First Dives of 2015. The Slates, Loch Leven 02/01/15

Keeping up with tradition, DSAC ventured out for the first dives of the year on the 2nd January. A great turnout again this year; from the club we had Dave, Callum, Ken, Lewis, Alistair, David, Doug, Veronica, Joe, and myself. We were also joined by a couple of friends, Chris (Perth BSAC) and Grant (Glasgow).

Our dive site of choice this year was The Slates at Loch Leven (dive guide on Finstrokes), this site has a number options to dive. From the usual entry point you can either head out NE into the bay (which is also ideal for training) down the gentle slope to a boulder reef and brittlestar beds at about 20m, to the left you can follow the point around to the next bay, this consists of a steep boulder slope which goes down to 50m so you can pick your depth on the way round. Another option is to enter in the second bay and follow the next point around to a couple of small wrecks before making your way back. All of this together with the ample parking and easy shore access makes The Slates a very popular dive site and one we have visited many times in the past.

Dave & Callum

Dave & Callum

With it being the 2nd of January we weren’t expecting tropical weather but after arriving on site to sideways sleet and snow getting out of the warm cars took a bit of persuasion but once in our drysuits the weather was a bit more bearable. Not hanging about we quickly got ready and headed off on the first dives. There was a range of plans from the different buddy pairs; Ken/Lewis/Joe decided to follow the main point round to the next bay while visiting 35m on the way, Callum/Dave and Chris/Grant were all on rebreathers so explored around the point a bit deeper, Myself and Veronica chose to visit the brittlestar beds and boulder reefs in the first bay while Alistair/Doug/David also stayed in the bay to carry out David’s first Ocean Diver open water lessons.

Life on a boulder

Life on a boulder

Veronica and I were one of the last pairs in so decending into all of the muck above the halocline (also probably kicked up during everyone else’s entry) we were a bit concered about the vis but this soon cleared into what was around 4-5m vis even though it was quite dark. Following our bearing out we soon passed over the large chain and anchor that sits here then down the sand/mud slope to the boulder reef which starts at about 12m and soon followed by a dense covering of brittlestars which continues down into the depths though we spent most of our time at 20m.

 

 

There was a nice variety of life on this dive, the boulders were covered with sea loch anemones, various sea squirts, a couple of sponges, peacock worms, and a even a few small Facelina Bostoniensis nudis. In amongst the brittlestars we also spotted a greater pipefish, dragonets, topknots, common sunstars, common whelks spawning, and dozens of shore urchins. With time getting on we turned back towards the shallows passing the anchor again on the way back before completing our safety stop amongst the murky halocline, with a total time of 38mins and max depth of 21m we surfaced completing a great first dive of 2015.

Black Brittlestar (Ophiocomina nigra)

Black Brittlestar (Ophiocomina nigra)

During our surface interval (with hot drinks kindly made by Veronica) everyone was discussing the highlights of their first dives, for David it really was his first dives and he had successfully completed his first open water lesson. Joe, Lewis, and Ken had an interesting dive exploring the point while Callum and Dave came across a large conger eel at around 50m.

Numbers dwindled slightly for the second dive, David was very keen to get out again and on with his second lesson so while they were in the bay Lewis, Ken, and I decided to follow the second point round to the small wrecks. The second point, like the first, consists of a steep slope of jumbled boulders which we followed down to 30m as we made our way round. It is quite a long swim around the point and back so we didn’t stay at this depth for long. Once round the far side of the point there is an obvious gully which ascends quickly to about 12m which you need to go through to find the wrecks, the first being a small motorboat then the larger empty hull which lies on it’s port side on the slope.

Common Dragonet (Callionymus lyra)

Common Dragonet (Callionymus lyra)

After a quick nosey around  it was time to head back so keeping the slope on our right we made our way back round at about 13m. Once back into the bay in which we started it was a short fin across the bottom and up to the exit point. Lots of life again on this dive, the boulder slope is covered in sea loch anemones, squirts, peacock worms, and deeper down a variety of encrusting sponges. We also came across a number of goldsinny and cuckoo wrasse, dozens of little cowries, and a few jorunna tomentosa nudis.

