Dive Report for Friday 1st April.
The plan was to dive on the north side of Loch Long which is a mountain range short of Loch Fyne, the object of the trip. However, the weather forecast, which had initially been excellent, had turned against us and we arrived at the Pit Stop café in Arrochar, which overlooks the dive site, to be greeted by driving rain and more whitecaps than is decent on a sheltered Loch. There had been eight divers signed up, Nia, Brett, Adrian, Andrew, Irfon, Kirk, Melanie and me, but when we met up a couple of evenings earlier to finalize plans, Melanie and Irfon turned up with respective flu and chest infections, both unsure of making the trip. A tentative Irfon made it but Melanie, who had appeared to be beyond a quick fix, had to pull out. I must say though that the view from the café was spectacular with the gullies on the mountain face across the Loch all running full. Although Andrew and co. were thought to be only 15-20 minutes behind us, having met up by chance at Shap services, they caught traffic in Glasgow and were an hour or so after us reaching the café. We were just beginning to think that they might have turned back!! Kirk had come up with the family a day or two earlier and had driven back to meet us. I was able to repay him his change from the £20 he had given me for his last sea dive with us, which he had said to give him when we next met up!! We then worked out that that had been almost 3 year's previously, the proof being his son Archie, who was a very little baby then but was now present and going on four. It was the day that Wyn got stuck recovering the rib on Morfa Nefyn beach, and Archie was sick, which meant that Kirk had to miss the recovery operation. It had also been the day he donated a blue Mares fin to my welfare fund to replace my lost yellow one, but for this trip I had upgraded to a new (to me) yellow Mares, identical to the original, which Brett had found on the beach. So I'm all smart and co-ordinated again, and Peter, the swop's off. Who says that you need e-bay!! Incidentally, it was BH Monday, 6th May 2013, the first boat dive of that season, when we had an excellent dive on the Gwynfaen, but it was still only 8 degrees, the same as now. Brett, Andrew and Peter were also there. That's just included to prove to any doubters the benefits of a dive log!! So we abandoned the plan to dive Loch Long and headed into Inveraray, where Norina made us welcome at the Bank House and we were able to promptly cross the road to drown our sorrows at the George. For those who think that this report has deviated somewhat, it is just a little difficult filling it out when you don't actually dive!
Saturday April 2nd, Anchor Point, Loch Fyne.
An Easter dive report from Scotland in recent times usually boasts temperatures in the high teens, little or no wind and sunny skies. With Easter being early, sadly this wasn’t the case this time. The torrential rains of the previous day had eased and the grey skies had abated for a while and patches of blue sky emerged as we drove the 25 mile or so trip around the loch to Anchor Point.
Temperatures struggled to reach half of what we had become accustomed to, a chilly 8 - 9˚C which made kitting up a lethargic one as the seven brave souls tentatively prepared for our first dive of the trip. Plans were drawn, briefings were brief and buddy checks were strictly adhered to as the trio of Kirk, David and Irfon led the way, followed by Andrew and Adrian with Nia and Brett bringing up the rear. The dive plan could almost have been written on the back of a cigarette packet, simply ‘Go in, swim out and turn right after you get to a depth of about 9m and you can’t miss it’. It became clear that something wasn’t quite right as after turning right, the swim to find the rock was quite a bit longer than what I remembered from previous years, it the dawned on me that someone had moved the rock!
We eventually came onto it and followed it down to 27m and then followed the second part of the plan which was to zig-zag back to shore across the lump. I still wasn’t convinced, not as impressive and not as many crags from what I remembered, I then realised that someone had swapped the rock with another one!
After we swam to shore and surfaced, the same person which had move the rock, then swapped the rock had also by now moved the shore as our entry point was nowhere to be seen.
A brief swim took us back to where the dive had started, and as I took off my mask and gazed across the loch, I saw the forest and little white house that I should have taken a bearing off – something that I had totally forgotten, so possibly the rock was still where it should be!
We ate lunch and planned the second dive, in slightly greater detail this time. There wasn’t the usual sunbathing and demonstrations of dry – stone walling skills as on previous trips, all opted to stay in their dry suits and hug mugs of coffee and cuppa soups instead.
On the second dive, the rock was found with ease and the plan was followed to the T. The vis was pretty good at around 5 – 6m and the water temperature strayed at around 8˚C. Life was plentiful, anemones, dead men’s fingers, sea fans, large wrasses and we did spot about three decent sized congers. Each hole or crevice had a large squat lobsters aggressively guarding it, they seemed to have moved into where you would expect to see a lobster, of which disappointingly, there were none.
After a successful second dive, we made the long trek back to the campsite to meet Willy and Joe to check up that all was well for the boat dive on the Sunday and to replenish our cylinders.
After a shower, a quick change and a natter with Narina at HQ, it was off to the George for beers and something to eat. We were joined be the happy (damp) campers (namely Carol, Esme, Ellie and Iola) and Kirk’s clan (Fay and the boys) for the meal. We all ate well and some opted for dessert, Irfon and Andrew opted for a ‘Guinness surprise’ which was just another pint of Guinness really. The ‘surprise’ for Andrew was that he saw the Guinness again the following morning!
Sunrday April 3rd , Stallion Rock & Kenmore point, Loch Fyne.
