From time to time Clydebank members will tell you about their diving activities:
 

The Bankies head for the “Sound – (“Of Silence” - it was not !!)

Story & Photos: John Kerr

Eleven intrepid travellers for the Clydebank Branch of Scotsac were off on their annual pilgrimage to the Sound of Mull on what is optimistically known as “the basking shark weekend”.  There was meant to be 12 but one member had to call off due to pressing maintenance issues back at the kitchen ranch.

John_Kerr_S_of_M_01Departing on the Friday with a lunchtime dive, for six of the team, at “Manse Point” (Ballahullish) on the way north, helping to break the car journey.  A dive site that never fails to disappoint, the fluid carpet of brittle stars in permanent motion sprinkled with the vividly coloured queenies like jewels glittering in the torchlight drawing you in to see what other delights lie within. What a great start to the weekend we John_Kerr_S_of_M_02
cried as our intrepid leader screeched to a halt in his new car to extoll of us of the virtues of his fellow road users navigating the Loch Lomond shores.

Dive gear hastily packed away we were off for the short trip to theJohn_Kerr_S_of_M_03 Corran ferry and on to Loch Aline to escape from the madness of the central belt for our second dive of the day at the pier, this being deliberately timed for the high water slack to avoid the severe tidal down currents that can be encountered with the tide in flood conditions.  A great dive site with a vertical wall of +100mtrs, that for obvious reasons, requires good buoyancy control.  Entering from the John_Kerr_S_of_M_04beach and swimming with the wall on your right shoulder you are greeted with shoals of sand eels, the odd cuckoo wrasse, gold sinny’s, pollack to name but a few accompanying the squat lobsters, crabs, nudibranch’s  cohabitating with the many types of soft sponges and cnidarians on this vertical cliff face.

John_Kerr_S_of_M_05Setting up base camp at the Morven Dive Lodge with our appetites suitably whetted for the weekend ahead, the banter was fast and furious, the laughter was raucous, not even,(the now expected news), that the forecasted high winds had again curtailed any thoughts of us snorkelling with the second largest fish in the world, one of the great behemoth of our oceans to visit our own waters could dampen our spirits (another year was the cry).  With the multiple dive options available in the Sound of Mull, in such an eventuality as this, Plan B
was not a hard sell.

John_Kerr_S_of_M_06Ropes off 0930hrs we were off to dive the Hispania, a 32 year old work horse of the seas that sank having being badly holed after striking Sgeir More (big reef) on the 18th of December 1954 with Captain Dahn reported to be last seen on the bridge saluting to his crew who watched from the safety of the lifeboats. The tidal currents are ferocious, which means that diving is strictly restricted to slack waters, the positive from this is the astounding amount and colours of the marine life that being well fed from the nutrients in these tidal John_Kerr_S_of_M_07waters thrive.  With the territorial and curious ballen wrasse and pollack to keep us company as we explored the hull the dive flew by. Definitely one of the best and not to be missed if given the opportunity   

Surface interval and lunch at Tobermory successfully concluded we were off to the dive site known as the “water falls” in Loch Sunart, John_Kerr_S_of_M_08this being described by our skipper as a flat bottom sandy/gravel scenic dive.  Around the 25-30mtrs the sandy sea bed had large areas of sea pens, both tall phosphorescent, the multiple pocket holes at the shallower depths of 15 to 20mtrs randomly scattered  and habited with squat Lobsters and Octopus – yes that’s right multiple sightings of Octopus from the dive parties.  This in addition to the thornbackJohn_Kerr_S_of_M_09 ray and large dog fish did indeed make this a very special dive and a great end to the first day   

The Sunday morning planned ropes off at 0730hrs curtailed any thoughts of a late night, for but a few of the hardier souls in our merry band (match of the day was back), so with us all being suitably fed and watered in the Lochaline hotel we were off for a well earned kip, with an edge of anticipation of the day to come and sweet dreams of the day past. And what a day it was. 

John_Kerr_S_of_M_10Aulstone Point, Loch Sunart. Great dive catering for everybody’s wishes, the wall drops down to approx. +30 meters, with the option to go deeper by exploring areas further out (remembering to take your bearings for the return journey).  We dropped in with the wall on the left, a light current taking us along our intended route, the topography has everything you could ask for with the vertical sections projecting clearly benefiting from the exposure to the currents, the surfaces being covered in deadman fingers;John_Kerr_S_of_M_11plumrose, sea loch, white cluster anenomes, red finger coral and northern sea fans. Boulder areas with lots of nooks and crannies to explore for lobster, crabs and congor eels, shoals of various types fish keeping you company and the occasional nudibranch to sate ones appetite for those so inclined. Brilliant was the overall opinion, and for the passage down to our final dive, the debate quickly moved onto which was the best – Aulstone Point or Calve Island – For what it’s worth Aulston got my vote.

John_Kerr_S_of_M_12SS Shuna, our final dive for the weekend. A young lady of 4 years of age when she sank on the 8th May 1909 whilst on passage from Glasgow to Gothenburg she lay undisturbed for a period of 80 years. This wreck sits in sheltered waters and is not affected by the strong tidal currents of the sound, however as a result visibility can be poor with silt easily being kicked up. Great dive with hull structure, steamJohn_Kerr_S_of_M_13 driven deck winches, stern rudder arch and propeller clearly visible with a very nice scorpion fish to finish the dive as we headed for the shot line for the last time.

