Westbay is one of the club’s favourite diving destinations. In my short time so far as a diver it has become one of my favourites, with a wide variety of sites at all depths, wrecks and reefs. It has the practicality of our accommodation being very close to the marina. And Westbay is a special place for me as it is where I had my first diving trip and became certified as an Ocean Diver last year – all the more appropriate a place to finish my Sports Diver!
As part of my Sports Diver training I volunteered to be assistant dive manager to Alex S for this trip. I had to work out slack times, schedule dives, check the nearest hospitals etc so everyone else didn’t have to! The weather forecast had me a little concerned as we were meant to have thunder as well as fairly strong wind, but this turned out to not be an issue. The gravity of the role dawned on me when Alex made me sharpen a pencil with a knife – don’t be an assistant DM if you don’t have to.
The first dive of the trip was the classic Baygitano, a steam collier sank during WWI. Lying at a depth of 20 metres so accessible to all certified divers, it is home to a large population of bibs, lobsters, conger eels and plenty of others. I suppose you could call it a conger-gation. It is also a very popular site for fishing, as evidenced by the abundance of fishing lines. Alex M and myself found a poor crab tangled in a lot of fishing line, which we were sadly unable to free.
We went back to the marina to get our air tanks filled and grab some lunch, with fish & chips for some of us. For the afternoon, the more experienced divers went to dive the St Dunstan, an old bucket dredger that also sank in WWI. It was a site the club had not been to before. With the rib from another group of divers we went around looking for it, taking us probably the best part of half an hour before we managed to successfully shot the wreck. I would write more about it, but it was too deep for me to dive it!
The other half of us, including myself, dived High Ground, a nice shallow site near the coast, ideal for training. We would return the following day for my last Sports Diver dive. Personal highlights included seeing squid eggs and a catshark swimming right in front of my eyes and startling me, which now means I have been scared by a shark.
The boat unfortunately ran into some technical issues when it hit a buoy and damaged the sonar, but thanks to the technical skills of both Alex, Nathan and others, this was fixed Well Enough(TM) for the following day.
In the evening most of us went to the George, a nice local pub. Our diving officer Nathan set a trend by ordering a pint of a local cider that we then all ordered. French Alex and I used to occasion to plan the diving for the next day: as the plan was to first dive a deeper wreck, the Moidart, we sat down and found slack times made it possible to go back to the marina between the two morning dives, so lazy people such as myself could stay in and meet at the marina later. And the following morning, big thanks to both Alex’s, Declan and Tobias for gathering as many as 40 scallops – perfect for the BBQ we would have that evening!
The other half of us dived Golden Cap that morning, a nice shallow dive. After going back to the marina for lunch, half of us dived the Sawtooth ledges, a slightly deeper reef, shaped like ridges as the name would suggest. The second half of us then went back to High Ground, where I finished my last Sports Diver lesson, starting with a few drills and leading the rest of the dive.
In the evening a few had a nice quiet walk around Westbay. Alex S asked the maths experts how to win at the slots, to which they all said to not play – which make sense, the game is rigged to bring money to the house. This was of course the day a certain individual, who shall remain anonymous in public, won £700.
For the last dive of the trip, we all loved the Baygitano so much we went back for a second time. Similar experience to two days ago, with many congers, bibs and lobsters. One of said lobsters was huge, probably half a metre!
All in all, a very enjoyable trip! We were very lucky with the weather and especially the visibility, 10 metres at times – some of the best you can have in the UK. As I write those lines a second trip to Westbay is ongoing but I doubt they had as good a time as we did with the weather and visibility. 😉