Oban – Gateway to the Isles

August 2007

by Andy hunt

The first Tyneside 114 Oban trip of 2007 was all set to go: Boats ready, transport allocated, itinery worked out, weather forecast looking good and shopping completed. Then disaster! Our beloved DO knackers his back and is completely incapacitated. A problem normally arises at some point in a trip but not at the start, and not usually a reasonably serious medical problem. However, another cunning plan was soon hatched and after some last minute re-arrangements to the logistics at 7.00am on the day of departure, everything was all go again.

Tony and Shaun, Michael and Michael were the first to set off to Oban with a pile of dive kit crammed in the back of the 4×4.  Alan was next. He finished work, packed his 4×4, collected Dan and his equipment, then met Nick and Jasper (the dog) before picking up the RHIB. Last myself, Fiona , Sally and Nicola headed off at about 6.15pm, collecting the other RHIB en-route. The journey took around 5 and a half hours including a stop and for those arriving early enough at the luxury caravans there was some cold liquid refreshment awaiting.

For most it was the first time to Oban, for some it was the first time in the RHIBs, for some it was the first time in a drysuit, for some the first time in open water and for some the first time for all of the above!

The weekend was deliberately planned to provide some fun and enjoyable shallow diving to cater for the needs of Ocean Diver trainees yet still appeal to their instructors and other qualified divers participating in the trip.

Conditions were perfect.  Barely a ripple in sight and we even had to apply sunblock!

On Saturday we first dived Dunnolie point which offers a very gentle, scenic drift around the headland north of Oban Bay . Alan and Dan collected a bag full of scallops for tea.

When going deeper at this site divers were thoroughly briefed not to surface mid channel for fear of being run over by the ferries. Today we had not only two ferries but the new Northern Lighthouse Board ship Pharos was showing off. For those under water the thump of the ships propellers was a reminder to head up to the shallows before surfacing. For those on the surface, quite an enjoyable spectacle against the back drop of the Scottish highlands.

We normally dive this as a shore dive on the flood tide, getting in off the beach near the castle and out next to the small pier. However, diving from a boat makes things a little easier and provides better safety cover. We moored one of the boats in the bay in 2m for Sally and Nicola’s first dives with the other acting as safety cover.

We returned to Puffin divers for a packed lunch and to refill tanks before heading out for the second dive of the day.

The wreck of a barge (we think called the Hyacinth) protrudes from the water at the far side of the bay. It breaks the surface and lines in only 3-6m on-top of a reef which drops to 30m plus on the other side.

Michael and Michael swam off the wreck only to find some other wreckage in about 7m which we had not been aware of previously.

In the past we have found lost dive equipment at the site; no such luck this time. So we made do with enjoyed the marine life and the atmospheric lighting effects on the inside the wreck caused as the sun shining through holes.

We were back at the caravans by about 6pm, giving plenty of time to cook a fantastic curry and chill out over a glass of wine and a few beers.

On Sunday we had obtained special permission to launch the boats at Tralee Bay Caravan park and headed out to dive the wreck of the Breda .  The caravan park have had bad experiences of divers in the past so we were particularly careful to make sure we caused the minimum disruption and obey the rules they had set.

For those that have dived the Breda before, the signs of old age are apparent. However it is still an amazing wreck dive and definitely one for the logbook. With the top of the bows in only about 10-12m this was shallow enough for our competent Ocean Diver trainees, and certainly beats diving in some inland sand pit for your first few dives.

All too soon we were heading back home after a fantastic weekend of diving.

As the expedition leader I am always keen to bring everyone back both safe and smiling. The former is a case of good dive discipline and management but the latter is a bit harder. It was made easier with the good weather which was a surprise given what the club has experience in Scotland previously.

However I need not have worried.

It was very re-assuring to here from other club members that they had genuinely enjoyed the trip particularly when in quite a few cases they have experienced diving abroad in warmer, clearer waters previously.

Both our Ocean Diver trainees thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and I think were pleasantly surprised at how effective a good drysuit was with Nicola commenting that the diving was “not as cold in those suits as I thought!”.

Tony who has previously completed entry level PADI training commented “The weekend was excellent! Both myself and Shaun found it a great learning experience, the organisation was very good. I appreciated Nick’s patience and his assistance with Shaun on his first drysuit dives. This made my week end even more enjoyable. I thought the choice of dives was spot on and the way it culminated with the dive on the SS Breda topped it off!”.

The total cost of the weekend ALL in was £105 (luxury accommodation, food, transport, boat fuel, air fills and some beer)!

Lets pray that all the trips this year will be as good (and value for money) as this one!