Great weekend with many thanks to the team for attending, our intrepid leader and chairman for organising the weekend and Cameron McNeil our skipper on the Brendan for ensuring we got dropped into the dive sites at the right times.  Basking Shark weekend 2019 – bring it on !!
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Has Spring sprung? ……… maybe!
Story & screenshot photos:By Keith Waugh

Owing to Clydebank member availability, diving on this first May Bank holiday weekend was split between Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately, the weather people had guessed correctly that conditions would be fair for both days. John Morgan, John Kerr and Craig enjoyed a successful day on Saturday at North Gortein, Loch Fyne, whilst Brian, Gerry and myself took ourselves off on a bright, sunny Sunday.
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We met at Gerry’s house at 0745, then onwards to the club rooms to pick up cylinders. We were on our way by 0815, courtesy of Gerry’s Taxi Service. The plan was a gentle dive at the Caves, Loch Long. However we arrived to find 2 cars belonging to early bird fishermen in the available space. I had mixed feelings of disappointment, as this was my first dive trip since fracturing my left big toe in 3 places, just after Easter. It sounds hilarious but the medical advice was that it would take 3 weeks to start to heal plus 3 more weeks to heal, and this was now only just over 4 weeks. So, not so funny!! As we all know, the access to the Caves dive site can be a bit tricky, so I was a little relieved.

 

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Plan B was called up, namely the Old Twin Piers on the west side of Loch Long. The only slightly tricky point would be the short vertical ladder down the old pier shore wall. Nothing ventured! as they say and with a very low tide we parked on the grass verge by the Loch Long Race track known as the A83.

The morning mist was clearing and the day was shaping up nicely as we entered the water at 09:58 and headed down the sandy slope andSpring_has_Sprung_03 on to the fragile remains of the fishing boat at 14 metres. After a brief exploration of the meagre remains we headed on to the main reef. Plenty of still life in the form of Sealoch anemones, a solitary Fireworks anemone, Seasquirts, soft corals and Plumose anemones and a fair number of fish such as Sand Gobies, a few Ballan Wrasse, a reluctant Conger Eel and, towards the end of the dive, a 20cms Pipefish. The 52 minutes seemed to fly by as we headed back to the twin piers and the warmth of the late morning sun.

Just before our first dive a couple of Polish divers arrived on the scene. We had chatted briefly before our dive. Now, with more time, we had a longer chat. They were eager to dive a slightly different site for their 2nd dive!

Spring_has_Sprung_04

One of our intrepid trio (it wasn’t me gov!) suggested a 2nd dive at Ali’s Reef (Conger Alley to some of you!). It looked a long swim, but what the hell! Once again, nothing ventured-nothing gained!!

We told our Polish friends of the plan and they were “up for it”. So, having kitted up, off we went for the long, 410 metres, surface swim in full diving kit!!! After about 350 metres we reckoned we were near and would complete the rest of the swim underwater. In due course we did indeed arrive at Ali’s Reef to find the visibility slightly poor owing to 3 other divers who I glimpsed surfacing about 10metres ahead of me.

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No matter, there was plenty of colourful life to keep the 5 of us occupied. Once again mainly soft corals, Seasquirts, Plumose anemones and an abundance of Sealoch anemones. A few more Ballan Wrasse were establishing their territory, plus another Conger Eel, a very large Cod and, in shallower depths, a shoal of young Saithe were trying to keep ahead of us. Certainly, Gerry and I had plenty to video.

About half way through our dive, one of the Polish divers indicated 100 bars and that they were off back to the Twin Piers. We acknowledged and carried on. However, after another 15minutes or so, it was our turn to head off up loch for the 410 metres swim. We completed all but the last 25 metres under water and still had a bit of air left in the tanks.

Back ashore, we were chatting again to the Polish guys. Of course, they didn’t really know who we were or where we were from. I think they were slightly taken aback by the fairly quick, long swim because one of them asked if we were “Special Forces or something?” Needless to say, it amused us!

Spring_has_Sprung_06By 14:15 we were heading for home in Gerry’s “taxi”, but stopped off for a welcome coffee and scone at the Tarbert Tea Rooms. After a pleasant half hour, we continued our journey, dropped off the cylinders at the club rooms and then on to Gerry’s house to pick up our cars. At which point Gerry invited Brian and myself to enjoy a beer or glass of wine on his patio. And so it was that we whiled away a pleasant hour or so, in the mid afternoon sunshine. This is the life! Has spring sprung? ………… Maybe!

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"Mission Accomplished"

Mission Report & visual documentation: John Kerr

As in all good military operations it was scheduled for the early hours of the morning when all sensible folk are tucked up in bed.  The team consisted of three cohorts working under the auspices of the Clydebank Scotsac branch, the objective of the mission was to make a clean strike on the target and get back early enough to avoid an escalation in domestic tensions with one of
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our compatriots across the water, the one in question, not being averse to the use of social media platforms to share his opinion on the worlds woes or idiots upon it that draw breath.  Code name for the sortie “Mission Accomplished”
 
The target was Anchor point, the objective was to get there early enough to get a parking space, get 2 dives in and get back for the 1600hrs deadline. The team members being Neil Richardson, Andrew Sinclair and the writer.  The two locals met at the hut 0730hrs sharp, gathered the equipment and pressed on to the target, the plan being for our man from Rhu to
John_Kerr_Anchor_Spot_02 rendezvous at the destination to complete the objective.  Cautionary road work signs which eventually escalated to “ROAD CLOSED” were ignored.  Calls for further talks, negotiations, visits from envoys and similar such Blah Blah !,  fell on deaf ears – we were on a mission that had to be completed for the well-being of mankind – well for the 3 of us anyway!  
 
The weather was kind, it was dry with little wind, the sun teasing us with the promise to burn off the cloud base.  The car park was empty, 1st phase successfully achieved, so we quickly kitted up and got in for the first
John_Kerr_Anchor_Spot_03dive.  Andrew led the team, full of confidence having made the claim that he had never missed the reef.  Don’t we all hate it when making such claims you immediately get a kick in the nether regions!  Having established we were not where we were meant to be, we quickly took a bearing to the north and were on the wall before we knew it , the marine life was kind to us with some nice big, albeit shy wrasse, working their way along the nooks and crannies of the reef, leopard spotted gobies, squat lobsters, a very nice big lobster and the ever present conger eel peering at us from the door of his home.  As we were drawing to the end of what was shaping up to be a good 50 minute dive, we were fortunate enough to spot a lovely John_Kerr_Anchor_Spot_04Nudibranch (type: Limacia Clavigera) on a kelp leaf, sitting nicely as we shivered away for the 3 minute safety stop.
 
The surface interval flew by, the banter was fast and furious, as was the tide it has to be said as the water quickly caught up with our discarded dive gear on the shore.  With the world put to rights there was no reason to further delay and we were back in the water for the 2nd dive.  As in the case of the first dive the visibility was 4 to 5 metres and the Sea Temperature a bracing 7oc.  Andrew re-established his street cred by taking us straight on to the reef to be greeted with two great Delia
John_Kerr_Anchor_Spot_05Anemones.  The quality of the marine life remained as good as the first dive with the coupe de grace in this case being the Scorpion Fish guarding its eggs titillating our visual senses.  
 
With the dives finished our gear was quickly packed away and we were off to the tea room at Strachur to write up the log books and regale all listening of our heroic exploits before making our respective return journeys to safety
John_Kerr_Anchor_Spot_06 and the bosoms of our families.  With an arrival at the hut for 1550hrs, a great day out, good weather, excellent banter and some really nice marine life it was indeed “Mission Accomplished”.       

 

 

 



 


Has Spring sprung?
Text & screenshot photos: Keith Waugh

Since the beginning of 2018, the weather has been rather windy, snowy, rainy or just plain miserable. However, Sunday 4th February was a bright, sunny, crispy day, so 5 bankies ventured out to Loch Fyne to stick a fin in the water. D.O. John and Michelle took Martin for some open water PADI/Scotsac crossover activities, whilst John Kerr and myself went Pachycerianthus hunting!

Visibility in the chilly surface layer of fresh water looked promising as we dropped below the flat calm loch at Drishaig, about 2 miles south of the Seafood Centre at the head of Loch Fyne. Down over the rubble/sand/mud slope to around 20 metres and the horizontal visibility was about 10metres. Brilliant!!! Beyond that depth however, it quickly closed down to a dark 3metres vis. Zig-zagging between 20-28metres we eventually found our quarry and I set about videoing the Pachycerianthus multiplicatus before they reacted to the video light and curled in to virtually nothing. We continued south-west, down the loch finding several more Pachy’s or Firework anemones. A bonus find was a very tolerant, vividly orange Norway lobster hanging around the entrance to its lair. It didn’t seem to mind the bright video light inches from its claws.

John K and I had a second similar dive after a dive interval, munching our sandwiches and drinking hot soup. The sun actually felt warm on our faces peeking out from under thick,snug woolly hats. The sandwiches were a little difficult to eat whilst wearing thick thermal gloves, but perhaps spring time is on its way at last!


There is a short 2 minutes video of The Fireworks anemones and the Norway Lobster:

Drishaig Fireworks


Cameras:an AEE S71T+ and a GoPro Hero3+ with a Big Blue 1100 lumens video light.




Dive Cape Verde
by Keith Waugh

At the end of September and in to October 2017, I enjoyed a great fortnight in Sal, Cape Verde, with my wife Pauline. During our visit I had 12 great dives in waters of 26 degrees and up to 25metres visibility. The following 30 minute video will give you a flavour of the diving.



YouTube Video



Alternatively, for FULL screen viewing, click this link:
 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp_ofkUdnKQ




Fun at the Farnes Video


YouTube Video



You can also view the movie directly from You Tube at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhWgLlM-cu0

 



Frolics & Fun at the Farnes
by Gerry Regan

All photos are screenshots from video clips
by Pauline & Keith Waugh


Late in the deep dark night of the 7th September 1838, in the grip of a merciless North-easterly gale, her rudimentary steam engines silent, the crew and passengers helpless and terrified, the steamship Forfarshire foundered and perished on a large piece of inconsiderate real estate known as the Big Harcar. And it was here some 179 years later, on a pleasant late summers afternoon that the dive boat Serenity 2 deposited her cargo of 20 expectant divers into the unforgiving North Sea.