While we were enjoying our dive, in the other bay David had completed his second open water lesson with Alistair so was very happy. Once out of the water it didn’t take us long to de-kit and get packed up ready for the drive home. A great day’s diving to start off the year, it’s always nice to meet up and dive with friends from other clubs and well done to David for getting his first 2 open water lessons completed.

Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

Cuckoo Wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

Sea Loch Anemone (Protanthea simplex)

Sea Loch Anemone (Protanthea simplex)

For more pictures go to the gallery or here.

 

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Old Cemetery, Loch Leven 22/11/14

Back in November, four of us from DSAC (Myself, Alistair, Micah, and Veronica) made our way over to Loch Leven to try out a site on the northern shore known as the Old Cemetery. The club has dived in Loch Leven a fair bit, mainly The Slates and occasionally Caolasnacon, but never along the north shore. There are a couple of sites in this area but with the promise of fireworks anemones, sea pens, and even a small wreck we decided on the Old Cemetery site.

We all met up at the site on time and to a welcome of heavy rain which made getting changed interesting, the rain did stop occasionally however and when it did we were treated to great views down the loch.

Loch Leven

Loch Leven (when the rain stopped!)

Once organised, Veronica and I were first in the water with the plan of finding the small wreck in the shallows before heading out deeper to where the sea pens and fireworks anemones could be found. From the shore we followed the gentle slope down to about 3m where it became a much steeper drop, at 6m we turned left and followed the ledge along for a couple of minutes before we came across the wooden wreck sitting on the slope. Being made of wood a lot of it has decomposed over the years but there is still the recognisable spine and ribs of the boat with very small parts of the hull intact. We didn’t spend long here and soon headed down the slope which bottomed out at 12m before the seafloor turned to mud.

Phosphorescent Sea Pen & Fireworks Anemone

Phosphorescent Sea Pen & Fireworks Anemone

Carrying on carefully out over the very fine silt/mud bottom it wasn’t long before we started to come across phosphorescent and slender sea pens at about 14m, first just the odd one then a bit further out they were everywhere along with a number of fireworks anemones. All of this was still in only 16m, in fact after about 10mins of constant finning over the mud it was clear we weren’t going to get much more depth and soon it was time to turn back towards the shore.

Navigating over a seemingly constant and featureless bottom can be a little disorientating but you just have to trust your compass and soon enough we were back at the bottom of the steeper slope and boulder reef at 12m. We had come back to the slope near the jetty here and that was pretty obvious given the amount of litter/junk and thousands of emptied scallop shells that had been dumped over the years (unfortunately what appears to be a case of “out of sight out of mind”) From here it was easy to follow the slope back to the point at which we had entered.

As well as the sea pens and fireworks anemones there was also a lot of other life to be found in the mud, with langoustine burrows dotted about, large hermit crabs, Inachus spp. spider crabs, long-legged spider crabs, and black gobies. The shallow boulder reef was home to sea loch anemones, various sea squirts, peacock worms, common sunstars, and also a couple of Facelina bostoniensis nudibranchs. Visibility was reasonable too with a good amount of ambient light at depth, with a total time of 33mins, max depth of 16.1m, and the water a balmy 13°C this was an enjoyable dive.

Phosphorescent Sea Pen

Phosphorescent Sea Pen

 

Alistair and Micah were off on their dive next leaving us to enjoy a break in the rain during our surface interval. Choosing to explore east of the entry point to see if they could find a bit more depth Alistair and Micah had a good dive and encountered much of the same life we had on our first dive. As it turned out that even after finning out for quite a bit further they still only reached 17m.

