“Shake down”

Getting organised this year just seems to have been hard ! Mid March and I felt I needed a shakedown dive as it had been so long since I’d been in the water, I was starting to lose interest. To be honest the winter weather had promised snow conditions and the lure of winter-sports held sway in the weekend’s activities but fickle as the weather is, the few days when I could actually get time off coincided with gales, closed snow gates and a general lassitude that saw me going no further than the shops. But March and still thinking about shake down dives seems almost implausible for an all year round diver. And we won’t mention Man-flu. Was I going to get in, could I still do it and would the kit actually work.

Nothing was further from my mind than diving when I rang Paul up for a social chat, “how you getting on ? what! the girls are off doing what! Oh! er Sunday, will be out late on Saturday, where, don’t know where that is but I’ll find it, keep your phone on ?” Lassitude, effort, followed by grumpiness and then the realisation that all the shinnies were spread around the house is various states of dis-assembly – “Oh Sh*t!”.

First off I had to find the shed keys to fill tanks, then I had to find the tanks buried as they were under tarpaulins and general garage gauno. An hour later and behind schedule saw standard OC equipment thrown in a bag and a mental note to find hood and gloves and not to forget the undersuit, BCD and weight belt when I packed the car. 01:30 am I found a pillow and drifted into the arms of Morpheus quietly swearing about …. everything.

I’m not sure if the dog or the alarm woke me but with lots to do I was up and still half asleep packed the car, remembering the torch and there was something else I couldn’t quite remember so walked the dog. Ah that was it, the undersuit, where did I put that.

The plan was to drive across to Finnart terminal and meet up with Ewan and Paul who would drive up from near Dunoon in Ewan’s boat Carrick Castle to pick us up. I met Edward at the ‘overspill’ car park and having informed the incumbent Dive School that there would be a boat coming in to pick us up (very considerate – Ed) set the kit up and transported it down to the low water mark. Ewan and Paul were just about on time and having stowed the kit aboard we crossed the loch to Cnap point below the beacon on the north shore. The sun shone and the weather was fine,

The chart suggested a small wall and the topography looked interesting so having moved over the ‘wall’ a couple of times with the depth sounder we decided that two waves was safest and Edward and I kitted up, buddy checked and rolled off on the point. &^^$$£$%%^&^&*& , the surface layer had zero vis! Literally side by side, we descended and luckily once through the fresh water, the vis cleared and we landed on a small wall and gully that led down past an anchor to boulders. Lots of plumose anemones, shriveled up in the dark and cold covered the glaciated rocks while a few small pollack swam nervously past, flashing in the torches before escaping into the darkness. A scallop or two, small and lonely were left and horseman anemones, large and fat provided a dash of color in a greeny grey world. Perhaps the highlight of the dive was a large mature pipefish, fattened by eggs it was carrying. Edward and I descended until we reached mud and just edged into a decompression penalty before returning to practice a couple of drills in the shallows while doing our stops.

The pickup was excellent and very professional, mind you we would not have expected anything else! Diving pairs swapped over, Paul and Ewan dropped in on the point and followed a similar route, spending more time at the anchor and on the life encrusted boulders that provided the photo opportunities for Paul. Excitement was briefly injected to the job of surface cover when two MOD Police rhibs sped rather close to the divers and we had to position ourselves to divert them away. The MOD use the far side of the loch for high speed travel in deference to the popularity and use of the Finnart dive sites, so we must have provided some variation to their patrol routine. Paul and Ewan’s bubbles moved up-slope and a DSMB popped up which they quickly followed. After recovering them we skimmed back across to the A-frames to beach and disembark the kit after a excellent little dive. With everything unloaded, Carrick Castle majestically disappeared down the loch and all that was left was to pack the cars and head home.

An excellent day. Thanks to Ewan for providing the boat and the Edward and Paul for the company.

From a collective shakedown perspective , I was over-weighted but also a little cold, but things will warm up soon. My trim was all to pot, tank way to far up the BCD and the trim weights I had in the jacket for pool use (and forgot to take out) didn’t help at all. Seemed to be a lot of dangly bits and revisiting how gauges, torches and regulators are stowed is no bad thing remembering to check you can reach them underwater. I think this months Diver mag had an article about getting back in the water and yes we had issues with DSMB reels running smoothly and tangled lines, computer batteries saying no and the proverbial mask straps and buckles….

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The June DTP at Loch Fyne

It’s a fact of life that the more you put in to something, the more you get out and this was very obvious at this months DTP at Loch Fyne. With the holiday season upon us and with other folk washing their hair Perth_BSAC provided the lion’s share of the instructor and people prepared to muck in and help out. Only fair really as we also took most trainees!

