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.

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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.

Regional diver training program at Loch Fyne, 8th December 2012

Doris pseudoargus
Doris pseudoargus

A rather grey and gloomy day at the Regional diver training program at Loch Fyne today. It was pleasing to see though, that even with the bad weather there was a good turn out of both trainees and divers who had come along for a recreational dive.

I had the pleasure of putting a trainee through the full drysuit course which apart from getting rather cold on the first dive was rather successful, but there again teaching fish to swim is always easy. As part of this session we swam onto the reef in rather poor vis and then up and down the slope to tune these drysuit buoyancy skills. A rather beautiful ballan wrasse interrupted the lesson for a while as it swam up to us and was only too pleased to be fed. Almost but not quite eating out of our hands!

The afternoon session was a clockwise circuit of the reef checking buoyancy control and ensuring a well controlled ascent. No problems. Again some very large fish, cod and pollack with a few small flatties as well as the usual squidgy life peppered the reef but it was very dark making a torch a necessity which is unusual for this site.

That was it, after a quick natter and signing of books in the coffee shop, people started to drift away and I drove home in the dark after another rewarding day helping out in the instructor team. I can report that the chocolate cake was exceptional good today.

Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne Tea Rooms, Saturday 10th Nov

Saturday saw a good turn out for the monthly diver training program run by Fyne Divers at the Loch Fyne Tea Rooms at Crarae. The weather was somewhat mixed ranging from cold wintry showers to grey and overcast with epic cloudscapes that even Turner would have appreciated. The water however was relatively warm (still above 11 degrees) and the visability was good for the site.

With the trainees all managing to complete at least one open water skill everyone came away well pleased with what they had achieved. Indeed a few compliment were passed back from the resident instructors about the level of skills displayed which reflects well on both the individuals concerned and the club as a whole.

These events are really useful for some of the skills we teach as they set aside the day to dedicated training. Rather than fitting in a lesson after a dive, this concentrated approach, akin to an SDC, allows us to provide the focus necessary to achieve progression and assure the standards that BSAC deliver. It’s not just the trainees that benefit, instructors have the opportunity to hone their teaching skills, planning and condensing lessons into the available time and delivering to a new audience every month, quite challenging and fun !

Well done to all !

No photo’s today as I don’t carry a camera when teaching. However the life on the reef was quite good, with numerous enormous female crabs, dug into the boulders and incubating large orange egg masses. A few very large ballan wrasse patrolling the inner reef and the odd pollack as well as a myriad of blennies and smaller fish . All very colourful.

Stallion Rock and The Minard Islands, Loch Fyne. 21st October

On Sunday we had a superb turn out for a boat trip, taking the Club rhib across to Loch Fyne and being joined by David with his new boat. A 6:30am start was called due to low tide, coming off springs and the shallow slip at the Argyll Caravan park. By ca 09:00 everyone had arrived and the boats had been launched before a quick briefing from Bethan on the day and we were off down the loch on a flat calm surface making excellent progress.

Stallion Rock was exposed at low water and we dropped the pathfinders off, rolling in at intervals off Deep Dancer, while Dave’s boat dived in waves. Considering we had five pairs of divers in the water it was surprising that we didn’t actually bump into each other but it’s a big wall. Bethan and Chris jumped in on the exposed rock itself and went to explore the bottom of the wall before coming up to the 20m mark and gently drifting along the wall with the ebbing tide. An impressive amount of squidgy life with sealoch anenomies, sea squirts, encrusting and cup sponges and squat lobsters in every available crevice you could shine a torch into. Half way through this dive we come across the overhangs at about 23m which would have merited exploration (next time!). Finally with NST reaching zero we slowly ascended finding sand at ca 10m, a solitary scallop and a large berried crab. A couple of minutes watching a sea gooseberry was spent as we paused for a safety stop. Finally up with the SMB and a perfect pickup from the coxswain to find all divers from Deep Dancer returned and the second wave from David’s boat in the water about to surface.

A little colder than people had come to expect recently but everyone reported a good dive. Having retrieved the final diver pair we set off down to the Tea Rooms at Furnace where we landed for a coffee and cake and a short break before the short hop over to the Minard Islands.

