“Shake down”

Getting organised this year just seems to have been hard ! Mid March and I felt I needed a shakedown dive as it had been so long since I’d been in the water, I was starting to lose interest. To be honest the winter weather had promised snow conditions and the lure of winter-sports held sway in the weekend’s activities but fickle as the weather is, the few days when I could actually get time off coincided with gales, closed snow gates and a general lassitude that saw me going no further than the shops. But March and still thinking about shake down dives seems almost implausible for an all year round diver. And we won’t mention Man-flu. Was I going to get in, could I still do it and would the kit actually work.

Nothing was further from my mind than diving when I rang Paul up for a social chat, “how you getting on ? what! the girls are off doing what! Oh! er Sunday, will be out late on Saturday, where, don’t know where that is but I’ll find it, keep your phone on ?” Lassitude, effort, followed by grumpiness and then the realisation that all the shinnies were spread around the house is various states of dis-assembly – “Oh Sh*t!”.

First off I had to find the shed keys to fill tanks, then I had to find the tanks buried as they were under tarpaulins and general garage gauno. An hour later and behind schedule saw standard OC equipment thrown in a bag and a mental note to find hood and gloves and not to forget the undersuit, BCD and weight belt when I packed the car. 01:30 am I found a pillow and drifted into the arms of Morpheus quietly swearing about …. everything.

I’m not sure if the dog or the alarm woke me but with lots to do I was up and still half asleep packed the car, remembering the torch and there was something else I couldn’t quite remember so walked the dog. Ah that was it, the undersuit, where did I put that.

The plan was to drive across to Finnart terminal and meet up with Ewan and Paul who would drive up from near Dunoon in Ewan’s boat Carrick Castle to pick us up. I met Edward at the ‘overspill’ car park and having informed the incumbent Dive School that there would be a boat coming in to pick us up (very considerate – Ed) set the kit up and transported it down to the low water mark. Ewan and Paul were just about on time and having stowed the kit aboard we crossed the loch to Cnap point below the beacon on the north shore. The sun shone and the weather was fine,

The chart suggested a small wall and the topography looked interesting so having moved over the ‘wall’ a couple of times with the depth sounder we decided that two waves was safest and Edward and I kitted up, buddy checked and rolled off on the point. &^^$$£$%%^&^&*& , the surface layer had zero vis! Literally side by side, we descended and luckily once through the fresh water, the vis cleared and we landed on a small wall and gully that led down past an anchor to boulders. Lots of plumose anemones, shriveled up in the dark and cold covered the glaciated rocks while a few small pollack swam nervously past, flashing in the torches before escaping into the darkness. A scallop or two, small and lonely were left and horseman anemones, large and fat provided a dash of color in a greeny grey world. Perhaps the highlight of the dive was a large mature pipefish, fattened by eggs it was carrying. Edward and I descended until we reached mud and just edged into a decompression penalty before returning to practice a couple of drills in the shallows while doing our stops.

The pickup was excellent and very professional, mind you we would not have expected anything else! Diving pairs swapped over, Paul and Ewan dropped in on the point and followed a similar route, spending more time at the anchor and on the life encrusted boulders that provided the photo opportunities for Paul. Excitement was briefly injected to the job of surface cover when two MOD Police rhibs sped rather close to the divers and we had to position ourselves to divert them away. The MOD use the far side of the loch for high speed travel in deference to the popularity and use of the Finnart dive sites, so we must have provided some variation to their patrol routine. Paul and Ewan’s bubbles moved up-slope and a DSMB popped up which they quickly followed. After recovering them we skimmed back across to the A-frames to beach and disembark the kit after a excellent little dive. With everything unloaded, Carrick Castle majestically disappeared down the loch and all that was left was to pack the cars and head home.

An excellent day. Thanks to Ewan for providing the boat and the Edward and Paul for the company.

From a collective shakedown perspective , I was over-weighted but also a little cold, but things will warm up soon. My trim was all to pot, tank way to far up the BCD and the trim weights I had in the jacket for pool use (and forgot to take out) didn’t help at all. Seemed to be a lot of dangly bits and revisiting how gauges, torches and regulators are stowed is no bad thing remembering to check you can reach them underwater. I think this months Diver mag had an article about getting back in the water and yes we had issues with DSMB reels running smoothly and tangled lines, computer batteries saying no and the proverbial mask straps and buckles….

