Author Archives: westyorkshirediver

Diving off Portland – June 2014

Just returned from our excellent excursion to Portland to dive with Skindeep Diving Weymouth. Len, our admirable skipper, gave us the best dive sites we could ask for given the relatively poor underwater visibility. Maggie gave us cups of team, support and encouragement.

We stayed in the ‘Bunker’. A ten minute walk from the Marina and just across the road from Chesil Beach and convenient hostelries.

The weather was glorious. Shorts were the standard dress code (not just for Steve).DSCF3250 DSCF3251 DSCF3253

Over three days we managed four lumps of metal – The M2, James Fennell, St Dunstan and Black Hawk (bow) and 3 drifts. The viz on the M2 and St Dunstan was disappointing at about a metre driven by the recent poor weather and a lot of plankton (good news for the fishes !).  The shallower drifts all had better viz at up to 5m. The first started with the scattered wreckage of the James Fennell and merged into a nice sedate drift. The drift to Portland head was a little more exciting especially for those going shallow. There was plenty of life to glimpse on the way.

The dive of the weekend was undoubtedly the Black Hawk. Scattered wreckage creating wonderful shapes emerging from the sand and gravel ridges. Teeming with life. All kinds of beautiful Wrasse including male cuckoos, large Tompots and Bib of all shapes and sizes (including huge), Pollack and sightings of parts of Congers. Lots of crabs of varying persuasions -including spiders and huge edibles. Some very pretty irridescent lobster. This must a be a truly awesome wreck in better visibility.

Our Barbi on Chesil Beach was undoubtedly the catering success of the weekend. Watching the sunset into the distant coastline.

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2015-06-15 10.52.52 2015-06-15 10.21.28 2015-06-14 19.22.39 2015-06-13 21.28.36

 

Thank you to Emma, Steve and Paul for the additional photos

 

 

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Sound of Mull – Oban 2014

Final instructions from the ‘director designate’ at T -7 days. Forecast was exceptional, flat calm and high pressure. Much to our surprise the communication was every (wo)man for themselves for catering on Thursday evening. After many complaints this was rescinded and our chef Sorrel was confirmed to be catering for us for everything.

Lots of grumpy early morning divers as it was an early start getting up at 5:30am for our trek to Oban. A breakfast stop at Westmorland (Tebay) was mandatory for the majority. We powered through Glasgow to get to Dunstaffnage Marina  by 12.00. The rain was relentless as we unloaded the cars to the boat moored at the farthest pontoon. A few prematurely sodden divers.

We departed the marina and headed for The Breda, 30 minutes away. Lots of excited buddy checks took place as we entered a flat calm sea to do our first dive. Jill had a free flow and her regs froze so had to go back on the boat for a refill and a defrost whilst Karl and Matt waited patiently in the rather cold water. The wreck was a little silty especially at the bottom of the shot line but vis improved to around 3m further into the dive. Post dive snack was a delicious triple layer raspberry cake (courtesy of Jill – way to go Jill !!!).

Onto a long steam up the Sound to Tobermory for our long standing appointment at the Mishnish. We had tea before we went out, a lovely feast of mustard pork, potatoes and kale followed by rice pudding with raisins. We went out for a leg stretch to the Mishnish and had a couple of rounds but tiredness had got to many and an early night was suggested by one and agreed by all! It turned out that the only opportunity to see the Northern Lights was missed (although it was cloudy and raining heavily in that part of the British Isles).

DSCF6744 DSCF6749 DSCF6750A leisurely start and porridge for breakfast we headed for the Hispania. A lovely wreck with lots of swim throughs and exceptionally colourful with life. It was a bit dark, viz ok but not great. A light luncheon of soup and bread and we had to decide whether to head for Coll / Tiree or stay in the Sound of Mull. We decided to stay in the sound as the forecast was variable. So time for a quick snooze before heading off to dive the Shuna. On the wreck we could clearly see the boilers, block and spare prop and we all managed a round trip dive to see the whole wreck. Some divers headed over the gunwhale down to 30m to see the prop and stern. It was beautiful but was well worth a look.

