Diving Malin Head – June 2017

I can not remember the first time I got to hear about the wrecks of Malin Head but I do remember that I first booked to dive them in 2013. The Aug 2013 trip to Malin Head (see blog post here) was a great success but we didn’t dive the wrecks of Malin Head! The weather was not favourable and ended up diving the Irish Sea around the Isle of Man.

A group of very good friends (Andris, Nick, Aileen, Laura & Geoff) went back to Malin Head in 2016, sadly I could not join them because I had signed up for a 26 mile walk (wearing a kilt !!!).

The before photo!!!

Having had great time Andris decided to go back exactly the same week a year later and of course I signed up as soon I was invited (was not going to miss out on diving for walking – again!!!)

The trip was organised by Barry McGill’s InDepthTechnical out of the Donnald Cullen’s Mevagh Dive Centre. Accommodation was booked by Barry at Mevagh House B&B.

The trip started on Friday 02/06/2017 with me travelling to Cairnryan near Stranraer to get the ferry to Belfast.

Screenshot from 2017-07-15 21-31-39.png

The big advantage of driving (opposed to flying) to a diving destination is that it is much easier to load all you need to the car without the stress of complying with airlines weight / volume limitations and I love it!!!

The ferry to Belfast was busy but a very pleasant journey and after a few more hours of driving I made it to Mevagh dive Centre in Carrigaart where after checking in with Donald I got into preparing my gear for diving.

Shortly after that I got to meet the rest of the group who were already there and just like me (very excited) were making ready for a week of diving.

Admittedly I was more excited as this was my first time and going by last years reports and past years photos the expectations were high!

Not before long, by mate Andris and Matt with Danni arrived.
I was so excited that I would get to dive with my regular diving buddies Andris and Matt once again since I 2013!!!.
Saturday morning we made our way to the marina and boarded the Laura Dean.
The Laura Dean is a pretty awesome boat with loads of space and quite quickly we settled in our stations that we would keep for the rest of the week

The first dive of the trip was the U-89 (see links in Wikipedia, U-Boat Net and Wrecksite).
This was my first dive in Malin Head and excited as I was nothing had prepared me for the awesomeness of that dive. Visibility was great (albeit a bit dark) and she was very much ship shape (or submarine shape I should say).
Although I did spent most of my time around the conning tower did managed to visit the bows and the stern.

Photo of U-89 courtesy of Barry McGill

The next dive was on the wreck of the SS Justicia one of the Malin Head Celebrity wrecks and one I have been looking forward to dive.

Photo of SS Justicia’s Anchor courtesy of Rick Ayrton

The next dive was one of the most famous of the Malin Head Classics because it is one of the most photogenic wrecks that I know of.

Photo of American Sherman Tanks of SS Empire Heritage courtesy of Rick Ayrton

The wreck of the SS Empire Heritage is known because of the American Sherman Tanks that was carrying when attacked and sunk by U-482.

Having started our diving week with epic wrecks like that the expectations were high and indeed Malin Head did not let us down. Monday we set out to dive the HMS Audacious.

Photo of the legendary guns of HMS Audacious courtesy of Rick Ayrton

I made an attempt to head to the stern but proved to far and decided to leave it for another day!!! Had to go back!

At this point I was a very happy bunny because I had achieved the main objective of my trip which was to dive the Malin Head Classics and from now on anything would be a bonus!!!

The SS Rosscommon was a cargo ship torpedoed by SM U-53 and sunk. The cargo was crockery and made for a very impressive dive!!!

Photo of the SS Rosscommon Cargo courtesy of Rick Ayrton

And finally the last dive of the trip was a return visit to the wreck of the stern section of the HMS Audacious.

Photo of the stern of HMS Audacious including the Prop and two rudders courtesy of Rick Ayrton

Although the photos are pretty amazing seeing these wrecks in person was absolutely awesome and I loved every minute of it.

Overall we did 6 dives and about 12 hrs in the water which was pretty impressive considering that the weather out there can (and does) get wild!!!

Other than diving Donald was absolutely amazing looking after us from preparing breakfast to filling cylinders at the end of the day for the next dive to dropping and recovering the shot line and trapeze and making tea for us on the boat, NOT to mention the George Foreman Sandwich Toaster aboard the Laura – Dean!!! (Which should be included as a mandatory bit of kit an ALL UK Diving boats!!!)

Apart from diving we had the chance to go for walks around Carrigart and enjoy the stunning scenery and a number of pubs / restaurants to have dinner (including Carigaart Hotel and the Singing Pub) out of which, I have to say, my favourite was the Logue’s Bar with the epic Black n Blue pizza!!!

Black n Blue Pizza – Not to miss!!!

Overall an absolutely great trip organised by Barry and Delivered by Donald. Really looking forward to go back and do it all over again next year!!!

Happy Malin Head Classics Divers!!!

Many thanks to the team for being excellent company throughout the trip

  • Martin Timoney
  • CM Ó Braonáin
  • Brian Kelly
  • Ron Hucker
  • Rick Ayrton

My buddies for looking after me

  • Andris Nestors
  • Matt Speed

and of course

  • Barry McGill for organising it and
  • Donald Cullen and Dean Cullen for making it happen

Diving scapa flow with Aberdeen Watersports out of MV Valkyrie

Last time I was diving Scapa Flow it was August 2009 and of course as much as I had promised to return that didn’t happened until November 2013. This time though it was much much easier! 🙂

Scapa 2009 Trip

Unlike last time I had not had to endure the endless drive from London to Scrabster but only travel from Aberdeen to Scrabster and from there take the ferry to the Orkneys!

A small panic with batteries aside and the usual madness of packing CCR diving gear for a weeklong trip on Thursday evening everything went to plan. On Friday I finished with work early and went back home to finalize preparations. Steve arrived after a very long drive from London and since the common consensus was Breakfast at McDs we decided to skip the pub (very much unlike us!) and have an early night (even more unlike us!) since the alarm was set for about 04:30!!!

Saturday 2 November 2013 – The trip to Scapa

Well before the first rays of light showed in the sky we started loading the car, which obviously contained already a significant amount of kit, and set off to meet the rest of the team at the Backsburn roundabout from where we would form a convoy to drive to Scrabster.

We arrived at the known junk food restaurant first and proceeded to place orders. Much to Steve’s disappointment the IT system had gone down and they had to reboot the system before they could not take any orders. In the meantime the team started to gather and more and more, just woken up, divers started to appear. A couple more attempts to order the much needed now breakfast were met with the same response “System is down. Waiting to reboot” and at about that time we noticed A LOT of smoke coming from the galley and a few panicked people running around! At that point we had already been there for more than half an hour and if anything was coming that would be  a fire engine than our breakfast!!!

Disappointed and hungry we started our journey with an EPIC MacDonalds FAIL. Fortunately just before Elgin, Steve spotted the “Golden Gates” and stopped for a high quality (not) breakfast prepared by the greatest junk food producing establishment in the world!!!

I was compensated for that traumatic experience though at Scrabster, where on arrival we had tea, bacon baps and cakes at Scrabster’s Cups tea room. Cakes were great and I was rather upset that I had to leave before I got to try ALL cakes in the menu!!! 

Steve was really excited about this Cafe!

At about that time the whole of the group had made it to the North Link Ferries Terminal in Scrabster and we were ready to start boarding.

Boarding can be done in two ways

  1. Straightforward: drive the car to the ferry. Get out of the car and walk up to the bar
  2. Fuffing: Offload the car. Load the trolley. Take the trolley to the ferry. Walk up to the bar.

Steve opted for option i) as option ii) did not seem pleasant or fun.

Aboard the MV HAMNAVOE and after the necessary introductions the whole team assembled for a first drink!

The Scapa Nov 2013 crew: Steve, Cam, Chris (the drinking one), Chris (the one with loads of hair), Ian, Paul, Angela, Don, Mike, Alison (without lube on her hair), Bjorn & of course me!!!,

 The trip was short and on arrival to Scrabster we boarded MV Valkyrie which would be home to us for the following week!

MV Valkyrie (photo courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

Once on the boat and having got our cabins Hazel showed us around and briefed us on how things would work for the rest of the week. The briefing included facilities, food, gas, time schedules and other stuff to ensure that everyone knew what was going on and what the expectations / requirements were.

Highlight of the briefing was the clear “No Take” policy of MV Valkyrie that I am particularly fond of. Sadly I have been aboard diving vessels where the skipper, not only did not explicitly discouraged looting of wrecks but, effectively promoted it! Salvaging anything that could identify the wreck is acceptable provided that the formal procedure is followed, for further details read the MCA guidelines on the subject here and there. Salvaging anything else after that so that it can be sold to recover the diving trip costs is a pathetic, pikey attitude unfortunately very common amongst certain diving communities.

Of course there are divers that recover “pretty” things to fill their garage, garden shed or even living room and although this is not as bad as salvaging wrecks to sell them (see pikey) it still deprives future divers from enjoying their dives, apart from the fact that it is usually illegal and stealing along with looting which are not agreeable activities in my books.

Skippers have a role to play and they should be promoting responsible diving as in the end the only one hurt will be themselves. No one wants to dive a barren broken-up featureless wreck. Features like bells, compass, lights, telegraphs etc make a dive interesting, removing them makes for boring dives. I am aware of divers that will avoid booking with certain skippers because they won’t allow them to bring up “spidge” but for how long are they going to be able to sustain that?

