The 'Pippin' Diving Trip 1977
This article was written to complement a collection of photographs taken by Roger Day, which can be viewed by clicking here
The Pegasus dive trip on board the diesel yacht ‘Pippin’ took place in late spring 1977. I am recalling these events over a time gap of 44 years, so forgive me if I have not quite remembered correctly.
But as I recall it, at that time several Pegasus members were undertaking training and gaining diving experience with Nottingham BS-AC. And Nottingham BS-AC were in the practice of making a dive trip to the West Coast of Scotland each spring Bank Holiday for a week. They had started using the ‘Pippin’ for these adventures. The ‘Pippin’ was what we would now call a liveaboard, although it did not offer dive trips, as such. It was just a vessel and a skipper who would take you where you wanted to go – what you did was up to you. His normal clientele being bird watchers, sea anglers, and sundry celebrities.
Places on the Nottingham BS-AC trips on this boat were limited, so in 1977 a group of Pegasus guys, led, I think, by Al Steans decided they had a big enough quorum to organise their own trip, so the Pippin was duly booked for the week after the Nottingham BS-AC trip, in early June. Of course, organising a dive week on board a non-diving boat meant that we had to bring our own compressor. So, a suitable compressor was borrowed from Aberdeen BS-AC.
The borrowed compressor and more than just diving bottles
So it was that on Saturday 3rd June 1977 a motley crew assembled in Oban, comprising Al Steans, James Cobbett, Peter Webb (aka RatArse, or RA), Steve Watson (aka Little Steve), Chris Batstone (aka Batspiss), Mike Toole (aka Gobmike), Stuart McManus (aka Mac or McAnus), and myself Roger Day. After some liquid refreshment we made contact with our skipper, Angus McPhail, and loaded our gear on board Pippin. The Pippin is a 55ft wooden construction motor yacht with two 150hp Perkins diesels. It was equipped with a 14ft inflatable on davits at the stern, and room for the compressor on deck. Ideal.
The Motley Crew
The first evening saw us diving on the wreck of the Breda, a WW2 liberty ship, not far from Oban. The next morning we dived again on the Breda before heading up the sound of Mull, to dive the wrecks of Ballista and HMS Dartmouth, before retiring to the Craignure Inn for quite a jolly evening.
Over the next couple of days we dived the wrecks of the Hispania and Rondo in the Sound of Mull, using Tobermory as our anchorage. Then it was out of Tobermory and over to the Isle of Coll. We anchored at Arinagour, where I dived with Al Steans, looking for lobsters, sadly coming back empty handed. At Coll we did some great diving on the wreck of the Tapti. I recall diving with RA, Gobmike and James. Later our skipper Angus regaled us with tales of how the Nottingham BS-AC team had night dived this wreck which they had pre-rigged with a load of lights fed from a small generator in the inflatable. In fact, Angus never tired of telling us stories of the Nottingham BS-AC, managing to trump all our war stories with tales of their exploits. We concluded that if we had an elephant, they had a box to keep it in.
Skipper Angus McPhaill studying the Pegasus at play
Everything 'Ship Shape & Pegasus Fashion'
And so the week passed all too quickly. We landed on Staffa and explored Fingal’s Cave, dived in the bay at Bunessan on an unnamed wreck, before heading back to Tobermory and more diving on the wrecks in the Sound of Mull.
We had a great week, doing what was quite adventurous diving in 1977, and drank an awful lot of beer. On my part that week began quite a long association with Angus and the good ship Pippin, in that I continued to book a week in early June continuously for the next 12 years, often in the company of James and RA, and ranging far and wide over the West Coast of Scotland, making it out as far as St Kilda one memorable year. But nothing will surpass that first magic week with my Pegasus friends.
Roger Day Cambridge, 2021
Pegasus diving in Scotland the early years.
Reading Roger Days excellent report on the 1977 Pippin live aboard diving trip and perusing the photos in Rogers gallery brought back many memories. The report is very much as I remember and I commend Rogers long term memory, I suspect Mr Day must have kept a pretty detailed log of the events.
As a footnote to the Pippin report I’d like to add a bit of background information. On the 7th of February 1976 during a session in the Hunters Lodge on Mendip the late Martin Bishop asked myself, Stuart McManus and Andy Sutton if we fancied trying diving. Fuelled by the excesses of too many pints of Butcombes we readily took him up on his offer. The following morning saw the four of us at Vobster quarry kitted out in caving wet suits and borrowed diving gear from Bish. After this successful try dive Andy, Mac and I decided to join Nottingham BSAC, we were very keen at the time and supplemented our twice weekly BSAC sessions at the pool with unofficial Pegasus open water training at Markfield quarry in Leicestershire. It was pretty full on with lectures twice a week before the pool sessions, it was worth it however and we all qualified very quickly. Steve Watson was not a member of BSAC but would join us at Markfied, Mike Toole I think was learning to dive elsewhere.
In the second week of July, myself and 5 members of Nottingham BSAC met up with Angus for the first time to dive on his boat the IOLA leaving Oban on the 13th and mooring each night off a different island, taking the RIB ashore each night for a different lock in at one of Angus’ favoured bars.
The enthusiasm for diving continued and can be perfectly exemplified by one memorable jaunt the following year. On Friday evening the 9th of April 1977, Andy, Steve Watson and myself met up in Nottingham and drove through the night to meet up with Roger Day, Peter Webb and James Cobbett in Cove, Scotland for a weekends shore diving. Andy and I shared the driving, we drove up in convoy with Mac and Marilyn, Mac driving all the way. We dived 6 times over the weekend and set off at midday on the Sunday to reach the Three Stags, Wardlow Mires before closing time. I recall two dives in particular, while diving at the site of a former gun emplacement Rat Arse found an extremely heavy piece of militaria at c30m and retrieved the shore in a state of exhaustion after successfully landing his treasure, meanwhile little Steve suffered a severe nosebleed on surfacing and had to be towed ashore in some distress.
In addition to the Pippin trip described by Roger I recall a further trip by the Pegasus the date of which I am unsure, but I remember Andy Sutton taking several crates of home brew up to Scotland for after dive refreshment, we would lower a crate into the sea to keep it cool and partake immediately after the dive. Angus sampled a pint on one occasion and asked if it was meant to taste like that, Andy said that was the way he liked it and brewed it that way, Angus said if he’d brewed it that way he’d have thrown it away.
Al Steans Nottingham 2021
The following two photos, taken from Rogers’ gallery are from the Pegasus diving trip to Spain in April 1979, but that’s another story.
Rita Day, Jane Webb, Martin Bishop, Steve Watson, Al Steans, Peter Webb, Al Harrison, Sue Harrison, Lizzy Bishop
Martin Bishop, Peter Webb, Sue Harrison's back, Jane Webb's back, Allan Harrison
All photographs: Roger Day