On the 1st March we had hoped to take the club boat out to the Isle of May from Anstruther but it was obvious in the week leading up to the dive that the weather wasn’t going to be on our side. An alternative dive to St. Catherines was organised which also allowed a few people to come along who didn’t manage to sign up for the boat dive.
The site we chose goes by a couple of different names depending on where you look online, Seal Reef and St. Catherines North seem to be the most commonly used. A few members of the club had dived near the jetty in St. Catherines last year but this was the first time any of us had dived this particular site.
We had arranged to meet up on site at 09:30, Gordon, Alistair, and I arrived on time but Mark and Craig were delayed on the way and someone even managed to end up in Furnace (I won’t mention any names…yet). This changed the buddy pair plans a bit so Gordon, Alistair and I decided to go in as a 3 first while Mark and Craig provided shore cover.Upon entering the water the visibility in the shallows was practically zero, there was also a fairly strong drift, and after getting separated twice Gordon decided he’d had enough so Alistair and I continued on as a pair. After pushing through the poor vis and current down to about 6m where the steeper slope starts the visibility cleared to about 4m and the current dissapeared making conditions quite pleasant!
We followed the slope down to about 12m before turning right to head up the loch and towards the boulder reef which we soon found. Passing over the reef down to 22m we came across the armoured cable which was covered in peacock worms, hydroids, sea loch anemones, vase sponges on their tall stalks (Haliclona urceolus), and a variety of sea squirts.
The reef itself was also home to an abundance of life, with more sea loch anemones, peacock worms, spiny starfish, common urchins, and Edwardsiella carnea anemones. There also seemed to be a lot of large hermit crabs and greater spider crabs out in the open on the reef, trying to clamber away as you approached. After about 15mins exploring the reef and taking plenty of photos we started to make our way slowly back and up the slope towards the entry point finishing off our safety stop at the top of the slope before venturing back through the poor vis and current at the surface. A very pleasant and relaxing dive!
While we were in the water Veronica had arrived after her slight detour around Loch Fyne so we decided that Gordon and Mark would go in while Alistair and I completed our surface interval, meaning Alistair would buddy Craig and I would go in with Veronica on the following dives.
While Gordon and Mark were in having a nice dive the weather actually cleared slightly and in the sun we were treated to nice views across to Inveraray and the hills on the other side of the loch. The break in the weather didn’t last however, just after Alistair/Craig and Veronica and I entered the water for our dives the wind picked up and sleet started again as Gordon’s nice time-lapse video below shows (click on settings cog and select 1080HD under quality)…
Once in the water Veronica and I descended down to 10m to carry out mask clearing and AS ascents as part of her SO5 lesson. These were both performed perfectly by Veronica (well done on the mask clearing/removal in 7°C water!) before continuing to lead the dive to the reef and the cable.
We encountered much of the same life as on the first dive with lots of greater spider crabs and large hermit crabs again providing entertainment as they clambered over the rocks. This time we also came across a nice male dragonet on the mud slope and a couple of rock cook and goldsinny wrasse in amongst the tangle of peacock worm tubes on the cable.
Once we reached our turnaround point Veronica led the way back to towards the exit and up to the slope for our safety stop. We surface after a very successfully completed lesson and nice dive with a total time of 32mins, and another break in the weather.
Craig and Alistair had surfaced from their dive just before us having also had an enjoyable dive apart from a slight leak in Craig’s suit which caused him to get a little wet. These were the last dives of the day so we all got packed up while the rain was still off before heading home.
Although the weather was pretty miserable and not everyone managed 2 dives I think everyone would agree it was still a good day at a nice site. Well done to Vee for completing her SO5 lesson too.
The following week Dave, Callum, and I visited the same site, we found similar conditions and visibility and this time followed the boulder reef down to 35m. I had managed to figure out how to use the GoPro (ie. turn it on!) in the week in-between and during the dive was able to capture the video below of a few things displaying bio-fluorescence. Long-clawed squat lobsters, gas mantle squirts, devonshire cup corals, and a nice yarrell’s blenny were a few that showed up really well. I’m hoping to get some more footage and photos very soon!
(click on settings cog and select 1080HD under quality)