With the briefing out of the way we started loading our kit on the boat. That proved to be a bit of a challenge, as the boat was quite low or to be more precise the tide was low!!! Kit was lowered into the boat either by hand, rope or just thrown down (had a couple of near misses there!!!) and apart from a rubbish bag (which was recovered) we didn’t drop anything else!!!

 Once everything was sorted, and after a fair bit of dive kit fuffing (a theme that would continue throughout the week) we made our way to the Ferry Inn for a couple of drinks and dinner. Apparently the scallops portions left a few divers hungry but generally the dinner was great and so fed and watered we made our way to the boat in very very heavy rain!!!

To be continued…

Sunday 3 Nov 2013 – Day 1 of Diving

The weather forecast was never favourable for this week and by last night’s rain we knew that it was going to be an ugly Sunday morning. None the less we were all excited and determined to go diving. Hazel was quite confident that we would manage a dive. So at 8o clock we cast the ropes and headed out of port. Howling winds and a very wet deck by the sea splash / spray and continuous rain made even the bravest of us to realize that this was not a diving day!!! more like a “I think I want to go back to bed please” day but we pushed forward…

 Shortly after leaving the harbour Helen called us at the lounge for the first of many excellent dive briefings. The first dive was going to be a shake-down dive to make sure that all was working before we go ahead diving more adventurous stuff later in the week.

Once on site Rob informed us that it was too exposed

Video Of Scapa Exotic Weather

and we would make our way to the F2 which is more sheltered and our only chance to dive today.

On arrival to the F2 & the YC21 Barge the conditions were, not exactly tropical, but  safe to dive and as we were already kitted up we decided to go for the first dive of the trip.

F2 Briefing Sketch showing features and orientation (courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

A video of the F2 dive by  Chris Smith can be found  here.  As this was a shallow wreck I decided not to take my 100m long reel. The down side of that was that I was too light, as my reel makes part of my “integrated weight system”.

🙂 “Hindsight is the Superpower I would love to have most!” 🙂

Back on the boat and before we even got out of our kit Rob announced that the conditions were too bad for another dive today and we would head back to post. A decision that was welcomed by everyone as a few green faces had started to appear!!!

Helen had prepared Lunch (Soup, Rolls, Meats, Cheese & Salad) and by the time we made it back to port the weather was getting better. It turns out that not many diving boats made it out on Sunday altogether!

 After a bit more of fuffing and a look around the local diving shops Scapa Scuba and Dive Scapa Flow‎ (which would make a theme for the rest of the week) we returned to Hazel to get fed again!

 Dinners on the Valkyrie are epic. Really. Our dinner tonight was made up of: Smoked Salmon & Cream Cheese, Shepherds Pie & Strawberries & Cream for dessert!!! yammy!!! And the quantities could only compare to being at home AND being fed by mum!!! AWESOME!

After dinner we retired to the lounge / saloon to watch Star Trek. Not the most social activity I hear you say? Well maybe, but if you had what we had for dinner you wouldn’t be able to do an awful lot more!!!

Monday 4 November 2013 – Day 2 of Diving

After breakfast we left port to dive the SMS Brummer. 30 min prior to reaching the dive site Helen summoned us to the lounge for the diving briefing which included a sketch of the wreck and detailed instructions as to how to descent, all the interesting features available for us to see and how not to miss The Guns. Halfway during the briefing I found myself thinking “I really want to dive this wreck and see all these awesome features, Masts, capstans, bathtubs, Guns, the bridge, Guns, The battle bridge and did I say Guns?”.

SMS Brummer (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

For a virtual 3D dive on the SMS Brummer visit Scapa Flow Wrecks and see SMS Brummer.

On surfacing Rob was waiting for us to refill cylinders (for the gas guzzling twinsets – NOT ME! 🙂 and with cups of tea and coffee. Soon lunch was ready and we proceeded to the galley for an epic Fry-up. 

By the time we finished lunch Helen was preparing the briefing for the next dive! 

SMS Karlshrue briefing sketch showing features and orientation (courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

Chris’s Smith SMS Karlshrue Video here and for a virtual 3D dive on the SMS Karlshrue visit Scapa Flow Wrecks and here. 

Alternatively if you want more information on the SMS Karlshrue or indeed any other of the Scapa Flow wrecks you can get Rod McDonalds excellent book Dive Scapa Flow.

Odd features at either quarter of the Stern (potentially mine laying chutes) looked intriguing but sadly my knowledge of WWI warship Naval Architecture is rather limited so could not possibly comment…

After the dive and while Rob was filling cylinders we set course to the port of Stromness.  On arrival and after a bit of fuffing about with diving kit we made our way to Julia’s Café for another round of cakes (as if we weren’t getting enough food aboard the MV Valkyrie!?). While enjoying our Mocha with Marshmallows and other unhealthy chocolaty stuff we bumped onto the Deeside SAC divers that were visiting Scapa at the same time with us! Brian, Mike, Simon, Gar et al were all in Scapa diving on the Club’s annual pilgrimage to Scapa Flow organized traditionally by Lorne.

Right on time we headed back to get fed by Helen who had prepared: Sweet Potato Soup, Chicken Curry & Pineapple Upside Down Cake for dessert!!!

 Although watching films was entertaining enough we decided to give Cards Against Humanity a chance as it seemed amusing enough and we were advised that it a suitably offensive cards game to play.

 Sadly the US version of the game didn’t prove to be as offensive or amusing as expected although I am sure that the UK version would make up for it!!!

Subsequently we progressed to play “The Hat Game” a kind of cards game (probably conceived by Steve altogether) and by that time the combined effect of alcohol (which surely one has to have to accompany such team activities) and comments about “Charismatic Leaders” and “Comic Heroes – see Mumm-Ra” led a couple of non-Political Correct but thoroughly entertaining miming games!!!

I am pretty sure I am NOT going to be playing the “Hat Game” in any family gatherings that is for sure!!!

To be continued…

Tuesday 5 November 2013 – Day 3 of Diving

The time to start diving the “more” exciting wrecks of Scapa had come! Today the weather was better and the first dive of the day was going to be the SMS Krownprinz Wilhelm.

Photo of the SMS Krownprinz Wilhelm (courtesy of Wikipedia)

 For a virtual 3D dive on the SMS Krownprinz Wilhelm visit Scapa Flow Wrecks and here. Apart from being the massive wreck of a battleship the Krownprinz was the only of the Koning class Battleships to take part in the Battle of Jutland and escaped without damage!

Back on the boat Rob was filling cylinders and Helen was filling divers with Burger, Chips & Salad!!! (No. Before you ask. No. There was no demand for salad!)

The afternoon dive was a quite unique dive. Submarine  UB 116 was the last submarine to be sunk at the Great War. She was lost with all hands on deck when a whole minefield was detonated around her! 😮 Sadly further salvage efforts and an (unsuccessful) attempt to make safe of her 10 remaining torpedoes resulted in a wreck site that looks nothing like a submarine. For further info on the story of the UB116 see the UBoat Net and Wikipedia’s entry on UB-116 here.

After that and back on port we gathered in the galley for Helen had prepared for us Garlic Bread, Lasagne & Apple Crumble (Growing fat at this point!!!)

Once more having had a great dinner we retired to the lounge to have a quiet drink and relax for the remaining of the night. Relaxing didn’t really last very long because SPACE TEAM was introduced and quickly got loads of dedicated fans. SPACE TEAM is a mobile phone game and as it works on any smart phone quite quickly it spread amongst all (well almost) all members of the crew. Won’t go into the details other than it is addictive and it definitely is a team game!!!


Wednesday 6 November 2013 – Day 4 of Diving

The first dive on Wednesday was the   SMS MARKGRAF another Konig class battleship and sister ship to the SMS Krownprinz Wilhelm we dived yesterday. Interestingly enough the SMS MARKGRAF is named after  the royal family of Baden (see Wikipedia here). The SMS Baden was was the largest and most powerfully armed battleship built by the Imperial Navy (see Wikipedia here). Sadly the Baden lies at the Hurd’s deep at about 170 to 180 msw which is slightly outside recreational diving limits 😉 And if the depth is not enough to put divers off it is also worth mentioning that (due to the depth) it was considered to be an appropriate location for damping Chemical and radioactive waste from mid 40s to mid 70s…

For more info on diving the SMS Baden you can read Mark Ellyat’s excellent book Gladiator of the Deep.

Having seen guns of all sizes and dimensions we decided to get back to Helen for Chilli Con Carne!!! Awesome diving and awesome food!!!

Diving the V83 as the second dive of the day had to be a shallow dive (in-line with good PADI diving practices – Avoiding reverse profiles) we are good like that 😉 The V83 was a Torpedo boat destroyer that was used by Ernest Cox of Cox & Danks Shipbreaking Co. to salvage the High Seas Fleet. There is an excellent book about the story of Ernest Cox called The Man Who Bought A Navy and I strongly recommend reading it to all divers and engineers!!!

V83 briefing sketch showing features and orientation (courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

Not a dive I enjoyed as I was having buoyancy issues and poor communication issues.

