Farne Islands 2021
by Keith Waugh
25th September 2021
We had been looking forward to it for several months and finally the weekend had arrived. The Clydebank Sub aqua Club annual trip to the Farne Islands, organised by our very own entrepreneur, Niall Brittain.
Several members of the party had arranged to make it a family weekend, and booked accommodation in the Seahouses area. One member, John Kerr, hand cast a spell over his wife and managed to persuade her to go camping!!!!
Fortunately the weather forecast looked fairly promising, with light SW winds and sunshine and a high of perhaps 22 degrees C. For late September this was quite remarkable. Niall had a bit of "black magic" to perform, as the make up of the final party had to change slightly, owing to various work issues for some people and a not too serious Covid issue for another. However, the final party consisted of Niall (the big cheese) Brittain, John & Michelle Morgan, John Kerr, Gordon Anderson, Neil Richardson, Martin Keeley, Yvonne Carruthers, Alan Dorricott, Craig Muirhead and myself.
"Ropes off" was scheduled for 1400 on 25th September, which actually turned out to be around 1425. However, we made good progress and arrived at our first dive site, Big Harcar and hit the water just at 3pm.
With a water temperature of 13 degrees C, it was almost warm enough to dive in a wet suit!! Perhaps next time!! Unfortunately the underwater visibility was not quite so pleasing. There had been a few moderately rough days prior to our trip and this had reduced the underwater visibility to around 5-6metres.
Not to worry, it is what it is and it wasn't too long before Gordon (my buddy) and I started to see a few seals. On the first dive I had about 18 sightings, but many of the sightings would probably have been of the same seal. The underwater terrain consists of cliff walls covered in waving kelp, with soft corals, anemones and sea urchins with numerous crabs and a few lobsters lurking between the boulders. There were several outcrops of small reefs rising to just below the surface, again covered in similar life to the main reef walls. The terrain was all very similar to Eyemouth and St Abbs. Not surprising, since we were just a short distance further south. Everyone else enjoyed similar experiences.
Back aboard "Serenity 2" we enjoyed a welcome cup of tea or coffee to wash down the lunch which everyone had brought with them.
An hour and a half later and our skipper, Andrew, was looking around for a 2nd safe diving site. The sea was beginning to "get up", with waves crashing over the reefs in some places. We settled on "The Hopper" on Longstone. Most of us had dived here previously, but it is always a good site with the reef wall dropping to around 25metres and covered with life. There are a few channels which take you to the other side of the reef. We were warned not to venture through the channels as the skipper could not risk endangering the boat to pick us up, so it would most definitely mean we had to swim back to the outer side of the reef. Warning duly noted!!! Plenty soft corals, and anemones on the walls and a few fish around. Sadly the light was beginning to fade, as it was now around 6pm, but still a brilliant site.
Everyone enjoyed the day, especially since the sea was not so rough that anyone turned green!! Thanks to Niall for organising the trip and we all look forward to September 2022, when we hope to do it all again, hopefully with a little better visibility!
All photos are screenshots from video
Choppy Waters in the Sound of Mull
Text & Photos by Keith Waugh & John Kerr
The long awaited Lochaline weekend, affectionately known as “Choppy Waters 2021” was finally upon us, despite the trials and tribulations of the Covid disruptions and devastations. Most party members were travelling to Lochaline during the course of Friday. John Kerr and I left Clydebank promptly with the intention of breaking the journey at Glencoe village for a dive at Manse Point. We were joined by Gordon and Neil.
Manse point requires a certain amount of care owing to the tides, but the wall just to the west of the point is spectacular, dropping almost vertically to 30 metres, with a fairly steep sandy/muddy slope beyond. The wall is covered in still life ranging from hydroid, to fanworms and some soft corals. The top of the reef is a mass of writhing Brittlestars. A little disappointingly not that many larger fish such as Ballan Wrasse or Pollock, though numerous small fish such as Gobies and the usual Squat lobsters and Shore crabs.
Onwards then to the Corran Ferry and the final 30 miles push to Lochaline. Having checked in at the Morven Diving Lodge and unloaded our overnight bags and food packs, we headed down to the old Lochaline Pier. Most of the rest of the group had turned so it was a mass “dive in” at the east side cliff face.
