Friday, November 14, 2014

Scotland trip, 2014


We’re all going on our summer Dive – 2014


So its 5 O,clock in the morning on 16th August 2014. The alarm clock is screaming at us “get up now”. All of a sudden the realisation of “this is the start of our diving holiday in Scotland”. We quickly jump out of bed, well some of us do and get ready to set off at 6 o’clock for the sunny climate of The Mull Straight, Oban Scotland. The cars are packed, the boat is hitched up and off we set.

The arguments start! The two sat nav’s can’t agree because the driver is ignoring them both and going his own way. The motorways are clear and the travelling is going smoothly, now the sat nav’s, including the psychic one, are agreeing with the driver and the kids are asleep in the back. A breakfast stop at the Tebay Services was much needed and welcomed. Two more short stops and we were nearly there! Turn left said the sat nav, so we did. Cover your eyes and pray, it’s a single road with passing places and we mean single and along the coastal track not road. Fingers crossed we will not meet any other traffic. Ooops spoke too soon, heading towards us are two car loaders, pull into the passing place quick! Eventually we arrive at Lochaline.

The accommodation is at the old post office which looks out over the mouth of Lochaline, a very nice four bedroom house with Kitchen, lounge, dining room, drying room, two bathrooms and a down stairs toilet for us oldies.  As we looked out of the windows the dolphins were in a playful mood and jumping. What a fantastic welcome and start to a fantastic week of diving!

As the night progressed in came the rain and mist along with the gales.  After studying the weather from the window the following morning, while eating bacon sandwiches, we decided today, Sunday, was not the day to go diving, going off the evidence of the yacht in the mouth of the straight.

So some went for a windy walk, some went to the shop, some baked bread practicing resuscitation on it and some sat writing this report. On a good note the leg of lamb is ready to go into the oven for tea. Oh did I mention the Hotel was only 100 yards down the road!


Day two - Monday and the winds have gone, fingers crossed, but the grey clouds and the rain keeps threatening but today we are up for it! The ferry is running so that’s a good sign! The boats loaded and we are ready to go after watching the helicopter delivering the containers to the ship which is anchored at the side of the accommodation.

So off round to Cable Bay for buoyancy checks and a wall dive. We have three groups of two, each group following each other at intervals. The experts with the Go Pro first, that’s what we let them think, we just let them go first to take the pictures before the sand had been stirred up.

The wall was full of life and I don’t just mean us. We saw crabs, Dublin Bay Shrimps, starfish, sea squirts, leopard spotted goby’s, wrasse and lots more sea life. If the official photographers have done a good job there should be some good footage. Oh, talking of footage did I mention that one member lost a fin as he was approaching the boat after his dive. A pair was hired from the local dive centre. Thank goodness they are here.

A second dive found some of us doing some training towards our Sports Diver Qualification the rest of the group went off hunting scallops. They were pretty successful at it as well! A nice bag of scallops for tea.  No one told us that diving holidays had such high standards.

No dolphins today, although there were two seals in the bay teasing us by popping their heads out of the water and looking at us.

Day three – Tuesday and as the sun shone through the curtains one member was woken with a surprise, he opened the 1st floor bedroom curtain and found a rather handsome gentleman looking at him. Once awake he realised that it was a reflection of himself in the mirror!

We were to dive the Rondo but the current was to strong so we deviated to The John Preston to find the cannons, which proved to be illusive unlike the Dublin Bay Shrimps,  Leopard Spotted Guppies and dead men fingers along with an amazing variety of other sea life all be it no Dolphins or seals today.

The afternoon dive saw some training towards the completion of the Sports Diver Qualifications. Others just had a gently meander to see what could be found which included a wide selection of crabs, star fish and we also found phosphorescent sea pen plant. I have to admit though the fish we saw were nothing like the size of the Salmon which we had for dinner.  Some divers also made friends with some jelly fish that were the size of a dust bin lid. Funnily enough these divers just wanted to eat anti histamines for their dinner.

Day four – Wednesday and the mood is quiet. May be all the hard work of the dives are catching up with us, it can’t be the late nights as we are usually fed, watered and in bed by ten o’clock. So an early breakfast and out to Ardtonish Bay to gather more scallops for tea by all of us.  Everyone was successful, so a good tea should be had.

