Fyne Weather for Winter Diving

31st January – 1st February 2015

by Nicola Faulks

The first club diving of 2015 – organised by Si as a “winter warmer” (?!) on board Fyne Pioneer with Simon Exley. Too be honest the trip, when advertised back in September the trip filled up very quickly with 10 brave souls. Sadly at the last minute, one had to drop out due to a dose of man flu, so in all 9 intrepid divers headed up to Inverary to eat at the wonderful George hotel, prior to arriving at the cottage, at Lochgair, on the western shore of Loch Fyne.

Saturday morning dawned overcast and windy. Tiago was the DM for the day, so he liaised with Simon and formed a plan, then gave a comprehensive dive brief. The boat is a 10 metre rhib, which we loaded once it was brought closer to shore and the snow had been brushed off the tubes!

The first dive, was Glas Eilean an island located about 4.5km south of the cottage, but sheltered from the northerly winds. The surface water was about 2.5oC but down at about 10 metres the water was a balmy 9oC. The reef is full of life including dead man’s fingers, brittle star beds, nudibranchs and some beautiful plumose anemones. As soon as the dive was done, we zoomed back to the cottage for a warm up and some bacon sandwiches.

The second dive was Gortien Point over on the east shore of Loch Fyne almost opposite Lochgair bay. The weather was clearing, though still windy. Gortien is a dive which can be done from the shore and consists of a reef which can be found by following a cable at c. 17m depth to the north to the reef. We all got ready, then the fun began! First of all Brian jumped in without his fins on. Luckily the ever vigilant Simon Exley caught him before he floated off and jammed his fins on to his feet! Then I jumped in swam over to the reef and realised, that I had forgotten to put on my weight belt… oops, rookie error! Despite this a good dive was had by all. This is a great little reef with loads of life. On surfacing we found a very cold Richard in the boat, apparently his zip hadn’t been done up properly…. A review of the footage from Simons GoPro revealed the guilty party….. he shall remain nameless, but just don’t ask anyone from Portugal to do your dry suit zip up in future!

Back at the cottage, soup and cake was followed by a lot of chilling out. And some briefing and skills for the Richards (x2) and their BSAC training. The dive logs were all neatly written up and handed over to the DO…. Then dinner was served. Loads of food, shepherd’s pie followed by tiramisu and or apple pie.  The fire was lit, smouldered, then appeared to die…. But was rescued and turned in to roaring log fire by the end – thank you David! Shortly after, a tired and well fed group of divers headed to bed.

Sunday dawned calm and clear. The first dive was on the Minards, a small group of islands in the centre of Loch Fyne, to the north of the cottage. So calm and beautiful, surrounded by snow caped mountains, it was all rather special! We all kitted up with Dave and Katrerina going in first. Unfortunately when Simon called “3, 2, 1, go!” Katerina rolled back into the water, then Dave did so a split second later, clonking her in the head with his cylinder…. OUCH.  Brave lady, stayed in the water and they both did the dive. Most amusing entry has to go to Si, for some reason he was not very well weighted and could not leave the surface. 10 minutes of thrashing ensued – some caught on camera – brought a whole new meaning to the verb “helicoptering”! Eventually he went down and stayed there. The wall here is beautiful, covered in loads of critters, huge horseman anemones, hydroids, feather stars and up in the seaweeds lots of different species of nudibranchs. We then zoomed back for bacon butties, and to watch the highly amusing act of Si jumping off the rhib in to what he thought was shallow water, only to sink up to his eye balls. Thank goodness his dry suit was done up; the look on his face was priceless!

The final dive of the trip was to the east side of Loch Fyne again, just south of Gortien Point on Triple Reef. A nice series of rocky reefs covered with life. The visibility varied from 1 to about 5 metres here, being dark below about 15 metres. Saw a Yarrels blenny out in the open which was nice as well as a number of other critters. Lots of squat lobsters here and scallops too, these ones were left behind this time!

We surfaced and climbed back on to the boat. Gordon was doing some training with Richards (x2); which involved towing and de kitting on a beach. Meanwhile rope throwing practice was had off the rhib by the men on board – think perhaps some more practice is required! Once we were all back on board, we returned to the bay, unloaded the boat, splodged through some mud and loaded the cars. Soup, tea and cake was eaten, then people headed off, back to the North East; blue sky, sun and snow on the hills. A beautiful end to a fantastic weekend! We will have to make this trip an annual affair.