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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.