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 After many complaints this was rescinded and our chef Sorrel was confirmed to be catering for us for everything.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).
A 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 !