Boat & Site News Archive
11/2004 - DOLPHIN SPOTTING
During a recent Powerboat Course, Instructor Shaun Birrell and student Malcolm Ingram aboard Puffin 2 became surrounded by a pod of 15-20 dolphins in the Sound of Kerrera. A brief interlude in boat handling skills to allow the large adult dolphins to put on an airborne display and the younger members of the pod were shown by the adults how to ride alongside Puffin 2's hull literally an arms length from the crew. Radio contact to Puffin base had Puffin 4 dispatched with crew to allow footage of the event. The dolphins left Puffin 2 to play in the larger wake of Puffin 4. Jumping in the wake, riding the nose, Puffin 4 was treated to approximately 45mins of play and footage. Puffin cannot guarantee dolphins for every Powerboat Course but there are regular sightings of Dolphins, Porpoise, Minke Whales and Seals on the West Coast from all Puffin Boats.
11/2002 - PUFFIN BUYS "THE HISPANIA"
Just as with the "Breda" in 1999 Puffin Dive centre has purchased the wreck of the SS Hispania. In doing this we are able to inhibit any salvaging or unauthorised taking of artifacts from the wreck which means more for divers to see. This also ensures that mooring buoys and lines are kept to a good standard making it easier for visiting divers.
The Swedish steamship Hispania was built in 1912 by the Antwerp Engineering Company Limited. Her final voyage began when she left Liverpool loaded with a cargo full of steel asbestos and rubber, bound for Varberg in Sweden on Friday 17th December 1954. The weather was poor as she steamed north through the Irish sea and the north Channel so captain Dahn decided to take a route which would give them some protection from the weather by sailing between the islands of the Scottish west coast. She came into the sound of mull where it was very dark and visibility was almost nill, around 9 o'clock as they approached Tobermory disaster struck. The ship ran onto Sgeir Mor. The crew of 21 took calmly took to the life boats before she sank, except for captain Dahn who could not be persuaded to leave and went down with his ship.
The Hispania's cargo was salvaged in the 1950's and in 1957 a wire sweep was carried out but otherwise she is intact as when she sank in December 1954. She sits upright with alist to starboard, in 30 metres of water in position 56 34 55 N, 005 59 13 W. She lies just inshore off the red channel marker but is normally buoyed and there fore very easily located. Her bow points due west towards the mull shore . Depths on the deck range from 15-20 metres with the holds and engine room at 23m. She is a spectacular wreck with almost every square inch of her metal surface covered in sea life and the almost inevitable visibility making her one of the best scenic wreck dives in Scotland. The ship although one of the most dived wrecks in Scotland is still virtually intact with companionways, handrails and doors still in place. Only the wooden structures have rotted away and any brass fittings have of course disappeared but otherwise a swim through her bridge or into the cavernous holds or engine room is almost like a walk round a ship afloat.
10/2002 BOAT CRANE OUT
Puffin's annual boat crane out took place on the 1st October 2002 where local boats and yachts were taken out of the water for their winter storage. Included in the boats being lifted out was Puffin's own "diving cat" Urchin. Urchin is taken out of the water every year for maintenance and refurbishment. Her engines will be winterised and work will start on her straight away.
The Puffin site provides winter storage for approximately 20 vessels during the winter months from October to March. Prior to Puffin Dive Centre taking over at "Port Nan Cuilc" (valley of the rushes in gaelic) the site use to be a boat yard.
Purpose built cradles are provided for all vessels stored at Puffin which means that they are safe and secure during the windy days and nights over the next six months. Customers visiting the Puffin site over this period will see the car parking space at the top of the yard taken up by the yachts and boats stored here. Limited short time parking is available immediately in front of the centre and of course there is still plenty of parking to be found in the main car park. Puffin customers are asked not to park in front of the new boat hanger as access is required 24 hours a day. The boats will be craned into the water on or around 31st March 2003 and the site will return to it's "summer status".
