We have started to record the details of our yak dives and intend to report on their success or otherwise on this page. Here are a few from 2005 for starters.
Offering a sheltered and more reliable alternative to coastal sites at this time of year, Loch Fyne has become the traditional season opener for the DMDC and remains the only permanent fixture on the calendar.
Despite a smaller group than usual, the weekend produced its usual blend of constant bitching punctuated by occasional short bouts of enthusiasm resulting in even shorter bouts of diving.
The first dive of the weekend was intended as a shake down dive without the kayaks. Furness Quarry was chosen as an old favourite, that usually provides an easy dive in the Company of the local Dog Fish population. However, on this occasion the planned dive was cut short when my octopus was rudely snatched by my brother. This forced an unscheduled emergency ascent drill while being followed by a rather confused third buddy. Having surfaced safely we established that Simon's mouth piece had parted from his second stage resulting in an even wetter breath than usual and that he wasn't just taking the piss!
Having been sufficiently shaken down, preparations were made for our first full day kayak diving.
Despite being the middle of March the kayaks were set up at the waters edge in glorious sunshine. The groups gear was divided between the three larger kayaks, as Mark was going to paddle the less stable inflatable yak and was a little apprehensive to say the least.
As it turns out his apprehension was well founded as he only managed about 250 metres before capsizing and flooding the drysuit he had rolled down to his waist. Following this incident he decide to provide shore cover and drive himself to the dive site. The rest of us continued the paddle to Kenmore Point, a popular site usually reached by car using unmade forestry tracks (this approach produced a flat tyre and untold damage to both cars body work!). Others treat this as a boat dive, using ribs to ferry diver too and from the site. On this occasion the kayaks were used to gain access to a shore dive rather than a mid water platform.
The kayaks were pulled ashore and tied to a boulder, then teathered together for added security. This allowed us to kit up on dry land as normal, putting off the mid-water entry for another day.
Following a pleasant dive we returned to find the Kayaks afloat, but still securely moored to the boulder and each. Which was nice! It's at this point that the differences between kayak diving in the UK and kayak diving in the warmer waters being explored overseas become apparent. In other words it was bloody freezing, despite the claims of those diving in a semi-dry of being "lovely and warm". Fortunately our thorough preparation and foresight (or blind luck) meant we had packed flasks of soup, butties and chocolate, which soon countered the effects of the cold. This precaution has now been adopted as a permanent addition to our kit list in all, but the warmest of conditions.
Our enthusiasm for the days success eased the paddle back to the campsite, where mark was waiting to help us de-kit the kayaks. With a decidedly flat looking tyre!
With the weather looking less promising than the previous two days, we decided to explore the shores of the loch close to the campsite,to see if we could find a new site.
Although the weather had deteriorated the paddling was easy and the banter ridiculous as always. Although the water was incredibly clear, it soon became clear that the steep profile of the loch made it very difficult to determine the quality of a site from the water. We were looking for a significant rock outcrop rather than the more prominant boulder slopes, as these features tend to be typical of the sites dived at Loch Fyne. For this reason we chose a large outcrop between the camp site and Kenmore Point. As the rock had a large chain running over it we imaginatively name the site "Chain Rock".
Chain Rock - Pre-Dive The second reason for choosing this site was that it wasn't accessible from the shore, so it wouldn't have been possible as a shore dive. Although there was no beach to kit up on, the water was only knee deep where we moored so the entry was very easy. Unfortunately the dive wasn't a classic. The rock slope turned to a steeper mud slope at around 5 metres. At this point the majority of the interesting life disappeared and according to Rob who ventured deepest things remained pretty much the same for the nest 20 metres or so.
Chain Rock - Post-dive Despite a distinctly average dive, spirits were high having successfully dived a new site from the kayaks which was, afterall the objective of the trip. On the paddle back to the camp site we all agreed that we needed to add some sort of sonar to our set up to improve the quality of our site detection and GPS to record them.
Another exploratory trip by Mr Cheeseball! This time venturing to Skye with his girlfriend, where the scenery and conditions look fantastic.
