Falls of Lora by snow & Breda by night

In mid-December, Lindsay, myself and Alistair joined divers coming from as far as Thurso to the north and the Midlands to the south, aboard a charted large RHIB with Shane Wasik of Basking Shark Scotland as our skipper for what was going to potentially be a 3-dive day, starting with the Falls of Lora (typically a drift dive) in the morning, and finishing with a night dive on the wreck of the Breda, with a 5hr interval during which a wee shore dive could be squeezed in. This was my first dive at the Falls, first at the Breda, first night, and could have been my first drift if the conditions were better.

In the week leading up to the Saturday the weather looked troublesome, with England getting battered by a storm followed by severe snow and ice. Scotland only got grazed by the storm, but we did get ice and winds up to and including Friday. But Saturday turned out to be a gorgeous, calm, sunny-ish day, though the temperatures were still passionately flirting with zero. In the end we had no trouble getting through from Crianlarich towards Oban, but other divers were considerably delayed or even had just cancel due to road chaos. So when we arrived at 9am, just 30min before the planned ropes-off time we were actually the first to show up. Air temperature was freezing and everything was icy. Luckily, there was very little wind, so it was rather bearable without the chill effect. Our trip to the Farnes a couple of weeks before this was much more unpleasant despite being slightly warmer in absolute terms.

The Falls

Four other divers eventually showed up, and we left Dunstaffnage with an hour’s delay, which put the dive right in the slack tide. Any later and we’d risk the tide taking us into the floating tidal turbine that was being tested not far from our site (luckily the turbine was off-duty that day anyway). As we were getting briefed on the site, what looked like distant rain caught up with us and turned out to be snow! Nice thick snow shower that lasted for several minutes :).

The Falls of Lora are notoriously dark (or so I’m told), and this was no exception. The top few meters of depth were murky and although it cleared up deeper on, it did effectively make for effectively a night dive. As such, and due to some mixed currents at different depths, none of us ventured far from the drop point at the headland before the bridge. Instead we clung to the wall and admired the anemones and starsfish. We made it up to the point where the rescue dummy had lodged itself. Unfortunately I did not spot it, as there were several divers in the gully making it less obvious. I was also keeping an eye on my air and no-deco time which were cutting it closer than they have ever before, as much of the dive was down at 20m, as well as my having some buoyancy issues with my modified configuration. Due to the darkness and limited range, we did not get to see much of the famed carved rock geology of the Falls. Something to redo in fairer weather, perhaps as an actual drift next time…

Empty shells piling up at the end of a gully, pushed there by the currents.

All-you-can-shop snail-shell market for hermit crabs.

By the time we got back to shore it was midday and the skipper wanted us to regroup by 4pm to be at the wreck as soon as it got dark enough. So we opted to skip the shore dive and grab some hot tea and food at the on-site inn, followed by a drive down to Puffin for air fills.

The Breda

Sadly only Lindsay and myself went on the Breda dive, as Alistair’s drysuit was behaving more like a bathtub (not a hyperbole)… With 8C in the water and 0C out of it, being wet is not an option. Meanwhile a couple more divers managed to show up. While loading the boat and travelling, another couple of snow showers swept through. We arrived to the shotline at the bow of the wreck right as darkness fell. Our skipper set up his underwater floodlights, giving the water an otherwordly green quality, like toxic goo from some comic-book story.

 

Comically green floodlit waters.

The viz was slightly better than the Falls, although 8 divers milling about and setting up photos quickly “rectified” that :D. As before, due to limited viz and a slight current, we opted to stick near the bow deck area from where we could still dimly see the floodlights, despite an initial plan to swim the circumference of the wreck. Taking lots of photos was not conductive to succeeding with the swim-around anyway, as the Breda was a sizeable ship. Oh well, more reason to revisit.

Wreck resident.




The end

I was not really trying to be in camera operator mode, so most of my footage was utter nonesense. This is a stitch-up of the few salvageable parts, from both dives.

All in all a long, cold, fun day!

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A Frames Sports Diver Training

At the end of October three of us trooped over to the West Coast to help one of our DSAC members gain some more experience towards their Sports Diver Qualification.The day was rather bleak weather wise, with the underwater conditions matching the bleakness of its air filled counterpart; challenging to say the least for those with less experience of the site in low visibility. The mood was kept buoyant with the usual good humour of our Training Officer, and with both the Cadet/TA force and Edinburgh divers using the site as well, there was plenty of activity, friendly chat and shore cover.

Our practice session involved components from the SO5 lesson, Assisted Air Ascents from ten metres, mask clearing, navigation and dive leading. We had planned for two dives, so decided to run through the lesson twice in its entirely, giving plenty of practice for an assessed session in the near future. The tides were on neaps, so water movement was minimal so with the silt kicked up from our skills practice, we had to move quite a bit away to get clear water to start the dive lead and navigation sections.

Underwater conditions were dark and disorientating, so we had to stay quite close to the seafloor to keep a visual reference. With the compass occasionally affected by the underwater wreckage, other methods for orientation and decision making mindfully came into play, such as depth and time as well as topographical features. Part of the experience of this session, was to monitor other divers and recognise when a plan had to change to keep everyone safe and within their limits. By the end of session two, confidence had increased dramatically and decisions were made with positive certainty.

Once back on shore, things became a bit more apparent as to why the Cadet/TA force was there, and that was to practice rafting. From what we could gather there were two teams competing to race to a set point; what was very comical was that the set point (a motor boat) kept moving. Much waving of arms from the shore and confusion ensued, in particular from a large bellowing gentleman whose moustache would have made Windsor Davies jealous. We left the site to its own Saturday madness, and sneaked away to dry off in the Three Villages Cafe for a debrief and some hot soup.

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