Well the wind was down, the rain had cleared but the Guinness was no longer down, and the lovely breakfast had to be cleared off the table after one small piece of bacon eaten followed by a apology for suffering from Georgeitis!
After the rest of us finished our hearty breakfast we went on to the caravan site to meet Joe and the hard boat.
We loaded up and set off for the infamous Stallion Rock.
The water was like a mill pond, very inviting for some!
After we found the mark on the tree ,Irfon,Kirk and David kitted up followed by Adrian and Andrew.
Then Nia and me.
Nia kitted up and jumped in ,50 metres of water under her, so I joined her as any good husband would, and did a 100metre back stroke back to the stallion. I know she is on a diet but exercise on holiday, come on.
The dive was cold, Nia still struggling with her ears but we managed to get down to 18 metres .
Their were plenty of critters on the wall, but I was disappointed in the life present, whether this was down to the silt which was present on every dive, or was it just too early in the season. We saw leopard spotted gobies, squat lobsters, a few brown crab and really good topography.
I was the only one to send up the SMB,as I had heard the boat over head.
Kirk helped us dekit as our hands were numb and I am glad to say we did not have to use the ladder .
We then had refreshments and watched Nia have the shakes, withdraw symptoms from diet coke I think.
By now the wind had freshened and a light rain was keeping us cool to say the least.
Our second dive was on Kenmore point.
I had a change of buddy on this dive as Nia was frozen, so I buddied up with David. We went down the wall, we found the gnome garden We went to a depth of 28 metres .This dive was more impressive than the stallion, I saw more life on this dive, wrasse , small haddock plumose anemone and many other filter feeders hanging on to the rock face.
At one point I thought I saw a trident sub go over head, but on closer inspection it had a twinset on,easy mistake to make I suppose.
Well done to the person suffering from Georgeitis who manned up and managed two dives.
Then it was back to the Bank House and then to the George to start all over again.
Brett,The only guy who gets away with giving his wife a shiner on holiday ,no questions asked!!!!!.
Dive Report for Monday 4th April.
We had, at some point on Friday, all been gung-ho to do at least one sea dive on Monday morning, with a possible fresh water dive in Loch Lomond (to wash the kit) to follow. But by Sunday afternoon, after two excellent day's diving only Irfon, Kirk, Andrew and Adrian were still up for it. (Brett having donated his dry suit to Adrian so that he might get at least one dry dive.) Nia and I had given in to the cold and fatigue respectively. Irfon & Kirk wanted to do Furnace quarry or the nearby café site, while Andrew and Adrian were up for the fire anemones on the mud at the campsite, but the forecast wasn't great. In the event we arose to a repeat of Friday's wind and rain, and thus after a hearty breakfast we all headed home. The rain carried on to the border at Gretna, and the rest of the journey was fine, except for a blip at Chester. All in all an excellent weekend when once again we did get lucky with the weather. My one over-riding observation though was extremely negative, i.e. how relatively few of the larger creatures, which used to be abundant, now seem to inhabit the sites we have regularly dived in Loch Fyne. E.g. no lobsters were seen and there were no congers at either Stallion Rock or Kenmore Point. Take away a few big brown crabs and the odd large wrasse or pollack and there would just be loads of small fish and crabs and of course squat lobsters. The sites were also quite silty. Could the many fish farms which move about the lochs, one of which was now located just south of Furnace, be having an effect?
Sunday 17th April.
There were only three initial takers for the offer of a morning dive but after reports of poor vis from an outing on the previous day, the numbers dwindled rather quickly.
The afternoon was to be spent at Brett's for the annual boat clean and engine service. There was a good turnout of Mike, Andrew, David, Irfon, the boat officer - Brett and the chief mechanic - Peter. All went well with the exception of the gear linkage on the engine which required a lot of tlc, but now seems to be working. Sea Wasp is now good to go but the trailer requires further attention to the brakes and drawbar - which hopefully will be seen to during the week.
A boat clean wouldn't be a boat clean without the scones so lovingly prepared by Nia. Some of us settled for one, others sneaked in a second, whilst the chief mechanic unashamedly equalled his previous best of three in one sitting
Dive Report for Wednesday 20th April
The plan had been for Criccieth but with an easterly wind forecast to get up in the afternoon we moved to Porth Ysgaden. The evening was fine and the bay looked very inviting. There were seven divers, Brett & Nia, Irfon& Dewi with me tagging along with Jake & Andrew as the dump valve in my drysuit decided to stick shut. All three pairing chose to head off down the far side of the bay in cloudy viz. of about 3 metres which gradually got murkier the further out we headed. There was not a lot of life in the shallows but it picked up markedly below the low tide mark with numerous lobsters and crabs, prawns and leopard spotted gobies seen. A few spotted a ling hiding in one of the nooks while cuttlefish and flatfish were seen on the sand. Everyone took advantage of high water to find their way back to the foot of the access road and even though the water temp. remains a stubborn 10 degrees even Dewi in his semi dry managed about 45 minutes. I inadvertently switched allegiance to Irfon & Dewi in the murk at the end of the reef, noticing my error only when I saw that one of my buddies had grown a second cylinder!! The sunset was beautiful but was overshadowed by the drama of Dewi locking his keys in his car. But with a bit of help from Brett he managed to show impressive skills to break back in. By then the evening chill of a clear night had set in so the Lion was even more welcoming than usual.