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Oban – May 2002

Ok heres the trip report from Oban, apologies up front if I waffle on a bit.

First up let me say to anyone reading this… If you haven’t been to Oban yet..

Friday May 3rd  
It was overcast and really miserable as I loaded the car to the gills with family, luggage and diving kit ready for the long journey to Scotland, the weather report for the whole weekend wasn’t looking too good and so Di (my missus) was a bit gutted as she knew I’d be off diving while it looked like she might be spending the whole weekend playing cards in the caravan with our six year old, and as she’s a lover of all things sunny, Scottish rain didn’t seem appealing to her at all. I obviously didn’t care a toss as I’d be sporting a rather dashing membrane drysuit for most of the weekend anyway.

Leaving the house at 7:15am exactly I set about timing our journey and hoping to make a good run so that I might get a couple of dives in that day, I’d already sacrificed next doors cat and prayed to the travel gods that we might miss all traffic jams and not suffer a breakdown en route ( I later found out that I should of used a more substantial offering as the Gods were angry)

We hit multiple road works whilst driving across country on the A66 (My first hint of an unimpressed god or two)then dropped onto the M6 and stonked it North as fast as we could until torrential rain brought the viz down lower than Stoney Cove on a busy Bank Holiday (second angry god hint of the day.. I’ll sacrifice a dog or maybe a goat next time) but I kept pushing on, hoping to crack off as many miles as I could before my bladder gave in. The weather was looking really awful and all chat had stopped in the car, Brad was asleep and Di was throwing me glances that told me my luck wasn’t going be in that night.

Just passing Lockerbie the rain stopped falling and the sun started to shine, Brad woke up and we all chatted excitedly about Oban when all of a sudden my radiator light came on and the temp gauge started visibly moving into the ‘Oh My God’ range, so I had to pull over onto the hard shoulder which is not nice when 40 foot artic units are whipping by so fast that they rock the car….. So there we sat, first looking at the steam pouring from under the bonnet and then at each other and then at the steam again, I could of cried..
The gods were now officially taking the piss.

Anyway… a couple of calls later and the RAC were on their way to help out, I figured that we might be travelling to Oban on the back of the big van with the flashing lights, but fortunately it was a burst hose and not a radiator which was soon fixed and one hour after breaking down we were on our way again. Wahay!!

The rest of the journey was spent keeping one eye firmly fixed on the gauges and hoping for the best, although I needn’t of worried, as the car flew, the traffic was light, and the scenery fantastic but best of all, halfway around Loch Lomond it turned into summer, the sun blazed down on us and it never stopped blazing till Tuesday at nearly the exact same spot on the return journey.. Grrrreat

We were booked to stay at Traylee Bay at Benderloch about 5 miles outside of Oban but I drove straight past, straight through Oban, out the other side and straight onto Puffin divers carpark… (Not one stop since the Lockerbie breakdown, my bladder had reach maximum capacity and my arse had gone numb but we were there, just over six hours including breakdown time) As we pulled into the car park I was pleased to see that most of the people there were from our club, the boats were being lowered down the slip and everyone was kitting up. I had just enough time to run to the loo, swig some water, don my drybag, grab the essentials and leap onto the Rib, 10 minutes after arriving I’m sat on the side of a fast moving boat, heading out to Bach island for the first dive of the holiday, you couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face with a J cloth.

For those who have never been to Oban, please go, it is without doubt some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen, and with the sun sparkling off the sea, the surrounding snow capped peaks and clear protected waters, it is definitely a special place, I’ve longed to go back since last year and I wasn’t let down when I arrived this time, it was even more beautiful than I remembered. Go there, you won’t regret it.

Dive 1 - Bach Island. - 15metres, 36 mins

After leaving Puffin Divers slip we headed south down the Sound at full throttle, two boats full of standing and seated divers leaning into the wind, grinning and waving at each other as the boats cut through the flat calm water leaving massive white wakes behind, we skirted the Isle of Kerrera turning right at its lowest tip and then heading west to Bach Island, a smallish rock just off the south west tip of  Kerrera Island.