It was overcast and windy in the afternoon but we decided to go back to the Rondo. We dropped in by the shot line and descended to find a glorious array of plant life in white, yellow and orange. If you did not know better you would think that you were in the tropic that is apart from the temperature of the water. There were also lots of fish in varying size from small to large in many colours. The Rondo is a fantastic wreck to meander in and out of, although one diver would disagree as a jelly fish took a liking to him just as he returned to the shot line. He got covered in tentacles’ from head to toe. A quick wipe down to remove as many tentacles as possible was quickly done but unfortunately the jelly fish won! Over the week so far, five to the jelly fish, one to the divers.

Home for a nice shower and as I looked out of the window a grey seal popped his head up to have a look around. After a couple of minutes he rolled and dived to disappear. He apparently tormented the guys while they were sorting out the scallops but would not come anywhere near them.

Day five – Thursday, we are expecting bad weather to move in this afternoon so it’s an early start. We set off to Fuinery Rocks, a site that none of us had ever dived before, so we are all Fuinary Rock virgins! The order of teams had been decided, that is until it turned into FIN day. What do we mean by fin day you may ask! Well it goes like this the first divers were kitting up and the pin on one of the straps broke, so a fin needed to be borrowed. The next set of divers then started to kit up and another pin on another set of fins went, so a quick change over with a spare strap. This in turn delayed the third divers’ entry into the water. We did find this site to be a fantastic scallop bay, not that there were lots of them but boy were they large, another good dinner to be had. There was plenty of colourful sea life to be found as well.

The afternoon dive was at the base of Eileen Rubha An Ridire rock outcrops. On arriving at the outcrops we saw several seals basking in the sun. They did keep an eye on us though and did enter the water to get a closer look at us. Unfortunately when we entered the water they did not appear to want to come and play with us! Never the less we all entered the water and meandered our way through a mass of rather large sea kelp, which had some currents running through it. We came across a high energy site of soft coral in an array of colours and sea life along with some extra large scallops which today got a reprieve due to us having collected enough this morning but tomorrow is another day!

Day six – Friday, our last day of diving! An early start was in order to catch the tide so that we could dive the Rondo again.  The corals were as ever in full colour even though not quite as bright as it was being dived at a different time of day with different weather conditions. Even though we dived it earlier this week there are still new things to see. We all managed to get in and out without being stung by the jellyfish, although we had a few near calls.

Then we went on a site seeing tour to survey some small outcrops of rocks to assess as a future dive site. There were seals basking in the sun who again kept an eye on us.

We then travelled back to Ardtonish Bay where we decanted air from two cylinders to top up our cylinders to complete a short dive. Some were finishing off skills to complete their Sports Diver qualification; others went on a scallop hunt. Today’s scallop hunt was not as successful as previous as the dredgers had been out, so our pickings were smaller today. As this was our last dive of the holiday it still proved to be a successful and enjoyable dive. This was a first for the LSSAU, two dives and off the water by just after one o’clock – noon!

After a leisurely lunch we set to emptying, cleaning, prepping and repacking the boat and equipment ready for the home journey. Once the boat and equipment had been sorted it was shower time. Once spruced up it was time to go to the hotel for the start of a de brief over a quick drink. The de brief continued in the dive centre’s restaurant over a very nice meal of nachos, chilli and finishing off with a fruit salad. Then home to bed in preparation for the drive home.   


Up at the normal time and the final breakfast was consumed with the sun streaming through the window. Everyone’s personal equipment was packed into the cars, the accommodation was emptied and cleaned and off we set home, this time missing the coastal track! The journey to the ferry was going very slow as the traffic seemed to be queuing up in front of us, it was almost like being on the M6. Then we realised that there was an old Land Rover towing a boat in front of us going at a steady pace. Then we realised that even the Land Rover was being held up by cyclists. The rest of the journey went smoothly.

Thank you to the organiser without whom this whole trip would not have been possible.

Thank you to the instructor who put in a lot of time for training instead of enjoying the holiday.

Thank you to the boat handler who gave up his whole week to get us out and back to dive sites safely.

Thank you to all the chefs who kept us well fed and watered.

Many thanks to all members of the group for making this a most enjoyable dive experience.

Monday, May 12, 2014

LSSAU goes to Plymouth - 9 to 11 May 2014

Forecast to be a blustery weekend, wind WSW veering W, speed 21 to 25 knots gusting up to 40 knots, which translates into force 6 to 9, Marg, Geoff, Pete, Shirley, Simon and Tom, ventured down to Plympton scout hut, unchanged in terms of facilities from last year and costing £5 per head per night.

The George Inn, a ten minute walk from the hut, provided a very palatable pint of St Austell beer, Dartmoor and HSD, along with good food, so good that Saturday night saw a return.

