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Monday, 30 April 2012

Gone with the wind

As there was no diving on the go for the weekend, I still had some business down at the old stomping grounds to attend to and thought I'd rattle off a quick couple of shots of the current conditions. This is what it's been like most of last week and the weekend, and given the current weather forecast, looks like it will stay this way for all of this week as well as into the middle of next week.
A bad day to be out
A seven foot swell every five seconds with a NE at 12-14 knts means its time to go to the pub and stay there!
All safely snugged up

I think it's time to plan an emergency holiday abroad for a week until all this meteorological nonsense blows over (no pun intended).
The waves pound over the top of Catherdral Rock
I'm going back in doors now and not coming out till Summer time......

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Brief Interlude

Unfortunately due to bad weather at the weekend, there shall be no diving taking place. In the meantime please watch this short intermission involving a kitten. 

Normal services shall be resumed shortly. Thank you.

Monday, 23 April 2012

St Abbs from the sea

Here's another fantastic opportunity to get immersed in the wonderful scenery and wildlife that St Abbs has to offer. Captain O'Callaghan is running 2 trips per day aboard Pathfinder over 22/23/24 May starting at the harbour and heading up the coastline to Fast Castle. 

These trips are great for divers and non-divers alike as theres many times I've missed out on the spectacular scenery above water from spending too much time under it! 

At only £20 for adults and £12 for children, this is an absolute bargain for a great day out for the family. Space and bookings are limited so you can contact to secure spaces. 

Make sure you bring your camera with you. Hawaiian shirt worn free of charge although you can pay for Paul to take it off......

Information: HERE

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Six Decades Diving

Well anyone in or around a 100 mile radius of St Abbs on the night of 18th May definately needs to keep that evening free. Jack Law,  Vice Chairman of the VMR will be giving a presentation on 60 years of diving at St Abbs as well as other locations along with plenty of pictures as well. 

Tickets are only £5 but limited, so if you want to participate in this slice of history then email to reserve your place.

I plan to try and get some pictures and maybe a little video so that if you can't make it then you can get a real flavour of what diving has been like over the last six decades. Should be excellent as well as informative and entertaining so please do come along if you can.

Information: HERE

Friday, 20 April 2012

Wreck and Roll

Well I managed to get out for a dive today which was nice as I seldom have the change to dive on a weekeday. Captain O'Callaghan had a couple of mates on from down South plus me, so with a grand total of three divers we had plenty of space to roll around the deck which wasn't far off of what we were actually doing given the sea state today. Surfs up!
Grey and choppy heading out the harbour. Not the best conditions...
The lads wanted to do the Glanmire which is an old iron steamer that went down in 1912. I've done it quite a few times over the years and although I like my wrecks, the Glanmire has never really done anything for me. It's quite exposed and a lot of it has been flattened off, broken up and pushed around and once you hit deco there's nowhere really left to go but up. So it tends to be a short dive (for me anyway) with a run time of about 35-40 minutes unless you're fine with knocking out a load of deco time in mid water.

Being where it is, you need to jump on it at the right time, which is the other side of low tide coming into slack, but even with this it was a challenge with boat bobbing up and down like a cork and the waves washing over the back deck as you can see from the clip above. It's a long drop if your timing is not spot on.....
Nice little nudibranch on the boiler

I had decent light down the shot till about 22 metres then the black closed in till the bottom at 32 metres. The lads headed of sternwards and I headed off around the boilers and up to the bow. There were a couple of nice big lumpsuckers under one of the deck plates but the gap was so tight, there was no way to get the rig in for a photo. Plenty of sunstars, anemones and nudis to photograph though.
Hermit crab scuttles under the deck plates
I diddled around for a bit at the bow, checking the nooks and crannies to see what there was before heading back to midships. Viz wasn't the best today with 4-5 metres so you can't really get a true sense of the size of the wreck, which at 1411 tonnes is quite respectable.
Remains of the deck supports scatter the bottom
With the SMB deployed and the safey stop done, it was time for a pick up and brew. We headed round the corner to Pettico Wick where we had a nice surface interval as it was nicely sheltered, flat as a pancake and the sun made an appearance as well which was a pleasant bonus with our drysuits lightly steaming as the rays dried us out. Jill managed to finally get a brew without being battered by the waves.

