Buoyancy and Trim workshop 27th April 2013

This week Steve drove and having been picked up at 07:45 Paul and I enjoyed the chat as we drove across to the Tea Rooms at Loch Fyne for a Buoyancy and Trim Workshop that was being run by Fyne divers.

The day started with a briefing and theory lectures which were delivered in the cafe and while this was going on the shot lines were placed in the bay for the lessons. Found a rather impressive nudibranch (Cadlina laevis) on this dive, not seen one of these on this reef before, lots of Pleurobranchus membranaceus around today with egg whorls but these are getting past their best.

dive one: The first session of the day was where the training was delivered in the form of practice and skills review. Starting at a 6m stop and buddy check and then working on buoyancy. Reaching the shot line we made short ascents and then hovered at the marks on the line. 9m, 6m, 5m, 4m, 3m 2m all saw 2 minute stops and then 30seconds at 1m. Decompression stops can be rather tedious and people hae strategies to alleviate boredom. Today the life in the surface layer, with sea gooseberries and other minute jellyfish and plankton was very pronounced and intriguing.

dive two is the assessment putting into practice what has been learnt on the previous dive or a further fine tuning if any is needed. This time having done our stops we made a vertical descent to hold a 6m stop then continued to just off the bottom before swimming back along the reef where we annoyed a rather sleepy dogfish for a while.

That was it, all that was left was the removal of the shot lines. Alistair and I went in for these and had a slow dive along the inner reef on the way back which gave us the chance to find some interesting life. Three dogfish and a large scorpion fish as well as a friendly Ballan wrasse. All the flat surfaces on the reef were covered in grey fish eggs several dogfish and this short spined scorpion fish.
scorpionfish

With all lessons completed and dives logged we had time for a final coffee and chat where the certificates and log books were signed before being turfed out of the cafe and enjoying the delightful scenery on the way home. Some new faces today and some folk we haven’t seen for a while and hopefully all had fun.

South Scotland Region Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne, 9th March 2013

This month we had another good turn out for the Diver Training Program run by Fyne Divers across at the Team Rooms.

Driving across, Loch Earn looked rough with sizable waves rolling into St Fillans and white caps on the loch at Inveraray so we were not expecting to much from the day. At the Tea rooms the sea was grey and ‘disturbed’, with waves precluding the use of the outer reef but luckily the inner reef and bay area were relatively calm.

Frank took Kim in who reported a very pleasant dive with no ear problems, this was excellent news. (Not sure which if any lesson there was here ?).

Paul had been asked to take Kenny, a student from Fyne Divers for a OS5 lesson and reported no issues, Kenny taking everything in his stride.

Chris took Neil and Kim in to do the OS3 lesson and have fun using a reel to line off from a shot line and simulate a decompression dive. “For the purposes of the exercise we had decided that we were logically at 36m, 20m deeper than we actually were but this meant that the theoretical depth would add a bit realism to our planning (depth,time gas management) and therefore the execution. Having set the shot line up everyone descended and traversed the reef to find a good point to tie off from before venturing out into the bay as we simulated ‘lining off’. Neil lined off, out and back and then Kim repeated the drill. Both sessions encountered low vis and the task loading when monitoring depth, time, gas, bearing, and manipulating a reel and tying knots proved a valuable learning experience. After 45 minutes and the lesson completed we were starting to get a bit cool so debriefed and made good use of the cafe where cake and hot tea were called for.” The ten minutes before getting wet was well spent practicing the drills that were to be used. Ironically conditions were ideal today for this drill, with vis stirred up by the number of divers using the inner reef for training making for somewhat realistic conditions.

Usually we would have done a pleasure dive for the afternoon session giving trainees the chance to practice skills and Paul took Kenny and his shinny new camera in to have some more fun. Kim and Neil were keen to complete SO4 and Chris agreed to take them in to complete another lesson. Once again the dry session was useful, new kit played with and the concepts of distance, time and accuracy while navigating and how to use reciprocal bearings discussed. All seemed simple really. This time the lesson started in the bay and initially surface snorkeled on a bearing before repeating this exercise submerged where, with incredible precision we found the reef! After a short swim, DSMB deployments were followed by a simulated deco stop and then a slow swim back to exit in the corner of the reef.

That was it, apart from a rather nice hot chocolate with marsh mallows and extra cream that had someone smiling, we warmed up in the cafe, had a final social chat before making our way home.

From a club perspective, we had two instructors out , three club trainees and five lessons signed off putting some folk very close to the completion of their next diver grade. Well done everyone. I’d also like to share some feedback from one of the instructors who was highly complimentary about the skills demonstrated by one of our members. It is always nice to receive comments like this as it reflects well on the Perth BSAC club.

No pictures today as I was instructing. Paul may append a few later.