On what can only be described as a fantastic west-coast day with a flat calm sea, warm water and good vis the Perth club had three sessions running. Firstly a drysuit and buoyancy familiarization being led by Chirs and an Ocean diver completing his dive Leader lesson under Steve’s watchful gaze with another buddy pair practicing their navigation and buoyancy within the confines of the bay. One other pair from Dundee were undertaking Sports diver training under Edward Haynes’ watchful gaze.

Leading_a_dive_training

All the hard work was today rewarded with firstly a good session being completed covering drysuits and buoyancy culminating in two exploratory dives where the new skills were put into practice. Steve was set a hard task and asked to teach dive leading to a team consisting of an Ocean Diver and a Dive Leader trainee. By running the Dive leader sessions as examples of best practice our Ocean diver had some of the most comprehensive training for his grade possible. Well done to Steve for his innovative approach, clearly an Advanced Instructor in waiting ! Edward reported varying levels of success with his trainees who struggled with deco stops partly due in part to a poorly fitting drysuit and using skills no longer part of the BSAC syllabus and seldom practiced (never a good idea on an assessment). A greater emphasis will be seen here in upcoming months as BSAC reviews buoyancy skills in training.

completed
All in all a very good event with some good diving and with a diver competing his Ocean Diver practical sessions, a very good result.

thanks to Maureen and Fred for the photos

The Caves and the Chana, Sunday 16th March

Two divers ventured out on Sunday. Leaving Perth in glorious spring weather, by Crieff we were in cloud and by the time we were driving down Loch Lomondside it was raining. The Pit Stop cafe was the start point for the day where we finalised our plans and having had a bacon roll and a coffee drove down to ‘The Caves’ where much to our surprise we came across some friends from the Regional training.

Today was a check out dive for the upcoming Trimix course that both Steve and I were doing and as Steve chuckled mercilessly I struggled down the culvert with a twin set and stage to arrive at the waters edge exhausted….

We buddy checked and literally slid into the water when the first of several kit problems surfaced. Having mounted my torch battery on my twin set I was peeved to realise it was the same side that I carried my stage which meant that I was lopsided, well until that is, I had drained the right hand cylinder! Next issue was the torch was playing up ! Looks like a connection problem with the umbilical so resurfacing to ensure it was securely screwed into the battery and we were off, again. Vis was not that good but improved with depth and as the life ran out and we moved onto mud we decided to turn and explore the boulders. Perhaps too early in the season for any really good life, only the usual suspects were on show though a good sized lobster did put in a surprise appearance. Problem three presented as I switched to my stage and the regulator started free flowing (which it did not do on descent) but as we were within our no-stop times it was not a real problem but highly preferable finding out now rather than with a hard ceiling to contend with! We finished the dive by gently drifting with the flood current to surface beneath a canopy of trees somewhere on the side of the loch which presented the slight issue in finding the exit point. By swimming out from the shore we were able to spot the culvert a mere 25 meters away and made our exit. All that was left was to haul ourselves up the culvert and land exhausted at the cars having completed another good dive and necessary check out. (Annual medical! – Ed)

Back to the Pit Stop for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and then a delightful drive to Loch Fyne to check out the access to some dive sites and then across to Taynuilt on Loch Etive where I introduced Steve to the delightful little wreck of the Chana.

Loch Etive was dark today and the water temp struggled to reach 7 degree but once on the wreck visibility was good enough to see all we needed to as we explored. I had the chance to have a close look at feeding Horse muscles and a cheeky little blenny that had made a home in a pipe hole. Hatches, rudders, props and wheel were all checked and the little portable generator on the deck made an interesting discovery. Having circled the wreck twice we made took a bearing for the shore and made our way back via the bottles and rubbish that has piled up hereabouts over the ages. A tea pot and a wine glass stopped us for a while before we surfaced slightly further along the shore than we had planned.

The trip home was broken at Crianlariach before arriving home somewhat later than usual but today we had been exploring !

South Scotland Regional DTP, Loch Fyne, 8th March 2014

It’s not until you step out of your comfort zone and try something a little different that you really appreciate the effort that other people put in. This month the usual organiser had asked me to stand in and run the event, well how hard could that be? I was about to find out.

Preparations starts in earnest about a week before the event with a trickle of notes coming in from people asking to join and as these increase you start to worry about the number of instructors that you have in the pool to assist. You can count on most but illness and other potential commitments sees you phoning each in turn to get that oh so important commitment to show up and coach trainees. A late surge of interest and finally the ’11th hourists’ and we were set with just enough instructors to cover the variety of skills that had been asked for. Of course on the day it never follows the plan!

This month I am very please to report that Perth-BSAC played a lions share in the days events with two instructors, an assistant diving instructor and an assist Dive manager, all of who were key to the days activities. Well done guys!