Pettico Wick sparkling in the sunshine, what a difference
I do my final checks before taking the plunge...
 With every which way presenting us with rolling waves, we took the easy option and jumped in on the corner of West Hurker and let the current take us. And what a ripping current it was too. If Elaine had been out with us, there's no doubt she would have been getting in her superman impersonation.....
St Abbs in bloom
With a carpet of anemones and dead mens fingers blurring beneath me it wasn't long before I heading over the Skellies so it was and ideal opportunity to duck down into the gullies and find some wolfies and they were certainly out and about today.
Peek-a-boo, I see you!
Weaving in and out the gullies, I popped back out into the current and let it take me along for the ride. I knew roughly where I was but it was still a surprise to pop up on the Craigs. I knew the current was pushing on but didn't realise how fast. So three dives sites nailed on one dive, there's value for money! Still a bit of a bumpy ride back to harbour though as the swell had really picked up something rotten. Still it was a good day out with a decent couple of dives.
The waves thunder over Black Carr as we head for home
As always and before anyone says anything, I need to add my safety bit in and say that I never recommend diving solo in any way unless you have the right training, equipment and experience. 

Even then it's still more fun to dive with a trusted buddy as even in a perfect world with all the right training and equipment, sh*t can still happen. Dive safe, people.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Flying Penguins

Well the weather was fine at the weekend but the swell was just ridiculous, so no diving took place. However to make up for it, here's an interesting study on how penguins launch themselves out of the water. 

Ok, so penguins can't fly but how they get themselves from sea to land is interesting not to mention pretty damn spectacular!


Now if only it were that easy for us divers to get back onto a boat, especially a RIB!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The small faces

Well thats the quietest I've ever seen the harbour on an Easter weekend. From what I hear, some people were talking to other people saying not to go out because the weather was bad. But these people didn't bother to speak to the people that know best i.e. the skippers. Which is their loss as we had a stonkingly good day of diving!
A whiter shade of pale
Vis had doubled in the last 48 hours, so instead of the 2 metres from Saturday, we had nearly 5 metres! I know it's still not the best ever but you make the best with what you got. There was a lot of light coming in from the surface but still a bit of plankton haging around in the water (as evidenced in some shots), but the amount of maring life running (metaphorically) around was superb.
Herman's hermit
Knowing that the vis was going to be the best, I stuck with the 188-55 lens and used the stacked dipoter wet lenses as and when suited me. As it turned out, I used them alot. The small stuff was out in force. Elaine swears she saw a sea hare, but with no photographic proof, we'll just chalk that one up to flights of fancy!
Elaine on the prowl...look! a sea hare! haha
With just on the right side of low water, the tide was with us for the Skellies so Peter dropped us in up the West end and we spent plenty of time mooching up and down the gullies. Water was a steady 7 degrees so not too bad for this time of year. Plumose anemones, dead mans fingers, devonshire cup corals, brittle stars, sun stars, eveything was covered wall to wall.
A riot of life in the Skellies
We only manage to find the one Wolf fish this dive and he was a reticent little bugger to having his picture taken.
A very grumpy wolf fish
Still there was a nice big flat fish on the other side of his rock who didn't seem to mind the attention.
In love with the spotlight
 Nudibranchs were out in force and it was hard to fin anywhere without tripping over them but as usual most of them are stuck in some very inconvenient places for photographers. How rude.
One nudi makes a break from cover to dash to the other urchin....
BLennies, gobies, butter fish and scorpion fish all but in guest appearances as well especially when we got up to the 15-13m mark, which provided us with some more excellent opportunites. Well it would be rude not to.
And I might also add that Elaine even put the SMB up at the end of the dive. She claimed she was bored after 72 minutes but I know she secretly just wants to play with brightly coloured objects. She has very simple feline pleasures. I've seen her idly batting the SMB at the surface for her own amusement when she thinks no one is looking.........

