Malin Head

  • Date: 21st to 28th June 2008
  • Organiser: Sam Wenham
  • Good trip; despite the typically Irish weather

Description

Malin Head trip on Loyal watcher. The trip will leave from Ayr in Scotland and the diving will be from Rathlin Island around Malin head to Tory Islands. The diving will be a combination of Wrecks and scenic sites.

Estimated price: 773 based on 10 people on the trip - Including Accommodation, Food,Tea and Coffee, Dives, Air

Current list of people

  • Sam Wenham
  • Kim Stevens
  • Suzie Wenham
  • Dennis Wenham
  • Rob Jones
  • David Williams
  • Dave Lock
  • Raj

Useful links

Trip Report - Rob Jones

  • Location: Coast of Northern/Republic of Ireland
  • Vessel: Loyal Watcher
  • Crew: Darren & Linda
  • Divers: Raj, Dougal, Dave W, Rob, Sam, Kim, Suzie, Dennis

It was a typical wet and windy Scottish summers day when I arrived at the port in Ayr to join the Loyal Watcher on a weeks trek round the northern coast of Ireland. The ship was already mostly loaded with dive kit and passengers, and Dave and myself quickly got our kit winched down onto the deck with a complex device that is best described by the term 'rope'. Once onboard, the ever-helpful Linda gave us a tour round the boat and our cabins, and then we all met up in the Galley for an introduction from our Skipper Darren and Captain Sinbad. Clearly, the little Dachsund is in charge on this boat. Once we'd ascertained we didn't need to throw any smokers overboard, Linda gave us the first of our plentiful suppers and we began our evening steam over to Ballycastle, Northern Island.

The boat is more used to doing mixed-gas diving, but at least our 3 on-board rebreathers made up for what would have been a lack of techy kit on-board. Sadly, there were no tri-mix divers on the boat to give us their finest chipmunk impressions.

I think most people finally got to sleep around 2 when we arrived in Ballycastle harbour and the rolling subsided! It was decided that after the blow-out that was the Eyemouth trip a few weeks before, the wind and rain that greeted us the next morning were clearly my fault, but Darren being a rather good skipper found us the first of the sheltered dive sites that were going to come in very useful over the next 6 days.

Fortunately, Linda was first up in the morning and ready to greet us with a hearty breakfast (something of a theme was developing already!), lots of tea and after a quick steam over to Rathlin Island, we were kitting up for the first dive of the trip.

  • Dive 1 - Loch Gary - 22nd June - ~11am

Lying virtually intact, upright at 34m, the holds of the Loch Gary were filled with big links of chain at some point by the Navy. In the excellent 12-15m of visibility we had, most of the boat is visible as you approach down the shot line. It must have had some tiling on the deck as much of this is still visible. The bottom also teems with many small jellyfish, which unfortunately seem to have turned into rather large jellyfish, as you might discover when a hoard of them (what is the plural for jellyfish?) appear in front of you whilst hanging on the line at 6m on the ascent. All told, an excellent dive to kick off the week with.

  • Dive 2 - HMS Drake - 22nd June - ~ 3pm

Also just off the coast of Rathlin Island lies the HMS Drake in around 16m, which we dived on the first afternoon, after, yes, the first of Linda's rather filling lunches. No-one goes hungry on the Loyal Watcher! The HMS Drake was flattened by the navy at some point. The weather was closing in, and the tide was beginning to run so quick descents were made down onto a rocky kelp bed. Where was the wreck? Was the shot in the wrong place? After a few minutes of confusion, we realised that yes we were on the wreck, but being so shallow it had been invaded by the weed monster but was there lying underneath if you were to look carefully enough. Lots of pollock had made the wreck their home, as well as a man we were told was called "The Butcher"; a local diver who spends most afternoons raiding the wreck for brass and coal. We could hear his chiseling and eventually found him head down in amongst the wreckage.

After our first day we moored up back in Ballycastle, sent captain Sinbad for a well earned run up the quay and lamp-post stop (well he had been driving the boat all day), and headed for a much needed pint of Guinness in a local bar. After a filling Linda dinner of course.

  • Dive 3 - Loch Gary - 23rd June - ~ 11:30am

The next morning, the weather hadn't cleared, so rather than head out into open water, we opted to dive the Loch Gary again and try and find a sheltered dive for the afternoon. There was less visibility due to all the rain the evening before, but as the sunshine came out the wreck is a good one to look at again. This time, most of our dive was spent pottering around in the various holds, nooks and crannies within the wreck itself.

  • Dive 4 - Skerries - 23rd June - ~2pm

Back on Rathlin Island, we were put into a drift dive in an area known as the Skerries. Sadly, this dive was something of a disappointment. The sea-bed was somewhat bare save for the kelp and the occasional hermit crab. Hopefully the weather would be better the next day.

  • Dive 5 - Castle Eden - 24th June - ~9am

After a steam over to Loch Foyle and an early start we dived the Castle Eden, who lies at 33m. A strange wreck, it is quite flat as much has sunk into the sea-bed which is complete;y covered in mussel shells. Yet another excellent wreck in great vis, the Eden was well worth diving. The wreckage is scattered over quite a wide area, but there is plenty to look at in the short time you have before it's time to come back up. Time for a rebreather? The stern is well intact with the rudder still in place. The wreck also provides a home to a number of lobsters. Being a no-take zone, there they stay, and you can swear you can see them waving at you in full knowledge that you can't touch them!