Following an uneventful launch and boat check, we headed for Cawsands Bay, completely sheltered in the lee of Rayne Head. Vis though was poor with 1.5m horizontally and only a foot or so vertically. The sea bottom was sandy with some sea weed, hermit crabs, squirts and the like, but it kept all three buddy pairs interested for on average a 30 minute dive.   

The return to Mountbatten Centre with the following sea was much quicker and great fun. The weather conditions having worsened, we recovered Vixen to return to Plympton, wash down and pack up kit in readiness for calling in at Vobster inland dive site near Frome on the return the following day.

Vobster provided an enjoyable dive with vis much improved on Cawsand Bay.

Pete and Shirley successfully completed use of SMB and a low vis dive, Simon had a further dive leading skill signed off and Tom had both low vis and small boat signed off – all well deserved.

Many thanks to Marg for organising and enjoyable weekend, even if the diving conditions weren’t as good as they might have been, to Kyle for preparing and helping with Vixen and to Sam for being home contact.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

BSAC - Boat handling course – weekend of 13/ 14 April 2013
A 7.30am start saw nine members of LSSAU head off to Levington Marina, located just south of Ipswich on the estuary of the river Orwell and upstream of the port of Felixstowe, the towering cranes on the quayside being clearly visible a couple of miles away.
The purpose of the day was twofold, for our boat handling instructor to mentor two budding boat handler instructors and for them in turn to take two candidates each through the practical aspects of the boat handling course, the theory aspects being covered the following day.
 Being the first outing of the season, Vixen and Fox had been checked over for seaworthiness, working order and the necessary safety equipment.  Boat checks completed and participants suitably introduced and made familiar with the boats all were suited, booted with lifejacket on.  We launched at 11.00am.  The slip is steep with an unusual steel hawser arrangement so that at low tide tow vehicles are operated safely on the flat ground above. Tidal range was 3.4m.

After initial familiarisation and having negotiated the narrow channel through the mud flats into deeper water, we brought the boats onto the plane and undertook some higher speed manoeuvres, to be followed by debris avoidance and man over board. Slower procedures involving forward and reverse rounding of a buoy then followed, made all the more challenging by swiftly moving waters before moving to approaching shallow waters. Slow speed handling within the marina provided experience of how to adjust to the wind which otherwise can play havoc with the best of intentions.  A trip down to the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich gave opportunities for boat handling under different conditions as well as the opportunity to look at the various types of buoyage in use.
Despite the boat checks before leaving home, we experienced an intermittent failure with the main engine for Fox. A safe, slow, return to the marina was achieved with the donkey engine, which started at first pull. The fault was soon found and Fox was soon returned to active service.

Handling formalities ceased at 6.00pm with the recovery of the boats followed by a wash down inreadiness for tying down and making the return journey home.  We were back at Fox Box by at 9.30pm.
The weather had been kind to us with sun and quite a stiff breeze until 2.00pm to be followed, as per forecast, by overcast and rain.
The cost for the day was £23 per head, inclusive of travel to and from and boat fuel.
For those doing the full Skill Development programme, the course materials were £43 each, including the course notes and the BSAC Seamanship Manual.
After a successful conclusion to the theory session the following day, LSSAU now has two additional boat handling instructors and four new boat handlers.
All in all, a very successful weekend and thanks go to all involved.
Attendees – Marg (instructor), Kyle (boat mechanic), Jim and Geoff (trainee instructors), Sam, Jack, Pete and Shirley (trainees), Sarah (observer).
Further Skills Development Courses in chartwork and position fixing are also available should anyone express an interest.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Milford Haven/ Skomer – LSSAU dive weekend of 13 to 15 July 2012

Good planning or just good luck, Roger, Jim, Matt’s Davies and Drage, Ian, Sam, Rich, Tim, Dave and Geoff found glorious sunshine, not a lot of wind and gentle seas, not to mention a well stocked bar at the Haven yacht club where we met on the Friday night, having put Vixen to bed in their secure compound.

Launching off Gelliswick slip on Saturday morning, our boat handler, Roger, navigated to the east of the Mew Stone, on the south, and leeward, face of Skomer. Rich and Tim were first in, quickly followed by Jim and Geoff, all having a cracking 45 minute dive, with lots to see in the 8m vis, edible and spider crabs, lobster, dog fish, sea cucumbers, starfish, urchins, squirts to name but a few. The life was teeming, maximum depth being around 15m.

