Sunday shore diving. Loch Leven. 23rd Februry 2014

A couple of hardy souls drove across to the west coast for a shore dive on Sunday through some very wet landscapes. Loch Earn was full and the Glen Falloch was flooded and in spate. Loch Tulla was lapping at the A82 and sheep stranded by the rising water where clustering on small islands waiting to be rescued.

We arrived slightly early and had a look at the Slates dive site and were very pleased to see that it was sheltered from the Southerlies that were sweeping across the loch raising water sprites which flung themselves along the far shore. Retiring to Craft and Things to meet ours guests and friends we were soon enjoying egg rolls and fresh coffee and watching squalls stravage through the glen wreaking havoc while we sheltered in the friendly warmth that the cafe had to offer. With one new member in the team and admin completed it was back to the site to give a short brief and get the first wave in. Edward and Alan and then Hamish and Alistair were in first which gave Chris a chance to work with Claire doing some prep for her upcoming PIE while providing shore cover. The first pair circumvented the main spit while the second pair did a there and back coming back to their entry point, both pair kept good time and stuck to their dive plans ! (Kudos — Ed). Chris and Claire went into the bay to practice AS drills and then extended the dive along the wall, coming back on time and again to plan. Both waves reported exceptionally good visibility with numerous dogfish and a superb Nudibranch (possibly Cadlina laevis)
Cadlina laevis

After a brief surface interval, the afternoon dive saw the same teams back in the water squeezing out a second dive from the mornings tanks taking advantage of a shallower profile. Hamish and buddy went off to explore the reef again getting some impressive perspective of the angle in the excellent visibility while the other teams bumbled around to the right of the bay exploring the large anchors and chains and finding some big glacial slabs. On the way back and in the shallows, the rocks supported colonies of sponges. Of note was a blue rayed limpet reflecting iridescent in a torch beam and of course a couple of nudibranchs, much smaller than the mornings specimen.

That was it, a final warm up in the cafe to chew the cudd before driving back to Perth although we couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay our respects to the badger! Another superb day in the water with great company and a good lesson that you can always get in somewhere if you really want too.

Chartwork and Position fixing SDC, 11-12th January 2014

Early morningOver the Weekend Perth-BSAC in the guise of Paul our DO ran the BSAC Chartwork and Position Fixing SDC. Securing the expertise of Pete, a BSAC National Instructor and Rob (Thistle Divers), the new South Scotland Regional Coach, it was opened up to the South Scotland Region. And so it was that the Perth crew, consisting of Steve, Hamish, Maureen, Fred and Chris , were joined by Anne from Thistle Divers and Alex from Stirling. So with Paul, who was getting his instructor assist there were, in total, ten of us.

The course is a two day event, the first, and by consensus, very long day, covered theory and was held in the Moncrieff Arms. Steve arrange for Duncan to provide a sandwich lunch (with vegetarian option) at a very modest cost and tea and coffee was provided throughout the day to keep both instructors and students alive! We covered some interesting ground both on the more formal side of things and then taking the opportunity to scour some charts and plan a route for the following day. By 19:30 we were all done in and ready for some sleep.

P1040513Sunday dawned cold and clear though Perth basin was covered in fog and we shivered as we hitched Deep Dancer to Paul’s car for the short tow down to South Queensferry. A stunning sunrise over Kirkcaldy with hues of vermilion shortening to vivid aquamarine. A suitable start to a day bobbing around on the Forth.

We arrived just about on time and set about launching Deep Dancer from the RNLI slip under the rail bridge and were joined by Pete and Alex who were launching their inflatable to provide the additional boat seats needed for the course. Deep Dancer was her usual reluctant self requiring Paul’s magic touch

P1040541Launching from the slip we crossed under the rail bridge and made for the east end of Inchgarvie where we used transects to locate a small cliff which we had identified as a potential dive site. This was an invaluable lesson as some of the points we had chosen from the chart were not obvious and the others were not visible!

From Inchgarvie we crossed the channel to Saint David’s light off North Queensferry before heading off to Inchcolm Island to identify the leading lights and navigate into the landing to warm up while we had lunch. The island is home to a priory originally founded by King David 1, it became an abbey in 1235. After the dissolutionment of the monasteries it fell out of use and is now managed by Historic Scotland. The island itself is an important bird and seal sanctuary and a popular tourist attraction with a lot to offer.