At some point I pulled out my reel so that we could reel out to the Concordia Boiler unfortunately (poor communication) Steve thinking that I was preparing to deploy my DSMB for ascent he started to prepare his DSMB for deployment and ascent!!! Luckily neither of us was having a ball on that dive so it didn’t really spoiled anyone’s dive! On the plus side we managed to see the Gun and the officers quarters! You can see Chris’s Smith V83 Video of the dive here .

On arrival to port we decided to break the common theme of fuffing about with diving kit and killing time until dinner and decided to pay a visit to the Highland Park distillery a rather dangerous activity as divers are known to be partial to alcohol…

The highland park distillery is located near Kirkwall in a very impressive complex of traditional buildings. Sadly by the time we got there it was too late to join for the last distillery tour but we had plenty of time to look around the fine collection of bottles and invest in some quality whiskey.

I could not resist buying a bottle of HP 15 yo whiskey and a bottle of DRAKKAR to take to Greece and drink celebrating meeting with my brother after 2 years!!!

 We had to make sure we are back in time for dinner as we did not want to upset Hazel (nor miss dinner)!!! so quickly we finished with all whiskey purchases and after a quick stop by LIDL (to buy cheap booze) we headed back to the boat where Hazel had prepared for us Chorizo & Mushroom Quiche, Stuffed Chicken & Banoffee Pie!!!

 And after that in a rather sluggish – slow motion style (see eating loads of great food above) we made our way to the pub for a couple of drinks…

To be continued…

Thursday 7 November 2013 – Day 5 of Diving

With the weather looking good we left port to dive the SMS Dresden II a Coln class light cruiser that was commissioned late on the war and din not see any action. Although during the dive briefing Helen pointed out at the Shield with the Dresden crest at the starboard Bow I managed to miss it during the dive and needless to say I was quite disappointed about it, but I suppose that makes for a good excuse to go back no???

Guns, The Armoured Control and the bathtub at the Officers Quarters made for a very enjoyable dive and as by now we were getting the hang of it Ascents Descents and DSMB deployments were getting better and better.

SMS Dresden II briefing sketch showing features and orientation (courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

Back on the boat and after the customary cup of tea the team now addicted to SPACE TEAM and having set up a WiFi network on the boat returned to the popular activity of screaming and shouting to each other!!!! The only break came when Helen sounded the Bell and we moved to the galley for Sausage Pasta Bake. During lunch the conversation was around the many different chilli sauces that Helen had collected that rated from regular Tabasco to Hot – Super Hot – Stupidly Hot and Dangerously Hot!!! Some of them even came with warning labels:

“Not to come to direct contact with the skin!!!” OMFG!!!

 Of course you would think that everyone would stay clear of the particular Uber-Hot ones rather than go on and smear it all over their faces, but hey we are talking about divers here!!!

The second dive of the day was SMS Coln II a sister ship of the Dresden II that we dived that morning. Along with her sister came too late in the war to get to see any action. Although sister ship to the Dresden II it is impressive to note the differences between warships based on the same design but built on different shipyards. Sometimes it feels like Designs are like a pirate code “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules” which is a bit disturbing for engineers like me…

SMS Coln II briefing sketch showing features and orientation (courtesy of MV Valkyrie)

You can see Chris’s Smith SMS Coln II Video of the dive here

For dinner Helen had prepared Red Onion & Cheese Puffs, Stew and Chocolate Cheesecake!!!

After dinner and as folk was lying in their cabins a certain known mischievous diver thought that it would be funny to replicate the known scene from the Pirates of the Caribbean where Jack Sparrow is trying to Rock the Boat!

Friday 8 November 2013 – Last of Diving / Return

The last day of the trip is always a bit depressing. I had a great time and did not really wanted to think about leaving or going back sadly the boat was booked by another group of divers after us 😦

The first dive would be the same with the last one the SMS Coln II. It is really amazing how the more you dive the better you get and more comfortable you feel. Closing to the end of the week the dives feel so much easier and more fun!

 After Lunch (Jacket Potatoes) I started with tidying up staff and helping other divers getting kitted up for the last dive of the trip. I was not too keen to dive the F2 again and Steve’s dry suit was leaking so opted not to dive that get wet again. Once every one was back on the boat the deck was full of activity and divers packing loads and loads of diving gear (where did all that came from???)

By the time we had finished packing it was time to load the car and the trailer that the rest of the team would use to transfer their stuff on the ferry on Saturday morning. Surprisingly(?) we managed to finish loading right in time for dinner: Stuffed Peppers, Chicken & Brocolli Pie and THE BEST Sticky Toffee Pudding I HAVE EVER HAD. No seriously. It was awesome 🙂 And a real struggle not to go for more!!!

After the dinner we loaded the car and waved bye bye to the team starting our trip to Kirkwall.

Boarding the Ferry at Kirkwall was seamless but a bit all over the shop. We were directed to an empty car park and told to wait there. Time for boarding came and passed but we were still there waiting. No one was around to give any instructions or information. About half an hour after the scheduled departure time, the woman from the kiosk cam and signalled to all the cars to start boarding.

Once started, boarding was straight forward and quick. We soon found ourselves checking-in and got our cabin and fall asleep.

Saturday 9 November 2013 – Back in Aberdeen

Scapa 2013 Return Trip

The trip was good and did not woke up until the ferry was entering Aberdeen. Awesome! Has to be my favourite way of travelling!!!Sleep at departure. Wake up at Destination!!!

Google maps extract showing (about) the 2013 journey


What a great trip! This Scapa was expected to be a great and it did deliver. The weather, the wrecks, the boat, the food and the team were all excellent and could not have asked for more, really really looking forward to 2019 to go back!!!

A great trip and looking forward to go back!!!

Many thanks to:

  • Steve for being a great dive buddy
  • Cam for organizing the trip
  • Hazel, for being a great skipper and her absolutely 1st class dive briefings
  • Helen an awesome Cook
  • Rob, the always helpful Crew!
  • Alison (with lube on her hair), Paul, Angela, Donald, Michael, Christopher S, Chris P, Ian & Bjorn for being great buddies!

Diving the Coast of Normandy – July 2013

So it was that time of the year! My annual pilgrimage to the south coast and diving out of France. In the past it was the most challenging trip of the year (logistics wise) as I had to get myself prepared for 3-4 days of repetitive gas diving without any access to O2 (Oxygen) or He (Helium) fills.

The plan was simple get the boat Steve Johnsons Channel Diver from Brighton Marina and head out to France. Mid Channel dive a wreck and continue to France after the dive. Arrive in France go for dinner and then the next day head out of FeCamp and dive a wreck in the coast of Normandy. After the dive return to France for more croissants, baguettes and smelly cheese! Finally on the third day Leave escargos and fromage and head back home with a dive on the way back.

Now that sounds simple right?

Yes but there is a twist. The boat does not have O2 or He. So if you are an open circuit diver you need to take with you enough gas for the whole of the trip. For someone like me who likes breathing (A LOT) that means about 3 twinsets and 4 stages minimum. Now that is a lot of gear!!! (I know – I ‘ve done it twice now!!!)

Fortunately I have recently moved to the Dark Side and got my self a “breather” or a rebreather (for those not initiated into the tek-diving slang) and with my gas logistics issues resolved I should be all good to go right?

Well not quite. See in the mean time I moved from London (very close to Brighton) to Aberdeen (nowhere near Brighton) so this year’s trip it was still a challenge because although gas management was not an issue driving was!!!

And of course typical of me a week before the trip I changed jobs so had to give back my company and only car I had!!!

CaptureGoogle Maps extract showing Start of trip Aberdeen, Brighton and FeCamp

So having hired a car I loaded my kit and headed south. An early start at 05:00 helped missing traffic and soon I was on the M26 heading down. The trip was boring but uneventful and I was very pleased at that!!!

On arrival to Brighton it felt like I was already on holidays in a different country as the heatwave had girls in bikinis lying in the beach or the park!!! Success! I was definitely on holiday mood.

I checked in to my hotel with a grumpy and miserable receptionist (see review I posted) and headed out to the beach for lunch and a well deserved drink!!!

Tuesday morning I checked out and headed to the marina to board Channel Diver and meet the rest of the crew.

My mate Andris Nestors was already there loading his gear on the boat and I followed promptly. As soon as I made my way to the boat I was greeting by friendly faces! Broady and Nicola were there, of course Steve (our skipper) and Nigel Ingram and Tommy with whom I had done similar trips in the past! Excellent 🙂

All gear was loaded we headed off to France. The weather was simply stunning. Hard to believe we were about to go diving  la Manche

The first dive was the HMHS Lanfranc.

HMHS_LanfrancPhoto of RMS Lanfranc before her requisition as a hospital ship in 1915

HMHS Lanfranc was a hospital ship (6287 grt) torpedoed and sunk by German U-boat UB-40 on 17 April 1917. 17 British and 17 German patients were lost  Some 570 survivors were picked up by the destroyers HMS Badger and HMS Jackal aided by HMS P 47 and the French patrol boat Roitelet, and taken to Portsmouth. For  further info see: the Wreck Site

The first dive wasn’t exactly a great success. I jumped in with Andris but early in the dive I realised that both of my computers were set to the wrong gas. 😦 I managed to successfully communicate it to Andris but somewhere in the fuf we got separated and at that point decided to ascent. Once on the surface Steve picked me up, I updated the gas on both computers and soon I was back in the water descending the line to Lanfranc. As I was on my own and the current was picking up I kept the dive short and headed back up not before long.

After the dive we continued our journey crossing the channel untiGrand_Pavois_ranch_doorl we made it to Fecamp. On arrival to the marina we checked in to the hotel Grand Pavois which Steve had booked us. After checking-in (which took a while – but then again we were a big group) and a quick shower (still impressed with the ranch-style bathroom door, the double sink and the lack of curtains) we made our way to the local restaurant for beer and steak-frites!!!

Wednesday morning we decided to have a look at the hotel’s breakfast which was not included in the price and as I do have a soft spot for salmon, brie and baguettes the call was made to stay at the hotel for breakfast! YeY!!! 🙂

After breakfast we made our way back to the marina where Steve was waiting for us to go diving! The plan was to dive an unknown mark that Steve had picked up on a previous trip. On arrival to site and after the shot line went in, myself and Andris descend to the wreck. Initially it was a bit confusing but after a while it became evident that although this wreck was a man made structure it was not a ship. It turns out it was some sort of a platform or maybe a Mulberry Harbour?

Loads of life and some dinosaur sized lobsters!!! a pair of fishermans? (longjohn style) trousers at the bottom and a MASSIVE buoy inside the wreck kept us amused and resulted in a total runtime dive of 100 min! 🙂

Although we had not discovered a Spanish galleon loaded with gold doubloons, our unknown wreck proved to be equally amusing and enjoyable!!!

Back to Fecamp and after the obligatory “cheeky half” at the La Fregate of the Hotel de la mer and a shower (in the bathroom with the ranch door and without shower curtains) we headed to the La Grillade


for my Chateaubriand and Nigel and Tommy’s share of humongous plate of meat!

Thursday morning after another excellent breakfast (smoked salmon and brie with fresh baguettes and croisants) we checked out and started our return journey. Halfway we stopped at the HMHS Lanfranc for one more dive and (unlike the Tuesday dive) everything went to plan and dived all the way from the bows to the stern!!! 🙂

In the evening we off loaded the boat, said our goodbyes and loaded the cars for the next part of the trip. Me and Andris were heading to Eastborne to dive with David Ronnan and Sylvia (Dive 125).

On arrival to Eastbourne (a short drive from Brighton) we checked-in to our regular hotel (The Cavendish in Eastbourne)

cavendishphoto of room from expedia.com

and headed to the restaurant for beers and a well deserved dinner! As the load time was a very civilised 11:15 we left all the fuffing for Friday morning.

Friday morning after a full English brea_teamakfast (brie, salmon, baguettes and croissant are good but…) he headed to the Sovereign Marina to meet with Matt Speed (the third member of the A-Team) was going to join us to dive Caleb Sprague!!!

Once we loaded the boat and out of nowhere Chris Hall appeared! It is nice being back in the south Coast and diving with Friends!!!

On January 31st, 1944, the British steamship Caleb Sprague (1813 grt) was torpedoed and sunk by German motor torpedo boats , S.E. of Beachy Head on a voyage from London to Newport.

Twenty-two of her crew of 27 and three of her four gunners were lost. (information from the wrecksite)

1108_wt118_caleb_sprague The Caleb Sprague  (Source – Divernet: WRECKTOUR 118)

Myself, Andris and Matt descended to the wreck which kept us busy for around 40 minutes (and that was excluding the Lobster hunting time!!!). Once we had enough (to see and dinner) we made our way up and surfaced at the planned 2 hr runtime.

Sadly that was the last dive of the trip. Back on the beach we unloaded the boat said our goodbyes and I headed back to the Hotel for my last night south (by that time it was too late to start the return journey).

Saturday morning I started the long journey back, which ended even longer as the stupid sat-nav sent me via the M1 (YIKES!!!) and ended up back in Aberdeen about 17:00 in the evening. Knackered! But what a great week!!! Great dives! Great catching up with friends! Awesome weather!!! What more could anyone ask for!!!

Many thanks go to:

  • My favourite dive buddy Andris Nestors
  • Matt Speed, Broady and Nicola, Steve Johnson, David Ronnan and Sylvia Pryer

Great to see you, excellent diving with you and looking forward to see you all again soon!!!

Diving The Isle of Man with Deeside SAC

The diving trip to Malin Head that didn’t happened!

Last September Mike Ferguson from my local branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) the Deeside Sub Aqua Club (DSAC) organized a trip to Malin Head out of Al Wright’s MV Salutay. Read more about Al here and on IANTD’s Operation Pedestal page. I was invited to join but kindly declined as although qualified to dive I would be the only Open Circuit diver on the boat and that would

  1.   make it hard to buddy with any CCR diver
  2.   make gas logistics a nightmare
  3.   make for a very expensive gas bill!!!

The trip was a success although visibility was not great because of an out-of season Plankton Bloom.

This was highly unusual and unlike anything like what was expected according to my diving buddy’s video of Malin Head (Diving Malin Head, Ireland 2010 by Geoff Davies https://vimeo.com/14388873) and photos:

iconic Shipwrecks lying off Malin Head, Ireland – taken by fourth element team diver Steve Jones:




Therefore it didn’t take long for Mike to start organizing the next trip to Malin Head and I was invited to join the group. This time as a proud owner of a newly acquired AP Inspiration Classic I agreed to join and needless to say I was really very excited at the prospect of diving the HMS Audacious, SS Justicia and the SS Empire Heritage.

Considering that all three (Audacious, Justicia and Empire Heritage) lie at a depth of around 70m of water this makes it for a tech only trip with not much scope for recreational / non-deco diving!!! Ideally for suitably experienced divers.

As much as I do consider myself to have some understanding in the lore of scuba diving I felt I had to get myself ready and “dived-up” for a trip like that and therefore embarked in a race to get as many deco and simulated deco dives as possible to make sure that I am ready for Malin Head.

After a fair bit of diving and a lot of waiting August the 31st arrived and I packed my gear and Saturday morning headed off to meet Lorne Thomson and start our drive to Stranraer. It is amazing how much kit just the two of us had!!! One would imagine that a Range Rover would be enough for 2 (yes two) divers? Well just!
By the time we had loaded, rebreathers, stage bottles, Lorne’s scooter, tool boxes, dry suits and other random stuff there was hardly any space left for us!!!

The drive was pretty easy and uneventful and we made it to Stranraer in time to load the boat.

Photo of MV Salutay (Wikipedia Belfast Tall Ships 2009)

After the expected fuff of setting up gear, selecting cabins etc we (orderly) made our way to the local Chinese restaurant for a curry, beers and raising a pint to diving buddies that unfortunately didn’t made it to this trip.

Sadly by that time it was confirmed that the weather was too bad to make it to Malin Head and dive the wrecks of Plan A and therefore we had to dive Plan B!!!


Google Maps extract showing the waypoints of the trip we had originally planned (Dive Malin Head Wrecks)


Google Maps extract showing what we actually dived (Diving IOM wrecks – Plan B)

Sunday morning after a hearty fry-up prepared by Freda we sailed from Stranraer to dive the first wreck of the trip

“SS Tiberia, built by Northumberland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd., Newcastle in 1913 and owned at the time of her loss by Anchor Line (Henderson Bros.), Ltd., Glasgow, was a British steamer of 4880 tons.
On February 26th, 1918, Tiberia, on a voyage from Glasgow to New York with general cargo, was sunk by the German submarine U-19 (Johannes Spieß), 1.5 mles east of Black Head, Belfast Lough. There were no casualties.” Source: the Wreck site.


A sketch of the wreck can be found here.

Video of the wreck of SS Tiberia on YouTube here. On the way out we got to see Samson and Goliath the two giagantic cranes of the Harland and Wolff shipbuilding (the one that built RMS Titanic? – Yes! that one!!!)

The sea was a bit choppy so the decision was made to not take any scooters much to the boys disappointment. Luckily for me that meant I would get a buddy! Myself and Lorne were getting ready until Lorne started having “Cell” issues. For those of you into closed circuit rebreathers you know what that means for the rest of you not familiar with the AP Cells drama all I will say is that Cells is a critical bit of the rebreather and going diving with any warnings on them is a bad idea.

Lorne attempted to replace the cell but then it didn’t work and I buddied up with Brian and Simon and went for a dive. Vis was not exactly excellent but considering that we managed a 100 minute runtime dive that probably implies that we quite enjoyed in!!!

Back on the boat we got fed by Freda and headed out to shore.


Dessert was at least epic! (photo courtesy of MV Salutay)

On arrival to Portavogie we engaged in our favourite activity of messing around with kit. Power drills etc came into play while Al was filling our cylinders.

A scouting party was sent out to find a pub but returned empty handed as Portavogie ( which according to wikipedia comes from Irish: Port a’ Bhogaigh meaning “harbour of the bog”) is a small fishing village with a 95.9% Protestant background!!! (source: Census day 29 April 2001- wikipedia)

Monday morning after a our breakfast and a casual walk by the marina we headed out to dive the Romeo


SS Romeo (photo from The Wreck site)

SS Romeo was a British passenger / cargo ship (1730 grt) travelling to Liverpool from Scapa Flow. On the 03/03/1918 she was tricked into giving her position away by U-102 and was sunk by a torpedo with only one survivor of the 37 aboard (from the Wreck site).