Most divers explored the SW tip, taking advantage of the incoming tide and exploring either side as they drifted over broken rocks and past walls. There are some excellent walls on this dive with a good covering of plumose and an enormous dahlia anemone. Bethan spotted a pipefish which I carefully caught and to see if it was carrying brood, (which it wasn’t). before returning unharmed. A small butterfish wriggled across muddy slabs leaving a silt trail that gave away it’s movements and numerous juvenile flatfish, iridescent green and with protruding eyes lay still until panic caused them to flee. Cold set in and I signaled that it was time to go up so we again found shallow sand and shell beds before putting up the SMB and being retrieved by the boat. Again people were reporting good but cold dives with a bag of scallops having been retrieved from over 70m somewhere nearby at a secret location…… Waiting for the second wave from David’s boat we stowed the gear and enjoyed the mild weather as the sun started to shine.

Divers up and then a quick trip back to the caravan park to recover the boats, debrief and set off back to the club hut to wash everything down after a very successful days diving.

I am happy to report that in consultation with the DO and TO, Bethan successfully completed her Dive Management skills module which should allow her to complete her Dive Leader grade training once the committee endorse it. Well done to Bethan for organising such a successful day , thanks to David for bringing along his boat, and to Tony for towing Deep Dancer. With so many experienced divers, these trips are always a pleasure. With people helping out and sorting things before being asked, so thanks to all of you who mucked in.

I was very lazy and didn’t take a camera but the usual paparazzi were present so photos will be added as they come in.

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Last Dive of 2011 – Furnace Village Loch Fyne

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Five of us and Three Scottie dogs headed across to Loch Fyne for a final dive of the year and an excuse for lunch at the George Hotel in Inverary to celebrate the end of 2011.

After leaving Perth at just after 8am and viewing an amazing sunrise (mixture of purples oranges and reds)  in the rear view mirror  we arrived at Furnace Village Loch Fyne  for 10:20 just as the rain started.  Four of us kitted up and headed down to the rocky shoreline for buddy checks.  With the warm winter the water was still a hot 9 degrees Celsius on the surface and 11 degrees Celsius below the halocline ( Where Salt water / Fresh Water meet) Typically the fresh water sits on top of the Sea water in the Sea lochs where tidal currents are minimal.

Spike and I headed right while Chris and Steve headed left and they came across Dogfish City all grouped around one area. We descended to 26m to the bottom of the rock slope instead of sand and silt the bottom was covered in bark and plant material which had attracted quite a few Squat lobsters, Hermit Crabs  and on the rocks several species of anenomes, we headed right to see if we could find a snake lock anenome Spike had seen here in the past we came across a Bootlace worm and Hermit Crabs (With Cloak Anenomes on the shells), after reaching the sandy slope we turned back heading up the rocky slope.

On several rocks we could see egg clumps being laid by large whelks approximately 8cm in length, we came across lots of Sea squirts and Black gobies and Leopard-spotted gobies quite happily living together with Squat lobsters.  Several of us noticed as you got close to the rocks at 11 meters upwards with all the rain on the surface the fresh water was leaching through the land out of the rocks and you could feel a difference in temperature.

It was still raining when we got back to the cars and Spike provided wee dram to warm us all up and we headed across to the George Hotel for a pint and Lunch some of us had the Beef Stew and the Fish and Chips before heading home.  The rain had fallen as snow in the hills from  Tyndrum to Crieff during the day enjoyed driving back in the snow.

Chris provided the following report:

 

Somebody had been eating too much Christmas turkey and was needing some exercise or new toys were to be proudly shown off to other members as the phone started ringing incessantly on Wednesday afternoon. Christmas pudding lassitude made finding the phone difficult but Paul’s enthusiasm soon saw an eager group assembling at the club hut at the socially acceptable time of 08:00am having been promised a sunseeker charter boat, with heated cabins, diver lift and a full Christmas lunch. I should have seen it as a sales pitch but those mince pies had done a number on me and the reality, a rain drenched car park somewhere on the West coast hit home hard. Still we’d bought the bill of goods and were now committed so might as well make the best of it.

Opportunistic diving with a short weather window is a skill that requires careful planning if you are to get it right. Phone calls to the Coastguard, weather and tide reports all suggested that bright weather in the morning would be followed by afternoon showers so the idea was to dive in the morning and then find somewhere with a real fire to enjoy a couple of hours socially before returning home at a reasonable hour. The site today was the outer reef at Furnace Quarry, sometimes called Dog Fish Reef and always an enjoyable dive, suitably close to The George‘ at Invararay

All very logical but the rain came through early as we walked the site, agreed a plan and changed in rain, heavy rain that had left a film of water on my inner suit before I had it zipped away. Paul and Spike were paired and were waiting at the water edge as Steve and I joined them. Buddy checks all round saw us entering the water with surface cover being provided by Fergus, Mollie, Hector and Tara, the water was surprisingly warm. The plan was that Paul would check out his ears having recently recovered from a ear infection and while he was doing this Steve and I would stay close by so that if he had to bail out, Spike would join us and we would dive as a threesome. As it turned out all proved to be OK and Paul and Spike moved south where they reported good life on a rock,sand and gravel slope including snakelock anemones and then the usual inhabitants of a sand/mud/detritus loch bed.

