Killary Dive Report April 7th – April 10th, 2023

Thursday: Mooring the boats

Not only did I have the privilege to partake in the Easter diving trip to Killary, I was also given the great pleasure of writing up the trip report! Having joined the club late into the season last year, I missed out on all the fun of the 2022 trips. And so I was eager to secure a place on a trip away with the club in 2023.

Joe has a moment of deep reflection before setting off to moor the boat

As a newcomer to the Curragh Sub Aqua Club, I was eager to meet the other members of the club. To date, I think I have only scratched the surface with meeting CSAC divers, with the limited number of dives I was able to partake in late last season. Remembering names is another story altogether, and so I wanted to get a chance to familiarise myself with the club’s diving folk, especially those I didn’t get the opportunity to annoy yet!

Joe’s wonderful assistant

The bank holiday weekend at Killary presented the perfect opportunity to do so. I had heard tales of past Killary trips, including its reputation for being the biggest CSAC event of the year, and how it was always a weekend full of craic. Suffice to say, I was not in the slightest bit disappointed. The trip turned out to be a roaring success, a brilliant learning experience for me personally, and something I will always greatly look forward to from now on!

Day 1 – Friday – Doonea beacon & Conger alley

I set off on my journey to Killary from Maynooth on Friday morning at 5.30am. Most of the CSAC crew had arrived the evening before, and were all well fed and watered after a night in Hamilton’s. For me however, after a 4 hour drive, I arrived at the K2 hostel at 9.30am, with my first dive scheduled for 11.30am. Driving through the fjord’s scenic landscape, I was taken back by the scenery… what a treat it was to be diving at Killary.

The weather changes

With my bags unpacked at the hostel and car loaded with dive gear, I drove with Aran to Rosroe Pier in advance of the second stick dive. A well-equipped squad of CSAC divers had already completed their first warm up dive of the weekend by the time we arrived at the pier. By mid-morning, the pier was already chockablock with cars, most of which belonged to us. The weather was dry and cloudy, but also sunny, and perfect for diving. On the other hand, the slipway leading down to Lir and Danu was particularly treacherous, with algae and marine growth coating the surface where both boats were parked. Over the weekend, some CSAC members could be spotted sliding down the slipway uncontrollably in almost slow motion, while others succumbed and lost their footing completely. To mitigate this, it took a few trips back and forth with handheld deposits of shell and sand to cover the slippery growth on the pier.

Michelle and Joe

On day 1 of the trip I was diving from Danu, with Colm taking on the role of Coxswain for the first dive. Prior to this, we had a quick team dive brief just after loading our gear onto the boats. I was delighted to learn that I was to be buddied with Dave B for the day. It was my first proper time meeting Dave B, and to be honest, I felt our dives together were smoother than butter. Of course he may disagree, but I will pretend for now that he doesn’t.

For both of our dives, Dave B and I were lucky to be joined by Chantal, who had taken a leading role for the weekend along with Johan. After our buddy checks were completed, into the water we rolled, and downwards we went.

The first dive was great, the viz was clear, and the water was teeming with life. We were fortunate to catch a glimpse of a pale white octopus hidden away in a nook, but not hidden well enough from Dave B’s eagle eyes. This was also my first sighting of an octopus on a dive, which was a real treat. A couple of scuttling crabs later, I encountered probably the biggest starfish in my life, happy out and lying on the seabed.

View from K2

The second dive of the day, I was again buddied with Dave B and Chantal. Johan took the role of Coxswain, with the dive spot being Conger Alley. Once again, the viz was as clear as ever, with just as much aquatic life. On this dive, Conger Alley had a population of only 1, so far as we could tell. During the dive, I remember coming across Amado and his dive buddy, who had also come to check out Conger Alley’s one resident eel!

After the dives of day one, a few of us stuck around for compressor duty. The big compressor was having issues unfortunately, meaning we were relying on the two smaller CSAC workhorses of compressors to fill all the empty bottles. Most others could probably have been found tucking in to some of Hamilton’s lovely food after their long day of diving, while Chantal, Joe, Aran, Dave B, John, Sarah, Dave Moore and myself stuck it out to fill the bottles.

Our trusty baby compressor

That evening, some of the lads from the K2 hostel, including Ross, Aran, Amado, and Brian, went for a bite to eat at Hamilton’s. There they regrouped with the CSAC cohort, who had similar plans, and were already well on their way. On the other hand, I took it handy. I had been up since 5.30am, with a long drive from Maynooth and two dives done. I got back to the K2 hostel just after 7pm following the compressor duty, so I opted for getting an early night… or so I thought. Not only was there a gaggle of ladies living it up during a hen party at the hostel, but the smoke alarm went off at least 4 times that night. Rumour has it that some naughty person(s) were smoking in their room. Somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion that the two events may have been related, however unlikely that

Day 2 – Saturday – Conger Alley

For Day 2, I was on the morning stick for diving. The weather on Saturday was not as bright as the day before, but was certainly just as cloudy. Not a single CSAC soul was deterred by this however, with all of us eager to get in the water once again. I was relatively well rested, although not as rested as I had hoped with the previous night of loud mischief at the hostel. Once again, the pier was absolutely chockablock with cars, although it was clear now that other diving clubs had joined the fray to get a dive in.