Lunch

AbbeyAfter lunch we headed off to find a wreck marked on the chart and using various techniques found some plausible fish finder scans that would merit a shot if the vis was ever good enough to enable diving, which in this part of the Forth happens…..never! (for those interested in Forth wrecks the charted position of the wreck was 3°18’23″N 56°1’54″W and is denoted as a dangerous wreck swept to a depth of 22m. This wreck is most likely that of the steamship Skula built in 1882 and sank after collision in 1906 and not The Blessing of Burnt Island as some of us were hoping- Ed.)

P1040539We repeated the exercise to locate a wall off Haystack island, a small skerry to the west of Inchcolm before discovering what the channel markers were really used for and then made our way back to South Queensferry to recover the boats, passing a group of sea kayaker exploring under the rail bridge.

P1040545To finish the day Paul had arranged a visit to the RNLI station where we were shown around their premises including their crew room and their remarkable RHIB which came with an astounding price tag (so keep those donations coming in – Ed), before debriefing the SDC in their training room.

An enormous thank you to Paul for organising this course. We all had a very enjoyable time and had a grand day out on the Forth in what can only be called very good weather for January. Thanks are due to Pete and Rob for coming along to lead the instruction and keep us on the straight and narrow. As ever thanks to those that towed the boats. I think a special mention for Duncan and Raymond at the Moncrieff Arms for laying on sandwiches and coffee which were very much appreciated. Thanks to the RNLI for showing us the Lifeboat station and allowing us use of their lecture room instead of freezing outside being debriefed on the Pier and finally a thank you to everyone who came along and participated, we learnt loads, had fun, got a tour of the bridges and Islands of the inner forth and got to meet other divers from the region which is always a pleasure.

A few more photos

Compressor Operations SDC, 4th Jan 2014

Some training opportunities lend themselves to bad weather and Compressor Operations goes well under stormy skies and so it was that a couple of us got together to learn about compressors operations and run the BSAC Compressor Operations skill development course.

A relatively short but interesting course providing a recap of simple diving physics and compressor designs before going on to talk about air quality and standards, cylinder markings and filling safety and ending in a practical session operating the compressor and filling cylinders. So it was that the team spent time in the den, the garage and then the club shed where we had a good variety of theory and hands on before actually getting to use a compressor and filling empty cylinder from the New Year dives.

A dry day in the storm. 14th December 2013

Steve and I left Perth in the early morning light under clear still skies and with high expectations of a good days diving. By Crieff it had all changed and the weather got progressively worse until we arrived at the Quarry View Garden Center and Coffee Shop at Crerae near Furnace to see impressively large brown waves breaking onto the reef and piling spindrift onto the beach. We weren’t the only ones to arrive and apart from one no show everyone who said they would come arrived before 10:00.

My lesson today was to be DO2, demonstrating leading a dive so there was still a lot we could do towards the safety and planning aspects of the lesson even if we didn’t get in the water and put it into practice.

So first thing was to walk the site, or rather wrap up in the old oil skins, turn the pipe upside down, put the sowester on and push at the door!
Visualising a risk assessment while walking the site was quite interesting and we had a good discussion about the problems of entry and the potential exit points in the conditions. It rapidly became apparent that if we were able to dive there was only one potential entry point and that would also be the only exit point. Walking right down to the waters edge to ‘experience’ the problems of exiting, the size of the waves made the point for us.
With the possibility that the dropping tide might result in the reef creating a breakwater we decided to enjoy a cup of coffee and reassess the site in an hour.

So armed with a coffee we sat at a table in the warm surroundings of the cafe and went through the lesson, visualising the learning points within the lesson and discussing how we would achieve them on a dive. An hour or so later it was on with the sowester and out to walk the site again. There was no change and indeed the conditions had perhaps worsened. So back to the cafe and time to test the coffee cake and socialize until people started drifting away home. Steve, who was scheduled to do a dry suit familiarization lesson took the opportunity to cover some theory with a variety of suits from people only too happy to lend them if it meant not going in the water !

When we eventually left the reef was still covered, the storm surge adding a good 3 feet to the tide , impressive for Loch Fyne, though the fetch on the loch under the prevailing condition would have the water piling up at Inverary.

A couple of us adjourned to the George where we chewed the cudd before continuing home. By way of variation we decided to return via the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’, along Lomondside to briefly stop at The Drovers before crossing a very wet Glen Ogle and on to Perth.

No diving today but a chance to do some theory , indeed two diver grade exams were set and passed so while almost a complete wash out (No practical lessons today- ed), I really enjoyed a grand day out.