With low water around 16:30, it meant a stagger in full equipment down the short but steep shoreline path, across the sandy bay and finally relieve the weight with a plunge in to the shallows. A short swim took us to “edge of oblivion”!!! The Lochaline wall drops sheer to around 60 metres. As we descended in to the green depths, down a wall which really is vertical, you have a sense of the need for good buoyancy control!! The wall is a mass of soft corals, hydroids, small Vase sponges, anemones, fanworms. The occasional Pollock or Ballan Wrasse swam by.
Saturday morning saw us down at the pier for an 08:30 “ropes off” and heading up the Sound of Mull for our 1st boat dive at Auliston Point, which is actually just inside the entrance to Loch Sunnart. This site has to be one of the best wall dives in Scotland, even though it bottoms out at around 30 metres. Conditions were almost flat calm, so Malcolm, our skipper on “Peregrine” was able to manoeuvre the boat right in to the cliff wall to drop us in to the water. The main feature of this life covered vertical wall is the profusion of Redfingers. There are also large numbers of Plumose anemones, Devonshire Cupcorals and Dead Men’s Fingers (Alcyonium digitatum). On the bottom there were shoals of small codling or perhaps young Saith. All very colourful and photogenic.
After a lunch break in sunny Tobermory it was off to one of the best (in my opinion) dives in Scotland. The wreck of the SS Hispania. The ship lies across the prevailing currents in approximately 25-30 metres depth. When she first sank in 1954, she was almost upright pointing towards the Mull shore. However, over the years the strong currents have gradually given her a pronounced list to starboard. Consequently, despite the skills and knowledge of skipper Malcolm, we had to wait around 40 minutes more than predicted before the currents were finally slack enough for diving. Even then there was still a bit of current with which to cope. Nevertheless, it was worth it. The shot line took us to the bridge area, where John and I could descend to the seabed and make our way to the stern. As we dropped down, we could see the golden colour provided by the mass of orange Plumose anemones covering the wreck. The shallower parts of the superstructure and decks were covered in red seaweeds waving in the current. Arriving at the stern the prop shaft was covered in Dead Men’s finger soft corals making for a good video sequence with John in the background. The hull was completely covered in yellow, white and orange plumose anemones. The decks, spars, masts and collapsed superstructure were similarly covered. Quite a few Ballan Wrasse and large Pollock called the Hispania home. Some of them were relaxed enough to be photographed and video’d. The underwater light and visibility must have been around 15 metres. A truly brilliant and memorable dive!!
Day 2 and John Kerr writes:
It was Sunday, the last day of our 2021 “Choppy Waters” sojourn, the touch of sadness as we left the Morven dive lodge for the last time (the lodge having been sold) being quickly dispelled with four of a +20 pod of dolphins joining us briefly for some entertainment in the bow wave of the Peregrine as we headed to Calve Island for our 1st dive of the day.
Quickly kitting up, with no tide to worry about we couldn’t wait to drop in to what has to be one of the best wall dives in the sound (well maybe Auliston Point gives it a serious run for its money in my opinion) – we were not to be disappointed, - +10mtrs visibility, 14 deg C , Ballan & Cuckoo wrasse, the Devonshire cup corals, Deadman’s fingers and the Red fingers (Alcyonium glomeratum – for those interested) bringing pure delight to the visionary senses – my favourite though had to be the Leopard Spotted Goby who sat quite contentedly as we floated by 😊
A surface interval spent fishing for the White-Tailed Sea Eagles, who we hoped would join us prior to our departure, quickly flew past and we were ready for our last dive of the weekend. The SS Shuna, sank on the 8th May 1913 whilst on passage from Glasgow to Gothenburg with a cargo of coal and lying in 32mtrs of water (25 to the main deck). A complete contrast to the Hispania, the weaker tidal currents allowing the build-up of silt which can quickly reduce the visibility if not careful but none the less a wonderful dive. The wreck is almost completely intact, inhabited with Pollack, Wrasse and the occasional Cod with the deck, deck machinery external hull dusted with Devonshire cup corals, Plumose anemones and red fingers – a truly great way to finish the weekend. We had the attendance of the two sea eagles for a light bite of freshly caught mackerel to top the off the fantastic weekend.