We were the first boat to pull up and once the engine had stopped, it was deathly quiet except for the slap of water against the side of the Rib, the sounder was showing depths ranging from 35m to 4m in only a few feet of movement, it must of looked like a mini mountain range down there. The anchor was dropped close up to the rock face, leaving only a short surface swim to the walls. The second boat came chugging in on idle and after a few attempts managed to line up with us and tied off to our boat. For a few moments we all just stopped doing what we were doing and just took in the ambience of the whole place.. It was magic.. silent… beautiful.

After looking over the side, we all thought the viz was gonna be mind blowing cos we could see the bottom but unfortunately that was because we could touch the bottom, Lol… we must have been sat right over a pinnacle or something cos when I eventually dropped in I’d touch rock with my fins.

There were seven of us on our Rib including two novices, it was decided that three of us would go in as a group, so I was teamed up with John and Diver X, (Why Diver X??? cos I’m gonna be slagging this bloke off soon so I won’t name him publicly) then Athel and a novice would go in together, and when we got back, the other two (club chairman and novice) would drop in as the final pair.

John in my group is an amazing individual, he is a 6foot four man mountain, with a gammy arm (polio I think) but this bloke is so independent its scary, he has the ability to kit up before anyone else (with minimum help) and then proceeds to help his buddies kit up too, whereas I have two perfectly good arms but I’m a complete useless tw*t and always needing help (Go figure)

We picked John as dive leader and hit the water, a quick swim over to the wall, usual signals and down we went….
Now personally I was buzzin, all of a sudden it felt as if it had been only ten minutes since I was setting off from a miserable Teesside and now here I was on the ocean floor at Oban….. Davey was one happy camper, that’s for sure…

The first thing I noticed down there was that the viz was nothing like last year and I hoped that things would improve at different sites and over the rest of the weekend, don’t get me wrong, anyone of us would have been delighted with the conditions but my memories of the previous season diving were spectacular distances and so 4 to 5 metres wasn’t really that impressive.

There was lots of natural light penetrating to the sea bed, and it was good to see crushed shells rather than silt and sand, the life was prolific with a beastie under every rock, with the usual array of massive urchins, starfish, etc etc….

We bumbled along into the very weak current for a while before I saw Diver X signalling to John something with his console and I figured he’d hit 100 bar which surprised me as I had loads left but I put that down to carrying a 15, so we turned and bumbled back… we passed our original drop in point and came to a spectacular wall, with all sorts growing and living on it, there was a big overhang and some big fish loitering nearby.

We spent a little while shining our torches into nooks and cranny’s before going back the way we’d come again, once more I saw Diver X signalling to John and giving the thumbs up sign, I figured he was getting low on air and was calling the dive, but rather than ascend immediately John pointed to a slope which would take us nicely to the surface without struggling with a free ascent, so off we went.. Not too many fin strokes later we turned to see that Diver X wasn’t with us, I looked at John and he back at me Where the f*ck had he gone had something gone wrong? so we went back towards where we’d last seen him…. Nothing… a quick look around and we had to ascend. I could see the concern in John’s eyes as we slowly rose up to the surface and to tell the truth I felt the same, although the conditions were such that I couldn’t imagine what might of happened to an experienced diver in that mill pond.

John rose too quickly in his haste to find out what had happened to Diver X, but I made sure I made my stop and watched John break surface, he immediately signalled down to me that all was well and then I completed my stop and also broke the surface only to see this tw*t Diver X climbing onto the boat….. He’d decided he was cold and was apparently telling us down there that he’d had enuff and was going up…. We hadn’t needed to abort the dive and it was our fault… I was very dischuffed with this prick and told him that as far as I was concerned a party should never split and if one diver calls it we all call it.

Well you’ve just got to meet this bloke, you’ll take an immediate dislike to him, he is so incredibly arrogant its unreal, I’ve found out since that he always does this sort of crap and not too many like diving with him, I for one won’t be diving with him again.

Anyway... we sat and soaked up the sun as the last divers bubbles rippled the water near us, it really was that flat calm, which was a good thing really as I’d been surprised at having to jump into a waiting boat and hadn’t taken my usual motion sicky tablets. The trip back was just as visually pleasing as the trip out with the sun sitting lower in the sky now but still hot hot hot.. a great weekend was just starting...

More to follow....
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