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Sunday shore dive : 12th October 2014

Another club rhib trip was scheduled for Sunday and by the preceding Wednesday was fully subscribed showing the enthusiasm that has pervaded the club.
As it turned out we did not actually take the boat out due to a few call offs and a technical problem discovered at the last minute. However, three members did decide to make the most of it and go shore diving anyway.

The trip started, after a false start, with Steve and Chris descending on Tara for breakfast as Paul assembled his camera , and , having had a rather tasty sausage sandwich, spicy and succulent, in the luxurious surrounding of their new home, we headed off toward Crianlariach and on to Tyndrum where the venue for the day was settled. After a quick detour via the Isles of Skye hotel to check out the launch for a new a new dive site, we arrived at the Slates in damp but calm weather and unpacked the car.

What a variety of kit came out of the car, singles, twins, and a rebreather and as expected Steve was fully kitted up and waiting for the rest of us as we completed our faff checks. Buddy checks at the water and we were off down to 20m where Paul demonstrated an almost perfect rescue from depth as a drill to complete his Advanced Lifesaver award and become a rescue specialist in doing so! Continuing the dive, we traversed around the reef reaching the point before turning and retracing our steps back to the entry site after over an hour underwater. Quite remarkable was Steve’s ability to come up with a reserve in his 12l on this dive! There was some very nice fish life out today, blennies, rock cod, wrasse and pollack with all the hard surfaces covered is squidgy life.

sealoch anemone

The light was quite good today and while the water had a distinctly greenish hue to it the Sea Urchins were positively shining.

Feeding urchin
Feeding urchin

After a good two hour lunch break we went back in but this time went exploring in the East bay out from the slate sheds. Once out onto the slope beyond the confines of the bay, the dive is rather good. Occasional boulders provide reef habitat from nursery shoals and holes for larger fish such as the large ling that we saw , to hide in. Flat fish, scorpion fist and even if somewhat rarely, skate are seen here. The topography was at it’s best below the 20m mark (low water) at the furthest point in the dive, where small shelves and walls stepped down into the deep. It was here we turned and made our way up-slope finding a glacial slab, polished smooth by ice. A couple of Facelina Botoniensis slowed us down for a while, presenting a wonderful photo-opportunity as they raced across the slab. Above the slab, gravel gave way to sand and kelp and the surface. A rather splendid second dive.

That was it for the day, save to rush back to tea and cakes at Tara’s!

A few extra photos – Paul

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Learn to Scuba dive with Perth BSAC

Perth BSAC is starting their try dive season again soon.  For anyone who wants to see if diving is for them and try diving in the safe confines of a swimming pool then it’s time to get in touch and book your space.

Being located on the borders of the Scottish Highlands but within the Central belt, Perth is ideally situated to access many of the most popular dives sites throughout Scotland. It  is a great place to learn and start your diving career.

You can contact us https://perth-bsac.co.uk/contact-perth-bsac/

 

AIC/AIE Cumbrae Watersports Centre, Millport, 5-7th July

Thought we would put a report together from the Advanced Instructor Course and Exam held at Great Cumbrae at the Watersports center. Three of use traveled over to attend so here are three versions of the same event.

Chris’ version :

“Come!” she said “You are to be observed by the Bene Gesserit !” Obediently he entered the room and subjugated himself to the test! Well that at least is what it felt like. Being the only person taking the Advanced instructor exam, apart from presenting administrative challenges to the examiners raised the pressure levels as the chance of hiding while others were in the line of fire and having a quiet think , was effectively removed. Still with a glass half full, I had twice the opportunity to shine and twice the chance to learn.

Friday afternoon saw me leaving Perth and after making a slight navigational error, driving towards Ayr. A short consultation of a road atlas (how quaint -Ed) confirmed the mistake and after a painfully tense moment as the car refused to start, in the rain, in some remote layby on some non-discript road I eventually arrived at Largs and the short ferry ride to get onto Greater Cumbrae. I was the second student to arrive and having introduced myself to the Course boss, Jim Watson, found Lee, an old friend from North Uist and spent an hour catching up before the course convened.