 

This large group of disparate underwater explorers was made up chiefly of members of the Clydebank Sub Aqua Club and was brought together by Oberleutnant Niall Brittain. The harbour at Seahouses, Northumberland, was inundated with a profusion of divers and their kit and Nialls only sphincter challenging moment came when he had to choose the slip the Serenity 2 was leaving from. From the perspective of the shore the sea appeared relatively benign, but once clear of the harbour walls a combination of wind and swell provided a malignant corkscrewing motion that had the semi-circular canals on full alert.

 

Fortunately, at the helm we had the experience of Captain Andrew and ex fireman Tony to rely on. Mercifully they found an expanse of calm sea in the lee of Big Harcar where harnesses were tightened, cameras checked, dives planned and with that it was game on.

 

The Farne Islands are home to the largest colony of Grey Seals in the UK and it was these inhabitants that were to be the object of the divers interest.

Hundreds of these beautifully sleek animals watched with soundless mirth as one by one the cumbersome divers depth charged their beloved ocean from the stern of the boat. In reasonable visibility of 3-5m and at depths to 15m all of the divers encountered the seals, who being acclimatised to the presence of human interlopers, were curious and playful enough to get close to and even interact with the neoprene clad visitors.

 

All too quickly 40 minutes passed and it was time to utilise one of the finest engineering achievements of the century - the hydraulic divers lift- Captain Andy was even there to welcome you back on board in his unique way.

With the seas building , weather deteriorating, and light fading it was with relief that the good captain tied up to the Longstone lighthouse jetty to spend our surface interval in comfort. The location of the second dive was to prove a touch more challenging as we headed East to the outer aspect of the Longstone to a site known as the Hopper. Without the shelter of the Island the breaking surf on the ragged rock outcrops outlined the line of an underwater cliff and reef that would take a degree of respect to navigate safely.

 

Understanding this immediately the divers quickly departed the boat and the surface to descend quickly and escape the potentially dangerous surface currents. Underwater it was like a scene from a Bond film as the divers descended in eschelons, all that was missing was John Barry's theme music and a few spearguns.

 

Perhaps another reason for the hasty momentum was the Captain’s observation that due to the very large number of seals around there may be a chance of some non-consensual sexual congress.

 

Again there was plenty of close contact with the seals against a much more interesting subsea topography . At a depth of 22m a large group of resting/sleeping seals were found, and it was difficult to deploy the dsmb and find the surface after 50 inspiring minutes.

 

On the surface and in the now rapidly fading light the captain had to use all of his experience to extricate all of the divers who had ranged and drifted as far as 500m west of the boat. As someone once said " he counted them all out , and he counted them all back". Oberleutnant Brittain was duly satisfied that he had a full complement back on board and instructed the good captain to make best speed for Seahouses Harbour. It was a very much quieter and darker refuge that we returned to in order to disembark and make our way home after a really enjoyable day. Big thanks to Niall for the hard work to organise the trip and all the fellow divers for their company.






















All photos are screenshots from video clips

 

Readers on the Breda!

Story: Gerry Regan (Sunday 27th August 2017)

Photos: Gerry Regan & KW Library

The first challenge of the day was to extricate the boat from the clubhouse past an inconsiderately parked car at the rear door.

The midwives included Andy, Martin, Gordon, Alan Reader, and myself. After a safe delivery the kit and crew were deposited into Andrew's Tardis like crewvan and we set off at 7.30am towards Oban.

The 2.5 hour long drive to the Puffin Dive Centre at Gallanach passed in a blur of bawdy badinage and political debate that would have reduced the Question Time Team to tears.

The Puffin centre was busy with a few other boats waiting to launch from its slip and it took a while to kit up and put our rib in the water. The intention was to travel North up the Sound of Kerrera into Ardmucknish Bay to explore the wreck of the Breda.

Nudging the boat gently out of Puffin, Andrew felt the wind in his long forgotten hair and sent us down the sound at full chat to arrive at the Breda wreck site in around 30minutes.

As one of the most popular dive sites in Scotland it was not unexpected to find that there were a few other boats at the site when we arrived. In the increasing chop I was very glad of the gift of some anti-seasick tabs from Andrew as myself Gordon and Alan geared up to entry near the shot line attached to the stern of the ship.

We followed the line down to the stern and were rewarded with excellent visibility (around 10m). Gordon who had dived the wreck on a few occasions led the dive from the stern deck down and along the starboard side to the bow at 28m.

This ship is huge and the great vis enabled us to get a good impression of the overall scale and it was amazing to travel down its iron riveted hull peering into the long dead port holes and the history they contain.

The Breda was built in Holland and launched in 1921 only to find itself escaping from Nazi occupied Europe in 1940. Unfortunately, 3 German bombers found her two days before Christmas that year and set in motion the sequence of events that led her now lying upright on her keel in an average of 26m of water.

Near the bow on the starboard side there is a massive explosive rent in the iron plating, however I found it very easy to resist the siren call of the inky darkness of the interior and we continued to swim around the pointy end and up onto the main deck area.

Although badly degraded by both men and nature the wreck's superstructure and ancillary equipment are still recognisable and the 400m transit back along this deck level was an absolute delight. Serene large Pollack were plentiful and uninhibited by the presence of divers, very large Congers populated the numerous holes and tunnels in the confusion of wreckage. The entire wreck has been colonised by multiple invertebrate life, Plumose anemones, Fanworms and Deadmen’s fingers most prominent.

In the quickest of 40 minutes we were back at the stern line and subsequently at the surface where we were picked up adroitly by Andrew who had kept station in the rib.

