The weekend of the 13/14th April was our club’s annual Ocean Diver training weekend in Oban at the Puffin Dive Centre. Being the first trip of the year it is always a well-attended weekend as it is not only a good opportunity for training but also to do some of the great boat dives in the area off the club RHIB, or just a enjoy a weekend away with friends. This year was no different, along with 1 Ocean Diver trainee and 1 qualified Ocean Diver doing his first cold water dives we also had divers hoping to get some Dive Leader training and plenty to fill the boat. Although the forecast wasn’t looking great for the weekend (particularly Sunday) everyone was still looking forward to it.
Everyone made their way over to Oban at various times on Friday depending on work etc with most arriving late afternoon. Ken, Nick, and I arrived first with the boat and while waiting for everyone else to arrive Ken and I decided to go for a dive in the bay at the dive centre with Nick kindly offering to be our shore cover. There was a lot of life to see on this dive, peacock worms, greater pipefish, long-legged spider crabs, hermit crabs, long-clawed squat lobsters, the odd solitary plumose anemone, a couple of Flabellina lineata nudibranchs, pink-spotted sea cucumbers, and a nice Megalomma vesiculosum fan worm which was a new one for me. This was a really nice dive with visibility not far off 10m so conditions were looking good for the evening’s planned night dive.
A few hours later, once everyone else had arrived those who were doing a night dive started to get ready. Armed with torches, backup torches, and glow sticks Ken and I were first in at about 20:30, just as it was starting to get dark. We encountered much of the same life as the first dive although there were a lot more squat lobsters out in the open and a couple of butterfish that had ventured out in the dark. As we headed deeper down the slope of the bay we noticed the current starting to get stronger and by the time we got to 15m it was quite strong, we decided to turn around here to avoid ending up at the Kerrera ferry terminal. Unfortunately the other buddy pairs who entered the water just after us (Alistair/Callum, Sandra/Jan/Jen) reported that the current was noticeable much shallower and getting stronger so they didn’t venture as far out.
Friday evening was spent in the chalets socialising with a few drinks (although nobody opened fine wines that came with the chalets!) and planning Saturday’s dives.
It was an early(ish) start on Saturday with everyone meeting up at 09:30 to finalise the plans for the day. Scott and Steve were going to be taken through their open water training with Graham in the bay at Puffin, joined by Alistair and Jan doing Dive Leader Training, along with Jen and Gillian doing a couple of shore dives. The rest of us were going to head out on the RHIB, the original plan was to dive the wreck of the Breda in the morning followed by a wall dive later on but this changed when we found out a large party of around 20 divers were off to dive the Breda from Puffin. Instead we opted to dive Ard Na Cuile first followed by the east side of Heather Island.
Ard Na Cuile is just a short trip South of Puffin and is a great dive that alternates between rocky slope and sheer walls as you head along the cliff face, we decided to enter at the northern end and head south with the wall on our left. Each buddy pair reported good dives with lots of life to be found on the walls, with the most to be found going along at around 15m. The wall is home to numerous feather stars of various colours, dahlia anemones, sagartia anemones, various squirts, devonshire cup corals, squat lobsters, and edible crabs. There is also a lot to be found on and in-between the kelp which grows down to about 12m, with dead man’s fingers, various sponges, and nudibranchs (Ken and I came across a Eubranchus farrani and Polycera quadrilineata on the same kelp frond) making it their home.
During our surface interval we stopped off back at Puffin to get some lunch, fill tanks, and catch up with everyone else diving in the bay.
Scott and Steve had progressed through their open water exercises and were enjoying being in open water despite the 7°C water temp!
Soon enough we were back on the boat and heading for Heather Island, the best dive on the island is the wall on the East side. Once we figured out which way the current was heading (on the surface at least) we decided to start our dives about half way up the length of the island and head north along the wall.
Ken and I were first in again, followed by Nick/Ingo, Sandra/Micah, then Wendy & Callum and again everyone reported good dives although Nick and Ingo must have dropped in at a slightly different spot and found themselves fighting against the drift and ended up heading south down the island but still enjoyed their dive. There was loads of life to be found on this dive as well with carpets of feather stars, various sponges, squirts, devonshire cup corals, and loads more nudibranchs! There is also an impressive cliff face of huge peacock worms that turns into an overhang as you approach the cave that is on this part of the island. The visibility was good again, maybe even slightly better than the first dive which allowed for a good view of the wall above and disappearing below. The southerly wind had been slowly building all day, as forecasted, but luckily surface conditions had remained good making for a really pleasant day’s diving.
Those diving in the bay had a successful day too with Ocean Diver and Dive Leader training going well. A nice curry at the Coriander Indian in Oban was a great way to finish of the day, with a few deciding to stay out a bit later and sample the exciting Oban nightlife!
The wind had really picked up by Sunday morning with the sea conditions starting to look a bit dodgy further out and as most people were hoping to get away by 12ish we decided not to launch the boat and head for home a bit earlier. I think everyone had enjoyed the previous day’s diving and accomplished everything they wanted to so were quite happy to leave a bit earlier.
Thanks to Jen for organising a great weekend and well done to our new Ocean Divers for getting through their open water skills.