Lochaline Weekend 17-19th May 2013

After the long drive from Dundee we arrived at the Lochaline Dive Centre by late afternoon, it didn’t take long to get organised at our accommodation for the weekend. We were staying at the Old Post Office this time and there was plenty of room for Dave, Andrew, Steve, Callum, and I. We were also being joined by a number of divers from Dundee Uni SAC who were staying at the dive centre.

As it was a very pleasant evening and we had a few hours before our booked meal at the hotel Steve, Andrew, and I decided to dive the Lochaline wall with Dave kindly offering to be shore cover, unfortunately we discovered the usual path down to the beach had a new gate & padlock fitted so being that there were no logging ships around we decided to enter from the ladder on the pier.  Once we were all down the ladder and in the water safely we descended straight onto the wall and into great visibility (about 10m maybe more), from here we set off towards the beach with the wall on our left keeping to about 20m on the way. There was almost a complete covering of hydroids and feather stars on the wall with various sponges, football/lightbulb squirts, soft corals, anemones, and peacock worms dotted about in-between. After about 30 mins we started to ascend up to our 6m safety stop and found the white sand slope of the beach which was covered in burrowing anemones of various sizes and colours, from here it was an easy exit onto the sandy beach. Since we were staying at the Post Office it was only a short walk back. A great start to the weekend.

   

Later on we met up with the rest of the group at the Lochaline Hotel for a nice meal and a few drinks, we didn’t stay up too late as it was an early(ish) start planned for Saturday. The plan was to launch at 08:45 as the pier was going to be busy with other dive boats and RHIBs and the dives were to be the wrecks of the SS Hispania followed by the SS Shuna which we were all looking forward too.

Everyone was on the pier on time in the morning so we set off sharp aboard Sound Diver I on the 1hr trip up to the Hispania. We arrived slightly early so a detailed briefing on what to expect from the currents and the best direction to go on the wreck was given by the skipper, Alan.  Once kitted up we waited patiently for the indicator buoy to pop up for the perfect time to drop in. There wasn’t going to be a huge slack window due to the tides so Andrew and Dave were sent in first to check the conditions, soon enough we saw 2 tugs on the buoy and the rest of us were dropped in. Going down the shot the wreck could be seen from about 7m so there was at least 10m visibility. As mentioned in the brief there was a slight drift towards the stern so once Callum and I were settled on the wreck we went with the drift down the hull on the port side towards the rudder. From the stern we came up over the deck and had a good look around the wreck covering the whole length and going in and out a couple of the large holds. The drift had turned about half way through the dive which was perfect for taking us back to the shot, with a max depth of 25m and dive time of 37mins we managed to see most of the wreck without acquiring any additional decompression stops.

It is easy to see why the Hispania is often rated as one of the best wreck dives in Scotland. As well as being very intact and easy to explore it is covered in life, just about every inch of the hull and deck structures are covered in plumose anemones, dead man’s fingers, squirts, sponges, and hydroids while inside the holds you can find the less frequently seen red dead man’s fingers and white cluster anemones. There were also a few ballan wrasse, corkwing wrasse, and large pollack skulking about as well as loads of nudibranchs! Callum had his GoPro attached for this dive, check out the video below.

While cylinders were refilled by Gary we spent our surface interval in Tobermory, after a fish supper on the pier it was even warm enough for an ice cream from the chocolate shop! Soon enough we were back on board on our way to the Shuna.  There was a slight swell crossing the middle of the Sound but not too bad. On the way Alan advised that since the Shuna is a silty wreck if lots of other boats were diving or had just dived there it will be worth waiting a while or even just heading elsewhere instead so our backup was to be the Rondo.

When we arrived, Sound diver II and 1 other RHIB were just leaving so we decided to wait about 30 minutes before entering. The wait was worthwhile and we were treated to good vis again, maybe just under 10m this time. There wasn’t much current to speak of on this dive and I think most people followed a similar profile, visiting the stern with prop still in place at about 32m first then exploring the rest of the wreck. The Shuna is a very intact wreck with lots of structure still present on the deck and while it doesn’t have the same covering of life as the Hispania it is still a very interesting and atmospheric dive. There was still lots of life to be seen though, the stern is covered in sagartia sp. anemones and peacock tube worms with the rest of the hull home to various squirts, devonshire cup corals, red dead man’s fingers, a couple of small northern sea fans, and lots more nudibranchs to be found also. Callum and I enjoyed a nice 32 minute dive, again with no extra decompression stops while those with additional decompression gas mixes could afford to spend a bit longer on the wreck. A great day’s diving in the Sound with everyone reporting great dives.