The sea had picked up a little so it was with a degree of relief that Andrew and Martin could seek the calm of the underwater environment as I held the boat into the wind and chop and deposited them at the stern line buoy.

Unfortunately, Andrew (perhaps dew to his sterling work at the helm) had suffered a degree of nausea as he approached the stern of the vessel and very wisely decided to abort the planned dive on the wreck. We quickly got the boat to them and set off for Puffin to re-assess the situation.

We felt it prudent to resist the temptation to take the boat out for a further dive and so instead we decided to confine ourselves to a shore dive from the centre. Gordon, Martin and myself set out to have a look at the local reef but probably missed it due to very poor vis and an increasing incoming tide. By the time we were out and good to go Andrew had recovered enough to not only drive us home but keep us regaled with his stories. Well done to him and the guys for a great day out.

The Breda - I'll be back!!!!!



The video below was photographed on the SS Breda on 30th July 2017


YouTube Video



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A video presentation of the Clydebank Sub Aqua Club dive trip to the Sound of Mull on 11th-13th August 2017


Dive the Sound of Mull



Sound of Mull weekend
(Basking Sharks-To be or not to be!!!)
story by Keith Waugh

"still" photos by Niall Brittain 
"stills" taken from video by Keith Waugh

 

The weather forecast for the weekend of 11th-13th August in the Sound of Mull looked quite promising, however, the prospects for Coll & Tiree were not quite so inspiring!! Nevertheless 12 intrepid aquanauts set off on Friday 11th August for Lochaline, at the southern end of the Sound of Mull. The party consisted of Andy, our brave leader, John M, Michelle, Brian, Niall, Joe, John K, Gordon and myself, all from Clydebank plus David and Stefanie from Thurso and, thankfully, Karen, Andy’s wife, here partly to keep him in check!!!!! (Aye, Right!!)

The plan was to enjoy some diving and, hopefully, swim with Basking sharks. Regrettably there have not been too many sightings this year and with the conditions predicted to be a little lumpy at sea, we did not rate our prospects too highly. Undaunted we all arrived at the Morven Dive Lodge late on Friday afternoon. First to arrive were Gordon, John K and myself. Having settled in to the lodge, “bagged” our rooms and unloaded our personal kit and food, we headed down to the end of the road for a dive on the east side of the old Lochaline pier. The tide was low, which meant a short walk over the exposed sandy beach to


the sea and tangle of kelp. Without too much trouble we waded through the kelp and dropped over the sheer vertical wall which drops, in places to 60metres plus. We enjoyed a gentle cruise along the cliff wall at a general depth of 25metres, the north westerly current helping us on our way. The wall is covered in caramel coloured sea squirts, Football sea squirt clusters, sponges, feather starfish, soft corals, hydroids and sea urchins. A fair number of young female Cuckoo wrasse darted in and out of rock crevices, trying to avoid the sudden bursts of a strobe flash gun or the brilliant glare of a video light. Pollock were having the same trouble!! After a

dive of around 45minutes we returned to the sight of the rest of the party parked in the car park of the Lochaline hotel, kitting up for their early evening dive.

By around 6.30pm diving was done for the evening, so we all gathered in the Dive Lodge. Mayhem ensued as we jostled to prepare our evening meals. The task was made somewhat easier as Brian produced a large pot of chilli con carne prepared in advance by his good lady wife. It wasn’t long before 4 of us settled down to the hot chilli con carne dish, chapatis and wine. This IS the life. The rest of the party???, they fended for themselves!!

After dinner, some members of the group (names withheld for legal reasons J) retired to the local club/pub in the village and enjoyed an interesting evening, but THAT is another story.

With “ropes off” our dive boat Brendan, skippered by Malcolm, at round 9am, we had a bit of a long sleep. The weather was reasonably calm, the water was certainly settled, so we enjoyed a leisurely cruise up the Sound of Mull to the Calve Island Cliff face. By around 11 o’clock we were throwing ourselves in the sea and dropping down the wall.

Though I have dived the wall many times it is always a little sobering to realise that the bottom is at around 60metres plus. With that thought at the back of the mind you can still enjoy the stunning colour and life on the wall: millions of Devonshire


Cupcorals, pink, orange and white soft corals, Red fingers, hydroids, sponges, urchins, small crustacea and numerous vivid pinky orange female Cuckoo wrasse, plus lazy Pollock and with visibility around 10metres, it meant you had a total range of 20metres!! All pretty stunning. A strobe or video light revitalises the colour, but on the minus side, the bright lights can make fish wary and shy away. With a maximum depth of 28metres my dive with Gordon came to a reluctant end after 44 minutes. Everyone else seemed to have a similar enjoyable experience.

After a lunch break and wander around the sunshine baked Tobermory we headed down the Sound in glorious weather to the wreck SS Hispania. Arriving on site, Malcolm our skipper cast an expert eye over the sea and decided that we should wait a while for the current to subside.

When we were finally given the word to go, Andrew, David and Steph threw themselves over the side of the boat, followed shortly after by Gordon and myself. The current was still running but thankfully we made it to the marker buoy. After a very brief rest it was a hand over hand pull against the current, down the shot-line to the wreck. Thank goodness Malcolm made us wait a while, as 20 minutes earlier it would have been impossible to pull ourselves down the shot-line!! What price experience!!??