Dolphins at Insh Island, Easdale: 6th October 2013

06:00 am, What! Another early start ! It’s that time of year when dragging yourself out of bed while it is still dark to go diving is a real test but we did well arriving on time at the club shed to load the boat and set off for Oban. The objective of the day was to firstly get some diving in and to allow Neil to complete his Dive Management practical session.

Plans were a little fluid this weekend with a couple of people coming down with colds and back problems but such was the turn out that we still had a full boat , a good chance to get Deep Dancer out and exercise her engine putting in some time on the water. Of course the first problem was starting the engine which was reticent to say the least, still we are getting very adept and cleaning the plugs, ululating and rending cloth before Paul laid his hands upon the console and she coughed into life. With a boat brief and radio check completed it was time to get the show on the road! So a couple of extra checks to ensure the gear linkage was secure and that we could stop and restart the engine and we were away.

The trip down to Insh Island was rough and Paul did a good job punching his way through a nasty chop to arrive at the northern end of the Island. The small Island and the skerries were not an option today due to the swell and waves but there was sufficient shelter in the little bay to the NE of the Island to allow safe diving. Chris and Euan were first in and found a sandy bottom, good for a few shells but not of great interest. The visibility was reasonable though a fine sand stirred up easily the tide then drifted it with you so you had to continuously move out of the silt trail you raised. The divers found themselves in an eddy and having tried to go south in the direction of the tide eventually gave up and drifted North where the current took them. Towards the end of the dive they reached the reef that joins Insh to the Northern skerries where small walls provided a little interest. Unfortunately the current meant that the dragging an SMB stopped the divers sheltering in the kelp and they surfaced slightly earlier than plan. Mo and Fred went in in a similar place and reported a reasonable dive within the bay, having a good long dive and making a safe ascent. A quick change over on the boat and the dive manager sent the next wave in who followed the edge of the reef taking a few photos and picking up the occasional scallop.

With a full team recovered we decided to head back to Puffin dive center rather than go across to Easdale for lunch as the afternoon was chasing. The trip back proved to be one of the great highlight of our diving this year and goes to show that diving off boats is about the day as much as about time in the water. Half way back the shout went up ‘Dolphin’ and we throttled back to watch. Initially a few animals were surfacing and we weren’t sure how many there were, three or five perhaps. Clearly something was going on and as we watched a tight group started splashing about with much tail waving, a smell of fish suggested they could have been feeding but it was most likely that the smell emanated for the old diver that we keep in the stern of the boat. However the splashing was only the prelude to the main act , dolphins started to jump with supreme grace and it was slight disappointing when the school drifted away from us. With everyone enthralled we set again towards Puffin but the dolphins decided they had not finished with us and started jumping, easily clearing six or even eight feet out of the water. Initially in ones and twos, some right next to the boat and then in synchronized form giving us the kind of show you would have paid top dollar for in Orlando. Here it was off the West coast for free !

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A much easier passage back to Puffin followed, with a following wind we made better time and having secured the boat spent a leisurely hours over lunch, ‘grilling’ the Dive Manager on his theory (he he he he!).

Ardnachuil bay was the next site, a short ride from Puffin and while not calm, a safe option. Chris and Euan were in first and having bushwacked their way through the swell and the kelp, found a sand and gravel slope disappearing off into the depth. Chris reported a couple nudibranchs with dendronotus-lacteus and it’s brilliant white body easily spotted standing out on a brown kelp frond and being a new one for him. (No camera today so I’ve included a link from the Scottish nudibranch site – Ed) later in the dive, they also found a small red sea hare, perhaps the smallest one, you could possibly imagine being less than half a centimeter long. Mo and Fred reported a short dive, struggling to get out of the kelp in the challenging swell they encountered. A good effort in challenging conditions and as it had a safe outcome merits a success in my books.

With the second wave of divers in the water, the opportunity for a bit of boat handling skills development was presented and man over board and indeed board overboard skills were practiced before standing on station over the divers waiting for them to surface. Paul and Steve surfaced and having had a stern debriefing from the Dive Manger they were allowed onboard before we departed for Puffin. Well done to the Dive manager there for demonstrating control over the group! The boat was recovered and kit washed down on the slip and with a final debrief from Neil the day was wound up with the boat heading off to the club store followed by Chris and Euan.