The weekend was a huge success with plenty of banter, “crack” and humour, but THAT is DEFINITELY another story!!! Thanks to Martin Keeley for organising the trip and to the party members: Gordon Anderson, John Kerr, John Morgan, Michelle Morgan, Neil Richardson, David Richford, Andrew Sinclair, David Struthers, Keith Waugh. Finally, thanks to Malcolm (Cameron McNeill), skipper of “Peregrine” for his skill and knowledge of the choppy waters of the Sound of Mull.
Small isles make a big impression…. again. July 2021
by Andrew Sinclair
Thursday 19th September 2014 was the day I set off for the small isles trip with the now infamous Simon Excely trip onboard Fyne Pioneer. The Small isles had left a big impression me and I had been keen to organise the same trip for the club, however, some who doubted our club boat could manage such a trip, possibly lack of experience on my part and family commitment had gotten in the way of these fantastic dive sites situated 14 miles off the west coast mainland.
Fast forward almost 7 years and all the ingredients were coming together nicely. A like minded group of people who were keen for adventure, high pressure sitting over the west of Scotland for 10 days or so and 6 years of experience for myself piloting fast rescue crafts in the middle of the North Sea in conditions that most would only see on deadliest catch, the time was right to get back out to the Small isles.
I had planned to set off from Mallaig, however, a local source had told me that local fishermen and fishing Vessels use the slip and it can be covered in lobster post and fishing gear. Mallaig Harbour hadn’t replied to any of my emails or return any of my calls so I looked elsewhere.
Arisaig Marine in Arisaig had been extremely helpful when I called. Information regarding the slip, keeping the boat and trailer overnight and relatively low cost of launch and recovery was given to me on the first call. Information of how to navigate the almost 5km channel was also provided. That fact that Arasaig was closer to the small isles than Mallaig was the deciding factor as to where I would launch from.
Martin Keeley likes his weekends away and holds platinum membership with booking.com so I left it to him to find a trendy base for our operations. Martin booked us into the Morar hotel across the bay from the silver sands of Morar. With Martin’s platinum membership we were able to cancel our accommodation with only 7 days notice. With all this set in place in late may all that was left to do was wait.
Wednesday 15th of July to Friday 17th July I spent most of my day spot checking different weather apps u til finally 1 week before our trip the dive party agreed that the high pressure moving in over the west of Scotland looked favorable and we were a go for the trip.
Friday 23rd July we set off from Clydebank around 2pm. A long drive up the A82 then onto A830 after Fort William had us in Arasaig by 18:30. Boat dropped off at Marina we then headed to hotel for some light refreshments and dinner. John & Michelle Morgan had followed me up as I was towing the club boat. Martin Keeley has arrived at hotel just before us and checked us all in. Neil Richardson arrived a little latter. It was great to be sitting in the sun enjoying drinks again, the last 16 months of covid had had an impact on most and it wasn’t until I was sat there In the moment that I realised that I had missed this and that I really needed the trip away with friends.
We woke round 08:00 on Saturday and headed straight to the marina. We quickly launched the boat as the tide was falling. We then tides up to the small pontoon in deeper water and made good use of the café at the marina for breakfast.
Once the boat was loaded with all the dive gear we made the careful voyage down the channel out to open sea. It certainly was a challenge at low tide with only 1.5m clearance at times,However, safely navigate we were out onto open water and it was a 20 minute ride across the sound of Eigg where we arrived at our first dive site.Eigg wall lies on the east side of Eigg below steep cliffs and green fields above. The topography below the water line mirrors the cliffs above and it’s a brilliant dive. I was Ken for the others in the group to get in and experience what I had back in 2014.
Martin and Neil dropped in first. The water was calm and still, bright sun in the blue sky and a surface temperature of 26 degrees. It was almost perfect. We were diving on spring tides so I had taken the time to look up tidal flow in the area for the weekends by hour. We followed the guys bubbles and after around 50 minutes the guys surfaced. They had drifted a fair bit south. When we picked them up both had told us I had dropped them on a steep wall but it bottomed out to sand where huge scallops lay in their hundreds. They didn't hit the wall until around 20 minutes into the dive. OOPS!!!! A quick change of Coxswain and it was my turn to head in with John and Michelle. We re-checked the sounder and selected a spot a little further south from where we had dropped the other guys in.
