8th – 10th November 2013
by Richard Booth
One of the great things about being a member of the larger BSAC family is the opportunity that often arises to dive with other club’s. In this instance Tiago and Richard managed to secure places upon an Oban dive trip organized by South Bay Scuba, a BSAC branch based in Scarborough. Expedition base was in the Cologin farm house situated a couple of miles south of Oban conveniently situated right next to the Barns Bar public house.
The farmhouse proved well up to the task of accommodating all 12 members of this mini expedition with plenty of toilets and showers and hot water, plus a large kitchen and dining area, along with a comfortable sitting room with fireplace.
Next morning it was an early start down to Oban to meet the dive boat MV Peregrine.
Once kit was safely loaded we headed out across the Lorne to the Sound of Mull, through the choppy waters whipped up by the brisk SE breeze. Once in the Sound however, conditions proved much more sheltered.
First dive of the day was on the wreck of the SS Rondo. The remains of this wreck drop steeply down the slope with its bow at 50 metres firmly embedded into the loch bottom and the remains of the stern area suspended close to the surface.
With a gentle current sweeping across the wreck under water visibility was an acceptable 5 metres or so.
An enjoyable dive with plenty of life to be seen clinging to the wreckage.
Once everyone was safely abroad the Peregrine headed further up the Sound. Expectations were high as we awaited slack water to dive the wreck of the SS Hispania.
With the current dropping away around the wreck buoy we descended down the line to be greeted by what can only be described as disappointing visibility of 1-2 metres.
More like the Tyne than the Sound of Mull! Whilst waiting to dive we had noticed a working scallop dredger a little further up the Sound and had kept our fingers crossed that its activities would not adversely affected the dive.
It appeared however that the dragging trawls had done their worst; nevertheless for those who had never dived this site before had an enjoyable dive.
For others who had enjoyed previous dives on the Hispania in clearer water, we silently cursed the offending trawler.
That evening we relaxed in the warmth and comfort of Cologin House enjoying home-cooked pasta and apple pie.
The following morning we again headed out of Oban and back up the Sound of Mull to dive the wreck of the SS Shuna. We arrived to find another dive charter boat on site. Heading down the shot on to the wreck we found an intact wreck but conditions were very dark and any careless fining quickly stirred up clouds of silt restricting the visibility yet further.
The wreck is situated in relatively sheltered waters, so its marine life is more akin to that found in sea lochs rather than open water. The sides of the vessel are alive with extended peacock worms although intriguingly Tiago also located some red deadmens fingers on the hull as well as nudibranchs.
For the final dive of the day, and rather ‘wrecked out’, we headed back down the Sound to dive a site known locally as Grey Rocks. The skipper promised a nice scenic dive but with the possibility of a few scallops for dinner. We descended to find a slope covered with rocks carpeted in soft corals. Pushed on by the flooding tide we soon came across the steep submarine cliffs that were covered in more soft corals and featherstars.
Then on across a boulder slope until we encountered the kelp and sandy bottom. Here we found scallops!
That night we feasted on a scallop starter before tucking into Tiago’s special chilli con carne and home cooked apple pie.
Next morning it was an especially early start, as kit had to packed away and the farmhouse tidied up for our departure, for today was our last day in Oban. Outside the warmth of the house we were greeted with cars and roads covered in a crisp frost; it had been a cold night.
First dive site was the wreck of the SS Thesis. The bright blue sky promised a nice dive and we were not to be disappointed with the sunshine lighting up this scenic little wreck.
For the final dive of the trip we headed down to Ardmucknish Bay for a dive on the SS Breda. Dropping into the water we initially descended through a brown layer of fresh water run off from the recent rain, then the visibility improved. We all enjoyed a pleasant dive exploring along the decks and the holds of this wartime freighter. It made a fitting end to an excellent weekends diving on the west coast of Scotland.
Many thanks to Ann Morisson and Lochaline Boat Charters for an excellent weekends diving: