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.



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.

Mako at the Isle of May, 26th June 2013

Mid summer and a Wednesday evening dive at the Isle of May sounded a good idea so Steve booked the Mako departing Pittenweem 06:30pm for one dive at the Isle of May. It all seemed rather easy really, all we had to do was turn up and a full compliment during arrived at Pittenweem old harbor in glorious sunshine .

With the equipment loaded, the short trip out to May Island passed very quickly and we had little time to catch up and chat.
Aboard the Mako

As we arrive off the Altarrstone jetty we kitted up and were ready to jump off the tail lift and descend in good if somewhat green water.
feeding urchin

Rummaging around the boulders most of us quickly came across the plates of the Anlaby and followed them down past numerous large Ballan wrasse to the keel plate. Here we had a great encounter with a seal that literally swam past the fins of Steve and Colin who wee distracted elsewhere catching only a glimpse of how close they had got. Continuing down we found the drive shaft, prop and rudder. This takes a little working out and it’s not until you realize that the wreck is on it’s side that you ‘see’ the rudder. In consideration of contents gauge Kim and Chris then worked their way back up the plates and wrasse to the boulders, other managed to bag a few crabs and scallops before surfacing.

spawning starfish

We came across this starfish in the process of spawning.

The various pairs were picked up as they surfaced, some teams enjoying a full sixty minutes of underwater fun, which for an evening dive is not at all bad. Once on board, Sue thrust a mug of something hot into our hands though it was that warm today that it wasn’t necessary, it was however very enjoyable. With all divers retrieved, the gear packed and stowed we headed back for Pittenweem to unload the boat.

Those that didn’t have to race back home enjoyed a leisurely fish supper at Anstruther watching the sun set over the harbor wall. Many thanks to Steve the skipper for taking us out and our Steve for organising another successful trip.

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.

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.

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.

South Scotland Region Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne, 9th March 2013

This month we had another good turn out for the Diver Training Program run by Fyne Divers across at the Team Rooms.

Driving across, Loch Earn looked rough with sizable waves rolling into St Fillans and white caps on the loch at Inveraray so we were not expecting to much from the day. At the Tea rooms the sea was grey and ‘disturbed’, with waves precluding the use of the outer reef but luckily the inner reef and bay area were relatively calm.

Frank took Kim in who reported a very pleasant dive with no ear problems, this was excellent news. (Not sure which if any lesson there was here ?).

Paul had been asked to take Kenny, a student from Fyne Divers for a OS5 lesson and reported no issues, Kenny taking everything in his stride.

Chris took Neil and Kim in to do the OS3 lesson and have fun using a reel to line off from a shot line and simulate a decompression dive. “For the purposes of the exercise we had decided that we were logically at 36m, 20m deeper than we actually were but this meant that the theoretical depth would add a bit realism to our planning (depth,time gas management) and therefore the execution. Having set the shot line up everyone descended and traversed the reef to find a good point to tie off from before venturing out into the bay as we simulated ‘lining off’. Neil lined off, out and back and then Kim repeated the drill. Both sessions encountered low vis and the task loading when monitoring depth, time, gas, bearing, and manipulating a reel and tying knots proved a valuable learning experience. After 45 minutes and the lesson completed we were starting to get a bit cool so debriefed and made good use of the cafe where cake and hot tea were called for.” The ten minutes before getting wet was well spent practicing the drills that were to be used. Ironically conditions were ideal today for this drill, with vis stirred up by the number of divers using the inner reef for training making for somewhat realistic conditions.

Usually we would have done a pleasure dive for the afternoon session giving trainees the chance to practice skills and Paul took Kenny and his shinny new camera in to have some more fun. Kim and Neil were keen to complete SO4 and Chris agreed to take them in to complete another lesson. Once again the dry session was useful, new kit played with and the concepts of distance, time and accuracy while navigating and how to use reciprocal bearings discussed. All seemed simple really. This time the lesson started in the bay and initially surface snorkeled on a bearing before repeating this exercise submerged where, with incredible precision we found the reef! After a short swim, DSMB deployments were followed by a simulated deco stop and then a slow swim back to exit in the corner of the reef.

That was it, apart from a rather nice hot chocolate with marsh mallows and extra cream that had someone smiling, we warmed up in the cafe, had a final social chat before making our way home.

From a club perspective, we had two instructors out , three club trainees and five lessons signed off putting some folk very close to the completion of their next diver grade. Well done everyone. I’d also like to share some feedback from one of the instructors who was highly complimentary about the skills demonstrated by one of our members. It is always nice to receive comments like this as it reflects well on the Perth BSAC club.

No pictures today as I was instructing. Paul may append a few later.

…… Here you go 🙂  Paul

BSAC Diver Training Program. Tea Rooms, Loch Fyne, 9th February 2013

A small team went across to assist with February’s BSAC Diver Training Program at the Loch Fyne Tea Rooms. Steve, Paul and Chris were met there by Kim who was visiting in the area.

Grey overcast but not raining, result! Having got the administration out of the way we set off to deliver our lessons while Kim managed the slate.
Interesting as we were coming off high tide a little rip was apparent in the shallows on the outside of the reef. Once down a few meters is provided a pleasant drift and clearer the water during my lesson.

Today I did DO6 for Claire who turned out to be a confident and proficient trainee from Neptune SAC who demonstrated the achievement criteria with consummate ease. As with all lessons at this venue I always feel I learn as much as the students and today was no exception, what did I learn ? Well don’t make assumptions ! What we do and take for granted, is not necessarily what everyone else is taught and possibly for good reasons as there can be a spill over of technical or professional requirements into what for me is a recreational pastime. Example ? Well my student is required by HSE to always carried a yellow emergency DSMB but would not consider deployment during any training exercise.

Interestingly I once again I had to consider equipment configuration and question what a standard config is for training purposes and why it is important. Left cuff or right cuff dump valves, suit or jacket buoyancy and buckle and clip location as well as cross clipping “Alternate Air Supply” and pony regs into the chest or A-zone. We all do it but do we consider our buddies perspective ?

With the lesson over, Claire and I circumnavigated the reef as part of the exploratory dive part of the exercise. Several large female and berried crabs, some beautifully clean sealoch anemones and several species of blennies and gobbies, not to mention the two small dogfish that we annoyed while putting in our safety stop. Not a bad dive.

That was it for Claire who got rather wet from a cuff leak. After a debrief and a coffee I paired up for a second dive with Alistair from Dundee. This was a recreational dive with Alistair experimenting with the design of a device to encourage birds to swim near him so he could take some photos. Sort of an underwater bird feeder. Regardless of the efficacy of the device it was certainly a bit of fun and well worth the laugh.

strawberry wormYou can only have some much fun so while Alistair was fine tuning some of the engineering points I started rummaging in the rocks, collecting balls of fishing line. I came across this Strawberry worm looking rather pink and exposed. Food for the wrasse !

Having done thirty minutes of tinkering, Alistair decided his prototyping had achieved what was desired and we were able to continue with the dive.
But what to do ? We didn’t have enough air to complete the circumnavigation of the reef so we opted to swim North East towards the fish farm boom and spend a little time on relatively unexplored terrain. We were lucky enough to come across a swimming nudibranch and then a veritable stampede amongst the rocks

which is an upside down one of these: