Sunday shore diving. Loch Leven. 23rd Februry 2014

A couple of hardy souls drove across to the west coast for a shore dive on Sunday through some very wet landscapes. Loch Earn was full and the Glen Falloch was flooded and in spate. Loch Tulla was lapping at the A82 and sheep stranded by the rising water where clustering on small islands waiting to be rescued.

We arrived slightly early and had a look at the Slates dive site and were very pleased to see that it was sheltered from the Southerlies that were sweeping across the loch raising water sprites which flung themselves along the far shore. Retiring to Craft and Things to meet ours guests and friends we were soon enjoying egg rolls and fresh coffee and watching squalls stravage through the glen wreaking havoc while we sheltered in the friendly warmth that the cafe had to offer. With one new member in the team and admin completed it was back to the site to give a short brief and get the first wave in. Edward and Alan and then Hamish and Alistair were in first which gave Chris a chance to work with Claire doing some prep for her upcoming PIE while providing shore cover. The first pair circumvented the main spit while the second pair did a there and back coming back to their entry point, both pair kept good time and stuck to their dive plans ! (Kudos — Ed). Chris and Claire went into the bay to practice AS drills and then extended the dive along the wall, coming back on time and again to plan. Both waves reported exceptionally good visibility with numerous dogfish and a superb Nudibranch (possibly Cadlina laevis)
Cadlina laevis

After a brief surface interval, the afternoon dive saw the same teams back in the water squeezing out a second dive from the mornings tanks taking advantage of a shallower profile. Hamish and buddy went off to explore the reef again getting some impressive perspective of the angle in the excellent visibility while the other teams bumbled around to the right of the bay exploring the large anchors and chains and finding some big glacial slabs. On the way back and in the shallows, the rocks supported colonies of sponges. Of note was a blue rayed limpet reflecting iridescent in a torch beam and of course a couple of nudibranchs, much smaller than the mornings specimen.

That was it, a final warm up in the cafe to chew the cudd before driving back to Perth although we couldn’t resist the opportunity to pay our respects to the badger! Another superb day in the water with great company and a good lesson that you can always get in somewhere if you really want too.

Chartwork and Position fixing SDC, 11-12th January 2014

Early morningOver the Weekend Perth-BSAC in the guise of Paul our DO ran the BSAC Chartwork and Position Fixing SDC. Securing the expertise of Pete, a BSAC National Instructor and Rob (Thistle Divers), the new South Scotland Regional Coach, it was opened up to the South Scotland Region. And so it was that the Perth crew, consisting of Steve, Hamish, Maureen, Fred and Chris , were joined by Anne from Thistle Divers and Alex from Stirling. So with Paul, who was getting his instructor assist there were, in total, ten of us.

The course is a two day event, the first, and by consensus, very long day, covered theory and was held in the Moncrieff Arms. Steve arrange for Duncan to provide a sandwich lunch (with vegetarian option) at a very modest cost and tea and coffee was provided throughout the day to keep both instructors and students alive! We covered some interesting ground both on the more formal side of things and then taking the opportunity to scour some charts and plan a route for the following day. By 19:30 we were all done in and ready for some sleep.

P1040513Sunday dawned cold and clear though Perth basin was covered in fog and we shivered as we hitched Deep Dancer to Paul’s car for the short tow down to South Queensferry. A stunning sunrise over Kirkcaldy with hues of vermilion shortening to vivid aquamarine. A suitable start to a day bobbing around on the Forth.

We arrived just about on time and set about launching Deep Dancer from the RNLI slip under the rail bridge and were joined by Pete and Alex who were launching their inflatable to provide the additional boat seats needed for the course. Deep Dancer was her usual reluctant self requiring Paul’s magic touch

P1040541Launching from the slip we crossed under the rail bridge and made for the east end of Inchgarvie where we used transects to locate a small cliff which we had identified as a potential dive site. This was an invaluable lesson as some of the points we had chosen from the chart were not obvious and the others were not visible!

From Inchgarvie we crossed the channel to Saint David’s light off North Queensferry before heading off to Inchcolm Island to identify the leading lights and navigate into the landing to warm up while we had lunch. The island is home to a priory originally founded by King David 1, it became an abbey in 1235. After the dissolutionment of the monasteries it fell out of use and is now managed by Historic Scotland. The island itself is an important bird and seal sanctuary and a popular tourist attraction with a lot to offer.