The effort was worth it though! Having arrived on the deck at 16metres, the scene before us was stunning!! The Hispania is a kaleidoscope of pastel colours of seaweeds, hydroids, soft corals, anemones, sponges. The wreck has a considerable tilt to starboard but it is quite easy to swim along decks, under superstructure, along gangways, down in to holds and thoroughly explore this much loved shipwreck. The fish life is plentiful with territorial Ballan Wrasse and large Pollock drifting around their artificial reef home. As we weren’t particularly deep at around 20metres, sunlight enhanced the scene and brought out the colour. With a water temperature of around 16oc, THIS is what diving in Scotland is all about!!

Visibility throughout the dive remained remarkably good at around 10metres, despite the fact that there was 11 of us, plus another boat load of divers all doing their own thing on the Hispania.

With our memorable dive done by around 4pm we headed back to Lochaline with a calm sea and light breeze. Mind you, we were all a little uneasy as Andrew was steering Brendan. Fortunately, Malcolm wasn’t far away!!

Back at the diving lodge we had plenty of time to deal with gear, shower, change and walk down to the Lochaline Hotel for dinner at 7:30pm.

Dinner at the Lochaline Hotel is always an adventure in to the unknown, as those who have been previously can testify, but there was no trouble, we didn’t upset other diners, we didn’t get barred, the staff were attentive and the food was great. Mind you, Gordon nearly caused a heart stopping incident over his mashed potato. The waitress scowled but all was calmly resolved in the end!! Not content though, another crisis was created when Joe ate Gordon’s pudding!!! Trump and Kim Jong-un eat your hearts out!!!

The walk back to the diving lodge after dinner helped work up an appetite for a small refreshment or two ……. or three, but it wasn’t too long before everyone was in bed.

The Sunday morning alarm clock blew our heads off at 5.30am. What!!! This is supposed to be fun but as “ropes off” was at 7am, we had to get up and get going.



 

“Plan A” was to head up to the top of the Sound of Mull, a mere 14miles away, have a look at the sea and then decide if we were going to head out to Gunna Sound, between Coll and Tiree and look for Basking sharks and hopefully have a swim with them...... OR not!! “Not” being if the south westerly wind had the sea all whipped up and lumpy. In which case it would be a rough, roller coaster, gut wrenching, stomach churning, vomit inducing, suicide inviting, see nothing, wish I hadn’t come – day, which everyone would remember for the wrong reasons. Common sense, a desire to contain the breakfast fry-up in our stomachs and a wish for “dignity at all times” compelled us to enact “plan B”, namely, go diving in the calm serenity of the Sound of Mull.

Auliston Point in Loch Sunnart seemed an obvious choice. And so it was that at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning we found ourselves jumping off the boat and in to the calm waters of the loch. 9 o’clock!!!??? I’m not normally out of bed until the back of 9 o’clock!!! Is this a nightmare??

No indeed it was not a nightmare but another spectacular vertical wall dropping down to the depths of Davy Jones locker. The wall is similar to the Lochaline cliff face and covered in a multitude of colourful still life and fish life. The only drawback is that if you go too far east along the wall it becomes less steep and less interesting as kelp growth takes over.




For our last dive we headed back down the SofM to position 56°33'26.00"N by 5°54'52.00"W. You will, of course, immediately recognise these co-ordinates as the wreck of SS Shuna, which lies in 30-32metres depth on an even keel. As the ship was carrying coal when it sank, the visibility can be quite poor, however, having descended easily down the shot-line we found the light good and the visibility not too bad…............ considering. Gordon and I had plenty of time to explore the wreck superstructure and enjoy the fish life, again mainly wrasse and Pollock. From time to time we came across other members of our party. The video camera was working overtime in an attempt to capture the calm serenity of the ship which has been here since May 1913.

The nature of this dive meant that it was almost a “square profile” dive, resulting in several divers having to undertake compulsory decompression stops on the way back up the shot-line to Brendan cruising around patiently.

With diving done by around 2pm we headed back down to Lochaline. Our early start meant that most of us were feeling a little tired by the time we arrived back at the pier. A frenetic unloading of diving gear at the pier soon woke us all up and after a grateful thanks to Malcolm for his expert seamanship we raced back down to Ardgour and the ferry back to civilisation on the “proper” mainland!!



 

Despite the fact that we had not been able to go searching for Basking sharks, the weekend had been a resounding success with 5 varied and exciting dives. Thanks to Malcolm, our skipper, to Andrew for organising the trip and to the other divers who made up the group. Here’s to August 2018.

 

Scuba Cuba

Story & photos: Gerry Regan

Struggling with an adequate description of Cuba I suggest that one of the most satisfactory ways to describe Cuba may be to take a copy of the Ladybird big book of descriptive adjectives, blow it up, and let the resultant debris speak for itself. This might convey the glory of this magnificent, contradictory, and totally absorbing Island Archipelago 90 miles south of Florida in the Caribbean Sea.
We were in Cuba for a touring holiday with the firm Travelsphere. The schedule although tight would hopefully let me indulge in a
few dives as we explored the Island. Two things were to put a severe dent in my plans; The death of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz (1926-2016). Such was the veneration that the people of Cuba held their great former general in, that the country was plunged into nine days of official mourning. For the first 48 hours the country more or less stopped with the sale of alcohol banned and no music or any form of entertainment allowed. This sadly included the availability of diving with the closure of the local dive centres which were based in many of the bigger hotel complexes.
 


