 metres gives you very different perspectives and there is lots of life on the wreck including, Conger Eels, Scorpion Fish, Pollock, Pipe Fish, large Edible Crabs and Pipe Fish.

On the Sunday the other divers (I took the day off to explore Sleat Point)  headed off to the Balmacara area for the first dive then headed back across to the Port Napier for a dive on the hull side of the wreck, with a successful excursion to a scallop bed 50 metres from the wreck on the shore side.

All in all a successful weekend and less than £17 per head for a day’s boat diving.

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The Divernet wreck tour guide can be found here

and in pdf format here