16th-17th April 2011
After last years successful club trips to Loch Long and Fyne, it was clear that demand for places on this years trip was likely to be high; This proved to be the case with demand exceeding the 12 places in the two booked static caravans with the excess attendee’s being accommodated in the Argyll hotel in Inveraray.
The aim of the weekend was to get as many members back into the water and thereby ‘kick start’ the season into action now that the sea is once again starting to warm up after the recent harsh winter.
Loch Fyne in this regard offers a number of good shore diving options, the only limitating factor being that many of these sites have restricted parking facilities.
Coordinating the weekend diving activities was Hubert Desgranges assisted by Gordon Lambert. On Saturday morning all 15 divers assembled for the dive brief before heading off in convoy to Furnace Quarry, a site we had also dived last year but from the club RIBs rather than from the shore. The site however has a reasonably sized car park situated within easy walking distance of the waters edge. It also has the advantage of offering reasonably easy access into and out of the water especially at high tide; low tide however offers a bit more of a challenge as the receding water exposes quite a steep and slippery slope to clamber back up especially on big spring tides.
Initially on submerging we descended through a dark halocline of brown fresh water before encountering much clearer seawater beneath; indeed underwater visibility in places was around 10 metres. The steep slope is littered with boulders many of which have been colonised by sea squirts and sea loch anemones.
This particular site is also noted for the large number of dogfish that seem to be attracted by the shelter offered by the rocky nature of the reef. On this occasion we were not to be disappointed with numerous dogfish being encountered, but unlike last year we did not have to rescue any fish that had been snagged hooked on the surrounding rocks.
In some regards some of the most interesting aspects of this dive are to be found in the top 6 metres, where numerous and varied small critters are to be found hiding amongst the weed and crevices in the shallower water. Here we found strange shaped spider crabs and different varieties of squat lobsters.
The combination and mixing of fresh and seawater also creates something of a striking yellow green background to the water column making for some interesting photographic possibilities.
That evening we assembled at the George hotel in Inveray for a club dinner. After an excellent meal and a few beers it proved a nice way to round the day off.
Next morning, after vacating the caravans and hotel, we headed off once again in convoy but this time to the south side of Loch Fyne to dive St Catherine’s reef. Again this site was picked because it offers good parking facilities and easy access down to the waters edge.
Swimming out from the shore we descended down an initially steep muddy slope. Keeping the slope over our right shoulder we soon encountered the rocky reef. The highlight of this dive was encountering a large conger eel in its lair at the base of the reef. Again the reef has lots of small critters and is quite scenic in places and provides quite a pleasant and interesting dive.
For the final dive of the trip we headed back to the head of the loch, to a site that is noted for the number of firework anemones that are to be found out on its silty bottom. We were not to be disappointed as we found numerous specimens of these magnificent anemones of varying shapes and colours situated around the 20 metre contour line of the loch, a satisfying way to end an excellent weekends dive trip.