I was to take the Theory part of the exam while the remaining attendees got an initial intro and started their planning sessions, I sweated over a multi-choice paper that tested not only the core Diver training syllabus but also skills development course work with a few screw balls throw in for good measure. As I’d done a fair bit of preparation for the theory most of the questions seemed to be ok and the hour allocated passed quickly. A couple of questions that came straight out of SCUBA and the proverbial decompression and gas management ones saw me opening my tables for the first time since …… well a long time ago! Done and dusted, paper handed back and then we were off to find something to eat. Chips and Ale pie, chip shop fashion was the order of the day and they tasted divine as I avoided the gulls that swooped in an attempt to take chips. Next stop a leisurely pint in the pub where everyone was gathered before returning back the Watersports centre bar and a nightcap before sleep eluded me, interrupted by oyster catchers and half cocked lesson plans.

Morning dawned with a blue sky and a gentle breeze. After breakfast, I was briefed on the event and started my planning. I was to plan a day operating as an independent team within the overall structure as defined by the Assistant Instructor course. On top of this I would be working with two sports divers that wanted to develop skills in Dive Management and Position fixing and of course not forgetting all those ad-hoc opportunities that present themselves along the way. This provided an opportunity to develop their Personal Development Plans (PDP) and then teach, confirm and review their progress throughout the weekend. (A quick tip here is to prepare your dive kit the night before as once started the practical sessions are very busy). The first dive of the day was to be an adventurous dive on the Beagle just off the NW tip of Great Cumbrae. I was to dive in a three and was to teach DSMB deployment from the wreck to a Sports diver (played by Geoff Hyde my assessor) who was also doing a depth progression. This presents a problem, with limited bottom time and in planning a No-stop dive, teaching time was very limited. The AIC students shot’ed the wreck near the stern, port side mooring bollards and we waited our turn to dive in wave 2. Surface time was spent exploring teaching opportunities and working at the student’s PDPs. Then it was our turn to dive and having reached the wreck and with less that 17 minutes bottom time to play with we set off along the gunwhale towards the bow. Keeping a close eye on my sports dive buddy with lots of OK’s and gas checks, my buddy started to relax and we had a chance for some Marine life identification and a little finger walking practice in what can only be described as excellent vis for the Clyde. We turned back the way we came after 8 minutes and arriving at the shot with 3 minutes bottom time remaining. Not enough time to teach DSMB – bad planning! A slow and controlled ascent with a deep stop thrown in for the assistant assessor who was on Trimix saw us arrive at the safety stop uneventfully with a few teaching opportunities in the bag.(Descending a shot, bubble check, gas check, Bottom time check, marine life identification, finger walking, wreck orientation, ascending a shot, buoyancy control, horizontal positioning during deco stops, surfacing procedures…). The second dive was planned to be down at Trail island on Little Cumbrae and while the AIC students attempted to recover the shot, the exam boat headed off for more assessment! Departing the main group, I had the opportunity to discuss communication within the dive management framework and was able to reinforce this by suggesting that our intentions were relayed to the AIC dive manager and then we were off. Directing the coxswain on a bearing and course gave me a chance to teach a few skills before having a few issues identifying a poorly painted cardinal buoy at the South end of Great Cumbrae. Just then it all went peaktong, A call from the last boat reported that a diver had surfaced and had tingling in his legs and had been put on O2. Everyone sprung into action and the coast guard was called and a rendezvous arranged at Largs marina. A fast boat from C & C services came out and the casualty was transferred and taken post haste to the waiting emergency services. All boats followed as quickly as possible to assist were possible.

Once evacuated the AIE members completed a very short dive as part of the instructional feedback part of the assessment were an AS lesson was given and critiqued. This allows you to demonstrate the use of the STEP and REAP procedures for giving feedback to an instructor. Then it was back to the Watersports centre to unload the boat while the AIC group was practicing surface teaching techniques in small boats. With a final review in the class room it was time for the event dinner, the Golden Dragon in Millport and a sumptuous feast it was too, absolutely superb. Once again back to the Centre bar and a nightcap and then off to the land of Morphious.

Sunday dawned bright and warm and I arranged the boats to be brought from the pontoons to the slip to load the dive gear before breakfast. Dry runs for the days practical session saw us all struggling to manage large groups towards a single goal but it gradually came together. Here I took the opportunity for additional dive management and position fixing teaching opportunities where we took transects and then used them to find a compass left on the grass field. This was to reinforce the teachings given the day before which is an integral part of the AIE assessment. Before departing we joined in a dry run for the exercise and once on the boat, we again took time to practice skills for the PDPs. The project dive, a marine survey, using the techniques we had practiced earlier went off well. Additional teaching opportunities involved buoyancy and finning and a little compass navigation but after recording a dozen quadrats we had had enough and with a leaking drysuit reported, called it a day and made an ascent before returning back to the center to dry out and pack the kit away. All that was left was to debrief the dive and then present a report on the project before some generic feedback was given to me by my assessors. And the result, well they won’t tell me until Thursday….but either way it was a memorable and educational weekend spent in some of the best of company

What did I think? Well this is the most draining diving course/assessment I have been on. I went with a positive attitude determined to have fun which I most certainly did. Could I have done better, most certainly ! Did I learn something – absolutely.