Congratulation go to Neil for successfully completing his Dive Manager practical as part of his Sports Diver grade training, he did exceptionally well keeping control over some experienced divers with an accumulation of years of bad habits. The committee have yet to validate his qualification level but I look forward to diving with our newest qualified Sports Diver in the not too distant future.

Thanks to Steve for organising another successful days diving and to Paul for towing Deep Dancer.

Photos Added PS

Sunday diving, Loch Long 28th July 2013

It was a rather damp when Steve and Chris arrived at the Three communities tea room at Arrochar (the Pit Stop cafe), not the dreach miseries of a depressing winters day but damp nevertheless. A mug of tea and a bacon sandwiches put the world to rights as we joined Maureen and Fred and waited for Alison and Emily to arrive.

The venue today was Conger Alley and to avoid the long carry we decanted all the heavy equipment at the top of the access track before parking the cars in the layby and changing in relative safety. For those that don’t know, this is an exceptionally busy road and traffic is a significant risk.
Changing in a steady drizzle although warm was unpleasantly sticky and with the midges being out there was a certain urgency to get into the water.

There were two teams on the first dive, Maureen and Fred off for an experience dive, putting their honed buoyancy skills to good use and showing off their rather nice new kit. What a transformation and well done! Both enjoyed a leisurely exploration of the reef. Kudos to Mo at Puffin, who certainly has done a good jobs somewhere along the line. Steve was taking Emily in for OO3 and I tagged along for a bit of experience. The lesson initially went well with all the mask clearing work completed. A few problems with equipment configuration led to issues with the AS ascent so the drills were suspended and we returned to shore. Have to saw the vis in the surface layers was appalling.

People took lunch where they fancied, some folk disappearing off to a cafe while others stayed on the beach but the weather was not brilliant so with a minimal surface interval we prepared to get back into the water. Only Steve and Chris opted for a second dive and they made an exploratory visit to the base of the reef, struggling to find 30m at low tide. They did however find fireworks anemones which are always a fantastic spectacle when you see them as they seem to have a luminescent glow.

So with everyone back on the surface we had a final cuppa at the Pit Stop cafe before making our way back to Perth, getting home at a very reasonable time.

We have not dived this site for a while and it is well worth visiting though perhaps not as a training venue due to the traffic. Perhaps that will do us until next year !

Saturday 13th July, Regional Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne

Most of the club’s active members had departed for Lewis on the Summer Expedition on Friday leaving a remnant of keen enthusiasts to make the trek across to Loch Fyne to support the Regional Training event run by Fyne Divers. The training is run on a voluntary and free basis for any BSAC member who wishes to learn skills and complete lessons towards their diver grade, or just come for an ‘experience’ dive or for divers who want to practice and hone their instructor skills, as such it is well worth supporting.

This Saturday we had a very successful trip, with one club member completing SP1, the final practical session of her Sports diver qualification. Hip Hip ! We also had another club member successfully completing OS3 and while this is a refresher signifies good steady progress. As something slightly different I had the chance to supervise an A-OWI delivering a rather enjoyable and technically correct lesson plan, Well done to both the Instructor and his student, who absorbed the lesson like a sponge. An interesting experience and completely different paradigm.

In the afternoon our members had a chance to practice the skills gained in the morning session with emphasis on buoyancy control and good progress was reported. I taught DSMB deployment using the lesson plan I was shown on a recent Instructor development course and had an enjoyable and hopefully useful session with a student from Dundee University.

Have to say that while Perth basked in 26 degrees we were somewhat cooler with overcast skies and a westerly breeze. There is still plankton hanging around Loch Fyne so the vis was restricted but the water was refreshingly warm. Some large moon jellies in the water column today which added an ethereal quality to simulated deco stops

No photos today as these were training dives.

Advanced Decompression Procedures , the ADP SDC. 22nd and 23rd June

Bright and early on Saturday morning Steve, Paul and Chris travelled up to Aberdeen to participate in a BSAC Advanced Decompression Procedures course run by Malcolm Gauld from the Northern Region coaching staff. This course provides the theory and practical experience to use hiugh concentration ppO2 to accelerate decompression stops enabling safer decompression which when planned into a dive profile extends the range of recreational diving. This is not a technical diving course, it is rather just an extension of the used of nitrox.

Having completed a series of theory lectures on the physics, physiology and equipment configuration necessary to understand and support advance decompression procedures we moved from the lecture rooms in Aberdeen to Boddam Quarry near Peterhead for an equipment check. With 10 students to teach Malcolm split the group into three, giving Paul and Chris a chance put their instructor skills to good use.

