By Elaine Hendry
Rule number one. When volunteering to organise a week’s expeditionary diving, always do week two, so that you can simply follow in the finstrokes of week one.
As Suze says, diving in new places is hard, and diving from Knoydart did feel like hard work.
A mile’s walk in our dry suits between the house and the jetty; swimming out from the beach to the mooring to get the boat up in the morning and put it to bed at night; the lengthy trips to fill 20 cylinders; careful food planning to ensure we had all the ingredients in advance – no popping out to the Turkish minimarket up here; no electricity between 11pm and 7am (they were fixing the hydro-electric system); no 3 phone signal in Knoydart (hoorah for Whatsapp); pouring over the charts before and after dinner; the frisson of finding, shotting and diving unfamiliar sites. Not to mention the overnight train from London that involved changing carriages at 4am. I must admit I was knackered by the end of the week. Would I do it again? Like a shot!
If you’ve never been to the Hebrides, start planning your trip now – the scenery, the visibility, the life above and below the waves are all fantastic. We were lucky with the weather for the first few days. You don’t expect views like this in Scotland.
Here are just a few highlights:
Bo Ruag – the ‘easy’ site, just a few minutes from the jetty: a pinnacle dropping to 50 (and then some more) metres, every inch of rock covered in orange and white plumose anemones and harbouring squat lobsters; clouds of silver fish making the water look more like the Red Sea than Scotland. It’s not easy keeping your regulator in when your jaw is dropping.
Drifting gently along a sheer wall on Eigg. Above the water, it was dead calm, sunny and somehow domestic – just a small Scottish island. Below the water a wall that drops straight from the shore to 50m.
The aforementioned Port Napier. So shallow, it breaks the water. Except at high tide, when we dived it, this made boat handling very dodgy! So we threw Nick and Chris in, and they took a DSMB down and tied it onto the hull at 3m to act as our shot. Just below the DSMB, a cathedral of a hold, with sunlight pouring in.
Bo Fascadale – sorry, week one, but the original site knocks the socks off the new ones (although we only tried one of those). And Elizabeth Rock was even better.
Bizarrely, diving near the fish farm in Loch Nevis, confined by weather that made even the sheltered waters rough. Once below the waves, dead calm and a slightly spooky, lunar landscape covered in a fine silt that I can only assume was fish gunk of some sort. But good vis and masses of life, including a large cluster of smallish hermit-like crabs all living in identical pink and white shells. Oh, and lovely scallops for dinner!
There were lots of other great dives – there wasn’t one that I DIDN’T enjoy – but I didn’t have time to write up my logbook while I was there, so they are now fading into the mist of my aging brain. I shall just have to go back for another look…