2021 has proven to be a busy year for Reading BSAC albeit a little backloaded in the season! A combination of rolled over trips and pent-up demand has meant that whenever possible, members have leapt at chances to get in the water. We have even managed to fit in 3 weeks’ worth of diving from the Isle of Mull.

Two of these weeks in August/September used our Tornado and Cormorant RHIBs with the 3rd week in September hard boat diving with Lochaline charters. The RHIBs were blessed with glorious weather, good visibility and flat calm seas. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the hard boat trip slightly later in the year. Happily though the weather didn’t keep RBSAC from a packed week of diving in the Sound of Mull.

Our trip marshall, Paul, has plenty of experience when it comes to dive trips on Mull and booked us in to Salen Pier House, plenty of bedrooms, bathrooms and space for everyone. A bonus is the pier 200m from the house meaning we could get picked up in our drysuits and enjoy the occasional lie in. A further bonus was the talented list of volunteer chefs (divers and guests) to make sure we were all very well fed.

The weather conditions out of the Sound were not conducive to safe and happy diving so in agreement with our skippers we opted to stick to the variety of great sites on offer nearby. On a personal note this meant I got to dive first hand a number of famous wrecks/walls that I had heard about during club nights but not yet had the chance to see.

A relaxed approach (perhaps too relaxed?) to safety stops.

We checked ourselves into diving with two scenic wall dives in Loch Sunart. It was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with underwater Scottish flora and fauna which to me always seems bigger somehow, or perhaps it was the 2 miniature suns that Ian brought with him for his videography? Next day we ticked off the Shuna and the Hispania, both good dives with plenty of structure and life. Hovering above the triple expansion steam engine on the Shuna was a highlight and the Hispania (even on a slightly gloomy day) is a special dive site, unfortunately I did surface with a slightly grumpy buddy owing to a leaky mask.

Day 3 was a bit more challenging owing to the wind direction so we again popped into Loch Sunart. Here I carried out a bit of depth progression to 40m spotting some of Scotland’s famous sea pens and found a Yarrell’s blenny further up the wall. The afternoon’s dive was a bail out dive on the Pelican, inside calf island close to Tobermory harbour. This was a dive of two parts; good light and visibility with large sea squirts all over towards the bow but a few metres deeper towards the stern and the bottom the visibility was approximately arm length. Another 2 wrecks, the Thesis and Breda, were lined up for the next day. Large, canoodling sea hares were spotted on the Thesis and the Breda (with a bit of a silty reputation) turned out to be a fantastic dive, great visibility and my buddy and I just about covered the full deck and a dip under the stern.

Proof of the elusive octopus, still taken from video courtesy of Ian Hicks

The penultimate day started with a wildlife packed trip to Ardmore point, (Ling, Scorpion fish and a camera-shy John Dory, an octopus for a few lucky others). After that we dropped onto the Rondo, an unusual site in that the stern sits near the surface with the bow at nearly 50m, a good opportunity for some further depth progression but really most of the life is above 20m. We had a bit more weather in store for us on the final day so opted for 2 dives on the wall on the far side of Calf Island, denied earlier in the week by a scalloping boat. All this hard work was rewarded with a well deserved meal at the Western Isles hotel so we could watch the weather close in across the Sound.

A big thanks should go to Paul F for making sure that 2021’s Mull hard boat trip was a success, rolling over all the trip organisation twice was worth it and even the weather couldn’t stop us.