On our second dive Veronica and I went out to find the other wreck that is reported to be out from the end of the jetty. Passing over all the junk and scallop shells we headed out over the mud again searching for the wreck but it was not to be found. We did however come across a couple of tall sea pens, one of which must’ve been over 1m tall. A less frequently encountered species usually found below 30m yet here they were in just 17m. We also spent a bit more time exploring the boulder reef on the slope before heading back to the exit point and were lucky enough to spot two small-spotted catsharks (dogfish). A good dive with a max depth of 17m and total time of 39mins.

Small-spotted Catshark

Small-spotted Catshark

Common Sunstar

Common Sunstar

For the last dive of the day Alistair and Micah explored west towards the jetty and boulder reef and had another enjoyable dive with a slightly shorter surface swim than the first at the end. Luckily, once Alistair and Micah had completed their dive the rain stayed off long enough for everyone to get changed.

Alistair & Micah

Alistair & Micah

It’s always nice to explore new sites and this was no exception, despite the amount of junk/litter discarded underwater here, along with the small boulder reefs this is a great site for the sea loch mud habitat with all the associated life and in relatively shallow depths. A good day’s diving.

For more pictures go to the gallery page or click here.

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Insh Island & Kerrera 09/08/14

Following a recce to Insh Island while diving in the Oban area back in June (trip report), we were keen to get back to the area and dive one of the walls there. So after a bit more research online some good information on the dives here was found thanks to this Firth of Lorn Seasearch Survey and a nice video taken during a dive off Sgeir Beul Na H-Uamhaidh, a small outcrop off the eastern tip of the island.

As the waters around Insh Island can be exposed to strong tidal streams, particularly the SW of the island, the plan for the day then was to dive the wall off Sgeir Beul Na H-Uamhaidh at slack water followed by an afternoon dive near Heather Island in the Sound of Kerrera.

Justin & Veronica

Leaving Gallanach Bay

With Myself, Ken, Micah, Wendy, Veronica, and Justin all arriving at Puffin Dive Centre on time, the club boat (Tay Explorer) was launched sharply and soon on the way out of Gallanach Bay. In the great weather conditions it was a leisurely 40 minute trip down across the Firth of Lorn to Insh Island, during which we passed a replica viking longship that was out sailing.

Once on site to the east of Sgeir Beul Na H-Uamhaidh the drop off of the wall beneath was easily found on the depth sounder, there was a shelf at about 10m at the top of the wall so this was where the first buddy pairs were dropped in, Justin and I followed shortly by Ken and Micah. We all descended through great visibility (at least 10m) onto a dense kelp forest on the shelf which continued down to about 15m before dropping away to a sheer wall followed by large steps into the depths. Justin and I followed this down to 27m before heading roughly north keeping the slope on our left while slowly ascending to 20m where we spent the majority of our dive, passing over numerous overhangs, steps, and large crevices that make up this wall.

Celtic Feather Star (Leptometra celtica)

Celtic Feather Star (Leptometra celtica)

As well as impressive underwater scenery the variety of life present on the wall was incredible, with numerous large branching sponges, various colonial sea squirts, cluster anemones, nudibranchs, bryozoans, hydroids, sunstars, and the less frequently seen celtic feather stars. All too soon it was time to send up a DSMB before ascending, with a max depth of 27m and total dive time of 44mins, a fantastic dive. Ken and Micah followed basically the same profile as us and we even met up at one point to check out a large Janolus cristatus nudibranch.

Hedgehog Sponge (Polymastia boletiformis) & Chocolate Finger Sponge (Raspailia ramosa)

Hedgehog Sponge & Chocolate Finger Sponge

Janolus Cristatus

Janolus Cristatus

 

Once we were all back on the boat Wendy and Veronica were dropped in at the same spot for their dive and also enjoyed a nice scenic dive along the life covered wall at about 15m before sending up a DSMB and ascending.

