Ullapool Trip August 2020

Extract from Kathleen's logbook

Ullapool trip report 31st July -2nd August 2020

DAY ONE, Sat 1st Aug

Stayed -pre booked Caledonian hotel Ullapool. Dived the ‘Fairweather V’. The forecast having changed slightly since earlier in the week to better than expected, made Saturday the best day to dive this wreck which was about 6 miles from Ullapool slip. Fairweather is an excellent scenic wreck, it was a small fishing boat from Peterhead originally, wrecked in 1991, and which now sits in Annat bay at the mouth of Loch Broom. The only buoy on the wreck, now, is from the mast near the cabin towards the stern and is partially submerged due to the shot-line being laden with mussels towards the surface and weed all the way down. At higher tide it was a metre under the water surface. The coordinates given on research websites [egDivernet] differed from where we found the wreck, which was at …………so it took us a while to find the correct site.

But it was worth it- and a new site for all except KC. There was a current running for a few metres at the surface but once down, beyond 5 metres, it was current free and with over 20 metre visibility. The Fairweather’s tidal position, means it absolutely covered in sea life; many varieties of sponges including a huge goosebump sponge, anemones, especially plumose, dead man’s fingers and wrasse, also large lion’s mane jelly fish being consumed by the plumose anemones. Because it was wrecked quite recently, 1991 the cabin fixtures including chairs, fishing nets in the hull, rudder propeller and winches all intact. A great dive was had. Did not have time for a second dive.

Videos from Day 1: Dive on the Fairweather V

DAY TWO: Sun 2nd Aug

The weather was forecast blustery later in the day with strong westerlies and we had too late a start. So, made changes to the dive plan because the proposed morning dive site was reached later than planned and was too open for the now windy conditions. Instead, found a beautiful site in the lea of Isle Martin, using the sounder/chart plotter and local topography. We named it ‘Lea Isle Martin’. It consisted of shelves and walls in about ten metre drops where you could choose your depth. Again, lots of life and excellent visibility. On their dive, Catherine and David encountered a large skate, swimming and at rest. John and Kathleen tried a nearby starting point and enjoyed a similarly good dive.

We then motored over to the café at Ardmair bay campsite in quite gusty conditions and put the boat on an anchor mooring. On arrival to the café from the sea we realised that a face mask [Corona] was required, luckily Catherine had one and was able to enter and order the hot drinks etc. David managed to get into the moored boat by putting a loop in the anchor line as a foothold. The return journey getting out of the bay into the point where the Island ‘shelter’ ran out and boating around the lighthouse point to the entrance of the loch broom in the full boat was as much as the boat could handle. So, due to lateness and weather, we dived on the sheltered south side inside Loch Broom, naming it ‘Loch Broom waterfall’ site. Again a calm, atmospheric dive with slopes, walls and large kelp, where you could choose your depth, had a more sea loch feel with all the associated sea life including the uncommon northern sea fans, [which look like little white trees] and spider crabs in pink weedy camouflage, squat lobsters, also lots of goldskinny fish and cuckoo wrasse.

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Pics and Vids from Day 2, Dive 1 on "Lea Isle Martin"

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Pics and Vids from Day 2, Dive 2: "Waterfall Dive site", Loch Broom

We had great diving in excellent underwater conditions, with the experience of a fantastic scenic wreck, which although a fair boat journey out, had a classic straightforward wreck profile. We also found two new scenic dive sites. These, and the correct coordinates for the Fairweather are logged in to the plotter. These [together with the expedition diving from last year] provide coordinates for a practicable set of dive sites accessible in a variety of wind directions.

This trip was the first time the club boat had been used this year and the first boat diving of this year, because of the corona virus restrictions allowing only considered shore diving. So, it felt like early season diving with some of the tweaks to boat handling, equipment and diving practice that this entails. However, we worked a team and enjoyed great west coast diving with top visibility.

John, boat officer, David and Catherine Equipment. David provided a record of income/expenditure showing a profit to the club of £50.90 once everything is paid for. But some damage was done to the prop on the unseen rocks at Ardmair bay, it did not affect its function but is evident. [KC]. A record of dive times and depths are on the dive management slate [photographed] for Geoff. David has ‘go-pro’ footage of his dives to be found on club website, fb and club YouTube and a sketch from KC’s logbook.

Thanks to all involved, Kathleen Cowie BSAC DL and dive manager. 3/8/2020

*NOTE. Corona Virus. This trip was not officially sanctioned as an ABSAC club trip.

Phase four did not come into being, as Kc hoped it would on 30th of July, the day before the trip. Geoff [DO] and KC, despite considerable efforts, were not able to find categorical permission for the use of small boats in the current corona virus climate in the phase 3 rules, in Scotland. However, no-one expressed a wish to cancel the trip at such short notice and given the open air and underwater quality of the activities, smallness of the diving group [4] and remoteness of the area travelled to, we took the risk and feeling ‘well’ felt we did not pose a risk to others. The communication KC had with the Harbour authorities at Ullapool did not sanction but neither did it ‘forbid’ the use of small boats. Over the trip weekend, there was much small boat activity from the slip, including a local BSAC club. KC