Diving is all about exploration. Whether you go under the waves to explore lush reefs or caves, or maybe you go underwater for the wrecks. There’s something truly spectacular about diving on a wreck, whether it’s the familiarity of a man-made structure, or perhaps the history of how it sank. wrecks have forever attracted and captivated scuba divers and those who hear about them. But what do you get when you combine fantastic diving, with breath-taking scenery, and five star service, this is of course diving Scotland’s Lochs with Wreckpeditions.
I was invited on the trip back in January by a friend who is an instructor at BSAC Huddersfield, the group were amazing with a wealth of different diving skills, qualifications, and personalities, it made for a truly amazing group of people to go diving with.
We were diving with Wreckspeditions who are based out of the marina in the town of Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula. It’s ran by power couple Jason and Claire, both are divers with Jason being a Yachtmaster Coastal Skipper and RYA instructor. Jason is who we were with throughout our time diving in the Clyde and local Lochs.
We arrived at our accommodation in Dunoon, after getting a short ferry ride, around 5pm. We settled in and unpacked before heading out for food just after 6pm. After eating we found a local pub where had a drink which was great for me to get to know everyone in the group and vice versa, we planned with Jason to be at the marina at 8:15am to be ropes off at 9am. Before we could set off, we of course needed to set up gear, load it on to the boat and get a safety briefing before disembarking.
Jason arrived shortly after 8:15am and introduced himself, he explained about some rough weather out on the Clyde, and we discussed dive sites for the next few days whilst we loaded gear. Jason did a safety briefing and explained how he runs his dive operations on the Starfish Enterprise which is a Redbay Stormforce 7.4m RHIB and she’s able to cater for up to 8 divers comfortably. Jason explained that he’s a very hands-on Skipper and says he would rather help you and hand stuff to you when you’re gearing up rather than you trying to grab it yourself when sat in your gear.
We loaded up just after 9am and set out for the Clyde to a dive site known as the Gantocks, it was just a long enough steam to learn more about the local area and dive sites, I asked Jason about bad weather conditions and he stated that if they get a Westerly wind, this goes against the flow of the River Clyde which flows in from the direction of Glasgow, with this wind it creates a chop rather than a swell which can be unpleasant to go out in. We learnt this the hard way however, and as soon as we came round the top of Dunoon and into the Clyde we were met with the chop and wind.
Jason took us to a site known as the Gantocks and did a dive briefing, explaining the site and best dive routes to take. The briefing lasted only a few minutes but already Will, one of the divers, was sick over the side. We got geared up in our buddy pairs/groups with the others waiting for them to enter the water before gearing up, Jason structured it this way to stop the chaos of 7 divers gearing up all at the same time and the same when trying to get everyone out all at the same time. After a short wait myself, Alex and Will jumped in but due to the visibility we lost each other almost immediately after jumping in, we all surfaced, found each other, and went down but unfortunately, we lost each other again. Will and I surfaced to find Alex on the surface once more and we decided to call the dive.
Once we got back on board I was being helped out of my equipment and suddenly felt really sick, as soon as I was out my gear, I walked the edge of the boat and was sick, it was here that I remembered my sea legs are not what they used to be after a long hiatus of not being on boats due to Covid.
Once everyone is out of the water we head back to Dunoon for a drink and something to eat, this is something that my newly empty stomach appreciated. We had about an hour to eat before heading back to the boat, myself and Alex were diving Twinsets through the trip and the ease of this was represented in not having to switch or fill cylinders between dives which made the surface interval that much more relaxing.
Back out on the boat for the second dive, which was only around 300m from the marina on a pair of old WW2 Landing Crafts that were scuttled in the Holy Loch after the War. We were told that there was a shot line between the two wrecks, and they’re spaced about 20m apart. I, Alex and Will jumped in and followed the shot line down, we all collectively thought how good the viz was as we descended past 10 metres, however this wasn’t too last.
As we hit 12m the viz dropped to mere inches, I found the wreck by banging into it, which made for a good giggle when we surfaced. Alex found the Shot line and we all swam the 20m to the second wreck where we spent 45 minutes on it. The bad viz didn’t bother us in the slightest and made the dive more memorable and exciting, as it was virtually a night dive due to the viz. We were swimming around the wreck searching for life and virtually every surface was covered in some form or life, from Sea squirts, Anemones, Fan Worms, and Crabs there was something to be seen everywhere you looked.
We surfaced and headed back to shore where we removed our gear to be filled and headed back for a shower and to grab a bite to eat, we had an early night as it was an early start for a long steam to Loch Goil the next day.