During the dive me and Lorne stayed close to the bows and headed midships but we had to ascent before we made it to the stern to make the 90 min runtime requested by our skipper.

Back on the boat we followed the same routine. Lunch. messing around with kit and dinner on our arrival at Peel, IOM. Easy life! Just the way I like it!!!

Tuesday morning we headed out to dive the Stern part of the Romeo again as we hadn’t seen it in the last dive. Once again the conditions topsides were not great so we left the scooters on the boat and dived to see the stern of the wreck while the rest of the company as “wannabe” wreck detectives were digging into the wreck / sand / debris trying to find souvenirs!!!

And needless to say back on the boat for more food, more messing around with diving gear and then to the pub, where Brian demonstrated his hagling skills by buying two bottles of wine from the local pub. After a couple of drinks we headed back to the boat for some more food (surely one has to have dinner right?!!!)

Wednesday morning we left the Port St Mary, IOM to dive SS Liverpool. This was almost my favourite dive of the trip. I  love good visibility and ambient light. The wreck was less intact but the vis was awesome!!! 15-20 m easily!!! It was almost like diving abroad 🙂 well apart from the not so tropical temperature (although one cannot complain when the water temperature is 14 deg C) and the strong currents in the area, which is why we had to limit our run time to 90 min (much to my disappointment)!!!


SS Liverpool (photo from Divernet)

“SS Liverpool was a british passenger / cargo ship (686 grt). On a voyage from Liverpool to Slingo she hit a mine and sunk with loss of 3”. source: WreckSite (http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?10320)

After the dive we headed out to Douglas and “The British” to enjoy a couple of drinks in the sunshine while Freda was preparing dinner!!!

The downside of not making it to Malin Head (apart from not diving the excellent wrecks of Malin Head – of course) was that I missed my chance to visit the distillery of Bushmills


(photo showing unhappy Dimitris – missing Bushmills Irish Whiskey)

Once more Al intervened and saved the day!!!


Bushmills 10 Year-Old Single Malt

Thursday morning having been fed and watered we headed out to dive the SS Inkosi. Being very excited after the SS Liverpool dive there was a unanimous 2hr response when Al asked what our planned runtime was going to be, despite both Al and Mike predicting that vis wouldn’t be that great.


SS Inkosi photo from Newton Stewart SAC

Soon on the descent visibility deteriorated and by the time we made it to 30 m depth it was pretty dark but fortunately the water was clearing up!!! On the wreck despite the lack of ambient light visibility was great and we busied ourselves by looking into the holds and the loads of crockery. Heading to the stern Lorne spotted an abandoned dive / fishing boat anchor which we decided to leave in situ!

Apart from the wreck and the cargo there were loads of life especially Lobsters Crabs and Conger Eels some of the later ones were big enough to count as “scary”.

We were definitely enjoying ourselves because by the time we decided to end the dive and head up the current had picked up and we had more than an hour to surface!!!

After recovering all divers Freda served lunch and we started our long steam back. The weather got worst and we ended up heading to Stranaer where we spent the last night.

After arrival Freda served dinner and then we went back to messing around with our kit.

The last dive of the trip was to be the SS Rowan on Friday. The story of the sinking of the Rowan is anything between unbelievable and impossible.

SS Rowan was a passenger ship (1493 grt) on a voyage from Glasgow to Dublin. In thick fog she collided with the American steam ship Camak (5721 grt). Although the damage was not too bad it resulted in her stopping and then a second collision with the Clan Malcom (5994 grt) which resulted in SS Rowan sinking quickly with the loss of 13 crew members and 3 passengers. Two more of the survivors died later of the injuries (from the Wrecksite).

Al seemed worried about tides and recommended us “not to blow the arse of it” and by that we assume he meant stay to runtimes of about 90 minutes. Which we did (more or less). Sadly visibility was poor and of course dark as dark gets!

After surfacing he headed back to Stranraer loaded our gear into the cars said our goodbyes to Al and Freda and started our journey back.

Overall I enjoyed this trip very much. I got to dive every day, on some pretty cool wrecks, log 10 more hours on my unit and enjoy the excellent company I was in. We didn’t got to dive the wrecks of Malin Head but…

…well I suppose that is a good reason to book another diving trip right?! 🙂

A number of videos were filmed and I will update the links below as the videos are published.

  • Neil’s Video
  • Mike’s Video here
  • Simon’s Video

Many thanks go to:

  • Al and Freda for looking after us
  • Mike Ferguson for organizing the trip
  • Lorne Thompson for the driving and being a great dive buddy
  • The rest of the team (Brian Burnett, Simon Carter, Neil Masson, Jer Cameron and Gar Petrie) for making it fun!

Easter Weekend 2013 Diving in the West coast of Scotland

Easter Monday and I am back at work today after a pretty awesome weekend diving the west coast of Scotland. A rather last minute trip that turned out very well!

Thursday night I showed up at the club night and when I asked if anyone is going diving I was told that Mike and Brian were planning to go to the west coast of Scotland to dive off Mike’s Boat the Irish Mist.


At that point I could not resist self-inviting myself and shortly afterwards I left the pub and went back home to start preparing my gear. About 02:00 Friday morning I was ready to go!!!

After work Brian came by my place and we started our journey. 180 miles later we were at the marina! After a few drinks we went back to the boat to sleep. The next morning and after we loaded all our gear onto the boat we went for a hard core full Scottish breakfast and made our way to Oban for refuelling.

View of the Marina on Saturday morning

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After refuelling (a rather costly affair!) and while on our way to dive the Shuna we went past the Duart Castle a very picturesque castle that appeared in 1999 Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones Entrapment film!


Not looking very inteligent (and a tiny Castle behind me)


A close up of the castle (Camera’s zoom not great)

Our discussion about decompression algorithms, gradient factors and bubble models kept Jake’s interest irreducible!


Blue skies and a flat calm sea made us think that we were in the Med but the temperature (had to wear jacket, gloves and a woolly hat) brought us back to the reality!!!



Jake was looking out for dolphins but sadly none were around this time

20130330_095804 20130330_095818

Unfortunately Mike’s unit was not cooperating and after failing the negative test Mike decided to abort and not dive. By that time Al was also getting cold and opted to stay on the boat instead, leaving me and Brian to go for a very pleasant 50 minute dive in rather limited visibility 3-4 m but plenty of ambient light, which is always a bonus !!!. Much to our delight on surfacing Mike was waiting for us with freshly baked pizza!!! How cool is that now!!! Once we got everything sorted we headed to Tobermory for drinks and dinner.


Colorful houses of Tobermory

Having decided that we didn’t want to pay £20 for mooring on the berth we anchored at the bay and took the dingy to go ashore!!! four reasonably big men and a dog!!!

A few drinks later and with the dingy lower on the water (a bit of a leak there) we returned to the boat!!! Surprisingly we made it back safe and after a last drink, a glass of Irish Mist, the whiskey after which the boat is named, we went to bed!

Sunday we decided to dive the Breda. A cargo ship that lies upright in about 30 m of water. On the way out Brian made breakfast (bacon rolls) a luxury that RHIB divers cannot afford!

Myself and Brian splashed first and by the time we came up Mike’s unit could pass positive and negative tests and was getting ready for a dive. Brian went up the boat so that we had at least someone on the boat as Al was already in the water and a few minutes later Mike joined me at the anchor line and we headed for a quick dive to test Mike’s new JJ back mounted counter lungs. All seemed fine (minus a few leaks here and there) and twenty minutes later we surfaced and started our way back.

Once back in the Dunstaffnage marina we offloaded the boat and started our 180 mile journey back. The return trip was much more pleasant and most of it in daylight as  the clocks had moved an hour forward and after the customary stop for Fish and Chips we made it back to Aberdeen for a very respectable 22:00.

Overall a very busy weekend but was well worth it !!!! I got 2 sea dives in UK waters and I really enjoyed them too!!! My unit worked and my dry suit / undersuit also!!!

Many thanks to Brian Burnett for driving and diving with me, to Mike Ferguson and Alex Powel for letting us stay on their boat!!!

Can’t wait to go back!!!

RedTek December 2012 – Diving The Red Sea with Diving Matrix

Disclaimer: As much as I tried to keep this post shorter than the Mexico one (see here) it is still long enough, if anything too long, and to make things worst it is quite technical with technical scuba diving terminology used throughout. I can only apologise but as other posts have covered the fun part of redtec trips and the excellent service by Blue O two I decided to go for something more hardcore (and less touristy) on this post. For more information of RedTec and Blue O two read “I are Diver“‘s blog which is much shorter and funnier too!!! On the plus side if you choose to go ahead and read this post you will get the chance to read about me getting into trouble again and again!!! So redtec December 2012!!! Following last redtec’s phenomenal success (read more about it on I Are Diver’s excellent blog)

Paul Toomer from Diving Matrix decided to organise another redtec. Somehow I missed the announcement and I only picked it up in September when I was visiting London to celebrate my mates Maxim’s wedding! As the conversation was around diving I found out about the trip and most importantly that a group of very good friends had already signed up for it! David and Aidan (who were also on the last redtec) and Aileen as well. At the time my diving buddy Andris was contemplating joining. Having had a few drinks it was very easy for me to declare that if Andris decided to go I would go as well. There has not been known a single case in the history of mankind where Andris has said no to a diving trip ever in his life, he agreed and so did I!!! As soon as I was back in Aberdeen all the paperwork was done and we were good to go! Good to go…

Well not quite…

You see back in August I did something really very stupid. I bought a rebreather. For those of you who do not know what a rebreather is I will just say that it is one more diving related shiny toy. In particular mine is not shiny but bright yellow!!!


