Manse Point & The Slates, Loch Leven 10/02/18

Last Saturday four members made the trip west to dive a couple sites in Loch Leven, Manse Point followed by The Slates. The weather forecast had looked a little dodgy for the drive there but it turned out to fine with only a little snow on the way and we were treated to some great views going through Glencoe.

Glencoe

Glencoe

Our first dive was at Manse Point, a great site with loads of life. Me and Ryan were in first, once in the water we headed straight out down the sand/mud slope before turning left to make our way over to the wall. There is interesting life to be found here before you even get to the wall with phosphorescent and slender sea pens both on the slope at around 14m, as well as one of the resident juvenile thornback rays that are spotted regularly here.

Thornback Ray (Raja clavata)

Thornback Ray (Raja clavata)

Once on the wall we turned right to follow it down to around 34m (it carries on down further) where we turned left and made our way round for a while before starting to head back up shallower over the top of the wall. There is so much life to be found here, masses of brittle stars cover the wall from the shallows down to about 30m where they are replaced by large solitary sea squirts, peacock worms, sponges, and sea loch anemones. We also spotted feather stars and a small gurnard on top of the wall which was happy to sit still for a few photos. After coming back up along the to of the wall we made our back to the sand slope and along to the entry/exit point. Visibility was good on this dive and water temp was about 9°C but a noticeably cooler 7°C in the shallows! Brian and Kimon also a good dive here following a similar profile and spotted a smaller thornback on the sand slope.

Grey Gurnard

Grey Gurnard

After a quick coffee and some lunch at the local Craft & Things we headed back along to the Slates for our second dives. The Slates is a very well known site with multiple dive route options and usually very popular, but surprisingly we had the site to ourselves!

The first dive at this site was a dive leader lesson, with Kimon and Brian both completing mask clearing and AS ascents from 15m. Once the lessons were over we returned to our original buddy pairings for a normal dive. Both buddy pairs decided to take the same route for the final dives, which is the standard entering on one side of the peninsula and making the way round to the other. Me and Ryan had a nice dive venturing down to 37m looking for an octopus that was spotted here recently but was not to be found this time, we did find a nice yarrell’s blenny and spotted lots of large pollack. Visibility was good again and water temperatures similar to the first dive, although it didn’t feel quite so cold in the shallows on this one. Brian and Kimon also had another nice dive visiting 25m on their way around the point.

Ryan

Ryan

Kimon

Kimon

Another nice day diving in Loch Leven with good visibility and lots of life at both sites.

A few more photos can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsme4pY5b 

 

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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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