From time to time Clydebank members will tell you about their diving activities:
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
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.
On the weekend of 28th-30th July 2017, four members of Clydebank Sub Aqua Club, Joe McInally, John Kerr, David Richford, Keith Waugh and guest Alan Dorricot, enjoyed the Scottish weather of wind, rain and squalls at the Dive Centre on the Sound of Kerrera. Despite the weather we enjoyed 4 dives at Ard na Cuile, Maiden Island, Heather Island and the wreck of the Breda. I hope you will enjoy the following video featuring the Breda.
Dive on the SS Breda
East-to the land of the Rising Sun Words & Photos: Keith Waugh
So, where to dive on Sunday 9th July??? Here we were in mid summer, with the longest day behind us, and we still had not really spread our sights and sites, beyond Lochs Long and Fyne. It wasn’t long before Niall pinged back and e-mail suggesting Greenends Gulley in the far east, in the land of the rising sun, namely Eyemouth!!! A look at the long range weather forecast was not totally encouraging, but what the hell, if it all went pair shaped we could just blame Niall. Lovely jubbly!!!!
Sunday morning dawned with an overcast sky in the west but with a country-wide light SW wind. The forecast suggested that rain would not reach the east until around 4pm. Throwing caution to the wind, Niall texted that we were go! go! GO!!!
By around 0930 the party of Niall, David, Gerry, Brian, myself and my wife Pauline, who fancied a day on the east coast, were duly parked at the south side of the River Eye, by Greenends Gully. The sea was almost flat calm, but the sky was rather overcast and not too encouraging. Still, it wasn’t raining, so that was a bonus. After all, you know divers, they hate getting wet!!!
Niall and David had never dived the area, Brian hadn’t been here for some time, Gerry was reasonably familiar with the area, but I, relative to the others, had extensive knowledge of the sites. Aye!! That’ll be right!! So it was decided we would dive as a “loose” 5 some and see just how smart I thought I was!!
Entering the water at around 10:40, one hour after low water, we made our way out of Nestends, sticking to the right hand wall. We were greeted with gently waving kelp fronds, orange and white soft corals, delicate anemones, Devonshire cupcorals, all pastel coloured and very attractive. Various small crabs and squat lobsters scurried amongst the crevices, nooks and crannies of the gulley walls. Throughout the dive we saw numerous lobsters though most were fairly small. However, they were quite inquisitive and didn’t seem to mind the 5 intruders or the bright video lights and torches.
Gradually we made our way round reefs, over large boulders and across sandy areas towards the Gulley of Doom. Occasionally I paused to make wild gesticulations at Gerry to see if he agreed with my navigation. This served 2 purposes, firstly, if the navigation was good, I could claim all the credit, but if it fell apart, then I could partly blame Gerry for agreeing with me!!! All came good however and after a gentle 15 minutes swim we arrived at the narrow entrance to the Gulley of Doom. There was perhaps an air of foreboding, as above the entrance to the gulley hung a lobster pot, obviously one of a line of pots. It hung there, right above the entrance, like the Sword of Damocles. Undaunted we bravely swam on to enjoy this amazing natural feature. The walls covered in soft corals, anemones, Devonshire cup corals and on the gulley top, waving kelp, though it was all fairly tranquil in this calm water. After the dive Niall referred to the area as lobster central as we encountered quite a number of them. I took what turned out to be some nice video shots of the band of diving brothers swimming along the narrow gulley. They valiantly suffered my bright video light to good purpose. Niall got his own back by adding to the fun with his video light. It turned out to be a really sunny day underwater!!!!
On exiting the gulley we continued south to the next inlet. Again encountering a few more lobsters and a well camouflaged Dab. We were now around 30minutes in to the dive and it was time to navigate back round to Nestends. I was glad to spot various submarine landmarks on the way and before long we had arrived back in to the familiar gulley of Nestends. En route we enjoyed a large shoal of Saithe heading over the top of one of the reefs.
