Sea Otter - Scotland 2001

17th August

Dudley, Brigette and Frank picked me up on Friday morning just after the rush hour. Off we set in the hopes that this new boat would live up to our expectations, and with the sad death of Dave from the Harry Slater, my thoughts were with Jan and a sadness that we were not going on the Harry Slater ever again.

We rang Mark and Cathy who had left earlier in the morning in a world first - to get to Scotland in a Rascal van! They were ahead of us and maintained a good average. We met up with them after heading west from Loch Lomond or Loch L`mond as Cathy refers! (Sorry Cathy). The "Tweety Pie" coloured Rascal van being easy to spot, we caught up with Mark and Cathy and found residence in two B&B`s close to each other at Arrochar, just west of Tarbet. An excellent place with beautiful surroundings. [Margaret Kelly, Church Road, Arrochar. 01301-702321].

18th August

The following day we headed for Dunstaffnage Marina and found the Harry Slater moored next to the Sea Otter. We met Jan, which was a sad time, but nice meeting her again. We then met Chris Ireland and Mark (the temp. chef) and said we would see them later when they had prepared the boat.

Off to Oban where Brigette could do some shopping; and we also took a look round Puffin Dive Centre and round some castle ruins in which Mark nearly went blind checking out the bird life! We then went down to the waters edge and the visibility was so good and the water so inviting that I had this great idea that I would take a plunge in the sea if someone else did! Mark agreed and I (with shorts) took a deep breath and dived in!

Mark was wondering why I didn't stop for a swim, the cold water hit me like a sledgehammer and I was flat out round the corner to find the exit point. Mark, feeling he must keep his end of the bargain, went in too, wishing he had a tighter waist on his pants! The water was so cold without a dry suit that when we got out we had to sit down to wee! After that "refreshing and exhilarating" dip we found a rope swing but Mark being slightly heavier than me (!) made it bottom out.

Finally we were back at Dunstaffnage Marina and loading the boat with dive gear and scotch and beers and breezers etc. Chris went through the rules of the boat and Mark the chef was busy cooking. We ate an enormous meal and Mark was very contented and Dudley didn't do too bad either!

19th August

We got up and had cereal and toast, a bit disappointed at the lack of fry up but give it time… We got ready for our first dive.

At 12:05 We dived a reef off Chuli (Garbh Eileach). I couldn't believe it. I found the "Silt Monster" at 22m just like my first dive last year with Frank! It was a very enjoyable rocky reef. Out of the water and a quick snack

Later followed by a dive on the Breda with a max depth of 19m. Then we saw a seal, alas it was a neck seal that Cathy had split. So a quick trip back to Oban to the dive shop and the repairs were done that evening and collected after dinner. Excellent service from Oban Divers.

20th August

At 11:39 We dived a wall at Ardtornish (OSGB:NM6945/4278). Swimming along with my goody bag, collecting a few scallops for Mark's lunch, we met Frank & Mark who promptly put some baby scallops and a 2kg weight in our goody bag. So I handed it to Cathy as it was heavy - and continued the dive where we saw sunstars, squat lobsters, scallops and a few other strange things that I wondered if they were friend or foe, alas it was anemone!

After another huge pile of food that put a smile on the big one's face, we continued up the Sound of Mull to do the Shuna at 15:50. This is a great wreck dive where I reached 30m. Alas I forgot my computer so this annoyed me a bit but I was diving with Dudley so was in expert hands.

Back on the boat and Brigette sadly developed ear problems so a trip into Tobermory where she went to see a doctor. Meanwhile I get a phone call from Tobermory Police! Seems I can't get away from them! My pocket had dialled 999 by mistake!

21st August

At 10:35 meant another great dive with Cathy where we dived Auliston Point, NE of Tobermory. We plopped down to 31.7m and back up to 20m where the vis and the life were better.

Later at 14:59 another dive saw lots of life on Risga Island with Dudley and Mark. Many sunstars, a flying anemone and Dudley doing a starship enterprise with a dead crab. On arriving at the surface my dry suit inflator got stuck against my BCD and inflated me like a Michelin man! Mark came up with cramp and the 19st one hopped up and down in pain on the platform at the back of the boat with a twin set on and went through it! Chris was not impressed and suggested 38st but took it well.

Meanwhile Brigette had taken over the ship's Hoover and rendered the crew useless. She needed to keep busy as there were no shops around! This was followed by the usual three course meal with scallops and a bread pudding & cream, which was the best I have ever tasted. I have to admit that this food compared equally to the excellent reputation of Jan`s on the Harry Slater. Meanwhile, Frank with his amazing ability to remember names, was wondering where Jack was?!?