We arrived the next morning at 8am for ropes off at 8:30am for the 45min steam up to Loch Goil, on the way up we went past some of the most breath-taking scenery and landscapes, passing a Submarine dock and seeing countless Harbour Porpoises on the way out. The first dive was on the One Tree Wall, a site with a ledge at 6m which drops off down to the bottom, Jason said that at 25m there’s an overhang with a vast array of life, so that’s where we decided to have our max depth at. Today I was with Rob and Ray, we were the second buddy group in and dropped down to the overhang, here we found hundreds of Fan Worms and Sea Squirts. But as we moved shallower, we found that the wall was littered with small shelves covered in Snails, Crabs, and small fish. The wall was incredibly dramatic, it was something you would usually visualise in places like the Red Sea or Maldives.
After Surfacing we headed to The Boat Shed Café, a local spot to eat and Moore up at, here we were treated to an incredible view of Loch Goil along with a hot drink and some food, even if they no longer served the Haggis and Caramelized onion Panini which unfortunately really ruined Jason’s day. Sitting here was almost like sitting in a different country and is a regular stop for Wreckspeditions, the dramatic views and colours combined to create a truly spectacular view. They even have a purpose-built area for divers to sit and eat, complete with a board for dive briefings. The original plan was to drive to the café and get on the RHIB from here, but it was decided to go by boat as that opens up our options for diving a little bit more.
The second Dive site was the Avrella Wreck, it was a stone’s throw away from the dock and we could see the marker buoy from the Cafés balcony. The wreck sits at 28m but it’s a beautifully intact wreck as it only sunk back in 2000, the prop is huge and honestly you can’t miss it, the wreck is covered in an assortment of animals from the classic Loch species such as Anemones and Fan worms but it was also adorned with species we didn’t see anywhere else on the trip, such as Harbour and Velvet Swimming Crabs, along with a shoal of small fish that swam under the wreck as we approached. Along with all of these we also had two Fireworks Anemone that were just off the stern, unfortunately almost everyone saw them, but I went in the wrong direction and missed them. It really is an incredible dive for not only the life found on, or around the wreck but with just how intact the wreck is, its age underwater is only just beginning to show, and you could spend several dives on this single wreck.
The second day was finished just like that, and we made our way back to Dunoon, we returned leisurely taking in some of local sites such as castles and accompanying Lochs, spotting other boats and of course more Harbour Porpoises.
That evening after returning, we walked to a local restaurant for a beer or three and some food, before returning to get another early night, the next day was another early start as We wanted to be on the road home for no later than 3pm, as it was a near 5-hour drive back south.
The next day started with a message from Jason just to let us know that he had seen a Submarine making its way up the Clyde, he also mentioned that this could change our plan slightly. Our plan was to dive up in Loch Goil once again and then head back to the Clyde to dive Inverkip Jetty. We set off from Dunoon and Jason courteously asked the local Navy of our intention to dive up in Loch Goil but due to the recent Submarine activity they apologized and told us that diving wasn’t possible today.
So, we headed straight for Inverkip Jetty where Jason told us that this dive was Macro heaven, and let’s just say that he wasn’t wrong. Alex and I were Buddies on the final day, and both had our cameras at the ready. Inverkip Jetty is around 10 minutes away from Dunoon and from around 6m down each jetty leg was covered in Dead-man’s Fingers Anemones and Sea Squirts and the floor was one giant Brittle Star Bed, from a distance it looks like a muck dive but as you approach you realise that the floor is alive with Brittle Stars, Spiny and Common Starfish as well as a whole range of Crab Species. The visibility on this would’ve allowed Wide angle Photography, and there are some truly spectacular wide-angle shots to be had here but I’m so glad I stuck with Macro on this dive with just the sheer abundance of life on each leg, it just means I’ll have to return soon. Alex and I spent just over an hour on this dive, and we were the first in and last out thanks to our twinsets, and we would’ve done that dive again just to enjoy it all over again.
After the dive we all headed back to Dunoon for some lunch and to discuss our final dive.
