Old Expedition Reports
Burns Supper Weekend 24-26 Jan 2014
This was our second year at Ratagan YH, with an even bigger group of 28 (of whom 24 dived). We welcomed guests from Caithness Dive Club and Stirling S.A.C. Those who arrived in time on the Friday partook of a night dive on the Ratagan YH shore. We then got 2 dives in on the Saturday, starting at the “head of the Loch site” and then splitting into groups with training taking place at Letterfearn and the rest diving the YH shore. Sunday was wet and wild, and with the added impediment of the morning after the night before, most of the group only managed one dive on the YH shore. The diving was as always excellent considering the time of year, and lots of opportunities were taken for training. The Burns Supper was the usual top class Grampian affair. Andy Parks addressed the haggis in a most theatrical manner; Declan gave an erudite Immortal Memory, Chris toasted the lasses and Emily gave the reply. Alex awarded the BDO paddle to Jerry, who then proceeded to to his best to get some community singing going – all that can be said was that this was more successful this time than last year.
Easter Weekend Skye 18-21 April 2014
Excellent Easter weekend diving with Gordon McKay skipper of MV Elena C from the dive centre at Stein in North Skye. This year we shared with Rolls Royce Sub Aqua Club from Derby. Most of the group arrived early on the Friday evening for what we planned as a night dive on Lochbay pinnacle, but we hadn't anticipated how the light the evenings would be in April so it was really a dusk dive, but sill a very good way to start the weekend of mostly sunny weather and very light seas. Saturday say two dives, first on Isay and second towards Waternish point. Viz 10-15m. On Sunday Gordon took his boat round to Meanish and we met him there to dive the Chadwick in near perfect conditions. Then on the Monday another two dives out towards and at Waternish Point finished a perfect diving weekend
Scapa Flow 7-10 November 2014
Another 4 days of fabulous diving from MV Jeane Elaine.
Markgraf (or Kronprinz)
F2 and Barge
Scapa Flow November 7-11 2013
In November 2012 we had 4 days of perfect conditions for diving; the weather forecasts during the run up to the 2013 trip suggested that our run of luck was about to end. But in the end the expected storm on the Friday did not materialise, and on the Monday was much milder than had been expected. Over the weekend conditions were perfect; light winds, sunshine, and almost mirror calm Scapa Flow.
7 Divers from Grampian were joined by guests from Strathclyde Uni and Caithness Diving Club for 4 days diving. We chartered MV Jean Elaine to dive from, and stayed in the Royal Hotel in Stromness.
Dresden: 36m; Karlsruhe: 26m
Kronprinz: 37m; Brummer; 35m
Konig:38m; Coln 34m
Coln: 34m; F2 and barge YC21: 17m
Burns Supper Diving Weekend 1-3 Feb 2013
Its hard to believe that The Burns supper weekend is now into its 5th year; the idea was to engineer a dive weekend that would provide “guaranteed” mid-winter diving in sheltered sea lochs as well as a jolly good party. For two years we went to Inveraray, then moving to Loch Duich for the last two years. This year our previous accommodation at the Kintail Outdoor Centre was booked up, so we took a chance on somewhere new. It was not entirely unknown, as travelling to the Letterfearn dive sites last year the location of Ratagan YH was noticed as being really well situated on the Loch-side, with even a possibility of a dive straight out of the door. But the size of Ratagan seemed to be a challenge; we needed 20 in the party to make the costs reasonable. However, in the end we got 25! So courtesy of the excellent “rentahostel” scheme we occupied Ratagan YH from the evening of Friday 1st February to the afternoon of Sunday 3rd February.
Arrivals on Friday were spread over the entire evening, and one group even arrived in time for a Friday afternoon dive. Snow fell on Friday night, so we were greeted early on Saturday morning with a delightful winter scene, and a mirror calm loch reflecting the snow capped Kintail hills. This was going to be a good day for diving.
First dive of the day was at a site we call “Head of the Loch”, which is around a promontory just to the North of the Kintail Lodge Hotel. From the beach to the North of the headland, a shallow bay leads to the open water around the headland. From the headland a series of small step outcrops break up what is mostly a muddy bottom that (in our exploration) went to 20-30m. There were some lovely specimens of tall sea pen and phosphorescent sea pen. Water temperature was 7C, which meant that for most 30 minutes was long enough.
Second dive of the day was split between two sites. Some of the group went to Letterfearn which has a profile more suitable for trainees. The rest of us finally got the opportunity to try the Youth Hostel garden dive. And a bonny site it was. Well OK, it was a gravelly slope to 30m, followed by a muddy slope to uncertain depth. On the mud, once again we found sea pens. On the gravel, sleepy dogfish, little dragonets and lots of little invertebrate life, hermit crabs and squatties, as well as little refuges of life on isolated boulders and old tyres, encrusted with anenomes and sea squirts.
Once the diving was over, some of us went to the pub to watch Scotland getting thrashed at Twickenham, others chilled at the youth hostel (ie peeled potatoes).
Haggises duly caught and cooked, the Branch Burns Supper took place, with the usual top quality Grampian cuisine, and entertaining speeches. Alex gave the Selkirk grace, almost choking on the L*** word and Joe addressed the Haggis in fine style. Alex then awarded to BDO Paddle to Les (in absentia) and there followed a trip down memory lane and the indictments for all the previous years Paddle awards were reprised. Then Jerry gave the toast to the Lasses and Fiona replied on behalf of the Lasses. Chairman Chris then pointed out the organisers embarrassing wardrobe malfunction, which it appears was the cause of much mirth. There followed the usual erudite night of whisky and wine tasting.
On the Sunday, the ideal nature of Loch Duich for diving really made itself apparent. Despite gale force Westerlies, the near shore of the Loch showed scarcely a ripple, and while the skies may have been cloudy, the diving was fine. Another good dive took place at Letterfearn in the morning, with divers exploring headland outcrops to both the left and right of the second bay; considering it was mid-winter these were particularly vibrant with shoals of fish and colourful encrusting life; and then a final dip took place on the “house reef” at the Youth Hostel.
The Burns Supper weekend is now secure as part of the annual Grampian programme of dive trips, and it is likely that we will return to Ratagan in 2014.