2015 Expedition Reports
CELEBRATIONS OF THE BARD AT RATAGAN- BURNS SUPPER DIVE WEEKEND 23-25 JANUARY
2015 saw us back at Ratagan Youth Hostel to celebrate Burn’s Night and to hopefully clock up one or two dives. The weather was really as might be expected for this time of year and the travelling was accompanied by snow covered roads and at times “interesting” conditions to get to our destination. Folk were coming from Clyde, Thurso and Stirling Branches to join ourselves this year so it did make for lively discourse on arrival and then, after unloading bags, boxes, dive kit etc., off to the kitchen to make a brew or something of a stronger nature. Eventually everyone had arrived, sorted themselves out and retired for the night.
The hostel has been a great place for this Social event with plenty of space for folk and their kit. The accommodation is comfortable and warm with a kitchen, though not vast, copes with the cooking needs and has a large dining area next door to it. There is a sitting room with plenty of relaxing seating and the bedrooms accommodate different numbers of folk. What does help at this time of year is that the hostel is closed but will open for large groups to use if they pre- book, hence we have the place to ourselves which makes things much more hassle free.
Some folk had managed to get a dive in on Friday and informed us that it had been good and so Saturday morning had us all heading for the head of Loch Duich near the Kintail Hotel. The car park suddenly filled up with a lot of divers preparing for their dives. There was snow on the hills and it was dull and overcast with frequent rain/sleet showers but lemming like everybody duly headed for the entry point which does involve walking/sliding down a rather boggy area. Most kit had been sorted at the hostel but extra weights were left at the loch side just in case and so after the buddy checks folk entered the water. The site here is on a muddy slope which allows you to stay quite shallow if need be but more depth can be found by going down the slope. Some folk might disagree but the mud can be quite interesting with its own varied collection of small beasties with rays and sea pens also having been found there. There is no current and there are some rocky outcrops so as a first check out dive is fine.
On completion of this dive folk headed back to the hostel to warm up, get some food and sort out any issues that had appeared during the first dive. Each Club sorted out their own divers just to keep things simple however the groups were divided up so as to lessen the impact of parking at the selected sites along the loch side for the second dive of the day. The weather remained dull and overcast but the dives were duly done and were deemed a success and folk seemed to have enjoyed them and so it was back to the hostel for the Supper itself.
The kitchen was a hive of activity with clouds of steam and lots of busy folk preparing the food and there was plenty of that. The menu provided a choice with two soups, the haggis itself and then three different sweets and was even followed by some lovely tablet which despite being full you always have a wee space for. It was all truly delicious and very well prepared. Folk had done themselves proud. Prior to the food having been served Jerry said Grace and then the Haggis was addressed by Simon who did a sterling job as it is not the easiest of speeches to get through. After the food it was then the turn of the speakers and the first was Aaron who had his own individual take on the proceedings and his pronunciation of Duich or Doosh as he said it just added to the piece. Ronnie was next with his “Toast to the Lasses” a funny and interesting piece on the various female members of the diving clubs and suitably riposted by Naomi who gave as good as she got with her reply from the Lasses. The main speeches over Jerry had a trick up his sleeve and one or two folk were flung into the spotlight, being asked to read out some poetic verses that Jerry had provided. You did a sterling job Chris and Jim.
Alex took the floor next to present the “Paddle Award” which is presented in Grampian Branch to one of its members who have been notable by some event either out with their control or of their own making never to be forgotten and inscribed into history on the paddle. He provided a brief history of some of the previous holders before finally presenting it to Andy Parks who did protest a little.
And so the evening went on with some singing, plenty banter and a cheery and happy atmosphere, enveloping all. Folk started drifting off to bed, the days’ outdoor activities taking their toll, however there were a few who barely made it there and celebrated into the wee small hours.
In the morning it was decided that if anyone wanted to dive it would be from the shore to the front of house reef which would speed things up and allow folk to get on the road for home. After an initial slow up-take divers could be seen preparing for their dives. The weather was still not what you would call great but the diving was fine. Then there was the tidying, packing, clearing and cleaning up of the kit and the hostel before folk hit the road for home.
It had been another really good Burns weekend at the hostel and I am sure that everybody had a good time. It was a good mixture of cheerful and interesting folk all coming together to celebrate the Bard and enjoy some diving. I think the venue works for a large group and it cheers up what can be a dreich time of year. Thanks to all who came along and provided such great food and company and of course a big thank you to Jerry who got things moving again and doing such a good job of putting the whole event together. To use a quote that I heard recently “every club needs a Jerry”
Photos (from bottom): Ronnie scrubs up nicely; Alex awards the paddle; Naomi's reply for the Lasses; Aaron Loch Douche Immortal Memory; Haggis Man, Spud Bashers, Head of the Loch dive site.
Thanks to Lil Parks for report and photos
TRAINING WEEKEND 14-15 MARCH BENDERLOCH
This year we based out early season shore diving training weekend at Tralee Bay, where we rented two very comfortable and spacious Lodges for the Friday and Saturday nights. Altogether 14 took part, including our 2 new OW trainees (including first dives) and 6 crossovers (including 2 first dry suit open water divers). We were further supported by our Regional Coach Fiona and Deputy NDO Ronnie. It was a gloriously sunny early season weekend. We spent Saturday diving at the steps in Loch Creran. Vis was fair though the training activities did silt things up a bit. For those venturing a bit further out on the reef there were lots of thornback rays. After an evening in Oban for air fills at Puffin and curry at the Light we had a wee session back at Tralee (a session delayed for the lucky people who took their Sports Diver theory exams tha night). On Sunday we moved our diving to Ballachullish on Sunday where more training including gettings some cross-over rescues finished took place at the slates. Then the long run back to Aberdeen except for yours truly who had booked an extra night a Tralee for a lazy Monday off.
Photo: Training dives at the Steps Loch Creran
RED SEA 22-29 MARCH
We organised a full boat charter on MY Juliet, a really comfortable and characterful liveaboard ideally suited to dive club groups. Although a Grampian trip, the 5 of us (Jerry, Colin, Edna, Lea and Serana) were outnumbered! by our friends from Caithness SAC (Martin, the 2 Davids, and James), Stirling SAC (Geoff) Clyde SAC (Christina) and Campbeltown SAC (Marjorie). We did the North circuit from Sharm, including the Abu Nuhas wrecks and of course the Thistlegorm, as well the Ras Mohammed reefs. We were suprised how quiet some of the "honey-pot" dive sites were (we had Thistlegorm almost to ourselves). Plans are already afoot for a 2017 reprise.
October 16-19 2015 Sound of Mull
We had a full complement of 12 divers for 3 excellent days diving based at Lochaline. Accommodation was in the Old Post Office, which was a bit of a squeeze with 12. Overall it worked ok, but the consensus is that it is overpriced for the quality. This may change next year with the Dive Centre allegedly being on course to give up the lease. We dived with Lochaline Boats vessel Brendan, which since our last visit to the Sound of Mull a few years ago has sprouted a diver lift. Saturday and Sunday were as near perfect as can be had in October. Mild, clear skies, and little or no wind. Saturday we dived the Breda and Calve Island. Sunday we dived a mirror calm Sunart at Auliston Point and then the Hispania. I think this was the best viz dive I have ever had on the Hispania. Water temperatures were good a 13. Monday saw a break in the weather, with cloud and some rain. We dived the Rondo and the John Preston Wall, before an early return to Lochaline and the journey home.