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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Deep South Red Sea trip, September 2012

How do you organise a highly successful diving holiday for a bunch of demanding club divers ? Well you don’t, you join a trip that has already been organised !

At three o’clock in the morning I stood staring at an expectant sky studded with stars, bright and iridescent, an intensity that relayed the anticipation that the morning held. Black coffee, aromatic and bitter highlighting the instant. There is no traffic at this time of day so when an engine sounded, deep and muffled, amplified by the cold shortly followed by the arc of headlamps swinging into the cul-de-sac the holiday, for me, had begun.

Colin and Jim were waiting, the doors to the service bay open spilling a pool of warmth on the forecourt. With everyone present and correct, the luggage loaded we boarded and quietness descended as we left Colin to his task and drifted off to an intermittent sleep disturbed by hills and bends as we motored South. A short early morning stop at Killington services and on to Manchester airport where we bayed farewell to Jim and wished him well on his long solo home. (right that’s enough of that – Ed)

The airport was comparatively quiet and we were through checkin and passport control before we knew it and having breakfasted walked the duty free and settled waiting for the flight to board which we did without fuss. Three hours later and not without a little discomfort we took off after an engineer has fixed a problem with the wing ! Takeoff, food, drink, boredom, landing and nearly 6 hrs later we were there, the heat of Egypt greeting us as we transferred to Hurghada air conditioned airport and the joys of a bureaucratic system that probably owes more than a little to Empire.

Once outside our Regal dive company rep found us and walked us to the bus that would transfer us to the boat. Bags were tossed onto the roof, tips given and we settled down as best we could for another journey in the dark, watching sand, illuminated by the headlights, pass us by. A stop at a small kahwas, a welcomed break and we had the opportunity to try the local coffee which was superb but unfortunately kept me awake for the rest of the trip to Marsa Abu Dahab near Marsa Ghaleb. An hour later and nearly 22 hrs since leaving home we were standing on the dock in front of MY Infintity, a truly welcomed sight. We loaded our bags. Then off with the shoes to congregate in the saloon to meet our dive guides Paul and Ahmed and complete admin before a nightcap and much needed sleep. We had arrived and so have David who had traveled via Gatwick and arrived about a quarter bottle of rum before hand.

The following morning the hook to get us up was that we could not depart until the Port authority had physically seen us and checked us off against the boats manifesto, so 10 rather bleary eyed travelers from Scotland and another crew for various parts of England mustered in the saloon to be eyeballed by an Egyptian official and then we were off.

Motoring south we took in the two reef systems of Ras Shona and Sharb Marsa Alam falling into the routine of dive briefing and dive effortlessly. The further south we motored the bluer the water became and by the time we got to the St John’s shoal, the furthest south we could go, the water was crystal clear and deep deep blue with visibility too great to accurately estimate.

The boat stayed in the St John’s area for two days where we enjoyed the delights of corals and fish , walls and caves, night dives and pinnacles and even a small wreck, before starting to motor northwards to Mekawa Island and Fury’s shoal. Fury’s shoal provided some interesting diving and we spent two days enjoying excellent drop offs and the special Red Sea life including turtles as well as an adventure snorkeling with a large pod of dolphin. But two days was all we could spend and we motored north again towards Marsa Alam where more reefs provided excellent sport.

The last days diving was on Elphinstone, a reef between Marsa Ghaleb and Marsa Alam which had fantastic drop offs enjoyed while drifting along a vertical wall. This was a terrific experience and we did both sides of the reef just to make sure ! Some lucky party members reported sharks and barracudas, but most of us had to settle of a conveyor belt of life with an 80m drop into the blue below our feet. An awesome dive !

That was it, the boat motored North overnight and arrived at Hurghada which saved us the bus trip from Marsa Alam and we spent a hour walking around Hurghada before decamping into the Marriott to savor the pool, bar and air conditioning prior to another marathon journey back to Perth.

Thanks are due to the organiser of this trip, it would not have happened without all the hard work that was put in but we must not forget both Colin and Jim’s effort in the minibus which made the airport transfer so easy. A very enjoyable trip thanks all.

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BSAC AED SDC, Sunday 9th September

On Sunday, Fyne Divers ran a BSAC Automated External Defibrillator course as a train the trainers event for divers and a very good course it was to.

Currently there are now three BSAC registered AED trainers in Scotland. From the course perspective there were four very good theory lectures covering physiology, equipment and legal issues and I got a chance to update and practice my CPR skills as well as handling and using a training AED module on a real live diving manikin.