The dive had lasted around 55/60 minutes and one or two bladders were being severely stretched, so we exited the water in dribs and drabs, so to speak!!!
The 2nd dive was again new to most of the party, so after a briefing of what I hoped to find and where to find it, we dropped in to the distinctive Greenends Gulley. The left hand side drops quickly to about 10metres and is an undercut cliff face which envelops you from above. Again plenty places for small crustacea including numerous young common Lobsters. At the end of the gulley we came to the massive island rock formation. Heading right and up in to around 9metres, I disappeared in to the kelp forest. Thankfully the rest of the party followed and there ahead of me, hidden by fairly dense kelp, the cave known as “Diver’s Hole”. I entered, quickly followed by David. We could just about turn around inside, so to make room for others, I rose up through the hole in the roof of this small cave. The rest of the party followed, subjecting themselves to a sun tan from my video light and to Niall’s video light. Once we had finished stirring up the kelp debris we re-entered the main channel and continued anticlockwise round the central rock massif which dominates the floor of the outer end of Greenends Gulley. On the north west corner we encountered a bit of a current before arriving back at the sandy area at the beginning of the rock island. Again more wild gesturing with Gerry and we agreed our next turn around the rocks to arrive back in the main gulley.
So, after superb! underwater navigation we had a gentle swim back up the gulley to the boulder obstacles at the entry point. As the tide had risen a little further, the exit proved easier than the entry, but that is how it should be!!
By around 4pm diving was done and gear was stowed just in time for the drizzle to set in. We beat a hasty retreat to a café in Eyemouth to relive the successful day.
It was agreed that we really should get over to the east coast more often especially as the sun seems to shine underwater, courtesy of the video lights.
Thanks to Gerry for being my mis-navigation scapegoat. Glad you weren’t needed!!! 😊
JUST ANOTHER SUNDAY by John Kerr
1ST Dive back in Scottish waters after the wonders of the holiday dives and we were off to Loch Fyne, the 4 intrepid divers from Clydebank Scotsac branch safely tucked into Andrew’s truck. Ross riding shotgun (when he could stay awake), Davie and the writer safely buckled into the back row giving helpful and to be honest pretty useless advice where felt necessary.
It was a glorious Sunday and we were blessed with the sunshine, occasional showers, some great visibility (3-5mtrs) and shoals of Pollack – no kidding easily +30 (big uns !!) casually drifting past in close proximity with an uncanny indifference to us as we worked along the reef.
It was primarily a training day so Ross was Dive Leader for the writer set off from one end of the reef Dave successfully ticked off a number of skills with Andrew from the other side of the reef. We met in the middle where the shoal of Pollack had set up camp, Ross and self coming across a large Small Spotted Catshark who couldn’t even be bothered blinking. The marine life was surprisingly active with some wonderful jelly fish (lions mane and Moon) squat lobsters, edible crabs, leopard spotted gobbies, ballen wrasse and for me the “pièce de résistance” the headless statue. All this on our own doorstep – who could ask for more – well maybe +10 temperature and visibility would do for starters - but then I am just being greedy !! – happy diving
A day at the beach Words & Photos: Keith Waugh
Easter Monday morning 17th April dawned a little gray, despite high pressure dominating the country, or so we were told!!?? A slightly later than normal start saw the "magnificent 7" rally at the club rooms at 0830. Amazingly, by 0845 we hit the road for Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and our final destination of Caolasnacon on Loch Leven. The drive north and west saw the weather gradually improve, with the cloud rising above Buachaille Etive Mor as we drove passed. Glencoe looked inviting as the veil of cloud lifted to reveal the menacing Aonoch Eagach ridge on one side and The Three Sisters on the other. After just over 2 hours the whole intrepid party of Clydebank adventurers had arrived at Caolasnacon Caravan and Camping site on the shores of Loch Leven. There were the more mature, seasoned members of John, the BDO, Michelle, Keith and the very well seasoned Allan, plus 3 more recent members of David, Ross and Cameron. After a brief break to recover from the journey and to enjoy the improving sunshine, we kitted up to enter the water.
