Sunday shore dive : 12th October 2014

Another club rhib trip was scheduled for Sunday and by the preceding Wednesday was fully subscribed showing the enthusiasm that has pervaded the club.
As it turned out we did not actually take the boat out due to a few call offs and a technical problem discovered at the last minute. However, three members did decide to make the most of it and go shore diving anyway.

The trip started, after a false start, with Steve and Chris descending on Tara for breakfast as Paul assembled his camera , and , having had a rather tasty sausage sandwich, spicy and succulent, in the luxurious surrounding of their new home, we headed off toward Crianlariach and on to Tyndrum where the venue for the day was settled. After a quick detour via the Isles of Skye hotel to check out the launch for a new a new dive site, we arrived at the Slates in damp but calm weather and unpacked the car.

What a variety of kit came out of the car, singles, twins, and a rebreather and as expected Steve was fully kitted up and waiting for the rest of us as we completed our faff checks. Buddy checks at the water and we were off down to 20m where Paul demonstrated an almost perfect rescue from depth as a drill to complete his Advanced Lifesaver award and become a rescue specialist in doing so! Continuing the dive, we traversed around the reef reaching the point before turning and retracing our steps back to the entry site after over an hour underwater. Quite remarkable was Steve’s ability to come up with a reserve in his 12l on this dive! There was some very nice fish life out today, blennies, rock cod, wrasse and pollack with all the hard surfaces covered is squidgy life.

sealoch anemone

The light was quite good today and while the water had a distinctly greenish hue to it the Sea Urchins were positively shining.

Feeding urchin
Feeding urchin

After a good two hour lunch break we went back in but this time went exploring in the East bay out from the slate sheds. Once out onto the slope beyond the confines of the bay, the dive is rather good. Occasional boulders provide reef habitat from nursery shoals and holes for larger fish such as the large ling that we saw , to hide in. Flat fish, scorpion fist and even if somewhat rarely, skate are seen here. The topography was at it’s best below the 20m mark (low water) at the furthest point in the dive, where small shelves and walls stepped down into the deep. It was here we turned and made our way up-slope finding a glacial slab, polished smooth by ice. A couple of Facelina Botoniensis slowed us down for a while, presenting a wonderful photo-opportunity as they raced across the slab. Above the slab, gravel gave way to sand and kelp and the surface. A rather splendid second dive.

That was it for the day, save to rush back to tea and cakes at Tara’s!

A few extra photos – Paul

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The Lesser Yellowshell : 21st September 2014

Diving with an objective adds a little extra to a days entertainment and so it was that we engaged in a survey for one of the least understood of Scotland’s marine invertebrates. There are many organisations and groups that document sighting of our native marine life and when a rare species is seen many people will go out of their way to visit sites with a view to finding and photographing the organism.

Over the last few years an invasive species, the hard-shelled, yellow back sea slug , also known as the Yellowshell, has gradually increased in abundance around our coastline. While most sighting have been associated with extreme depth or sites requiring a hardboat to access them, more and more often, reports have filtered through that they have been spotted near the shore. This then was our objective, to find and photograph this elusive beastie.

Perth-BSAC is not without some academic expertise when it comes to marine life identification, BSc’s, MSc’s and even a PhD or two abound not withstanding the enormous experience of the lay person with decades of actual diving experience and yet with all our combined knowledge there was perhaps only a handful of people who had reported seeing these animals in the wild and fewer still who actually admitted knowing a few rudimentary facts about their habits. What was known was that these shelled invertebrates were slow moving, usually dragging themselves along the bottom trailing vast amounts a silt, presumably a defensive mechanism to stop themselves becoming prey of the more aggressive scallop baggers. It had also been reported that they had been sighted recently in Loch Leven and so the venue for the search was set.

A crack team of five divers met a local expert at Craft’n’things in Ballachulish for 09:30 opening and after a bacon roll and a coffee, a detailed briefing was delivered on how best , given the combined, or rather lack of knowledge, to approach, photograph and possibly collect a specimen. My copy of the Safe Diving practices booklet on close inspection seemed to be missing any guidelines on this subject but it was possibly included in the appendix marked fictional creatures and dragons.

