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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas Everyone!!


Be good, be safe and look after everyone. Have a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year. See you in 2012!!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Fiona, Forty and Fabulous

Well Fi's offical birthday was on Wednesday night (even though she's been milking nights out, meals and spa days for most of the year). She achieved the grand old age of forty! She's special now and only a few more years till she gets a special bus pass too.
"If I surround myself with older looking people, I'll look younger.....simples!"
We had a nice night out with pizza and beer so it all went well. You're only forty once! Happy Birthday!
Nothing beyond 40 past this point!

 Regular diving updates resumed next week incase you've been missing them. Work has been getting in the way of things, but we will be heading out next Wednesday. 

I will be teaching mind you so dont expect a large amount of photos but I will have lots to write about should I survive. I know who the student is!!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Dives with Wolves: Article Update

Electronic version of my latest article is now live on Diver website. Enjoy!

Dives with Wolves

UW Housing for iPhone?!?

 "Our dive housing will allow anyone with an iPhone 4 or 4s to capture these precious and incredible moments that would otherwise be economically out of reach for this quality of HD video underwater. The alternatives to capture HD video at any depth below a kitchen sink run thousands to tens of thousands of dollars! Ken knows, he does it for a living. You can achieve the same results Hollywood spends millions to produce in the palm of your hand.

Now you have the power to capture your own underwater footage down to 100' in depth, and it can't get any easier! You have it right in your own pocket. Coupled with our Professional limited edition iPhone underwater housing code named "Blackwater" you’ll be making history!"

iPhone 4 UW Case

An interesting idea but I can 't see myself taking my phone undewater with me. I know I take a more expensive camera diving, but a phone just isn't quite right to me, I mean I get underwater to escape everything, I don't want people calling me during a dive! :-P

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Christmas Spirit (and other beverages)

Well it's that time of the year again where we all have to dress up in clown suits and pretend to like one another, or in other words the works christmas party.
"The names Bond....errrr no it's not"
It's great if you have the IQ of a four year old and do nothing but spend your life drinking and killing brain cells but it's not really my cup of tea. Still it would have been rude not to show face. 

We highjacked Brooklands raceway and Mercedes Benz World at Weybridge where most of my associates managed to drink far more than they're capable of handling before bringing it back up a few hours later. Lovely!
"Ok, can I get down now??"
They had a cirque du soleil type theme going on with fire eaters, acrobats, trapeze artists, live music, etc. All very nice and pretty with the main stage being opened up at the end of the night for people to stagger their way around to their favourite songs. Awesome.
Feeding time
The next morning it was like looking at a selection of used toilet paper soaked in gin and meths judging by the state of them.

Can't wait till next year! Woo!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Back to earth with a bump

Well we had a great time in Sharm as always, we learned some new skills and I got the final shots I needed to finish my next article. The Camel dive center looked after us very well as always with Sven and Pipi providing the icing on the cake for the week. Well done lads.
Neither teenage or mutant but definitely a turtle
I must say though that the weather was doing funny things out there as it's not normally that windy at at the surface or as cold in the water at this time of year. It's the first time I've actually seriously considered getting into a drysuit in the Red Sea. Scary!
Apart from sharks, my most favourite thing to photograph
With crappy weather back home now the only thing we can do is hang on till January till we hit the Caymans. Roll on warm water and sunshine......
"Open up and say ahhh..."

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Success and an ice-cream

Well after another successful days diving, we are now fully qualified self reliant divers. It's always interesting for me to go through a course as a student would to get their perspective which I find helps when it comes to teaching courses.

Our instructor Sven did a sterling job with in-depth dive briefs and making suggestions with regards gas management planning. His TDI background certainly came to the fore the last couple of days and added an extra layer of depth that might not have been there otherwise.

And as usual, sods law, no camera, so we had a nice big turtle bimbling around with us on the first dive today.

I tell you, we better see mantas riding on the back of whale sharks chasing a herd of sea horses for the rest of the holiday, or I'll be well upset!

Still we had a nice ice-cream at the end of the day, so it wasn't all bad.
Sven signs off the paperwork, Jill has ice cream

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

First Day Blues

Well a great first day back in sunny Sharm, pretty involving with rigging up sling tanks, running through shut down drills and getting curve ball problems thrown at you during the dive when you least expect it, but that's half the fun!