We gathered on the surface and dropped down onto the kelp at 5m, a little fin east and we were quickly dropping over the ledge and down onto the wall. Straight down to 34m where the wall started to angle off on a boulder slope. Visibility was around 5m at best due to a lot of plankton in the water. There was no need for torches to be on even at 34m.
The wall itself was impressive, Covered in various soft corals such as plumose anemones, dead mens fingers, Devonshire cup corals, Jewel anemones etc. Fish life on the wall was also very impressive. We saw lots of different species all huge in size. Male and Female Cukoo wrasse, Ballan Wrasse, the odd large cod at the bottom of the wall. I have to mention the shoal of Pollock that we came across, easily 40-50 of them swimming past us and didn’t seem bothered. Some of the biggest Pollock I have seen in my years underwater.
The topography of the wall is interesting with lots of nooks and crannies to explore in. There are sharp cuts into the wall that mirror the cliffs above. Wed rifted in the gentle current making our way up the wall and enjoying the dive. After 48 mins it was time to send up the SMB and head to the surface. Both Jon and Michelle had commented what a great dive it had been so mission accomplished on my part. We headed into Eigg harbor for a quick spot of lunch and to tell tales of the dive.
After lunch we changed kit and took the 4.5-mile crossing over the sound of Eigg to the isle of Muck. I was fortunate enough to dive 3 sites on Muck back in 2014. The Windmills on the south east side of the island stood out for me and I hoped I could remember where the entry point was. I spent a bit of time on the boat over 2 different entry points checking the sounder and again, it was over to Martin and Neil to jump in first. After some debate they opted for their chosen entry point. Unfortunately, after 50 minutes they again came up telling us of tales of sandy bottom and Large Scallops. They had drifted a huge distance this time and they told of a strong current which was to be expected before the dive.
Michelle, John and myself opted to dive the other site we had checked out and it did not disappoint. An excellent wall dive that boulderer off at 30 meters. We were finning into a stiff current but the topography of the wall was again stunning. We were joined on the dive by beautiful soft corals, large male and female Cuckoo wrasse, Pollock, Ballen Wrasse. We spotted different species of Nudibranchs along the wall. I somehow don’t remember the dive back in 2014 being as good as the dive I was enjoying at that moment when the thought crossed my mind. Strange. We rounded a point and the current hit me straight in the face like a train. I didn’t fancy heading all the way round and Michelle indicated to turn. We finished the dive with a lovely drift dive back along the wall until finally it was time to head up. Michelle attempted to launch her SMB but the string had got caught in the reel and damaged when attempting to free it. I then attempted to launch my SMB but it jammed twice and I had to let it go to prevent me being pulled to surface (luckily the guys up to recovered it) John managed to launch his SMB and we rose up. Moral of that story is that everyone should carry and SMB on boat dives and no matter how experienced we think we are, problems can still occur.
Safely recovered and extremely impressed with the windmills we took the almost 16 miles journey across open sea to Arisaig. It had been a long day but well worth it. With the boat recovered out the water it was back to the hotel for a shower, Drinks and Dinner to swap stories and tell tales into the early hours.
Sunday had us rise a little earlier. A clear blue sky and little wind was making for an impressive day again. We launched the boat, grabbed a bit of breakfast and were out the marina by 10:30. Neil Richardson piloted the boat over today. I’m never one for hogging Coxswain duties, the More folk that can handle the boat is the more time the boat will go out. Conditions out at sea were a little lumpy to say the least, but Neil powered us through the waves expertly and we were soon back over at Eigg wall for Neil and Martin to get a taste of what they had missed the day before.
I dropped them in at our entry point from the day before. During their dive the 3 of us on the boat spoke of our disappointment due to the conditions we wouldn’t get out to dive Maxwell bank or Oberon Bank which had been the choice of our second dives. Martin and Neil had been under for 50 minutes before the SMB popped up and during that time the sea state had calmed a bit. Both divers recovered Martin and Neil were also very impressed with Eigg wall and the smiles on their face showed it.