Lunch

AbbeyAfter lunch we headed off to find a wreck marked on the chart and using various techniques found some plausible fish finder scans that would merit a shot if the vis was ever good enough to enable diving, which in this part of the Forth happens…..never! (for those interested in Forth wrecks the charted position of the wreck was 3°18’23″N 56°1’54″W and is denoted as a dangerous wreck swept to a depth of 22m. This wreck is most likely that of the steamship Skula built in 1882 and sank after collision in 1906 and not The Blessing of Burnt Island as some of us were hoping- Ed.)

P1040539We repeated the exercise to locate a wall off Haystack island, a small skerry to the west of Inchcolm before discovering what the channel markers were really used for and then made our way back to South Queensferry to recover the boats, passing a group of sea kayaker exploring under the rail bridge.

P1040545To finish the day Paul had arranged a visit to the RNLI station where we were shown around their premises including their crew room and their remarkable RHIB which came with an astounding price tag (so keep those donations coming in – Ed), before debriefing the SDC in their training room.

An enormous thank you to Paul for organising this course. We all had a very enjoyable time and had a grand day out on the Forth in what can only be called very good weather for January. Thanks are due to Pete and Rob for coming along to lead the instruction and keep us on the straight and narrow. As ever thanks to those that towed the boats. I think a special mention for Duncan and Raymond at the Moncrieff Arms for laying on sandwiches and coffee which were very much appreciated. Thanks to the RNLI for showing us the Lifeboat station and allowing us use of their lecture room instead of freezing outside being debriefed on the Pier and finally a thank you to everyone who came along and participated, we learnt loads, had fun, got a tour of the bridges and Islands of the inner forth and got to meet other divers from the region which is always a pleasure.

A few more photos

Compressor Operations SDC, 4th Jan 2014

Some training opportunities lend themselves to bad weather and Compressor Operations goes well under stormy skies and so it was that a couple of us got together to learn about compressors operations and run the BSAC Compressor Operations skill development course.

A relatively short but interesting course providing a recap of simple diving physics and compressor designs before going on to talk about air quality and standards, cylinder markings and filling safety and ending in a practical session operating the compressor and filling cylinders. So it was that the team spent time in the den, the garage and then the club shed where we had a good variety of theory and hands on before actually getting to use a compressor and filling empty cylinder from the New Year dives.

Dolphins at Insh Island, Easdale: 6th October 2013

06:00 am, What! Another early start ! It’s that time of year when dragging yourself out of bed while it is still dark to go diving is a real test but we did well arriving on time at the club shed to load the boat and set off for Oban. The objective of the day was to firstly get some diving in and to allow Neil to complete his Dive Management practical session.

Plans were a little fluid this weekend with a couple of people coming down with colds and back problems but such was the turn out that we still had a full boat , a good chance to get Deep Dancer out and exercise her engine putting in some time on the water. Of course the first problem was starting the engine which was reticent to say the least, still we are getting very adept and cleaning the plugs, ululating and rending cloth before Paul laid his hands upon the console and she coughed into life. With a boat brief and radio check completed it was time to get the show on the road! So a couple of extra checks to ensure the gear linkage was secure and that we could stop and restart the engine and we were away.

The trip down to Insh Island was rough and Paul did a good job punching his way through a nasty chop to arrive at the northern end of the Island. The small Island and the skerries were not an option today due to the swell and waves but there was sufficient shelter in the little bay to the NE of the Island to allow safe diving. Chris and Euan were first in and found a sandy bottom, good for a few shells but not of great interest. The visibility was reasonable though a fine sand stirred up easily the tide then drifted it with you so you had to continuously move out of the silt trail you raised. The divers found themselves in an eddy and having tried to go south in the direction of the tide eventually gave up and drifted North where the current took them. Towards the end of the dive they reached the reef that joins Insh to the Northern skerries where small walls provided a little interest. Unfortunately the current meant that the dragging an SMB stopped the divers sheltering in the kelp and they surfaced slightly earlier than plan. Mo and Fred went in in a similar place and reported a reasonable dive within the bay, having a good long dive and making a safe ascent. A quick change over on the boat and the dive manager sent the next wave in who followed the edge of the reef taking a few photos and picking up the occasional scallop.