10/2002 - NEW CREW AREA
October has seen the final stages in the development of Puffins new crew area. Specifically created as an area to allow Try-a-Divers and their hangers-on a clear view of the student preparation area through their initial presentation, the new space will serve well for all course briefings. With visiting divers in mind the crew area will provide a large, spacious and comfortable area for protection from the elements in both winter and summer. Vending machines have been installed offering a wide range of hot drinks, and the addition of a wood-burning stove will certainly provide comfort in the wintry weather for all those diving from Puffin, whether on their own vessels or on ours. The provision of tables and benches will allow groups a space to enjoy the plethora of refreshments served from the Burger Van, away from the Scottish elements.
09/2002 ARCHAEOLOGICAL SURVEYS ON THE SWAN
In the early part of September the Urchin has been used as a platform for a production company to conduct archaeological surveys of the wreck the Swan. Sunk in 15 metres of water off Duart Point in close proximity to Duart Castle the wooden wreck is a protected site and may only be dived in specialist circumstances. Footage of the wreck should be forthcoming on television in the next year.
Late in September Puffin 3 and Puffin 4 have been chartered for involvement in another production. The vessels will be transporting members of the production team to and from the site of filming.
BOAT RADIO COURSES
Need VHF or GMDSS? Contact Puffin for full details. If you require RYA certification for marine radio, Puffin runs courses for all levels. Also upgrades to GMDSS are available for SRC qualified users. 1 day courses are available all year round with no minimum numbers required to run the course.
BOAT HANDLING COURSES
Powerboat Handler Courses for all levels are available at Puffin. Courses run all year round and with no minimum numbers required to run the course, you can book the course to suit your schedule. Starting with Powerboat RYA 1 and 2 you will experience a range of vessels and conditions ensuring that on completion of your course you are confident in your ability to handle any type of water craft. Courses are run over 4 days, for full details contact the centre.
PONTOON SYSTEM & ACCESS
Water access has never been so easy. The new pontoon system at Puffin allows users to tie alongside with ease. All site services are within easy reach such as fuel, (both diesel and unleaded) water, air fills, shop access and refuelling at the Burger Van plus many more in just one stop and with no time wasted with trailers, boat users can maximise the time spent diving. Gone are the days of heaving dive kit in and out of trailers and up and down walls. Puffin provides the service to all divers to ensure dive trips to Oban are as relaxed as possible. With moorings available, your boat can be left in the water for your entire stay. All that's left to do is explore the excellent dive sites of the West Coast, from scenic drift dives to world class wreck diving... All just a phone call away!
08/2002 - SUPERRIB SERVICE AREA
All year boat servicing and repairs now all under one roof. The new boat hangar at Puffin has been purposely built and kitted out to the highest standard, allowing the Mechanical And Engineering Department to complete servicing in house. From charging a battery to full diesel inboard engine removal and overhaul. Puffin's expertly trained staff specialising in outboard, inboard, outdrive and jetdrives, we can work with an extensive array of high quality tools, machinery and specialist application tools in the purpose built environment allowing use of low voltage, high voltage and air powered equipment. The large size of the hangar allows complete storage of the super RIBS. Ensuring every time you book a trip on the super RIBS the vessels are immaculate.
SCENIC BOAT SUCCESS
Scenic boat trips and fast boat trips have been extremely popular this year in Oban. An opportunity for all ages to view some of the finest scenery on the West Coast. With experienced crew giving a full guided tour with local insight and history trips have proved to be very popular, regular sightings of dolphins, porpoises, sea eagles, seal colonies, sea birds, and breathtaking views of spectacular cliffs, islands and castles. During the trips lasting approximately 2hrs, keen passengers can experience boat handling with bursts of high speed manoeuvres ensuring a truly memorable experience of the West Coast. Trips are for all ages with no qualification required, perfect for dive groups with non divers.
08/2002 - PONTOON INSTALLATION
The first of the new pontoons has been launched into Gallanach Bay. Running 30 metres in length the pontoon system is set to extend from the end of the current pier, allowing deep water berthing for larger vessels. Secured by several hundred metres of heavy mooring chains the pontoon is a year round addition that will weather all seasons, allowing easier access to the site from the water on those days when the water is low, and those pier wall ladders are very long!