22nd August

The next day was a real highlight as we did an amazing dive on the Rondo with a plop down to 40m (shhh) and seeing the bow at 6m below the surface of this funnily positioned shipwreck from 29m! This wreck stands on the "blunt end" starting at 6m and the stern at 52m accompanied by a great view of lots of "head down arse up" fish hovering near the surface with the sunlight shining through. Not even the silt monster appeared in this dive and Mark didn't even come up with any food!!! And we STILL came up excited! There was an amazing amount of growth of white and salmon coloured dead men's fingers on the bow of the ship. I forgot my knife this time!

Later in the evening was a dive on Calve Island near Tobermory (Tobe to Frank, who was wondering where Toby was). It was a great dive floating down the rock face to 31.2m then most of the dive at 20m. A small problem with one engine overheating and Dudley was down in the engine room faster than Mark could get to the dinner table!

23rd August

At 10:49, after a stop at "Tobe" and a quick bit of shopping, I did a dive on the Shuna with Mark & Cathy, looking into holds and seeing ladders and doorways leading into places I didn't care to visit.

This was followed by a dive at Risga Pinnacle to 25m where I was diving (part-time) with Dudley! I have this habit of losing people when in water! More scallops were collected for Mark's stomach. A later dive at Rubin Ne Gull near Tobermory, which was a 20m dive with loads of small fish and where Mark insisted it was a scallop dive. Frank also made hints at a crab for dinner but we decided to let the thumb sized crab go free and put it down to the mask making things look bigger underwater. (Sorry Frank!)

After dinner…Dudley was complaining `cos he couldn't move because he'd eaten too much trying to keep up with the big one and I beat Brigette AGAIN at battleships (She keeps cheating)! She drowned her sorrows on the breezers…more amounts of food were consumed by Dudley and Mark….

24th August

The following day we went to dive the Hispania. Built in 1912, 236.8 ft in length with a beam of over 37ft and gross tonnage of 1337 tons, she struck Sgeir More or Big Rock on 18 December 1954. This was the first and only dive we had company on. About six boats were here. When I broke the surface, it was with a smaller amount of air than I would have liked after a bit of a swim against the current, causing me to breathe a bit on the rapid side! Another excellent dive with the silt monster who was still looking for Jack!

One evening I decided the scenery looked nice and got Mark and Dudley to go on a walk up a hill that I reckoned was about the size of Box Hill (400ft). It turned out to be about 1400ft and Mark decided not to go all the way and went back down to the tender (After all, there was no food up there). He lay in the boat and watched Sea Otters till we got back. The view at the top was spectacular where we could see for miles over the islands. A world of its own. Meanwhile the midges thought Mark was a meal of lengthy progress as they munched on him till we returned.

Somewhere in the Sound of Mull on an island we came across 22 seals of varying colours, lying on the rocks sunbathing. We decided to enter the water round the corner in the hopes of swimming with them.

Dudley kitted up in the usual fast, effortless manner and waited for me to forget my weight belt again! Alas! He tried to stand up and was still tied to the railings! I laughed even more when the big one with the twin set did the same and looked like a tortoise on his back in the midday sun!!! That'll teach them not to remind me about my weight belt. This was a fun dive as we rummaged around in the gravely sand and swam through kelp and just had a good laugh at 6.6m, even if I did use most of the contents of my pony using the SMB inflator playing Michael Bentine`s Potty Time in the sand, and we didn't see any of the seals.

An excellent holiday and a great laugh had by all. I would recommend the Sea Otter and Chris the skipper to anyone. Even if he seemed surprised that four grown men could find farting in a confined space so funny for so long one night. He really knew what he was on about and although in his first season on the boat he built himself from scratch, it was a great trip. He would go out of his way to go where you wanted to go if the weather allowed, even if I didn't make it to Staffa.

I thought it was great how he let three of us take the boat's tender ashore without him…although he probably realised Dudley knew about these things, it was a nice touch. PS: Mark, when piloting one of those things…forget the bikes! He he he…..

As for the chef, Mark, he was excellent and also made the holiday a thoroughly enjoyable experience with his culinary delights.

I have changed B.A.R. to C.R.A.B., which stands for Computer, Releases, Air & Buoyancy! But a pint to the inventor of the best acronym that reminds me of the above four and my weight belt!!!

We are putting a link on the website for the Sea Otter. You can also visit the website at

www.sea-otter.co.uk
email: info@sea-otter.co.uk
tel: 0191-489-7127 or contact Chris Ireland on the boat mobile on 07801-130044.

I thank Frank, Brigette, Dudley, Cathy and Mark for a great time and thanks to Dudley for driving me there and back so I could "Get on well with the Scotch" and Mark for helping me through those tough times called mealtimes!

I will be going again next year.

Andy Humphrey

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011