An evening splash at Fifeness, 18th June 2014

Crail was definitely cooler than Perth when we traveled across for an evening dive and BBQ, by almost 10°C in fact ! It looked deceptively calm with small waves breaking on the reefs as a high tide filled the gullies.

With a strong snorkeling contingent exploring Fifeness harbour (sic.) five divers kitted up to explore the gully below the WWII pillbox at the Coastguard station (now closed). After a few hiccups with direct feed hoses that didn’t fit and needed to be swapped, we were off in two groups to explore and dependent on the vis, throw in a few drills for the Ocean diver trainees. Chris and Aileen managed to slip off first and having been helped into the water by Gary found excellent vis above a sandy bottom and large brown kelp covering the rocks. Picking up the reef the colorful life was appreciated and a lobster tickled. This turned out to be a recently molted male, with a soft carapace so was returned unharmed. The brightly colored Galathea squat lobster was abundant hiding as they do in cracks and on the underside of overhangs. A good show of fish life hovering at the limit of visibility also made life interesting. Last winter’s storms seemed to have scoured the boulders a little and much more kelp was present that I can remember and loads of wreckage, rusted spares and plate fragments littered the sea bed adjacent to the reef. All interesting stuff.

(Ed – There are numerous wrecks hereabouts and speculation may suggest the metal came from the Vildfugl a 20th century motor tanker lost 1951 or The Brothers a 19th century Schooner lost 1856, and the Downiehills , a steam trawler lost 1926. All would have had some metal on them thought The Brothers and Downiehills had wooden hulls. While completely speculative the amount of rusted plates and spares suggests a metal hull and you can draw your own conclusions as to the likely vessel they came from. Storm and surge action concentrates wreckage in gullies so it is more than likely a scrap yard of multiple wrecks. Interestingly enough, another vessel that came to grief here, the Annette, a brig, lost 1879, was carrying a cargo of pit props and we certainly found several of those.)

We turned with ample air in reserve as Aileen was having a leaking mask day and returned to find a sandy bottom to practice AS drills and ‘ellami calls. No real issues were experienced but it would have been much easier without a flooded mask, still if you have confidence enough to rescue someone when things are not going well you are doing better than most!

The second team, Duane, Andy and Steve, followed us out, passing us towards the end of the reef. Again they reported good and varied life including lobsters of various shapes and sizes and found time to complete AS drills, another good result.

Returning to the shore, we were landed by Gary and Izzy who were providing shore cover and once everyone was back on dry land we joined the BBQ throwing our sausages on the monster grill that Neil had brought. Chat, stick throwing for the dogs and a chance to catch up and meet various family members saw us spend a hour or so before approaching storm clouds, a drop in temperature and the fading light saw the party disperse.

A very pleasant evening with a good result with a couple of open water lessons signed off. Thanks due to Steve for organising another dive, Neil for bringing his BBQ and Izzy and Gary for providing shore cover and of course all those who came along and made the evening such a social success

fifeness map

this extract from RCAHM shows all the wrecks that have come to grief on this part of the coast.

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The walls and wrecks of Melfort and Shuna, 2nd December 2012

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sealoch anemoneA bright and frosty morning with snow covered mountains made for a delightful journey across to Tyndrum where we all met up for the onward passage to Cuan Ferry. Here we launched the club Rhib, checked her out and moved her to the steps where she was loaded with the dive gear.

Slender sea pen
Slender sea pen
‘The Bruce’ arrived and set about launching as we departed for Eilean Creachan, one of the islands at the mouth of Loch Melfort where interesting contours on the charts suggested some spectacular underwater topography. The dive plan was to put the first wave in to explore the wall on the northern end of the island and swim slowly southwards on the West wall.

Both groups surfaced reporting a very good dive with highlights being conger eels and two octopi as well a shoals of small fish. With virtually no tide or wind the boat didn’t move and although slightly cold it was very pleasant as we watched the divers bubbles. ‘The Bruce’ came alongside for a quick hallo and blether before heading off to dive around Shuna. Back with ‘Deep Dancer’ and having recovered the first set of divers the second wave went in and explored the foot of the wall initially swimming northwards, collecting a few large scallops from the mud between tall slender sea pens and finally ascending to following the top of wall back towards the boat. An old ‘Fenzy’ crack bottle was discovered and brought up for the amusement of the crew, some of who actually recognised it for what it was, before someone even admitted to having used one !

Crack bottle

Lunch was scheduled to be taken at Shuna Cottage and Gary expertly drove us down to the southern tip of Shuna where we moored the boat, changed over cylinders and had our pieces. You can’t spend too long lunching with the short days so we were very quickly back in the boat and heading up the west side of Shuna for the next dive which turned out the be a cracker.

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In went the pathfinders, closely followed by the backup team, each following a roughly parallel course swimming South. Ten minutes into the dive for some reason up pops a partially inflated DSMB and the two teams were seen to converge. What’s going on here then wondered the boat crew ? The conclusion that somebody had sent up a bag of scallops which had subsequently sunk seemed to describe the scenario so we marked the spot with a depth reading and a transit to the shore and quietly sniggered at the easy picking that would follow !(Why not the position fixing facility on the GPS/radio ? – ED) The teams then separated and continued their fin south. On surfacing they both reported good life, a few scallops and a wreck. Unbelievable, a wreck down here. But it was and proved to be a small pleasure craft lying upright in good condition with it’s rather rounded bows pointing into the shore and CQR anchor deployed. Probably about 9m long with a large cockpit, and cabins fore and aft. What a fantastic find and a great way to end the day.

On surfacing we quickly had the engine started and got back to the launch site with just enough time to recover the boat before it got dark having enjoyed a fantastic days diving.

Well done to Steve for organising a great trip and many thanks to Gary for towing the boat.