Photo of a “Box Standard” APD Inspiration rebreather (photo courtesy of Ambient Pressure Diving) Now them things rebreathers are known to be really very clever but on the downside they are not forgiving. They have a reputation for killing divers 😦 This reputation is rather unfair because most accidents are attributed to human error rather than equipment failure but the reality is that they require special training. When I signed up for the trip I had bought the rebreather and I had planned and booked a course.

Sadly due to work commitments and other unforeseen circumstances (helicopter reliability issues, bad weather, leaking dry suits a flue etc) I did not managed to finish my course on time (see MOD1 blog post). This was pretty bad because I did not want to go to the Red Sea and dive open circuit. I mean I have done that before and it is very cool and great fun but I had a new toy and I wanted to go out and play with my rebreather!!!

A panic call to Mr Toomer and all was good. Toomer agreed to take over the course from my instructor and help me finish it off with him in the Red Sea!!!

Fast forward a couple of months to the much anticipated 6th of December. I finished work and my and my rebreather got the plane to Gatwick. The usual panic of trying to fit 50kg+ of diving gear into a 40kg allowance made for a stressful couple of nights before but in the end everything was distributed nicely amongst two hold luggage bags and one hand luggage. The Morning of the 7th we made our way to Gatwick to meet Paul, David, Aidan, Myself, Roger, John, Valerie and Andy, (all members of the last redtec), Sam, Andy, Aileen, Arthour, David and Julius. Sadly Andris could not make it because of work commitments. After a short flight to Hurghada we arrived at the airport where Blue O Two reps were waiting for us and got us to the marina by coach. Easy. Efficient, Trouble Free, Nice – Just the way I like it!!! blue_melody

Our boat: Blue Melody (photo courtesy of Blue O two)

As soon as we arrived at the marina the mad panic of loading the boat started and with only a quick break for dinner most of the equipment was set up and we were on our way… …to the local shisha bar (surely when in Egypt!!!!) After a few (well it was probably more than just a few) drinks and shisha accompanied by susbstantial amounts of local Lupin Beans we made our way back to the boat to get some sleep before we start our journey.

Day 1 – Saturday 08/12/2012

It was almost mid day by the time preparations were completed, coastguard checked our documents and we were ready to set sail for Poseidon Reef for our check dive and skill circuit. Last time I was on a redtec I watched those on the skill circuit for about five minutes, laughed at them and left for a 1 hour long solo dive around the reef. Bliss! This time I was one of those in a course and as a matter of fact I was about to do two courses!!! To start with I was going to finish off my MOD 1. Luckily all I had to do was a DSMB deployment and a bail-out for 20m. During this dive I did practiced these skills and also high and low ppO2 drills, shutdown drills, bailouts and running the unit on manual. Fun Fun Fun!!! – NOT

After the check out dive we made our way Abu Nuhas to dive Giannis D, a very atmospheric wreck lying at 21m of water making it an excellent dive for the first day. Because of our late departure we arrived at the site near dusk and pretty much it was a night dive as soon as we descended.


Getting ready to splash (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

The dingy was there to pick us up in pitch darkness which made it feel like some great adventure but in reality it was not! Back on the boat and for food and to meet the rest of the group, which was made up of Jim Dowling who was with us on the last redtec and it was great to see again, Dinky a JJ instructor with a Mohican and loads of tattoos, Marko a professional diver, reporter, author and photographer and Analeesa flying all the way from South Africa!!!


Our guides / instructors Jim and Dinky (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

Day 2 Sunday 09/12/2012

The plan for the second day was to dive the iconic wreck of Thistlegorm, and probably the most famous wreck in the Red Sea. As we were ready to jump in the water for the first dive, the hose feeding my Oxygen Manual Addition Valve (MAV) pulled out the steel fitting of the valve leaving me with not only a leak in the loop but a spectacular free flow of O2!!! Having fully opened the oxygen cylinder was probably not such a great idea as it took me ages to close it and lost substantial amount of oxygen. Luckily the fitting had just become loose rather than shred the valve and quickly I fitted it back and joined the rest of the team for the dive!!!


SS Thistlegorm stern gun (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

In order to complete my MOD 1 course I was budded up with Paul for the first dive. Having been into the holds with the motorbikes and trucks we made our way back and Paul signalled me to bail out, ie get off the loop, grab my bail out cylinder regulator stick it in my mouth and ascent as I would normally do on open circuit. Having successfully completed my bail out ascent we surfaced and went straight up to the sun deck for some sunbathing!!! Nice 🙂 For the second dive I budded up with Jim Dowling and Analeesa. This time Jim decided to go out and investigate the debris field, the steam engines either side of the wreck and the bows anchor, which was massive and very much anchor admiralty shaped.

Day 3 Monday 10/12/2012

Last time we were in the area we decided that there is not much point in diving the wreck and ventured to dive the reef instead. Some say our guide got lost, others say that The Lara actually moved from its last known location. You can choose whichever version you like, but the result was that I didn’t got to dive The Lara.


Myself, Marko and Aidan at the mast of The Lata (photo courtesy of Artur Gorka)

We all splashed together and Jim guided us to the wreck. At the mast and myself, Marko and Analeesa hovered happily taking photos while the others descended below us. Getting borred at 45m I popped down to 50m which on was not such a great idea especially considering that I had not switched my set point to high (1.3). Quickly I moved up to 45m and joined the rest of my team before anyone noticed 🙂


Myself behind a coral (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

The rest of the dive was uneventful with the current taking us by the reef and deco at the little cove at the north end of the reef.

Day 4 Tuesday 11/12/2012 Tuesday

Back in Thomas Canyon. I really enjoyed diving Thomas Canyon last time and I was looking forward to dive it again. Being a canyon the entry is hard to locate and to make sure we didn’t miss it we decided to jump in the water all together and follow Jim (this is a plan that worked well last time too!).


Myself in Thomas Canyon (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

The dingy took us from the boat to the entry point and we started our descent following Jim. As soon as we saw the canyon below us we split to buddy pairs as per the plan some to stay shallow, some go deep and a few others to go seriously deep!!! Jim hovered at the entrance of the canyon before the first arch to watch (like a hawk) those about to break their depth limits or fail their rebreathers!

Myself and Marko spent most of the time under the first arch taking photos and while we were approaching the second arc we bumped into a group of divers that had turned their dive and were heading out of the canyon. As we were not allowed more than 15 min of deco it was almost a good time to turn our dive. Jim had already got to the group of divers that had turned because of a failed rebreather and a rather unexpected bailout failure but that is someone else’s story to tell… We, for our part, followed on the way up and once on the reef I decided to let the current take us and do a drift dive as the situation seemed to be under control and enough rescuers were involved.


Sam ascending by the wall (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

Our second dive was uneventful with me and Marko staying by the first arch to take more photos as agreed. When we had enough we turned the dive and headed to the reef without going as far as the second arch or indeed the deep end of the canyon. This time on the reef we headed the opposite way to a known shark observatory and we did spotted a Reef shark (most likely) lying and enjoying his time quietly. Not impressed by our approach he moved away from the annoying intruders.

Day 5 Wednesday 12/12/2012

Crossing the straights of Tiran has never been fun and this time it wasn’t easy although it did seemed to me that it was better than last time. Maybe the drinks and shisha combination had something to do with it or maybe not! Yes Paul found out that the crew had a shisha on the boat (brought for their own amusement) and he got them to make us a shisha every night 🙂 That was definitely an added bonus to the last trip and I believe that Blue O two should make shishas mandatory equipment on all Blue O two boats!!!

Once safely on anchorage we all went to bed exhausted and excited about diving the Rosalind Moller the next day. For both dives I budded up with Marko and Toomer as I was going to complete my ART course for my rebreather. The wreck was absolutely full of life and we were diving surrounded by fish. I found it hard to believe how often I lost contact with my buddies because of the wall of fish!!! The dives went to plan and we managed to get some stunning photos over the iconic broken funnel and the galley illuminated by the skylights, the glasses of which were still in place!!!


Stunning photo of the Rosalind Moller galley with the sky light glass still in place (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)


Dave Lau Kee behind (A lot of) fish on the Rosalind Moller (photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

As everyone was excited with todays dive it was decided to spend the night moored on Rosalin Moller and dive her again the morning after.

Day 6 Thursday 13/12/2012

The captain wanted to leave the wreck by 09:00 the latest so not being a morning person and being limited to 15 minutes of deco me and Marco agreed to be ready to jump in the water for 07:50. The rest of the group which was allowed to do longer dives got up much much earlier for the 3 hr plus runtime dives!!!

Apart from a minor incident (me diving with my O2 reg partly fitted, ie: pretty serious O2 leak).  The dive was more of a photo session with Marko the photographer and me a “wanna be” photo model with very poor buoyancy skills!!!