Staying in the Sound had the additional advantage of the Yard Arm time arriving early (pre-dinner drinks!) Richard had confirmation of his new job and we were out to celebrate so we headed to MacGoggans but under strict instructions to be back at 6pm for dinner. Richard kindly bought some champagne and we had a toast.

As we were in Scotland it was the mandatory Macsween’s haggis, neeps and tatties followed by scrumptious apple crumble with custard, although some fools had it with crème fresh. The evening continued for some as we headed back out to MacGoggans with the crew for some post dive drinks. Some ‘partied hard’ into the evening and return to the Mishnish but most went to bed. The main challenge to returning to the boat was the extra icy pontoon (not to be attempted on your own !).

Saturday morning was a visit to the Rondo. It is a wreck lying almost vertical against the rocks. The viz was ok and it was a little difficult to find the swim throughs but as people came back up the shot that got a little crowded. We then dived the Thesis. There was a little tide running and Huw and Syd had to make a swim for it as they missed the buoy. Lovely wreck, a traditional steam ship with boiler and bits. The bow plates are removed and make the view from inside and outside of the ship very atmospheric. Great viz, an excellent dive with Sea Eagle’s waiting to greet us on surfacing.

We harboured at Lochaline and whilst we waited for dinner we discovered how much we ‘didn’t know’ by doing a group effort at Jill’s quiz book. We then had an epic supper of Morroccan lamb and couscous followed by chocolate pudding, that was to die for. The weather was appalling and we decided to stay on board and we had a huge game of Yatzee. Eventually the skipper said the crew were heading to the pub and a hardy few divers decided to join them. It was very wet and very windy but we made it to the pub by walking through the silica mine grounds. We all had to ‘sign in’ to get a drink as it is a community pub. We only managed a couple of rounds before the rain stopped and we headed back to the boat for another early night.

Sunday was our last day and an early start was requested. We dived the Lochaline Wall. It was a lovely wall dive where you could pick your depth. Some took the advantage and did some depth progression. There was lots of life, Ray and Syd saw a cephlapod, Sorrel saw a dogfish, lots of squat lobsters, leopard spotted gobies and there were other fish hiding in the crevices. The wall is particularly picturesque with the life crowding the purple granite. There was another Sea Eagle watching us as we emerged at the surface.

The last dive was the Breda again but a couple of people blobbed. They missed a wonderful dive with excellent viz, much better than the first dive. It was full of life and the holds were fab. We could actually see the tiles and tyres which Bob had talked about during his dive briefing. A great last dive and time to pack up and leave. This was done quickly however it was discovered an hour into the journey that we had left several items and one car had to head back to the MV Halton to collect them. Not an ideal end but a wonderful dive trip with excellent diving and great people.

Our thanks go to Richard Ward, our trip organiser. Bob, our skipper, his memorable dive briefings and excellent skippering to drop us in the right place, and ensure our more mature members of the club don’t have too far to swim at the end of the dive. Sorrell, our wonderful chef, diving buddy and drinking partner. Liam and Teresa our very attentive deck hands who provided hot drinks instantly after our dives. Already booked again for 2015 !

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Trip Report Northern Ireland – 2013

DSCF6640DSCF6576 DSCF6636 DSCF6633 DSCF6608 DSCF6598 DSCF6589 DSCF6584 DSCF6583 DSCF6579  DSCF6573 DSCF6566 DSCF6561 DSCF6540 DSCF6519A fantastic week aboard the live-aboard MV Salutay with Norsemaid Charters – Al and Freda.

An altogether unpromising forecast for the week saw us driving to Stranraer in very mixed weather.  However, we have agreed to meet at Portpatrick for lunch if early and the majority managed that. Despite the wind and occasional rain (heard that before somewhere !) we have a little wander about this very pretty port.

The welcome as we met Al and Freda for the first time was great. Telling us exactly what we needed to know and getting our kit stowed.

The crossing in the morning was a little rough for some of our team (we’re all fair weather sailors) but we made it in the end to the security of Rathlin Island and our diving appointment with the Loch Garry ! What an excellent first dive. 10m vis and lots of life. A wreck that looks like a boat, identifiable pieces everywhere.

