10th-12th May 2014
by David Mitchell
A trip to Seil Island is becoming an annual event on Tyneside’s calendar. May 2014 saw us making our third visit to this area and the diving was some of the best we have experienced.
Seil Island lies about 12 miles South West of Oban. It’s a true island with a single bridge linking it to the mainland, known as the “Bridge over the Atlantic”. It enjoys a mild climate which encourages a riot of colour in local gardens in the spring. The diving is equally scenic and colourful, with few wrecks but a diverse range of walls and pinnacles to explore. Conservation measures over many years have ensured that there is plenty to see and photograph, above and below the waves.
A group of 10 Tyneside divers and 2 guests gathered on Friday evening at the local pub, the Tigh n Truish Inn, for a final briefing from myself as Dive Manager and some excellent fish and chips. Our accommodation was in the nearby Seabank Cottage, which is a modern and comfortable property.
On Saturday morning, we boarded Porpoise II for our day’s diving. This is a fast and spacious boat, skippered by First Class Diver David Ainsley and his wife Jean. David has a fantastic knowledge of marine life and the dive sites around the Garvellachs (“Isles of the Sea”) and the Firth of Lorne. There are deep waters here and fast tides, so his knowledge of where and when to dive is vital to a successful trip.
Our first site was on the extreme south west point of the Garvellachs – normally impossible to dive in the prevailing south-westerlies but the weather gods were kind to us on this trip. We had an excellent first dive on a colourful wall. Second dive of the day was on “Craw Wall” and, sure enough, there were crawfish to be seen. This site is well-protected and divers are firmly told not to disturb the marine life – that’s why sightings of this rare creature can usually be guaranteed here.
Once ashore, some of our group headed off to Oban to refill cylinders whilst others headed down to Easdale for the delights of the Oyster Bar which overlooks a deep slate quarry flooded by the sea. Clearly, as Dive Manager, it was my duty to visit the Oyster Bar and ensure no divers over-indulged!
The evening was spent in Seabank cottage where Tiago and Hubert provided all 12 of us with a splendid evening meal. To sit in comfort, full of good food, exchanging dive stories with friends and watching the sun go down over Balvicar Bay is as good as it gets.
Sunday dawned and the weather was still good. The first dive site, known as “Steps” (due to a series of rocky ledges descending into the depths), was as good as I have seen it with loads of life and great vis.
Our second dive was to be an exciting drift dive between the islands of Lunga and Scarba, known as the “Grey Dogs”. This site is a short distance from the world-famous whirlpool of “Corryvreckan”! Our skipper took the boat through the narrows whilst the tide was still running, which made a few members of our party turn fairly grey at the thought of diving there! Whilst waiting for some slack, we went to view the nest of a pair of Sea Eagles and we were lucky enough to see one of the eagles leave the nest and then return a few minutes later.
Slack water was some way off so we took the easier option to dive another fantastic pinnacle nearby which did not disappoint. By this time, the sun had left us and rain was falling as we unloaded the gear from the boat and jumped into our cars to head for home. All agreed it had been an excellent trip with all the important elements in place: great diving, a good boat, good food, comfortable accommodation and excellent company.
Looking forward to a return visit in 2015!