A short journey through Jack Sound took us to the mainland north east of Skomer and into Martins Haven where the first wave of divers were dropped off and the second, Matt Davies, Ian and Sam, along with boat crew member Dave, were picked up. Matt Drage stayed on shore, not feeling like diving. They had driven from Gelliswick and had a short shallow shore dive to check weights etc prior to Vixen’s arrival.  

They returned to dive the same site, albeit closer to the Mew Stone, but by then, the tide had turned and was starting to move. They had more of a drift dive which took them round to the seaward side of the Mew Stone. 

Returning to Martins Haven, we had lunch, took the air cylinders to Haven Diving in Milford Haven for filling and filled one of the boat petrol containers.

Ian and Matt Drage returned to the Haven Sea Scouts hut in Gelliswick to sort out tea and prepare the trailer for Vixen recovery whilst the rest took the short hop across to the North Wall of Skomer for a gentle drift dive, staying in the same pairs and dropping in at five minute intervals. An interesting 45 minute dive but not as much life as had been seen on the south side of the island. That said, we saw dolphins when on the surface, seals on the surface and a seal only feet away when concluding our dive. 

The return journey was with the wind and tide, making for a fairly quick and comfortable return and, following a radio message to provide advance warning of arrival, a very swift recovery from the slip. 

Tea was followed by a short visit to the yacht club, everyone being tired by this time. 

Tide times not being that convenient to allow a second dive and return to home at a sensible hour, there was only one dive on the Sunday. Launching at 9.15am we dropped our shot onto the Dakotian at 9.45am, with the same sequence of diving as the previous day, divers down at 10.05am. An enjoyable 45 minute dive ensued on the former liberty ship with lots to see, albeit visibility was only between 2-3m. 

Divers were swapped over on the pontoon at Dale just after 11am, with Matt Drage and Ian going in first to be followed by Matt Davies and Sam. They returned to Gelliswick for a swift recovery around 12.30pm following which Vixen was washed down in fresh water prior to us having lunch. Equipment was packed, cars loaded, hut cleaned and tidied and keys handed over and we left site around 2.45pm, arriving back in Leicester some 4 1/2 hours later. 

The cost worked out to £75 per head, travel fuel being the largest component, followed by food, boat fuel, scout hut and air. Having two waves of divers from one boat with a dedicated boat handler, made a significant difference to cost.  Two boats would have increased costs by c£30 per head. 

In summary, a very enjoyable weekend, made so by the help and involvement of all who went plus without doubt, the weather, with some very interesting diving. Haven Sea Scouts, Yacht club and diving all made us very welcome and were very helpful. Would we go back, yes.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

LSSAU visit Portland 28 & 29 April


The first trip to the coast of the year and the weather was not kind to us – but didn’t stop us from having some fun - diving and boat handling.


The Team: Kyle, Sam, Nathan, Simon (aka Pils) and Marg.


Has ever we received a warm welcome at the Chickerell Scout hut.  The hut is having central heating installed so it will be even better in the future.  Slight down side - the local Fish & Chip shops seem to have taken to closing about 10pm on Friday nights, so we had to resort to the Chinese take away for our after journey supper on Friday evening.


Vixen was made welcome at Clarks Boat Yard in Castletown, where she spent 2 nights, getting her on to the grass by the Scout Hut is no longer a practical option.


After getting a permit to dive in the Harbour from the Sailing Academy we launched from Casteltown slip – which is free.  Portland Harbour was reasonably calm and close into the inside of the Harbour wall the sea was completely flat.  We dived the Countess of Erne.  The visibility as expected was about 1 – 2M there was a lot of sand in suspension, there had been storm force winds during the week.  The buddy pairs were Sam & Pils, Marg & Nathan.  All followed the outside of the wreck; there were plenty of sea squirts, some spider crabs, pink sea fan, sea slugs, and various sponges.  Kyle was boat handler (as well as towing Vixen down – thank you Kyle).  We were the only divers in and around Portland Harbour!


After the dive the wind (North Easterly) was picking up so we decided that after lunch boat handling was the best thing to do.  Saturday afternoon was spent going through the skills of the BSAC Boat handling course with Nathan & Sam; we got wet and laughed a lot.  For the confined area skills we went into the Sailing Academy Marina, and after admiring many of the boats moored there skills were achieved in difficult conditions as the wind was increasing the whole time.  Two boat handling lectures were completed Saturday evening


Over lunch chatting to Scimitar Divers we were told about their efforts to raise a yacht that had sunk on her moorings in the Harbour during a storm the previous Wednesday night – several other boats were damaged.  By the end of the Saturday the yacht was off the bottom and had been towed to the Harbour wall by Clarks Boat yard, ready to be craned up and pumped out on Monday.  However there was a North East gale on Saturday night and much of Sunday, and we suspect the partially submerged yacht will have been damaged further.


