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LIDS 2007

On Saturday Louise and I set off from home at about 6:45 and picked my friend Alex up at just after 7:00. We were headed for the London International Dive Show 2007, Louise and I attended LIDS 2006 last year as well as the last two that are held in Birmingham. The shows are a great chance to see the latest dive gear, meet people from the dive industry and get discounted dive gear.

We were supposed to be meeting Mark down there but he was a little delayed. I think we got there for just after 10:30 and he didn't arrive until gone midday. The show seemed a fair bit smaller this year and I particularly noticed the lack of a Suunto or an Apeks stand. There was still lots to see though and as usual we didn't quite get as much time as we would have liked.

I managed to get another book signed. This was The Art of Diving and Alex Mustard signed it for me. Check out his site, there are some amazing photos on there - the book is filled with beautiful shots. It was nice having a quick chat with him

We also chatted to a very nice lady on the Tony Backhurst stand about liveaboard holidays in the Northern Red Sea. I know I have only just got back from there but I really want to dive the Thistlegorm! They have own liveaboard of the year three times I think. We even saw Tony Backhurst himself but he was busy chatting away to someone. Their boats look great, it was disappointing that the boats doing the Northern Red Sea itineraries do not offer free Nitrox but other than that everything looked great. Hopefully January/February next year we will make it out there.

I got myself some new 12L oxygen clean scuba cylinders and a Fourth Element Thermocline T-shirt to take the edge off that chilly UK diving :-) I also ordered a pocket dive log stamp from Dive Logs. I was trying to control my spending this year so I think I managed to stop myself from buying anything else. We just filled in competition entries and I helped my friends to pick out some masks, snorkels and fins.

We had a really good day and set off back at around 17:30 after discussing the day over Pizza Hut. We were going to get something a little more upmarket but we really didn't know the area and they were the first group of shops we found. Got back after 21:00 very tired but with a good haul of new toys. Lots of brochures to look over too.

Coldest Dive Yet

On Wednesday I went and did my coldest dive yet - 7 C. I think before that I had experienced as low as 10 C and figured it wouldn't be too much colder. After about 20 minutes I could feel my hands and feet going numb and we got out after 30 minutes on the first dive. I was in my Oceanic two-piece semi-dry suit but what was more surprising is that Mark, my dive buddy, seemed even colder in his dry suit.

We did go in for a second shallow dive and just used up the rest of the air in our tanks from the short first dive which was to about 20 m. It was good fun but both of us agreed you need something better to see than the stuff in Stoney Cove to make it worthwhile. I think it took about half an hour for the feeling in my feet to return! I miss Egypt - it was 22 C over there at the end of January... I think that is about as cold as it gets out there too.

Dive Holiday in Hurghada - 27th Birthday

Long time no blog... Life has been really hectic and I rarely have time to stop right now. On 23rd January Louise and I along with four friends went to the Hilton Long Beach Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt for a week. As luck would have it my 27th birthday fell in the middle of our week away (on the 26th of January). I didn't think we were even going to make it out to Egypt in the week leading up to our holiday with the fence blowing down, a client's server going down and the car misbehaving but we got there in the end...

Lion FishMarcus on the line

We got to the hotel pretty late on Tuesday, just in time to get a little food and some beer before getting some sleep. As usual I didn't manage to sleep on the plane and so was exhausted. Our room was really nice, all our dive gear made it out with us, we packed lightly enough to avoid excess baggage charges and the weather was great.

On the first full day we went down to the resident dive cetre, Pirates Diving (not a very nice web site), my friends signed up for their PADI open water course and we took our dive gear down to the centre and did a beach dive in the afternoon. They kept us waiting around for a few hours until the divemaster finally turned up. I was getting impatient to hit the water, but he got there after a few false starts, we kitted up and jumped in off the jetty. It was a nice dive, warm water at 22 C but the reef was pretty barren and there was a sandy bottom at about 7 m and so no blue to stare off in to.

Continue reading "Dive Holiday in Hurghada - 27th Birthday"

Got My PADI Divemaster Card

When I got back from work today I had a very big letter from PADI. I didn't think they were going to get it to me in time for Christmas but they managed it in the end! They seem to have butchered the photo I took so long getting ready for them. I got a nice head and shoulders shot like they asked for, printed it at exactly the size they wanted, trimmed it down and sent it off. They seem to have used the nastiest scanner they could find, butchered the colour and zoomed right in on my face and skipped the shoulders part they asked for.

It is nice to have my first black card though - ready for our holiday out to Egypt next month. Everyone from Tigerdive went out yesterday to the pub too and I got my Tigerdivemaster engraved hip flask too. I am sure that will come in useful over the holiday season.