The second factor to come into play as the funereal boycott relaxed was the basic Cuban attitude to time, and any sort of organisation required to allow the booking of a dive to fit in with my timetable. Consequently I did not get in the amount of diving that I hoped and I would recommend anyone thinking of diving in Cuba to utilise an outside agency to avoid disappointment.
 
All was not lost however and we spent a good amount of time
snorkelling in the pristine Caribbean, particularly near Guardalavaca on the north coast where the hard coral reef extended into the bay. The diving stars finally lined up for me as we reached Trinidad on the Southern coast. Straight out of central casting the  diving Buccaneers of the Centro de Buceo attached to the Ancon Hotel Trinidad promised a couple of boat dives to the nearby reef. Although they did ask for a sight of a diving certificate this was the limit of their concern, the kit was dated but serviceable, the boat was in good order, and with a passing nod to health and safety and a degree of total disinterest we set off for the dive site.
 

We dropped a rudimentary anchor directly onto the reef and with a shrug and some finger pointing we followed the guide into the crystal clear balmy sea. The reef appeared to be in rude health with hard corals of many formations showing some minor hurricane related damage. The vis was amazing and the guide led us through the reef like a Pac-man on acid, with barely enough time to absorb the plethora of life inhabiting the ecosystem. Banded butterfish, blue tangs, blue chromis, squirrelfish, sergeant major, and clown wrasse were in abundance as we zig-zagged across the reef at an average depth of around 20m. Such was the complexity of our route that I was amazed to see the anchor line after 50 all too quick minutes.
Worrying over the level of communication the following day I was convinced that we would be reprising the same site, so it was with some surprise that we headed due south past the inner reef and again dropped anchor at what appeared to be a random spot 3 Kms from the shore. Again with no briefing to speak of we followed our mono- syllabic guide below. We reached the seabed at around 25m and found a more intact reef again replete with fish life of all varieties . As we followed the shoulder of a particularly large brain
coral the unmistakeable shadow of a fairly large wreck appeared in front of us. The wreck although intact had lost most of the superstructure and the bow was compressed into the reef, we spent 20 minutes exploring the site and surrounding reef before Pac-man found the boat again with unerring accuracy. Back on board I pressed our guide for the name of the wreck, all he could come up with was Boa de Pesco. Even I recognised that it was indeed a fishing boat, so back on dry land I pestered El Capitan of the buccaneers for a name, and he gave me a look of utter disdain  and proclaimed her the Titanico. Is there two g's in bugger off.
 
Time sadly mitigated against longer ranging dives to the world famous Jardin de la Reine reef off the Southern coast although a fellow diver had been and raved about the variety of larger fauna to be found further off coast. On our travels we passed through the infamous Bay of Pigs which was knuckle bitingly beautiful. Adding to the degree of diving desire was the presence of small Centro de Buceo's in what seemed like every lay-by. If you were going to Cuba to mainly dive this would be the area to explore except that there is very little accommodation, that's Cuba.

 
 



 
 
Just Diving in the Rain
Story: Andrew Sinclair
Photos: John Kerr


It was still dark when I met up with John and Allan at the club hut on Sunday 13th November. We had been the only 3 daft enough to head out on a day where the forecast was for rain all day. Still, I'm not getting out much these days with the little ones keeping me occupied, so when the better half tells me to go diving, no torrential rain storm is going to stop me. For 5 years I've been loading my car a particular way and Allan has always been a great help! ? so I'm not sure why he loaded my car back to front ? But anyway, the gesture was appreciated. After repackaged the car we were off and on the road for 0815. We had opted to go to Anchor point. I'd not dived it over the summer and it is a favourite of mine.

 

We raced up the A82 and were making record time when the dark clouds and rain rolled in as we approached Arrochar. A beep of the horn at Conger Alley to our compatriots who were gearing up. St Catherine's was fully loaded with cars and divers as we flew past. Finally we arrived at Anchor sport at 0940.

 

There were 2 cars there already. It turned out to be some lads I knew from Glasgow South branch, all the better for some “crack” at the surface interval. We kitted up and ran through the plan. I would lead with John behind and Allan taking up the rear guard. The rain lashed down and I have to admit, I was soaked before I'd even got into my dry suit. Still, nothing ventured and all that stuff!

 

We managed to pip the crew from Glasgow south into the water and headed down the south side of the reef to a depth of 29.8m. The vis was good, at 6m, but it was dark and felt colder than the 12oC that my computer was showing. We spotted 3 different Congers over the reef which was great as usually I'd only see the resident Conger at 15m on the south corner of the reef.

We came across a flat fish who was happy for John to take a few snaps. There was a big school of fish off the reef on the sea bed, however, it was too dark to make out what they were. I'd guess there must have been over 100 of them. They looked like they were travelling on a motorway to the south end of the Loch.

 

After 48 minutes we surfaced at the entry point to torrential rain. I was glad I brought my gas stove to heat some soup up during the surface interval. Everyone out safe and happy we dropped our kit on the beach and headed up to the car for lunch. Whilst John and Allan tucked into their hot teas and soup, I spent 20 minutes looking for my pot to warm my soup. It finally dawned on me that I must have left it at home. I really thought about giving the next dive a miss as I was so wet and miserable.

