Diving the West Coast with DSAC (Miami Vice Style)

or else the Deeside SAC diving trip where 5 cars and 3 boats went out and 4 cars and 2 boats made it back…

The time for the club’s first diving trip of the year had come at last! After a lot of anticipation and even more planning (by Simon) 10 divers were ready to set off from Aberdeen to go to the West Coast for a weekend of RHIB diving. The plan (meticulously prepared by Simon) required a relatively early start after work from Aberdeen, drive to the Oban dive Saturday and Sunday (2 dives each day) and come back late in Sunday evening.

Friday 21/03/2014 – The Journey

The day started with unbelievably good weather. Clear blue skies and sunshine. I loaded the kit to the car and drove to work. On arrival I regretted not having taken my sunglasses with me as it made it difficult for driving and I would so definitely need them for the weekend!

As usual prior to dive trips the day seems to be dragging on forever but at last the clock ticked 14:45 the time to shut down my computer and get out of the office!

Met with Simon at the car park and moved my gear to his car. managed to fit just about everything including rebreather spares, consumables, food and a pineapple!?

Showing Pineapple (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Showing Pineapple (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

After pumping the tires up to the optimum pressure (following Diving officers pre-dive checklist) we started our trip. Although at the South end of the city and right on the perfect spot to start our journey we decided to head North into the city Centre and the Friday afternoon traffic as we had to go to the Bridge of Dee and pick-up Aberdeen Universities RHIB which we were to deliver to OBAN. The traffic turned out to be not as bad as expected and after hitching the boat we started on our trip to the West Coast this time following the Northern route via Fort William.

  • Clear skies.
  • sunshine
  • sunglasses
  • 2 cool blokes
  • in a fast car
  • towing a boat
  • and the Miami Vice soundtrack playing at the background
  • life is good!!!

Aberdeen To Oban - The Snow Route

A couple of stops to check that the boat and the trailer were ok and about 2 hrs before Fort William we noticed the weather changing.

At the same time Si’s fast car Turbo was dying on us. An intermittent fault that resulted in loosing Turbo meant that we were in for a long long trip.Luckily the remedy turned out to be relatively straight forward. Quick stop the car. Turn the engine off. Start again!

As it was getting dark we didn’t really paid much attention to it and continued driving. About 1.5 hrs before Fort William we were inside a blizzard! A couple of inches of snow all around us and more snow falling!!! At about that time I caught myself thinking “doesn’t look like I will be needing those sunglasses now.!” and that was probably the wrong time to realize that I had no jacket!!!

Rather surprised by the change of weather we decided to check on the other divers how they were progressing. I texted Brian who had started earlier that us and shortly after I got a response by Dave (odd I thought). Brian’s car had died. They were stuck in the blizzard waiting for road assistance! OUPS!

tht's what it looked like from inside the car
that’s what it looked like from inside the car

Indeed before long we came across their stranded truck and boat trailer. It was just after the first road assistance truck had arrived and they were loading the truck never to be seen again…

The second road assistance truck hitched the boat and although at that point in time it did not felt very much like Mimi Vice we all continued our eventful trip to Oban.

After a quick stop for dinner Chinese (crystal Palace in Oban) everything looked better and after a short drive we made it to Tralee Bay Holidays and checked in to our Lodge “The Rondo” non the less!!!

Keith and Quentin were also there as Keith had picked up Quentin from the “incident scene” and soon after Mike and Gar arrived and the road assistance truck delivered Brian, Dave and most importantly The boat!!! J

By the time Kathleen, Jenny and Phillipe arrived we were on our 3rd (or fourth) WELL DESERVED drink!!!

 Saturday 22/03/2014 – Diving Day 1

Saturday morning I woke up by the smell of frying bacon which (as am not a morning person) is by far the best way to wake up in the morning!!! Simon and Quentin were already preparing a fry up and after breakfast we started preparing our kit and the boats to launch.

View from the Lodge's Balcony on Saturday Morning
View from the Lodge’s Balcony on Saturday Morning

The weather was on our side for the morning and the launching of the boats but turned soon after we left Tralee Bay and made for a rather unpleasant ride until we got shelter at the Heather Island.

After the dive we moved back to Dunstaffnage marina (www.dunstaffnagemarina.co.uk) where Mike keeps the boat and I spent most of the surface interval in the toilet.