 

Steve and I descended the sunken concrete pontoon and briefly headed out onto the sand where numerous juvenile flat fish and a large scorpion fish were found as well as the usual squat lobsters and hermit crabs. The interesting life on this site is on the rocks themselves so we turned round and made our way back to the reef discovering dogfish city with over a dozen dogfish concentrated in one location in the bottom rocks.

This site is excellent for trying to photograph Sealoch anenomes and as Steve was poking his torch into nooks and crannies I spent a little time trying to capture one of these beautiful creatures.

 

 

Traversing the reef we came across a cushion star that due to the light conditions and when hit by the torch beam, appeared to actually glow red and orange. Clearly this was a case of festive narcosis.

 

 

Another unusual echinoderm drew our attention. This multi-armed common sun star, although widely distributed, is the first I’ve seen on this site.

 

 

One the of the characteristic beasties of this type of topography in the lochs is this worm. These tubes grow quite long and the beasties tend to be nocturnal so the best time to see them is on a night dive. As we neared the end of the dive we came across the large Ballan wrasse that lives under the concrete pontoon but he was having none of it today and swam off quite briskly as Steve and I slowly ascended from our safety stop though cold oily water just a couple of minutes after Paul and Spike had surfaced.

A cracking dive and having quickly packed up (it was a longish rain shower) and toasted the last dive of the year, the task of finding somewhere to warm up and have lunch was at hand. Luckily the George , Beef stew and Fish and Chips was the order of the day and solved the problem and indeed had they not shouted last orders (afternoon closing !) we would have been there still.

All that was left was for the designated drivers to drive home which saw heavy rain turning to snow with roads covered in slush over Glen Ogle. Another great day out with the club, thanks to Paul for organising it.

The Lochs, 28th August 2011

"I don't do shore diving"

Another horrendous forecast had the East coast in heavy rain and strong winds so we thought we would try and sneak a dive in in the Lochs. Driving across the weather did little to impress us but apart from a few spots we remained rain and wind free all day.

Sea loch anenomies
The first site was the outer reef at Furnace quarry or what has become known as ‘Dogfish reef’, no dogfish today but sea loch anenomies getting ready to spawn.



The dive descended down the sunken concrete pontoon to the base of the boulders, out across the mud for a while then back to the base of the slope which we traversed until bottom time was exhausted and a diagonal rising line taken to reach the outer mark where we turned and made our way back to the entry point.

Limacia clavigera


As we completed a safety stop came across this little chap, a bright orange spotted nudibranch.




Back at the car we lit a small disposable barbecue and burnt sausages while we chatted the surface interval away. A pair from West Lothian SAC who were going in, asked us if we would be shore cover, which we duly did, hanging around munching hotdogs until they surfaced 2 minutes before their planned time.

It wasn’t one of those glorious afternoons we have got used to this year (ha ha!) and we had chilled down , so to get the ball rolling again I suggested a change of venue and we moved to Loch Long to have a look at ‘The Caves’.

The culvert entrance is a little daunting if you haven’t done it before but if you take your time it’s easy enough especially if a rope has been left in situ.

Entering into green oily water we rapidly dropped down the steep mud slope beyond the 30m mark where the visibility improved but the light had all but gone. A good torch was needed to pick out a field of Firework anenomies. All too quickly the bottom time was spent again and we moved diagonally up the slope to find the boulders and walls of Peacock worms that amused Bethan as they snapped shut as she waved her hand over them. About here my torch, the half sun one, went out, luckily just the battery running down but an interesting experience. My buddy, attentive as ever, thrust her spare into my hand before I could reach for mine. Excellent torch too.

Reaching the end of our outbound air we turned and ascended to the top of the boulders where giant plumose anenomies provided colour as we bimbled back to the entry point.

A couple of really good dives today and to celebrate we ended up in the Drovers Inn to introduce Bethan to the bear before travelling back to Perth.