Me at the stern or the Rosalind Moller (Photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)


Hovering over the iconic funnel (Photo courtesy of Marko Wramen)

When our Time To Surface (TTS) reached the agreed 15 minutes we made our way back to the shot line and started our ascent. On our way to the shot line I heard a distinct noise the one I had heard before when a High Pressure hose fails and I was immediately looking around me for the familiar Jacuzzi effect that it creates. Surprisingly there was nothing to be seen. Arriving to the shot line I could see that the winch we had attached the end of the shot line was being lifted and then dropped again. That was a sign that conditions topsides had deteriorated and we were in for a rough ride!!! As we were ascending we noticed a couple of things: a. folk at the 6m were hanging to the shot line for dear life b. On our descent there was a bow line and a stern line to the shot line now there was only one and a lot of broken line, which explained the loud noise! The stern line had snapped!!!

After 15 minutes of holding to the shot line and being tossed around by the current that was changing directions and banging against other divers me and Marko signalled to each other that it was time to surface. On the way up I realised that we were going up the bows shot line but decide to keep going, thinking that a surface swim to the stern under a rocking boat was less dangerous that a swim under the boat on my unit in very strong current which could result in over excersion and potentially carbon dioxide poisoning. Finally we made it back to the boat and after the customary hot chocolate I started to wash and take my kit apart to dry. A rather unpleasant process as it signifies the end of the holiday and the beginning of the return trip to home. Back at the marina I got my kit out of the boat and along with Paul, David and Aileen we made our way to the hotel where I hang my stuff to dry, had a long shower and headed out to meet the rest of the team for dinner and end of trip shenanigans!!! We started drinking at our local shisha bar and we soon made our way to the new Hurghada Marina and the PAPAS Bar where se had dinner. Not a life changing experience but hearty divers food.


This time unlike last time the place was really very busy and there was a stage hinting that we were going to get live music too!!! It was more down to my bad taste of music rather than the alcohol in me but I enjoyed the and was well pleased with how busy this place was. Sadly the program came to an end and despite all of my efforts I could not get Toomer and company to join me to PAPAS Beach Club Instead we headed to the cafe next door for one last shisha before making our way back to the hotel. Photo of the team before we head to the bar for some serious drinking!


Day 7 Friday 14/12/2012

I woke up well late and not looking too rosy after all that drinking and sisha. I headed down to the restaurant for breakfast which left a lot to be desired. The rest of the day was spent around the swimming pool until the time came to get back on the coach to take us to the airport and eventually back to Aberdeen.

MOD 1 – The Dark Side

I have been talking about getting a rebreather for a while now. Probably the first conversations started Kirsty_PaulT_D_Andriswith Paul Toomer and Andris Nestors back in 2008 during a Diving Leisure London Icebreaker in Vobster Quay drinking copious amounts of DOOM BAR and talking Diving!!! It was a bit too early for me at the time to get the rebreather didn’t had the experience and more importantly the money!!!

Time passed and the subject of rebreathers was coming up more frequently primarily on diving trips with Andris Nestors when more often than not I found myself being the minority and quite often the only OC diver on the boat!!! During one of our drive trips one of the regulars on the boat mentioned that he knew of someone who could sell his unit for a very reasonable price. That was the closest I got to buying a rebreather but then unfortunately he decided to keep his unit and I went ahead and did my Trimix course on OC in Malta instead.

The main driver for me getting a rebreather has been Gas Management. Open Circuit (OC) diving gas management on day diving trips is a bit of a fuff but easy to deal with. Most dive centres / filling stations expect at least a day to fill a trimix twinset. They want to have the time to begin the process by filling with Oxygen, then let it settle, add helium (He) and finally top it up with Air. So if I was planning to go diving for the weekend I had to drop off my stuff to get filled at least a couple of days earlier. There is nothing difficult about that but things do not always go to plan. Sometimes the scheduled dive was cancelled then I was left with a mix that was in no way good for next weeks diving and therefor I had to empty my twinset and fill it with another mix. Now considering the price of He no one does that so I would save the mix on my twinset and borrow another to fill with a different mix. Now if that dive got cancelled things got even more complicated because I had to return the borrowed twinset to the rightful owner who was kind enough to let me use it because he (or she) needed it.

So you can see how it gets complicated.

Gas Management & Logistics become further complicated when I was planning sequential mixed gas dives. In that case as I would be diving Saturday and Sunday therefore I had no time to get my cylinders filled even if I could!!! Most of the times I could not get He fills anyway (the boats didn’t had and by the time we got to the marina no dive shop was open to fill cylinders). It all turned out too stresfull and not much fun. There was one certain trip where I ended up borrowing 2 twinsets futher to mine and 4 more stages further to my 2 stages!!! In one word: Ridiculous!!!

To make things worst trying to fill a twinset with rich trimix (so that when I air topped it I could still get a half descent mix) cost a fortune and were not very good mixes to dive on (for example 20/60 – a stupid mix). And of course to add salt to the wounds the rebreather folk would always go on about reminding me how their gas bill was about 1/8 of mine…

It looks like though the time had come for me to go CCR. After an epic weekend of diving which was saved only by Paul Haynes being VERY WELL PREPARED for all eventualities and fed up with OC, while inspiration177on a club night Mike Ferguson exclaimed: “I have a solution to your problem!!!” “I have to units right now and as much as it hurts me it looks like I will have to part with one”!!!. needless to say before the end of the month I had bought the unit, I had booked a course, booked leave and I was ready to go CCR.

Photo of a box standard APD Inspiration CCR (photo courtesy of http://www.aquamaniacs.co.uk/ccr_rebreathers.html)

For an OC diver rebreathers are intimidating. Way too complicated with OC equipment. All sorts of screens flashing, lights blipping here and there and to make things more complicated Cells, Scrubbers and stuff!!! Overwhelmed.

I had booked the course with Paul Haynes a well known CCR diver Instructor Trainer and we decided to go with BSAC primarily because the quality of the student pack was half decent compared to the rest available.

We started the course by going through a lot of theory, history of rebreathers, different types (oxygen rebreathers, SCR, CCR, mCCR, eCCR etc) The theory part of the course involved a fair bit of physiology, dive planning and maintenance etc. Along with the theoretical stuff we had a couple of practical session were we went through the actual unit, took it apart and discussed each and every component. Must admit that after all that I was feeling a lot better about my unit compared to the shear fear that the “Black Box” (well yellow in this case) had inflicted. Understanding what component performs what function and taking into bits to see what it is made of definitely helped A LOT.

All this time Paul Haynes was very patiently answering all sort of stupid questions that I was coming up with!!!

After a couple of days of intense theory, practical sessions and dry runs the time came for me to try this thing in the water!!!

Monday 10/09/2012 – Day 1, Stonehaven

The Plan was to start early on Monday 10/09/2012 morning and make the most of the day. Well the early start didn’t really happened because my flight back from London only arrived in Aberdeen around 10:00!!! I had nearly everything ready, loaded the car and off I went to Stonheaven marina where Paul Haynes was already there waiting for me. Setting up my rebreather for the first time in anger it was an interesting experience and it did took a lot longer that I had expected it to!!!


Aerial photo of Stoneheaven Marina (photo courtesy of https://marinas.com/view/marina/11999_Stonehaven_Harbour_SC)

Fortunately Haynes is a strong believer of Checklists and he had gave me one to follow which I helped things out A LOT. Trying to do the same without it would have been seriously stressful!!!

Eventually sometime early in the afternoon we managed to get in the water and of course took it easy very easy. From a gentle swim in the surface to my first dive at about 3m depth? or maybe less!? Ironically enough during that dive it all felt well because there was no expectation of me to hover so all I had to do was pretty much lay at the sea bed or drag myself at the bottom of the sea. Easy.

The second dive was actually a boat dive. Rod Macdonald was around and was kind enough to take us on the boat around to a cave known to the locals as “Angela’s Crack”!!! We jumped out of the boat into the water outside Angela’s Crack. this time visibility was a bit better but far from great. Haynes deployed a DSMB and I was holding to the line as visibility was less than 2 m !!!

Back at Hayne’s place we took the unit apart, cleaned it and decided to go to the local quarry for Tuesday which would probably be a bit colder but at least we could see each other during the skills and drills!!!

Tuesday 11/09/2012 – Day 2, Boddam Quarry

Tuesday morning we met up at Hayne’s place and after cup of tea I started preparing my rebreather. We then left Stoneheaven and headed North to just outside Boddam where an abandoned, flooded quarry is used for training purposes from local dive schools and all divers who want to brush up their skills.

No surprise there was no one else around which is what we were expecting for a cold Tuesday morning anyway. Once I got ready we entered the water. Having been diving without gloves in Stonehaven I assumed that it would be fine to do the same in the Quarry. I was wrong! The temperature in the quarry being fresh water was substantially lower and very quickly I realised my mistake.

Visibility was half decent and the dive went well executing mask clearing drills, clearing a partly and fully flooded loop, dil flushes and shut downs. Once we had enough of that (and got cold enough) we decided to end the dive. I ascended holding (tight) to the fixed shot line and after 68 minutes we surfaced.

During the surface interval we had lunch and discussed how to further improve on the skills and twick my gear.

The second dive was equally uneventful with more practice on the same skills and more work on my buoyancy. At that point I was well aware of my buoyancy being really very fragile.