Back to writing up my thesis now... Need to get it finished, need to get it finished, need to get it finished... I want a shave - it's all itchy!

Got My PADI Divemaster Number Today

I got an email from PADI member services today with my Divemaster number. I was quite excited to receive it but was hoping I would have the card by now. It is quite special as you keep this number for the rest of your professional qualifications with PADI. It doesn't mean that much if you are not into diving though.

I might not be able to go diving for quite some time though as I am stuck writing up my thesis as well as being pretty broke due to the way in which PhDs are funded over here. It will be a tough holiday period writing up and being broke but this should be the last one as a student! Hopefully next year will be a good one for work and diving - ideally I will have lots more time to do some development too!

Finished My PADI Divemaster Course

Over the last week I have spent a couple of days making sure I had done all the paperwork, completed the last few exams and went through knowledge reviews. Then I got roped into doing the open water course with Lucy and Craig, with Gordon divemastering too. Unfortunately he got caught in traffic and it was just me until Sunday when Mick ended up divemastering too.

Mark and Lynda did our supervising certified divers in open water dive and it was a tough dive with lots of interesting issues. We got through it in the end though! Once I get some photos of myself that I can live with on my certification cards (as Mark warned me they keep this picture instead of using a new one each time) I will send off my application. I am really pleased I have finished the course, I have learnt a lot and it has been really tough at points but it was definitely worth it.

I probably won't do much more diving in the UK until next year now as I don't have a dry suit (or the money to get one). That is probably a good thing so I can devote more time to writing up my thesis as that has slipped behind schedule a little. I will probably manage one or two pleasure dives before the end of November, and then I will have to wait until Egypt at the end of January. Hopefully all of our open water students had a good weekend and enjoyed the diving too.

Divemaster Mapping Project

On Friday the 13th of October I set out with Mark (buddy) and Vonnie (surface cover) to do my mapping project at Stoney Cove. As we were driving down it looked very foggy, but we were certain it would clear, probably... As we got closer the car engine started to act strange and I started to worry a little about the mechanical viability of our car! It got us there but the fog still hadn't cleared. We were nearly an hour late in getting started and I was beginning to worry we wouldn't even be able to see the buoys once we had them in position.

Nethertheless we perservered and got ready. We went over my plan and took the buoys down to the waters edge. After doing our buddy checks we dropped in off the slipway and dropped down towing a buoy each. As we dropped down I spotted the road and we followed it to the edge of the 22m shelf, then followed that round until we found the cairn. Eventually we found the cairn (I was beginning to worry) and then took a sharp left. Once we hit the coach I was feeling much happier and we tied Mark's buoy off onto the coach making sure the line didn't have too much slack in it.

I took a few pictures and then we headed off for the Stanegarth. I was surprised by how quickly we found the Stanegarth - I always think it is much further away from the coach. As we were securing this buoy to the bow I began to wonder just how much slack I had left for the buoy on the bus - was it still above water? Once the buoy was tied off we had ten minutes to explore the Stanegarth a little before heading off for the 4m blockhouse.

Neither of us had ever seen the blockhouse, and I didn't have a bearing for it. So we headed off on a north-easterly bearing until we hit the wall and ascended to 6m. After that we just followed the wall round and in theory we would see the blockhouse. Theory proved correct and we did find the blockhouse although it seemed devoid of nice places to secure a buoy. We settled on a medium sized rock as the best thing we could find. We even found a pike willing to pose for us before heading for the surface.

Then it was time to take our bearings. Thankfully the coach buoy was above the surface (half submerged though - phew) and the fog had cleared. So we could get bearings on all our objects. I checked Vonnie had seen us on the surfacebefore we started taking bearings. Then we swam to the Stanegarth buoy we had placed on the bow (I was surprised to see just how long the Stanegarth is with the permanent buoy on the stern). We took bearings from this buoy and the pub arch before leaving the water and having some lunch.

We got some air fills over lunch and dropped back in to retrieve our buoys. Before doing that we had to take some more bearings off the bus stop and the coach buoy. We collected up our buoys very quickly and looked around the Stanegarth a little more before heading back with our buoys. We did a very slow midwater ascent whilst collecting in the rope from our buoys on the way up. We had all our bearings and our buoys back and so it looked like the mapping project was done with.

We did a third dive in the shallows under the pub arches, around the Nautilus and back around the blockhouse to finish off the day before heading back home to fill in log books. Looking at the bearings I obtained for the day they seem to make sense and look reasonably accurate. Despite it being Friday the 13th - I have never been a superstitious person and so this day was chosen as Mark could get the day off and we didn't want to be playing with buoys on a crowded weekend.

