THE SOUND OF MULL may be in Obans back yard, but its still getting on for half an hour from Oban in the fastest boats before we enter the Sound proper, and longer in those that just chug along.
To port, Scallastle Point marks the southern gatepost of the entrance. To starboard, the rocks at Rubha-an-Ridire form a gently sloping northern gatepost and also, by nice coincidence, mark the wreck of the Thesis.
Tides make a fair difference to the journey time, as they run at up to 2 knots in the narrowest parts. With the luck of the right phase of the moon and time of day, we are running with the flood and making good time.
Wary of wind-chill on a grey day, divers huddle towards the centre of the boat, getting as much shelter as possible.
Heading on up the Sound, we dont catch up with the big white ferry from Oban before it turns into the terminal at Craignure. Its surprising how fast the ferries move, even when we think were going fast in a small dive-boat.
A mile further on, another, smaller ferry crosses our path, returning from Fishnish to Lochaline. Its the same distance again before we pass the flat islet of Dearg Sgir, with its small lighthouse and the wreck of the Rondo.

IN 1935, THIS 2363-TON STEAMSHIP dragged anchor and ended up high and dry straddling the rock, demolishing the lighthouse in the process.
Rondo was salvaged in situ, with the hull being cut down almost to the keel in places, before sliding off to rest at an average slope of 35°.
On a club trip in the early 1980s, one of our divers brought his sailboard with him and took it out to the wreck, 7-litre cylinder on his back and fins over one arm. The rest of us dived from Zodiacs.
A few days later, we were returning from the Hispania when a Royal Navy frigate passed us, closely followed by the Royal Yacht Britannia.
We turned about for a closer look and to salute, but were soon headed off by a boatload of marines.
The Hispania is our destination today, four miles on and conveniently marked by commercial charter boats and RIBs, a couple of club RIBs and a liveaboard.
The dive will be busy, but we have a long slack and there are two buoys on the wreck. Behind us, other boats have already stopped at the Rondo.
In 1954, the 1340-ton Swedish steamship Hispania struck the rocks in poor visibility, then drifted off to rest in 35m. The crew got away safely, except for the captain, who was last seen on the bridge saluting as he went down with his ship.
Timing is perfect, fractionally early for fully slack water as divers kit up and boats take their turn to drop them just upcurrent from one or other of the buoys, leading either to the stern or amidships.
On the wreck, I immediately dip below the stern for a classic view of the propeller shaft and rudder among a near-solid wall of orange plumose anemones. Then, on deck among the aft cabins, I ambush assorted divers for photographs. I have no clue who many of them are, coming from other boats, so some are a little surprised.
While I can see others disappearing into the holds, I stay above deck and head forward before dropping down one deck in the number 3 hold and forward along a passageway below the port side of the superstructure.
The Hispania was divErs second Wreck Tour, and I am now well off the route I recommended back then. Its a tight squeeze past a beam in the passageway, then a sharp turn into a cabin below the wheelhouse, probably the galley, as various bottles have been found among the silt. Someone else has already been digging, so there is no point staying for photos.
When I first dived the Hispania, it was on tables with a single 10-litre cylinder. I was lucky to get 30 minutes on the wreck.
Now, with a rebreather and dive computer, I am over an hour into the dive before I head for home, still well clear of getting into decompression.
Back on board, we head off to Lochaline for some decompression time and lunch. The other popular stop between dives is Tobermory, further up the sound, but in these days of rising fuel prices, skippers generally avoid any unnecessary diversions.
Tobermory can wait for a day when were already up that way, perhaps after diving the 13,657-ton liner Aurania or the wall at Calve Island.
Even boats that once operated as shuttles, returning to Oban between dives, now stay out for lunch unless they have enough bookings to make the fuel cost of heading back and out again worthwhile.

THE BURGER VAN AT LOCHALINE is doing a good trade. It may be a grey day, but it isnt raining and the jetty is a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
One of the RIBs we encountered has obviously launched from here, and some of the other charter-boats are based here.
The choice of second dive is restricted to sites where we dont need slack water. We could go back up the sound to the Shuna, on this side and out of the tide, but maybe we should save it for a second dive after Tobermory. We could head most of the way back to Oban for the Breda. Its a long time since I dived it, but maybe we should save a site that close to home for a rainy day.
The small 500-ton wreck of the Thesis is the obvious choice. Its conveniently on the way home and, while the tide will be ebbing hard over the wreck, we can drift onto it and slide inside the open ribs of the bow. Its the classic Thesis dive - and just as I remember it.

Operators: Brendan, Peregrine (www.lochaline-boats.co.uk); Gannet (www.tsmvgannet.co.uk); Elizabeth G (www.elizabethgcharters.co.uk); Puffin Dive Centre (www.puffin.org.uk); Lochaline Dive Centre, www.lochalinedivecentre.co.uk