 

Luckily we have such good buddies in Clydebank branch and after 45 minutes of ridicule from John and Allan, I decided to change my tank over and start kitting up. I opted to look for some Scallops on the second dive and we agreed we'd spend the first part of the dive over on the north side of the main reef. I would lead once again and took us down to 15 metres then headed North in search of some big "Queenies".

 

After 5 minutes finning we stumbled onto the North reef. This was a great fluke as we hadn't planned to dive on it. I'd only dived on this reef before, with John Kerr, I loved it but in previous attempts to find it I always miss it. I signalled to John and Allan if they were happy to carry on and they agreed.

 

Not much fish life on the reef, it has to be said, but the topography is simply stunning. Some huge edible crabs and Plumose anemones dotted around the top of the reef. I also managed to find 3 large Scallops to take home for my good lady. We worked our way back up the reef and then headed back across the sand to the main reef. After 45 minutes we surfaced back in the bay. We all agreed the dives made it worth standing in the downpour.

We de-kitted and Allan left it to me to pack the car this time, waved goodbye to the guys from Glasgow South and headed for the warm hot fire of the Arrochar Inn for hot chocolate & Scones whilst mulling over the days diving and wishing John Kerr a very happy birthday!!!

 






 

The Search for The Southwest Passage

Words: Gerry Regan

Photos: Keith Waugh

Despite a  careful examination of the weather forecast and the local tide tables, shore Diving from the exposed East Coast is always a bit of a gamble for a traveller from the west. Yesterday was one such  day, and we arrived at  the Greenends site with a promise of no wind to speak of only to find the coast under a heavy blanket of Haar and a malignant swell crashing menacingly onto the exposed outer reef. Our disappointment was quickly dispelled as we spotted a large pod of Dolphins (50-100) as they cruised majestically by 100m from the concrete entry ramp. We scrambled up one of the jagged reef cornices to watch the pod travel north to south for a full 10 minutes. Sadly in our rush nobody thought to take any photographs or video to capture such a great spectacle. Taking our visit from the Dolphins as a good omen we decided to kit up and assess the conditions within the reef . To this end we were fortunate as it was a spring high tide and the inner reef system was as complete as it could be.

With the conditions for safe diving marginal at best we spent some time considering the difficulties ahead, chief among them was the risk of being swept out to sea by the swell if we ventured too close to the outer aspects of the reef system. With careful navigation essential we tied up an SMB to the rocky outcrop adjacent to the entry point of Nestends Gulley. This allowed us to identify our exit from sea level if we had to surface to re-orient ourselves within the natural maze that is Nestends. With our normal north easterly route to our favourite part of the Nestends play park the Gulley of Doom barricaded by the swell. We endeavoured to find an alternative way to the Gully by staying within the shelter of the inner lagoons. We dropped into Nestend Gulley from the now well submerged concrete entry ramp and found some reasonable visibility (around5-6m) and a fairly large shoal  of sprats probably seeking shelter from the voracious predators offshore. Heading southwest we travelled some 70m amidst the agitated kelp and found an enticing cleft in the gully left side that led us down and through to the next lagoon at a depth of 13m.

In order to maintain our orientation we kept the rocky wall on our right and carefully advanced generally southwards. Although not great visibility there was plenty of life to be observed, notably plenty of mature lobsters and the pick of the bunch was spotting a reticent Tadpole Fish in a deep fissure. 20 minutes into the dive I was amused to turn around to find Keith pursuing his previously undisclosed penchant for underwater Feng Shui  as he built a small rocky cairn which doubled up as an effective waymarker in this homogenous topography. We explored as far as it was safe without finding our favourite photogenic gulley and decided to retrace our way back, having timed our outward traverse from the waymark I was greatly relieved to find Keith's homage to Henry Moore right where it should be. Again using the cleft in the wall to re-enter Nestends we found ourselves safely back at the exit point. Rather than finish at that point we decided to try and investigate the Gulley as far out to sea that it was safe to do so. As we dropped into the deepest part of Nestends and turn towards the extreme end of the reef we were met by a scene that Dante in the grip of his most feverished dream could not conceive. There was an almost palpable wall of confused water mixed with all forms of detritus thrashing about in an uncontrolled maelstrom. Our curiosity satisfied we beat a welcome retreat back to the exit point after 60 exciting minutes.

"have you seen the Diver's Hole" I enquired of Brian innocently during the surface interval.

From the resultant explosion of sandwich I could only assume that he had misheard me. The Diver's hole in question was in fact an interesting geological feature on the south side of Greenends Gulley. This gulley was to be the site for our second dive of the day. Greenends was the more protected section of the area. Away from the worst of the swell which was beneficial as the tide had turned  causing more potential dangers. We set off down the north side of the gully to a depth of 11m to find a long undercut wall. After about 100m there is a very large submerged kelp festooned boulder in the middle of the gully. At this point we crossed over to the south side whereupon Keith followed the end of the gully wall and unerringly found  the Diver's Hole at about (5-9m depending on the state of the tide.) This diver sized crevice is located in the gully wall hidden by thick kelp fronds, it has an accessible opening and a small chimney. like aperture in its roof. With a good swell running entering the Hole is as close you will get to being in  a human Lava Lamp. Tiring of our fun in the hole we circumnavigated a small submerged island at the mouth of Greenends and made our way back along the south side of the gully. All that was left for myself Brian and Keith to do was pack up and make our way into Eyemouth for a very well deserved  coffee and cake.

 

 


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