Life at the end of the road

October 6, 2018

A hundred years on

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 5:16 pm

That’ll be the second leg of the journey started, we arrived at the Lochaline West Pier last night around 22:00 much to the chagrin of a handful of anglers on the pier. The poor souls were obviously set up for a nights fishing when we arrived and ruined it for them Sad smile There they were, one at each end set up with rods, tripods, seats, windbreak, beers and sandwiches all settled in for the night. Probably driven up from the North of England judging by their accents, for the weekend of sport and along came this big ferry and completely blocked the whole pier face Sad smile Having said that they provided us with invaluable help, their head torches at each end of the pier advising us of the dimensions and their enthusiasm to catch our ropes saved us putting a man ashore.

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I dunno if the Lochaline pier is unique but it is certainly unusual in that it is built on an undersea cliff and cantilevered off the shore, consequently it has some 70m of water below it at the face!!!! I dunno whether it was built for Macbrayne’s steamers or the silica sand mine in Lochaline, it was however used by both for many years. Now it’s only really used for shipping out timber though I remember it being used in the 1980’s for commercial diver training.

The shipwreck trail

After a reasonable night’s sleep aboard in cars and the disabled toilet!!!! the suitably rested crew departed the berth at 6:30 bound for Campbelltown. The uncertainty of our departure time from Raasay meaning it had been impossible to book accommodation for the first night Sad smile It was a braw morning and we’d have the tide with us for a good three hours.

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Less than an hour later we were in the Firth of Lorne doing almost 14knts having passed by many shipwrecks,  most of which I have dived on in years gone by.

Last night in the Sound of Mull alone we would have passed by the Hispania, Shuna, Rondo and John Preston then  tied up virtually over the top of the SS Logan, a 98ton coaster lost in December 1961. She sprang a leak whilst on passage from Troon to Skye and was towed into the pier.

The vessel was brought alongside Lochaline New Pier ( West Pier ) in the Sound of Mull . The ferry at that time was using this pier and concern was expressed that the vessel would sink at the pier and disrupt ferry services .
Local Peter Douglass assisted in chopping through the ropes with an axe as they had become bar tight as the vessel took more water . The vessel was allowed to drift off the pier and quickly sank .

However, in 111m of water she’s far to deep for me Smile The Hispania and Rondo I’ve dived many times, the Shuna was discovered in the 90’s so after my last dive in this area during 1985. This morning we’ll have passed over the SS Buitenzorg and by the FV Evelyn Rose , MV Ballista,(which is actually sat on top of two other wrecks!) This is an unbelievable mess of wrecks. First the Alexander, trying to recover coal from the River Tay (1943), got stuck and sank on top of her. Later, in 1973 Ballista joined the party, while salvaging the wrecks, came stuck on top of Alexander in a storm. SS Thesis, PS Mountaineer


Mountaineer on Lady’s Rock

too all lie within a mile of here, the former in around 28m of water and the latter, a Macbrayne’s paddle steamer in the shallows to the north of Lady’s rock.

Once in the Firth we skirt Mull and pass by yet more lost tonnage,

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three bays SW of the Loch Spelve’s mouth lies HMT Young Fisherman a steam drifter requisitioned by the Admiralty in WWII. Pretty smashed up in around 9m of water close to the shore she is seldom visited by divers and was an old favourite of mine ‘back in the day’. Just behind that flat island on the point of Mull lies the hospital ship HMHS Maine who had the misfortune to run aground there in fog during 1914. The Maine has a very interesting history, being the very first of her kind laid down as one and funded in no small part through the tireless efforts of Winston Churchills mum or granny. I forget which cos I’ve no Internet just now Sad smile 

The Hospital Ship 'Maine' Wellcome L0034093.jpg maine1.jpg Maine1914.jpg

I have now and here’s where there is a mine of info

Anyway, much of the money was raised in America, hence the name, methinks she was actually laid down as something else. Again, shallow and smashed up she used to be a great dive yielding tons of scrap over the years I dived on her. Over the course of which I picked up off the seabed in dribs and drabs, her name in10” brass letters, or at least the M,A,N and E. I was really pi55ed off cos on one of my first dives on her I found the I and weighed it in with the scrap just thinking it was a brass bar Smile

Further down the coast we have HMS Barcombe, a ‘Bar Class boom defence vessel’ again, shallow and smashed up but still ‘giving up’ treasure in the seventies. Just around the corner is Loch Buie on Mull where my very own ship the SS Meldon rests in 14 to 20m of water, a victim of a mine in 1917.


A 2500t collier carrying coal from South Wales to Scapa Flow she lies stern into the shore with her bows out to sea. Last time I visited her in 1985 you could still swim through the prop shaft tunnel and the bows were still pretty intact. The stern and iron prop are still an imposing sight apparently.

Meldon, SS Meldon, S.S Meldon, Wreck, Loch Buie, Mull SS Meldon, Wreck, Shipwreck, Loch Buie, Mull, Argyll, Scotland, Dive Oban & Argyll

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It still wasn’t fully light as we sped by Easdale and the Slate Islands but by Scarba,


the sun was out


so we left Finlay in charge and got on with checking the 170 lifejackets,

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laying them in groups of 5 in the lounge and testing all the lights.

Me, I got on with servicing the emergency generator,

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a lovely 63kW Volvo D5 that would just fit nicely in my shed Smile


Then I made breakfast number 2, which was much enjoyed by all Smile

On we bashed passing a couple of other CalMac vessels shuttling to and from Islay.

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The Finlaggan and Hebridean Isles going about their business.

A great tragedy

By 12:30, with the smell of Richard’s cooking making me hungry we’d cleared Islay


and the impressive Mull of Oa, the last resting place of the MV Eilean M a small coaster that ran aground in the sixties. There are plenty more but that’s the only one I can remember diving on. Most of my Islay diving being confined to the West Coast, where 100 years ago today HMS Otranto ran aground in what was a tragedy of humongous proportions, with over a thousand persons aboard, most of them American’s heading for the trenches, only 596 survived, the war would end less than a month later. Otranto was not the only tragedy off Islay 100 years ago, the troopship Tuscania is also remembered by many and commemorated on the Oa . Tuscania falling foul to one torpedo from a salvo of three fired from UB77. Tuscania fared much better with only 166 perishing from over 2000 on board, again, the vast majority being American ‘Doughboys’ heading for the trenches.

The ‘toon’ in daylight!

A few hours later after a rather pleasant passage round the normally angry Mull of Kintyre,

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by the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse, Sanda Island, a rainbow and


Paddy’s milestone Smile OK, Ailsa Craig must be almost 25 miles away but it looked much closer. Anyway, for the first time ever on all my trips to dry dock, we arrived at Campbelltown in daylight!!!


It really was much brighter than that photo of MV Loch Bhrusda suggests,


this one of a ‘crew car’ rear window being more like it Smile We had managed to shave two hours off last years arrival time, a combination of good weather and favourable tides making all the difference to our passage.

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