Having completed the Welcome speech, site brief and allocated trainees to instructors, it was on to the first lesson. Paul went off to start sports diver training with two trainees from Dundee, Hamish practiced his instructional abilities under the watchful gaze of an NQI and while various other groups went about their lessons I supervised a trainee OWI putting Hadyn and another trainees through a weight check and their first dive in the bay area. After an initial shout for more weight we sank into terrible vis which we had to put up with until, basic drills completed, we were able to move into slightly deeper water (3m) where we found the vis actually improved. The stour was an edge effect and in real terms vis was quite good once you got away from the beach. Conscious of the fact this was a first dive for Haydn we didn’t go far or deep just bimbled, looking at crabs, starfish and the other life that we usually take for granted. We ended up doing a clockwise circuit onto the shallow reef to the right of the bay were much to Haydn’s delight and my intense surprise we found a very large and old, admiralty pattern anchor. Next week we will go back and find the rest of the wreck!

After the break and now with Euan performing the role of Assistant Dive manager things flowed more smoothly and the dive slate no longer languished forlornly neglected on the beach. Paul continued with his trainees who both performed well, another great performance there. Hadyn went for a dive along the inner reef seeing some good life including a superb Polycera nudibranch and coming out with a smile broader than his hood.

Some impressive stats on today’s dives but from a club’s perspective some good training delivered, a couple of lessons signed off, a first open water dive and we found a wreck ! (anchors don’t count – Ed!) Many thanks to all the instructors and helpers who made the day possible. Remember the event runs every 2nd Saturday of the month, looking forward to seeing you in April.

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

Spare Rhibs to Oban, 5th May 2013

The plan was brilliant in its simplicity, we were going to take ‘Deep Dancer’ out for its early season shake down with support provided by Dave in ‘Grace Cameron’ should anything unexpected happen and possibly be joined by Alan who was diving with Neil having brought ‘The Butcher’ across to its Oban ‘mooring’ for the summer.

As with all good plans, the odd spanner can get thrown in and today was no exception. Arriving at the boat shed we found the brakes on Deep Dancer’s trailer were rather sticky and having tracked the fault to the Bradley hitch we made a few calls and Dave kindly agreed to run a two wave days within Kerrera Sound with Jane and guest providing additional boat crew. As it transpired the weather would not have allowed traveling much further anyway but it is always enjoyable diving off a Rhib.

Travel across to Oban takes a much followed routine these days, the pit stops and coffee shops being well-known. Arriving at Oban it was a relief to see the relatively calm sea as we turned down Kerrera and arrived at Puffin to see the rest of the team assembled and Grace Cameron prep’ed for launching. (That would be Chris and Steve in catch up mode again would it ? – Ed). Tanks loaded and the boats launched and we were off up the North Channel to Maiden Island. Entering the Oban bay and the North Channel, the sea state got a bit choppy and Dave pushed us close into Maiden to kit up before dropping in on the Southern tip. As usual the path finders were in post-haste followed by the ‘P-team’ and last but not least Bethan and ‘the Camera’.

Dropping close into the wall at about 12m we reached the sandy bottom and were moved briskly along by a rather stiff current which provided a very entertaining drift over numerous eyelash works, until we deemed it prudent to take a bearing and start trying to swim up current hauling our way along the bottom back towards Maiden Island. Somewhere on this leg we came across an interesting find , a scattering of live .303 ammunition, obviously dumped at some time during or just after the Second World War. Accepting that we were not making significant headway the urge to ascend started to kick in but just as we were about to deploy DSMB and start the ascent when we heard the CalMac ferry passing overhead. Not wanting to foul his props we decided to wait for a few more minutes before coming up.

Lunch was taken in the ‘Crew room’ at Puffin, no stove lit today, but a far better option that standing outside in the rain as a heavy spring shower came through.

The second dive was in South Kerrera, in one of the small bays just north of Gallanach bay, at a point where the maps indicate there is an old Iron Age fort. Once again the pathfinder went in first (well they are the quickest to kit up! – Ed) this time followed by Steve, Paul and Chris diving in a three. Better vis perhaps but onto sand and with a few scallops in the bag we followed the slope up to find a boulder reef at 9m and a small wall. Not an exceptional amount of life today, sometimes this site can be very colorful. We did our safety stop bobbing around a goody bag , secured to a SMB, all very sociable really.

All hands to assist recovering the boat although we did have to wait for a while until a rather large rib had been recovered and washed down. While we waited we chatted to Fyne Pioneer’s Simon Exley who was diving the Sound of Mulls wrecks and was on his way down to Crinnan.

That was it, another days diving. All that was left was to grab a quick air fill (very reasonably priced – ED) and head for home.

While the weather could have been a little more ‘summerish’ everyone seemed to enjoy themselves although it was a bit cold immediately apres dive. A big thank you to Steve for organising the trip and a massive thanks to Dave for saving the day and taking us out in Grace Cameron’

No photos from me today but Paul might add one or two later one.

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.