If you want to get away from it all, the north-west coast of Scotland is a good place to start. If you want to get away from it all and dive a couple of recent wrecks, head for Tanera More, in the remote Summer Isles, where you will find the remains of the Boston Stirling and the Fairweather V, by Mike Clark
SHAFTS of green light were shining through the wheelhouse windows. In the gloom before me were two large seats, a set of throttles, a Decca and every electronic gizmo imaginable. The Fairweather V was a modern fishing trawler which sank three years ago off Tanera More, in the remote Summer Isles off the north-west coast of Scotland. It was my first time on the wreck and I was surprised to find it lying intact and in pristine condition. It was like being in a time capsule. From the wheelhouse I could see a small passageway. Moving forward I came to a cramped compartment of bunks where a set of radio equipment and a cassette deck lay on the floor. Nearby was a waterproof navigation manual with the words Sailor Sailor printed on the front cover. I had a quick browse and left it behind for others to enjoy. Backing out of the sleeping quarters, I found a set of stairs leading down to a lower deck with a floor covered in black and white tiles. The stairs were too narrow to climb down so I swam to the stern and dropped to the seabed. Here I found the vessel's impressive, large, four-bladed brass propeller. The wreck sits upright with the deck at 20m sloping to 24m towards the stern. I could see that the outside of the hull was covered in plumose anemones, but the marine growth stopped a third of the way down, giving way to an expanse of red anti-fouling paint. Back at deck level I searched for the companionway to lead me into the ship. I made a sharp left turn into a secondary passageway and saw the bathroom to my left with a toilet and sink in clear view. Further along was a door marked Saloon. Inside I found another sink complete with washbasins, and a cooker with utensils mounted on the wall. I opened one of the kitchen units and found tins of Andrews salts. Two rusty fire extinguishers lay beside the door and a foam seat ran around three walls with a table in the middle. In one corner there was a television mounted on the wall, and in the other a CD player with a set of speakers.
I turned around and headed towards the engine room. Squeezing past the massive engine block, through an open hatch and into a storage hold, I found four large rolls of netting and cable lying next to generators and other heavy equipment. Pollack were lurking in the small engine pipes. I moved carefully to avoid stirring up the silt. I rose through an open hatch and was back on deck level, just aft of the bow and shot line. Looking around me, I found I had covered almost the full length of the ship. Anyone interested in photography should seek out the wreck of the Boston Stirling, a trawler which sank more than 10 years ago off the south shore of Tanera More. Her bows and superstructure break the surface at all states of the tide, so you can't miss her. She lies in 11-18m of water on her port side. The most impressive area is the stern, with its brass propeller and rudder. A huge A-frame makes an interesting background for shots. Inside the holds and compartments there are large air pockets but, unfortunately, the surface of the water is covered in thick black oil. In the wheelhouse, all the internal wooden fittings have collapsed and lie in a broken heap on the floor. However, you can find lightbulbs still fitted in their sockets, brass piping and gauges.
TANERA MORE is certainly the place to go if you want to get away from it all. It sits two miles off Scotland's Coigagh peninsula and is the only permanently inhabited island in the Summer Isles. The island has a private owner, Bill Wilder, who will give your visit a personal touch by picking you up by boat from the mainland and putting you up in a self-catering cottage. The waters around the isles are warmed by the Gulf Stream, creating a thriving marine environment and plenty of high-quality dive sites. Strong winds are not uncommon, but sheltered sites can always be found. It is worth noting, however, that diving from the island itself can prove costly, as there is only one facility with one 11m boat for charter at£220 a day. For a dramatic underwater landscape and an amazing abundance of life, the towering cliffs of Isle Martin are in a class of their own. Approaching by boat, the cliffs look impressive, rising out of the sea. Underwater they are fantastic, forming a sheer drop to 40m, where they give way to a sandy slope. They are covered with plumose anemones, dead men's fingers and sea urchins. In the shallower areas, kelp provides a home for painted multi-coloured topshells, nudibranchs and long-spined scorpionfish. As you go deeper the quality of light stays with you and visibility is about 15m. At one point at the base of the cliff, a U-shaped cleft filled with huge boulders cuts into the face of the wall, rising all the way up to 10m. There is a handy ledge at 6m, where you can peer over the edge of the cliff and watch other divers beginning their ascent from far below. From here the cliffs look spectacular, fading away into the deep.
GETTING THERE: Flight to Inverness. Ferry from Ullapool or Achiltibuie, or island's owner Bill Wilder will arrange pick-up by boat (tel. 01854 622272).
Scottish Tourist Board: Ullapool (tel. 01854 612135). DIVE FACILITY: The 11m mv Heron available for charter from the island's only dive facility, Atlantic Diving Services (tel. 01854 622261 DIVE SITES TO NOTE: Conservation Cave, full of jewel anemones and cup corals; the recently discovered Innisjurra wreck, a WW1 coastal barge which sank carrying building materials and German prisoners of war. AIR & SEA RESCUE: Stornoway Coastguard (tel. 01851 702013).
Recompression chamber: Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban (tel. 01631 562244).
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