Sgeir Beul Na H-Uamhaidh with Insh Island behind

Sgeir Beul Na H-Uamhaidh with Insh Island behind

 

After a very successful first dive it was back to Puffin Dive Centre for fills and lunch where we also met up with Callum, Lewis, and Dave who had also been making the best of the good conditions with a dive down at Belnahua quarry. After a nice lunch in the sun and all cylinders were filled everyone was back onto the boats and we were off to the second dive site of the day. Another wall, but this time just north of Heather Island off of a headland on the east side of Kerrera. A site that had been kindly named “Smelly Glove Point” after an incident involving a discarded glove on a previous dive here.

Buddy pairs were the same for this dive although Wendy and Veronica chose to sit this one out. This dive begins on a sand slope at about 10m where a large chain that leads in off the shore can be followed down to the top of the drop off.

Sea Cucumber (Aslia lefevrei)

Sea Cucumber (Aslia lefevrei)

A very different dive to the first one, due to the location  it did have quite a covering of silt (similar to parts of Heather Island), however it was still an impressive site with steep vertical drop offs and it’s own variety of life. The rock faces were covered with feather stars, solitary sea squirts, and devonshire cup corals while sea cucumbers occupied the numerous crevices in the rock faces. Justin and I spent the majority of this dive around 20m again and surfaced with a total dive time of 41mins. With Ken and Micah following a similar profile again.

After the final dive of the day it was back to Puffin to recover, refuel, and wash the boat before heading for home. A really great day’s diving at two new sites, and I know we will certainly be back to explore more of Insh Island and hopefully further south.

DSAC RIB at the end of the day

DSAC RIB at the end of the day

For more photos from the trip click here or check out the gallery page.

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Queenie Reef, Loch Creran 19/07/14

Back in July Alistair, Ken, Micah, Veronica, Steven and I made our way across to Loch Creran to a site known as Queenie reef, or 5th layby, or 13 steps……..whatever the site is called, it is known for it’s easy access and nice scenic reefs with lots of life so we were all looking forward to the day’s diving.

Loch Creran

Loch Creran

We all arrived on site by 10:30 to find, surprisingly, we had the site to ourselves. There are a number of dive options here, and each buddy pair (Veronica/myself, Steven/Alistair, Ken/Micah) all explored different routes on the first dive.

Sea Squirts (Pyura microcosmus)

Sea Squirts (Pyura microcosmus)

Veronica and I chose to follow the headland to the left of the entry point out which leads down to a nice rocky reef that is a couple of metres high at points. Once through the boot lace weed and moon jellies we soon found the start of the reef on the left, the reef itself is home to numerous long-clawed squat lobsters, sea loch anemones, many species of sea squirts, various sponges, spider crabs, and peacock worms.

 

After about 15mins we had reached 20m so turned around and moved up on top of the reef before following it back to shore. There was plenty to see on top of the reef as well with small beds of horse mussels and strange looking sponges sticking out of the rock, not forgetting the queen scallops that fly away like false teeth if disturbed. On the way back in we did get turned around by the current passing over the reef but a quick check of the compass soon rectified that. Ken and Micah also experienced a bit of a current as they had spend most of their dive further to the west on top of the reef.

Spider Crab in Feather Stars

Spider Crab in Feather Stars

A Happy Veronica

A Happy Veronica

 

 

Steven and Alistair also had a good first dive, heading out more to the middle of the loch were a gentle sand/mud slope eventually leads on to more rocky reefs.

Steven

Steven

 

Queen Scallop with hitch hiking nudi

Queen Scallop with hitchhiking nudi

For the second dives we all chose to take a different route again. Veronica and I aimed for the reefs out towards the middle of the loch to 20m again before turning right to head towards the boulder reef that runs parallel to the shore to the right of the entry point at about 6m. This was a really nice dive too, with loads more queen scallops flying about, more mussel beds, nice clusters of lightbulb sea squirts, and a few small serpulid clusters on the shallower reef. There were lots of moon jellies in the shallows again and one small lion’s mane that thought it would be fun to sit right in my path as I was swimming back to shore on the surface which resulted in a rather nippy lip!

