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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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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Ard Na Cuile & Heather Island 15/03/14

The weather has not been on our side so far this year, we had planned to dive the Breda in Ardmucknish bay on this trip but on the way to Oban we could see that the strong south-westerly wind was creating pretty miserable conditions in exposed areas so we decided to stay within the shelter provided by Kerrera.

Once we had all arrived at the Puffin Dive Centre it wasn’t long before everyone was ready to go and the club boat was in the water waiting to be loaded with kit and divers. Given that we were limited to fairly sheltered dive sites we chose to dive Ard Na Cuile first which is just a short trip south of Puffin, there was still a bit of swell coming across this part of the sound but it was still safe to dive here.

Graham dropped Steven and I in first, followed shortly by Ken and Micah. We had entered at the northern end of the wall so the plan was to head south keeping the wall on our left. Once in the water Steven and I descended down the sand slope to 25m but there was not much to see so we followed the slope for a short while before coming back up to 15m before making our way along the mix of boulder slopes and vertical walls which a good covering of life with lots of feather stars, dahlia anemones, soft corals, squirts, and sponges. The visibility wasn’t bad, around 5m maybe less, with a fair bit of ambient light. After about 20mins we turned around to head back towards where we had dropped in and soon after I sent up my DSMB and we were on our way back up.

 

Ken and Micah had surfaced not long before us so they were just getting picked up as we reached the surface. I had decided to try a fibre optic cable with my strobe and black out the built in flash of the camera but for some reason the strobe failed to fire so unfortunately I didn’t get any photos from this dive.

During our surface interval back at Puffin we bumped into a group of divers who had just been up to the Breda on their RIB and after their single word answer to the question “how was it?” we were glad we had made the decision to give it a miss.

The second dive of the day was to be at Heather Island, we had done a couple of dives here back in January but it is always an enjoyable dive and it would be the first dives here for Steven and Micah.

The buddy pairs were the same except Dave joined Ken and Micah on their dive. We all went in at the usual point at the north-east end of the island with the plan of heading south with the wall on our right.

With reasonable visibility again, Steven and I followed the drop off down to 20m before heading south to make our way along the wall. Even after numerous dives at this site there is still a lot to keep you interested. There really is a huge variety of life here with feather stars, squirts, numerous different sponges, sagartia anemones, dahlia anemones, white cluster anemones, and peacock worms all filling in the spaces on the rock surface. There are also lots of well decorated spider crabs and a number of different nudibranch species here.

After about 20mins of following the wall we had reached the old creel, complete with line and buoy, that marks the point at which the wall starts to disappear into a sand bank halfway along the island. We crossed the sand for a short time before Steven sent up his DSMB before we ascended. After the first dive I removed the fibre optic cable from my strobe and unblocked the built in flash so I was able to get some photos this time. Another great dive.

Just a short trip back to Puffin then the boat was recovered and thoroughly washed before being stored ready for next time. Not the best weather but it was still a nice day out, with great dives and great company.

For more photos click here, or go to the Gallery

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Dogfish(less) Reef, Loch Fyne 01/03/14

We had originally planned to dive this site back in February but the poor weather put a stop to that. So, determined to see some Dogfish (Small-spotted Catsharks) we rescheduled the dive for the next day that everyone was available. Apparently they are at their highest numbers here in early spring so we were still hopeful that we would be able to find some.

Last year a few of us from DSAC did make it over in February and had a couple of really nice dives. This site is not only good for finding Dogfish but it also has a nice easy entry/exit, is easy to navigate, and has a huge variety of other life.

Alistair and Micah arrived on site first followed soon after by Gordon and I. As the gate down to the shore is now locked we had to use the car park near the houses which meant a slightly longer walk down to the shore with your kit but it’s not that bad really.

Alistair and Micah were in first and had an enjoyable dive, reporting reasonable visibility and lots of life on the rocky slope, but no Dogfish. Gordon and I were in next and followed the concrete blocks near the entry point down to 26m before turning left and heading north up the loch with the rock slope on our left. Gordon was trying out a new camera and strobe set up so we just made our way slowly along the slope taking lots of photos and hunting for Dogfish.

The covering of sea loch anemones is really impressive at this site along with the variety of sea squirts and sponges. There were also a lot of feisty squat lobsters, spiny starfish, soft corals, greater spider crabs, and a couple of different species of nudibranchs to be found. All of this life makes for a really nice dive. However, we only managed to spot a single Dogfish and it was well hidden in amongst the rocks so we couldn’t even get a photo of it. After about 20mins we turned around and slowly ascended the slope on the way back to the exit point (clearly marked by the concrete blocks) for our safety stop before exiting.

 

The second dives of the day were much the same as the first with Alistair and Micah descending down to 30m on the slope to find an unusual gathering of gnomes at the bottom! I’m sure they weren’t there last year! On our dive, Gordon and I followed almost the same profile as the first but didn’t stay at 26m for as long and spent more time at around 15m on the slope where we found a couple of nice nudibranchs (Tritonia lineata & Limacia clavigera). Neither buddy pair spotted any Dogfish on the second dives. Perhaps we were just a bit too late this year.

  

Although disappointed at the lack of Dogfish the day wasn’t a total bust as this is still an interesting dive with a great variety of life to see.

For more pictures click here or go to the Gallery

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