Cameron and I sank below the flat calm loch surface to the muddy, rubble beach bottom. Gradually we made our way to deeper water and the south shore boulder slope. The slope starts around 8metres and as depth increases, it rapidly gives way to a vertical wall with plenty of massive boulders stacked against it, forming inviting small caves and crevices for fish and crustacean to hide amongst. The walls are also covered in tens of thousands of brightly contrasting Sea Loch anemones (Protanthea simplex) and Fanworms or Peacock worms.
The waters of Loch Leven are peaty black but usually with quite good visibility at around 7metres. However, as most divers wear black dry suits, it can be a little challenging to see your buddy clearly in these conditions. We progressed along the rock wall, looking up from 20 metres at towering boulders and the cliff face itself covered in the aforementioned Sea Loch anemones and Fanworms. A few dark green Pollock momentarily flashed in to view in the peaty blackness. On a ledge I spotted a muddy coloured Ballan Wrasse, but by the instantaneous light of the strobe it appeared vivid orange!! Then a small Corkwing Wrasse appeared on the scene. Again the high speed strobe recorded the colours of this pretty fish.
All too soon we had to swim back, but at a shallower depth, this time with inky blackness below and the sun streaming down through the brown waters above. Now we passed through the disturbed sediments of the rest of the diving party, but exactly where they were was anyone's guess!
Divers arrived back at the beach for the surface interval with various tales of woe! Nothing serious, apart from Cameron's strained back (an old "war" wound"), so he would "sit out" the 2nd dive. Allan arrived back , ringing wet on the inside as well as the outside (as usual!!), so he would call it a day. Michelle had a leaking cuff seal but she was determined to beat it. David had a very damp chest from a leaking inflation valve, but again, he would "tough it out"!! John, Ross and myself, were warm, dry, comfortable and altogether far too smug for our own good!!
Dive 2 followed a similar pattern to the first dive. Ross came with me as we followed, more or less, the same ground as previously. Deep in a crevice I spotted a 1 metre Ling, but it wasn't coming out to play for any reason!! Later a young Spotted Dogfish was minding its own business under a ledge, but with a little encouragement it came out to see what all the fuss was about. Towards the end of the dive, and despite a minimum water temperature of 8oc, Ross successfully completed the Sport Diver mask removal & replacement exercise!
As we surfaced the weather really had improved. High pressure was certainly in charge and the Loch Leven scene was stunningly beautiful. Having thanked the campsite manager for permitting us to dive from her beach, we had to reluctantly head back up through breathtaking Glencoe, across Rannoch Moor and join the traffic jam back to Glasgow on the A82. Sneakily though, I headed down the A814 Loch Long road and made it back to Clydebank before the rest of the party!!
The Old Goat’s Day Out Photos & Story John Kerr
Setting the scene, if you can just visualise the scene of the young Nubian Ibex mountain goat from the wonderful series “Planet Earth II” scrambling down the vertical cliff face in escape from the red fox, with photographic evidence I can officially confirm and confidently declare that we have our very own mountain goat, the one and only Allan Reader, who is seen scrambling around the slopes of the North Gortein dive site, often on all fours, butting and spitting at anybody who dared to intervene in his trip to the water’s edge.
Yes it was another Sunday (11th December), the choice was preparation for the coming Xmas festivities – shopping and putting up the decorations, or for these two lucky Clydebank Scotsac members (Allan Reader and the writer) a free pass to yet again savour the delights of Loch Fyne. The rendezvous was at the Esso garage at Milton, 0745hrs sharp, it went without a hitch and with the transfer of the dive gear into Allan’s car, we were off without drawing breath, casually waving at the traffic police who hadn’t even got their gear set up as we whizzed through Tarbet, the Cobbler, clear and majestic, as dawn broke over Arrochar and on. But wait a minute we were being tailed, the headlights of the car behind us showing great intent, we pressed on as we raced past St Catherines, trying to throw them off by jinking in at Anchor Point, before accelerating on, but to no avail - who else would be out at this time on a Sunday morning? They pulled in just as we clambered out at our final destination with the comment “you nearly threw us off back there with your trickery”, it was 3 divers from Edinburgh – and here was us thinking we set out early from Glasgow.
