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FED UP…. ANYONE FOR SECONDS? By Nicola Burney-Gunn

Friday the 19th May and we made our way up to Oban in the glorious sunshine.

Our home for the next few days, the Poplar Diver, was moored in the harbour and we all got round to unloading our cars and loading up the boat.

As the tide was low at this point there was rather a large height difference between the dock and the boats deck, so some slings and pulley systems were improvised to get our cylinders and gear down.  At this point a dazzling array of new knots and tying up systems were being displayed – I’m sure I’d never some of those knots before! However we eventually got all the gear on the boat, by our amazing pulley system, some of the bags getting carried down the ladder, and some of the gear just being tossed over the side to see where it would land (don’t worry health & safety people – I am only talking about nice light sleeping bags – honest!).

 

This was all hard work so as soon as we’d bagged ourselves a bunk it was off for some supplies (that’s a curry and beers). 

So, by the end of the night all was looking well.  We’d had fantastic weather for the drive up, the water was flat calm, and we were full of curry and beer – lovely.

 

Next morning we set off from Oban to head up the Sound of Mull and find some dive sites.  Unfortunately something had happened to the lovely weather overnight and it was now bucketing down.  To keep our spirits up we decided to tuck into the hearty breakfast that Heather had prepared.

Our first dive of the day was to be the wreck of the Rondo, and when we reached there mid morning the rain was still pouring down, however the water looked good and we all got kitted up.

 

 

 

 

 

As we made our way down the shot line you could clearly see the Rondo, lying up the wall, (it is sunk with it’s bow pointing into the sea bed and it’s stern standing up the way).  The water was nice and clear and the dive was great.  Loads of life and plenty to see.

We finished our dive and got de-kitted (in the rain).  However, Heather was on stand by with mugs of tea and bacon rolls to warm us up.  A couple of bacon rolls later and we were all feeling full and content to put our feet up until our next dive.  After about an hour we heard a cry from the galley ‘Lunch is ready’. Everyone looked rather surprised – we thought that the bacon rolls we had scoffed only an hour before had been lunch.  However, as we were soon to discover, that was just a small post-dive snack.  We hadn’t seen anything yet!

So we sat down for a lovely two-course lunch, followed by much groaning and clutching of stomachs.  Some of us wouldn’t be needing weight belts on the next dive!

 

The second dive of the day was the wreck of the Hispania, also in the Sound of Mull.

So, once again we got kitted up (in the rain) and off we went.  Again the visibility was great and you could see why the Hispania is known as one of the best wreck dives in the UK.  There is not an inch of it that is not covered in life.  After the dive a buddy pair were discussing nudibranchs and the types/shapes/sizes/colours that they had seem.  Little did I know at this point, but this was the start of a worrying trend that would suck us all in by the end of the week! 

Once everyone had de-kitted we chatted about our diver over lovely fresh cream scones that had been produced for afternoon tea – how very civilised.

Then it was a race to the shower to get warmed up and get some dry clothes on.

 

 

 

 

After the days exertions we sat down to dinner – a three-course meal prepared by Heather.  Once again our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and much groaning and loosening of belts ensued.

We decided we would go for an after dinner walk to see if that would make us feel any better.  As we were tied up in the harbour at Tobermory we had to do the harbour assault course before we reached dry land.  (At Tobermory the ferry ties up nearest the harbour, then any other boats that want to can tie up along side it and they stretch out the way).  On this particular evening there was the ferry and dredger and another dive boat between us and dry land but that didn’t stop us. Eventually, feeling like rather portly James Bonds we reached the harbour and went for a walk, and a quick after dinner drink in the pub.

We then did the assault course back to the boat to find that Heather had left cheese and biscuits for our return, but we couldn’t possibly – could we???

And yes, it was still raining.

 

Sunday morning and it was still raining.  However we consoled ourselves with breakfast (yes – more food), as we headed out of the Sound of Mull to see what the conditions would be like at Bo-Fascadale.  Unfortunately by the time we reached there the sea was very rough and it was unsuitable for diving.

So we turned back and made for Auliston Point, a lovely wall dive just within the Sound of Mull.  Again the conditions once in the water were brilliant, with really good light and great visibility.  There were huge crabs, lobsters and all sorts of interesting life – and that was when it happened – my dive buddy pointed out a nudibranch to me.  My first one (no prizes for guessing who I was diving with – Chris Holland).  At the time I thought no more about it, but it was to come back and haunt me!

When we had de-kitted from the dive there were no bacon rolls to greet us – at last Heather had heeded our pleas to stop giving us so much food (we’d only eat it!).  So instead she waited until lunchtime and gave us twice as much as usual.