What was my opinion ? Well the course was good fun and informative and I’d certainly do it again. Without question these units save lives but the practicality of using one in a real diving emergency has me struggling a bit. That said, the same arguments were made (by you? – ed) when O2 admin kits and computers first became available to divers.

So if we can get a training unit this is now another course we can run inhouse should anyone be interested. (talk to the TO -ed)

Perth BSAC make the most of the South Scotland Regional Training day, Saturday 8th September

Having worked with Edward and Robert at the monthly regional training day held by the Southern Scotland Region at the Tea Rooms on Loch Fyne for a while now, it was very pleasing to see a good turn out from the Perth BSAC club. It is really important that we support both the National and Regional teams as much as we can, as they do a great job in providing training, often with little or no thanks. So before I rabbit on, many thanks to Edward and Robert and all the other instructors that turned up and make the event so worthwhile.

Having sorted out the admin we all set about our dives, Bethan and Hamish successfully completing DO6 and DO7 which positions them excruciatingly close to completing their Dive Leader qualifications. I think we should run a sweep stake on this ! Maureen and Fred went in to do a Buoyancy and Trim workshop and were accompanied by Steve who jumped at the chance to join them and demonstrate his almost perfect lateral and vertical hold! Regardless of the outcome everyone reported having learnt something from this exercise and I think if we run this again we will see more people having a go ! This particular exercise is really a SCUBA game where performance can be assessed and therefore improvement measured. I had the opportunity to instruct on a OO4 lesson, CBLs and tows. Every time I attend these events I learn stuff and this trip was no exception. Within a club, where we see a progression through training, we make assumptions based on our experiences of trainees. At these events you only have a Qualification Record Book to provide experience of training and you have no idea what challenges the student has. As it was we had problems getting down and spent a lot of time on the surface trying to sink an voluminous neoprene drysuit without getting too much water in the through the neck seal. When we eventually got down, it was like chalk and cheese, from floundering around on the surface, a diving epiphany happened as we sank and ‘SCUBA Jane’ happily and competently completed a set of good lifts and got a signature in her book for her efforts. Well done!

It was very refreshing to see some old faces at the event again. With a shore based appearance from Paul who has dived with us as a guest, and Darryl who took a bit of a bus man’s holiday, doing a job of underwater work, moving and lifting a weight for DO4. A good effort from DT here, his volunteering as an instructor gave another student a chance to get a skill signed off and nearly his next qualification. We may end up seeing more of DT as he ended up with a Landrover full of not so dry dry-suits that needed his expert repair services.

The afternoon dives saw more drills and assessments and with these complete the need to retrieve a shot line used by the BTW. Here was an opportunity to have a recreational dive and I joined Hamish and Frank for a slow swim along the inside reef to retrieve the equipment. The vis, once away from the corner was very good and the variety of fish life surprising. A new comer to the reef was the rather striking Pouting, which darted to a fro , showing off it’s zebra stripes. A big disappointment was finding a crab tangled in fishing line and a team effort to cut off as much as possible saw me holding the claws while Hamish and Frank cut as much line off as possible. I get so cross when I see this !

Well that was it apart from a quick refreshment stop at the George on the way home. No photos today as we were training and the opportunity did not present itself to take a camera into the water.

Harris and the Rebel Alliance diving off the ‘Peregrine’ 29-31 July 2012

We spotted an opportunity for some quality diving when Chris received an e-mail from Jan Love, a key mover and shaker in the Rebel Alliance divers group, advising of spaces available on their ‘Peregrine’ hard boat week 29 July to 3 August 2012 sailing from Scalpay, an island joined by a bridge to the Isle of Harris, focusing on sites in the Minch and the eastern shores of Harris.
Unfortunately, Chris was unable to get the time off, but Bethan took little persuading to join me, then found that her best friend, Kay, a Dive Leader from the Manchester University branch of BSAC, could also manage to join us for a trip based on traveling to Tarbert on Harris on Saturday 28 July 2012, diving 3 days Sunday to Tuesday, then heading back to Perth on Wednesday 1 August 2012 arriving in time for Kay to jump on a train back to Manchester later that afternoon.
Conveniently, the 2 remaining rooms at Dunard House in Tarbert were a twin & a single so we were all set for the trip.
As ever, we marvelled at the spectacular Highland scenery on the drive from Perth across to Skye and Uig where we met most of the Rebel Alliance team enjoying a pint at the nearest pub to the embarkation slip for the trusty CalMac ferry to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. A quick trip to the Hebrides Hotel for a sun downer finished the day!