Into Ballycastle for the evening and the start of our culinary adventure. We were kept wondering all week just what Freda would produce next, how much we could eat and still fit into our drysuits at the end of the week.

So good we dived it twice. Loch Garry again in the morning and just as enjoyable. Better for knowing where to look the second time. Tide was picking up at the end. Finished with divers on a washing line for the deco stop.

For the afternoon the HMS Drake was calling in the shelter ofRathin Island bay. An island in a sea of sand. Really have to explore the kelp to understand that this is a wreck not a reef it is so well assimilated into the natural world. Lots of nooks and crannies, a few swim throughs with life galore.

Over to foreign lands the next day – Donegal – for the Castle Eden. Fantastic vis and so many fish. Exploring the scattered wreckage was a joy. In the afternoon the William Manell. Poor vis and hard work (against the current) to find the wreck.

A long steam back to Port Rush for the evening. Then setting out for the Castle Eden again. How could it be this good again?  Then for our afternoon workout (got to be payback or all the cakes) the Towey (nowhere near Essex). Nice upright frame and then a sniper crawl to the 2nd piece of wreckage. Fantastic growth colours and thousands of fry.

Back over to Rathin. The weather closing in forced a diving in the shelter at Black Head. A scenic dive with interesting tides ! Lots of hiding life. A strange late afternoon with glorious sunshine (as in sun bathing) and sea mist all around closing in – very eerie. Then all clearing for a glorious sunset.

Sadly the final day and an easy steam to Stranraer taking in the Longwy on the journey. Great colours and lots of life but very murky.

A great week was had by all. Many thanks to our hosts for their excellent hospitality, great organisation and fantastic skippering. We are all desperate to dive with them again sometime soon.

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Farnes 11th – 12th May 2013

Jill has arranged a trip with Farne Diving Services (Stan Hall). Staying in Beadnell.

The accommodation will be Friday and Saturday and diving will be Saturday and Sunday.

The cost of the weekend will be £120 and includes B&B accommodation and 2 boat dives per day (boat has a lift).

If you are interest please email me and I will need a £70 deposit to secure your space

Thanks

ps there will be seals!!!!

http://www.farnedivingservices.com/

 

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Loch Fyne 26th – 28th April 2013

So far we have 5 intrepid souls signed up for this early season adventure. The trip is going ahead, Malc will add a couple of local divers, but it would be great to see a few more of you join us !

Loch Fyne, based in Tarbert, for diving April 26th, 27th, 28th – Fri/Sat/Sunday with Fyne Diving (2 dives per day).  Accomodation the nights of 25th, 26th, 27th Thurs/Fri/Saturday at West Loch Shores in lodges.

Costs are £195 for diving and accomodation. Air fills, fuel, food and drinks you need to budget for.


My plan will be to set off from Huddersfield late Thursday afternoon, arrive around midnight. Have a leisurely start on Friday. Options to eat in or out Friday / Saturday. Early (ish) 9.00 start Sunday departing by 14.00 latest. Back to Huddersfield by 22.00. (The drive is 6 hours that’s why it’s a long weekend)


This is aimed at Ocean Divers and those getting wet for the first time in 2013. The diving will be sedate and based around Tarbert. Likely going out and back in between each dive.


Non diving partners are welcome !  This is a very pleasant part of the world with tourist spots, walks, cycling trails and horse riding (remember it’s April in Scotland though – all weathers in one day).


www.fyne-diving.co.uk

westlochshores.com

If your interested please contact Ray

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St Abbs

Friday

Driving up on Friday filled with optimism. The sky was bright, we were going diving !

A select group of skivers managed to get up to St Abbs for a late afternoon dip on Friday and then enjoyed Fish & Chips in Eyemouth.

Saturday – over exposure saturday (only from Jill)

We awoke Saturday to sunshine and a flat calm sea. Had we been transported to some mythical land?

There was some initial hope of the Glanmire but because of the slow group before we arrived on station to find the tide already running.

So we travelled onto Back Carrs – Great visibility meant an excellent view of the wonderful anemonies all around. Plethora of lobsters throughout the whole weekend and Gary found an Octopus!  Wolfies were also spotted but swirling currents made for tired legs.