After a nice interval in the sun (yes the sun did make an appearance foir a short time and it was glorious) we headed out to Black Carr. You know what they say about Black Carr.....

The current was absolutely ripping so we jumped in at the North end at shot out towards the wall on the East side.
I just cant get enough of the colours
We followed the wall for a little while then for a change, instead of ducking round the back into Wuddy Rocks we kept on East South East with the current and had a good look around the rocks, which is just as well as we found a nice big lump sucker perched on a pinnacle.
Do lumpsuckers actually suck lumps though?
She was more than happy to pose for us before swimming off. Elaine got some video footage of it which I will stick on at the end. Which I am loathed to do as I hate being infront of a camera. As a double bonus we also found a nice big mature wolf fish right opposite the lumpsucker, but again he proved difficult to coax out of his lair.
Looking moody and artistic for the camera. Makeup!
But we there were plenty of pink prawns, scorpionfish and blennies fighting for quality lens time and who were we to say no.
Stay away from the cocktails
With the current pushing us on at a great rate of knots, it would have been remiss of us if we didn't do our superman impersonation. So we did. And it was fun. But it did make it very akward for taking shots of the nudis. Not only were they flapping about in the current, so were we.
Like a flag on a flagpole. Flapping all over the place
Another nudi seeks safe harbour in the storm
With the current pushing us on and deco limits looming, we drifted off into mid water and counted down the clock till the familiar sound of the Selkie's prop recalled us from Neptunes cold and wet embrace. Till next week that is.......

Ok, I did promise I'd upload Elaine's video that she shot with her new toy during the dives. I hate being in front of a lens.....

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Welcome to St Abbs, have a nice day

St Abbs Visitor Centre Website HERE

Just wanted to let you all know about the St Abbs Visitors Centre at the top of the hill. If you haven't been in it yet, then shame on you! (yes, shame on me as well because I only went in for the first time today). 
Welcome! Come on in!
Ok, so it hasn't technically been open that long, so that's my excuse as to why I havent been in until now .You can't miss it as its slap bang at the top of the hill on the left hand side before you head down to the harbour, so you can park up and walk there in under two minutes. No excuses.
Celebrating the past
Inside you'll find a very bright and airy space with plenty of displays and facts about St Abbs, the people and it's history.
Informative and interesting. You can have fun and learn at the same time!
If Dawn isn't sitting at the front entrance desk, she'll probably be talking to one of the visitors and no doubt will soon greet you with a hello and will immediately put you at ease if you have never met her before.
Some of the local history on display
As the wife of Captain O'Callaghan (he of Pathfinder andHawaiian shirt fame), Dawn has a wealth of knowledge and stories to tell all about the area, the history and the inner workings of the harbour. If she doesn't know it then it's probably no worth knowing about!

There is a series of talks, events, etc. organised over the next few weeks/months, so if you want to know more, I strongly suggest getting in touch with them to see what's happening. If you haven't already seen it, I've put a link to their website at the top.
Fantastic vantage point overlooking Seagull Rock, all the way out to Black Carr
It's not just about the diving as the walls tell an ongoing story as you walk round of the harbour, the birds and the people and how it all comes together to promote that stron sense of community spirit that you find in places like St Abbs. 

The place has long been a mecca for diving in the UK for many, many years and it's fantastic to have a dedicated centre about the harbour and village to inform and delight vistiors. 
Displaying the bounty of the sea
Lets not forget though that it's not just divers that come to St Abbs as vast amounts of tourists and day trippers flock to the East coast during the Summer months for a grand day out and provide a steady stream of income into the local community so it's up to all of us to support not just the Visitors Centre, but all the small businesses, skippers and everyone in the area. 

It'll be a sad day when the boats don't run any more......

