Loch Fyne, Tarbert – Easter Trip 2018

By Nic Faulks

30th March – 2nd April 2018

Coocko ray

This trip seems to have become an annual pilgrimage. The diving is based on Loch Fyne, so is generally much more reliable and less weather dependent than the east coast which often is blow out at this time of year. A group of 8 of us headed up, having lost a few participants in the preceding days to bladder infections, broken feet and flu. As last year, we were staying in the luxury cabins at the West Loch Shores park (https://www.westlochshores.com/ ), which basically meant that we had a room each.

The first day dawned a little bit gusty, but otherwise not to bad weather wise, unlike the east coast of the UK which was being thrashed by the 3rd beast from the east in succession. No diving from St Abbs then. Once we boarded the boat (https://www.facebook.com/Fynediving/ ), we heard from the skipper Malcolm, that there were a couple of large barges in the middle of Loch Fyne, in position to raise the Nancy Glen, a fishing boat which sank near Tarbert, in January 2018 with loss of two crew members. Due to this, our options for diving were a little less free, so that we could give these boats a wide berth. So we headed out into the loch, to dive the Nose.

Polycera faeroensis Nudibranch

The nose was an interesting dive of small reefs and boulders on a mixed sand and gravel bed. Lots of small critters, including butter fish and scorpion fish, but to our delight a cuckoo ray. Not something I have seen before, with its very obvious eye(?) patches on the back. Si Fish signalled that I should take a photograph of it…. Not possible with a 60mm lens, maybe its eyeball! So, with me shining my torch on it, Si Fish used his point and shoot. Not a bad result I think! The other interesting critter on this dive was the sea mouse Aphrodite aculeata, which is actually a segmented worm, covered in iridescent bristles, which can make it look green, red and brown. They are often buried in the silt, but when on the surface, look lovely in your torch light.

Back on the surface we all warmed up again, with cake and tea. Then headed back over the loch towards the Arran III. The wreck lies in two sections each over 12 metres long, in 10 metres depth and stands in places up to 4 metres above the seabed. She is at right angles to the rocky shore and the bow is well broken up. The stern, keel, and main ribs are fairly intact, although these parts are covered with kelp in the summer months. The surrounding seabed is also worth a look, here scallops, huge seven armed star fish and other critters may be found. Often small shoals of fish can be found swimming on and around the wreck, which all add to the atmosphere. We surfaced in a north south current, so had

Relaxing in the sun

to drift off the wreck, around the back of the island, on which it originally crashed, then in to the clear water beyond. We didn’t want our dive boat to suffer the same fate!

After two lovely dives, the sun came out and the weather felt so spring like. We returned to the cabins for beer, food and kit fiddling. While everyone showered and chilled in the sunshine, the evening meal was prepared, scallop starter curtesy of Tiago, followed by spaghetti bolognaise and then home made lemon cheese cake – no one would go home hungry! Everyone pitched in with the cooking, setting up and washing up which was great. A merry supper was had, followed by a relatively early evening for most.

Boat in the sun

Sunday dawned absolutely beautiful; blue sky and sunshine, wall to wall, but with a slight frost. Just reminding us that winter wasn’t far behind us. We all met down at the boat for a fairly civilised time of 0930, then headed out to dive the Margaret Niven. She liesabout 30m out from the base of the north east face of Sgeir Mhaolo Cinn, a large lump of rock, in about 28 metres of water. The wreck is quite small;therefore not enough to occupy a whole dive, but that’s okay because the reef also makes for a nice dive, covered in marine life, including nudibranchs! Yay. Sgeir Mhaolo Cinn, slopes steeply onto a sand/mud bottom, which you follow around until you reach a rope. This leads across the seabed to the bow section, which rises a couple of metres out of the muddy seabed. First there is a set of large winches and bollards. After that, the hold opens and her cargo of road chippings is clearly visible. At the stern, the main points of interest are a large boiler with a tiny one-cylinder engine directly behind it. Dropping over the stern and down a couple of metres, the small prop and the rudder can be seen hard to starboard, quite photographic if your buddy doesn’t create a cloud! The whole group found the wreck, even if some of the buddy pairs changed mid dive….

So much life: squirts, scallops, worms, nudibranch…

Back on the surface again, the sun out, we soon warmed up with lemon drizzle cake and tea. We headed back in to Tarbert between dives, so we could take advantage of the coffee shop and have yet more caffeine and enjoy the harbour and its sights and information boards. For the second dive we headed out of the harbour and to the south (right).

The dive was called Maldorock Point, it was almost renamed “what’s the point”. This was a drift dive over a seabed which as been subject to intents scallop dredging in the past. Most marine life was missing or damaged, with large areas of broken shell and the odd cobble, but with obvious plough lines. A few fish and some hermit crabs were present. We weren’t sure if we had gone to deep and so were missing the life, but apparently not, even those who stayed above 35 metres saw very little either. What the dive did do was open your eyes as to how much damage trawling does. Sad, but true.

We returned to the harbour again. Cylinders off so that Malcolm could fill them (he does air and nitrox). Then back to the cabins to drink beer, sit in the sun and wonder if the horrible forecast for Monday really would materialize! Oh and listen to Stu’s interesting compilation of music. Again, everyone pitched in to make and deliver supper – roast chicken and ALL the trimmings (sausage, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, vege, stuffing etc). And if that wasn’t enough, it was followed by apple pie and ice cream! As stated previously, no one was going to go home hungry! After much merriment, and the realisation that we were unlikely to dive on Monday, we had a few more beers then hit the hay.

Little fish with very green eyes!

Monday dawned, calm on our side of the peninsular. As we looked out, it seemed that the horrible weather was late in arriving and that we may in fact be able to dive. So, we packed up, cleaned the cabins and headed down to the boat in Tarbert. WooooooF!!! Windy, so windy. The beast from the east had well and truly made it over to the west. A full on due east force 7-8 gusting 9. No way we were going diving in that. We agreed with the skipper that safety came first, so we collected our belongings, packed them in to our cars and headed south.

It was a shame that we missed diving on the Monday, but most people saw it as an advantage, seeing family members at Easter, home early to wash kit, and an early night before work on Tuesday. All in all two good days diving – shall we do it again next year?