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Thistle’s Arran Trip 5-8 May 2023 stories and photos

Waves Shape

Three Different Thistler’s Experiences 

Story 1

A wee weekend away in Arran saw 6 Thistlers, Donald Bain, Anne Peck, Martin Paterson, Andrew Gibson, Janet Lawson and George Graham, head “over the watter” to the sunny shores of Brodick and Lamlash Bay on the beautiful island of Arran. A long planned trip, superbly arranged by the wonderful Mrs Peck. Insert cheering noise here.

Friday was set out day, and meant yours truly, Martin, George and Janet picking up the RHIB at the farm, dusting down it’s shiny new cover and heading down the road to Ardrossan. Boat was fully ladened with cylinders, jeep was fully ladened with kit and Martin was fully ladened with advice on my masterful rhib towing. An incident free drive meant we were off the ferry and onto Largs before 2pm. Boat was parked, kit was redistributed, messages were bought and the lovely digs (Colin Syme gets huge thanks for these. Really superb) we’re eventually found after a scenic tour of the surrounding area. A superb evening of food, drink and incredible banter tired everyone enough to warrant an early night in anticipation of diving the next day.

Saturday, and up we popped early as could  be to get the boat out sharp….well kinda sharp(ish)given that it was me trying to line the boat up on an incredibly narrow slip that couldn’t have been more that 3 car lanes wide. Ok, it was huge. Boat launched, off we toddled at good speed to the first dive site of St Molios at the Holy Isle. So named due to the jogger we saw there (Holy sh*t we thought, there’s a jogger on there!)

 With Andy arriving later that day, first dive was taken by myself, Martin an George. Lovely it was too. Light penetrating to 15m, little to no current, and plenty to see. Scallops the size of…big scallops, whelks the size of…big whelks and more fish than you see in Argyle St ! Lovely sea mice too ! 50 mins later it was cold enough to want out and let Anne and Janet in for their turn. 2nd dive was exactly the same place with the team sheets changed around. Both myself and Anne had an equally exciting (and cold) dive with Martin, Janet and George following suit after us. All to soon we were heading back for shore, to meet up with Andy and to get the kit ready for the next day.

Sunday, started out with glorious weather and it just got better. Another early(ish) launch and off we headed, a gang of 6 now that Andy had decided to join us, to the No Take Zone 100m South of the navigation bouy. Dropping a shot line and tying up in the mill pond conditions, myself and buddy Anne were down the shot like a shot for a shot of exploring in the NTZ. Once again we were treated to an abundance of critters large and small. Huge edible crabs and scallops taunted us from the safety of the NTZ, butterfish lazed about with not a care in the world, huge starfish the size of tractor wheels (mibbe a slight exaggeration)lounged about and even more sea mice raced past (sort of).

Once we had all dived there, we headed back to St Molios.

Dive 2 took us just a tad further up the Holy Isle coast. Jogger was still there and running, no idea if he had been running all night, but since he ignored us, we did the same. Myself and Anne popped in first and yet again were treated to a wonderful array of beautiful sea creatures in their natural environment. Conditions were fantastic for diving. Water temperature still shortened the dive times a bit, but the weather and sea conditions were fantastic. With Martin having a wee suit issue, Andy buddied with George and Janet for their second and likewise all 3 were well impressed with the life below.

And that was it. All to soon the diving was over. A few shots of boat driving had been had by all, lots of diving had been done by all, a lot of good hearted insults had been traded by all and with the boat landed, kit stored and jeep loaded up, all that was left was to get back to base, get the glad rags on and meet up at the boozers for a few rounds of drinking, some diving story trading and (as always) some more of the banter that makes Thistle Divers THE best club to go diving with. Next trip, please


Story 2

Thistle Divers did a trip to Arran last weekend taking its RHIB with them.  This is what I learned.  1) Diving isn’t just about you and your buddy; diving is about a team and the more you can do and the better you can do it, the more helpful you can be to the team and make it easier and more enjoyable for everyone. 2) Every dive and every dive trip is a learning experience.

A RHIB on land has the maneuverability of a beached whale.  Making the transition from land to sea and back is not easy – I share its struggles.  Once afloat, the thought of being in charge of a boat with a large engine transporting six people and large amounts of kit is really scary; actually driving it is really cool!

Getting kit on and off is the worst.  Helping your fellow divers to get themselves sorted out before the dive and being dive-worthy and then hauling them and their kit out of the water onto the boat is essential because you will be so pathetically grateful when they do it for you when your fingers are too cold to press a pinch clip.  Precious, expensive bits of kit can go missing so easily in water or on the boat.  Look after everyone’s kit, not just yours.

Not all dives are that good an experience.  Sand, rocks, sea urchins and spiny starfish again.  You’re cold, there’s a current, it’s hard work.  So, you need to work on that finning technique to make progress.  How’s your buoyancy doing?  Underwater no-one can hear the screamed profanities as you head for the surface feet first and the shame that you’ve forced your partner to abandon their dive because they’ve lost you.  Then 2Kg heavier, no weight shaming here, you nail it and you’re told it was perfect and you glow inside.

Some dives are better – five different kinds of starfish that I can recognise in my book.  Some are beautiful – rays of sunlight illuminating thousands of iridescent comb jellies, and some are just awesome – the strange little lump has little curled, tentacled legs and you realise it’s a baby octopus, and trying to figure out the sign language for “Stop taking photos, there’s a grey seal eating your fins.  I think it wants to play!”

Thanks, Thistlers.  I loved it all.  Where next?



Story 3


Back on 24 January, when Anne mooted the idea of a club diving long weekend on Arran – and suggested the first weekend in May, I looked in my diary and found that I was a free agent that very weekend. My wife was away on a holiday with her sister at exactly the same time. RESULT!! I immediately put my name down for the trip.

Amazingly, having been on the planet for just over 64 years, I had never been on a holiday without parents/girlfriend/wife! Been on business trips, abroad and in the UK, plenty of times. But that doesn’t count – that was work. This would be my first trip away – overnight – with a real group of friends with a common leisure interest. I had only ever been to Arran once before, too. That was a day trip in the mid 1970’s.

Once I had the date in my diary, and I knew that it was definitely happening, the build up was exciting. All the arrangements for accommodation, constantly thinking about the trip, checking the likely weather – even although it would be so unpredictable – were never far from the front of my mind. I was sooooo much hoping that nothing would happen in the leadup to put a “spanner in the works”.

Anne had arranged all of the accommodation, travelling arrangements, ferry bookings there and back for us and the jeep/boat, and our expected dive plans. Spoiler alert – when you get to the end of my story, everything went extremely smoothly.

Eventually, the big day arrived – Friday 5 May 2023. It had been circled in my diary for many months. NOW IT WAS HERE!!!! It started off well, when I looked out of the window as soon as I awoke, and it was dry and sunny

I was travelling, with all of my luggage and dive-gear in the jeep, towing the club RhIB – with Donald, Martin, and Janet. The ferry check-in closed at 12:00 midday, so the arrangements were for me to pick Janet and her gear up from her house in Kirkintilloch and meet up with Donald and Martin at the RhIB storage site at 9:00am. We duly did this, transferred all of our luggage, gear, and air cylinders into the jeep and RhIB. Martin, of course, had his usual moan that we had too much luggage with us. Maybe we did, maybe we didn’t – who knows. I was happy with what I had, anyway – and it all fitted in!!! All the lights on the tail board of the boat were checked and we were on our merry way to Ardrossan by 9:30am, Donald at the wheel.