With a hand hair dryer…

drying my undersuit that was soaked as my right hand cuff seals were leaking

The second dive was the SS Breda (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Breda)

Photo courtesy of DIVERnet
Photo courtesy of DIVERnet

SS Breda Photo Courtesy of DIVERnet Wreck Tour 9 (http://www.divernet.com/Wrecks/wreck_tours/159469/wreck_tour_9_the_breda.html)

And also see Rod McDonald’s page on the SS Breda: http://www.rod-macdonald.co.uk/index.php/Scottish-Wrecks/ss-breda.html, or Wikipedia here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS_Breda

After a light lunch (sandwiches prepared during breakfast) we went in for the second dive of the day.

The dive went to plan with me and Brian diving and surfacing together which was a challenge considering that visibility was really poor. Much to my surprise I could see a halocline in the water which I did not expect as I thought the Breeda was too far from the coast for that but as it turns out she is not! Also my cuff seals held and had a dry and very pleasant dive!!! We even managed to find the shot line and ascent on the same line we descended. I still find it amazing how much your navigation skills improve when you (or Brian in this case) clip a £300 strobe light on the shot light…

the weather conditions had improved significantly and while on the boat waiting to recover divers I found myself thinking this is a good day to be out diving!!!

On returning to the lodges and after a little bit of diver / rebreather fuff myself and Si went to deliver (at a WWII Nuclear Bunker!!!) the Aberdeen University SAC RHIB and afterwards buy more food from the supermarket!!!

Back at the lodges Quentin and Gar had been busy making Dinner. A most excellent Chili con Carne which we washed down with copious amounts of Gar’s Kopparberg kopparbergh cider!!! Steve and Sue had also popped in to say hay and Steve was coming diving with us tomorrow!!!

After dinner we continued drinking and talking diving nonsense until late… (as diver do)

Sunday 23/03/2014 – Diving and the Journey Back

As you probably guesses I woke up by the smell of frying bacon, sausages and breakfast being prepared!!! After a bit of diving / kit / rebreather fuf / TLC

usual rebreather diver pre-dive fuf
usual rebreather diver pre-dive fuf (Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett)

Mike had an accident doing DIY on his boat and decided he wouldn’t dive but was absolutely great helping us launch the boats (apart from when he dropped the yellow boat. No that was not excellent.)

Beautiful - Beautiful Day (photo courtesy of Brian Burnett)
Beautiful – Beautiful Day (photo courtesy of Brian Burnett)
Diving Weather!!! - Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett
Diving Weather!!! – Photo courtesy of Brian Burnett

Eventually we launched all 3 boats as Steve had joined us with his boat and headed out to dive the “Haunted House” which was meant to be a drift dive, had the current made an appearance, but turned out to be shy and those that went in had some fining to do!

Myself and Brian were meant to be on the second wave but as the reports were not exactly promising, awe-inspiring diving we decided to pass.

Heading back we stopped at the Breeda for one more dive. Myself and Brian went in and although visibility had not improved much (or at all) we still enjoyed penetrating the wreck and found the way back (without a £300 strobe attached to the line you will be surprised to hear!). I was delighted I managed that dive as my right hand cuff seal developed a tear earlier that morning so I didn’t thought I was going to go diving until I had a light-bulb moment and decided to use my dry gloves and that worked!!!

Gar and Quentin went in as soon as we were back on the boat but managed to miss the wreck.

  • They managed to miss the wreck that Simon found.
  • Although they saw Simon heading to the wreck.
  • They thought they shouldn’t follow him. They new better.
  • So they dived lobster posts instead…

Divers sometimes make me wonder…

Back to the Lodges we recovered the boats and after tidying up we started our trip back to Aberdeen. Not before long we had to stop because the trailer had no breaks. Luckily we were close to Steve’s place who kindly offered help, tools and a jack! In the meantime while Simon and Steve were working to fix the trailer brakes I was enjoying a nice cup of tea in the sunshine. Am good like that!

Eventually we decided to leave the garden and the sunshine and start driving back home. The trip was generally uneventful minus a few stops for the Turbo to recover and the trailer bearings that were heating up. After the customary stop at the Comrie Fish and Chip Shop (http://www.comrie.org.uk/business-directory/2790/the-comrie-fish-and-chip-shop/) (courtesy of Mr BJB/Carlos) we continued to the boat shed were a rather tired Dave had been waiting for the last couple of hours!!!

We offloaded the kit from the boat and Simon’s car (including the pineapple) and headed home. Washing kit would have to wait for tomorrow…

Many Many thanks go to:

  • Simon for organizing the trip (and bringing a pineapple along in a diving weekend)
  • Carlos (BJB) for being a great dive buddy
  • Quentin and Gar (not many people manage to miss the most dived, permanently buoyed, wreck in the West Coast!!!)
  • Keith, Dave, Kathleen, Phil, Jenny and Mike for making it a great weekend
  • Steve and Sue for all their help and company

Looking forward to see you and dive with you all soon


SLB Freestyle Weekend in Lochaline

So here I am, back in the office after a trip on the West Coast of Scotland only a week after the last one but this time with a different company!