This was the last practical exercise for my PADI divemaster qualification and so I should hopefully be ready to qualify at the end of the month. My PhD does seem a little further off though...

Great Weekend at Capernwray

Just to balance out my blog a little I thought I would add a note about what a nice weekend I had doing my trainee divemaster internship with Tigerdive last weekend at Capernwray dive centre. I was helping Lynda with the Advanced Open Water course. We had four students who were all really nice. They had a few small problems but overall the whole weekend seemed to go really well.

I got to feed the fish, I got the last of the open water dive sign offs I need for my PADI divemaster course and we had a great weekend. The trainee divemasters also qualified on the Saturday evening - hopefully I will do the same at the end of the month. I stayed at Capernwray house just down the road instead of camping this weekend and it was a great place to stay. Should hopefully be staying there on my last trainee weekend too.

I got a great tired diver tow time and completed my rescue assessment too. The course has been pretty tough but I feel like the end is in sight now. I just need to get a few more exams done and complete my mapping exercise. I have really enjoyed diving over the summer and am glad I took up the divemaster course. It has been tough finding the time necessary as I am also very busy writing up my thesis which is a little delayed right now. I should really get some sleep now...

Diving in St Abbs

We went up to St Abbs last weekend on a diving trip - probably the last of the year before it gets too cold and rough for me to go giving in my semi-dry... We drove up on Friday in our new, old car - a used Renault Megane Scenic. We thought the car was massive, but once we had loaded it with two sets of dive gear, cylinders, camping gear and the dog it didn't seem so big anymore.

Fully laden we set off on our journey. We were hoping to get there with some daylight left, but unfortunately time was not on our side and it was pitch black when we got there at around 21:30. Some friends were already there with their tent up and cooking their dinner. We got the car shining some light on our pitch next to their's at the Crosslaw camp site Louise found for us. They gave us a really big pitch and the facilities were good.

I have to say that the weather was absolutely amazing too - we had sun all weekend and on until Monday when we set off back home. The first days diving was pretty tough - the entry and exit is not that easy anywhere at low tide, and apparently these were some of the lowest tides for ten years or more. Once in the water it was great though and the best thing was that the visibility just got better and better each day.
Cave exit off the St Abbs beachSea urchin

I managed to snap a few really beautiful photos both above and below the water. I had a really hard time picking out a few for this post. I got my sixtieth dive in on the Sunday morning where we did a really nice long dive off the beach with quite a group of us out. Saw a really weird fish but forgot my camera and so couldn't photograph it, but we never spotted the elusive wolf fish.

It was a great weekend and just goes to show how beautiful the UK coast line is when most are trying to jet off abroad for their diving fix! I will certainly be on the lookout for some more UK based diving. Admittedly I do have a week away in Hurghada, Egypt booked for the end of January coinciding with my 27th birthday! Hopefully it won't be too long until we get back out in the sea (I fear it will be next year now though).

Best get back to thesis writing now...

Update: Photos from our trip are here if you would like to look at any of them.

What a Bank Holiday Weekend

I was hoping to get some work done over the bank holiday weekend but instead we just haven't stopped at all since Friday evening and I haven't gotten any work done until this morning! Started off going out for a curry with Louise and some friends from work along with their partners. It was a really nice curry but the waiter made me laugh as he had put mad hot next to my order and I had found it enjoyable but far from mad hot ;-) Saw a few guys from the magnetics group in the pub before we left and realised how rarely I make it out these days - they had redecorated and refurbished the bar without me even noticing any of the work going off...

Saturday morning it was over to Tigerdive early to help out with my first open water course as a trainee divemaster. It was good fun but a really long day. I think I got there at 8:30 and wasn't home until just before 21:00. It was quite a small group, with only four students in the end but it was still enjoyable and an opportunity to learn more about being a divemaster in a teaching assistant role.

Then straight off to town for a few drinks with some old friends I haven't seen since school. They met up for a meal at 19:00 but I knew I probably wouldn't make it in until later. It was strange seeing them after so many years and I hope we manage to stay in touch a little more in future. I remember my days at All Saints quite fondly on the whole.

I got a lay in on Sunday and then we went off to visit Louise's family at her sisters for the weekly coffee morning. After that we went shopping at CCC and Decathlon for some camping supplies. It was good fun but I took ages deciding between three tents. We had the two man fold out, the three man dome tent and the three man tunnel tent.

After much deliberation I decided on the three man tunnel tent because Louise liked it more and I thought a little extra space would be good. Hopefully it will be a decent tent. I will be using it up at Capernwray this weekend along with some of the other goodies we got. I think we will be borrowing Louise's parents bigger tent when we camp up at St Abbs the weekend after. In the afternoon I went to help out with the open water course again. Didn't get home until late an then just collapsed on the sofa and had a bite to eat.