With a full team recovered we decided to head back to Puffin dive center rather than go across to Easdale for lunch as the afternoon was chasing. The trip back proved to be one of the great highlight of our diving this year and goes to show that diving off boats is about the day as much as about time in the water. Half way back the shout went up ‘Dolphin’ and we throttled back to watch. Initially a few animals were surfacing and we weren’t sure how many there were, three or five perhaps. Clearly something was going on and as we watched a tight group started splashing about with much tail waving, a smell of fish suggested they could have been feeding but it was most likely that the smell emanated for the old diver that we keep in the stern of the boat. However the splashing was only the prelude to the main act , dolphins started to jump with supreme grace and it was slight disappointing when the school drifted away from us. With everyone enthralled we set again towards Puffin but the dolphins decided they had not finished with us and started jumping, easily clearing six or even eight feet out of the water. Initially in ones and twos, some right next to the boat and then in synchronized form giving us the kind of show you would have paid top dollar for in Orlando. Here it was off the West coast for free !

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A much easier passage back to Puffin followed, with a following wind we made better time and having secured the boat spent a leisurely hours over lunch, ‘grilling’ the Dive Manager on his theory (he he he he!).

Ardnachuil bay was the next site, a short ride from Puffin and while not calm, a safe option. Chris and Euan were in first and having bushwacked their way through the swell and the kelp, found a sand and gravel slope disappearing off into the depth. Chris reported a couple nudibranchs with dendronotus-lacteus and it’s brilliant white body easily spotted standing out on a brown kelp frond and being a new one for him. (No camera today so I’ve included a link from the Scottish nudibranch site – Ed) later in the dive, they also found a small red sea hare, perhaps the smallest one, you could possibly imagine being less than half a centimeter long. Mo and Fred reported a short dive, struggling to get out of the kelp in the challenging swell they encountered. A good effort in challenging conditions and as it had a safe outcome merits a success in my books.

With the second wave of divers in the water, the opportunity for a bit of boat handling skills development was presented and man over board and indeed board overboard skills were practiced before standing on station over the divers waiting for them to surface. Paul and Steve surfaced and having had a stern debriefing from the Dive Manger they were allowed onboard before we departed for Puffin. Well done to the Dive manager there for demonstrating control over the group! The boat was recovered and kit washed down on the slip and with a final debrief from Neil the day was wound up with the boat heading off to the club store followed by Chris and Euan.

Congratulation go to Neil for successfully completing his Dive Manager practical as part of his Sports Diver grade training, he did exceptionally well keeping control over some experienced divers with an accumulation of years of bad habits. The committee have yet to validate his qualification level but I look forward to diving with our newest qualified Sports Diver in the not too distant future.

Thanks to Steve for organising another successful days diving and to Paul for towing Deep Dancer.

Photos Added PS

Sunday diving, Loch Long 28th July 2013

It was a rather damp when Steve and Chris arrived at the Three communities tea room at Arrochar (the Pit Stop cafe), not the dreach miseries of a depressing winters day but damp nevertheless. A mug of tea and a bacon sandwiches put the world to rights as we joined Maureen and Fred and waited for Alison and Emily to arrive.

The venue today was Conger Alley and to avoid the long carry we decanted all the heavy equipment at the top of the access track before parking the cars in the layby and changing in relative safety. For those that don’t know, this is an exceptionally busy road and traffic is a significant risk.
Changing in a steady drizzle although warm was unpleasantly sticky and with the midges being out there was a certain urgency to get into the water.

There were two teams on the first dive, Maureen and Fred off for an experience dive, putting their honed buoyancy skills to good use and showing off their rather nice new kit. What a transformation and well done! Both enjoyed a leisurely exploration of the reef. Kudos to Mo at Puffin, who certainly has done a good jobs somewhere along the line. Steve was taking Emily in for OO3 and I tagged along for a bit of experience. The lesson initially went well with all the mask clearing work completed. A few problems with equipment configuration led to issues with the AS ascent so the drills were suspended and we returned to shore. Have to saw the vis in the surface layers was appalling.

People took lunch where they fancied, some folk disappearing off to a cafe while others stayed on the beach but the weather was not brilliant so with a minimal surface interval we prepared to get back into the water. Only Steve and Chris opted for a second dive and they made an exploratory visit to the base of the reef, struggling to find 30m at low tide. They did however find fireworks anemones which are always a fantastic spectacle when you see them as they seem to have a luminescent glow.

