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.
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.
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.
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.
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.