St Abbs 8th and 12th July 2017

8th July

Blue jellyfish or Cyanea lamarckii

Blue jellyfish lit from underneath


A blisteringly hot day in July saw us change plans and head to the relatively easy to get to coastal town of St Abbs. A few of us from the club (myself, Alistair, Torsten, Laura and Kimon) wanted to check out the Marine Reserve; the first dive of the season there for two of us, and the first dive there ever for three others.

Opossum shrimp and Polycera on a kelp frond

Two Polyceras


We were out with the effervescent skipper Paul Crowe and his fab boat shore diver. As ever, loading the boat meant hooking all the kit on to the small crane and lowering in into the boat. We wanted to look for diving birds that swim underwater, but were told that we had actually missed the end of that action by just a few days!


In water the visibility didn’t entirely match the topside conditions, and the water was a bit murky. This did not deter us atall, and as St Abbs is so rich in Marine Life due to it’s reserve status, there was plenty for the first time Abbers to see. Much of the life is small, and you do have to look quite hard in amongst the rich plant life, but you are rewarded with a high variation of wee critters.


Nudibranch, Favorinus blianus?


Kimon with the tiny nudibranch infornt of the lens

Even with not so stunning visibility, Laura still felt there was much more life than the warmer climes she had dived in.

Tiny sea spider on a kelp frond

Cropped image as a close up of the sea spider

12th July

This was a midweek trip that involved two other clubs (Perth and Cumbria), but was opened up to DSAC members to join if they wished. However the Wednesday timing meant that it was only myself and Les that were able to go.

Even though there was only four days inbetween this trip and the previous trip, the underwater conditions had improved dramatically with at least 10m horizontal visibility. Topside we were rewarded again with a stunning sunny day.

Les had to put up with two slow movers with CCRs, going around the long ways rather than over, but we were rewarded on the last dive with an octopus sitting quite the thing on a rock. Its patience with me however only had a short shelf life, and with an annoyed flush of red, it backed away from us and back to its own space.

A great couple of days all round with club mates and old buddies from around the UK. We are hopefully heading back to St Abbs before the year is out, so watch the club calendar for updates on trips.

Octopus on the second dive

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New training season, day #2, 16/9/2017

Same destination as last weekend (Inverkeithing), but better manned and better organised. 3 Ocean divers, 3 SD lessons, 1 Sports diver, 1 DL lesson, 1.5 instructors.

For this one, I was doing my first dive management lesson. Unfortunately, that meant it would be another dry day for me (despite the threat of rain in the forecast). Mostly homework for me then: fill in the dive planning paperwork (who, where, when, what, how) and make sure we have everyone and everything.  Not glamorous, debatably interesting, but essential nonetheless and important in preventing disasters from the trivial to the fatal.

Lindsay’s van stacked with kit and Alistair’s car crammed with people arrived at Prestonhill quarry almost on schedule, shortly after 9am. The threat of rain was tangible, but the water looked calm and inviting. Yours truly was in charge of assessing site conditions and doing the manager’s brief (*bows theatrically*). I was not entirely happy with the coherence of my stage performance but, hey, practice practice practice, right?  We were soon joined by a couple other divers, up from Edinburgh for the first open water OD lesson.

Quickly enough we got hit with a double whammy. Torsten’s octo decided to have a hissy fit, so it had to be shelved. No worries though, in a last-second moment of brilliance I had the night before decided to bring along my reg as a spare (despite not diving myself) along with my tools and other stuff (I was initially just going to take my drysuit). A quick octo transplant fixed Torsten’s problem. And then Mark’s primary second stage decided to one-up Torsten’s octo by going fully free-flow. What are the odds? Unfortunatelly, transplanting my primary second stage onto Mark’s reg was not an option as the fittings didn’t… well… fit. Neither did any of Lindsay’s or Alistair’s spare plugs. That meant that the trainees would have to take turns using the remaining functional regs. The decision was also made to always carry spare equipment in the future. Had I not had my reg with me today as redundancy, this trip would have been a bust.

First up were the SD sheltered rescue skills, followed by round-robin open water rescue drills. Moral of the story was that typical kit has a hell of a lot of straps to undo to dekit a casualty. Luckily, no passers-by thought anybody was in actual distress, considering the quarry has gained notoriety with the locals. For good measure and my benefit, Lindsay suggested we also simulated taking out the O2 kit and we discussed cutting off drysuits to get  access for BLS (the common location of the suit inflator valve right over the sternum looks like a really dumb choice after this) or to clear the chest for a defib. I was also keeping an occasional eye on the two Edinburgh divers.

Laura de-kit’ing a casualty (Torsten)

With the rescue drills done and dusted, and a decent lunch-break surface interval, enriched with Laura’s communal muffins and Lindsay’s freshly made hot tea, Laura and Torsten prepared for their 3rd dive (and first real-ish dive of the day). The aim was to tow an SMB around for a while. A dry run of operating the reel turned into an impromptu competition of imaginary limbo dance and imaginary high jumping by Mark and Lindsay. Because why not? On kit-up, a quick question by Linsday on time break down per dive section caught the trainees off-guard, but they patched it up well enough. Nobody swapped out tanks for fresh ones, as there was enough air left for the final dive plan.

Smiles all around.

Last dive for today.

While Alistair was supervising Laura and Torsten towing a balloon round the quarry, Mark was doing his Assistant Dive Manager lesson. So Lindsay was supervising me supervising Mark supervising the divers. Supervception. For a moment the dive looked like it would be aborted, as Alistair’s ears initially refused to cooperate, but then things got back on track. The three of them swam back out to the middle and descended. Right on cue, 15mins later, they came up and Torsten passed the towing on to Laura. And then things became a bit weird from our shore cover perspective. Shortly after descending, one of the divers resurfaced and started swimming around somewhat erratically. I quickly identified him as Torsten. He did not communicate to us neither the OK nor the distress signal. He did not appear to be in distress, and the other two divers seemed to have no intention to ascend yet, so we they must have known and agreed that he left them. I thought he might have reached his air safety limit, and it has happened to me on guided recreational dives that some divers in a group return to the surface sooner than others due to breathing faster. For good measure I decided to hike up closer to where he was and try to get his attention. I didn’t succeed in getting his attention as his head was underwater, but I was satisfied that he was just busy sightseeing the tadpoles on the rocks below the surface.

On the way back, we called at Darryl’s in Newburgh for some drysuit repairs. Alistair had been complaining of a leaky suit for quite some time and finally decided to do something about it with winter coming up, Torsten’s new suit proved to have a stretched neck seal, making his dives today rather wet, and Laura broke her wrist seal when taking the suit off. Alistair’s repair would be the most difficult one, requiring a new zip in time for next weekend’s training dives. Torsten’s repair was going to be easy and not urgent. Laura’s repair started off as difficult due to rarity of parts, but she actually managed to walk out with her suit fixed. It turned out that her dryglove wrist seals are the quick-release easy-to-repair-in-the-field type. And although new silicone seals would be hard to obtain, latex ones seemed to do the trick just as well and Laura found them to be more comfortable. Darryl’s back yard was a maelstrom of repairmanship and outdoors-iness that merits a post all of its own, but I’m not authorised to cover that 😉 .

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