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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Lochaline Weekend – Sound of Mull 23/05/14

Six members of DSAC (Steven, Andrew, Callum, Dave, Ken, James) headed up to Lochaline this year for another great weekend of wreck diving. Everyone managed to take the Friday off so headed up early on Friday morning to get a dive in from Lochaline Hotel beach. On the way up James, Ken, Callum and Dave managed to stop for this cheesy shot at Loch Laggan Dam. I’m sure you’ll agree they look like idiots pros in their ‘Technical Black’ DSAC hoodies!

DSAC 'special' brigade.

DSAC ‘special’ brigade.

Joining us for the weekend were Dominic and Daniel, plus Alex, Chris, Victoria, and Chris from DUSAC. A quick stop in at our accommodation for the weekend, Lochaline Dive Centre to drop a few things off  and meet up with everyone then we all headed down to the beach to get kitted up for a dive. Last year the gate leading to the beach was locked up but this year it was wide open so Dave and Callum braved the water trap in the Octavia to bag a great spot to kit up. The flooded part of the track was too much for Ken’s Peugeot so they parked across from the hotel.

A short swim out over a gentle slope of white sand brings you to drop off forming a near vertical wall which goes down to around 90m. Dave and Callum decided to go down to 50m but spent very little time at that depth due to Dave getting a cell warning and his rebreather beeping like crazy. They still had a good dive with visibility not far off 10m and the water temp at a balmy 10°C, which was nice. Everyone else reported great dives too, with Ken and James exploring the wall down to 40m and Steven and Chris reaching 30m.

Football Sea Squirts

Football Sea Squirts

This really is a fantastic wall dive (which is why we do it everytime we visit Lochaline) with a huge variety of life. The white sand slope is dotted with burrowing anemones and eyelash worms, then the wall itself is covered in hydroids, dead man’s fingers, squirts, sponges, branching bryozoans, and feather stars (including the rarer celtic feather star). In fact, there is far too much to list here but you get the idea. Andrew chose to give this dive a miss and kindly provided shore cover while taking plenty of great photos, one of which made it onto the “Your Pictures” page on the BBC Scotland website!

Dave and Callum - Lochaline beach

Dave and Callum – Lochaline beach

 

After finalising plans for the next day with Annabel at the dive centre, the remainder of the evening was spent at the Lochaline Hotel with a nice meal and a few beers.

Leaving the Sound

Leaving the Sound

Saturday started with a very relaxing 10am ropes off from the pier on Sound Diver II. Once everyone was on board there was a bit of deliberation about the diving plans for the day but it was finally decided to make the most of the good weather and head out to the wreck of the Tapti off Coll followed by another wreck in the Sound.

 

 

With the calm seas and great weather we made the 4hr trip out to the southern end of the Isle of Coll enjoying great views of the west of Mull and the islands to the south. Once on site it didn’t take Mark long to locate the stern of the wreck and each buddy pair was then dropped in. The plan was to descend onto the stern in about 10m then follow the broken up wreckage SE towards the bow at 25m. The visibility was a bit poorer than we had expected, in the region of 6-8m, but that didn’t detract from the dive. It was still easy to identify the large sections of the ship which were home to an abundance of life and most buddy pairs managed to make it along the full length of the wreck to the impressive bow section. A very worthwhile journey.

Flabellina lineata on the Tapti

Flabellina lineata on the Tapti

Once everyone was back on board we started on the long trip back to the Sound of Mull. On the way back we were treated to a flyover by an massive White-tailed Sea Eagle before more indecision on the what would be the next dive, the Shuna or the Rondo with the Shuna winning in the end.

The Shuna sits on the sea floor at about 30m and is the most intact wreck in the Sound of Mull but due to it’s sheltered position it is quite a silty wreck and visibility can be reduced if it has been dived heavily throughout the day. This wasn’t the case however and the vis was a reasonable 5-6m with a fair bit of ambient light reaching the deck at 24m. Most buddy pairs followed a similar profile on this dive, passing around the stern to see the intact prop before exploring more of the deck structure which is quite impressive. The wreck itself is also home to a great variety of life including jewel anemones on the prop blades, Sagartia spp. anemones covering the stern, as well as the less frequently seen red dead man’s fingers and northern sea fans.

