“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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30th August, Advanced Lifesaver SDC, Loch Long

The Advanced Lifesaver (ALS) skills development course is one of those SDCs that people put off doing until they have to, the reason being because it is hard work and tests a skill that we all think we are brilliant at, but are we ?

Paul and Chris  joined a Scotland Southern region event at Loch Long being run by Rob Sewell,  the regional coach and ‘Boss’ed’ by Pete Bicheno, one of our locally active National Instructors who is always willing to help out on such events. Guy from Aberdeen and Alex from Stirling made up the rest of the course candidates. The venue switched from Largs due to the wind was the Loch Long Chalets, diving off a boat lent by Thistle divers and the conditions in the bay were fair (enough) .

So what is it all about ?   The ALS assesses diving lifesaver skills at a level that an Advanced Diver would be asked to perform, so rescue from a depth of 20m and following the BSAC safety principle of lifting to 6m then stopping, doing a safety stop, ascending normally to recommence the rescue drill once on the surface. Of course diving in Loch Long you will always have the challenge of low vis and darkness which adds a degree of realism to the proceedings. Once on the surface, recovery to both boat and then to the shore after an exhausting 100m tow with rescue breaths which was undoubtedly the most strenuous diving activity I’ve done in years.  Landing a casually on your own putting them in a recover position and then, using a manikin, provide Basic Life Support until assistance arrives.

All these skills we have covered many times during our training, but the effectiveness of the course is that it provides a scenario where you link the skills in their natural order and thereby providing a realistic vehicle for assessment. And yes it is an assessment, not a teaching course!

Additional, written , verbal and first aid scenarios finished the day after we had recovered the boats and changed into dry clothing and moved into the rather nice cafe at the Chalet reception and shop.

So what was my opinion and thoughts on the day ?  Firstly and to be completely honest I could have done much better! I felt rusty and slow on the practical aspects and my theory was not quick enough.  So here are my areas for improvement !

On the lift, I could not see my computer so was using the shot / datum to gauge my ascent rate.  That was fine but I was late in stopping at 6m. Next time, I’ll switch the back light on or perhaps just learning how to turn it on would be a good idea. Usually I just shine my torch on it but not enough hands to do that during a lift.

Lifting people into the boat , need to review different techniques and practice parbuckling.

Throwing and non-contact rescues, all good stuff. No problem for the men!

Towing and rescue breaths while making a good seal, practice practice and practice! You can always do better and a 100m tow is a long long way! Fitness could be better as it impacts effectiveness of technique.

Landing, need to do this without trying to break peoples arms and should note that techniques will differ and are dependent on the ease of the exit, so learn more than one.

Recovery position:  How can you get this wrong……?  very easily, let me explain! Well it wasn’t really wrong, it was just another way of doing it!

BLS practice, practice and practice again, again was far too rusty for comfort, but it did get better as I got into it.  Good extension,  checked for effective breaths and lots of ‘Nellie the elephant’ and ‘Staying Alive’… casualty assessment every….

Communication, communication and communication.

If anyone was interested in doing this assessment, I’d either recommend being 100% up to date with your practice or a complete refresher session beforehand, it’s the full on nature of the exercise that is so useful and at the same time so challenging.

 

All in all a very worthwhile event. Thanks are due to Rob and Pete for managing it and to Thistle Divers for the use of their boat.  For prospective Advance Diver candidates this is a really good course which covers off several requirements in the training syllabus, for other diver, unless you have an alternative requirement to do it, it is very hard work , a good level set of your rescue skills and ultimately very rewarding.

( It should be noted that some people forgot certain pieces of basic equipment.   Certain people forgot their fins while others didn’t even bother to bring their dry suits..  I suspect that some people did not really want to dive in Loch Long which with visibility of less than 2m and being dark at 4m was perhaps understandable.  Names will be named unless performance improves on future trips!  – Ed)

 

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 !

Saturday 13th July, Regional Diver Training Program, Loch Fyne

Most of the club’s active members had departed for Lewis on the Summer Expedition on Friday leaving a remnant of keen enthusiasts to make the trek across to Loch Fyne to support the Regional Training event run by Fyne Divers. The training is run on a voluntary and free basis for any BSAC member who wishes to learn skills and complete lessons towards their diver grade, or just come for an ‘experience’ dive or for divers who want to practice and hone their instructor skills, as such it is well worth supporting.

This Saturday we had a very successful trip, with one club member completing SP1, the final practical session of her Sports diver qualification. Hip Hip ! We also had another club member successfully completing OS3 and while this is a refresher signifies good steady progress. As something slightly different I had the chance to supervise an A-OWI delivering a rather enjoyable and technically correct lesson plan, Well done to both the Instructor and his student, who absorbed the lesson like a sponge. An interesting experience and completely different paradigm.

In the afternoon our members had a chance to practice the skills gained in the morning session with emphasis on buoyancy control and good progress was reported. I taught DSMB deployment using the lesson plan I was shown on a recent Instructor development course and had an enjoyable and hopefully useful session with a student from Dundee University.

Have to say that while Perth basked in 26 degrees we were somewhat cooler with overcast skies and a westerly breeze. There is still plankton hanging around Loch Fyne so the vis was restricted but the water was refreshingly warm. Some large moon jellies in the water column today which added an ethereal quality to simulated deco stops

No photos today as these were training dives.

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