08/2002 - RESTRUCTURED FILLING PANEL
Continuing the thorough process of redeveloping the current compressor system begun with the construction of a new Compressor room to house the two compressors Puffin currently operates, and the 15 ex submarine ballast tanks that form the 400 bar bank, the filling panel is undergoing a re-fit. The rehousing and slight relocation of the panel will allow greater protection from the weather whilst filling in addition to the increased ease of access both for individuals filling tanks and for staff engaged on maintenance operations.
08/2002 - EQUIPMENT RENTAL REFURBISHMENT
Following the removal of the compressor from the Equipment Rental store the space available to staff has allowed a substantial refurbishment to ease the access to and storage of the vast range of sizes and styles of equipment held available to Puffin students and other qualified divers for hire. The new interior layout has greatly simplified the task of managing the items within the store - and consequently allowed even greater scrutiny of all equipment to prevent any deterioration in standards.
07/2002 - ADDITIONAL CHALET ACCOMMODATION
Having secured by purchase the land directly to the south of the current site Puffin is planning to expand the accommodation on offer by constructing an additional 6 chalets of similar size and design to those currently available. Sleeping a maximum of 7 individuals the chalets will be sheltered and secluded from one another - each with its own private view to the picturesque Island and Sound of Kerrera.
07/2002 - NEW PLATFORM AREA
To further enhance the enjoyment of Oban's fantastic summer weather Strathlorn - the staff residence - has recently received an addition: a triple tiered platform perfect for savouring the long summer evenings. With one level for the bar, one for the barbeque, and a third just for relaxing the area has proved very successful with the staff.
06/2002 - SHELTER FROM THE ELEMENTS
The area in the vicinity of the cylinder filling panel has recently been restructured to provide an enclosed area designed to provide shelter from the weather in winter or summer. The addition of a wood burning stove will certainly provide somewhere for the refreshments served from the Burger Van to be consumed come the cooler months.
PUFFIN BUYS "THE BREDA"
The Breda is perhaps the most popular wreck dive in all of Scotland. It is located approximately 5 miles from Oban in fairly shallow water, it is generally sheltered in most weather and is an ideal dive for any level of diver. There are few British divers whose logbook does not contain the name S.S. Breda.
Built in 1921 for the Koninkl Nedrl, Stoomb, Maats NV the Royal Netherlands Steamship company, at the New Waterway Shipbuilding Co, near Rotterdam. The Breda was a cargo ship before being put under the control of the P&O shipping company for use in the war.
Whilst on route from London to Mombassa, Karachi and Bombay, she was sheltering in the Oban Roads off the west of Scotland. The cargo on board was varied and included 3000 tons of cement, 175 tons of tobacco and cigarettes, 3 Hawker biplanes, 30 De Havilland Moths, spare parts for the aircraft, rubber soled sandals, military lorry spares, NAFFI crockery, copper ingots, 9 dogs and 10 horses one of which was apparently a present from the king of Denmark to the Aga Khan..Throughout the war the Germans laid mines by attaching them on lines to the seabed. The Oban roads being some of the deepest waters around the British coast made it impossible for the Germans to lay mines in such depth.
On the 23rd December 1940 a small group of Heinkel 111's took of from Nazi occupied Norway, bound for Oban and the convoy sheltering in the nearby waters. One of the planes chose the Breda as a target and dropped its four 55lb bombs, none of the bombs actually hit the Breda but they were close enough for the force of the blast to fracture the water inlet pipe. Tons of water started to flood into the engine room and within a few short minutes the ships electrics and all the steam had been killed. Within 15 minutes captain Johannis Fooy ordered the life boats to be lowered and the crew made for the shore. An admiralty tug came alongside and realising that the Breda was going to sink very quickly the captain decided to try and run her aground onto a shallow shelf only 6 metres deep. After towing her for 2 hours the tug managed to get the Breda over the shelf and let the cable go. The horse's were let out into the water so they could swim ashore. At 2030Hrs captain Fooy having decided the ship was safe under the circumstances left the ship and went ashore.