(Ed – our diving casualty was transferred to Aberdeen hyperbaric chamber and was put on a 4.5 hr treatment. The symptoms were not conclusive and he was discharged after observation and is reportedly OK. )

Paul’s version (tbc)

Steve’s version (tbc)

Sunday shore diving, Loch Fyne. 22nd June 2014

“Sunday?”, “Yes, where?”, “OK, When?” Ah, the joys of shore diving ! And so it was that a small group of divers from Perth and Crieff met in Tyndrum before moving off to Furnace on Loch Fyne for a days diving.

Todays venue was Furnace were Dogfish reef was our chosen site offering a both a good scenic dive and a variety of depths to suit. Unfortunately the relationship between divers and the local community has been spoilt by a small and thoughtless minority whose actions have provided offense. The local community is now doing all it can to discourage divers and actively blocks the entrance to the council owner car park making it just that little bit harder to get in the water.

We had the site brief and then made a couple of trips to get the kit down to the water’s edge before the first team were off onto the reef. With a high tide they had a few meters of wall left to play with as they explored the depths of the main reef reporting nudibranchs, sealoch anemones and some very large fish. The second team explored the reef to the right which while not as rocky was still a steep slope leading onto a gravel and rock and then sand. Two sets of 40 minute dives in some very reasonable vis.

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An interesting temperature profile today. The shallows had a balmy 18°C , green and plankton rich which dropped to 8°C at 15m providing clear water and excellent viz, however there were two distinctive patches in the dive where the temperature dropped to 7°C which seemed to be associated with fresh water outfalls from the reef. These made for chilly interludes in otherwise very pleasant conditions.

(Ed- the boot award, goes to Chris who turned up with a half full tank. While he claims it must have leaked in the car, the awards committee thinks this is highly unlikely.)

With such glorious weather it was decided to go and explore another site and with an eye on the clock we opted for Drishaig Reef further up the loch towards the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar. Steve and I had checked the access out previously and thought it was worth a look. We as a club had not dived this site for many years and indeed it was a new one to both Steve and I, though Hamish and Maureen may have previously done it with the ‘Old club’, so we set off in the hope of more scenic surroundings and to find the layby.

Have to report that the walk down the bank from the layby is rather steep and not for the week of knee! However once on the cobbled beach we were quickly in the water and Hamish led the way over sand and onto mud where a forest of slender seapens appeared. Further down the slope we found a nephrops bed, with burrows and the occasional prawn displaying aggressively in the open. Some fantastic specimens of the fireworks anemones appeared iridescent in the gloom. Rather too quickly our bottom time was used up and we made a slow ascent passing a solitary pouting and a scorpion fish to watch blennies as we did out decompression in the shallows.

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A very different dive from Dogfish reef, this was more of the inner loch genre, darker and leading to muddy slopes but with a varied and interesting selection of life.

All in all a good days diving.

An evening splash at Fifeness, 18th June 2014

Crail was definitely cooler than Perth when we traveled across for an evening dive and BBQ, by almost 10°C in fact ! It looked deceptively calm with small waves breaking on the reefs as a high tide filled the gullies.

With a strong snorkeling contingent exploring Fifeness harbour (sic.) five divers kitted up to explore the gully below the WWII pillbox at the Coastguard station (now closed). After a few hiccups with direct feed hoses that didn’t fit and needed to be swapped, we were off in two groups to explore and dependent on the vis, throw in a few drills for the Ocean diver trainees. Chris and Aileen managed to slip off first and having been helped into the water by Gary found excellent vis above a sandy bottom and large brown kelp covering the rocks. Picking up the reef the colorful life was appreciated and a lobster tickled. This turned out to be a recently molted male, with a soft carapace so was returned unharmed. The brightly colored Galathea squat lobster was abundant hiding as they do in cracks and on the underside of overhangs. A good show of fish life hovering at the limit of visibility also made life interesting. Last winter’s storms seemed to have scoured the boulders a little and much more kelp was present that I can remember and loads of wreckage, rusted spares and plate fragments littered the sea bed adjacent to the reef. All interesting stuff.

