A SYNCHRONISED WHINE EMITTED from the twin 75hp outboards of Clyde Diving Charters RIB, as we sped over and past some of the better-known wrecks in the Clyde - notably the Wallachia.
We were heading for the site of an almost undived and as yet unidentified wreck found last April. All we knew was that it was either a motor torpedo boat (MTB) or motor gun boat (MGB).
With the prospect of seeing something new in such a well-dived part of the world, our spirits were as high as the pressure that was sitting over Scotland that day.
The sun shone, the sea was flat. Dolphins and porpoises accompanied us around Toward Point and into Loch Striven, and a common seal relaxed on the surface above the wreck, possibly attracted by the nearby fish farms. Stunning scenery surrounds the wreck site, just half a mile north of Brackley Point on the lochs eastern shore.
Entering the water, the viz looked to be around 3m, but a plankton bloom had been triggered by three weeks of fantastic weather. Between 3-5m is average here, but as we dropped past 20m on the shotline, it felt as if someone had turned out the lights. We were down to a black 1m, bad even for a poor day on the Clyde.
This wasnt much fun when carrying a camera around an unfamiliar wreck.
Strangely, on the outgoing tide a few hours later the viz improved to a green 3m for our second dive, more typical of the site.
Until recently, access to this loch has been restricted by the Navy, and until two years ago some dozen supertankers were moored here, with skeleton crews to keep them ticking over. I can remember seeing them as we ventured into the loch on a fishing trip more than 15 years ago.
The depth on the wreck ranges from 38-44m at deck level. Lying on an even keel, the bow is the deepest part and lies facing south-west. Our shotline was secured in the wreck and we landed on the deck, just aft of the wheelhouse.
The wreck is wooden, with the timbers laid in a double-diamond pattern. The wood had a greenish tinge to it, non-ferrous nails adding their corroded colour to the scene.
We noted brass mooring bollards on the damaged stern section and swam forward to view a row of intact portholes, the brass still shining in our torchlight. There were some brass plaques, though none that revealed the identity of the vessel.
Brass mooring cleats were also to be seen, one with most of its securing pins removed, and I noticed a large, green, brass keyhole-shaped item, probably a fuel-tank cap.
The wheelhouse had partially collapsed, with fragments of wood and the window frames strewn about, though the front, with its two windows, was intact. This had, however, fallen forward onto the deck, possibly dragged down by the snagged lobster pot that had led to the wreck being found.
Sadly, news had leaked out about the discovery and the wreck had clearly been visited over the Easter weekend. Where the wheelhouse had been there should have been twin telegraphs, which would have read slow and full astern, but these had been removed. The brass compass, we heard later, had parted company with a lifting bag and was now lying somewhere around, though unlikely to be found on the muddy seabed.
But there was and is still plenty to see on this wreck.
Every other fitting that remains is brass, and with the pleasant pattern of the double-diamond woodwork, I imagine that in its heyday this would have been a smart ship.
Having enjoyed a swim round the hull on our first dive, on our second we decided to investigate the deck, rather than being seduced by that row of portholes.
Just forward from the remains of the wheelhouse was a large, cogged circular gun-mount. Swimming aft, we passed a skylight - most of the brass goodies had been stripped, though some easily accessible portholes remained.
We came once again to the broken stern and, in the clearer viz, noticed more deck space aft.
Something white caught my eye and I noticed a piece of porcelain attached to the broken strap of a lifting bag, a clear demonstration that this wreck had everything, including the kitchen sink.
The stern section was damaged and the shape of the ship lost somewhat. At the base of the stern, large conger eels congregated where the wooden hull had broken open.
I have been on wrecks with portholes on before, notably the Royal Fusilier, but had never seen one so covered in non-ferrous items that it looked green.
The wooden hull still felt solid and, apart from the damaged stern area, was intact, the timber looking surprisingly fresh where a removed porthole had exposed it for the first time.
The wreck is no more than 80ft long, so is easy to circumnavigate in one dive. Each of three dives provided something new for us to see. On the last one, while swimming around the stern section, we noticed debris on the surrounding seabed and some lobster pots with rope causing a snagging hazard.
We were trying to find either of the twin props that had powered the vessel, in our bid to identify it, but these must have been buried in the seabed with the collapse of the stern.
The decompression stops mounted up surprisingly quickly, but gave me time to ponder the identity of the vessel and why she sank. It was clearly not a PT boat, the American MTB. They had patrolled these waters before moving to the English Channel, but did not have brass portholes.
The sleek lines and gun-mount suggested an MTB, and a local witness says he was involved in taking such surplus vessels to Loch Striven at the end of the war. Being of no use to anybody once the armament was stripped off, a number of these vessels were sunk in live fire exercises in 1947.
This would explain the intact state of the wreck apart from the stern, which most likely copped a shell.
ID tags were likely to be located behind the head door, of all places, and marks would also be found on the engine plates, but I wasnt prepared to crawl through those tight hatches to look. The identity of this little ship is still a mystery.
Today the wreck is reported to be much as I last saw it. The remaining brass fittings are secure and those portholes and mooring cleats could not easily be removed at this depth as the structure of the wreck is too strong.
Clyde Diving Charters runs trips to it, though no GPS co-ordinates can be given because Drew and Elaine, who run the company, use transits to find it.
They have been taking divers to the Clyde wrecks for some 20 years on what they say is a strictly no-removals basis.
And if all divers can respect such an approach, this little wreck will provide an exciting experience for the many who have never before had the pleasure of seeing brass in situ!
Clyde Diving Charters 01475 522930, www.clyde-diving.co.uk