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

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.

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