Bank Holiday Diving in the Clyde

Roy was told he had to arrange a dive trip in order to complete his Dive Leader qualification. Taking soundings from various people in the club, he decided the trip should feature wrecks, preferably not IKEA (flat-pack) wrecks. The area selected was Cumbrae Island, near Largs. After contacting the skipper of the Seran Las the trip base was moved to Largs, there being no suitable launching/mooring facilities on Cumbrae.

So last Friday 6 of us travelled to Scotland for 3 days diving. Mike J and Steve Richardson (aka the rebreather geysers) travelled together. The rest of us, Dave, Matthew, Roy and I travelled in Dave's Dive Bus. A brilliant addition to his dive kit, this is an ex-police vehicle with 6 seats and a capacious boot.

Mike and Steve arrived long before the rest of us, so nobly visited the local hostelries to sus out suitable eating and watering places for later in the weekend. As they said, somebody had to do it. Roy had booked us in to a b & b in Largs, the Tigh-na-Ligh guest house. This was a very comfortable guest house just a short walk from the centre of Largs. We persuaded them to bring breakfast forward an hour as we had been told ropes off was at 8:30am.

Clyde

The next morning found the 6 of us wandering around Largs Yacht Haven wondering where the boat was. Eventually, about 9:30 the boat appeared. During this hour Roy's hair turned from grey to white as he fretted about whether we were in the right place, on the right day, looking for the right boat, and we wondered if he was in his right mind.

We jumped (ok - climbed) on board and set out into the Clyde. The sun was shining and the sea was flat. Good for us, but not so good for the yachties who were trying to race in their annual regatta.

After about 15 mins, Steve realised he had left his fins, mask, hood and gloves in his car. We convinced him that he had to talk to the skipper and that there was enough time to go back and fetch them. So Steve sidled up to the skipper like a school boy who had forgotten his gym kit, but instead of getting detention, he got the numpty armband. Fortunately, the skipper was of the same mind and we returned to where we had just left. Although Steve showed an impressive turn of speed running up the ramp to fetch his kit, this set a high level of incompetence that no-one else was able to match, even though we tried. I nearly went for a dive without zipping my dry suit, Dave tried to take the boat diving with him, omitting to untie himself from the rail and Mike forgot to put his weight belt on. He claims someone hid it under his other kit.

Forty-five minutes later found us getting kitted up to dive the Wallachia. This is 1 of the 2 best dives in the Clyde. I was wondering about what I had agreed to, the consensus being it was going to be cold and dark at best. To my relief while it was dark, the viz was good and it wasn't especially cold. The text books describe a band of murky water above dark but clear water, and that is what we got.

The Wallechia deserves her reputation. It was a superb dive, in the best conditions possible. She is a text book wreck, sitting reasonably upright and recognisable from stem to stern. We even found the beer bottles concreated into the holds. Mike came back with a souvenir - stings from a Lions mane Jellyfish. These developed into welts on the left of his face. His young granddaughter was very interested in this and later decided the most important thing to do when diving was not to get stung by a jellyfish. Jellyfish were very common. Roy decided the thing to do with them is to push them away with the fist - not sure about that myself. I'm sure I'd get stung if I tried that. Hot tea greeted us back on board and we all had a bite of lunch before preparing to dive the Akka, the 2nd of the 2 best dives in this area.

On Sunday the weather was even better than Saturday. The sea was a mirror under a bright sun, the paddle steamer Waverley sailed majestically by and we dived the Beagle and the Greenock. The expected poor diving conditions did not materialise and again we dropped through a silty layer into a clear, but dark sea. Matthew's strobe lent a disco feel to the shadowy hulk. The Beagle was absolutely covered in growth, not an inch of rusty metal was visible.

The Greenock was a dredger. The buckets are still there, but they are so large, it takes a while to get them into proportion and to be able to appreciate what they are.

Monday came in with a force 5 and a sea change. The morning's dive was the only disappointment; to find it we had to follow the line of an old telegraph cable down through the rocks and into the silt, by the time we got there we had no bottom time. If there is anything left of the Cuirassier, none of us saw it as the swell increased, the skipper assessed that the next planned wreck, the Lady Isobel, would be too difficult, despite sheltering behind Little Cumbrae and suggested a scallop dive instead. As the way to any diver's heart is through their stomach we all happily agreed and jumped off the boat carrying goody bags - a couple big enough to hold a small seal - with the aim of finding tea. We all returned with scallops and also a couple of crabs.

As predicted, the strengthening wind and increasing swell did indeed cause problems. As we recovered Dave a following sea came in through the open lift and gave everything on deck a wash down. It was time to go home.

I now appreciate better the attractions of a good wreck and those of us, who were not so familiar with this kind of diving before, are now wondering about moving to twin sets to give longer bottom time to appreciate these wrecks.

It was with reluctance that we unloaded the boat, packed the van and headed south for home.

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