I was buddied with Joe T for both of Saturday’s dives. Marty skilfully commanded the helm of Danu for our first dive, which took place in relatively choppy conditions. Pete took on the role of coxswain for the second dive, by which time the conditions had relaxed somewhat.

Gearing up

For the first dive, after all the buddy groups had rolled off the boat and just as Joe and I were scheduled to go, I ran into an issue with my gear. I noticed a hissing from my first stage after I turned on the air supply from the bottle. I could hear it, Joe couldn’t, but neither of us could locate the leak. After a while and some fiddling later, I noticed the air was coming from the low pressure port of my first stage, which was connected to my suit inflation hose. After a quick tighten using a shifting spanner we were both ready to go. It’s better to dive late than not dive at all!

For both of our dives, the viz was once again brilliantly clear. Just as we made bottom during the first dive, Joe caught sight of a seal in the distance, but it was too quick for me to get a glimpse of. Not to worry, there was plenty of smaller aquatic life to be seen, however. I recall one relatively large crab putting its claws up in defiance as Joe and I slowly manoeuvred past.

Compressors acting up

Mid-way through the second dive, I caught a glimpse of Joe gesturing at me. He was trying to get me to avert my attention to something on the seafloor. As I turned to look to where he was pointing, a bed of scallops rose out of the seafloor, and fluttered away. This was the first time I had seen anything like it. The scallops’ movement could’ve easily been mistaken for flying.

After both dives were complete, we travelled back to the pier to dock the boats. This caused a kerfuffle each time, as a large RIB belonging to one of the other diving clubs had taken up most of the space. Once docked, unloaded and the diving was done, we returned to the accommodation.

Michelle a happy camper

Dinner that night was at Hamilton’s, and was lovely fish and chips accompanied by a pint for me. It was crispy and fresh. Ross was kind enough to drive us there and back, which was a lifesaver when at Killary and staying at the K2 hostel. Unfortunately, back at the hostel, our accommodation proved once again to be a popular spot at nighttime, evidenced by the arrival of a rowdy stag group. There was no rest for the wicked souls at the K2 hostel that night!

Compressors acting up

It was great to finish day 2 of diving. At this stage, a large group of CSAC members (including myself) were officially dived up. The rust had mostly been brushed off, and we were ready for the 2023 season!

Day 3 – Sunday – A soft day

The view from K2 on Sunday

The weather on Sunday had taken a complete turn when compared to the previous days. It was windy, overcast, and pouring rain for almost the whole day! It was pretty awful, but despite this, a large and determined cohort of CSAC members opted to brave the elements. I managed to get one dive in, which proved enough for me. I had a leak in my drysuit mid-way through the dive, so I was pretty drenched, cold, and ready to call it.

Stick 1 – Sunday

I was on the second stick for Sunday’s dive. I was lucky to be paired with Luke, who was as cool as a cucumber. Pete took on the challenge of coxing for our dive, with the conditions seeming to deteriorate massively between the time of our initial descent and clamber back onto Danu. When we surfaced, it was like a scene from a movie, with the ship’s captain (Pete) vigorously trying to fend off the rogue waves. I was for one was very impressed with Pete’s helmsmanship.

Stick 2 – Sunday

For our dive, we didn’t stray too far from Conger Alley on that occasion. The viz, as I had come to expect, was beautifully clear, and the conditions calm beneath the waves. Luke was a great diving buddy, and was on the ball for the whole dive, spotting all sorts of sea life and critters. A resting lesser-spotted dogfish was the largest fish to be seen, which wasn’t the slightest bit bothered about us two divers bristling past. At one point, Luke found and gestured at a large bulbous crab whilst on our dive. Just as I was adjusting my position to swim closer to him, he had already picked it up to show me. The crab was really interesting, and was very clearly pregnant, which made me immediately regret not having a camera in my cargo pocket to snap a picture. It had a large (and by that, I mean humongous) orange sponge on its underside, which was filled with probably thousands of eggs.

Dave M. looking to pressgang divers

After our dive, we collected the remaining divers from the choppy sea, and then returned back to the pier. After unloading our gear from the boats, I rushed to get out of my drenched drysuit. I had already decided that one dive was enough for me on that Sunday. It was still pouring out of the high heavens and I was cold, so I didn’t regret my decision at all. But despite this, a brave and dedicated group of CSAC divers still opted to dive again at 2.30pm that day. To this effect, I spotted Marty out braving the elements, manning the compressors and filling up bottles in the pouring rain (fair play!).

The slipway on Sunday afternoon

After de-kitting, I returned to the K2 hostel. I got changed into dry clothes again, and began to say my goodbyes. I decided to return home to Maynooth that night, as I knew I had a warm bed waiting for me at home, albeit a couple hours drive away. And I knew that no stag or hen party would haunt my dreams on that night. Many other CSAC members also decided to head home that evening. For the remainers, a final evening in Hamilton’s was the option for most after a rewarding but wet day at the pier.

Great craic in Hamiltons on Sunday
Trainee James with his 1* CRF

I would like to thank all of the CSAC divers for a fantastic weekend away. The dive at Killary was no less than awesome, and it will now be firmly cemented in my calendar each year. Thanks to Chantal and Johan for leading the weekend, the towers, Jimmy and the volunteers for all the hard work done to the boats, and to everyone for putting in the effort to make the weekend the huge success that it was.