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Monday, 5 September 2011

Wrecking Lochaline

Heading to Lochaline in pouring rain at 4am is not my idea of fun but coming back from a new Sony product launch in London at midnight, needs must when required. And I did get an offer of getting dragged around the dive sites if I wanted a quick nap underwater. We were bundled onto the M.V. Sound Diver as the light rain fell, mixed in amongst a group of seven from somewhere in England.
Ready for the off at first light
As they were the larger group, they dictated the dives to be done over the two days. Which is a shame as they chose wrecks all weekend. Don't get me wrong, I like a nice wreck as much as the next person but there are some astoundingly good scenic dives which were all completely ignored. A real shame and their loss. I can only put it down to their unfamiliarity of the area.

First jump was on the Rondo which is an interesting wreck in that is sits nearly vertical in the water, stern up and the rudder at about 8m, and a nice swim through at about 18m which can take you out of one of the holds at 32m. 
Entrance to the Rondo swim through
The problem is when the wreck gets loaded with divers and theres a current, the safety stop gets very busy with limited space. 
Devonshire cup corals and plumose anemones on the rudder
Not the best dive I've had on the Rondo due to the swarm of divers, ripping current and crap vis, but still pleasant enough all told. We've had much worse.

We were due to head to Tobermory to cool our heels and have lunch, but some silly woman from the other group who was diving in a wetsuit was complaining she was cold and wanted to go and get her other wetsuit from the dive centre. Which was a long way away. So the boat headed back. This was the same women that said that she never gets cold on dives in a wetsuit. 

Here's a tip for you love, wear the proper bloody exposure protection you stupid moo, then we wouldn't have to waste 4 hours at the surface to ferry you around because you're an idiot! I really have no patience for morons and less patience for those with little common sense. Right, rant over.
The girls thinking about slapping all women wetsuit divers on the boat!
When we left Lochaline for the second time that day, we motored over to the Hispania, a Swedish built streamer which is coming up for its 100th birthday next year and is still in pretty good condition, sitting at a slight angle from shallow bow (about 22m) to the deeper stern (about 34m). 

As it's still in good nick, there's plenty of opportunity for penetration and getting right in amongst it. But don't forge to have a little mooch around a little of the wreck at the debris scattered around, particularly amidships off starboard side, where you'll find plenty of marine life like a nice conger we found in one of the old steam pipes.
Steamed conger
There was also a good selection of wrasse, pollock and flounders hanging around to be photographed  and made a fuss over. We worked towards the bow and up and over onto deck and down port side towards the rudder and back up and over for a final fly past. Again, the vis was not at its best today and it's a good wreck to do at slack water when the vis is excellent to get the full effect.
Mabs checks out the anemone covered rudder
We powered back to the pontoon and settled in for the evening. I must say that they have done a good job updating the dive centre accomodation. All the rooms are now onsuite with underfloor heading and the dining room has been over halued furniture and fixture wise which comes with its own built-chef. 

Not difficult to get Gordon talking as he has quite a lot to say about every subject under the sun. And his food's not bad either. We settle in for fresh made breaded haddock for starters with spagetthi bolognese for the main attraction with the girls hitting the wine whilst I hit the sheets and try and reclaim some sleep. After all, tomorrow is another day.

The sun shining, breakfast on the decking and another day of diving.
We scoffed a full english (don't know why its not a full scottish, but there you go) and then made a break for the pontoon to gear up. The Brendan was setting off with their divers at 9am and we were on the charge to hit the Thesis first before the mad rush.
Full throttle for the Thesis
The Thesis is a lovely old wreck with plenty its ribs showing through which makes for excellent photographic opportunities and it's easy enough to weave in and out the wreck and amongst the holds. 
Elaine swims outside past the hull ribs
When you get bored and want a little change of scenery, swim off the bow and head NE and your right on the reef in under a minute with some excellent scenery, large clusters of boulders with clusters of lobsters and edible crabs liberaly sprinkled around.
An edible crabs nestles on the reef
With a nice little potter at 15m, I drifted off into the current back onto the wreck and drifted up the shot. By this time, the current had picked up something fearsome and divers were scattered all up and down the coastline of Mull. All good fun.

Thankfully today, we didn't have to spend waste time motoring back for a stupid wetsuit and we hit Oban for a slice of sunshine and bite of lunch. The kayakers where out, the tall ships were in and the tourists where milling around in abundance.
Oban in full panoramic sunshine
Last but not least on the agenda was the Breda, which is by far one of my favourites. It's a big old lump of metal at 127m long and very scenic with a bucket load of marine life on it, with the bow sitting shallower than the stern which also makes it ideal for divers of all levels. The decks covered with ship wreckage and vehicle and aircraft spares cover in growth with nudis and scatterings of pollock all over.
Quality camera time on the Thesis
This is actually one wreck that it is difficult to get bored of as there's just so much to see of it. The deck sits far off the bottom so don't be lulled into spending too much time on the bottom. Do a quick visit to the prop and then get on to the deck and enjoy the scenery. 
The bow sits at about 10-12m depending on the tide and it you can easily spend most of the dive on the front section of the ship. And because its such a large wreck it's very difficult to meet any other divers on it so you can be assured of a quiet, peaceful dive without continuously getting a fin in the face.
Some strange women on the bow

Perfect diving on the Breda
 We spent most of the time up on deck posing for pictures as well as taking them and enjoying the sunshine coming in from the surface to light up the wreck. Reluctantly we headed up the midships shot to end the dive and day before heading back to shore and the long, winding road home.
Nap time for Mabs!
Not to worry, theres always St. Abbs on Saturday, so its not all bad!