It seemed a good idea at the time. The whole point of getting into this diving from kayaks had been to explore the Yorkshire coastline after all. As much of the coast around Scarborough looks as though it could be hiding good dive sites, if only they were more accessible.
The weather was dry and warm and the sea state was calmer than it had bee for some time. So we decided it was time to take the leap from using the kayaks to reach shore dives to actually diving from them mid-water.
Logistics (and bloody tourists) dictated that we launch from the town's North Bay, and head around Scalby Ness to find a suitable site. Any swell can make this shallow route anything from exciting to outright suicidal. But, there was little or no swell that day so our passage was unhindered. We have identified a number of potential sites on previous recky trips between Scalby Ness and huntdale point including today's chosen site.
Overcast, but otherwise perfect conditions prevailed at the surface. Unfortunately the visibility was far from perfect. Infact predicting the visibility in this area is best described as a dark art. All was going well as Simon set the anchor and I prepared to moor alongside and began to kit up for the dive. However, focussing on my kit and a full English breakfast were beginning to take their toll. Fighting the urge to spew I entered the water and donned my BC. Despite having got this far I just couldn't face the thought of puking through my regs (regardless of assurances that it's a straight forward procedure and hugely underrated!), so our first open water kayak dive was aborted.
As I removed my BC and teathered it to my yak, Simon announced he was going to descend the anchor line to check if the site was worthy of a repeat visit. He surfaced shortly after announcing that the vis was crap, but the site may worth a dive when the visibility improved.
Shortley after this we put ashore at the nearest beach to allow me to completely remove the English breakfast from my system (if you know what i mean). After this purging the sun came out and the paddle back to the slipway was great.
For once a last minute decision to drive to the Scottish boarders for the day resulted in the perfect day!
Having decided to not even bother trying for St Abbs so late in the day, we instead tried our luck in Eyemouth. Greeted with blue sky hot sunshine and perfectly calm clear water. Unfortunately the state of the tide made launching the yaks impossible at our chosen site. So instead we investigated a little further south, where we found a jem of a bay with a deserted harbour. Even the local fishermen were friendly, raising no objections to our launching from the harbour.
We spent the next couple of hours exploring the dramatic coastline north towards Eyemouth. Each little bay produced potential dive sites including reefs, caves and kelp forest. The whole area is inaccessible from the shore making it perfect for the yaks. Another bonus is that many of the sites are too shallow for the depth obsessed majority to bother with, so you are unlikely to come across many dive boats on your trip. Having failed to choose a dive site so far, we turned back just before we reached Eyemouth. Desperate not to miss the opportunity, we anchored in a well sheltered bay and kitted up in perfect conditions. We descended the anchor line to a sandy bottom being guarded by a large and very agresive lobster. From here we explored a network of gullies rich with life and benefiting from amazing sunshine. These gullies gave way to dense kelp where the sun's penetration wasn't quite so impressive, but proving the ideal habitat for larger fish.
After the dive our kit was teathered to the yaks while we tried a little coasteering, until it became painfully obvious (painful being the key word) that the water wasn't quite deep enough for the jumps from the rocks. After a quick snack and a cup of coffee, we headed back to what was now a virtually dry harbour still in glorious sunshine.
By all accounts this was a largely impromptue trip by one of the DMDC's founder members and his friend a kayak diving virgin. Although new to the concept of diving from a kayak, the gentleman in question was coaxed into buying a full set of equipment including a shinney new Ocean Kayak Scrambler XT.
Beyond this details become a little sketchy and it is unclear whether the trip was a complete success (my diplomacy knows no bounds!). However, the trip did identify the area as a prime location for kayak diving and a trip has already been booked for 2006!
Another exploratory trip by Mr Cheeseball!
Although this was not primarily a kayak diving trip (if at all), the four people involved reckied a number of potential sites for future trips. The group used a Malibu 2 and a Malibu 2 XL to explore the area. Any diving was carried out solo from the shore in well sheltered bay areas.
However, with scenery like this there is no doubt that the DMDC will be making a trip to Mull in the near future to realise its potential as a yak diving area.