Sunday day I spent reorganising my office and tidying up to make the perfect thesis station as I really need to accelerate my thesis writing if I want to be finished by the end of the year. It looks pretty good now and it feels better having a change. Then some friends came round for dinner and stayed until quite late drinking some wine and Jamesons...

In the middle of all that Louise picked up our new used car - a really big Renault Megane Scenic. It is pretty nice although well used. It is one of the oldest cars I have ever driven (P reg) but has lots of space for diving and camping gear along with us and the dog. My dive box just slides into the boot which is great. Hopefully it will prove to be a reliable car - but we have only had it for a few days so far.

Best get back to writing that thesis - I have written all these words on here but none of them count towards my thesis ;-) I will work on a thesis-o-meter tonight to track my progress throughout the final months.

First Trainee Divemaster Dives at Capernwray

Well I did my first dives in open water as a trainee divemaster yesterday. I got to Capernwray at 9:00 and was helping out with the advanced course. I did three dives throughout the day (deep, wreck and search & recovery). It was quite good fun but the visibility was absolutely awful for most of the day. We also overran and I wasn't out of the water until 5:30 that evening (I was literally the last guy in the water). I was very tired and had worked hard.

Then came the most disappointing part of my whole day - despite talking to both the instructors about being assessed it turned out that neither of them could or would... I have to say it was very disappointing to have left home at 6:30, and to get back after 20:30 and not manage to get a single sign off as part of my trainee divemaster internship. I will be asking about the rules on this as there was a meeting recently about this and either I have misunderstood it or the instructors have.

Trying to take some positives away from the day I do have a better idea now of what is expected of me in my role as a trainee divemaster. I also feel that I fulfilled many of those roles and deserved an assessment. This has made me determined to get the situation clarified so that I do get properly assessed in future dives. I also got three more logged dives too.

I got my wreck specialty on Wednesday too, and should be doing the classroom element on the nitrox course on Saturday and my deep specialty at Stoney Cove on Sunday. After that I intend to avoid any further courses other than my divemaster internship until I have completed it. We will see how that goes...

PADI Rescue Diver Course - I Passed

On Saturday I did the open water section of the PADI rescue diver course. It was a long day, starting at 5am waking up, getting my dive gear in the car and setting off just before 6am. Then I had a two hour drive up to Capernwray and met with Tigerdive and my course mates at the Truckhaven services just across the road from the dive site for our briefing at just gone 8am.

Once we got to the dive site I had to register, we had a briefing on the site and then kitted up. I think we got into the water for about 11am and we did our first dive and the only one we could log for the day (the others were all too short). Mick (a trainee divemaster) led us on a whistlestop tour of the site. We did a short surface swim to the helicopter buoy and descended on it down to 12 m. I was buddied up with Alistair for the day, with Sara and Ian buddied up too. We circled the helicopter and then Mick led us past another couple of boats and we finished on the Sessner (I think it is called) before ascending to 6 m and starting the exercises - diver problems underwater.

We were just constantly watching everyone for what they were going to do to us next and just when I thought it was over Mick simulated an out of air situation and we ascended with him breathing from my octopus. After that we had diver problems on the surface, panicked divers and it went on! We were in the water for most of the day and it was the most exhausting course I have done so far. I think it was really worth it and I feel like I could really make a difference if I needed to help a diver in trouble now but it isn't a course I would have wanted to do before I was confident underwater and above it.

I am now a certified PADI rescue diver - I have a badge, a certificate and soon even another PADI card to prove it! I spent most of Sunday recovering from Saturday...

Diving in the Farne Islands With Seals

Last Wednesday evening we drove up to the a place called Seahouses and checked into our bed and breakfast. We then grabbed a quick bite to eat and a few beers before getting to bed for some rest before our first taste of diving in the UK sea. We dove in several locations in and around the Farne Islands with Sovereign Diving. Thursday morning we had an early start out on the boat.

We started off with a wreck at about 20 m just off the side of one of the small islands called Knivestone, and then got a little lunch and after a good surface interval we were at our next dive. This was much shallower at about 6 m on a sandy bank just off a beach. It was called Corrington and there was quite a spread out wreck and loads of life. The highlight of which were the lobsters for me.
Lobster on patrolGrey Seal

We all had a really nice meal together in the evening at the dive operations restaurant after washing our gear down and leaving it to dry. Shared a few tales and took in all the photos of the seals hoping we would be lucky on our second day of diving and meet some seals!