Michelle, John and I dived the same route as the day before. A great dive and we were joined by a skinny Dogfish, looked like it was in need of a good feed. When we surfaced the sea had calmed considerably and I was beginning to think we might just get out to Maxwell bank. As time seemed to be calming the sea, we headed into Eigg harbor again to change dive tanks and have a quick bite to eat.
As we headed out the harbor the sea was down to slight swell and so it was decided. We headed out into the open channel to dive on what I would describe as the best dive I’ve ever had. John Kerr, who was not on our trip, had taken the time to input some of the dive site co-ordinates I had given him earlier in the week into the Navionics system. Much appreciated John, saved us a lot of hassle on the day.
Maxwell bank sits out in the sea between the mainland, Muck and Eigg. It covers a fair distance and is made up of multiple plateaus underwater running from south to north. The site we had chosen had an almost flat bank at 14m then quickly dropped off over a wall to 40m plus. As Neil and Martin kitted up, I studied the sounder to check I was dropping them in at the right spot. It was the least I owed them. With the Spring tides in mind and the tidal stream discussed the guys dropped in and 45 minutes later they popped up with big smiles and comments of how the dive site was the most interesting dive Neil had every competed. The topography was stunning and breathtaking.
The 3 of us were next and we quickly found ourselves on the wall. This was a different part of Maxwell bank I was diving from back in 2014 but it was equally as impressive. The grand scale of the cuts in the wall are breathtaking, Fish life is in abundance and just big. The currents are strong but as long as you stay into the wall, they are manageable. Due to the strong currents the soft coral life on Maxwell bank is unimaginable and it just look so healthy and alive. It’s hard to try to explain how good a dive this site is. After 34 minutes my computer was running close to deco so it was time to leave Maxwell bank. With a smile on my face and my SMB repaired and sent up we spent our safety stop giving high fives and fist pumps at how good the site was.
When we were safely back on the boat all divers agreed it was up there with one of the best sites in Scotland at least. Another long jaunt back to Arisaig it was time to pack up and go home happy.
A few things to note regarding the trip. Air re-fills were hard to come by so we had to take 4 tanks each as we were unable to get fills. Nearest Air station would have been in Glenuig which was too far to travel for us from our base.
A lot of planning went into this trip regarding tides, tidal steams, hazards at sites and distance calculations. A trip like this on a club Rhib needs considerable planning and some experienced Coxswains.
The type of diving we did in currents we had and the potential depths we were over can only be considered for experienced divers. Maxwell bank and Oberon bank are exposed in the middle of the sea. Eigg and Muck islands are a fair distance from the mainland. Close weather monitoring took place at all times during the weekend incase things turned for the worst.
And finally, with all the planning I put in, the trip doesn’t happen unless I had like minded adventures to join me so to Michelle & John Morgan, Martin Keeley, Neil Richardson, Many thanks for coming along for the ride and making a great weekend full of great diving, good food and drink and a hell of a craic. Its just what I needed after the past 16 month of Covid. Lets see where the next adventure will take us.
“Go big or go home” 17th October 2020
By Andrew Sinclair
"on the day" photos by Martin Keeley
Library Photos (at author’s request) by Keith Waugh
John Kerr posted on the Clydebank Whatsapp chat asking if anyone fancied diving Saturday 17th October for one final boat trip of the year. With high pressure forming over the UK, conditions were looking great for the west coast, so why not see the boating season out in style. As the saying goes, “Go big or go home”. I suggested a trip to the Garvellachs, to which 4 others on the “chat” agreed. We looked all set.
Back in June 2016 we headed to Puffin Divers with the boat to dive the wreck of the Breda, but conditions were so favourable that day, that I suggested to the crew we take a 14 mile ride down the Sound of Kerrera, then down the Firth of Lorn to dive the Garvellachs. That was an epic journey on the boat and a great day’s diving. However, owing to the lack of advance planning, we only managed 1 dive that day. This time we would be better prepared.
After many text messages between John and I and a video call, we were ready. John had done a great deal of work, checking tides, compass bearings, chart routes etc, and had even found a slip closer to the Garvellachs than Puffin Divers.
So, on Saturday 06:30, 4 divers arrived at the Club Rooms to get the boat out and set off. Unfortunately, 1 diver had called off during the night. Disappointed as we were, this left us with a little more space on the boat to kit up.