…… Here you go 🙂  Paul

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

Doris pseudoargus
Doris pseudoargus

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

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

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

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

The walls and wrecks of Melfort and Shuna, 2nd December 2012

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sealoch anemoneA bright and frosty morning with snow covered mountains made for a delightful journey across to Tyndrum where we all met up for the onward passage to Cuan Ferry. Here we launched the club Rhib, checked her out and moved her to the steps where she was loaded with the dive gear.

Slender sea pen
Slender sea pen
‘The Bruce’ arrived and set about launching as we departed for Eilean Creachan, one of the islands at the mouth of Loch Melfort where interesting contours on the charts suggested some spectacular underwater topography. The dive plan was to put the first wave in to explore the wall on the northern end of the island and swim slowly southwards on the West wall.

Both groups surfaced reporting a very good dive with highlights being conger eels and two octopi as well a shoals of small fish. With virtually no tide or wind the boat didn’t move and although slightly cold it was very pleasant as we watched the divers bubbles. ‘The Bruce’ came alongside for a quick hallo and blether before heading off to dive around Shuna. Back with ‘Deep Dancer’ and having recovered the first set of divers the second wave went in and explored the foot of the wall initially swimming northwards, collecting a few large scallops from the mud between tall slender sea pens and finally ascending to following the top of wall back towards the boat. An old ‘Fenzy’ crack bottle was discovered and brought up for the amusement of the crew, some of who actually recognised it for what it was, before someone even admitted to having used one !

Crack bottle

Lunch was scheduled to be taken at Shuna Cottage and Gary expertly drove us down to the southern tip of Shuna where we moored the boat, changed over cylinders and had our pieces. You can’t spend too long lunching with the short days so we were very quickly back in the boat and heading up the west side of Shuna for the next dive which turned out the be a cracker.

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In went the pathfinders, closely followed by the backup team, each following a roughly parallel course swimming South. Ten minutes into the dive for some reason up pops a partially inflated DSMB and the two teams were seen to converge. What’s going on here then wondered the boat crew ? The conclusion that somebody had sent up a bag of scallops which had subsequently sunk seemed to describe the scenario so we marked the spot with a depth reading and a transit to the shore and quietly sniggered at the easy picking that would follow !(Why not the position fixing facility on the GPS/radio ? – ED) The teams then separated and continued their fin south. On surfacing they both reported good life, a few scallops and a wreck. Unbelievable, a wreck down here. But it was and proved to be a small pleasure craft lying upright in good condition with it’s rather rounded bows pointing into the shore and CQR anchor deployed. Probably about 9m long with a large cockpit, and cabins fore and aft. What a fantastic find and a great way to end the day.

On surfacing we quickly had the engine started and got back to the launch site with just enough time to recover the boat before it got dark having enjoyed a fantastic days diving.

Well done to Steve for organising a great trip and many thanks to Gary for towing the boat.

Paul has kindly placed some of his superb photographs here and they are well worth a browse.

Wall covered in sea squirts
Wall covered in sea squirts

Wednesday at Loch Long. 21st November 2012

A quick splash in our nearest sea loch saw three intrepid members making the most of Scottish Autumnal weather and braving a dive in Loch Long.

The weather was calm and very mild with the recent snow having melted and the water was flat calm. Unfortunately the visibility was very poor with a stunning 3m max though totally dark at 10m, still the water was relatively warm.

Here are a few snaps

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The Slates, Loch Leven. November 18th 2012

A small team of keen divers ventured out on Sunday for a leisurely dip at ‘The Slates’ at Ballachulish in Loch Leven. A reasonably early start saw three cars carefully making their way on icy roads towards Crieff where I for one had a very exciting moment when the car decided to firstly to go in a straight line when I wanted it to turn and then perform a slow waltz before coming under control. A salient reminder to pack the cars carefully, keeping as much weight forwards as possible and of course to treat the winter roads with the utmost respect !

With the roads starting to improve once we got to Loch Earn we reached Tyndrum and had a short break, a coffee and a chance to stretch our legs after a very exciting couple of hours. Next stop Ballachulish over Glen Coe where the first of the blue sky edged through the clouds and the tops held more that a dusting of fresh snow .

On site we had a briefing and then wave one comprising Kim, Briagha and Chris, went in to do a Ocean Diver, dive leader review exercise and I’m happy to report that Chris passed. Staying in the bay area we swam between the large anchors, over chains and poked our torches under boulders before surfacing at the perscribed time. An enjoyable dive which apart from a few buoyancy problems at the start went very smoothly. Notable were the numbers of Queen scallops swimming around.

The second wave had a few buoyancy issues and apart from a few choice expletives of a frustrated dive didn’t have much to report. Next time guys.

Keeping an eye on the time and momentum going in the group, wave one went in again to do the second part of the exercise which I am happy to report was successfully completed by Briagha who had now completed all her Ocean Diver course training. The dive itself was quite interesting with lots to see including a brilliant Cuckoo Wrasse and his mate, a good sized Corking Wrasse, a very large Common Sunstar, loads of brittlestars, sealoch anemones and sea squirts and hermit crabs and gobbies by the bagful. Briagha also found her first scallop. As we surfaced a heavy rain shower was soaking the surface crew so we didn’t hang around for long, decamping into the local, highly recommended cafe (Craft and Things) for a hot drink and something to eat. I can positively recommend the hot chocolate and marsh mallows which looked absolutely scrumptious.