Being a training dive, I didn't have my rig with me so no pictures. And sods law, towards the end of the dive we had a nice eagle ray and four squid shadowing us till it was time to go up. Sick as a parrot. No camera tomorrow either, me no happy.

On the bright side we may get lucky and have a chance on diving the Million Hope wreck which we haven't been able to do for the last six years (guides don't like taking divers there due to location and conditions), so fingers crossed. And I'll have my rig with me as well. Let the pictures flow!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

It's here

My new article just hit the newstands yesterday, so rush out now and pick up the December issue of Diver magazine for four whole glorious pages of thick, creamy, wholesome diving goodness which is exactly what you need to warm you up on these dark Autumn nights. Buy it now!
Go, buy, now. Immediately. This instant. Straight away.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Killer Cleaner Shrimp

Some interesting research going on. These things are obviously not as harmless and as photogenic as they make out to be. It's all just a front. First they invite you to dinner and before you know it, *POW*, it's good night sweet prince. Vicious little swines.

"In fact, they found that the pressures to create a stable pair of shrimp was so intense, that any larger group became positively murderous. When they put larger groups of shrimp in a single container, the animals reduced their numbers down to a pair. "Exactly one individual in each triplet and exactly two individuals in each quartet were killed in aggressive interactions, resulting in group sizes of two individuals," the authors report."

 Killer Shrimp Here

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mystical Reef

Well today was a bit of a landmark day. After diving here many times, we finally achieved thew long sought after quest of the mystical reef at 30m. I put it down to superb navigational skills, but others might say it was pure chance. To be fair Elaine did find our wreck on the second dive. With the water at a balmy 10 degrees and the visability at a good 10m+, we had more than plenty to see down there.
Juvenile dogfish
It's a site of many delights with reefs at multiple depths and a plethora of surprises. Not to mention the strange array of crap that gets dumped in these sea lochs, in this case a computer monitor. You have to think to yourself, "who would come all the way out here into the middle of a sea loch to dump a monitor?". Maybe it died and wanted a burial at sea, I don't know.....
Squat lobsters monitor the sea bed.......ho ho. I amuse myself sometimes
On the mystical reef itself  there were a multitude of squat lobsters, anemones, gobies, blennies, butter fish and and the mother of all dogfish, easily 4 foot plus. A real whopper. And a pincushion starfish as well which was a nice find.
More cushion for the push'in
Vibrant juvenile squat lobster
There was also quite a few dragonets dotted around the seabed as well which added a little colour to the proceedings with their emerald eyes and blue markings.
No, don't panic, I said "dragonet", not drag net! (jokes are thick and fast today folks)
Whilst Elaine was off on her solo outing further up on the reef, I also spotted a whopper of a dextral flatfish who was more than happy to get up close and personal with my rig. As if you couldn't tell by the majority of shots, I do love my +16 diopter attachment.
The face only a mother could love
On the way back up we passed another of the many unique features of this site, a nice rebar and concrete table top coral. Not that I ever thought thats what it was intended to be but that what it looks like covered in growth after sitting down here for a number of years. But I did get Elaine to strike a pose for a few shots behind it.
"You mean I have to be the centre of attention again? *sigh* I suppose...."
With the end of a nice first dive amongst the wafting fronds of the kelp and the flickering god rays of the sunshine, it's moments like this that make you relise how good british diving can be. And how much more enjoyable it can be with camera rig in your hand. 
Bring me sunshine, bring me smiles
It never gets dull even after all these years. I would have shared this special moment with my buddy had she not scarpered out of the water a few minutes earlier to rush off for the call of nature!  But I did get to find a lovely little juvenile scorpionfish. At least someone was there to share the moment with.....
It's you and me, kiddo. No words, just enjoy the moment
And with the second dive completed, so end the saga of UK diving as we jet of to the warmer climes of Egypt in a weeks time to get an article finished of and do some training as well. All things being well (like the weather!), normal UK service will be resumed on the 3rd, and we should have my Southern name sake coming up to spend an enjoyable day with us. Toodle-pip!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Nearly River Garry

The day started of well with a 5am alarm call and a drive to St Abbs with the sun slouching over the horizon.
Sunrise at St Abbs (iphone quality I'm afraid)
With only six people on the boat, we pretty much had  the place to ourselves, which was nice. First up on the agenda was a visit to the River Garry, which was a steamer that went down in 1893 just off Torness.

