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Saturday, 27 August 2011

Uncharted Territory

Another glorious dive site
Well it's that time of year again where we avoid the St Abbs splash in weekend like the plague and head West. Todays adventure is brought to you from Loch Fyne, but a little bit further afield. This time from Anchor Point, about 9miles up the road from Strachur. As it's a bit far flung for a lot of people it tends to be a bit quiet and secluded which is how we like it! Sun was out, vis was decent and water temp was 11 degrees, so it was all good!
Vibrant cushion starfish
We decided to deviate from the regular flight plan for the first dive and head way out to the left which doesn't get visited as it's a bit of a long fin and is unmapped, but we headed out there anyway to see what can be seen. As it turned out there were some very nice rock formations with plenty of squat lobsters, starfish, crabs, gobies, scorpionfish and an explosion of sea feathers.
Don't mind me, I'm just scuttling here
Took us while to get back to the exit point at the end of the dive but we needed the exercise anyway! After sunning ourselves on shore and some turkey rasher butties (interesting to try but doesn't beat dead pig, sorry Hamish), we headed back in and bimbled round the usual site which is basically a large rock formation similar to a horseshoe.
Feathered starfish

With lovely big mature dogfish sitting in the shallows and the rocks totally covered in sea feathers it was a beautiful, colourful dive. With plenty of scorpionfish, king scallops, flat fish and lobsters around, there was plenty to watch and plenty of things to take pictures of.
Nice big dogfish



 The rock formations were full of nooks and crannies and well worth spending time to have a good look in them as they are full of spiny squat lobsters, regular squat lobsters and edible crabs. Two, three, four to a hole. It's like look at a bunch of sqaut(ters). Ho-ho.
Some of the many sea feathers covering the rocks
With a total run time of 159 minutes, it was a shame to get out the water (some of us got out of the water before others!). Its a long trek to get here, but with underwater scenery and tonnes of marine life scuttling about, it's well worth the travel time and effort to get here.
Candy stripe starfish
And next weekend we've got a jolly up at Lochaline which will be awesome seeing as its been a couple of years since I was last up there so it will be nice to dive some familiar sites and and see some old faces (no not my dive buddies). Stay tuned for next weeks exciting episode.......



Monday, 22 August 2011

Far and distant shores

Well I say far and distant shores, in this case it was a two tanker up to Brander Point, which is about 35-40 minutes boat ride North. We had blazing sunshine and pond like conditions today, even Paul was wearing a shirt that could almost be considered tasteful, or at least didn't make your eyeballs vomit!
Another stunning addition to Paul's wardrobe for this Summer

Jumping in on the South side of the Brander rock formation, we were straight into gullies that run parallel to the main finger of rock and just kept on following it out. I wouldn't say that the dive is busting with marine life, but the rock formations and the scenery do make it a worth while visit and you can get very lucky with seeing some interesting visitiors such as octupus and cuttlefish. 

We weren't quit so lucky today but lobsters and scorpionfish were definitely out in force. We bimbled down to around 20-ish metres and swapped over to the North side of the outcrop to follow it back up to around 8 metres, having a look in the cracks and under the rocks and watching the prawns dancing here, there and everywhere.
"I'm a prawn again, Christian!" (It's punchline for a very old joke....)
It's also nice to see that the water temperature is (very slowly) climbing, sitting on 14 degrees. It's almost wetsuit diving! Heading out NE to get some depth for our pick up, a mug of tea and some of Tescos finest white chocolate cookies.
Elaine, horribly disfigured on the safety stop. Or maybe her tentacles just needed trimming....
Discussions for the second dive centered around several sites, but in the end we left the onus on Billy to choose where to go, which was Anemone Gullies (or Skellies as it's also referred to). Well we would have chosed Black Carr (never a bad dive on Black Carr), but we aquiesced and motored down to the gullies. Never trust Billy to pick a dive site! :-p. It wasn't a bad dive by no stretch of the imagination, but you're always guaranteed to find something new on Black Carr, not to mention the woolfies.
Time to go already? But it's only been 83 minutes....
Viz was around 8-9 metres and the tide on the ebb so we pootled up and down the gullies for a bit which was tricky seeing as they were covered in bloody lobsters! Everywhere you looked they were there. It's like Alfred Hitchcock remade his film "The Birds" but called it "The Lobsters". Loads of them just sitting on ledges, watching you, just waiting to turn your back.......
Never turn your back on them. And never show fear. They sense fear......
Wrasse and pollock were also moocing around the gullies as we came out and started working our way shallow towards West Hurker. Elaine did manage a nice find of a conger (credit where credit is due) which is a bit of a rarity at St Abbs, so it was nice to see one, even if it did send me a little bit into deco taking pictures of it. 
The damned conger that nearly caused me having an accident in my drysuit
Deco is a terrible thing. Mostly because its normally when you most need to go for a pee!! Hence my dearest dive buddy abandoning me after clearing her safety stop so she can go to the toilet first (remember to press the big black button!), leaving me to cross my legs and count down the minutes. There's a lot to be said for pee valves. Or maybe adult nappies are the way forward. 
Couple of prawns way-laying a spider crab
Another good days diving had by all, although I did have to pity Peter. He was dropping divers in at Skellies as we were kitting up. No sooner had he dropped them off and they had descended before they were all popping back up to the surface like corks in ones and twos. Poor old Peter had to go around picking them up again. I've yet to find out the full story from him but I'm sure it will be a corker the way he tells them!