That was it, a quiet drive home on much improved roads getting back at a very reasonable time.

Thanks all for coming and well done to Briagha on the successful completion of her Ocean Diver training.

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Conger@Conger 13th November 2012

I had the opportunity to steal either a short hillwalk or a quick dip on the West coast today as a result of visiting offices in Glasgow. So with the kit in the boot off I went, picked up a piece of equipment and then sat waiting in the designated car park for my buddy who duly arrived from Kilmarnock, wound down his window and shook his head somewhat dejectedly. 20 – 25 mile an hour winds and good sized waves were crashing into an exposed shore, the SS Kintyre was definitely sunk ! Plan B, Loch Long. You can always get into Loch Long and so we agreed to drive up and have lunch in the Arrochar Pit Stop and then try our luck at Conger Alley.

Wet was something of an understatement as rivers pouring down the Lomandside hills flooding across the roads, but we arrived safely, enjoyed a bacon sandwich and then changed into drysuits at the rain soaked car lay-by as lorries and speeding cars sprayed us in passing. The original plan, exploring a deep wreck, surprisingly lends itself to a different kit configuration than that required for loch shore diving and carrying a twin set along the 300 yards of pavement to get access to the water took a little resolve but we made it and were quickly in the water.

Down, along, down a bit further, out across the mud and then slowly up the reef was the plan. It turned out to be a good dive too. Poor surface vis led to 5m+ lower down and apart from rather colorful sea squirts, and sealoch anemones, starfish, urchins, crabs and blennies, we saw a shoal of coppery codling, several small dragonettes, numerous corkwing wrasse, an enormous ballan wrasse and of course we can’t forget the rather impressive conger that came partly out of it’s lair to inspect the bright shiny thing that was being waved about in front of him.

A layer of fresh water, fed by streams peculating into the loch from the gravel gave some rather chilly conditions as we reached the shallows and did a short stop, while just before surfacing, a rain shower came in which was audible, quite amazing. That was it, apart from the oh so long, 300 yards back to the cars where once again we changed in the rain before decamping to the pub for a beer and chat and finally making our separate ways home after a surprisingly good dive.

No photo’s today. I didn’t take my camera as is not rated for what we had initially planned to do. (– excuses – Ed!)

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

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

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

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

Well done to all !

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

A Sunday Dive Insh Island and Easdale

After seeing the two low weather systems headed up each side of the Country we weren’t quite sure what to expect, however the shipping forecast was favourable for Sunday with light winds of 5-10 miles an hour.  After Chris had offered to drive, Steve and I jumped into his car at just after 6am on the cold and damp Sunday morning and did the two hours trip across to Puffin Dive Centre were Alan and David were to meet us with their Rhibs at 9am.  The weather cleared and we could see snow on the tops of the mountains as we headed along Loch Earn and then the A82 to Tyndrum. Arriving at Puffin for just before 9am we prepped the boats. The wind was slight, but enough to give you a chill. High grey cloud hid small brushstrokes of distant blue.

So nine hardy divers and two even hardier Coxswains headed South, the six nautical miles to Insh Island to dive the wall on the North East Corner of the Island, I had dived this once before and typically it has lots of life on it. We had a Ebb Tide and dropped in on 10 metres and drifted around the corner before heading down to find the wall. On Grace Cameron, Chris and David went in first and Steve and I followed after a a last minute kit re-configuration due to a burst high pressure hose (Always worth carrying spare kit!).

Steve and I headed down the slope finding the wall at 16 metres and noticed a strong down current pulling us down southwards, so we kept close to the wall and started taking a few photos while dropping to just over 30 metres and finding an overhang which gave us some protection from the currents.  With overcast skies I was glad to have my bright torch today, as it was dark but the water clarity was good. The wall had a mixture of sponges, Feather Stars, tube Worms, squat Lobsters, juvenile cod, several species of brightly coloured wrasse and as we headed towards the shallows the kelp forest which started at 16 metres. Here you could clearly see the current running over the Kelp, so after putting up the DSMB we drifted south with the current to be picked up by Tam and Chris and Dave who by now were already back on board.

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After picking up all the divers we headed across to Easdale Island, the famous venue for the World Stone Skimming competition, where we chilled out having lunch in the shelter of the harbour, chatting to the Locals as well as the local dogs that wanted to see if they could benefit from a free sandwich or tasty snack.  The afternoon dive was a scallop dive and it was good to see the habitats undisturbed by trawling. Hand picking scallops allows us to be selective and not affect non targeted species of animals such as sea pens.   With the Benefit of Cox’s we were able to save two hours and were back in Perth for 6pm on the Sunday Evening.

Thanks to Steve for organising the trip and Alan and David for the use of their Boats.

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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