Usually work gets in the way and spoils the fun. So when I first heard about this trip and much to my disappointment, I could not go because of work. Work circumstances changed and I was free to go diving only that by that time (as luck would have it) the trip was fully booked!

Luckily (for me) a space came up on the Wednesday and as I was on the reserve list I was only too happy to oblige:)

The trip was organised by Gar a good friend who, apart from being an avid rebreather diver and great source of information regarding rebreathers, has a long experience of organising successful diving trips.

The plan was to meet Friday afternoon at the local Dive shop awl_logoAberdeen Watersports Limited (or you can find them at their facebook page) to sort out hire kit and last minute fills. Once all (and there was quite a lot of it) the kit was loaded on the van the minibus and the van started on a convoy our long journey to Lochaline!


Michael (well part of) next to our van loaded with 4 twinsets, 6 rebreathers and an assortment of single cylinders, stages, weights, toolboxes and most importantly Cider!!!

After a few hours of listening to hard rock and heavy metal we made it to the ferry, much to Michael’s delight who was sitting between me and Greg and had to listen to our nonsensical discussions about recreational rebreathers, bail-outs, Decompression algorithms etc etc!!!

divers_waiting_the ferry

Divers stretching their legs while waiting for the ferry (photo courtesy of Laure Mora)

Our group waiting for the Corran – Ardgour ferry and not long after that we made it to the Lochaline Dive Centre where after the usual mad rush to sort out diving kit we had a great curry prepared by Annabel and the girls!!!

Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast our boat the “Sound Diver” arrived and we started loading the our gear on the boat.


Loading the kit to the boat (photo courtesy of Laure Mora)

The first dive was “The Rondo” a wreck I really wanted to dive after I read about it at Rod Macdonald’sInto The Abyss” and is quite unique because it is vertical!!!


Illustration courtesy of Max Ellis (see Wreck Tour 35 Divernet)

After the dive we went to picturesque Tobermoray for our surface interval, before the second dive of the day “The Hispania“. Alan (our skipper) got the slack water spot on and we got in the water with minimal current.

After a successful days diving we were happy and all of us looking forward to return to the Dive Centre where we knew that Annabel had prepared a roast for the (very) hungry divers – us that is!!!


Gar preparing his unit (Photo courtesy of Laure Mora)

After the dinner Annabel gave us a presentation on the SMART project she is leading, an initiative to sink a decommissioned Royal Navy Cumberland Class Destroyer in the Sound of Mull to create an artificial reef in order to help sustain the local biodiversity and boost the local economy.

Sunday morning and after a good night’s sleep (for those of us far far away from Paul’s room and his snoring) we headed out to dive the “SS Thesis“. A bit of me running late, a current running fast and the end result was a very quick (2 min) dive!!! Oh well these things do happen! As the weather was turning for the worst I was only to happy to be returning to the Dive Centre for a fully Loaded Scottish Breakfast and back to diving!!!


The weather on Sunday was at least changeable! (photos courtesy of Michael Allan)

After the breakfast we headed out to dive the “Shuna” the last dive of our trip before we start our long journey back to Aberdeen.

On the way back conditions deteriorated so he decided to leave the Boat to the hands of an expert!

Laure attempts to create a new wreck in the Sound of Mull

Laure in charge! (photo courtesy of Michael Allan)

The journy back would have been uneventful if I had tied up my unit (properly)!!! Instead:

IMG_1271Repeat 100x: I will remember to tie down my gear!

embarrassing… (photo courtesy of Michael Allan)

A few hours later a van loaded with diving gear and a mini bus full of sleepy divers returned back to Aberdeen Watersports Limited having had a great weekend of eating, drinking and some diving too!!!

Simon has prepared a really cool video of our trip and you can see Simon’s Video of the Trip here an Michaels Video here

Overall it was a great trip that I very much enjoyed! The unit behaved fantastically, my diving wasn’t too bad (he says!) food was great and company too and I got to dive 3 wrecks of the list that I have compiled while reading Rod Macdonald’s books!!! Yey!!!

So many thanks to:

  • Gar for organising the trip and the driving
  • Greg for the driving
  • Michael for tolerating Rammstein and my conversations on CCR with Greg
  • Annabel for the excellent food
  • Alan our skipper
  • Michael, Laure and Simon for photos and the video

and everyone else that made it a successful diving trip

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

20130330_075522 20130330_081406

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!!!