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.

Plan C , Sunday 17th June 2012

With the Bell rock being blow out for the second year running despondency crashed into the weekends diving plans as miserable weather got the better of diving on the East coast.

Steve, Colin and I, determined to get out and dive somewhere, drove across to “the Lochs” where all being in one car , we took advantage of the limited parking above the Caves just past Arrochar on Loch Long. I don’t think Colin believed us that this was the first site of the day but soon we were kitted up and abseiling down the culvert to enter the loch just before high tide.

Today saw everyone using Nitrox and while we were not intending to extend bottom times we were hoping to feel less fatigued on the way home. Having done our buddy checks at the car and then a bubble check at 3m we continued down the initial horse muscle shell bed before reaching our MOD in a field of sea loch anemones where there was still some ambient light reaching us from the surface. Here we started on the first of the days objectives, a close encounter with the fireworks anemone. Initially our search was unproductive and it wasn’t until we had started to ascend that Steve found the first of these fantastic animals.

Moving up the slope Steve took the lead and we cruised across to the boulders where forests of Peacock worms snapped back into their tubes as we disturbed them. Finally having reached the pinnacles area we turned to come back at around 10m to satisfy the 5 minutes decompression penalty that we had accrued. From a life perspective there was a great variety on show at this depth. Not only the famous plumose anemones, but a very good variety of fish life with one spot shinnies, saithe, pollock and wrasse (both corkwing and ballan). Unfortunately we also came across the fishing line and witnessed the damage it can do picking up a crab so well wound in line that it couldn’t move its legs and was caught as a fly in a web of monofilament. Steve produced his keep bag and we popped it in, taking it back to shore where we did our best to remove the line before releasing it back into the loch.

That was it for the morning session save for the midges which were particularly fierce, chivvying us along and away down the road to the A-frames site where we though that a slight breeze might keep them at bay. As it turned out, the A-frames proved to be a very popular site with two Glasgow based dive schools and several independent divers all splashing about doing various exercises and drill and with just over a two hour surface interval we joined them.

With his recent knowledge of the site Steve had the honor of leading this dive and took us on a fascinating tour of the remnants of the pier stoops that were covered in squidgy life. Of note was the gas mantle sea squirt (Corella Parallelograma). Having explored the bottom of the A-frame and reaching the MOD of one of the gas mixes we slowly turned and made our way back up the slope coming across two fireworks anemones and an enormous and solitary Dahlia anemone. Taking a few extra minutes in the kelp we saw butter fish and various crabs covered in camouflage before surfacing just about were we went in after a much better dive than expected.

Before dekitting we washed down taking advantage of Colin’s in car fresh water spray a superb idea! Steve reported a major leak in his left arm and decided to sit out any further diving until he had identified and fixed the cause. Back to Splashsport I think!

Pulling over in the first layby on the North shore of Loch Earn just past the fish farm on the way to Perth we had our final adventure of the day and washed the kit off again in fresh water. The dive followed a steep slope festooned with angling lures which gave way to mud where a single solitary trout was seen sleeping on the bottom. Large golf balls were dotted around but clearly had been there a while. As we crept us the slope we came across little life though these fresh water porifera were of interest as were minute hydroids in the shallowest rocks which were covered by an algal mat. Overall the dive was dark and the bottom silty with an interesting current that moved both ourselves and the silt that we disturbed. Colin has loaded some really good atmospheric shots of this dive and the Loch Long sites, on his website

The short ride back to Burnbrae didn’t take long and Steve got a quick demonstration of Gas blending before enjoying a coffee and setting off home to arrive at a reasonably early time after a varied and interesting day.

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Manse Point and Etive pools 20th May 2012

This weekend we had nearly all the regular divers out on various trips along the West coast. The Sunday shore diving trip was this week blessed with delightful weather as we basked in 20 degrees on the cobble beach with a stunning backdrop of the Mamores and Glen Coe hills above upper Loch Leven .

Forgoing the temptations of a pre-dive coffee at the local cafe, we were unpacking the cars and had the first wave in the water at a very reasonable time.

The dive plan was for a relaxing shore dive at Manse Point, an excellent little site that offers convenient access and escape from the crowds, as well as a little wall that is usually covered in some interesting life. Today saw Colin and Hamish diving on Nitrox and it was intriguing to see EAN% and MODs appearing on the dive slate.

The first wave in, saw Simon doing a re-familiarization dive and check-out as he hadn’t been in the sea for a while and was just getting back into the swing of diving. All went very well with no problems and true to Colin’s observations ‘a bit like riding a bike!’. Gently ambling around in good vis and ambient light there was some excellent life on display in between the brittlestars and several good sized flounders skimmed the bottom as we swam past. On the ascent we came across a remarkable glass jar and a magnificent specimen of a nudibranch (Flabellina lineata) but having left the camera in the bag they escaped having their photos taken. Ascending on 30 minutes according to the plan the second wave of Hamish and Colin and then Frank and Alistair (Fyne Divers) were soon away with Simon and Chris provided shore cover.

