A club mini expedition exploring the rich waters off the Garvellachs (Isles of the Sea)
5th-8th October 2012
by Richard Booth
Back in the early 1990’s Tyneside 114 use to make occasional forays out to the Garvellachs using the club RIBS on weekends based out of Oban. Having focussed more recently on the numerous wrecks in the Sound of Mull and off Coll and Tiree, it was time for a return trip to revisit some of the fantastic scenic dive sites around the entrance of the Firth of Lorne.
The plan was simple; expedition members would be based on Seil Island with the main party based in a rented holiday let, Seabank Cottage. Instead of using the club RIBs however we opted to charter the MV Porpoise 11 along with the expertise of local skipper Dave Ainsley. Dave used to be a well-known dive charter skipper in this area but in more recent years has concentrated on wildlife and scenic boat tours rather than dive charters.
Some of the party opted to travel up early on Friday with the aim of stopping off for a dive on the way up. Richard, Dave and Martin headed up to the Argyle caravan site and enjoyed an excellent dive amongst the small wrecks that are to be found under the moorings in Quebec bay in Loch Fyne. Heading out a little further into the loch they also came across an area with numerous firework anemones.
Later that evening most of the party assembled in the Tigh an Truish pub for a briefing by expedition organiser, Dave Mitchell and a welcome glass of ale.
Next morning we assembled aboard the MV Porpoise II and headed out to the Gavellachs.
First dive was on a site known as ‘the Steps’, which offered reasonable shelter from the tide as well as an area with a steep scenic submarine wall. Conditions proved ideal with a flat sea, little swell and bright sunshine.
Second dive of the day was on an offshore pinnacle known as Jeanie’s reef. This site offered a superb slack water dive on an otherwise very tidal site. The walls and surfaces of the reef proved to be a haven for marine life with lots of jewelled anemones and sponges in evidence, clearly benefitting from the strong currents that usually flow across this exposed reef.
Later that evening we enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Oyster Bar in the picturesque village of Ellenabeich along with a few more pints of local ale before heading back to our lodgings after a fairly tiring but enjoyable day.
Next morning we took full advantage of a slightly later start for the return journey back out to the Gavellachs. This time the first dive was at a site known as the ‘Eagles’, as it is situated under a cliff on which a pair of golden eagles has taken up residence.
Again this site offered an excellent dive to over 40 metres with large submarine cliffs and rich kelp forests in the shallower waters.
For the second dive of the day we headed out to more open waters taking advantage of the calm conditions to dive another offshore pinnacle, Crawfish reef. The shotline was dropped on the top of the pinnacle and we then waited patiently for slack water.
At the appointed time we dropped into the water and followed the line down through the green water and into the kelp on the top of the pinnacle. Soon we headed on, dropping over the cliff edge and exploring the richly covered rock faces. Some of the party were even fortunate enough to come across a number of large crawfish, which have given this site its name.
Nicola was in her element photographing and recording numerous species for her seasearch forms.
Perhaps however the most encouraging thing for those that have previously dived this area before, was the clear evidence that marine life is flourishing as a result of the scallop trawling restrictions that have placed around the Gavellachs resulting in clear benefits for delicate marine life such as the jewelled anemones which are now much more in evidence than before.
That evening some of the party departed on the long journey back home. Others however chose to stay on Seil Island for another night with the option of an early morning dive out in the Sound of Luing. Nicola, Simon and Richard made the early start along with Dave Hyde who opted to help out as crew.
Dave Ainsley picked a site from the chart, which looked like offering a potentially promising dive site. It was as far as he was aware, a new ‘virgin’ dive site.
This site was another tidal site, so after dropping the shot we again waited for slack water.
Once in the water we headed down and explored the steep submarine slope. The site was notable for the unusual submarine geology, which consists of large slate like rocks, which littered the steep slope of the reef. Again the strong tides and currents that sweep this area have ensured a rich covering of marine life.
Back on shore dive kit was packed into cars and reluctantly we headed home.
Many thanks to Dave Mitchell and Dave Ainsley for an excellent weekend.