The first dive is literally a checkout dive, a chance to try out a new configuration and then demonstrate that carrying a stage cylinder has not affected your buoyancy and trim and that you can still access all your valves and diving paraphernalia, simple things like reaching your suit inlet and autodumps, your delayed surface marker buoy, BCD dump valves and knife which can get obstructed when carrying a side slung cylinder. Boddam Quarry is a fresh water site which gave an added dimension to the weight change calculations as well as having to consider the cylinder, which this first dive also gave the opportunity to correct. A lot of people git this wrong initially which made holding stops a ‘Yoyo’ experience. We practiced a few basic drills that all divers strive to master, hovering with neutral buoyancy while task loading and DSMB deployment while maintaining a stop. A good session! At the end of the day most student took away a few thoughts, mostly about being over weighted and how to improve their kit configuration.

Homework ! Yes there was homework, a challenge to plan a 30 min dive to 39 m using 27% EAN and 50% EAN for decompression. A little run time and gas management exercise.

Sunday saw us commuting up the road again to Boddam Quarry where surprisingly we were not the last to arrive! Dive 2, was a re-run of the previous days exercise, this time with better weighting and it was rewarding to see much more accuracy in observance of stops. After a dive debrief there was just enough time to go over the dive planning exercise that had been set as homework and have lunch before it was time to get back in the water for the last dive where students got the opportunity to put all the skills they had practiced together in a simulated decompression dive. Happy to report that everyone achieve the required standards and all that was left was to have a short exploratory dive of the quarry, sign off the SDC and log books and make the long journey home.

Many thanks a due to Malcolm who volunteered his time to run the course. It is people like him that make BSAC such a good club to be a part of, hopefully Perth-BSAC will now be able to deliver this training to it’s club members and other from the South Scotland Region. It was a pleasure to meet some old friend on this course and of course make some new ones, I’m sure we will bump into some of them again.

Buoyancy and Trim workshop 27th April 2013

This week Steve drove and having been picked up at 07:45 Paul and I enjoyed the chat as we drove across to the Tea Rooms at Loch Fyne for a Buoyancy and Trim Workshop that was being run by Fyne divers.

The day started with a briefing and theory lectures which were delivered in the cafe and while this was going on the shot lines were placed in the bay for the lessons. Found a rather impressive nudibranch (Cadlina laevis) on this dive, not seen one of these on this reef before, lots of Pleurobranchus membranaceus around today with egg whorls but these are getting past their best.

dive one: The first session of the day was where the training was delivered in the form of practice and skills review. Starting at a 6m stop and buddy check and then working on buoyancy. Reaching the shot line we made short ascents and then hovered at the marks on the line. 9m, 6m, 5m, 4m, 3m 2m all saw 2 minute stops and then 30seconds at 1m. Decompression stops can be rather tedious and people hae strategies to alleviate boredom. Today the life in the surface layer, with sea gooseberries and other minute jellyfish and plankton was very pronounced and intriguing.

dive two is the assessment putting into practice what has been learnt on the previous dive or a further fine tuning if any is needed. This time having done our stops we made a vertical descent to hold a 6m stop then continued to just off the bottom before swimming back along the reef where we annoyed a rather sleepy dogfish for a while.

That was it, all that was left was the removal of the shot lines. Alistair and I went in for these and had a slow dive along the inner reef on the way back which gave us the chance to find some interesting life. Three dogfish and a large scorpion fish as well as a friendly Ballan wrasse. All the flat surfaces on the reef were covered in grey fish eggs several dogfish and this short spined scorpion fish.
scorpionfish

With all lessons completed and dives logged we had time for a final coffee and chat where the certificates and log books were signed before being turfed out of the cafe and enjoying the delightful scenery on the way home. Some new faces today and some folk we haven’t seen for a while and hopefully all had fun.

Instructing at Loch Fyne

This Sunday saw one of our club instructors and Budgy a friend from Fyne divers assisting Dundee University SAC on one of their open water training days. Not part of the regional training program, just assisting a local clubs getting its divers through basic training.

An interesting day was spent at the Argyll Caravan Park with some good vis reported but rather cold conditions topside. One successful lesson signed off and a great deal learn form a teaching side. Teaching people that you don’t know is rather different from teaching slowly by osmosis. It polishes the delivery of the BSAC schedule and is very challenging. A highly rewarding activity.