A short transfer to the site and the first wave, equipped with torches, probes and specimen collection jars was duly dispatched on the initial search, the objective was to confirm the site details, identify any potential dangers involved in specimen collection, identify suitable survey areas and report back to the surface support team, where upon the survey teams would enter the water to photograph and collect a specimen. Soon it became clear, by the surface bubble patterns, that a battle royale was in progress and the second team was dispatched to provide assistance. In went the second team and immediately swan perpendicular to the direction the first team had taken avoiding all contact and enjoying excellent vis and fish life. The first team surfaced on time reporting no sightings but an enjoyable dive around the main reef. Meanwhile the second team, while feeling that they were always very close to a Yellowshell, never actually identified either a silt trail or the animal itself and surfacing an hour later reported drawing a blank. The final team, surveying the reef at a slightly shallower depth, reported finding a silt trail left by a yellow hardback but again did not actually spot the animal. They reported another excellent dive with some very large saithe, pollack and ling as well as the varied squidgy life this reef is well known for.

With all teams on the surface and time for lunch a review of the survey techniques was called for and changes implemented. A slightly different search area was called for and the first wave, wanting to complete the survey data for the primary search area, retraced their steps in reverse to ensure the beastie was not hiding beneath some small overhang. The remaining teams decided the second reef was more likely to be a potential habitat and set off to survey it. Out and back went the first team shortly followed by the last group who at the turn reported a sighting ironically as they passed the other group on the way back. Clearly group two had by this time become despondent and had given up surveying, looking instead for other marine life and fishing weights attached to mono filament which was collected where possible. The sighting was of interest but without corroborative evidence other than some Lochness monster style images taken from a camera, shaken in the excitement of the encounter and we are still not able to confirm the existence of the elusive Yellowshell. Anecdotal evidence provided by the third team seemed to suggest that the animal was a poor free swimmer, tending instead to bump along the bottom creating it’s silt trail. They did report that they would need a larger catch bag to land a specimen.

Well there you have it. Perth-BSAC first attempt at surveying for the Yellowshell, some success and a steep learning curve for all involved. With this experience it is hoped that we will be able to get much more conclusive evidence on future dives and unequivocally demonstrate the existence of this creature on some if not all of our dive sites. Thanks all for coming and supporting this event and I look forward to working with you in future.

(Ed- what a load of rubbish. Of course they exist, I’ll dig out an image from the Sunday Sport that shows one!)

Third time lucky! Bell Rock and the Wreck of the SS Ugie

We had organised several trips to the Bell Rock over the last few years but due to poor weather plans had changed.  The Bell rock is a almost submerged red sandstone reef approximately 12 miles off Arbroath.  The Bell Rock lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson for Trinity lighthouse and completed in 1811 the same foundations are over 200 years old. which is impressive when you see that the Lighthouse is constantly being besieged by the seas.

We headed out from Anstruther on the Mako, a hardboat owned by Steve Haddow to Dive the SS Ugie a steamship Trawler which sunk on the 16th March 1900 after a collision with the Dundee Trawler Taymouth then travel onto the Bell Rock for our second Shallow dive on the reef.

The weather was in our favour and after Steve put in the Shot we noticed that the tide was still running but need to keep to a tight time table, Derek and I were the third Pair of divers in the water and after a long swim to the seabed. The shot had dragged off the wreck and after a 100 metre swim against the current we reached the midships of the the wreck in 34.5metres to the seabed.  The Midships of the wreck was broken up but you could swim inside the hold and then we headed towards the Stern of the wreck she is covered in lots of life including a few large Lobsters,  The Ugie is about 130 ft long according to Bob Baird but we only had a short window to explore the stern section.

We headed across to the Bell Rock enjoying the sunshine and calm seas.  After a cup of Tea Derek and I dropped in to dive the Reef and the remains of the HMS Argyll which struck the Bell Rock in a Storm on the early hours of the 28th October 1915, all the crew were rescued which included a heroic effort by the Lighthouse keepers. After being blown up by the Royal Navy she was heavily salvaged and in the summer of 1970 the two massive manganese-bronze propellers weighing 14½ tons each were recovered by the Local Condor Sub Aqua Club.