Following a comfortable night and a full Scottish breakfast, revived and raring to get in the water, we headed to the harbor at Scalpay where all the gear was quickly loaded aboard ‘Peregrine’. We re-acquainted ourselves with Malcolm, our skipper, who we had previously had the pleasure of meeting on our Club Sound of Mull trip back in March of this year.

We headed off for the shakedown dive to start the holiday, a nearly intact wreck of a fish farm supply vessel (no one knew her name) which stood all square on the bottom at 24m not far from the shore of Loch Trollamarig. This was a beautiful site with shoals of small fish, the vessel itself being covered in Plumose Anemones with even the wheelhouse still being place. Kay, our expedition underwater photographer, warmed to her task with relish and we all had a cracking dive, being in a threesome no hardship in such clear visibility!

For our second dive, we headed south along the shore of Harris to Holm Island where the plan was to dive the Holm Island Wall, Bethan taking the lead this time to help her finish the few remaining tasks still to be signed off for her Dive Leader. A lovely dive down a boulder slope to the wall which had an impressive overhang, under which Kay spotted a small conger eel while Bethan was battling with a particularly large edible crab (the crab won!) and I admired a beautiful cuckoo wrasse.

Since the ‘Peregrine’ has an on board compressor we were able to complete 3 dives per day on this trip while only bringing one set each. In between dives we took the opportunity to get to know our hosts from the Rebel Alliance and to enjoy their warm hospitality which on the first day included a seriously yummy carrot cake prepared by Jenny, clearly their very skilful team baker!
Third dive of day one was a shallow bimble through and around the kelpie site of the wreck of the ‘Gulf Star’ of which there’s only a few remaining plates of the hull remaining in about 8m of water on a rocky reef not far from Scalpay. There were plenty of shoals of small fish around and I spotted a couple of decent sized Pollock towards the end of the dive.
We then headed back to Tarbert and freshened up prior to enjoying a tasty dinner at the Hebrides Hotel and an early night eagerly anticipating diving for Monday!

After a long steam, almost back to Skye, we enjoyed a cracking dive at Thon Cleats, a series of rocky islets, the dive being past kelp down a boulder slope to a really pretty reef where Kay and Phil (Jan’s buddy – vis was so good we could see all the divers on this reef!) broke open a couple of sea urchins to give some cuckoo wrasse a late breakfast. Phil almost had one eating from his hand while Kay maneuvered around for some photo opportunities and Bethan led us along most expertly again!
After the dive, the fishing rods were brought out to occupy some of the deco time and lots of Pollock rushed to take the bait, Kay catching her first ever fish and Phil bagging a particularly impressive specimen! Jan and Jenny skilfully gutted and filleted them having the fresh fish sealed in plastic bags and ready for the kitchen well before our second dive of the day at Sgeir Graidaigh, a reef in the middle of the Minch which we enjoyed in calm seas and warm sunshine.
We descended down a shot line then headed east to this beautiful reef, again in vis well over 10m. This site teems with life including Jan’s favourite, the jewel anemones coating the reef walls, plenty of nudibranchs, more cuckoo wrasse, Pollock, plumose anemones and a particularly large lobster spotted by Kay who moved swiftly back into his hiding place to avoid the pot!
Following a steam back to the Harris shoreline we enjoyed a very pleasant third dive around a rocky reef at Scoravick. Bethan was about to give my dive leading the thumbs down, since the first part of this dive was shallow and kelpie, but luck was on our side and about half way through the dive I came across a pretty wall dropping down to around 19m so smiles all round amongst more plumose anemones, shoals of small fish and more photo opportunities for Kay!

Our final day dawned warm, sunny and flat calm so we could hardly wait to get in the water though it was a fair steam south to the large and impressive wreck of the ‘S.S. Stassa’, a Panamanian vessel which struck the rocks on a clear, calm day in July 1966 – seems they were missing a lookout somewhere!
She is intact and lies on her starboard side and makes a stunning dive! There were large winches still located on deck with some teak decking still in place towards the stern. She had a cargo of timber, though apart from some lying alongside, we didn’t see much in the open holds we had a look in. This was, however, really atmospheric, and would warrant further exploration.
We then steamed back to visit Sgeir Graidaigh reef again in the middle of the Minch, having to take care to avoid being sunburnt on this glorious summer’s day! Kay led us around on the second visit to this isolated reef which was as beautiful as our first visit in equally good vis! More pretty cuckoo wrasse, sea urchin bashing for their benefit (and for our photographer!!), jewel anemones, Pollock, plumose anemones, nudibranchs etc., etc.!
More Pollock then jumped on board via the fishing rods, Jan and Jenny did more skilful gutting and fileting, Phil cooked these in the galley & we all enjoyed a five star fresh fish feast prior to our final dive back near Scalpay again, Bethan leading us along a wall with loads of life to enjoy (including humping crabs which we decided to leave well alone!) and more photo opportunities which Kay made the most of.
Then, just after we’d got on board and dropped off our tanks & weights, Jan suddenly appeared with a couple of bottles of Asti Spumante and cups for all to thank us for joining the Rebels!