The next day, Christmas eve, the Admiralty were able to assess the situation, having decided the ship could be salvaged some of the cargo was taken off. During the removal of the cargo a storm blew up and forced the ship further inshore but off the 6 metre shelf into 30 metres of water where it remains to this day.
The ship was forgotten for many years even though at low water her funnel, bridges, masts and derricks were visible. In 1961 the Royal Navy swept her with a wire to a depth of 28 feet at the request of the Northern Lighthouse Board, so as not to be a hazard to shipping. In 1966 she was rediscovered by Edinburgh Sub Aqua Club.
Throughout the 60's and 70's the Breda was heavily salvaged and one of the most publicised removals was that of the propeller. The wreck itself sits upright on a sloping seabed with her bow pointing in to shore. The stern sits in 28 -30 metres of water with the deck level at 22 metres whilst her bow lies in 18 - 20 metres of water with deck levels ranging between 12 - 14 metres. Salvage work in and around the engine room have caused some damage and the superstructure no longer remains. The main points of interest are her 5 cargo holds which still hold much of the original cargo just waiting to be uncovered. In holds 2 and 3 are the remains of her cargo of aircraft. In hold 4 are sheets of Indian rupees. Scattered throughout the wreck are the remains of gas masks, shaving kits, tennis balls, toothbrushes, shoes, jars of olives and a wide range of bottles plenty of which remain full and intact.
There is plenty of life to be found in and around the wreck including wrasse, pollock, brittle stars, conger eels, saithe, dragonets, butterfish, leopard spotted goby fish, squat lobsters, plumose anemones, dead mens fingers, sunstars and peacock worm. The wreck is located in Ardmucknish Bay, Oban at position Lat 56 28 33.0 N Long 05 25 00.0 W and can be dived at any state of tide but it is best at high slack water. Due to large amounts of freshwater from Loch Etive working its way to the Breda via the Falls of Lora there is a Halocline for the first 2 - 3 metres during descent but this quickly disappears and leaves you to dive the Breda in an average visibility of 6 -10 metres.
Whilst carrying a cargo of pig iron from Belfast to Middlesbrough in October 1889, captain Wallace sailed around the north of Scotland aboard the Thesis - an iron steamship built by McIlwaine Lewis & co, Belfast and launched in 1887, before heading south through the sound of mull. It was a foggy night on the 15th October and with the visibility nil she ran into a reef near Inninmore Point off the Molvern Peninsula. It is not fully known where she was grounded but it was more than likely on Eilean Rubha an Ridire. Captain Wallace and his eleven crew made it safely ashore to Craignure on the opposite side of the sound of mull. The Thesis was not so fortunate and sunk several hours later.
The wreck of the Thesis now lies between Eilean Rubha an Ridire and Rubha an Ridire at position Lat 56 30 02 N Long 05 41 26 W. To locate the wreck it is easiest to patrol the western edge of Rubha an Ridire along the 24 - 26 metre contours.
The wreck itself lies on a steep sloping shingle bed, with her bow pointing in towards the shore. The deck level at the bow is 18 metres and it sits in 24 metres, the stern lies in 32 -34 metres. It is predominantly the hull of the ship that remains with many of the hull plates having been removed or fallen off, as a result of which the light penetration into wreck is one of fantastic value. There are several swim throughs where both entry and exit points can be clearly seen making this a very popular dive site for both the experienced and more learner divers.
Inside the bow of the wreck are shoals of codling and pollock with large ballan wrasse swimming throughout the whole wreck. The seabed upon which she rests is also teeming with life with more than its share of edible crabs, urchins and squat lobsters.
The wreck can only be dived during a flooding tide as the southern tip of the Molvern Peninsula gives shelter from the tide rushing up the Sound of Mull. Any current experienced at the surface generally disappears as you descend down to the wreck.
© Puffin Dive Centre 2008