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SURFACE WATER TEMP:  16.5 °C    UPDATED:  12-06-2024
IMPORTANT SAFETY UPDATE - Bringing a child to Vobster? important guidance now available
Nothing quite beats a bit of early season diving taking in some of the finest diving that Scotland has to offer!
Every diver hankers after a solid start to the season - the dreams of new adventures and great days out start as the winter storms roll into the UK. Flicking through the interweb, mags and dive books in search of enough bucket list dives to put out a major fire only sharpens the appetite. And then.... we wait for the weatherbuddiesdomesticpermissiontidesboatsdrysuitccr to align, much like throwing the Antikythera mechanism down the stairs and hoping to find out when the next eclipse will be.
This is what drives the annual Vobster trip to the Sound of Mull. At a stroke, several troublesome issues are solved. There is always a lee shore, so the weather can be as gnarly as it likes. There are dives to suit all levels from AOW upwards, there are wrecks AND reefs - that's a 'we got both kinds of music, Country AND Western' moment. Plus, the jump off point at Dunstaffnage Marina is only 8 hours away by car, not the full bottom flattening 14hrs it takes to get to Scapa.

Chuck in a number of excellent dive operators and you can choose from the full liveaboard popping into Tobermory and Lochaline, or day trips from Oban. If you want a road trip with shore dives - bingo. The lumpy bits in the middle of Scotland mean the road goes round the edge and the lumpy bits continue underwater, providing some great reefs and opportunities for ships to clunk into. There are many laybys with cracking, weatherproof diving opportunities!
VQ Divers go for the liveaboard option on MV Clasina. A 28m long ex fishing vessel with a deck big enough for a morning stroll and covered changing, it's ideal for diving in any weather.
Expert diving knowledge is supplied by the wheelhouse resident Bob Anderson, a true diving enthusiast with decades of experience available for newcomers to Scottish diving. His briefings are packed with info and diagrams for how to get the most from your dive. Food on the Clasina is excellent, gas fills are efficient and the cabins clean and modern. Got enough lithium charging to light the sun? No problem there either.
This year, the team assembled on a clear Wednesday afternoon in Dunstaffnage, with various stories of escaping a snowbound south, for the sunny delights of the north. Here's the real only drawback. Dunstaffnage is a great place to leave cars, but the mission to get gear to the Clasina is right around the pontoons.
A very positive approach to packing efficiency pays dividends, even with the available trolleys! The world of the fitness watch now reveals this episode is worth uploading to Strava. Once aboard, that's it. Find a cabin, grab a brew, hop into Oban for a curry and be ready to sail on the morning tide.
Dive 1 day 1 can be the Breda. 122m of fantastic diving with 5 holds at a max depth of 26m, with the deck at 18m makes for a perfect shakedown dive 15 mins from the marina! This year we skipped past the Breda for the three star Mull classic - the SS Rondo. The Rondo is famous for lying almost vertically down a cliff, making one of the most spectacular UK wreck dives.

We hit the water at 10:30am under a sunny sky in calm, slack water for a spectacular first dive. With the bow at 48m, this is also a perfect tech qualifying dive, with Vobster duty manager Ollie Dalton completing his IANTD ART CCR. Various teams picked their depth to suit their desires and all had a cracking dive. Deco takes place on the huge rudder (a fascinating reef of life in itself) at a perfect 6m. Did I mention the 8-10m viz and ambient light near 40m?
Just round the corner is the convenient and beautiful Auliston wall. It's a buffet of reef diving. Acres of plumose anemones at 15m - of course. Dead man's fingers on steep walls at 25m - take your pick. Kelp forest for deco - suits you!
The highlight for me is the extensive seapen bed at 40m - this fragile environment is home to two species of UK seapen making for a memorable IANTD ART qualifying dive for another team member.

Day 1 could not have delivered more, with a side trip into Loch na Droma Buidhe, a stunning remote sealoch, before the short trip to Tobermory and our mooring for the night. I've seen Sea Eagles in this loch last year.
Mull abounds with excellent diving possibilities. The focus each year for me is getting qualifying dives done for tech training started over the winter. This year we completed ART dives on both CCR and OC, plus progressed a Normoxic CCR.
Deep dives on lochaline wall (0-80m pick your depth!) and Calve island (0-45m, then on down the slope to 60m+) were complimented by other Mull classic wrecks, the lush and resplendent SS Hispania in the middle of the tide, plus the eerily excellent SS Shuna upright near the Morvern shore.

Some days were were in the water by 07:30, because good diving is so close to the Tobermory. Tobermory is also home to several pubs well used to visiting divers - the Mish nish deserves a special shout out as being excellent hosts for televised Six Nations rugby matches!

Sadly, we didn't have time for the Pen Y Gowan wall, the Thesis or the flying boats in the Linn or Lorne. That's before contemplating the 'other' wrecks outside the Sound with the Tapti and the Aurania best among these. There is so much to go at for repeat trips, but then, winter comes around every year.

The final dive was a cheeky number on the Breda, before a short trip back to disembark and start the long drive home. Pretty much everyone was back before 1am, with enough memories to keep that 9am smile in place at work the next morning.
Evening is a great time for expanding diving knowledge - with deep dives available, deco is often a discussion point for divers. This year, we had the IANTD UK O Dive unit.
The O Dive is a personal doppler, which links to a phone and allows personal measurement of post dive bubbles. Want to settle a debate about gradient factors with actual information? O Dive is your friend. An evening demo, app installation and test measurements got everyone ready for their post dive measurements during the rest of the trip.

Interested in discovering the O Dive doppler for yourself? Check out the IANTD Doppler Technician Specialty course.