The holiday was rounded off with us and the Rebels enjoying a lively farewell dinner at the Hebrides Hotel followed by some excellent shots of Mat’s Lagavulin whisky as night caps!

Many thanks are due to Jan Love for organising the trip and enabling us to join the Rebels for one of their main dive trips for this year.
Cheers to Jan, Phil, Jenny, Howie, Richard, Matt, Nick and Jane (and to Kay for kindly supplying the pictures).

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Many thanks to Steve, Bethan and Kay for the contribution (ed)

BSAC Advanced Decompression Procedures SDC, Aberdeen 28-19th July 2012

In the absences of other reports I thought I’d mention this SDC run by Malcolm Gauld for BSAC North Scotland Region, up in the Aberdeen area.

It was touch and go whether this course would actually run and only three like minded inquiries from members of Dundee SAC ensured it would go ahead. Luckily for me I knew a couple of the Dundee guys and was able to share lifts which meant not having to stops over in a B’n’B or travel up at the crack of dawn on my own.

So there we were, four divers driving up to Malcolm’s place for a good half days theory lectures which covered the physics and physiology, equipment and configuration that we would be using during the practical sessions and then off to Boddam quarry to put it all into practice.

The first practical session was all about buddy checks, weight checks and buoyancy control demonstrating the ‘Gold’ level standard that we were supposed to have achieved as a course prerequisite. In addition the new task of accessing and turning on stage cylinders was included. The evenings homework was to plan the next days diving and complete a dive runtime slate to familiarise ourselves with using the new BSAC Ox-Stop tables

Day two saw us having two dives, a practical session deploying DSMB from the bottom and from mid-water, a bit of energetic swimming to up our breathing rates and more buoyancy control exercises as we switched onto deco gas. All exercises that were directly applicable to the sorts of diving that would benefit from the decompression techniques we were learning. The second dive saw a final demonstration of these techniques and involved an additional exercise of ‘handing off’ of a deco cylinder. This particular exercise was very interesting. Apart form wrestling with clips, the difference in buoyancy as a result of receiving or donating a cylinder was quite noticeable and food for thought. Finally we all swapped onto our deco gas and performed our planned stops before surfacing.

This is a really good course as although the theory and techniques taught wouldn’t stretch most competent divers, the practical sessions really test your ability to perform standard activities while under a certain degree of task loading. It also clearly demonstrates that kit configuration that err on the side of simplicity are eminently preferable to stuff cobbled together for the course. By that I mean that a twin set ends up being far simpler than a single cylinder plus bails out with the added deco stage.

A great big thanks you goes to Malcolm Gauld for giving up his weekend to run this SDC and to the Guys from Dundee (Nick, David and Andrew) for making it such fun. In discussion, this course will be run again soon and I’ll probably go up to assist, it is well worth while and I’d recommend it to everyone who has the prereqs, both of which we can do inhouse (Nitrox and BTW). One thing I came away with is that these techniques only deliver a benefit when we consider what would be long decompression stop times on air, for short stops there are little if any (time based) advantages.

From a diving perspective, Boddam quarry is a long way away but I really enjoyed the dive and there was a few bits and bobs to see including a wrecked motorbike and even a freshwater sponge.

No pictures again, well we were training! (If the author now starts using any technical jargon, I think he’s due a good slap – Ed!)

Drills and Thrills, Oban, Sunday 22nd July

Saturday, in Perth, was probably the best day of Summer so far. Blue skies, perfect temperatures and the occasional fly, lazily passing, irritating in it’s intensity. A pleasant day as the evocative aroma of a hundred barbecues, dragged from their garages, overwhelmed the peace of early evening. In short a good day. Sunday was not. Whitecaps sweeping up the Sound of Kerrera and grey water looked uninviting as rain clouds dashed across the knockan landscape of Kerrera.