Most of the reefs are covered in Kelp and the average depth varies between 9 -13 metres we found some plates and ribs as well as a , Gary and Izzy found an Anchor probably from one of the many ships that have been wrecked on the the Bell Rock Reef, we also found some large Bollards which we reckoned were from the Argyll.  We didn’t see too much life other than juvenile Cod and Two Spotted Wrasse, overall an interesting dive and one to tick off the list; the highlight was being able to see the Bell Rock Lighthouse up close a feat of British Engineering.

 

 

30th August, Advanced Lifesaver SDC, Loch Long

The Advanced Lifesaver (ALS) skills development course is one of those SDCs that people put off doing until they have to, the reason being because it is hard work and tests a skill that we all think we are brilliant at, but are we ?

Paul and Chris  joined a Scotland Southern region event at Loch Long being run by Rob Sewell,  the regional coach and ‘Boss’ed’ by Pete Bicheno, one of our locally active National Instructors who is always willing to help out on such events. Guy from Aberdeen and Alex from Stirling made up the rest of the course candidates. The venue switched from Largs due to the wind was the Loch Long Chalets, diving off a boat lent by Thistle divers and the conditions in the bay were fair (enough) .

So what is it all about ?   The ALS assesses diving lifesaver skills at a level that an Advanced Diver would be asked to perform, so rescue from a depth of 20m and following the BSAC safety principle of lifting to 6m then stopping, doing a safety stop, ascending normally to recommence the rescue drill once on the surface. Of course diving in Loch Long you will always have the challenge of low vis and darkness which adds a degree of realism to the proceedings. Once on the surface, recovery to both boat and then to the shore after an exhausting 100m tow with rescue breaths which was undoubtedly the most strenuous diving activity I’ve done in years.  Landing a casually on your own putting them in a recover position and then, using a manikin, provide Basic Life Support until assistance arrives.

All these skills we have covered many times during our training, but the effectiveness of the course is that it provides a scenario where you link the skills in their natural order and thereby providing a realistic vehicle for assessment. And yes it is an assessment, not a teaching course!

Additional, written , verbal and first aid scenarios finished the day after we had recovered the boats and changed into dry clothing and moved into the rather nice cafe at the Chalet reception and shop.

So what was my opinion and thoughts on the day ?  Firstly and to be completely honest I could have done much better! I felt rusty and slow on the practical aspects and my theory was not quick enough.  So here are my areas for improvement !

On the lift, I could not see my computer so was using the shot / datum to gauge my ascent rate.  That was fine but I was late in stopping at 6m. Next time, I’ll switch the back light on or perhaps just learning how to turn it on would be a good idea. Usually I just shine my torch on it but not enough hands to do that during a lift.

Lifting people into the boat , need to review different techniques and practice parbuckling.

Throwing and non-contact rescues, all good stuff. No problem for the men!

Towing and rescue breaths while making a good seal, practice practice and practice! You can always do better and a 100m tow is a long long way! Fitness could be better as it impacts effectiveness of technique.

Landing, need to do this without trying to break peoples arms and should note that techniques will differ and are dependent on the ease of the exit, so learn more than one.

Recovery position:  How can you get this wrong……?  very easily, let me explain! Well it wasn’t really wrong, it was just another way of doing it!

BLS practice, practice and practice again, again was far too rusty for comfort, but it did get better as I got into it.  Good extension,  checked for effective breaths and lots of ‘Nellie the elephant’ and ‘Staying Alive’… casualty assessment every….

Communication, communication and communication.

If anyone was interested in doing this assessment, I’d either recommend being 100% up to date with your practice or a complete refresher session beforehand, it’s the full on nature of the exercise that is so useful and at the same time so challenging.