 

Our next dive was a drift dive just outside the harbour at Tobermory. The drift was quite strong and it made for a very lazy dive as it sped you along nicely looking at the scenery as you went.  Once we’d had enough an SMB was deployed and the boat come to pick us up (after all that food we were getting lazy).

At this point the rain was still coming down so we consoled ourselves with fairy cakes that Heather had produced, (she never stopped cooking!) and then put our feet up until dinner. 

 

After yet another huge 3-course dinner we decided that those of who could still squeeze into our dry suits would go for a night dive.

We dived a wall just outside the harbour that had lots to see, if your torch was bright enough.  Luckily on this occasion my buddy was using a newly purchased UK Lite Cannon.  The only thing was that when she turned it on we were no longer doing a night dive, as this thing was so bright.  Apparently aircraft passing overhead could see us in the water and spaceships were landing nearby.  (It is now on my shopping list as a must buy).

 After another great dive it was back on board for cheese and biscuits and then those that still had the energy tackled the Tobermory harbour assault course and went to the pub.

 

Monday morning and guess what – yes it was still raining.  We were getting a bit fed up by this point and the only things that were keeping us going were the good diving and Heathers endless supply of food.  (Although at this point I’m sure I heard our skipper Rob complaining about how much lower the boat was beginning to sit in the water with all the extra weight we were carrying – can’t think what he was meaning).

 

Our two dives for the day were the wreck of the Shuna and Calve Island, and it was on our dive to the Shuna that I noticed a strange condition cover over me – was it narcosis, or even the bends??  No, even worse, I had started trying to spot nudibranchs – there was no hope for me how.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any although my buddy, who has been doing this for years I’m sure, managed to point out a couple to keep me going.  We discussed this strange new sensation I was having as we munched away on the usual huge lunch.

 

There was much excitement as we got ready for our dive that afternoon – the rain had stopped!  So for the first time during the trip we kitted up in the dry (the fact that everything was soaking anyway escaped us as we were delirious with our glimpse of blue sky).

Calve Island was a pretty scenic dive with a bit of drift and we floated along enjoying our dive and feeling all was well with the world now that the sun was out.

 

Once again it was the old routine of de-kit, freshly baked cakes for afternoon tea, fight for the shower and then feet up till dinner.  Although on this occasion people were actually seen out on the deck of the boat sorting out their kit and enjoying the novelty of being dry!

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this was our last evening on the boat Heather had pulled out all the stops and had made us an even larger dinner than usual (I think she was trying to see if she could produce her very own Mr Creosote moment).  Then we all hauled ourselves over the assault course (remarking how much easier it was in the dry) and headed for the pub.

An excellent day.

 

Tuesday morning and it’s our final day.  Typically it’s dry and we wonder whether a heat wave is about to start just as we’re going home!  We set off down the Sound of Mull and make our way to the Hispania, which will be our first dive of the day.  As we are diving quite early we have not had breakfast before the dive, so we are diving on empty stomachs, which we all find to be a very strange feeling given our food consumption over the past few days.

We descend the shot line when we reach the Hispania and realise quickly that we’re going to have to find something to cling on to, as there is a strong current flowing.  If we had let go of the wreck who knows where we might have ended up!  As we pull ourselves along the deck I find myself looking at my two buddies and shaking my head – they are comparing nudibranchs that they have spotted.  Sad I think, however that strange sensation overcomes me again and I find myself trying to spot the blighters.  Lo and behold I spot several and take great pride in pointing them out to my buddies. Sadly I’m almost as excited as they are!

After half an hour pulling ourselves around the wreck we make our way back up the shot line to the boat and discuss our exciting finds over breakfast.

 

Our second dive of the day, and last of the trip, is the wreck of the Thesis as we make our way back towards Oban.  This is a fantastic wreck, covered in life, and also open enough to get some swim throughs.  There is hardly any current here so no need to hold on, and we have a leisurely and enjoyable dive.

 

After our dive we pack up our kit and get our gear ready for going home. We then sit down to one final, huge lunch and chat about our trip.

We all agree that the weather was rubbish to start with but that the diving was fantastic.  The boat was comfortable, the skipper was excellent, but most of all, Heather and her unlimited supply of food was the thing that most of us would remember (mainly because we will be trying to shift the extra pounds for months).

So all in all a brilliant trip and a wholehearted recommendation for the forthcoming trips to St Kilda and Sound of Mull in September (I may just have lost the extra weight by then).

And the thing I took away from this trip – don’t go looking for nudibranchs!! They’ll reel you in and then there’s no escape. I’m having therapy at the moment to get over my condition!!

 

Nicola Burney-Gunn

 

 

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Updated 12 May 2017, 11:0:39