Polycera faeroensis

Polycera faeroensis

Red Dead Man's Fingers

Red Dead Man’s Fingers

 

Once everyone was back on board Sound Diver II we finally made our way back to Lochaline and the dive centre to be welcomed with a BBQ dinner kindly prepared by Annabel for our arrival. The homemade burgers went down very well!

Sunday began with another leisurely ropes off time of 9am, with the plan being to dive the Tonn Vane in Loch Sunart then catch slack water in the afternoon for the Hispania.

Another calm day allowed for a relaxing trip up to Loch Sunart the first dive of the Tonn Vane, an intact wreck of a trawler that sank in 2004. The wreck was soon located on the sounder and a shotline dropped in before James and Dave were send down to see if it had landed on the wreck. Upon reaching the bottom at 28m there was no wreck to be seen at first in the low light but it was soon located a few meters to the east of where the shot had landed. The shot was then moved and the line given two sharp tugs to let the boat know it was on the wreck and everyone else could follow them down.

The Tonn Vane sits upright and intact with much of the deck structure and rigging still in place which makes for quite an atmospheric dive, it is quite a small boat so it is possible to see the whole wreck and stay within no deco time. Following exploring the wreck it is possible to venture up the sloping sea floor into shallower water to extend your dive time. This was certainly worthwhile as what seemed like a pretty featureless slope at first was actually full of life with seapens, nudibranchs, seven-armed starfish, burrowing anemones, and a thornback ray all being spotted.

Juvenile Thornback Ray

Juvenile Thornback Ray

After a brief stop in Balamory Tobermory it was time for the last dive of the weekend, the Hispania. Widely regarded as one of the best wreck dives in Scotland the Hispania sits largely intact in around 25m of water on a sharp list to her starboard side. Even though most people on board had dived this wreck (some numerous times) before everyone was looking forward to it. With the current still running a bit each buddy pair was dropped in and descended down the shot to find calm conditions on the wreck and probably the best vis of the weekend. Being quite a large wreck with a lot of deck structure remaining as well as large open holds there is plenty to keep you occupied, not to mention the the huge variety of life it is home too. A really nice dive to finish off a fantastic weekend.

Short-spined Sea Scorpion

Short-spined Sea Scorpion

Sponge & Plumose Anemones

Sponge & Plumose Anemones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another great weekend with great hospitality from Mark and Annabel at the Lochaline Dive Centre. It was really nice to dive with Daniel, Dominic, Alex, Chris S, Chris R, and Victoria again.

For more pics visit the Gallery page or click here

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SS Ugie & The Bell Rock 03/05/14

Arriving in Anstruther at about 08:15 Dave, Callum, and I met up with Andrew and Gordon and loaded all of our gear onto the Mako in time for the 09:00 ropes off. Including another couple of divers there were only 7 of us on the boat in total so there was plenty of space for all of our different kit arrangements (some more different than others).

We had all been keeping an eye on the forecast which was looking very promising and it was not wrong, conditions were perfect for going further off shore. With only light cloud and hardly a swell to speak of we were on our way to the wreck of the SS Ugie. The wreck is a 13nm trip out from Anstruther and apparently sits intact and upright on a sandy bottom in 30m.

Leaving Anstruther

Once on site and the shot was dropped onto the wreck it was evident that there was still too much current running so we waited about 30mins for it to ease off before going in. Unfortunately due to a number of issues topped off by a malfunctioning computer, Gordon and I had to abort our dive so we didn’t get to see the wreck. The others on the other hand had an enjoyable dive in decent vis, managing to go around the whole wreck a couple of times and reported loads of life including numerous large lobsters.

Following the disappointment of missing out on the wreck (helped out by everyone’s reports of their “best dive ever”) Gordon and I were soon in a better mood once informed that due to the great conditions we were going to head out to the Bell Rock for the second dive.

Bell Rock Lighthouse

A further 4nm out from the wreck of the Ugie , the 35m high lighthouse marks the notorious Bell Rock which has claimed many ships over the centuries.

 

When we arrived conditions were still calm, with just small breakers coming over the top of the rocks.