 

All in all a very worthwhile event. Thanks are due to Rob and Pete for managing it and to Thistle Divers for the use of their boat.  For prospective Advance Diver candidates this is a really good course which covers off several requirements in the training syllabus, for other diver, unless you have an alternative requirement to do it, it is very hard work , a good level set of your rescue skills and ultimately very rewarding.

( It should be noted that some people forgot certain pieces of basic equipment.   Certain people forgot their fins while others didn’t even bother to bring their dry suits..  I suspect that some people did not really want to dive in Loch Long which with visibility of less than 2m and being dark at 4m was perhaps understandable.  Names will be named unless performance improves on future trips!  – Ed)

 

Learn to Scuba dive with Perth BSAC

Perth BSAC is starting their try dive season again soon.  For anyone who wants to see if diving is for them and try diving in the safe confines of a swimming pool then it’s time to get in touch and book your space.

Being located on the borders of the Scottish Highlands but within the Central belt, Perth is ideally situated to access many of the most popular dives sites throughout Scotland. It  is a great place to learn and start your diving career.

You can contact us https://perth-bsac.co.uk/contact-perth-bsac/

 

Perth BSAC Summer Isles Trip August 2014 – Fair Weather Five and Boston Stirling

After a Five hour drive up to Altandhu we pitched our tents quickly at the Port a Bhaigh campsite encouraged by the Midges we quickly headed off to the Am Fuaran Bar stopping to watch the beautiful sunset over the Summer Isles to plan our diving on the Saturday. 

Sunset from Altandhu
Sunset from Altandhu

After a full cooked Scottish Breakfast (Potato Scones included) we headed off to Old Dornie Harbour a 5 minute drive from the campsite to launch our Rib. Old Dornie is a excellent base to explore the Summer Isles with a short 10 minute ride you can drive across to Priest Island or 20-25 minutes to the Fairweather five on the other side of Loch Broom.

We decided to head across to the Fairweather Five as our first Dive arguably one of Scotland’s most prettiest wrecks the best marks we had for her are 57.56.350 N and 005.21.343 W which were spot on thanks to Andy Holbrow – Atlantic Diving Services in Achiltibuie.  After a bumpy ride across Loch Broom fortunately she was already buoyed with the seabed about 32 metres and the superstructure rises up to 19 metres so she is easy to spot on a sounder. 

I jumped in with Spike to take some photos of the Wreck and this is what we found:

What a dive! The plan was to dive the Key hole on Priest Island but the Atlantic Swells were against us making the dives dangerous, so we headed across to Three Skerries called Sgeir Nam Mult.  While preparing to dive Bethan’s Pony was so excited it jumped in first!  With the Man overboard button pressed, a shot deployed Chris and Bethan mounted a successful search and rescue mission.  Steve and I jumped in just on the Western Edge of the Skerries with the Kelp line at 18 metres we descended to 27 metres to spot Long spined Bullhead (Scorpion Fish) and a Ling hiding amongst the boulders. A second good dive.

With Strong winds and lots of Rain forecast for the Saturday night we headed to the Bar for some Burgers and a couple of pints, to help sleep through the rain in our tents. This definitely helped and Four of us emerged at 6:30 am on the Sunday morning to make porridge and break camp.  We had been able to put Deep Dancer on a mooring for the night to save time and we were off to the first dive site just after 9am.  All good!

Our first dive was a successful Scallop bash, with plenty of scallops to keep the folks at home happy. conciuos of time we headed across to the Island of Tamera More to dive the Boston Stirling wreck another Trawler that sank in the 90’s amazingly intact and only in 13 metres of Water. 

Here are some photos from the Boston Stirling Wreck (58°0’01” N 5°24’30” W) which is now buoyed – Green Buoy that drops to a Concrete Block and you then head along a rope 30 or so metres to where the wreck lies on its side tucked into the end of the bay please be careful that on some of the charts the Wreck is in the next bay along and you will end up diving SS Vicinity 😉  

Finally thanks to Hamish, Spike, Chris, Bethan and Steve for an enjoyable weekends diving and socializing.