Both pairs Ken/Micah and Steven/Alistair opted to explore the reef to the left of the entry this time and both had some really nice finds including phosphorescent sea pens and a thornback ray.

Lightbulb Squirts (Clavelina lepadiformis)

Lightbulb Squirts (Clavelina lepadiformis)

Queenie reef really does have a lot to offer with a few choices of dive and a great variety of life. A really nice day’s diving at a site that, for some reason, we don’t visit very often.

For more pictures go to the Gallery page or here.

 

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Video of the Fairweather V – Summer Isles 2013

This is a dive that we did last year in the Summer Isles which I have managed to edit. Camera credits go to Dave with equipment supplied by Callum. Staring role goes to Veronica who (as you will see at the end) thoroughly enjoyed the dive.

 

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Tapti wreck video

The last trip report reminded me that I still had video from our dive on the Tapti. Thanks to Ken for editing it all, he did a great job with not so great footage.

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Bach Island, Oban 21/06/14

The weekend of 21st/22nd June was a busy one for the club, as well as a boathandling training weekend planned in Oban there was also a shore dive planned for the Saturday up at Rosehearty. Unfortunately the weather put a stop to the dive on the Moray coast but as is always the case when planning dives on the east we had a backup plan to head to the west coast. Dave, Justin, Micah, and I were going to head over to Loch Leven for a shore dive but as there was 4 of us and the forecast looked good Dave offered to take his boat over to Oban.

It was an early start and following a bit of confusion about meeting at the Green Welly we all met up at Puffin Dive Centre. While getting ready we were able to catch up with a few of the others who were on the boathandling weekend (some more worse for wear than others).

Our plan for the day was to dive Bach Island first then head down to Insh Island for a second dive on slack water.

Entry point at Bach Island

Entry point at Bach Island

It was a short trip round to Bach Island from Puffin in flat calm conditions, it didn’t take long to find the wall off the south-east corner of the island on the sounder and send Justin and Micah in on their first dive. Experiencing a slight current they headed north and made their way round almost halfway round the island missing the wall unfortunately but still reporting a good dive with kelp forests containing lots of life.

Dave and I went in second at the same point but this time headed south and descended straight down onto a wall with huge overhangs and covered in life. Large plumose anemones and soft corals were hanging over the tops of the overhangs and in the sheltered crevices were numerous species of sea squirts and sponges including carpets of the gooseberry sea squirt (Dendrodoa grossularia). There were also large numbers of feather stars, bryozoans, hydroids, and loads of Janolus cristatus Polycera faeroensis nudibranchs.

Polycera faeroensis

Polycera faeroensis

White Cluster Anemones

White Cluster Anemones

We reached the bottom of the wall at 28m before turning around and following it along at about 20m back to the entry point where after a total dive time of 49mins we surfaced.

It was back to Puffin for lunch and fills before heading down to Insh Island for the second dives. There were a couple of spots we wanted to check that looked interesting on charts and in other dive reports, one was at the south-west point of the island but unfortunately there was a bit of a swell coming right onto this side so we gave that a miss.

Cave House on Insh Island

Cave House on Insh Island

The other spot was at the north-east of the island where, while looking for the wall we happened to spot an unusual looking house on the island so decided to tie up the boat and go for a look.

 

 

 

 

After a wee exploration of the island it was back to looking for the wall on the sounder, failing to find it and with time getting on we decided to return to Bach Island for our second dive. Justin and Micah were in first again, this time diving on the wall and enjoying a good dive. Dave and I went in after them and followed a similar profile to our first dive. As well as much of the same life seen on the first dive we also found a field of slender sea pens at the bottom of the wall and two massive brown crabs having a go at each other.

Janolus cristatus

Janolus cristatus

After our dives we got back to Puffin in time to catch up with everyone else before they went into Oban for a few pints. It didn’t take long to get the boat washed, gear packed, and on our way home after a great day’s diving and exploring!

 

For more pictures go to the Gallery page or here.

 

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