"Eat, Dive, Sleep"

A Diary on board the MV "Harry Slater"

By Roger Bonnici

Friday 16 Aug 91

Five travelled up to Oban by coach leaving Victoria Coach Station at 07:00. The other 4 minus Allan Spark (still in Gibraltar) drove up by car. The drivers arrived at Lochaline at 15:00. The arrangement agreed was to pick up the 'coachies' from Oban as bad weather forecast kept MV Harry Slater out of Oban and in shelter at Lochaline. However the ill weather never came, and Harry Slater was able to pick up all divers at Oban.

Fish 'n' chips that evening filled our empty holds, and a pint in the local 'Poop Deck' quenched our thirst. The quiet melodic harmonies played at the 'Poop Deck' soothed us before settling 'On deck' of the Harry Slater.

The farcical attempts of 9 divers struggling to get undressed and into their bunks was pure 'Brian Rix' histrionics, but within an hour of the usual 'Walton Family' good-nights, we were all asleep, to dream of fish, wrecks, and of course tomorrow's breakfast.

Saturday 17 Aug 91

Mentally up at 07:00, physically up at 08:30. Breakfast was Cornflakes or Weetabix, O.J., Egg, Bacon, Sausages, Mushrooms, Toast and marmalade, Coffee or Tea - Loverly.

The first dive was the 'SS Breda', in Ardmucknish Bay. A large wreck with open holds to rummage through (some were full of tiles). Some brass was brought up; a very good wreck. Then lunch. Hamburger, salad, crisps and pudding. Now for some more sleep.

The second dive was 'Bloody Bay', a Red Sea dive in Scotland. Many wrasse, brittle stars, scallops, and a huge 0.5 metre across common starfish. Unfortunately the bottom (fine sand) was easily kicked up. As you ascend the ladder, its not only a hand from the crew, but also coffee or tea.

Supper turned out to be two wholes chickens and 4 veg, plus fresh fruit salad and coffee. The night was spent moored up in Tobermoray Bay.

Sunday 18 Aug 91

The wreck of the 'Hispania' was a divers dream. 'Dive North-West Scotland' says that the wreck looks like a carnival procession float decked with marine life of soft corals of all colours. True to the letter, one could swim from one end of the wreck to the other internally without coming up on deck once. Lots of 'bits' found on this one!

The p.m. dive on 'Risga Pinnacles' at Loch Sunart was a comfortable drift through a brilliant garden of anemones. This also seemed to be a breeding ground for all types of starfish from 5mm to 0.5m across. Oh - I nearly forgot to say that lunch was a huge joint of pork and six veg.

Monday 19 Aug 91

We all woke up to drizzling morning. Breakfast was our only comfort before the long and 'rolling' journey to Coll. Our hearts went out to Marc Tinkler whilst his breakfast went out to sea. This journey really was a test of stomachs. When finally at Coll, we couldn't wait to get submerged to ease the billiousness.

The wreck of the 'Tapti' proved a goldmine with various 'bits' brought up. Smiles all round from Crawley. Another good rummage.

The p.m. dive was at a site called the 'Yellow Brick Road'. Several grey seals swam ahead of us all as we hid in the kelp at 5 metres, just like Cowboys and Indians. However we had the distinct feeling that we were the ones being watched, not them.

Tuesday 20 Aug 91

Eat, dive, sleep. Eat, Dive, Sleep. Black pudding at breakfast made a change. All the toast stacked on the tables reminded me of a Post Office sorting office. The excess slices were delivered 'express' to the ravenous beaks of the local seagulls. Jan, the cook and skipper's wife, crew and cleaner, was not pleased.

'Calve Island drop-off' was exactly that. From a 10 metre shelf it dropped off to what can only be described as an 'adventurous' depth! Lots of sea squirts, feather stars, wrasse and urchins on this wall. Hmm - felt like the 'Abyss'.

2nd dive after eating and sleeping was the 'Shuna'. Picked clean by every visitor since its only recent discovery, this wreck was all but a skeleton. But still, Crawley did find some 'bits' on this very silty wreck.

Wednesday 21 Aug 91

The dive this morning was on the 50 metre long wreck of the 'Thesis'. Settled on the bottom with her bows at 18m and her stern at 31m, she's quite narrow and had been picked clean as a christmas turkey, but several 'bits' off this wreck made it a very interesting and pleasant dive. Not much fish life although some wrasse were very tame.

More food, more sleep.

The 2nd dive was on the 'Hispania', - another chance for booty! Regarded by some as the best wreck in the UK, apart from Scapa Flow, we decided to slowly dismantle it. Nothing was sacred. Toilets, floor coverings, doors. Mike and Richard's attempts to lift the wreck failed. Their 5000kg lifting bag lacked a little air, but not speed.

Unfortunately at 6 metres from the surface where we were all decompressing on the wreck itself, being almost at the surface, the door that the bag was attached to gave way and the 'Hispania' returned to the depths once again. Rumour has it that Mike and Richard are looking to purchase a hot air balloon.

Thursday 22 Aug 91

Left Tobermoray harbour at 08:30 to head for the wreck of the 'Rondo'. Its stern at 7m and bows at 50m. It lies, banana fashion, down one side of 'Dearg Sgeir' beacon which is a near vertical cliff. It tonnage was 2363 tons and is 80m long. A magnificent sight to see when vis is good. Lots of very tame fish here but no 'bits'. Decompression was done on the rudder at 6m.

More food, more sleep.

Now the 'Aurania' was a gem. Once a magnificent Cunard liner of 14,000 tons, it now lies in a heap of twisted plates of metal over the seabed between 10 and 20 metres, very close to the shore at 'Caliach Point'. It is said to be littered with cutlery and crockery and we hoped to find some. Needless to say, some 'bits' were found. What a dive to end the week. Of course, a group photograph of all divers and their 'bits' (double entendre) will be available soon at 5.00 per print.

Friday 23 Aug 91

The saddest day began at 05:00 when the engines of the MV Harry Slater roared into life to lead our way from Tobermoray to Oban - 4 hours away. Last night we treated Dave and Jan Ogden (skipper and wife) to dinner at a local restaurant. It was our little way of expressing our sincere thanks for a terrific week.

Once in Oban, it was gratitudes to Dave and Jan, and cheerios to those off to St Abbs. Meanwhile the 'coachies' made tracks for the coach taking them on their 10 hour trip home. Enough time to reflect on our diving experiences in Scotland. Roll on next year

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011