Never trust the shadey looking character in the middle.....





Thursday, 18 August 2011

Festive Edinburgh

The time is upon us in Edinburgh once again for the city festival to begin and the influx of visitors from around the world descend upon us like great swarms of brightly coloured and foreign speaking locusts.

I was tasked last week of running a digital imaging demonstration on Princes Street and I thought is appropriate to base this around the theme of Edinburgh and the typical (and not so typical) sights that visitors may see. 

The day was a success, with the images going down well with everyone along with the  discussions on cameras and shooting techniques. 

Feel free to enjoy some of the Edinburgh experience with us.















Sunday, 14 August 2011

Go West young man, go West

Well what a remarkable day. Aside from the weather being on and off like a leaky tap, it was a day for achievements at Loch Fyne. The tannin from the surrounding hills running off into the loch with the rain made the first 5 metres brown and murky but after that, it just kept getting better and better.
Surprisingly, its not raining in this picture....
Talking about achievements, I finally broke the several thousand hour barrier for being underwater (not all in one go obviously), secondly, I had the best dive here ever (which wouldn't have been possible had Elaine not abondoned me. Thank you, I owe you!).

Thirdly but most importantly, this was the day that Jill was able to get back in water in the UK since her illness over a year ago. And she racked up a 73 minute run time as well which is no mean feat. Hopefully we'll have her back in the water again in a couple of weeks time and on a regular basis to make sure she doesn't dry out.
Jill back in the saddle again. that's my girl!

The whole loch was alive and jumping with life and the dogfish were in abundance and very playful with it too. Had I had a stick to throw I'm sure they would have fetched it to bring it back.
Ready for a game of fetch?
The nudibranchs were also out in force big time, getting it on in a very serious way. Lucky I'm not a prude or I would have been shocked. I have seen rutting on this scale since Debbie does Dallas!
Get it on, bang a gong! Nudibranch porn
Squat lobsters, gobies and blennies where adding to the attraction and  putting on a fine showing,  moocing around about the reef. I also had the added bonus of some surprise visitors for the first 15 minutes of the dive. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was zipping by in my peripheral vision and bumping into my legs and fins. 

Eventually after a great deal of twisting, turning and rolling in the water to find out what was happening,  I figured it out. I had cormorants diving in and swimming about me on the hunt for a lunchtime snack. It's amazing to watch them in the water, the speed they move at. I only managed to get one half decent shot out of dozens as they are lighting fast. But watching them at work was a real treat.
Cormorant on the hunt
Heading deeper down past the 20 metre reef, I was delighted to find a new part of the loch that I hadn't seen beefore with some beautiful firework anemones and vast array of langoustines for good measure. This also inclused a very shy conger who was not one for showing it's snout from under it's rock. I'll get it properly next time....
You wouldn't believe how far I had to crawl under this rock to get this shot
Langoustine, and plenty of them down there
Working along the new found section of reef proved to be very rewarding with a fine selection of pipefish tangled in amonst the kelp and a swarm of lions mane jelly fish in formation just above my head providing a spectacular fly by (or undulating by if you prefer).
One of many pipefish. Don't know why they're called pipefish. They never smoke pipes....
Lions mane on the move
Without a doubt, it has been an absolute blast of a day with the marine life turning out in full force, the surprising new little section of reef and Jill getting back in the water. The day just doesn't get any better. 

With this particular dive site, it's fully accessible and right beside the road, loads of parking, setup space space and best of all, nobody dives it because they think it's a boring place. 