(Ed – There are numerous wrecks hereabouts and speculation may suggest the metal came from the Vildfugl a 20th century motor tanker lost 1951 or The Brothers a 19th century Schooner lost 1856, and the Downiehills , a steam trawler lost 1926. All would have had some metal on them thought The Brothers and Downiehills had wooden hulls. While completely speculative the amount of rusted plates and spares suggests a metal hull and you can draw your own conclusions as to the likely vessel they came from. Storm and surge action concentrates wreckage in gullies so it is more than likely a scrap yard of multiple wrecks. Interestingly enough, another vessel that came to grief here, the Annette, a brig, lost 1879, was carrying a cargo of pit props and we certainly found several of those.)

We turned with ample air in reserve as Aileen was having a leaking mask day and returned to find a sandy bottom to practice AS drills and ‘ellami calls. No real issues were experienced but it would have been much easier without a flooded mask, still if you have confidence enough to rescue someone when things are not going well you are doing better than most!

The second team, Duane, Andy and Steve, followed us out, passing us towards the end of the reef. Again they reported good and varied life including lobsters of various shapes and sizes and found time to complete AS drills, another good result.

Returning to the shore, we were landed by Gary and Izzy who were providing shore cover and once everyone was back on dry land we joined the BBQ throwing our sausages on the monster grill that Neil had brought. Chat, stick throwing for the dogs and a chance to catch up and meet various family members saw us spend a hour or so before approaching storm clouds, a drop in temperature and the fading light saw the party disperse.

A very pleasant evening with a good result with a couple of open water lessons signed off. Thanks due to Steve for organising another dive, Neil for bringing his BBQ and Izzy and Gary for providing shore cover and of course all those who came along and made the evening such a social success

fifeness map

this extract from RCAHM shows all the wrecks that have come to grief on this part of the coast.

South Scotland Regional DTP, Loch Fyne, 8th March 2014

It’s not until you step out of your comfort zone and try something a little different that you really appreciate the effort that other people put in. This month the usual organiser had asked me to stand in and run the event, well how hard could that be? I was about to find out.

Preparations starts in earnest about a week before the event with a trickle of notes coming in from people asking to join and as these increase you start to worry about the number of instructors that you have in the pool to assist. You can count on most but illness and other potential commitments sees you phoning each in turn to get that oh so important commitment to show up and coach trainees. A late surge of interest and finally the ’11th hourists’ and we were set with just enough instructors to cover the variety of skills that had been asked for. Of course on the day it never follows the plan!

This month I am very please to report that Perth-BSAC played a lions share in the days events with two instructors, an assistant diving instructor and an assist Dive manager, all of who were key to the days activities. Well done guys!

Having completed the Welcome speech, site brief and allocated trainees to instructors, it was on to the first lesson. Paul went off to start sports diver training with two trainees from Dundee, Hamish practiced his instructional abilities under the watchful gaze of an NQI and while various other groups went about their lessons I supervised a trainee OWI putting Hadyn and another trainees through a weight check and their first dive in the bay area. After an initial shout for more weight we sank into terrible vis which we had to put up with until, basic drills completed, we were able to move into slightly deeper water (3m) where we found the vis actually improved. The stour was an edge effect and in real terms vis was quite good once you got away from the beach. Conscious of the fact this was a first dive for Haydn we didn’t go far or deep just bimbled, looking at crabs, starfish and the other life that we usually take for granted. We ended up doing a clockwise circuit onto the shallow reef to the right of the bay were much to Haydn’s delight and my intense surprise we found a very large and old, admiralty pattern anchor. Next week we will go back and find the rest of the wreck!

After the break and now with Euan performing the role of Assistant Dive manager things flowed more smoothly and the dive slate no longer languished forlornly neglected on the beach. Paul continued with his trainees who both performed well, another great performance there. Hadyn went for a dive along the inner reef seeing some good life including a superb Polycera nudibranch and coming out with a smile broader than his hood.

Some impressive stats on today’s dives but from a club’s perspective some good training delivered, a couple of lessons signed off, a first open water dive and we found a wreck ! (anchors don’t count – Ed!) Many thanks to all the instructors and helpers who made the day possible. Remember the event runs every 2nd Saturday of the month, looking forward to seeing you in April.