Paul has kindly placed some of his superb photographs here and they are well worth a browse.

Wall covered in sea squirts
Wall covered in sea squirts

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.

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Salen, Mull. Diving off the Peregrine , 16-18th March 2012

Day 1: The team and guest eventually arrived at the 5 star accommodation at Salen Pier House in Mull having traveled either via Oban or Lochaline to improving weather. One team coming via Lochaline took a short detour to have a shore dive in Loch Sunart at Laudale Pier before making the crossing to Mull and jumping in again at Salen Pier as the rest of the team arrived and set about the serious business of getting the barbecue going.

Day 2.
David brought the Peregrine up to Salen Pier House to pick us up and then we tootled up the Sound of Mull to Tobermory to dive the Calve Island Wall. Alistair (guest) who had driven all the way up from Wolverhampton to join us was on board, a cracking show if ever there was one. Four groups jumped in and traversed the wall at various depths all reporting excellent vis, varied life and surfacing with large smiles. Steve had done us proud with the weather !

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After a couple of hours in Tobermory harbour tied up next to Cornelia, a project that will run cruises up loch Sunart by next year, we motored down the sound to the Hispania, where the MV Halton and Swift Charters were loitering, waiting for the tide. It was amusing to see the dive boats circle the buoy, nipping in to drop off a diver pair then joining the circle again. Going on to Springs, David judged it perfectly and we jumped in with an almost imperceptible current and were soon down on the wreck. It is clear to see why this is so popular and I won’t bore you with description of rusting super structures covers in life. I did get a real shock though at the bow. I was looking intently at something small and squiggy when a large ballan wrasse swam between me and the plates, nearly jumped out of my dry suit! With all divers retrieved we spent a leisurely hour and a half before jumping in for a scallop hunt on the West side of the Sound opposite Sgeir Dubh off the Wishing Stone. Not a particularly scenic dive (very obviously dredged!) and certainly not one to repeat though some people did better than others when it came to scallops.

That was the days diving and having been decanted back at Salen Pier House most folk enjoyed a meal at the Mediterranean restaurant in Salen before a relatively early night.


Sunday dawned bright and frosty and the Sound of Mull was mirror calms as Malcolm arrived with the Peregrine.

The first dive was the Rondo, a short trip across to the islands. Again four pairs in the water each selecting their own dive profiles. Initially the dive seemed much darker than yesterday and it took a little time to work out that we were diving in the shade !

Ascending the starboard side there was much more light and indeed the life at the stern was quite remarkable. Having picked up a decompression penalty we spent a little time on the reef looking at the smaller life, the nudibranchs and cowries providing interested before waiting to ascend the shot as a party off the Halton jumped in and scattered into the wreck.

The afternoon dive was the Thesis which being only a short hop away required a leisurely lunch watching the wildlife to get a reasonable surface interval. The Thesis is a lovely little wreck and I for one thoroughly enjoyed the dive. The way the light gets in through the spares makes for some really atmospheric diving.

All that is left to say is a big thank you to Steve for organising the trip and doing all the donkey work. We certainly landed on our feet being blessed with terrific weather and being very lucky to find the Salen Pier House for accommodation. Here’s hoping for a return trip !

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Colin has loaded some photo’s here
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A few more photos from Chris here and some of Paul’s below

Perth BSAC Sound of Mull Trip March 2012 Paul’s Photos

SS Breda and Lismore Lighthouse, 2nd October 2011

If it hadn’t been for a pair of lucky shorts we would have had the same dreich weather that we left in Perth, luckily someone was suitably attired and the rain and cloud stayed off and with an exceptionally calm sea, the sunscreen came out, on October 2nd!

First dive was the SS Breda, a site we had all done many times before. Today we decided to launch from Gallanach Sands and take the short boat trip across the bay. It transpired that the most recent experience of the site was with our newest member who had dived it within the last year. Personally I hadn’t done this site since 22nd June 1987 when I dived it with one Charles Bennett, a very competent diver who was training with Dundee University (had to look it up!). The plan was that Paul and I would go in first and stir it up, I mean use our twins to maximum effect, closely followed by Bethan “I don’t use any air” and Steve Incredible who were doing a planned decompression training dive, while Deep-Dancer, the club rhib, was minded by the remaining pair.

Paul and I descended onto the bridge area and swam to the stern where we had a look at the rudder post before continuing along the port side to find a fracture line in the hull, which gave us access to the aft holds and a couple of swim throughs. Swimming forwards we had a look at the bow before finding the forward shot line where we met Bethan and Steve and another team from a separate boat. We spent a few last minutes here in better vis watching large pollack as we burned of a little deco time before finishing our stops on the line at 3m.

Surfacing by the boat we swam and clambered back in to set the remaining pair off on their planned dive.

With everyone recovered and having sacrifice the ceremonial torch to the Gods of the Breda we headed off with Bethan at the helm, to lunch at the cars and swap tanks over for the afternoon dive across on Lismore Island.

Going in in the same order we experienced a very pleasant drift along a wall picking up the occasional scallop and taking photos. A forest of feather stars gave way to a carpet of brittle stars with the odd sun star thrown in for good luck.

A spectacular tidal race around the lighthouse point with ‘wind against tide’ provided Steve with some additional challenges before turning back towards Oban and speeding back to Gallanach bay where the boat was quickly recovered with the expedient use of a long rope!



A fancy survey of the wreck has been posted on Youtube here

Some of Paul’s photos here

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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Perth BSAC trip to North Uist, Summer 2011

Plumose anenomies off Madadh mor

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.

Colonial Sea Squirt

Northern Sea Fan off Madadh Grumaidh

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.

Polymastia sp.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Izzy surfacing with a bottle of whisky
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 !

You can see all my photos here

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’’