Back to shore for lunch and then out to Weasel Loch. There were Leopard spotted gobies,  Jumbo prawns and lots of Shellfish. Also spotted Butterfish & Topnot blennies. Diane saw a conger!

Excellent weather made a BBQ a must, excellent catering from Gaz with excellent supervision from Steve. We were treated to an excellent fruit salad courtesy of Julia. A hardy contingent braved the chill evening air as the temperature sadly dropped.

Sunday – Dizzy Sunday for Julia & Matt

Managed to get out of the harbour with some skilful driving by Paul due to very low tide, but it was a VERY long ladder for little people!

W. Hurca swim through –  Another Octopus found by Jill, or following her and Steve.

Inlet for exploring. The tide was going forward for 2 and back for one. Spotted; Pogge.

Wuddy Rocks – Caves to explore, which Kate enjoyed. Spotted;  Mackerel shoals. Faltfish. Anglerfish.

An excellent weekend, with surprisingly nice weather on Saturday. Great visibility and lots to see.

Emma & Ray Dawson

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Shetland 2012 – the team return

In August 2012 the BSAC 18 collective had such a fab time in Shetland that there was only one option – Go again!

So it was on a lovely sunny Saturday in August 2012 that the team gathered at Aberdeen Harbour in great excitement to board the ferry. As we were early and the kit was loaded into the cargo crate we retired to a local hostelry for refreshments.

The ferry was boarded and finally we were on our way.  Being of the mind that the holiday starts as soon as you leave home, we had agreed to eat in the posh a la carte restaurant on board. This proved to be an excellent call. The smoked Salmon and Gravlax was excellent, the lamb cutlets were Gorgeous, the prawns wrapped in haddock was delicious and the fillet steak was the best I have ever had! This was just the best way to start our holiday, which also was doubling up as “Jill’s hen do with her diving friends”.

We retired to our cabins at various times in various states of inebriation and met up again for breakfast.

The excellent project management of our leader Richard Ward meant that we were met by a minibus taxi to take all our kit to the MV Halton which was to be our home for the next 6 days.

Bob Anderson, skipper of the Halton, welcomed us with the news that as soon as we had sorted kit we would be diving the Pionersk. This was the same first dive we did last time and was every bit as good.

The thing about diving in Shetland is that there is so much to see and you can actually see it, because the viz is astonishing! Not just 10m type good but easily 25 metres and gin clear! We dropped down the shot line to meet the wreck at 10m; a perfect shake down dive. The wreck is huge with lots of fish canning equipment and spread over a wide area so on our dive my buddy and I only met two out of the 10 other divers on there. There were two large shoals of coalfish, plenty of little scorpion fish, a fair few ling, a conger and lots of macro life. The golden tin lids reflected the sunshine perfectly and we felt that this was indeed a gold medal dive!  Everybody returned to the Halton excited about the stunning viz and having had a fabulous dive.

Pionersk wreck details : Klondiker ,fish factory ship, sunk 31.10.1994. Depth 0-22m

Location:  SW tip of Trebister Head, ran aground on unicorn rock.

After a tasty and welcome lunch of soup and bread and cheese we prepared to dive the giants legs. Another favourite scenic dive site with a cave and two gullies teaming with anemones.  The cave has lots of bits of metal and a long tube which causes a fairly alarming noise when banged, according to Frankie. We also witnessed a galaxy of marauding starfish feasting on a dead dogfish. This caused a lot of discussion!

The two gullies have a wealth of stunning dahlia anemones and an orgy of seahares mating! So basically on our first day we were subjected to wildlife porn.

After the die we sailed in sunshine back to Lerwick to enjoy a dinner of tacos, salad and home made rice pudding courtesy of Sorrel, our chef for the week

Monday 20th August:

Early start and breakfast before kitting up for our dive on the Gwladmena.

Gwladmena ; Steam ship sunk 02.01.1918 on South side of Breikwick, outside of Lerwick. Coming into Lerwick with a cargo of coal she collided with another steamship, the Flora. 22 crew all saved.