  • Dive 6 - Lenan Head - 24th June - ~ 2:30pm

For our second dive we were dropped in a sheltered cliff area known as Lenan Head. This was a much better dive than the previous day's poor scenic effort. There is much to be seen in this area, with many Tom Pot Blenies, Crabs and other life to be seen. There's also a big cave to swim into though sadly it doesn't go very far, and just seemed to be home to a rather surprised looking fish that bolted when we stuck our heads in.

Other members of the group opted to dive a different wreck (the Laurentic) in the afternoon.

[EDIT: The best bit about that afternoon was that those of us whose qualifications meant we couldn't dive that deep were put in somewhere else, which came as a pleasant surprise after so many trips where having a depth limit meant missing a dive. Thanks Darren! ]

  • Dive 7 - Horn Head - 25th June - ~12:07

After another evening harboured in the shelter of Loch Foyle, we headed further west and found ourselves in very rough seas at Horn Head. Fortunately, Darren managed to find us a sheltered spot where the winds had dropped to a 'manageable' 50 knots, which even so was whipping up the sea into spray. Getting much closer to the cliffs than I would have dared, we were dropped onto yet another very scenic site, with abundant life and a good shortage of kelp. A lot of the critters here were on the small side but there was still much to keep us entertained. We mainly saw crabs, lobsters, quite a few sea cucumbers, and lots and lots of sea squirts.

Unfortunately, the weather certainly didn't get any better, and we spent the rest of the day 'enjoying' a rather rolling trip back to Ballycastle, arriving in time for dinner and a pint of the black stuff. Ballycastle certainly is an interesting town. The favourite hobby for the young people in the town seems to be cruising up and down the main street, though entertainingly the Vauxhall Novas seems to be have mainly been replaced by good old farm tractors. Sadly, they don't yet seem to have gotten round to putting the blue LEDs on them. Next year maybe...

The only irony about this leg of the trip, was that after venturing finally into Irish Waters, we never even set foot on land!

  • Dive 8 - Altacarry Head - 26th June - ~ 10:30am

After the evening moored up in Ballycastle we headed back over to Rathlin Island. Again, the weather wasn't favouring us so we opted for a sheltered spot on a reef under one of the lighthouses. Sadly, this didn't make an ideal dive site, as the visibility left a lot to be desired, we were fighting the current for most of the dive and 'reef' might better have been described as "Kelp Bed". At least we got some exercise!

  • Dive 9 - Templemore - 26th June - ~2:05pm

Just outside of Ballycastle harbour, in around 20m of reasonably clear water sits the Templemore. As you approach the sea-bed there isn't much to see amongst the rocks and weed, but as you begin to swim around the constituents of an ex-boat begin to appear. The bow is pretty much destroyed, but the stern is still in good condition. One large single boiler can be seen with the prop still lying directly behind. There are also a lot of critters and fish hanging around here.

After this dive we began our steam East back towards Ayr, heading around the Mull of Kintyre. Rather than head straight to Ayr, we were headed into Campbeltown for the evening, and on the way in took time out to sound out the next mornings wreck. At Campbeltown itself, just prior to yet another good feeding from Linda, we spotted a Dolphin swimming around.

  • Dive 10 - Erskin - 27th June - ~11am

Just outside Campbeltown lies the ferry Erskin in around 35m. Here the visibility is more akin to that on the Norfolk coast; pea soup. Being much a flattened/swept wreck you don't really start to see it until you land on it. Whilst there is not a large amount of wreck to sea, being in an area of nutrient rich current, it is heavily covered in anenomes and looks quite pretty as a result. Sam had intentions of getting the bell, but all we found was a crisp packet and a barnacle encrusted Iron Brew can! The wreck was also teeming with small fish, and has probably been damaged due to the large amounts of fish netting we found covering the boat.

  • Dive 11 - Glensheil - 27th June - 3pm

Heading East again back towards our final destination of Ayr, we stopped off for our final dive on a wreck near to Ayr Harbour. This wreck, an ex coal barge sits in 26m, fortunately with better visibility than on the Erskin. It lies on its side amidst a bed of black rocks that on closer inspection are actually the lumps of coal that it was carrying. The wreck is well intact with its rudder still intact, and it is possible to swim into the wheel house and some of the other internal compartments as well as into the coal holds themselves. Under the bow, a large number of Brittle Stars are sheltering and on the seabed off the starboard side are some very large star fish. One seemed to be trying to climp up, got it wrong and fell upside down as I swam past it. A good wreck, well worth diving, and an excellent way to end the trip.

After docking back in Ayr, we offloaded the dive kit, had a final dinner from Linda and headed to the Church. Actually a Weatherspoons pub. Fortunately the cheap beer at least temporarily solved the land sickness acquired from the best part of a week on the boat. All in all, this was an excellent trip, the weather notwithstanding. Our thanks to Darren for finding us dive sites when other men would have stayed in port, and to Linda for keeping us all very well fed! Also thanks to Sam for organising the trip, and of course to Sinbad for being in charge.

Some pictures

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Topic revision: r9 - 2010-03-19 - 02:10:38 - NickArgue
 

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