 

Summer Isles – 1.8 – 3.8.14

Posted on Steve’s behalf:

Viewing the weather forecast with some trepidation, Spike, Hamish, Paul, Chris, Bethan & Steve headed for Altandhu for the second 2014 camping & RHIB diving weekend.

2014-08-01 21.29.58

All tents were pitched by 9pm on Friday & the team headed to the pub for a pre-weekend thirst quencher and a meeting with local commercial diver, Andy Holbrow, who had kindly agreed to fill our tanks as well as arranging for ‘Deep Dancer’ (DD) to be kept on a mooring by the Old Dornie slip.

Local knowledge is invaluable when finalising dive plans and the meeting with Andy was enjoyable and very informative with site co-ordinates being clarified as well as learning about intricate site details.

An al fresco Saturday breakfast preceded a speedy launch & loading of our trusty ‘Deep Dancer’ RHIB at Old Dornie and we were soon underway in fine conditions heading to the wreck of the ‘Fairweather V’.

A shot had been prepared but was unnecessary since Andy’s co-ordinates put us on top of a permanent shot mounted amidships on the wreck.
Trailblazers Bethan & Chris led the way to this spectacular wreck of a steel fishing trawler which sank on 4th February 1991 after running aground. As she was being pulled off by a tugboat water rushed into an open hatch to the engine room and she settled upright in 25-30m off the headland at Cairn Dearg.

Steve & Hamish formed the second wave with Spike & Paul the third, the broad grins on everyone’s faces on surfacing all telling a similar story.

All reported superb diving, the wreck being covered in plumose anemones and swarming with fish life in vis around 8m.

Lunch was taken on board DD as we reviewed options for the afternoon dive, our preferred site, the ‘Keyhole’ on the northeast corner of Priest Island being shrouded by white water. After looking at several possibilities we settled for the Sgeirean Glasa reef where all teams reported a site teaming with life with Wrasse, Luing, Pollock and shoals of tiny silvery fish.

With DD safely moored for the night, Steve & Bethan delivered the empty tanks to Andy’s house.

After reviving showers, we enjoyed a few aperitifs prior to well-earned dinners and a few more drinks before making a dash for the tents in pouring rain and gusty winds! Andy delivered full tanks to the camp site so all was set for Sunday.

Unfortunately, Hamish was unable to dive on Sunday; Spike kindly offered to head home with Hamish so the team was now reduced to four.

The bad weather had passed during Saturday night, chinks of sunshine appearing as Bethan & Steve swam to recover DD from her mooring.

Back on plan, we headed to the Sgeir Dubh rocks and adjoining reef. This was another pretty site, but as Chris & Bethan prepared to dive, Bethan’s pony tank quick release system released her pony which promptly disappeared to the sea bed!

15 minutes into the ensuing search and recovery exercise Bethan recovered her errant pony! Another excellent dive followed, spotting 3 dogfish.

Steve & Paul checked out the 30m isobaths during their dive, duly discovering Scallop city; Steve’s goody bag was quickly filled

IMG_1857

IMG_1856.

Bethan took the helm & we sped to the final dive site of the weekend, the wreck of the ‘Boston Stirling’ lying bows in towards the shore on the southern side of Tannara Beag Island. She sank in 1983, apparently while her crew cooked chips which caused a fire and in the ensuing confusion she hit the rocks! She lies on her starboard side in shallow water & is permanently marked by a green buoy which we tied onto for lunch, then dived in two waves. Again both groups enjoyed relaxing dives in good conditions to round off the weekend.

Quick recovery, kit stowed, we briefly stopped at the camp site to hose DD down prior to heading for Perth.

Unfortunately, DD’s trailer failed about 4 miles short of Ullapool, resulting in a 5 hour delay while we waited & subsequently had DD and her trailer recovered to a garage at Ullapool.

However, we’d all enjoyed an excellent weekend’s diving in fine conditions! DD will be home soon!

Isle of Skye – Chadwick, Waterstein Point and Port Napier

I was looking forward to diving the Northern tip of Skye, we had picked a neaps weekend as the tides in the Sea of the Hebrides are strong, in particular the Chadwick and Doris wrecks are tide dependent.  On the Saturday morning we headed across to the community Pier at Meanish to launch Deep Dancer our Club Rib.