The final dive of the trip was once more just outside of the Dunoon Marina in the Holy Loch, on what Jason aptly calls the 3 Wreck Challenge. There are 3 wrecks spread apart, with the second lying around 60m off the first and the third around 40m off the second, there was however no shot lines between them so on this dive we decided to give the challenge a go and see if we could reach all 3 only using our compasses. We jumped in buddy pair at a time into the water and descended to the first wreck, to ensure that we didn’t run into anyone else possibly making it harder or easier to find the wreck we spent a few minutes at the first taking pictures, then we headed to the second wreck, Alex was using the compass feature on his camera. We were moving slowly so as to not get distracted as the viz wasn’t the best, at one point I swore I saw the wreck but it was a cloud of silt in the literal shape of a boat, we believed this was kicked up earlier, even a previous buddy pair ahead of us swam through it and thought the same thing, so it was nice to know I wasn’t the only to think that. Alex and I were finning for a while before we decided that we’d missed the second wreck and decided to Surface. When we got back on-board Jason told us that we were halfway to the wreck and that if we’d have continued, we’d have been bang on target but alas this is another reason to return, so that we can beat the 3 wreck challenge.
Only one buddy pair managed to find the second wreck but surfaced due to air consumption.
After the dive we headed back to the marina, unloaded all our equipment off the Starfish Enterprise, got out of our dive gear and loaded everything into our cars. We then went to have a final chat with Jason, both to thank him for an amazing few days and to also say goodbye, additionally everyone in our group bought a Mug and coaster which we all drink from with pride. We then got on the road home, with me jumping in with Karl and Rob. We all got the ferry from Dunoon back to Gourock and headed home.
In summary these 4 days were incredible, the diving was spectacular with a perfect mixture between wrecks, walls, and reefs. The visibility on this occasion only allowed me to do Macro Photography but that didn’t stop the photography and diving being amazing, there really is something for everyone here and Jason is always happy to discuss diving options to suit everyone. Not only was the diving exceptional but the service was one of kind, Jason mentioned at the beginning of our trip that he’s a very hands-on skipper and you’d be hard pressed to not notice that he helps you kit and de-kit, helps you with your fins, makes hot drinks and of course is a blast to be around. He’s exceptionally knowledgeable of the local area, wildlife, and its wrecks as well as answering any questions extremely well. To say that I’ll be returning to dive with Jason and Wreckspeditions in the future is a promise and if you’re looking for 5-star service with a knowledgeable dive guide and skipper in a breath-taking part of our country, look no further than Dunoon and the local Lochs with Jason at Wreckspeditions.
I would also like to extend my biggest thanks to Huddersfield BSAC and everyone on the trip for not only making each dive and moment enjoyable and memorable, but for also having me along on their trip, it really was a spectacular few days away.
Announcing the Winners of Scubaverse’s November 2022 Underwater Photo & Video Contests
Another bumper month packed with amazing images and videos from around the world! It has certainly been another great month for entries in both contests – your underwater photos and videos are just getting better and better! Thanks to all who entered.
If you’re not a winner this month, then please do try again. December’s photo and video contests are now open.
Tips for… Refreshing Skills
A hugely important subject, and one that should be considered by any diver regardless of your training level. Just like anything, sometimes life gets in the way, we get sidetracked and before you know it, it’s been 2 months out of the water. It may not seem like a lot, but we naturally start to forget things when they are not used. We slow down our actions as we are out of practise and have to think a little more in order to retrieve the information to help make decisions.
There’s nothing wrong with this of course, we cannot always be diving! But it is important that we refresh before getting straight back into it. We obviously conduct a lot of refresher courses here at the dive centre, but we are also realistic, knowing that not everyone will want to pay to refresh their skills with an instructor. That’s also fine too, just be sensible.
Our tips for this would be the following; some will likely seem a little common sense… but it’s always good to have a reminder right?!
First off, when getting back to diving, choose a buddy that you usually dive with or someone that has a higher level of competency in diving. This will give you the reassurance in the water and not have to be worrying about the others person whilst getting back into it yourself.
Secondly, choose a site that you know. Don’t be jumping straight in having seen an amazing new site that you want to try out… that can wait for another time. You have already had a break in your actual diving, without having to then also consider navigating and a new dive plan.
Next, try to leave out the brand new equipment. It’s great that getting back into diving you have decided to buy yourself a new drysuit, fins and BCD, but it all might be a little bit much. Let’s concentrate on just getting back into the water and then move onto those new additions. This kind of change can make even the best of divers anxious.
Last but not least, there’s nothing wrong with staying shallow. Our first dive to get back into it, does not need to break our dive depth record. Stay shallow, enjoy the marine life at this depth, and keep the dive nice and easy. Practise those skills if you would like to, make sure you know where all your equipment is positioned and get comfortable. The ocean isn’t going anywhere… there’s always tomorrow to get in for another!
Find out more at www.duttonsdivers.com
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