Kintallen Wall, Sunday 2nd March 2014

Having advertised a club trip two divers made it out on Sunday to join a couple friends from Fyne Divers across in Ballachulish. deciding to dive Kentallan Wall over the morning coffee saw us drive the short distance around the coast towards Oban to arrive at an almost full dive site. The view across to Morven here has got to rival any views from a dive site on Mainland Scotland.

The tide was on the flood so a clockwise circuit was decided on and the teams, diving in two loose pairs reported varying degrees of success in finding the edge of the wall. Paul and Chris drifted slowly along the wall at the 25m mark eventually finding the hanging rope and heading for home while Edwards and Claire who were perhaps further West reported rocks, shelves and a mud slope which they followed down to the 30m mark.

A short break in the Hotel for lunch before the second dive. E&C were training which left the second pair free to explore the Northern reef in what turned out to be an interesting dive. Initially over sand and stones where anchor chains and mooring rubbish littered the bay, the bottom sloped onto silty mud with scattered sea-pens while on the return trip the small wall and slabs of the reef provided interest. Some interesting life on this dive which while scattered around more than made up for the flat nature of most of the dive.

Acanthodoris pilosa
Two good dives again today in very reasonable visibility for once though only one type of nudibranch spotted today which was far to small photograph ! (or was it? -Ed)

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.

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 !

Wednesday evening puddle at Campsie Linn, 24th July

Nearly four weeks of glorious summer came to a crashing end with thunder and lighting just in time to raise a few doubts about river diving on Wednesday evening, however driven by an insanely enthusiastic Paul, the cats were herded and we rallied at the Angler’s Inn in Guildtown at the appointed time.

Diving the river Tay raises a few eyebrows, locals who have an interest, whether commercial or environmental, keep a sharp watch on suspect activities and a group of divers on the Tay meets this description to a tee. So it was that we met one such local and explained our intentions who promptly hurried off to beat the drums leaving us with the equipment to strenuously carry down to the river and watch the canoeists play on the rapids for a few minutes while we caught our breath.

The overnight rain had raised the water level by about a foot but the river looked dive-able so we went in in two groups, hugging the wall beneath the linn to avoid any strong currents. The vis was not very good (Is this an understatement? – Ed) and the further into the pool the worse it got and with all light penetration gone at about 8m most of the dive was carried out within a torch beam.

Underwater obstacles are always a concern and with overhung ledges, trees and current we took a great deal of care not to work our way into a corner though we had no idea what was above us, as Steve put it, it was as close to cave diving as we would be likely to come without going into a cave!

The plan on this sort of dive is to slowly crawl along the bottom, using boulders to pull yourself along rather than fining. You creep up on the life or let it come to you and it was remarkable just how much life there actually was. Several large salmon as well as numerous smaller ones were either asleep on ledges or wedged between boulders, occasionally one shot out of the darkness and making straight at us turned at the very last instance and was gone. dum dum dum dum dum dum ….. Trout were there as well , large brown trout, speckled and dark. These were much more timid than the salmon and harder to approach. What was interesting was the number and the size of the eel population, some really large specimens gliding past while others had taken up residence beneath boulders.

Eels

Flatfish

It was interesting to see this little chap, obviously lost !

The freshwater mussel occurs in the Tay system and we came across this specimen below the falls. Clearly washed down from further upstream. Initial thoughts of relocating it to a gravel bed were tempered with it’s protected status so we left well alone. It has always puzzled me how the spat of these molluscs get back up the river system after spawning?

Freshwater muscle

Having made it across the pool we turned and using a compass made our way back finding a tree noted on the way out and then a wall, eroded with pockets where golf balls had become wedged. Finally as we started to ascend, surface eddies and current became noticeable and only avoidable by hugging the edge of the pool. Here while doing a safety stop we had the opportunity to have a good look at the fresh water sponge that appeared white on the rock. Finally, completing the stop I had the opportunity to pick up round lead shot, which looked initially like musket balls but turned out to be harling weight.

All in all a very esoteric dive, would I do it again, yes absolutely but only after another three weeks of glorious summer weather.

Thanks to Paul for organising and to Spike for coming and providing local knowledge and shore cover. Paul has loaded some excellent photos here, the water was a little murky for my camera without a strobe. Just for the record a standard summer low water for the river (bit like tides – Ed) the team recorded 17m in the middle of the pool and the water temperature was 21 degree C.

Paul’s photos, which are a lot better than mine!

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.