The Slack on the Chadwick was either too early in the morning ( 4.15 hours Before HW Ullapool ) or about 3:30pm in the Afternoon ( 2 Hrs 10 mins after HW Ullapool ) So we headed south to Neist Point for an alternative dive site.  To get out of the current we headed across to Waterstein Head, there are several reefs, walls and Gullies to explore, as Gary and Izzy were kitting up for their dive, we looked at the swarm of jelly fish mostly Moon jellyfish and few Lions Main jellyfish moving around under the floating seaweed looking for small fry and zoo plankton to feed on.

Steve, Bethan and I dropped onto the southern tip of the reefs which gave us a nice wall covered with Dead mans fingers with boulder slope at its base dropping down to 22 metres to a sandy plain.  Swimming around the rocks large Pollack and Cod hunt for Crabs and Prawns to feed on, hidden in the rocks we found male and female Cuckoo Wrasse.

After heading 5 or so metres along the rock face we came to a gap and another Short Wall before turning south west onto a gentle slope with a current taking us on a nice drift dive. My air was starting to run low so we headed up towards the Kelp starting at about 15 metres depth.  After a few minutes looking under kelp for Craw fish we headed to the surface.

The Chadwick Wreck Dive – After lunch we headed out to the dive site on the Northern Tip of Osgill Bay

The Chadwick didn’t disappoint we dropped onto the wreck next to the main boiler hidden under the hull plates a swim through past the companion boiler, and out through a gap in the hull we find the second boiler standing on its edge with a Ballan Wrasse swimming down the side of it, we headed across the plates  and beams of the mid section covered in Dead Mans Fingers, We come across the Stern and find the Rudder and the Propeller.  On reaching the stern section moving out from the wreck we could feel the strong current pushing us North and we tucked back into the protection of the wreck to swim back up to the midships along the starboard side of the hull plates before returning to the surface.

We headed back to the Slip at Meanish to have just missed recovering the boat due to low tides, point for future reference recovery only after 2 hours either side of low water.  With the Rain coming in we headed off for dinner in Dunvegan at the Bistro in the Petrol Station a good little restaurant that has home baking and a good mix of comfort food!

On the Sunday we packed up and headed to Kyleakin on the East of the Island to Dive the Port Napier a Converted Minelayer which caught on fire in kyle of Lochalsh during the Second World War and was towed away from the Port before blowing up and sinking. It now lies on its side with the Port Side upwards  and drops away to 20 metres depth on the sandy bottom.

The hull plates on the Port side were removed by the Royal Navy who removed all the unexploded mines in 1955.  The Wreck was darker this time with poor viz possibly from the Fish Farm nearby.  The Wreck was buoyed on the Forward Mast and we dropped down here before moving to the Bows, the sheer size of the wreck which is still very much intact in shallow waters makes it such an attraction to divers.

12th July South Scotland Regional DTP, Loch Fyne

You don’t always get sunshine and apparently this Saturday’s event at Loch Fyne was a wet affair though we were able to change in and out of dry-suits in the dry and enjoyed some pleasantly warm water.

With the usual drop outs and no shows there were still loads of people looking for a dive or a lesson so after our brief, the students were allocated and the lessons started.

Maureen and Fred went off on a navigational exercise exploring the inner reef and reported finding a garden gnome. A good result this and rumors that the find was a result of narcosis were disproved by the following team who also found a garden gnome.

Haydn and Duane were out again getting instruction from Claire, the newest qualified member of the instructor team and reported varying degrees of success struggling with blocked sinuses and weighting issues associated with new equipment. But this is why we support these events, they give us a chance to find out how we deal with these issues in a relatively sheltered environment before we jump into some off shore site and end up calling out the emergency services.

Simon spent the day practicing buoyancy and pilotage skills with Steve and Edwards and great improvements were reported.

Frank, a friend of the Club, who has helped us out on several occasions was around today having recently returned from a diving trip to some exotic location and was involved in Dive Leader training.