With a drive of about an hour and three quarters I had plenty of time get some logged hours in driving up there whilst Paul did the important tasks of making the soup and serving tea, It's nice to be master and commander of the vessel for a change! 
Sunburst on the seabed
The current was ripping at the surface as we found out when we made Mary-Ann jump in first several times to check it (she is DM in training after all) only to watch her disappear off toward Bass Rock before we (grudgingly) decided to pick her up. 

With a shot on the wreck, we headed down to about 22 metres to find the wonders and excitement of the Garry. Only to find nothing there. I suspect the shot game of the wreck with combintion of current and divers hanging on like flags in the wind.

Salvaging a bad situation, we bimbled around the bottom finding some mini reefs with some nice squaties, pink shrimp and dahlia anemones.
This is not the River Garry you're looking for......move along
After 45 minutes of not too much, it was back aboard to some soup and the promise of seals at Fast Castle. So with soup in our mugs, hope in out hearts and a spring in our twin diesels, we motored back South West to see what we could see.
Elaine models the new Autumn look for this year
Knowing that the seal colony doesn't get visited that often, we weren't hoping for great things but we were still optomistic that they wouldn't be too skittish. We got lucky. After heading into about 2 metres and sitting for a while they starting coming in for a look see. 

They didn't come right up for a play and tickle like the Farnes seals but this was still a good experience. Maybe once they get more used to divers they'll be a bit more approachable over time.
Curious but wary
Buzzed by flying seals
We had a good 84 minutes or so in the water with the seals and were suitably revitalised after the nearly River Garry episode. Last but not least was a visit to Black Carr before it gets too dark and what can be said about Black Carr that I haven't already mentioned numerous times? 

Awesomely good dive, only one juvenile wolfie spotted today, but with scenery to blow your mind, who's complaining? Happiest part for me was at the end when I went through my usual smiwthrough and popped out to find the exit point covered in nudibranchs. I love my nudibranchs.
Lovely little nudi
I'll quite happily sit in one spot and take pictures of nudibranchs for the whole dive, which does tend to pee off dive guides abroad no end! I cant help it, they're just such a  challenge to photo and a delight to watch.
Hours of entertainment
Mabs elected to sit out this dive, which was a shame. She mentioned something about cold hands but I think she didnt want to ruin her manicure.
"Nope, not going in. Might break a nail......"
With a final whiff of diesel, we chundered into the harbour and had the added bonus of the tide being at high neep which meant just stepping off the boat onto the wall. What an effortless way to end the day.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Inconceivable!!

Well most of the goodies arrived yesterday in tiny little boxes. I thought they had sent me the wrong stuff at first. I mean I'm so used to massive camera housings, ports, gears, etc. But these were dinky by comparison.

From this.......
To put it into some sort of perspective, you could take the new housing and almost fit it inside the old one. It is very well made though and for the money I should think so as well. Just waiting on a couple of fo/ttl converters to arrive and then all set. Hopefully by this weekend but I'm not going to hold my breath.
......to this
All the bracketry and strobes will fit straight on as well as the modelling light. Its crazy when you compare the size of the old rig to the new one. The strobes are bigger than the new housing! Outrageous! 
Out with the old, in with the new
Unfortunately as we all know scuba diving is an expensive hobby, underwater photography doubly so, so the old rig and camera will be sadlly pensioned off onto Ebay, hopefully to a good home whilst my shiny new Nauticam rig (and new +16 diopter macro wet lens) dive off into the sunset. Farewell old chum, it was lovely to know you.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Dogfish City

With the weather still completely rubbish on the East, we played safe and headed over to Loch Fyne on the left coast which was certainly a very wise move as we had lovely conditions with almost a burst sunshine to brighten the surface interval.
Barely a ripple. Lovely
We headed out left for the 7 metre reef first off once we'd got through the halocline and mooched around for a while enjoying the squat lobsters, plumose anemones, starfish and dogfish.
One of many, many, many dogfish
It's not uncommon to see the odd dogfish here from time to time but today was utterly ludicrous. There was dogfish all over the place. You could barely see the bottom for the dogfish. Big, small, medium sized dogfish, I've never seen so many in one place before and all vey photogenic and very accommodating with strobes flickering in their general direction. 