The weather was good, the sun even came out for us as we managed to eke out the day of freedom with our two dives, successfully navigating the 3 reefs, entering and coming out of the water as buddies, (enough to make our BDO proud), sea temperature hovering between 10 and 11 degrees, visibility was a bit disappointing with a green colouring of the water restricting it to around 3metres but with the usual attractions – long clawed squat lobsters; edible crabs; sea toads; Plumose anemones; thousands of brittle stars; a good mix of star fish (common & purple sun-stars, seven armed, red pin cushions to name but a few); a sleeping dog fish that Allan desperately tried to stir; leopard spotted gobies and my own favourite with a Squat Lobster devouring the sea squirt as an early Sunday lunch; even the abuse from my dive buddy as he cried “you should be ashamed of yourself keeping an old man like me in the water for a 60 minute dive in the winter” couldn’t dampen my spirits.
Alas as we all know, times like this must be treasured - the Xmas decorations were waiting for us when we got home and I have been told the shopping has still to come. Maybe I should rephrase my opening gambit - Mountain Goat – nae maybe – “Old Goats”
Merry Xmas to you all and happy diving
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.
THE BANKIES GO NORTH
story & photos: John Kerr
The Small Isle trip had been cancelled, the vagaries of the Scottish had weather struck again, but for a small number of the intrepid participants, who would not willing forfeit the weekend pass from the better partners, (who know all!! ) this was seen as an opportunity, we were off to CONSERVATION BAY, Loch Carron. Andrew Sinclair Allen Reader, the writer and Ben (a Chef at the Ubiquitous Chip) who was the font of knowledge for this area and willing shared it with this motley crew
Yes it was early, we set off at 0615 from the club house, breakfast (full Scottish) at Morrison’s, Fort William at 0815 and on. From the hearty breakfast the drive North was superb, the mountains clear and tempting for those who wish to take to altitude, colours and lighting from the rainbows second to none from the passing showers, and for those of us who are parents who are well familiar with the cry “are we nearly there yet”, we had Allan, the eternal youth in our company with the cry “what’s that loch called”. Google maps saved the day as we fed his insatiable and voracious appetite with the requested information Loch Lochy, Garry, Loyne, Cluanie, Duich, till we reached our final destination Loch Carron.
“Conservation Bay”, look and see, but take nothing, was the script. Stepping into the water to put the fins on, we were given a clear indication of what was to come with the clarity of the water – it was crystal - +20mtrs, 13 deg C – is this for real - we are in Scotland !!. Slack tide as a dive ONLY, and from entry to return it is clear why, as you drop down and swim to the left the walls and bottom are completely covered in “Soft Corals”, and the life that lives within it, velvet crabs; butter fish; edible crabs- very large (remember it is conservation); gravel sea cucumber; shoals of fish “Pollack” being the most obvious for the untrained.
68 minutes floating around in an kaleidoscope of colours on the back of a full “full highland breakfast” -you can’t get better than that !! well may be ?
Ben suggested that we try a dive in the shore of “Loch Duigh” approximately 1 mile south of “Eilean Donan Castle”, the back drop was fantastic. It’s a popular fisherman’s spot and the lad on place could not been more helpful on what to look out for (car wreck, etc) and what he has heard about. The entry was to be careful, but well worth it, with a wall ; it would appear as far as you wanted to go; we settled around 20 mtrs or so; followed along to the right before returning at the shallower depth, lots of small fish and marine life. The marine life was interesting but what kept the conversation going south bound, prior to the dodgy fish supper in Fort William was the car wreck-was it a mini??
· The best wedding plates, they were still in the wrapping – was it a robbery or a marriage that had gone wrong??
Thankfully for the return journey google was still at hand for the cry “what loch is that” !!
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