I was working with Bethan giving her a chance to try out some instructional skills as practice for future instructor exams. Being thrown in at the deep end with a dive leader Alternate Source exercise the lesson was perhaps a little ambitious so we worked on practicing the preparation and briefing before handing over the inwater mask clearing and AS skills. (Though Bethan does them better ! – Ed). One minor mishaps saw a student coughing and spluttering during a mask clear , cause for concern as he eyed the surface……. Took a while to calm down! AS drills ok and the use of a little datum line proved very useful in controlling the ascents as we bobbed up and down. After lunch we decided to do some dive leader drills and the students took it in turn to plan and then lead the dive. Both, having led several dives before, did very well. From my point of view and as a learning point, simulating a problem by dropping a fin is NOT a good idea when the fin floats away and has to be retrieved!!! The usual problems such as swimming off in the wrong directions, gradual drift down slope and getting fixated on something were all handled very well and I have to say I’d be more than happy to be taken for a dive by both of them or more importantly to see them lead an Ocean diver! Ended the dive by completing the circumnavigation of the reef and tying a small plastic bottle on 2m of line to the 54lb weight that I have been playing with on the inner reef, the idea is that it will be easier to find.

That was it, end of another training day. (the 9th August is the next one). Once again thanks to all those who attended hope you had fun, thanks to Edward for organising and all the instructors and divers who helped out. The dive slate for anyone who is interested is here

AIC/AIE Cumbrae Watersports Centre, Millport, 5-7th July

Thought we would put a report together from the Advanced Instructor Course and Exam held at Great Cumbrae at the Watersports center. Three of use traveled over to attend so here are three versions of the same event.

Chris’ version :

“Come!” she said “You are to be observed by the Bene Gesserit !” Obediently he entered the room and subjugated himself to the test! Well that at least is what it felt like. Being the only person taking the Advanced instructor exam, apart from presenting administrative challenges to the examiners raised the pressure levels as the chance of hiding while others were in the line of fire and having a quiet think , was effectively removed. Still with a glass half full, I had twice the opportunity to shine and twice the chance to learn.

Friday afternoon saw me leaving Perth and after making a slight navigational error, driving towards Ayr. A short consultation of a road atlas (how quaint -Ed) confirmed the mistake and after a painfully tense moment as the car refused to start, in the rain, in some remote layby on some non-discript road I eventually arrived at Largs and the short ferry ride to get onto Greater Cumbrae. I was the second student to arrive and having introduced myself to the Course boss, Jim Watson, found Lee, an old friend from North Uist and spent an hour catching up before the course convened.

I was to take the Theory part of the exam while the remaining attendees got an initial intro and started their planning sessions, I sweated over a multi-choice paper that tested not only the core Diver training syllabus but also skills development course work with a few screw balls throw in for good measure. As I’d done a fair bit of preparation for the theory most of the questions seemed to be ok and the hour allocated passed quickly. A couple of questions that came straight out of SCUBA and the proverbial decompression and gas management ones saw me opening my tables for the first time since …… well a long time ago! Done and dusted, paper handed back and then we were off to find something to eat. Chips and Ale pie, chip shop fashion was the order of the day and they tasted divine as I avoided the gulls that swooped in an attempt to take chips. Next stop a leisurely pint in the pub where everyone was gathered before returning back the Watersports centre bar and a nightcap before sleep eluded me, interrupted by oyster catchers and half cocked lesson plans.