 

Once briefed on the dive, which was to be a drift heading south, all of the same buddy pairings were dropped in again. Gordon and I descended down into 12m and quickly started hunting around for nudibranchs and other subjects to photograph, occasionally going with the drift over the rocky gullies. There was plenty to keep us occupied on the dive with the rocky reefs covered in soft corals (dead man’s fingers), dahlia anemones, common sunstars, common urchins, and of course loads of nudibranchs (at least 4 different species were spotted). After 40mins it was time ascend so I sent up my DSMB and up we went. Good dives were reported by the others as well, some even spotting an old cannon amongst the scattered wreckage.

Polycera quadrilineata

I think everyone would agree it was a great day out and certainly worth while going the extra distance to dive the Bell Rock.

 

For more pictures visit the Gallery or click here.

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Oban Training Weekend 04/04/14

Our annual training weekends up at Puffin Dive Centre in Oban are always good and this year was no exception. A few of us decided to head up early on Friday morning and take the club boat up to do some wrecks in the sound of Mull. Dave, Lewis and Robbie had also brought along their boat so we all headed off together until the club boat decided to break down only minutes after setting off…… We quickly figured out that the problem was a perished priming bulb on the fuel line and once we’d bypassed it we were off again!

Heading across the Firth of Lorn

Heading across the Firth of Lorn

Our first stop was the Rondo, an unusual wreck that sits with the bow pointed down in 50 meters of water, leaning against a sheer wall with the stern being as little as 5 meters from the surface. When we arrived at the Rondo it wasn’t marked with a shot so we had to look for it, Robbie and Lewis went down and eventually located it and sent up a DSMB to mark it for the rest of us. James and Ken went in next with Dave and Callum heading in shortly afterwards and deciding to head down to the bow. Second issue of the day happened at this point, as soon as Callum got into the water he realised his cuff dump was taking in water and no amount of fiddling with it would make it stop. The sensible thing to do would have been to call the dive and get back onto the boat…………….obviously he went and did the dive anyway.

Prop of the Rondo

They worked their way down the wreck slowly, eventually getting to about 47 Meters at the point where the bow is buried in the sand. They saw a big Wrasse and lots of pollock hiding in the darkness just off the wreck. Despite Callum’s drysuit being totally flooded at this point, and his undersuit soaking it all up, he wasn’t cold and his wing had more than enough lift to control his buoyancy. They headed back to the surface and reboarded the boat. Once everyone was back on the boat Lewis seemed intent on covering everyone in his suit lube so when he pointed behind us shouting ‘dolphins!’ no one was taking him seriously. Eventually we all turned to see a couple of lovely Harbour Porpoises heading up the sound which was a bit of a treat.

All safely boarded, kit was stowed for the run to Lochaline for some lunch, engines started we headed off line astern for much needed food. Gill was at the helm getting some boat handling experience when all of a sudden the engine died with a few of us thinking she was trying to be funny………she wasn’t, we had broken down again. Thinking it was just an air bubble in the fuel line we primed the engine and headed off again…and promptly stopped. By this point the other boat had come to our rescue and Dave boarded to try and fix the issue. Having fixed what we thought was a fuel filter issue in a way even the A Team would be proud set off again, and stopped! By this point we were thinking it was going to be a long tow back. After about half an hour of further tinkering the issue was found to be an anchor crushing the fuel line, issue solved we finally made it to Lochaline for food. The plan had been to dive a new site on the way back but due to delays with mechanical failures we decided to head back to Puffin and have a night dive instead.

With the light fading at around 9pm, a few buddy pairs set off into the bay at Puffin for a night dive. While the bay consists of a pretty featureless sand mud slope out into the sound there is still a good variety of life to found, even more so at night. In the shallows of the bay there is almost a carpet of peacock worms in amongst the red seaweeds then further out with numerous long-legged spider crabs clambering over the large kelp fronds, greater spider crabs cruising along the mud floor, and long-clawed squat lobsters ready to have a go at anyone who got too close so there was plenty keep you occupied.

Greater Spider Crab

Peacock Worms

 

 

 

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After the night dives it was finally time to chill with a beer in the chalets before a relatively early night.