Hamish and Colin swam straight out to the 20 m contour, turned left and found the wall which enticed them down to explore the depths, though they reported that there was still wall below them. They came back up the side of the wall, past queen scallops to exit where they had gone in. Frank and Alistair took a similar circuit and reported some excellent fish life including ling and even a small octopus before exiting again in the bay.

For the second dive we opted to stay at the Manse Point site and with a 2hr interval behind us, the waves went in again in formation. Chris and Simon, having checked out fine in the morning dive, bumbled down the slope and headed off to find the wall before returning across the slope looking for nudibranchs and finding burrowing anenomes, sea pens and yet more flatfish.

Colin and Hamish, Frank and Alistair repeated their morning dives but extended the range further around the point before retracing their steps and exiting in the bay reporting another interesting set of dives.

So with everyone out of the water we were soon packed up and heading to Glen Etive to check out the Eas Alltcarunn pools recently featured in SCUBA. The glen was packed with campers and canoeists, some of who were enjoying the scenery from their canoes as they were transported down the glen on car roof racks !

With all the canoeists on the river we had to consider them as a ‘site danger’ and set our shore cover to watch out for them !

The pools here are more of a narrow channel which reaches about 3m in depth and shallows towards the falls. With suitable determination you can drag yourself right up to these before letting go and flying off in a sea of bubbles. Exhilarating!
In the good visibility, the smooth walls provided interesting topography and a couple of small trout more fish life than we had seen previously in the river Orchy, all to quickly it was over and with tanks depleted time to pack up and head for home (having already washed all the equipment in freshwater!!).

I have put a link here to some of Colin’s photo’s . There are some excellent shots of the River Etive dive that catch the pool party atmosphere, canoeists and all!

Contingency trips after Bell Rock cancellation

Unfortunately due to wind and swell the Bell Rock trip was cancelled. Great disappointment really as we are currently experiencing the best weather of the summer. Still the swell off the East coast would have been horrific and bouncing around in a boat for an hour and then getting the washing machine treatment at the rock would have been unpleasant if not outright dangerous. So a safety call was made by the boat skipper and the trip was cancelled and will hopefully be rearrange for later both weather and boat permitting.

So what did we do? Well the A-team went of to Oban and filled Alan’s boat and taking advantage of flat calm motored up the Sound of Mull and dived the Thesis. A good dive was reported. (If details emerge I’ll post them here later). Paul and I were still keen to get out regardless of boat space availability and decided that a bit of shore diving was the easy option. We made an early start to drive across to Loch Leven and visit the Slates for a bit of training and depth progression. Always an easy option and with the high light conditions promising to be full of interesting beasties to see.

For the first dive was off the Slates we got a wee bit of depth and explored the base of the slope, racking up a reasonable decompression penalty in the process. This also gave me the chance to get some use out of my twin set under Paul’s watchful gaze.

Several large dragonettes were scurrying along the bottom of the reef and off course the proverbial sealoch anenomies.

On the way up we came across this guy, the common ling, just a small chap but quite friendly.

For lunch we popped into Ballachulish and foraged for sandwiches which we ate slightly further along the road on the shore below Manse point which was our second dive. To access this site you pull off the road between a break in the crash barrier where very easy access down a landrover track leads to the water in 100 yards or so. This site is a series of small reefs, glaciated slabs, gently dropping down towards the middle of the loch. There are reports of currents if you stray to far out but we didn’t experience anything other than a gently eddy that brought us back to where we stated. With the incoming tide we had very good viz enabling Paul was doing his photography thing with some success.

There was some good life and a few small scallops to see on a sandy and rock bottom and on the numerous small reefs

further out brittlestars took over.

Brilliant navigation brought us back to the exact spot where we had entered. Not sure thought if this was skill or just pure luck (neither of us had a compass!)

The day was not over and the final dive of the day was a kit wash in the river Orchy. There are a couple of sites in the river, the one we chose was Easan Dubha and not the one more commonly dived site further down the glen at Eas Urchaidh.

An easy entry down slabs got us into a tail pool where the vis was initially good but with depth the light rapidly disappeared as we encountered the strong tea conditions of peat laden water.

The dive is linking four swirl holes with a maximum depths of 7m in the second hole. To join the holes you have to climb through the current before peering over the edge and dragging yourself down into the slack, dark water. Quite an experience but safe enough (honest). In the second pool we were circled by trout and salmon (no goody bags allowed!) an awesome sight. Getting into the third hole was perhaps the harder ‘climb’ but after that we swam easily up to the base of the waterfall where we could sit immediately below the water as if gushed into the pool (check out the video, it’s amazing).