Carrying on down the slope we hit the depths and the start of the firework anemones which come alive under torch and strobe light.
A dazzling display of colours exploding from a firework anemone
Heading back up the slope we past some pots with some poor victims ready to get picked up and ready for someones plate. What a shame.

A langoustine in a pot ready for the pot
 With another flurry of dogfish in the shallows, we cleared the safety stop and headed for a fine repast of tea, cookies and bacon butties with the odd pringle thrown in for good measure. We needed to keep our strength up after all......
Camouflaged scorpionfish
Heading out to the right for the second dive, we had another round of dogfish and accompanied by an honour guard of squat lobsters, gobies and blennies. We also managed to ferret out a couple of scorpionfish hiding amongst the reef at 22 metres. 
Elaine gets quality time with one of the many, many dogfish
There was also quite a few nice big spider crabs scuttling around as well today which are always nice to watch and equally nice to photo. They always try to out stare their reflection in the camera housing to see which one will blink first! 
Spider crab stares down it's reflection in the camera lens housing. Reflection loses...
With the run off from the hills and the slightly overcast nature of the day, it was dark underwater for both dives but the water clarity was excellent with visability by torch light at least a good 12-15 metres. 

Overall, we had a top days diving, Elaine didn't abandon us once, and the other Simon made a sterling job with spotting duties. It doesn't get better than that really. Oh, did I mention we saw some dogfish as well?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Stop Press: New Article Next Month

I haven't got hold of this months Diver magazine yet (subscription ran out last month), but I have been reliably informed by the lovely Amanda in this months mag (which will be November I imagine as they are always a month ahead) they are advertising my article on St Abbs for next month, which should be the December issue. 

So please feel free to tell your friends and buy multiple copies. I won't charge any extra for signing them either! :-P

When they put the article on Divernet, I'll link to it through the blog as well.

Update: Got a copy and yep, it'll be in next month. Roll on the pay cheque!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Riding along on the crest of a wave

Well this weekend was a challenge on many levels, not only the weather but the tasks and expectations laid upon us to successfully complete our training course. Hours in the classroom with charts, almanacs, transits, buoyage, pilotage, plotters, divider, lat/long, talk about information overload!
Jill navigates back throught the Clackmannan and Kincardine bridges
The difference between PB level 2 and PB Intermediate is like going from discover scuba to divemaster in one hit. But it was worth it though. After slogging though facts, figures, tides, and feats of mental agility we had work out our passage from the marina to the mouth of the Carron and all the way up to the locks which allow access to the Forth and Clyde canal system.
Flowing locks...
 We had the blue skies, a 10 knt SW and light swell so we made good time and saw quite a few seals catching some rays on the channel marker buoys although verifying bearings in a bouncing RIB whilst communicating that info to your driver whilst whipping along at 20 knts is a bit of an aquired skill. 

We hit all of our marks and made our way through the (very) shallows of the Carron to moor up and check out the minature sculptures of the big versions that will be put in place at the entrance to the mouth of the new canal system that'll be finished in 2013.
This is a minature sculpture. The real ones will be several hundred feet high!
Once the tide had started heading in, we had a bit more room to manouver the channel before making out to open water again. By this time, the swell had picked up and it was averaging 1.5m swell which made driving the way points pretty interesting. 

One student was so focused on driving as fast as possible, he nearly put the whole RIB under the water after a bad landing from a wave. Video below, incendent at 22 second mark, Jill on the left, student driving, David, instructor on the right and me holding on for grim death by the transom. Turn down the volume (lots of wind noise).
video
Interesting experience. I've dived hundreds of wrecks but never been on one as it was almost created! Hell of an impact hitting the water, nearly needed new fillings! Suffice to say that after a change of drivers, we did make it back to the marina in one piece and thankfully our certification as well.