We saw a few seals from a distance on the first dive, but the currents were really strong. Louise didn't feel very good after that dive so she gave the last dive a miss. I buddied up with Mark and Grant on the last dive and that had to be the best of the lot for me. We went through quite a narrow gulley, caught sight of some seals playing around near us. Had a quick look at the wreck at about 12 m and then came up and did our longest safety stop ever whilst playing with the seals. I have put all the decent pictures I got here along with my favourites in the sub album.

All in all a great introduction to UK diving. Shame Louise missed the best dive, I suppose it means we will just have to go back some time. When we got home I had to complete the knowledge reviews for my rescue diver course and had a really long day at TigerDive doing the classroom stuff and pool work. Next Saturday is my first visit to Capernwray to do the open water part of the course.

Diving at Stoney Cove Yesterday

I went diving yesterday at the famed UK dive site - Stoney Cove, with an old school friend Matt for the day. He also works at the local dive shop, SDS and sold me half of my new kit. So if it wasn't all top notch I had the guy to complain to out there with me :-) We got there at about 10:30 and were allowed into the bottom car park - now I know why everyone obsesses over this as I saw how far we could have been walking in full kit. It cost £15 each which I thought was pretty steep to just let us dive in their old quarry but I am new to all this.
Matt in the wheel house of the ship wreckMarcus in full gear before taking the plungeMarcus head shot at about 18 m

I just know everyone wants to see me covered head to toe in neoprene so you are in for a treat - Matt took a photo of me just before I jumped into the water but didn't quite manage to get my head in the shot. As Matt hadn't been diving this year he wanted to take it easy so we avoided the deep bit in the middle and stuck to a floor of about 22 m maximum depth.

We took in a few of the sites on our two dives including a big boat (must check its name), a transit van, a Wessex helicopter and a submarine with one of those geocache signs on it. We even saw some fish here including a couple of monster pike! You can see all my other pictures here - I got quite a few. All my new equipment worked really well and there were no leaks in my camera stuff. I did a test deployment of my DSMB and we did our safety stop off it on our second dive.

I was quite amused though as I had told Matt about the diving I had done out in Malta and how they had asked me if I breathed (I do by the way). They wouldn't let me have a 15 L cylinder, even on our 35 m dives as they said I would never need it. In their defence they were right and I usually came up with 60-120 bar I think at the end of every dive. Matt got me a 15 L and a 12 L, and himself a 12 L and 10 L. Needless to say we were coming up for him on the first dive and I finished with 110 bar, and the second I think he had 30 bar and I came up with 100 bar... I think he believes me now. It is all these 10 km runs I think :-)

We had a really good day, finished it off with a beer in the resident pub. I now have Stoney Cove in my log book too, although I did scratch the face of my dive watch a little on the second dive :-( These were my coldest dives to date at 11 C, but my Oceanic semi-dry suit kept me nice and toasty warm. Matt did fine in his drysuit too. I still haven't spotted the appeal of dry suits, but it may become apparent up in the Farne Islands next week!

First Dive in the UK!

Did my first dive in the UK on Friday of last week! I went to the Blue Lagoon inland lake. I hired some kit from TigerDive and went with a few of the people who frequent their online forum. We got there and we started kitting up and the day nearly ended there in disaster. The high pressure hose to the SPG blew on my hired regulator! Never seen that happen before and it really did scare me.

Fortunately I was able to borrow a set of regulators from one of the dive masters there, and I had only lost 20 bar of pressure despite all the noise it made. It really was true what I read about the pin hole in the high pressure hose reducing air flow :-) It was a beautiful sunny day and in the end we got into the water. It wasn't as deep as their site claimed (or we couldn't find the deep bit) - we managed a maximum depth of 6 m and didn't see any fish. I did see some newts, tadpoles and lots of tiny larvae.

The first dive was just under an hour and I came up with half a tank left. The water was lovely and warm but I discovered 6 kg was too much lead. We had a nice cup of coffee and a great bacon sandwich, after which we went in for another short dive. We looked around the boat wrecks and the tank. There was also an artillery gun that was on its side and a few platforms to sit on. I practiced inflating an SMB too - good for when we go diving in the Farne Islands at the end of the month.

It was a good laugh although I do prefer diving in the sea I think... The equipment issues pushed me into getting my own gear sooner rather than later too. I got myself an Apeks XTX50 regulator set up with the nice DIN300 fittings, and a ScubaPro Knighthawk BCD which is pretty nice with the tech wing style inflation at the back and integrated weights. It was a gentle introduction to UK diving with a bit of a scare at the start of the day - thankfully everything went smoothly after that :-)