Garvellachs Trip - July 2000

  Last year when we were in Oban with Pete and Helen we did one dive on the Garvellachs, a small group of very small islands south-west of Oban. It was a very grey, wet day, but the dive we did was excellent, so it seemed feasible that there should be great diving round these islands, with the west side probably having the best dive sites. With that in mind I thought it would be good to spend a week exploring what was, for me, new diving ground basing ourselves on Easdale Island, a tiny dot of land south or Oban reached by a ferry from Seil Island which is itself attached to mainland Scotland by a 'Bridge over the Atlantic'.

  So off we set, Jayne and Mick, Gill and Steve, Bob, and Robin and myself. All the kit was loaded into Mick's transit and we pulled the boat and five of settled (some of us fairly uncomfortably) into the LandRover. It was a greyish day when we set off but 13 hours later we arrived at our destination (no, not Thailand although we could have got there in that time) - sunny Scotland. From memory I knew there was a small slip at Easdale village but it was too narrow for the boat and trailer so we turned about and went down to Cuan Ferry where there is an excellent slip. Got Lucky Dip in the water and Steve and I then drove her back up to the slip at Easdale and we proceeded to load all the gear that had to be transported to our island cottage. I.e. just about everything that filled the back of the transit van. Easdale is a tiny island with about 150 residents, a village hall and a pub which opens 4 days a week, and apparently no keys to doors! Bliss. Even better, Gill had brought dinner which she had made the night before so all we had to do was heat it up, break open the wine and relax.

  Sunday dawned bright and sunny, we couldn't believe our luck, it hadn't rained in 24 hours and we were in Scotland! Anyway, after collecting our dive kit from the transit, ferrying it across to the island and wheel barrowing it up to the cottage (the preferred method of transport on an island with no roads) we found out from the ferryman that we could just leave it beside the slip for the week. So we did. And off we set for the Garvellachs. Well the one and only time I had dived them, it was grey and misty and we dived on the West side. This time we drive down on their East side - and I didn't recognise them. I insisted that the vague grey outline we could see on the horizon many miles away was them. It wasn't, it was Colonsay. Never mind, once Mick had ascertained from people on the beach what land we had invaded, we settled down on the most glorious golden beach and had our picnic in the sunshine looking at an aquamarine sea - we could have been on some exotic island. Who wants to go diving anyway? Well, we did. So off we set again back from whence we had come (a matter of probably 10 miles or so), found a dive site on the east side of the island and in we went. Well, it was a bit disappointing; it wasn't as wonderful as I had thought it would be, in fact probably quite ordinary although we did see dogfish and an octopus. However, all info says dive the west side so we had to give them another chance. After all that's what we were there for.

  Monday - another bright and sunny day. Were we really in Scotland? Anyway we planned to dive the Hispania in the Sound of Mull, but we didn't have tide tables so off we went to Puffin Divers to get some air and the essential tables. We had missed slack so decided to do the Breda instead. Brilliant dive, clear water. That evening we planned a trip to Tobermory for Tuesday diving the Hispania on the way.

  Tuesday, another sunny day in Easdale. Driving up the Sound of Mull we saw a school of dolphins cavorting in the water then following our wake and swimming under the boat. We got to the Hispania in plenty time for slack, one other dive boat was there, and this one of the most popular dive sites in Scotland! At the appointed time, in we jumped, but slack wasn't slack at all. Lord knows what it would be like on flood. Anyway I have to say that, despite having dived on the Hispania many many times, this must have been the best ever, except I suppose for the very first time when there was the amazing 'wow' factor. We stayed inside the wreck because it was jolly hard 'hanging-on' outside, and swam right through it. The visibility was absolutely amazing, and the life was abundant, both fish and encrusting. Those of you who don't know the Hispania, its one of those wrecks that if you hold on to any bit of it you squish something.

  On Wednesday we gave the Garvellachs another go. There is a small slip on the east side of the islands so we drove there and unloaded the spare cylinders, picnic, deck chairs etc (yes it was sunny again) and did a really beautiful drifting kind of dive on the west side of the biggest 'lump of rock'. We've marked the spot and it is highly recommended as a lovely scenic dive. Lots of life and gangs of Wrasse. Mick declares they had it in for him, he couldn't get rid of them. Then back to the slip for our picnic and a snooze, swop over bottles and then to a dive in a channel between two islands. Another good rummaging dive, and back to retrieve the spare cylinders.

  Thursday, and we woke up to a no-viz day. When the weather is consistently hot and sunny over the sea (in Scotland at any rate), a haar forms in the early mornings and has to be burnt off by the sun, so by late morning we had full sunshine again. By this time we were getting a bit lazy and some of us eventually got ourselves organised to dive off the southwest point of Insh Island, a short trip from our base. There is reputed to be a couple of wrecks there but Robin and I didn't find much evidence of them. In fact it wasn't really a very pleasant dive as it wasn't very deep, probably about 10-12 metres and very swelly so we weren't deep enough to escape being pushed back and forwards, and there wasn't very much life around so unless the wreck is located I would probably give it a miss next time.

  Friday, last day. We decided to have a day on Easdale then have a trip to the in/famous Gulf of Corryvrecken and the whirlpool. There is a very narrow channel between Scarba and Jura and the depth goes from about 40m very suddenly into a hole of 200+m, thus making the water conditions very interesting and 'non navigable' according to admiralty charts!! We went in time to get the flood tide. When we got there we were fairly disappointed that nothing very exciting was happening, and the whirlpool was barely a whirlpool. However soon things picked up and we saw to our west the most enormous waves suddenly picking up. Over we zoomed to have a look. Well, it was white water boating. Brilliant. The waves were enormous, coming from all directions, the boat was flat out and not moving! Next year we'll do it on a spring flood.

  And that was the week. It was a really great holiday, lovely island (but not in the beautiful sense) in an absolutely stunning setting, and good cottage fine for 8 but no more. The best diving definitely has to be on the west side of the Garvellachs so next year I hope we concentrate more on that side and find some more notable dive sites to add to the collection of 'dives I would do again'.


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