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With not many bar left in the tanks it was time to surface and a last chance for fun, the drift, where you float back just in the current getting sucked over the pool junctions to be deposited back were we started far to quickly. An amazing dive and highly recommended in the appropriate water conditions, may be washing my kit more often now !

Stallion Rock and Eilean Aoghainn (Minard Islands), Loch Fyne, 15th May

The trip across to the west coast is always a pleasure, especially when the hills are lit by glorious early morning sunshine. Sunday however saw the weather gradually deteriorated until we arrived at the Argyll Caravan Parkto be greeted by Izzy and Gary in their high vis ‘yellas‘ and drizzle. Such are the joys of diving in Scotland. After an easy launch, we headed down Loch Fyne past Kenmore point to Stallion Rock which lies off Pennymore Point with Mo at the helm. Here, we spent a few minutes searching until Gary spotted it, a great grey whale back just below the surface and an impressive drop showing on the echo sounder on the loch side. Izzy and Bethan were first in followed by Mo and Chris while Paul and Gary manned the boat. The site itself was superb, a few small sandy shelves leading in 10m or so to … the drop. With the overcast skies and light starting to fade at the 25m mark there was still a good void beneath your fins as you were carried gently southwards along the wall. We learnt quickly to take great care not to swim too close to the wall and disturb the sediment that rested upon it as it then followed you in the current impairing the viz.

Yarrell's bleney

Izzy and Bethan disappeared into the depths to explore dark places and find the undercut while Mo and I enjoyed a very pleasant drift in the light. We found some interesting life such as this Yarrell’s Bleney that was moving snake-like across the wall. After passing some enormous sponges and clusters of sea loch anenomies we made our ascent as we had started getting cold, finding a couple of nudibranchs (Flabellina lineate) as we did so.

With the first wave of divers recovered, Gary and Paul rolled in and reported a red carpet affair with flash guns and spot lights illuminating the stars as they drifted by under the undercut.

Lunch ! Yes but where? In the drizzle we decided that the Furnace tea-room was a great option being en route to the Minard Islands so with Gary at the helm we cruised down to anchor in the bay taking care not to damage any training divers. As it turned out there were none at all on the reef today? Having dutifully enquired if they minded, we all sat next to the door enjoying tea and chocolate cake, though I did think that Izzy had an unfairly large slice ! After lunch, back in the boat, the tanks swapped over and the first wave was kitted up, Paul helmed us down to Eilean Aoghainn, the largest of the Minard Islands. Mo and I went in first in Coalas nan Each-uisage, the bay on the East side, enticed by kelpies and the promise of giant scallops. Good vis but not a great deal to see save some sea cucumbers, though the light and life was much better in the shallows over gravel and shell beds where there was an abundance of small colourful life. Izzy and Bethan followed on a similar dive while Paul and Gary did the steps at the SE tip reporting another good drift along walls encrusted with sponges and Dead Man’s fingers.

Sea cucumber

With all divers recovered, Bethan took the helm and drove the boat back, passing an exposed Stallion rock and apart from the challenge of a low water recovery of the boat which required an extra long length of rope all went very smoothly. Yet another successful and highly enjoyable day of club diving albeit in some rather ‘damp’ weather.

Paul has published his photos here

Site 1: Stallion rock, Pennymore Point, Furnace Loch Fyne.
Site 2: Coalas nan Each-uisge, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.
Site 3: SW tip, The Steps, Eilean Aoghainn, Minard Islands, Loch Fyne.

Ten new nitrox divers in Perth Scotland

Congratulations to our 10 new Nitrox Certified divers would attended our Nitrox Workshop last night, this course was aimed at all our pre 2007 trained divers who wanted to bring their qualifications up to date with the new BSAC Core diving syllabus.

Nitrox (Enriched Air Diving) is a relatively new to Sports Diving over the last ten years has become more popular with Manufacturers now making Nitrox compatible equipment and diving centres able to offer Nitrox fills it offers benefits to clubs where the majority of diving is in the 20-35 metre range. Since 2007 BSAC as part of its core training now includes Nitrox Triaining in their Ocean Diver (PADI Advanced Open Water Equivalent) and Sports Diver (PADI Rescue Diver Equivalent) courses.

The benefits of Nitrox are two fold, one reduce the amount of nitrogen in their bodies and reduce the risk of Decompression Illness and feel more energized at the end of a dive ie. climbing back into the boat and driving home from the West Coast! second you can increase your bottom time (Ie spend more time on a favourite wreck such as the Hispania in the Sound of Mull) and reduce surface intervals so for trips to dive sites on the West Coast Scotland that take 3-4 hours to drive to, such as the Port Napier (Skye) or Lochcarron Narrows so we can get back home sooner.

Roll on Easter looking forward to diving the Garvellachs to the South of Oban this weekend