Morning dawned with a blue sky and a gentle breeze. After breakfast, I was briefed on the event and started my planning. I was to plan a day operating as an independent team within the overall structure as defined by the Assistant Instructor course. On top of this I would be working with two sports divers that wanted to develop skills in Dive Management and Position fixing and of course not forgetting all those ad-hoc opportunities that present themselves along the way. This provided an opportunity to develop their Personal Development Plans (PDP) and then teach, confirm and review their progress throughout the weekend. (A quick tip here is to prepare your dive kit the night before as once started the practical sessions are very busy). The first dive of the day was to be an adventurous dive on the Beagle just off the NW tip of Great Cumbrae. I was to dive in a three and was to teach DSMB deployment from the wreck to a Sports diver (played by Geoff Hyde my assessor) who was also doing a depth progression. This presents a problem, with limited bottom time and in planning a No-stop dive, teaching time was very limited. The AIC students shot’ed the wreck near the stern, port side mooring bollards and we waited our turn to dive in wave 2. Surface time was spent exploring teaching opportunities and working at the student’s PDPs. Then it was our turn to dive and having reached the wreck and with less that 17 minutes bottom time to play with we set off along the gunwhale towards the bow. Keeping a close eye on my sports dive buddy with lots of OK’s and gas checks, my buddy started to relax and we had a chance for some Marine life identification and a little finger walking practice in what can only be described as excellent vis for the Clyde. We turned back the way we came after 8 minutes and arriving at the shot with 3 minutes bottom time remaining. Not enough time to teach DSMB – bad planning! A slow and controlled ascent with a deep stop thrown in for the assistant assessor who was on Trimix saw us arrive at the safety stop uneventfully with a few teaching opportunities in the bag.(Descending a shot, bubble check, gas check, Bottom time check, marine life identification, finger walking, wreck orientation, ascending a shot, buoyancy control, horizontal positioning during deco stops, surfacing procedures…). The second dive was planned to be down at Trail island on Little Cumbrae and while the AIC students attempted to recover the shot, the exam boat headed off for more assessment! Departing the main group, I had the opportunity to discuss communication within the dive management framework and was able to reinforce this by suggesting that our intentions were relayed to the AIC dive manager and then we were off. Directing the coxswain on a bearing and course gave me a chance to teach a few skills before having a few issues identifying a poorly painted cardinal buoy at the South end of Great Cumbrae. Just then it all went peaktong, A call from the last boat reported that a diver had surfaced and had tingling in his legs and had been put on O2. Everyone sprung into action and the coast guard was called and a rendezvous arranged at Largs marina. A fast boat from C & C services came out and the casualty was transferred and taken post haste to the waiting emergency services. All boats followed as quickly as possible to assist were possible.

Once evacuated the AIE members completed a very short dive as part of the instructional feedback part of the assessment were an AS lesson was given and critiqued. This allows you to demonstrate the use of the STEP and REAP procedures for giving feedback to an instructor. Then it was back to the Watersports centre to unload the boat while the AIC group was practicing surface teaching techniques in small boats. With a final review in the class room it was time for the event dinner, the Golden Dragon in Millport and a sumptuous feast it was too, absolutely superb. Once again back to the Centre bar and a nightcap and then off to the land of Morphious.

Sunday dawned bright and warm and I arranged the boats to be brought from the pontoons to the slip to load the dive gear before breakfast. Dry runs for the days practical session saw us all struggling to manage large groups towards a single goal but it gradually came together. Here I took the opportunity for additional dive management and position fixing teaching opportunities where we took transects and then used them to find a compass left on the grass field. This was to reinforce the teachings given the day before which is an integral part of the AIE assessment. Before departing we joined in a dry run for the exercise and once on the boat, we again took time to practice skills for the PDPs. The project dive, a marine survey, using the techniques we had practiced earlier went off well. Additional teaching opportunities involved buoyancy and finning and a little compass navigation but after recording a dozen quadrats we had had enough and with a leaking drysuit reported, called it a day and made an ascent before returning back to the center to dry out and pack the kit away. All that was left was to debrief the dive and then present a report on the project before some generic feedback was given to me by my assessors. And the result, well they won’t tell me until Thursday….but either way it was a memorable and educational weekend spent in some of the best of company

What did I think? Well this is the most draining diving course/assessment I have been on. I went with a positive attitude determined to have fun which I most certainly did. Could I have done better, most certainly ! Did I learn something – absolutely.

(Ed – our diving casualty was transferred to Aberdeen hyperbaric chamber and was put on a 4.5 hr treatment. The symptoms were not conclusive and he was discharged after observation and is reportedly OK. )

Paul’s version (tbc)

Steve’s version (tbc)