   

On the way back to Lochaline we discussed Sunday’s diving options, the forecast was looking great with 5mph winds and clear skies so the general consensus was to try and leave the sound for something a bit different. One of the ideas was Bo Fascadale then a wall dive off Muck which everyone agreed was a great idea. The evening was spent with another nice meal in the hotel with a couple of drinks followed by an early night as it was a 08:00 launch in the morning.

We woke to great conditions on the Sunday so with only a few cylinders to load onto the boat we were soon on the 2 ½ hr journey towards Bo Fascadale. None of us from DSAC had dived Bo Fascadale before, it lies a couple miles to the north off the Ardnamurchan peninsula and it is an underwater pinnacle that rises up from the seabed at around 60m to just a few metres below the surface and there are a number of reports that rate it as one of the best wall dives in Scotland. Needless to say we were all looking forward to the day’s dives.

Conditions were great on the trip out, with flat calm seas and great views of the Ardnamurchan peninsula and the Small Isles. Once at the site, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there was no indication of what lay below us. Alan gave another detailed briefing, drop down the shot to about 10m then head east, drop over wall then keep wall on left, simple. Soon enough, after a slight issue with a drysuit hose, Callum and I were in the water and following a spectacular wall covered in range of anemones (patches of colourful jewel anemones, dahlia anemones, plumose anemones, various sagartia anemones) devonshire cup corals, dead man’s fingers, red dead man’s fingers, loads of (huge) sponges, and various squirts, there was hardly an inch of bare rock. The numerous crevices and cracks were inhabited by squat lobsters and edible crabs, near the top various seaweeds and kelps took over the rocks which were home to long-legged spider crabs as well as a variety of nudibranchs. Visibility was great, easily over 10m at some points, torches weren’t really necessary even at 32m. We had spent most of the dive at around 20m so after 35mins it was sadly time to make our way up so Callum sent up his DSMB and we headed up. Dave and Andrew took Callum’s GoPro this time and got a great video of their dive.

Once everyone was back on board and discussing the great dive we had just had we started to make our way over to the Isle of Muck for a quick stop off during our surface interval and to give Gary a bit more time to top up the twinsets. On the way a few were lucky to spot a brief glimpse of an unidentified whale but sadly it wasn’t to be seen again. A brief stop on Muck was enough for a short walk to the end of the bay and a quick visit to the “gift shop”.

The second dive, just a few mins round the east side of Muck, was a wall known as windmills due to a pair of windmills that used to be present on this side of the island. Gary dropped the shot line in and after a quick brief we were on our way in. This was another great wall dive, the vis was slightly down on this dive but still clear enough to get clear views of the wall which was carpeted in jewel anemones, plumose anemones, soft corals, squirts, loads of devonshire cup corals. There were also sea cucumbers sticking their tree-like feeding arms out of cracks in the wall which I have never seen before.

As described in the brief we reached a steep sandy slope which runs down between 2 walls. After crossing this, with Callum collecting a few scallops on the way, we were running out of no stop time so headed a bit shallower before sending up DSMB to surface. We weren’t the only ones that had discovered the scallops with others collecting a good haul. The long trip back to Lochaline gave us plenty of time to discuss the day’s diving, it’s not very often you get the chance to dive sites like Bo Fascadale and Muck. It was still fairly calm on the way back but the cloud was starting to settle a bit and it was cooling down slightly. We were back at Lochaline for the predicted time of 16:30 so quickly got the cars loaded and headed for home.

   

I think everyone will agree that it was a fantastic weekend with some real quality dives, and great company, it was great to dive with members of DUSAC again. Thanks to Andrew for organising and to Alan and Gary on Sound Diver I who were a great team.

For more photos check the gallery or here.

JamesL

About JamesL

I was instantly hooked on diving after doing a Trydive with DSAC in Sep 2009 and have loved diving all over Scotland ever since. I have always had a keen interest in marine biology and more recently underwater photography which allows me to record and ID the huge variety of life to be found in Scottish waters. [latestdive user="jamesL"]
This entry was posted in Trip Reports, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.