All I can say to that is I'm glad they think it's boring and go elsewhere because this is one of the best kept secrets on the West of Scotland and we have it all to ourselves!
Jill:"Are you sure?" Hamish: "That's definately it over there!" Elaine: "No, I still don't see it. Where's my glasses?"




Sunday, 7 August 2011

Cathedral Worship

Well another quality days diving yesterday, with the site packed with divers. Lenny even kindly gave up his space to let us park at at the front of the harbour. Wonders never cease! We were down one of the regular crew, but we gained a rather nice chap for Manchester, also called Simon, who was joining us for some diving. Funny how all the best looking, handsome men are called Simon? 
Simon investigates Black Carr in more detail
Tide and conditions were with us, so we jumped in on the back of Big Black Carr. Seeing as we had a special request to find wolfies, we had a better than average chance of seeing them here and we weren't disappointed! First one was just past the anchor, sitting out on the ledge, happy as you please and judging by the size and colouration, it was a quite a mature one. Quite rare to see them sitting out of their holes. Alas, didn't get any shots as I didn't want to scare it off before Simon saw it. And by this time it had decided to nip back into its hole anyway. 
Two in the hole, better than one in the hand. Or something like that....
But the boy done good by finding a few more wolfies, thereby popping his wolfish cherry, so to speak and we were blessed with numerous sightings of wolfies for the duration of the dive with the ever present backdrop of the splendour that is Black Carr, covered wall to wall in soft corals, plumose anemones and dead mens fingers. With the obligatory collection of ballan wrasse, ling, edible crabs, squat lobsters, sunstars, the list goes on. Never a bad dive on Black Carr as we say.
Pathfinder at rest with Black Carr in the distance


Gentling motoring over to the otherside of the harbour entrance we jumped in on Cathedral Rock by special request, and the vis had picked up a little bit, averaging abou 6-8m with a water temp of 14 degrees, which I must say is the warmest I've seen it there all year, so that was nice.
Simon peeks back through the top arch on Cathedral
We done a couple of laps through the bottom arch and nose into the top arch, with the colourful corals coming to life under lamp light and the ballan wrasse following in our wake. The side walls on the exit from the bottom arch are teaming with life and it's well worth taking a little time to give these a good look as you never know what you might find. 


Cathedral lobster, the nations choice of lobster

With low water soon to be upon us, we went with the current and had a nice drift out from the shallows picking up some of the nice rock formations and big shoals of pollock. On a good day with the right current you can get from Cathedral over the Ebb Carr (or vice versa, depending on the tide), but we didn't quite make it today as the direction of the current wasn't in our favour, but we did get some quality flighing time over the superb scenery.
Post dive fishing. Trying to catch Paul a new shirt
As usual, Mr O'Callaghan did a sterling job of catering to our dive site whims and tea essentials whilst wearing remnants of 1970's chinese take away wallpaper. He calls them Hawaiian shirts but I'm not convinced......





Thursday, 4 August 2011

Happy Birthday!

Carnivore city....rrrooaaawwwrr!!
Yes, the birthday girl is 44 today. Steak dinner to celebrate. She's now lying down after her three course meal and wine. She says it's the booze, but I think its age...... as evidenced by her putting her coat on inside out. Definately age. Happy Birthday Jill !! xxx

Happy(ish) Family

Darwin award of the week

Now I like diving with sharks almost more than anything in the world, but you need to show them a bit of respect like any other creature. Their not humans, you don't treat them like pets. 

No wonder sharks get a bad press because of idiots like this. And yes, he's an american. Says it all. This muppet deserves what he gets....


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Dive Olly Dive!

Yea, ok. I know this is a kids programme but you should still watch it for entertainment value alone. And no, I don't have kids, so I have no excuse!



Dive Olly Dive follows the adventures of Olly, a young submarine-in-training, and Beth, his best friend and fellow sub-in-training. Stationed at the Special Underwater Research Facility (S.U.R.F.) under the guidance of Diver Doug, the young subs explore their spectacular underwater world.

Joining Olly and Beth are Skid, Doug's sleek transport vehicle; Brandt, a cantankerous hermit crab who imagines himself as a pirate; UMA, an eight-appendaged Underwater Maintenance Assistant; Ranger, a tiny cowboy seahorse who wrangles his herd of squid; Shankley, the Scottish sea crane who spins tales of the deep seas; Suzy, the awesome aerobatic seas plane; and Luseal, the fun-loving, athletic seal.

Whether carrying out a research assignment for Diver Doug, playing in spectacular Lava Rock Park, or evading the dangers found in Dark Trench, there's never a dull moment in Olly's world.

Dive Olly Dive