Depth: 34-39m

The shot was positioned just to the stern of the two huge boilers which became visible from 15m. A good amount of daylight meant that the visibility was excellent (20m + ) and we all did the total tour from shot to stern, back to bow and back up the shot. No current at all and the wreck was covered in fish and other marine life. Lots of edible crabs, tiny hermit crabs and Frankie befriended a ling. The wreck is still very ship-shaped  with lots of places to swim through, and so the team spread out nicely to enjoy this scenic wreck.

Later we steamed North East to Outskerries to dive a scenic wall famed for it’s collection of crayfish. The crayfish were keen to show them selves off and as a bonus we also came across some old rusty canons and canon balls. When we returned to the boat we discovered that these were from the wreck of Wrangels Palais which was sunk nearby in 1668! In the meander across the kelp we came across many lesser spotted catsharks upon which Matt demonstrated his ability to charm them by stroking.

We tied up for the evening at Outskerries and went for a walk until dinner, the views were stunning but no-one managed to find any mobile phone coverage. Like so many remote places the people that live here are amazingly resilient and we enjoyed a conversation with two local ladies who gave us some insight into what it means to live in a community of 70 people.

Tuesday dawned and our plan to dive the Jane on the way up to Unsk was scuppered by fog. Since the Jane is tidal and the divers are likely to scatter then this was well understood.  Instead Bob proposed that we steam up to Unst and dive the submarine E 49. This was met with enthusiastic agreement.

E49 details ,  Submarine, sunk by german mines on 9th March 1917.  Depth 29-33m. location: Baltasound, Unsk.

Bob had given us a detailed briefing on the wreck which lies on white sand and is visible from 10 m. The bow is completely blown off and resting about 10m away from the rest of the wreck. It lies party buried in sand and is home to 3 resident Tusks – these are fish from the cod family but distinctive by having a single dorsal fin. These were all spotted by our team and renamed Bob, Terry and Sorrel, after our friendly boat staff. There was also a reported sighting of a conger, which was confirmed and subsequently named Frankie. This is only a small wreck so to ensure that everyone enjoyed it as much as possible we split into two teams of 6 to dive it. Everyone returned with reports of an enjoyable dive, appreciating the detail on this fascinating wreck. When the weather conditions and fog had not improved, we agreed to dive it again for the second dive. A pleasant surface interval was spent walking from the jetty at Baltasound and a visit to the Unsk community bus stop. This is world famous! A legend in the world of customised transportation terminuses! The locals take great pride in making their bus-stop into a tourist destination with a different theme every year. Two years ago when we visited it had a distinctly orange theme.  This year it has a diamond jubilee theme; including some lovely regal memorabilia, thrones, crowns and even an Olympic torch (made from a traffic cone). It is excellent and well worth a visit.

We moored up for the night back at Balta Sound and spent the evening “having Jill’s Hen do” at the most Northerly pub in the UK; the Balta Sound Hotel. This was a totally empty bar with a TV showing football when we arrived but we loaded up the juke box with some decent tunes and had a few polite beverages. As it was a hen night we really did require some sort of male stripper or exotic male dancers, unfortunately none was available at short notice. We have all seen enough BSAC 18 naked male flesh so a contest was devised to see who could do the sexiest wiggle. The competition was fierce! Matt definitely has an alternative career if the garden design takes a downturn, and Wardy should never ever rely on a second career as Brad Pitt’s bottom double. The “Chocolate Starfish” being a sighting that we really could have all done without!

Jill returned having enjoyed her alternative hen night and struggled to get into her bed as she found it full of balloons.

Wednesday 22nd dawned to slightly more fog than we had hoped! The original plan was to dive Muckle Flugga, the rocks that are the most northerly point of the UK, but the fog put paid to that plan so we dived the Jane instead.

Throughout our trip so far we had experienced flat calm seas, amazing viz and next to no current. The Jane was to be the exception and there was a surprising amount of current on the shot line. This caught Stuart and Huw out and they lost contact with the shot and experienced the joys of a sea bed dive.

For those who made it to the wreck, the current had not subsided at all so we hunkered down inside the wreckage to take a better look. The Jane is home to lots of very hungry wrass ( harwrassment???)  and the most enormous lobster any of us have ever seen. The propeller is extremely impressive and Kate experienced it in the company of a free swimming Conger eel.

