Pirates take the Kylebhan by Simon Read
In May 2007, I finally had the pleasure of meeting a man who goes by the name of Jeff. Having heard the rumours, I was intrigued, especially about Jeff’s toons (patent pending) and particularly when I found them all to be true! Later that weekend, he fleeced me for £20 and told me it was for a live-aboard sailing out of Oban in November. He then decided that it would be in Pirate clothing and turned on his ‘tunes’
October rolled around and with two weeks to go a comprehensive letter arrived …. cost, place and pirate gear. So with money, pirate gear, diving gear and Ray, we set off to collect Rachel and her laptop at Over Kellet village, leaving her car in the car park of the local pub.
The journey up was uneventful and fairly quick; we enjoyed the delights of the Scottish service station (empty and devoid of any evidence of life), and moved on Northwards. On arrival at Oban, we quickly unloaded the car in the rain and headed off to the pub.
The pub was wonderful a mix of architectural manic genius. We (the Kylebhan and Gaelic Rose crews) sat in the area that looked remarkably like a church, rather than the dungeon area, and the traditional English country pub corner. The church area came with its own live version of Quazimodo, a lad called Wayne. He wished to join us, and from then on he constantly informed us of his prowess as a fisherman and he proudly displayed his Celtic coloured tattoo, which unfortunately spelt the word ‘idiot’ on his right arm. He continued his one-man show with a demonstration of the Glasgae kiss on the bar staff, before being gently removed from the premises by the bouncers.
The entertainment having finished, we returned to our respective boats and after waking the crew member several times, settled down to sleep and a round of “Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh”, courtesy of Jeff’s toons (patent pending).
The morning arrived and we woke to a selection of sea shanty toons “Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh” Jeff’s toons (patent pending) and to see the Gaelic Rose sailing off into the distance. After a light breakfast, the skull and cross bones was proudly raised and we headed out from Oban in a North Westerly direction towards, and then along, the Sound of Mull. The weather had turned on us, and with the wind blowing strongly, the skipper decided to change the dives. Instead of the Thesis, he headed towards Ardtornish Point. It was decided to use the sheltered area behind the hook of Ardtornish Point to do a scenic/scallop dive. At this stage, we all felt disappointed but in actual fact, it turned out to be a good decision in the long run.
The dive at Ardtornish Point was between 16m and a maximum of 25m with an 8m visibility and set the water temperature for the weekend of 12oc, perfect for a 7mm semi-dry suit. The seabed was compacted sand, strewn with small stones. There were occasional rock outcrops of about 3m in height. Sea life was restricted to a few dogfish; short lobsters were in abundance, some kelp and anemones could be found attached to the larger rocks or the outcrops. Scallops were plentiful, and Frank brought up a disabled edible crab (named Ian) …only one claw, apparently it put up a good fight!
Lunch was soup and sandwiches, and began Onion Dave’s enforced weekend diet, as everything cooked involved onions.
With the wind having dropped a bit, the afternoon dive could take place in a more open area and the decision was made to complete a wall dive off Calve Island. This entailed a surface swim from the boat of about 30m. Visibility was about 6m, as this was a little more open to the elements. The decent down the wall was interesting as there were numerous brightly coloured anemones and a few small nudibranch. For me, the shelf found at about 9m was the most interesting, as a large kelp bed covered this. Behind the kelp hidden among the cracks in the rocks were wrasse and many other small fish and sponges. With the sun breaking through the clouds, the view up towards the surface displayed small schools of fish and kelp leaves silhouetted against the sun.
With the diving finished for the day and kit packed away, we gathered in the board room for Jeff’s debriefing session to the sounds of hearty “AAAAARRRRHHHHSSS”, beer cans hissing open and “Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh”, courtesy of Jeff’s toons (patent pending) as the Kylebarn headed North to Tobermory. There was an air of suppressed awe and wonder as Jeff completed the log book, apparently this is still not believed by those not on the Kylebarn!
By the time we arrived at Tobermory, we had all eaten a hearty meat and onion stew (except Onion Dave who continued his diet and enforced vegetarianism). We had a wee dram of a couple of examples of that delightful Scottish nectar.
Dressed as pirates and ready to pillage and plunder, the Kylebarn crew launched themselves toward the pub, with a “Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh” courtesy of Jeff’s toons (patent pending). We all knew the toon by now. The search was on for the crew of the Gaelic Rose. It soon became clear that they were elsewhere and when a text arrived from Ian with a picture of a deserted bar in Lochaline we realised that Tobermory was ours and ours alone to take.
The night took off and the cursed black cork was passed from beer to beer. We met many fine people from Balamory; Dora a young Scottish lady dressed in a Rangers outfit (who took a shine to Rachel) and a disco full of two families, even Ian in Lochaline was corked at one point.
The second day began with another hearty breakfast and the beginning of the legend of Mick Two Buns. The day was a beautiful sight, calm seas and glorious sunshine and “Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh”, courtesy of Jeff’s toons (patent pending). Heading out from Tobermory, we headed South down the Sound of Mull to near Benn Dubh to dive the Shuna, a coal ship sunk in 1913.
The Shuna lies about 200m from the shore. Using a shot line to descend, we headed to the stern to have a look at the still intact propeller. Above us, the stern was covered in anemones and a few dead man’s fingers. We then swam back over the deck. The ship is in good condition, with masts still in evidence and deck machinery still in place. The holds have been emptied of the coal and are now filled with sand and silt. Sand and silt lies on the deck and was easily disturbed, which reduced the 5/6m visibility. There was some fish life and a few short lobsters. Around the ship, the seabed had a few scallops.
Lunch was soup and sandwiches with a special made for Onion Dave, although Mick Two Buns was on the hunt for them. We stopped at Lochaline and had a chance to have a wander along the jetty and admire the view and the crystal clear water; things looked good for the afternoon dive.
It was decided to finish off the weekend with a dive on the Thesis. The weather by now was nearly calm, brilliant sunshine with a slight but cold breeze. The Thesis hit a reef in 1889 at Innimore Point, sinking four hours later at Rubha an Ridre, she lies at a depth of 31m just 50m from the shore. We swam down the shot line and headed for the stern, with a visibility of about 8m. The rudder and propeller have gone and the iron cargo has been removed from the holds. The ship itself has lost most of its plating and is mostly a skeleton, although the wheelhouse, engine, boilers and anchor winch are still pretty much intact. We swam up through the corridors and through the first three of the four holds. Life consisted of hundreds of dead man’s fingers, a few small lobsters, and a couple of edible crabs. The final hold was breathtaking. We swam out into hundreds of fish seemingly fast asleep, lying at different angles just floating in the water. With the sunlight beaming through the ship’s ribs and reflecting off their scales, it was amazing. We then swam through a hole in the starboard keel and were confronted by hundreds more fish all resting in the bright sunlight. It’s the type of site that we all dive for.
It was great to resurface and tell those who had decided not to dive that it was the making of the weekend.
The return journey through the Sound of Mull was fantastic. The views were magnificent; Ben Nevis was clearly seen with its snow-capped peak. All of us stood up front for the hour’s journey back admiring the view. What a way to finish a great weekend. Well done Jeff, good call. “With a Heave away ooh, heave away me hearties oh” Jeff’s toons (patent pending).
Next year the wild west! YEEHAA “Rollin, Rollin, Rollin, keep them doggies Rollin, Rawhide” Jeff’s toons (patent pending).