So with everyone back on the surface we had a final cuppa at the Pit Stop cafe before making our way back to Perth, getting home at a very reasonable time.

We have not dived this site for a while and it is well worth visiting though perhaps not as a training venue due to the traffic. Perhaps that will do us until next year !

Wednesday evening puddle at Campsie Linn, 24th July

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

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

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

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

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

Eels

Flatfish

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

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

Freshwater muscle

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

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

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

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

Loch Etive, MV Chana and Loch Creran, Saturday 20th July

With most of the club divers either on the Summer Lewis trip or unable to dive on Saturdays, Kim and I found ourselves joining a few friends loosely associated with Fyne divers or the Regional training attendees.

Meeting everyone in the Green Welly at Tyndrum at 09:00am gave us a leisurely drive across, getting through Loch Earnhead before their highland games started and arriving in plently of time for coffee. We were soon joined by the rest of the team and made our way down to Taynuilt and the first site.

I had dived this site before and was confident that I could find the little wreck again but unfortunately a few of the buoys had been moved and we were left wondering which one gave the start point for finding the wreck. The plan was two waves with the last team providing shore cover. The first team would locate the wreck and mark it with a DSMB, no DSMB no wreck.

And so it was that Kim and I slowily swam out to the buoy and having got our breath back descended the life encrusted chain to the bottom where I almost landed on a large skate. Beautiful fish ! We lined off in a NE direction and found the wreck. Interestingly enough while we could not see the wreck from the chain, the chain was readily apparent from the wreck!

Swimming a couple of time around the wreck, firstly at the level of the sea bed, then at deck level where we deployed and fixed the DSMB and poked our heads into the cabin. We spend a very pleasant 30 minutes enjoying what was a shallow dive at an amazing 15 degrees C, possitively balmy.

Yes ok, there was an initial hickup with my navigation as we swam back to shore on the bottom, picking up the odd pebble (would that be ‘with rough barnacles heavily encrusting a sinking stone’ Ed — hum!) as we did so but when we surfaced we saw our DSMB signal had been received and the other team of divers in the first wave were already on the wreck. The second wave went in as we stripped out of our boil in the bag costumes.

With the divers coming out on cue, we decided to move up to Loch Creran for the second dive via a coffee shop to avail ourselves of icecream, tea and of course the facilities. So we had a leisurely surface interval before moving around to ‘the Steps’ where we had another interesting dive with an amazing variety of loch life including Scorpion fish, ling and the usual gobies and juvenile flat fish and of course one or two Queen scallops.

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.

Afternoon Tea and Salmon pools, 2nd June 2013

Summer has arrived ! How do I know ? The sun burn on my nose is throbbing like a Belisha beacon as I slowily cooked inside a black drysuit. There we were shore diving “The Slates” after a drive over Rannoch moor in beautiful weather with blue skies and a warm zephyr wafting in from the coast.

The first wave of the pathfinders and guests were in the water before you could mark a slate, one party choosing the clockwise circuit of the main key while the guest party chose a clockwise bumble of the bay area. Being remarkably precise with their dive planning, both teams surfaced on plan reporting good dives but without the abundance of life that this site often gives. The ‘Charlies’ took to the water and went in search of the barge on the West side of reef two and while they didn’t find it reported a good dive with the usual suspects incumbent on the reef. Fish life was present but was all very small.

scorpion fish

The ‘Charlies’ having surfaced found the first wave was again chomping at the bit and with an adequate surface interval they went in to explore the bay and reef to the East while the ‘Guest party’ set off for reef two. Once again reporting good vis and some larger fish at depth. They surfaced en cue to allow the final wave to potter around in the bay area.

Quickly changing and making for the Tea rooms we had a blether before our Guests decamped and made their way home having left us green with tales of Indonesia. The rest of us made our way back to the Bridge of Orchy and down the glen to Eas Urchaidh where having checked the water level we all jumped in (or rather walked in off the gravel at the tail of the pool). Slowly making our way upstream in dark tea we encountered some good sized ‘fash’ in the deepest pools we sat and watched them circling inches in front of our faces. Moving up again as far as we could we encountered a constriction which presented an interesting obstacle before we reached the falls themselves, here the current stopped us. surfacing to check we had indeed reached the waterfall we slowly drifted back through the gorge, a most surreal experience. A very different and entertaining dive, and the kit got washed too!