A long journey up the A82 the A83 onto Lochgilphead, then turning off on to the A816, we would find Craobh Haven 17 miles up the road.
With a quick change and the boat launched easily enough on the wide concrete slip, we moored on the pontoon and loaded Clydebank Diver. With John at the helm and myself as navigator, we were quickly out the haven and speeding down towards the Gulf of Corryvreckan. With excellent compass bearings and distance measurements it wasn’t long before we headed up the Sound of Luing and through the Grey Dogs. Soon we were across the Firth of Lorn and on the southern tip of the majestic isles that make up the Garvellachs.
John and Martin kitted up first. John has it on good authority that the site we would be diving today was a good boulder reef with lots of life. We helped the guys kit up and watch them fall back over the side. Once the guys collected themselves on the surface, they dropped down to what we were hoping would be a great dive.
With a cold wind blowing from the north and the sea state picking up a little, we waited patiently until after 55mins the first “blobby” popped up. After 3 minutes or so Martin and John appeared with the ok signal clearly given, I headed over in the boat and picked the guys up. Once onboard we discussed the dive and the report wasn’t as we had hoped. The guys had said it was an OK dive but not great. 15m vis and strong currents with an ok amount of life.
I talked it over with Davie and we opted to move sites, just around the corner onto Columba’s point, which I had dived before. John took over Coxswain duties as Davie and I kitted up. John had us in position and over we went. We planned to dive down to 34m and dive 45mins. A fantastic wall dive covered in soft corals of a variety of colours. The current was running strong and I knew we were in an eddy. Even down at 34m (bottom of the wall) the current was running.
I lead the dive with Davie behind me. At one point I had stopped to check out a cod in a crevice when Davie came off the wall to pass me and he started picking up speed like a train. A frantic fin back on to the wall and we seemed to be ok. As we approached the end of the point of the island we came to huge overhangs where the roof was covered in fan-worms, anemones, and some Deadman’s fingers. This was the point I opted to turn back and fin into the current as I felt we were being pushed against the rock face. It was a bit of an effort to get out from under the roof of the overhang. It was a tough effort finning back into the current but we were rewarded with a huge Scorpion fish, a decent sized Lobster and a number of nudibranchs plus the highlight of the dive, a small Bobtailed Squid taking shelter in a pocket on the wall.
Making our way back up the wall we turned at 14m and drifted back down the Firth of Lorn and finally I managed to launch my SMB. Back on the surface we were met by John and Martin to pick us up out the water. An excellent first dive for Davie and me.
Bad luck had struck, as during our dive John had set his gear up for his next dive and realised the tank had bled off during the drive up. Plans were changed and we opted to take our next dive as a party of 3. John took his time steering us up to the next site. We were able to have our lunch and take in the fantastic scenery. It was surprising to me the lack of boats out on the water. Working and diving in Norway I get to see, first hand, the full use of boats on the waterways every day. It always puzzles me why here in the UK we don’t get out on the sea more often!
After 90 minutes surface interval it was time to get back in the water. John has researched the Eagle’s Nest or Eagle’s drop. “Nest” for above water and “drop” for below. John gave us a good dive brief on the site and also suggested that if we got down to depth and the current was going against us, we could come up and he could put us on the wall further down, to drift the wall.
Over the side we went and met up on surface. Once everyone was composed, we dropped down together. We dropped onto a boulder reef at 10m to check all was good with the 3 of us. Both Martin and Davie had the cameras, so I was hoping I could find some good subjects to photograph. The current was going in our favour, so on we went. I had checked the sounder on the surface and I had a good bearing to come off the reef and onto the wall. After a few minutes finning the kelp parted and the reef turned onto a verticals wall, found it 😃.
As we dropped down the wall to 30metres, I could see the sea bed at around 34m. I was pleased to see the wall covered in Jewel anemones, fan worms and lots of different soft corals. A stunning array of colours all over the wall. As we moved along the wall the topography changed from a vertical wall to a rolling drop wall with overhangs and sharp features. The vis was well over 15m with almost no impurities in the water.