Saturday proved to be another lovely day with light winds and calm(ish) seas so we decided to try a new site at the bottom of Kerrara, Bach Island. First in on the southern tip of the island was Lewis and Robbie followed by Jan and Micah and finally Joe and Alistair as the first wave of divers. It transpired that Jan and Micah has just dropped down where they went in and decided to enjoy a ‘blue’ dive, i.e. floating in water with nothing to see! Lewis and Robbie had a better dive but only found the best part (north-east side) later in the dive just before surfacing. A similar experience was had by Joe and Alistair who found some nice kelp areas on the south-west side of the island.

The final pairings were Ken and Ingo and Callum and Dave, having got information from the previous pairings we all dropped in and made our way along the wall on the north-east side of the island. It was an amazing dive, shear walls dropping down to about 30m covered in life. There were also some nice overhangs where you could go underneath and see air pockets caught in the ceiling giving the impression of puddles of silver. We headed north along the wall before the bed started sloping upwards with some kelp beds in the shallower water. DSMBs were sent up and we all returned to the boat agreeing that it was a fantastic scenic dive and one worthy of further exploration in the future.

After some lunch back at Puffin we headed out to Maiden Island which is situated at the mouth of Oban harbour. We had a new diver on board who was set to have his first dive since qualifying so he was understandably looking forward to it. First in were Lewis and Robbie followed quickly by Joe and Ken. After some energetic and adrenaline fuelled boat handling by Gill we all slipped below the surface and down a nice kelp covered wall. Everyone worked along the wall with the gentle current seeing many crabs and urchins before the wall opened out onto a sloping sandy sea bed. It was good to see a few scallops dotted about but life wasn’t as abundant as had been on the wall so both pairs surfaced after about 30 minutes. Meanwhile Ingo had gone in with the newly qualified diver and followed a similar route to the pairings before. Everyone was enjoying the sun and watching what looked like a seals head bobbing up and down when Ingo and his buddy surfaced after only about 15 minutes. Once back on board it transpired that they had a small issue, the trainee (don’t worry I’ll not mention you Duncan) had lost a fin but was keen to carry on. Ingo felt this probably wasn’t the best idea before both surfaced happy but bewildered as to how a fin had come off. Fearing it had been lost we began to realise the ‘seals head’ wasn’t really moving as you would have thought. We motored over and were delighted to find it was in fact Duncans missing fin. Once recovered and the other pairings back on board we headed back to Puffin to prepare for another cheeky evening dive and a quiet night in?!?!

While the boats were out exploring new sites two new ocean diver trainees (Janey & Mark) were undertaking their first open water lessons. Both Janey and Mark progressed well through their first three lessons, mastering skills such as mask clearing, fin pivots, demand valve retrieval, and inversion recovery. The calm conditions and good vis in the bay were certainly appreciated which allowed for nice exploratory dives down to 12m. A very successful day’s training.

Old & New Divers

Following a massive Indian takeaway for dinner, a couple of buddy pairs ventured out for another night dive while everyone else relaxed in the chalets. A similar dive to the previous night with much of the same life including a few particularly large Galathea squamifera squat lobsters.

Galathea squamifera

The plan for Sunday was to head back to Bach Island however during the night the wind had picked up and there were some decent waves coming down the sound so it was decided to abandon and head to a more sheltered site, Aird na Cuille. The site may have been sheltered but there was still and 4-5ft swell so shelter in a small bay was taken allowing people to kit up without going too white. First pair in were Ken and James, followed by Lewis and Robbie. They dropped down to about 28m before having a nice relaxed dive looking at the kelp and a few nudibranches.

Dahlia Anemone

Dahlia Anemone

By the time they surfaced the swell had picked up and Jan and Micah were preparing to head in. The final pair contained a recently qualified ocean diver, Duncan, and Ingo. They dropped in and enjoyed a scenic dive working along the wall at 12-18m before coming across kelp at the end of their dive. Due to the kelp they weren’t able to send up DSMBs but luckily easily spotted in the swell and picked up. For a first (uneventful) dive following qualification it was a cracker for Duncan and I’m sure he was thrilled to have finally gotten rid of his ‘L’ plates properly.

All safely on board we headed back to Puffin to pack the cars and head back to Dundee after a fantastic weekend of diving.

Happy Divers, Ingo & Duncan

Happy Divers, Ingo & Duncan

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

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