Exercise Crafty Crofter 4 was a sub-aqua diving expedition to Dundonnel on the West Coast of Scotland, involving personnel from RAF Lossiemouth and 7 Scots.
Here Corporal Mac McCarthy of 2622 (Highland) Sqn RAuxAF recounts the June expedition . . .
The aim was to dive the waters of Loch Broom, Little Loch Broom and the Summer Isles. Half of the divers involved were from various Reserve units in Scotland. RAF Lossiemouth was represented by 2622 (Highland) Sqn, and 602 Sqn (Moray Flight). Army personnel were from 7 Scots. Apart from one, all the senior divers and instructors are Reservists, illustrating the contribution Reservists make to regular life, operational or otherwise. Without the supervisory qualifications of the Reserve element, no diving is allowed to take place!
Organised by Flt Lt Istance from 602 Sqn, the trip is now firmly established within the sub-aqua club annual calendar. This is due to a combination of the excellent facilities, the variety of diving and is only two hours travelling time from Lossiemouth. The short distance allows personnel unable to commit for the entire trip the ability to take part for a few days before heading back to work.
The exped was housed in the AT (adventurous training) lodge at Dundonnel. It is fully equipped with kitchen, dining room, four-man rooms and, importantly, a superb drying room. Divers always have a lot of wet kit at the end of the day and there is nothing more miserable than having to put on cold, wet gloves, under-suits, etc, on day two of a trip. Thankfully, we were all blessed with warm dry kit every morning.
The main party arrived on Saturday morning and prepared for the first dive. Divers needing training dives were accommodated for early on, so they could enjoy the quality dives later on in the week. Two divers completed their training ready to advance to the next level.
The team quickly settled into the routine: up, prep kit, breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, back to the centre, refill cylinders for the next day, evening meal, debrief, brief for the following day.
Dive sites were of three different types. Wrecks are self-explanatory and mostly of fishing vessels. Reefs are basically rocky features on the seabed which usually attracts lots of life. A wall dive is, unsurprisingly, a sheer vertical wall which disappears into the gloom below. This can be fairly impressive as the diver feels as though he is actually flying!
A noticeable difference between the West Coast and our local Moray coast is the power of the local jellyfish. One of the UKs only stinging jellyfish is the Lion’s Mane, so called because that’s what it looks like! Contact with one of these beasts on the Moray coast is generally not noticed, but if you encounter a West Coast one, well, try rubbing your face in a nettle patch for a while, then you get the idea of the discomfort!
Jellyfish aside, the sheltered location of the lochs along with the good weather ensured we had reasonably flat water and good visibility beneath, making Crafty Crofter 4 another excellent trip for all.