The current was now running against us at depth and I remember thinking that this could have been the strongest current I had ever finned against. We were surrounded by hundreds of fish, Ballan Wrasse, Pollack, male and Cuckoo Wrasse, Corkwing Wrasse, all of which helped take my mind of the effort I was putting into finning. I managed to spot a number of Lobsters, a large Conger eel and a couple of Nudi’s. I did my best to show them to the photographers, but trying to stabilise themselves in the current was proving challenging.
Eventually I turned to the guys and signalled to turn back. They both agreed and we started our ascent up the wall as we drifted back.
Finally, we came off the wall and back onto the boulder reef. I was off hunting for an Octopus but today it was not to be. The dive ended a bit flat on the kelp at 10metres, but the effort on the wall was well worth it.
Back on the boat the 3 of us agreed we would most definitely be back in the spring to dive this site on neap tides. As we delighted, John spotted 2 White-tailed Eagles above us. Heading through Dun Channuill sound we spotted a young stag up on the hill. How odd to find Stag out on these isolated islands.
John powered us across the Firth of Lorn in flat calm seas. Excitement built as we entered the Grey Dogs where the calm seas had turned to a torrent of raging currents. Martin and I both shouted at a few whirlpools larger than we cared to see. The difference in sea levels at various points was spectacular and the bubbling sea in the Grey Dogs left us imagining what the Gulf of Corryvreckan would be like at the same moment!!
Safely through it wasn’t long before we had the Haven in sight. Apart from my poor navigation and making John head into the wrong bay it was an uneventful arrival at the Haven...... well, apart from the seal that we nearly ran over, as it surfaces right in front of us and literally jumped out of the way of the boat.
Boat safely out and gear packed away there was nothing left to do but take the 2.5 hour drive back to Clydebank with BBC Radio Scotland’s “Take the Floor” blaring on the speakers.
A big thank you to John Kerr for putting in all the hard work on planning and organising. I can’t wait for the spring to get back out there.
(KW Library photos taken on the Columba's Point dive in June 2016)
THE BANKIES POST COVID19 TRY DIVE
Text & Photos by John Kerr
4th July 2020
We are back, 3 long months awaiting but with the blessing of both the FM and Jason, (our sound of reason in these unprecedented times), the travel restriction for leisure has been lifted. Seven intrepid Clydebank Scotsac members taking advantage of this headed off following a 0700hrs start to St Catherines, Loch Fyne, the logic being that with the early hours and large car parking space available we could both beat the rush and comply with the latest government guidelines. The drive through Arrochar and over “the rest and be thankful” was greeted with astonishment, the car parks were already fairly full as the early birds headed off to the hills, were we to be greeted with the same at St Cats ?.
The gods were with us, the weather was kind and there was plenty of car parking space, with only four cars beating us to our quest. Surprisingly there was no other divers, we were the last to arrive.
We kitted up with excitement and some thought, how did all of this stuff work, was the cry as we again familiarized ourselves with the equipment which had been locked down in storage during these dark months.
With Niall providing shore cover due to a last minute dental problem that our resident dentist (Gerry) couldn’t even fix, we set off in two parties. Brian, Gerry and Shaz leading the charge who were quickly followed by Davie, Martin and myself. The buddy checks possibly taking just that bit longer as we went through our paces – our BDO would have been proud of us.
Our party set off to find the boat before heading back on to the reef. Two dives later we still didn’t find it (did somebody move it during the lockdown) but the reef didn’t disappoint. Lots of the usual critters scurrying around wondering where all of these bubble making intruders had come from. The lesser spotted dogfish (never missing the opportunity for a photo shot), the long squat lobster’s (whose lunch of crab I rudely interrupted), the unusual sight (fore me anyway) of the Norway lobster working its way among the rocks, as well as many of the usual suspects kept us fully entertained for the full 61 minutes of our first dive. The balmy water temp of 13 Deg C at the safety stop helped – it certainly wasn’t that back in March when we had our last dives. Brrrr., cold just thinking about it.
The surface interval passed quickly as the banter flew fast and furious with us all catching up on what had been going on over these months, before the midges who had clearly been rationed on their usual diving community food source drove us back in for our 2nd dive. The highlight for me in this being the simple Moon (or Common) jellyfish (Aurelia aurita if you really want to know) working its way along the reef. It really is great to be back !!