Not every dive can boast crystal clear waters. So it is fitting that for the navigation dives planned, luck punished us with some suitably bad visibility in murky and dark waters.
The plan of the day was Sports Diver navigation and dive leading for Mark, Torsten and Laura, fun dives for me. Lindsay was back to diving from a short hiatus and Alistair was running the show. Location: A-Frames, Loch Long. Unfortunately, Becky and Torsten pulled out the day before, so my dives were reduced to documenting the training dives. Still, wet fins are better than dry fins, so…
Despite driving a bit slower than the others in the group, Laura and I managed to arrive first to our destination, thanks to some very obscure choices by the car’s GPS that sent us through winding farm roads giving Stirling a wide miss. The site was busy with 3 or 4 other groups conducting training dives too.
Mark, Alistair and I went first, for a compass navigation dive. Visibility was moderate, greatly exacerbated by our kicking up silt as we milled about. We used a makeshift shotline with an SMB, reel and weight belt as a reference point, and went out in a given direction and back a few times. The first time somehow we drifted off, and did not find the shot line, so we had to come to the surface to take a peek. The next three tries went smoothly.
While Mark deployed one of the DSMBs, I was gawking at how the seabed had changed since my April visit. The debris and seabed were completely covered in squirts. And I mean completely. It was surreal. There were nowhere near that many in April. Then the deployed reel was thrusted into my surprised hands and Mark deployed another DSMB. I guessed that the deployment hadn’t gone too well and it made sense to give it another try instead of ascending. So I put my camera away and started paying more attention to the ongoing drill. Indeed looking down at the reel, the bungee had gotten tangled up, making it difficult to reel in. The second DSMB went up without problems, while I untangled the one I was given. Then Alistair asked Mark and I to swap DSMBs again, so that Mark would use the more standard reel for the ascent. Alistair asked me if I was OK to reel in Lindsay’s slightly inconvenient reel, to which I signed yes and we all started our ascent.
Laura and Lindsay went in next for a dive leading and simulated decompression stop dive. They really took their time planning their depths and air and the drill was a success.
The second dive for Mark, Alistair and myself was mask clearing, Alternative Source ascent and dive leading. It was getting late in the afternoon and sky was cloudy. At 12m depth it was very dark so I was using my wide angle torch to illuminate Alistair’s demonstrations and Mark’s exercises. After the first couple of mask clearing drills, Mark signalled he wanted to ascend. On the surface he explained the darkness made him nervous so the exercise was aborted.
After my hopes of tagging along on Laura’s and Lindsay’s second dive were shot down, the two of them left for a compass navigation drill. After some initial problems with the compass going crazy amidst meta debris, the drill was a success, except that Laura managed to put another tear in her suit in the process. And a difficult one to repair at that…