Or “The Last Gasp” of 2020
The Sound of Mull, or “Last Gasp”, October 2020, is the last trip SISAC ran in 2020. The last opportunity for a diving before the season ends due to deteriorating weather. This was a last gasp attempt to get some diving after the disruption caused by the C-19 epidemic, that had decimated our dive trips through out the spring and summer.
Organised by Paul Young, the trip we never expected to happen, the “Last Gasp”, (Sound of Mull, October 2020)” trip also known as the Lochaline trip.
Even on the Sunday morning, as we set off for Scotland, we where expecting it to be cancelled. We made it through the 4 days of diving, leaving on the Thursday evening before the new Scottish lockdown rules came into effect on the Friday.
The Sound of Mull team.
Setting off for the Sound of Mull where:-
Paul Young, Rob Howard, Nicholas Levy set of in Car one. Followed by Gareth Leyshon and Sally Charter in Car two. A late addition (on the Sunday morning) was Nick Charter, in Car 3. Car 4 was to leave later with Joe Blyth and Luke Johnson, although they traveled via Oban! We where to be meet at the accommodation by the last of our number Steve Marriot an ex branch member now living in Cheshire.
Base of Operations
We where based at the Localine Dive Center. Two person bunk rooms and a communal kitchen and dining area.
With a great view overlooking the Sound of Mull
The Sound of Mull is not a short drive, 8 hours or so each way. The convoy stopped initially at Scotch Corner on the A1, before taking the A66 across to the M6/M74. The other side of Glasgow, after we passed Loch Lomond, we stopped for fuel, before pushing on to the Ferry. At the Corran Ferry, Steve joined us. An hour or so from the ferry we where at the accommodation. Sally and I where enjoying the view so much that we overshot the ferry turning. Turning back after receiving a call from the rest of the group.
The plan had been to ensure we had all eaten before arriving at the dive center to avoid the need for a meal on the first night. We had consumed numerous sandwiches, snacks and nibbles during the journey, so we where able to settled down on the veranda looking out across the Sound of Mull on arrival, with a cup of tea, or a small beer.
The dive boat was the ‘Peregrine’. We where diving with Lochaline Boat Charters. David was to be our skipper for the first two days, then Malcolm for the last two.
Diving the Sound of Mull
The plan was to dive as many of the wreck sites as possible within the Sound of Mull, over the four days, weather and tide permitting.
The first day we woke to a glorious still morning of Sunshine, as we set out the Sound of Mull was like a mirror. Due to tidal considerations we dived the SS Shuna in the morning, so that we could dive the SS Hispania on slack in the afternoon. The SS Hispania was probably the favorite dive of the week.
Both wrecks are upright on the seabed, the Shuna is a little more silty than the Hispania. The SS Shuna has plenty of structure remaining, where the wheelhouse would have been. We initially went to the bow before returning along the forward deck and holds, swimming through the super structure.
The Hispania was super. We dived through the various holds, swimming the full length of the ship, dropping down to the rudder and prop’ shaft prior to returning to the deck area before we made our ascent. We had intended to explore the engine room at the start of the dive, but too much wreckage blocked access.
The second day another glourious morning in the Sound of Mull. We started earlier to ensure we had slack for the dive on the Ronda and the SS Breda in the afternoon. The Ronda is a little unusual, in that it lies up against the shore, with its bow in 6m and the stern in 50m. Some of our number went deep, the rest of us only dropping to 35m or so. The first pair in where required to tie a new shot onto the wreck. With the current, this took them longer than expected. The heavy exercise and time taken used up a lot of gas forcing them to shorten their dive time.
On the Ronda, I had planned to move onto the wall to the right of the wreck partway through the dive. But the current was too strong, and would have made this a little uncomfortable, so we stayed in the shelter of the wreck. Things got a little busy towards the end as everyone moved progressively up the wreck towards the surface, finally releasing DSMB’s to drift clear of the wreck and complete any required decompression and/or safety stops.
We started at the bow on the SS Breda, there was plenty to explore during the dive. We where able to swim into and out of the holds and then back through what remained of the superstructure.
On our way back to harbour we watched Sea Eagles picking fish out of the loch. A change from dolphins we see in Plymouth and the porpoises we had seen the day before. We where to see them a number of times over the next two days.
The third day the weather was not as settled in the Sound of Mull, the wind was making it decidedly more ‘lumpy’. So we dived the Pelican, a sheltered back up site near Tobermory . This turned out to be a surprise, we had expected the worst, although silty, it was an enjoyable dive and tested every ones buoyancy and finning skills. A unique aspect of the dive was the halocline at the surface, which was also mixed with peaty water. The peaty water reduced the light considerably, but once below this surface layer, the visibility was excellent (unless you stirred up the silt).
After a stop in Tobermory, for a lunch break, we had improved weather for the afternoon dive on the Thesis.
I was frustrated during this dive, my camera was misbehaving, which was a considerable distraction, and reduced my enjoyment of the dive. However, we where able to get to the boilers and engine, which was pleasing in itself.
Because we hoped to get away early afternoon, we opted to dive the Uliston wall near Tobermory, and then dive the Shuna for the second time in the afternoon.
It was another bright calm morning in the Sound of Mull. The wall dropped to a depth of about 30m, with a gentle current taking you along it. This dive was kept short to maximise time on the afternoon dive. I had another issue with my camera, totally down to bad assembly and a failure to test everything the night before.
On the Shuna I was diving with Nicholas. Despite a wish to go to the stern, we stayed around the wheel house close to the shot. Reaching the stern would have required a fast dash across the wreck in the hope of arriving before we ran out of no – stop time. It seemed far more sensible to modify the dive plan to allow a more leisurely dive.
We where split into teams for cooking. Each team had brought frozen home cooked food to reheat during the week.
At the end of day one. Sally and I cooked a large number of potatoes, that where mashed and added to Sally’s pre-prepared mince, to produce our Cottage Pie. Desert was Rhubarb crumble with custard. A lot of belt losening followed, and as is ususal, there was plenty of food left over.
Day two was Bolognese time, prepared by Paul and Rob, they even made garlic Bread! A little delayed because it had failed to defrost during the day. This was followed by Chocolate Cake with Cream. For some, cream with chocolate cake.
Day three was Lasagne, prepared by Steve. Having learnt from the night before, this was ready to go once we where back from diving. Rob produced bread and jam pudding with custard for desert.
As usual on these trips, we where all well feed with plenty of food left over.