By the end of the second dive it was getting late and by the time I got back home I was too cold and tired to want to do anything else so an early night followed. I was quite surprised by how tired I felt I mean in the end of the day all I did was two dives. But I guess the cold weather and the cold water, the trip back and forth to the quarry and the mental stress of trying to perform the skills take their toll.

Wednesday 12/09/2012 – Day 3, Boddam Quarry

The plan for Wednesday was pretty similar. Head out to Paul’s and from there we went off to Boddam. The water in the quarry was cold and I decided to use my KUBI dry gloves. Just before I enter the water the outer ring locking o-ring was dislocated and considering that it only holds the outer ring in place I decided to dive with out it.

It turned out that it wasn’t such a great idea as the dry gloves were leaking and therefore were not that dry after all!!! As if that was not enough I was trying desperately to control my buoyancy exclusively using my dry-suit and I was (most likely) overweighted. This was a pretty bad combination that resulted in me having a rather unpleasant dive struggling to hold buoyancy with loads and loads of gas in my dry suit.

To make things worst my rockboot laces got undone and I was having problems to fin or hold buoyancy. Also with the rockboot displaced more air was moving to the dry suit socks making things even more difficult.

Again and under not so favourable conditions I did managed to complete partial and full flooded loop clearing, and practice on a number of scenarios like high and low ppO2, lost electronics and bail out. By setting the set point to 0.7 I had to maintain set point to 1.0 my manually adding O2 which was fun!!! Suppose this is how it feels to dive an mCCR?

One of the most enjoying parts of the dive was when Haynes asked me to perform a mask clearing mid water. In theory this should be a doddle. nothing challenging in performing a mask clearing for an experienced diver like me eh? Well it turned out to be not that easy. So I got the signal to perform a mask clearing and off I went. Now partly because of my contact lenses, partly because of the cold water I do close my eyes when mask clearing. So I closed my eyes. Flooded my mask. Cleared the mask and opened my eyes. No one was around and I was struggling to breath!!! What happened??? I immediately reached for my manual inflation valve and added dil to the loop. Panic over now I can breath. Still where is Haynes??? Yes you guessed well J I looked up and Haynes was still hovering a few meters above me just where he was when I had closed my eyes before I flood my mask!! It didn’t took me long to pick up what happened. With my mask flooded I blew air (hard) to clear it. Too hard actually so on one hand yes I did cleared the mask but on the other hand I pretty much blew substantial loop volume too. my buoyancy reduced I descended and of course I had less volume in the loop to breathe and this is why I was out of breath!!! Lesson learned I will remember that next time I have to do a mask clearing.

After 71 minutes of fun and games I grub holded the shot line rope and started my ascent!

During the surface interval I made a couple of knots at the end of the rockboot laces so that even if they got undone in the future they would be easy to redo again underwater. And needless to say I did tied them up. Really Well. Sadly because of the problem oring I ended up loosing my KUBI dry glove outer ring altogether which was rather annoying.

The second dive was better in the sense that the rockboots stayed in place (kinda) and I was mentally prepared for the dry gloves leaking so it was not a great surprise!!!. Managed to get a few more skills and decided to call it after 50 minutes because it felt like the water was getting even colder!!!

An unpleasant surprise was Haynes brand new pick up truck would not start as the battery was flat!!! Assistance was called and that allowed us further time to search for my missing dry glove ring but with no luck. Assistance arrived and the battery was revived! On the way back a quick stop to Aberdeen Watersports (AWL) to get cylinders filled for Thursday and then back home. because with the whole thing we were running late Haynes did invited to join him for a curry but I was cold and tired and wanted to go home. Come to think about it a curry would have been better J

Thursday 13/09/2012 – Day 4, Rosehearty

The plan for Thursday was very ambitious. We would go to Rosehearty to dive the open sea. Rosehearty is a small village further up north from Aberdeen. Very picturesque as it turned out!!!.

Again we met up at Hayne’s place in Stonehaven, had a cup of tea, loaded the truck and off we went to Rosehearty. The weather was pretty bad and it didn’t look like any diving was going to be happening but Haynes was positive Rosehearty will be fine. Once we made it to the lighthouse by the beach and although the view was stunning and the sea nearly flat calm a dreadful feeling of gloom and despair took over. The entry to the water was a long walk over sharp, uneven and pretty uninviting rocks. I have never been good at walking at uneven surfaces let alone climbing over rocks like that in full diving gear, CCR and a stage!!! That was not going to be fun.

What I mean by “never been good” is NEVER like 15 years old going on holidays with my parents and grandparents to the remotest of places and I would always be the last to make it there. Maybe because I am tall and my centre of gravity is higher, maybe because I am inherently unbalanced (both mentally and physically) maybe because I was born clumsy. Don’t know. But I am not good at this.

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Photos of Rosehearty beach (photos courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sahara13/)

The left photo is the actual entry point the right should give you an idea of what it was like climbing to the entry point

Back to the present and my Rosehearty dive. Haynes took his stage to the entry point and I followed very very slowly and carefully. made it there and back without incidents. We got kitted up and made our way to the entry point. It was a long an painful trip that I did not enjoy. Much to my surprise I only had minute slips but didn’t made it to trip and fall!!! At last at the entry. Giant stride entry and off we go!

Immediately things changed. As I said earlier the sea was pretty calm and visibility was phenomenal!!! Never before had I seen anything like that in the UK!!! Bar the grey and cloudy sky that didn’t left much space for light visibility was endless!!! I could have well been diving in Malta, Egypt or Greece (in a cold winter day!!!). The rocks around us made for a pretty nice scenery with loads of crevices and a fair bit of life, crabs lobsters etc. But the viz!!! The viz was something breathtaking especially for UK standards!!!

As much as I was enjoying the dive that much i was growing concerned about my buoyancy, I could dive around and look at things but hovering was just not happening. I was having problems venting air from my suit and although I was OK when moving hovering still was proving to be a challenge. Haynes left me to settle and have an enjoyable trouble free dive for the first part before we could go to skills.

When we tried to do some skills I was struggling to complete them because of my buoyancy. Probably a bad combination of venting air problems, overweight and having to manage the buoyancy of the loop. surprisingly and under these conditions we did managed to complete a 91 minute dive and perform a controlled ascent. Now for this controlled ascent a lot of effort and hard work were required. Me holding to rocks and underwater vegetation (I know not very good for the vegetation) and Haynes taking the lead and forcing me to perform an “Excess air in the dry suit” drill which was something I had not done for more that 4 years and in all honesty I had completely forgotten about…embarrassed.

All’s well that end’s well!!! And we did made it back to the surface after a painful yet immensely enjoyable dive (I am not a masochist) an I myself am still struggling to understand how did I got to enjoy such dive full of problems!!! But the viz was GREAT!!!

After that the painful walk through the rocks took me ages to complete. Haynes in the mean time must have had got changed and had at least a cup of coffee if not two!!! But as I said earlier am not good at this sort of stuff.

A few bruises and cuts more and skills sort (with all this happening we left stuff like DSMB deployments for another time) we made our way back to Aberdeen. this was the last day of leave I had to complete this course because I was flying offshore the day after.

If it wasn’t for the entry I would love to go back to Rosehearty and from what i hear the wreck of the Fram is around there so hopefully I may get to dive again next time we take the boat up there!!!

Wednesday 03/10/2012 – Day 5, Boddam Quarry

The next time that I was available we decided to go to Boddam as the entry / exit to Rosehearty are not really ideal for courses and it is quite a long way to go for a day trip from Aberdeen.

I have been having problems with my dry suits neck seal pretty much since I got my dry suit. It has always been too big and leaking badly. I got it shortened a bit but not enough. For a long period of time I was diving with a bio-seal. This is an additional seal that can be used in cases like that to save a dive. They are not meant to be a permanent feature and I have been diving it as such. Sadly in my last dive, an OC dive to 65m it leaked pretty bad and I had to cut the dive short and ascent because I was freezing and flooding and they are both equally bad.

so when I got back I sent my suit to a local guy that I was told that he is good with repairing suits. He probably was and so far I have no problems with the alteration he did but he didn’t had the suit ready for me when I needed it!!! So I called Haynes and told him that I haven’t got a dry suit and we would have to cancel the dive. Haynes being at AWL at the time came up with a great plan. Lets hire one from AWL!!! I do not believe that you will find many CCR divers diving or training on hired dry suits but my options were limited. I went to AWL tried a few dry suits, selected one and I was ready to go diving!!!

On Wednesday morning again we met up at Haynes place and had a cup of tea prepared the equipment and made our way. On arrival we did our pre dive checks and jumped in the water. Immediately I noticed that there was a slight leak from my hired dry suit’s left cuff seal but decided to go ahead with it anyhow.

During the dive we practised further Bail Out drills, loop clearing, mask clearing, dil flushes, shutdowns, hovering and swimming about which was the easiest.

When we had enough of cold water we surfaced after a nice and slow ascent by the shot line. During the 6m stop I din an O2 flush and 67 min after we entered the water we surfaced and for once I was quite happy with my dive!!!

Sadly and much to Paul’s disappointment I could not do the second dive as I was soaked and really cold so we decided to call it a day and head back to Aberdeen.

Further to that and because of work commitments we didn’t got the time to arrange the final and qualifying dive before I left to go to Egypt for Paul Toomer’s RedTek…

To Be Continued…