David was also kind enough to give myself and Jill a ton of reading materials, manuals and charts free of charge for being excellent students. Which was nice. Now we have even more reading and studying before we can complete our advanced PB course. 
I get to drive for a change. Now, which way is North??



Sunday, 9 October 2011

Wish you were here

My, what an interesting day we had. Forecast for light W/SW and rain, we should have had good conditions for the day. And how wrong we were! Conditions at the surface off shore were actually fine, with shallows being a bit lumpy. Underwater was a different kettle of fish.
And the next wave over the harbour wall swept Elaine out to sea.....

 As soon as we jumped in on the the Horn, a wall of particulate hit us and we rapidly started losing light with pitch black creeping in just after 9m. and from there on in we were diving on touch alone. The bottom came up at 22.9m. and the Horn was no where in sight. We were lucky if we had 6 inches of vis despite the combined lighting of our rigs. 
"Seriously? This is the best picture you could take?"
After about 10 minutes of playing about in the dark we decided that the risk of damaging the rigs on rocks we couldnt see was really not worth it so we headed back up. Experience and practise pays off I can assure you because having to deploy an SMB by touch is an exacting science. I could have easily stuck my reg up Elaine and accidentally inflated her up to the surface instead!
The Horn, yesterday, less than a foot away
Still at least we got 19 minutes of entertainment out of yesterday, so it wasn't completely wasted, not to mention a bacon buttie at the cafe.I can honetly say ths has been the worst I have ever seen it at St Abbs in all the years diving there, and I've dived in some muddy puddles in my time, I can assure you. 

Not to worry though, we'll be back there with a vengeance in two weeks time, weather permitting, once we get my intermediate powerboating course out of the way.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Grey Day and Octopi

Well considering that it was scortching sunshine most of the wekk, it was a bit of shame for it not ot last till today. Still, a dives a dive, isn't it? Quiet boat with only six bodies on board so that was nice.
A bit yucky but still a good day
And the car park was pretty quiet too so we didn't have to fight the visitors for space.A good first dive on Skellies, with only a little detour to drop jill back off at the surface at mid-point. Still colours and marine life in abundance even at this late stage of the year, but that's one of the great things about St Abbs, you're pretty much guaranteed the marine life and scenery all year round. With heavy rain and cloud cover, it was dark at the bottom but we still had decent vis and 13 degrees in the water.

Edible crab, soft coral, nice picture
As usual, lobsters were out in force with most of them easily evading the multitude of pots put out for them, edible crabs, prawns, ling, pollack, wrasse, nudibranchs. Grandfather lobster was in his usual place as well and as usual the cantankerous old bugger was not for coming out. One day......

Grandfather lobster. Miserable old b*stard!
With a West bound current moving at a fair rate of knots, there was a good opportunity for a good old drift over the gullies once popping out and drift we did, right through some huge shoals of pollock. Hitting the entrance to Skellies Hole, I popped up over one of the boulders and nearly got head butted by a wrasse. I don't know who was more surprised, me or him!

Collision imminent! Hard to starboard!
 With a little bimble straight into the Hole, if was a peaceful place out of the current to nail the safety stop and get back on the boat.
Elaine enjoys her 'tween dive earl grey muck.....
 The rain eventually let off as we were about to get back in for the second dive and the sun almost but not quite made and appearance. Just a shame that the vis had got even worse for the seconf dive on Black Carr. Still, you know what they say, never a bad dive on Black Carr. And again the Carr did not let us down with wolfies, prawns and and nice little octopus sitting on a rock in one of the swim throughs.

Armed but not so dangerous
Elaine claimed she saw the octpus but she was right over the top of it before I signalled to get her attention. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt I suppose. 
The Black Carr prawn chorus. And a 1....2.....3.....4.......
 Never ever, ever do I get bored with the swim throughs on the Carr. Doesn't matter how many times I dive it, there are so many nooks and crannies to get in, on, over and under and every dive there just keeps getting better and better.
"What octopus? Where?"
 With a bit of luck, the vis should be better next weekend which would be nice seeing as I'm down there the whole weekend. Fingers crossed, but you know what mother nature is like. She probably drinks earl grey tea as well......