Just remember to stop by the visitors centre any time your in the area, even if it's just to say hello and if you can spare it, leave a little donation in the box on your way out.
St Abbs - Diving mecca for the UK

What a swell time!

And not only did we have swell but some really serious surge as well! More on that later....The harbour was the quietest I've ever seen it for an Easter weekend which was a real shame. I think some people were put off by the suggested conditions on the forecast and by word of mouth. 

Yes the conditions weren't the best ever but we've dived a lot worse at St. Abbs. The wind had been all over the place the last 24 hours and it was just proving to be a vindictive little swine!
Captain Gibson cuts through the rough past Seagull Rock
Reports were bouncing back over VHF of viz around 2 metres, so after a quick chat with Peter we elected to jump on the Horn and hope for the best. And the best was 2 metre viz and some serious surge going on down below. Even at 22 metres the buffeting was pretty strong.
Elaine, just over 3 metres away with all her lights on. Look really hard......
 Just like the good old days of quarry diving we reverted back to our touch diving methods. Basically the only way to navigate the site is by touch. We normally find some wolfies or a lumpsucker on the Horn but we knew today wasn't going to be our day.
A sensible edible crab seeks shelter on the horn
But there was still plenty to see with squat lobsters, pink prawns, edible crabs, dead mans fingers, pincushion starfish, anemones and the usual culprits.
Star light, star bright, first starfish I see tonight......
We knocked it on the head after a 57 minute run time as once you've been around the Horn and over the top there's nowhere else to shallow up to except mid-water. We'd seen everything we wanted to though, so we couldn't complain really.
The perfect couple. Unfortunately they weren't available so here's Elaine and Hamish instead! (boom-boom!)

We did manage to get a brief bit of sunshine during the surface interval but it didn't last long and the swell was gradually geting worse as time went on. With the only realistic option to dive Black Carr we jumped in just North East of the main wall and instantly hit with massive surge all the way down to 24 metres. 
Pinky the prawn
We pushed on through past the wall and up and over the backside only to be seperated by the surge being funnelled through the second swim through. I got pushed straight into the wall which blew out the modelling light on my rig. Fortunately it took all the impact and nothing else had been damaged.

The surge took Elaine around the otherside and off to the East but given that we're both experienced qualified solo divers, I wasn't worried for her. She can be sensible when she needs to be ( she's going to hit me on Monday for that! ).

I aimed for the back of Big Black Carr and on into Wuddy Rocks where I knew it would be sheltered and I could try and get some quality camera time.
Dahlia anemone in detail
I got my hands on a +8 macro diopter earlier in the week to stack with my existing +16 macro diopter so I was keen to try it out but given the conditions, it was proving easier said than done. So generally the macro shots were just an opportunity to see how the stacked diopters perfoemed and to try a few different settings.
Up close and personal with a Sea Urchin
Overall I'm please with the performance and the results, we just need half decent conditions so I can get some half decent shots!
Lovely little baby hermit crab
So the day wasn't a complete bust, well apart from my modelling light, but we had a few laughs and some good dives out of it. 

And one last important safety notice, wherever you dive, listen to the skipper and what they are telling you. They are experienced and know what they are talking about. The group before us totally ignored Peters advice, demanded to get dropped in somewhere different and then came up after 15 minutes complaining how shit the dive was. 

Peter had a few choice words to say about them afterwards, but lets just call them muppets and leave it at that. 

99% of the time, the Captain knows best.....unless he's Italian and in command of a cruise ship.

Safe diving!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Shark protection in Scotland

The Scots lead the way again. The Scottish Government is the first in Europe to introduce legislation protecting such a wide range of species. The Sharks Skates and Rays (Prohibition of Fishing) Order came into force on March 30th and covers 26 species – including angel sharks, tope sharks, common skate and undulate rays.

This is very welcome news and comes on top of the shark finning ban introduced in Scotland as of 2009.

If only more countries could get on board with being more proactive about protecting endangered species. Hopefully the more we keep making a noise about it, the more people in power will listen and do something about it.