Regardless it was a good turn out to what had been themed as a diver drills day, a project of Steve’s who had organised three boats and and many divers to fill them. 09:30 in the water was the plan and spot on time the new ‘Plan B’ and ‘The Butcher’ were launched. Plan B offering recreational dives while The Butcher acted as a diving platform for a dry-suit familiarization and rescue drills. The remaining folk were in ‘Deep Dancer’ and although last in the water, had taken the opportunity to do a briefing and perform a dry run of the DO4 drill in preparation to the open water session. Having launched, they motored down to Horse Shoe bay on the East side of Kerrera to look for a suitable site. Finding the bay a little shallow, though adequately sheltered the boat moved down to a site on the inside of the Sgeirean Dubh reef that is home to the South Kerrera beacon. A few seals bobbed around but were not encountered underwater. First wave in did a good lesson manoeuvrings a shot weight around and after nearly an hour under water lifted it successfully to the surface. The second wave repeated the lesson and again the shot was moved and lifted appropriately before divers and shot were recovered into the boat and a return to Puffin made. Has to be said that the return trip was much more pleasant than the trip out although one particularly large hole was found !

Back at Puffin, ‘the Butcher’ and ‘Plan B’ were getting ready to depart for the second dive of the day having reported a successful set of drills and some low vis pleasure dives near the Red Lady light at the northern end of the channel. The second site was to be Heather Island with the drills being performed along the sheltered edge on the NW side.

Deep Dancer’s team opted for a recreational dive in the afternoon and set off for Heather Island where an encounter with a washing machine was reported. A dramatic description of a piece of free floating kelp moving briskly in one direct while divers moving just as briskly in the other had a smattering of heroic saga about it. This was however confirmed by several pairs in the other boats. Large shoals of sprat were reported. The vis was very patchy today. Finally one pair of divers remained at Puffin and dived the pontoons, reporting a very pleasant (surely not -ed) dive where a good deal of life was observed including some very striking pouting.

The boats were recovered and washed off in a very efficient manner with those more familiar with these operations showing the way. Apart for a minor incident with a new tyre getting a nail in it, that was it. The boats were returned from where they came and various refreshment stops made before ending up at the club hut and calling it a day.

Thanks today are due to Steve for organising the event, to Alan and Sue for making their boat available for training , to Dave for bringing the new Plan B along for some recreational diving and to all the people who made the event such a worthwhile day. A special thank you goes to our mystery or was that celebrity instructor who joined ‘The Butcher’ for the day.

No photos today as we were training but as the vis was appalling I doubt we would have sen much anyway.

Wrecks of the Tay Estuary, Sunday 15th July, 2012

Another attempt at the Bell Rock saw us assemble in high spirits at Arbroath harbour on a trip Izzy had been trying to arrange for what seemed like forever. This time, were we going to be lucky ? To be fair the fact that we were actually gathered at Arbroath was a great improvement and when Neil Pattison, the skipper arrived and we started loading the dive gear aboard the ‘Tern’, things were looking up indeed.

We headed out of Arbroath harbor into rather rough conditions, perhaps Force 3-4 with white caps dotted around and a short swell coming up from the SW that was locally over 2 meters. We all settled down as best we could as we motored across the mouth of the Tay Estuary towards St Andrews bay. With the Bell Rock lighthouse remaining tantalizingly close yet distant on the Eastern horizon we yet again were not going to make it, so we motored instead for our first site across the estuary.

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SM UC-41 was 160 feet long and the wikipedia entry makes for interesting reading , this describes the sub as a mine layer that came to grief on one of it’s own mines breaking in two with the loss of all hands. Salvage started almost immediately to recover the deck gun. quote: “on the 21st August 1917 HMT JACINTH and HMT THOMAS YOUNG sweeping the Tay estuary found a German mine and found their sweep snagged on an underwater object. JACINTH dropped depth charges, oil and air bubbles rose to the surface. HMT CHIKARA then dropped more D/C’s. Two days later after oil was seen to be rising a diver was sent down. UC41 was located resting on the surface. Salvage work started and the boats 3.5 inch (88mm) gun was recovered on 21st September.”