Gales were forecast for Sunday so when we took Vixen off the water Saturday evening we got her ready for the journey home.  Scimitar Diving generously allowed us to use their kit washing facilities to wash Vixen and ourselves down, and Smudge filled our cylinders – with no charge – thank you Smudge & Sarah this was greatly appreciated.


Sunday was a gale with lashing down rain so as planned we went to Vobster for a dive on the way home.  We dived in the same pairs as Saturday.  Sam & Pils explored down to 22M, Nathan & Marg visited the 12M area and found the aircraft which was full of tiny perch.  The vis was at least 5M and the water temperature about 9C about a degree colder than the sea. The diving was good and we all said we would dive Vobster again.


The ‘washing’ of Vixen continued on the journey back to Fox Box as we drove through torrential rain all the way home.


A good start to the season but let’s hope the future trips have better weather.




Monday, December 12, 2011

Nibbles and drinks before Christmas - update on time

We have only just been advised by Lutterworth Leisure Centre that they will
be closing on 19 December not to reopen until 27 December, so there will be
no meeting at the pool on 22 December.

As a result we will bring forward the time when we meet at the Royal Oak in
Bitteswell to around 8.30pm with nibbles etc from 9.00pm.

Hopefully many of us will be able to make it.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

LSSAU, members nights and special subjects

At last Thursday's meeting we continued the discussion regarding holding a
members night once a month. The intention of the members night was to have
the time and space available for a talk, presentation, discussion etc on a
wide variety of diving related topics that would be for the interest of and
benefit to members. It would also afford an opportunity for just the members
to get together, something which has been difficult for some time.

We thought we could start things off on the 24 November with Jim telling us
about his recent trip to Croatia during which the team he was with, had some
interesting historical dives. There will be an article in the new Dive
magazine around that time hence the timing of his talk.

As many of you will be aware, we start the new year with a dive weekend
planning meeting, choosing dive sites for the coming year and volunteers
putting their hands up to organise a given weekend. For the less experienced
members this can be a little daunting, however there are many willing
experienced hands who are more than happy to jointly organise a weekend.
This will be on 12 January, so please make every effort to be there.

With that in mind, we thought it might be useful to have a members night in
January but after 12th, where we take a look at why we organise weekends and

the sorts of things and skills that are required. As I shall be progressing
diving skills by starting Advanced Diver, it fits in nicely for me to take
this on.

In February, following the theme of organising and planning, Coops will take
us through the trip he organised in c1985 to Roatan. It will be interesting
for many of us to understand the complexities of organising such a
challenging exercise. For those of you who maybe don't know, it was
the trip to Roatan that LSSAU was formed.

In March, Marg will take us through the sorts of things she encounters on
her overseas trips, this time telling us about her most recent trip to Fiji.

It is always interesting to learn about the various things we divers find on
the seabed and deem sufficiently interesting, important, essential that we
have to bring them to the surface - broadly described as tat. As a well
experienced collector of tat, in April Rich will bring along various items
he has "saved" and invites everyone else to bring something along, along
some comment/ pictures etc as to where it came from and something as to what
it is and its origins if you know them. Who knows, there may be gold, buried

For May, with the weather hopefully warming up and the diving weekends
almost upon
us, we thought a session on how to correctly use the radio would be useful.
The current thinking is for us to invite someone with a fair degree of
specialist skills along to take us through the use and protocol of inshore
VHF radio.

Rather than continuing on and planning more for the rest of the year, we
thought it would be best to stop for now in June with Coops telling us about

Leicestershire's contribution to the space race with "The Skylark Years"
which he presented last year to the 50th anniversary of Leicester University

X-Ray Astronomy Group.

That leaves us with an open book for further subjects during the year and
for any member to volunteer to enthuse the rest of us in some chosen subject
or field of their choice. The great thing is that anyone can step forward.

The actual dates for each month are noted on the calendar in website, so please take a look and note them in your
diary. Hopefully this will give you all plenty of notice. I am sure that
they will be both enjoyable and interesting, more so if we get a good
turnout, so can I please encourage you to make a note to attend.


If I have missed names from this email, please forward it on to them as such
omission is by default not by design.