The Jane details: 198 foot long Swedish Steamship, sank 19th July 1923 with 475 barrels of herring on board, ran aground pilot error. Depth 20m

For some reason this was the one dive where Stuart didn’t hold a film show afterwards to relive his dive as recorded on his go-pro camera. Apparently the video resulting from his seabed dive was event less interesting than Bobs 1000 picture film show of birds attacking other birds.

Some people opted to finish their dive on the Jane and return to the surface via the shot-line, others opted to go for a scallop dive and gather some tasty sea food for lunch.

Wednesday afternoon’s dive was Noss head. This offers the opportunity to tour one large cave, a smaller one and a swim through. Several seal encounters were reported and the caves were fascinating. This site has a wealth of sea life and out side of the caves the walls have horizontal cracks which act as shelves supporting a host of crabs, squat lobsters, scorpion fish and shrimp. A pleasant bimble along these are we ascended before swimming out into the blue to surface nearer the Halton.  Many of us had a long surface swim and then an even longer one as the Halton moved away just as were within two strokes of it. Nevermind! the exercise was definitely needed as this week the food had been plentiful and highly calorific!

We stayed overnight at Lerwick and set off early on Thursday morning to dive the Glenisla in Bressay Sound. This steamship was built in 1878 , sunk 24th November 1917 in collision with steamship. Depth 39-46 m upright and intact. It is situated in a shipping lane so it can only dived with permission of harbour master. This was simply stunning. The wreck is ship shaped, upright on the sea bed, with lots of open holds that make amazing swim-throughs. There is so much to see and the main instruction in the dive briefing was NOT to recover anything from the wreck, especially the white blocks of material that look like cheese, these are in fact white phosphorus, used for armaments. Phosphorus is safe enough when immersed in sea water, but when it is removed from water and dries out it spontaneously combusts, not a good thing to happen on a wooden boat.

Everyone enjoyed this dive and Wardy was pleased to see that the donkey boiler still looks like a nuclear reactor (????), not sure what gas he was breathing last time he dived this!

Our final evening meal was delicious Lamb and apricot tagine with vegetable cous cous. After dinner Kate introduced us to Frankie, a sock puppet that looked exactly like the conger Frankie identified on the E49. Frankie the sock puppet conger was destined for a great dive tomorrow!

We did two dives on our final day. The first one was Lunokhods, a Latvian Knodiker that was  driven ashore during storm dragging it’s achor, 9th Nov 1993 below Kirakister Lighthouse. It  is broken with a large bow section at 40m, a debris trail and a shallow section lying up the wall. The shot was on the bow section and this is cleanly severed and on its side so you can see the multiple deck levels. The plan was to dive this section then head slightly east of north across the debris field to the shallow section. Kate and failed to find it and had a good 20 minute swim seeing some debris , clocking up a lot of additional decompression obligation along the way. In the end we gave up! It seems we were not the only ones to fail in this respect. Those that did find it said it was rusty, kelpy and interesting. Frankie the sock puppet decided to stay here, so if anyone returns to this wreck please look out for it.

Our final dive was the Fraoch Ban, A small fishing vessel that only sank in 1999. It sits at 25m on a sandy bottom which is home to loads and loads of flatfish! These are extremely friendly and seem to like divers. They were truly hilarious to watch and at one point there was a feeding frenzy with a host of them attacking an orange anemone, but this looked very much as though they were playing football with it! Seriously hilarious, made worse I suspect by narcosis. Even though this was only a 25m dive we clocked up a fair bit of deco as there was a huge amount of macro life to photograph: tiny scorpion fish, interesting decorator crabs and various anemones.  This was the dive that sounded least interesting but was an unexpectedly stunning experience and a fantastic way to complete our trip.

When you have had a fabulous trip previously often it is hard to recreate the same magic but on this occasion it was agreed that this was even better than last time. The weather was excellent all week, the seas flat calm (astonishing when you realise how far in the middle of no where Shetland is!) and everyone pitched in and made it a fun time.

Many thanks to Bob Anderson, and his crew Terry and Sorrel, for a fantastic week.

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