From a dive perspective given the poor visibility encountered due to both the state of the sea and the number of divers on the wreck some of us didn’t see very much! Only small parts of the wreck were identifiable, conning tower, torpedo tubes and a hydro-plane. Not a dive for large parties in poor weather, however having said that it was a very atmospheric dive and although all the plumose anemonies were closed tight, in better conditions it must be spectacular. Colin and I spend ten minutes in zero vis, laying a line which we followed in circles before seeing something ‘upstream’ of the our companions. From observations, the sub had settled in a scour trench with max 2m height in places though most plates were less than 1m. From the more intact parts of the submarine the outer casing had eroded leaving ribs and the inner casing. Peering into the hull, where it had been opened was a very eerie sensation as the dark swirling sediment rose to greet you. Not for the faint of heart. That was it for us, conscious of both remaining air and the bottom time we set off to find the shot which we missed! Some divers did however find it to ascend in style while others, like Colin and I, sent up a DSMB and took the ‘bluewater’ ascent.

Back on board, the waves had got a little larger and had started to take their toll, various people had acquired a somewhat grey pallor. Not good and not much to be done about it! There was some discussion about calling the day, a quick poll was taken and we set a course for the next site, the wreck of HMT Sophron.

The story of the Sophron is linked to UC-41, she was apparently involved in the subs sinking to come to grief four days later on one of UC-41’s mines. She sits upright and is covered in life and usually enjoys better visibility than the sub. With amazing accuracy the shot landed just inside the gunwales providing a perfect descent and an easy reference for the ascent. The stern of the wreck, beautifully scalloped into the sandy bottom was covered in anemonies of cream and pink, these unlike the ones of the mornings dive were out. Moving aft over the deck, we swam over plates and poked our noses into one of the small hatches which was almost entirely silted up before moving on to the sharp bow, encrusted by anemonies. From here we swam around the port side enjoying the marine life that covered everything before returning to the shot and making a slow ascent and a brief deco stop. A very enjoyable dive, certainly the first East coast wreck I’ve done that is recognizable as a ship.

A few fun and games on the pickup before we bounced back to Arbroath. Unloading the boat saw a pony cylinder fall into the harbour which gave another opportunity for a dive. Luckily a short finger tip search found the errant cylinder.

That was it save for the fish super that was enjoyed on the harbour overlooking the marina.

Thanks are due to Izzy for organising this trip, it’s been a long time coming, due to the vagrancies of the East Coast weather but now we have tried it once, the next trip, in hopefully better weather, will be easier and we may yet get out to the Bell Rock!

Diving at Lossiemouth ? Well almost !

Where is Lossiemouth you may well ask and the answer is three and a quarter hours from Perth. Up the A9 and turn right at Aviemore and keep right on until you reach the sea or to be precise the Moray Firth.

Today’s trip was all about training and practicing some of those drills we talk about a lot but never quite seem to get around to doing. Indeed why should we as they take up valuable diving time! However having embarked on the journey of being an instructor I thought it pertinent to be sure that my skills were up to date and to take the opportunity to give them a polish before trying to impart them to new trainees or other club instructors and so it was that I joined an SDC run by the BSAC North Scotland Region to get put through the my paces on a diver rescue course and hopefully come away with the BSAC Lifesaver Award.

Firstly I have to say that Lossiemouth is a long way north, I have driven to Ullapool as quickly but as it is a part of the country I have not visited since my school days the scenery was intoxicating, literally with all the now familiar distilleries passing by as if on an honor roll. I arrived at Lossiemouth a little late, due in part to the terrible weather and the amount of surface water on the roads and tentatively peaking over the marina sea wall I was greeted by large dirty brown waves, whose viscous curling lips dashed against the concrete, thundering spray across the car park. This is going to be interesting, though I, considering the subject of today’s course.

Venturing out into the open sea was not on and having gained permission from the harbor master we had to resort to using parts of the marina itself for our in-water practical sessions. These provided a refresher on BLS, O2 administration, snorkel rescues, victim recovery using ropes and buoyant aids, in water rescue breath during snorkel rescue and then again in full scuba equipment before putting it all together and including a CBL.

Was it worth while, an emphatic yes it was. Why ? Because while we think we know what we are doing it is only with practice that we can get it right under stress. For me several areas for improvement were identified and I’ll be practicing my basic skills with renewed enthusiasm. What was interesting in reflection was that what we do by instinct is different from what we do when remembering our training. The difference is a question of how often we practice.

If diving safety disciples can be considered in three parts, preventing accidents happening, secondly, reacting to events and rescuing divers when an accident has or is about to happen and then finally managing the situation to achieve the best possible outcome, this course covered the second element.

What did I take away ? Unfortunately rather too many things to admit to ! I will share the pain that not having prepared the O2 kit prior to an incident occurring proved to be and that for the tow and blow exercises I was lamentably far too unfit for comfort !

Oh the diving ! Yes, no well almost !

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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