The journey to Ardrossan was fairly uneventful, and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Even had time for a coffee and cake in the waiting area. By 12:40pm, the ferry was on its way over the Firth of Clyde. Nice sunny journey, standing up on deck – at the front – with clear blue skies, and, in no time at all, the announcement “would passengers please return to their vehicles” was booming over the tannoy. We drove off the ferry and headed down to Lamlash, where Anne and Jonathon had arranged to meet us, at the slipway. Parked the RhIB at the boat yard, and headed back to Brodick to look for our accommodation. This proved to be a bit of a challenge. However, a couple of ‘phone calls and some help from Anne, soon sorted it and we settled into our abode for the next three nights. Airlie Gardens was a lovely three bedroomed property with kitchen, well appointed living room, and a veranda with beautiful views over the bay at Brodick. Janet bagged the double room, Donald and Martin buddied together in one of the twin rooms and I settled into the other twin room. Sleeping arrangements sorted seamlessly. Although Martin couldn’t resist showing me his travelling case and telling me how small it was

It was a beautiful tranquil evening so, after a group walk to the Co-operative (just down the road) for some kitchen supplies, we sat on the veranda soaking in the lovely views, before heading to The Pier Hotel to join Anne and Jonathon for a lovely meal. Then, back to Airlie Gardens for our first night on Arran.

On Saturday morning, we were up with the lark – and, after a good breakfast, we all headed in the Jeep to the RhIB in Lamlash boatyard. There we met Anne and Jonathon, together with their two lovely collies, Bobbie and Skye.

The boat was prepared for launch and Donald reversed it, very confidently, on the trailer down the slipway – and it was in the water. All five of us jumped in and we headed out to the first dive site. I got the opportunity to drive the RhIB out to the dive site. I particularly enjoyed that. Throughout the trip, we would all get a chance to pilot the boat.

On the first dive, Anne and Janet buddied up and I dived with Martin and Donald. Anne and Janet into the sea first. From the boat, we could see a seal popping its head up in the vicinity of where Anne and Janet were. When they surfaced at the end of the dive, they were very excited to have seen the seal underwater. Anne even said that it had been nibbling on her fins. HOW LUCKY WERE THEY for that experience!!!

Next, it was Donald, Martin and me diving as a trio. Went down to nearly 15m, and there were loads of marine life (starfish, sea anemones, hermit crabs nudibranch) to be seen during the 42 minutes that we were underwater. Viz was good too. The seal had moved on, though

On the second dive, I was diving with Martin and Janet. Anne and Donald buddied up this time. It was another good dive to just over 10m. And, again, there was lots of marine life to see during the 38 minutes we were down for

We then headed back to the slip, recovered the RhIB, and parked it up in the boatyard ready for tomorrow.

By this time, Andrew, Ruanna, Ireni (Ruannas’ sister), and Alan (Ruannas’ son) had joined us after settling into their accommodation at Cosey Cottage in Lamlash. Donald and Martin ordered a Chinese takeaway for each of our group and we spent a very convivial evening consuming that at Airlie Gardens.

The next morning (Sunday) was beautifully sunny and calm again. This time we had three buddy pairs for the first dive. Andrew buddied up with me, Donald and Anne dived together, and Martin went in with Janet. This time, we sank a shot line down to the dive site, which was 100m south of the Douglas Rock navigation buoy.  Andrew and I went down to nearly 16m and spent 37 minutes underwater. The dive was outstanding with lots of marine life to be seen again. For the second dive, we moved the RhIB over to a reef close to Holy Island, (near where we were the previous day). Another excellent dive was had. I was buddied with Andrew and Janet. We were navigating under, and around a line connecting lobster creels whilst diving to nearly 14m. The dive lasted for 38 minutes, and was thoroughly enjoyable. Anne and Donald dived together this time

After returning to shore, recovering the RhIB (under the watchful eye of Jonathons’ drone), and parking it up, we spent a lovely late afternoon on the sunny veranda at Airlie Gardens before heading off to the Pier Hotel where we had a lovely last dinner on the island.

All too soon, our time on Arran came to an end – and, the next morning we were back on the ferry across the water to Ardrossan, whilst Anne and Jonathon stayed for an extra day.

We returned to Kirkintilloch to park the RhIB back at its storage site, and all made our separate ways home. Our adventure was at an end!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed my first diving holiday with Thistle Divers. I will have lots of superb memories to look back on for many years to come. My eternal thanks go to Anne Peck for organising such a brilliant and smooth running trip, and also to my colleagues, Donald, Andrew, Martin, and Janet for a great time!!!!

Sooooooooo looking forward to the next diving trip with Thistle Divers










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