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And so it began, 8am on Sunday Morning and I'm out of bed getting all my dive gear packed up and loaded into the car. Flask is filled with hot OXO, toast for breakfast and I'm alsmost ready for the off. The above is probably pretty routine for you lot, being hardened divers 'n all, but I didn't have a clue what to expect...

It all started on Wednesday evening, after pool training. Had the laptop with me and was showing everyone draught #1 of the website, having a laugh and in good spirits. Announcements were made, and rescue management was mentioned for the Sunday. "May be a good one for the trainees to be involved in" said Nigel The Diving Snake (see our website!). As the only trainee that currently has their own gear, I kept my head down. No use, Nigel collars me ten minutes later... "you gonna do the rescue training on Sunday?"
"What does that mean?" I reply.
"We'll throw you off the boat, rescue you, throw you off the boat, rescue you again..." etc etc.
Seemed like a good idea at the time (curse you Mr Carling Black Label) so smiled and agreed.

Went for a reccy on the Saturday as the weather was gorgeous. Visited Holyhead harbour, had a *long* walk down the causeway, a pint on the way back to the car at some hotel, then took a drive down to Trearddur Bay to have a look-see. Had a quick look around, sea was nice and calm and sun was shining - loads of people on the beach, jet-skiers, horse riders, boats going in and out all over the shop! Was pretty busy. Spotted our club trailers and one of the instructors vans in the car park, so stuck a crab shell on his door handle for a laugh, well seemed funny at the time...!

Anyway, back to Sunday, headed off at 9am and arrived at The Coastguard Station at 10.30 as planned. Jan, Andy & Duncan were the ones undergoing the training,  Simon & Neil were the instructors/co-ordinators. We started off with 20 mins in the Coastguard classroom, running through what the scenarios were going to be for the day. There were also a couple of excersises to demonstrate leadership and taking charge of a situation. Following the excersises we were off to the Yacht Club car-park to prep the boat and kit up.

Once set up the cars were put out of the way and we were in the water. After letting the coastguard and port authority know what we were up to via radio, it was off into the harbour proper! We anchored in about ten metres, and we prepped for the first drill. I was to be in the water with a buddy on the surface; we swam about 15m from the boat, then we were to be a pair of divers who had just surfaced, with me being unconscious. Following the call for help, and
dialogue between my buddy and the boat, a tow was started till we were in range of a throw-rope. I was then towed back to the boat, de-kitted in the water and lifted into the RIB. Seeing as I was unconscious, and then "not breathing" I kept my eyes shut for most of it! I could hear the orders being carried out, the coastguard being made aware of the situation, and I was then put through simulated CPR/AV, and put in the recovery position when I was "sick". Was an interesting experience, and it's good to know that the majority of the divers at our club have been through these training drills. There were discussions after the drills on how things could have been improved - one idea was to inflate and tie the kit off to the boat rather than bringing it on board and using valuable space. We repeated the drill another two times so each of the 'trainees' had a chance at coordinating the rescue.

After being thrown around the boat for the majority of the day, I was rewarded with dive in Holyhead Harbour! This was to be the first time I'd been in "The Sea" so to speak, so I was both excited and a bit nervous, I was diving with "proper" divers now, not instructors and trainees! As instructed by Diving Officer Neil, the dive was to be no longer than 20 minutes (so we could move on to shore rescue drills) and we weren't to stray too far from the boat. So, kit up and buddy check complete, we rolled off the RIB and made our way to the anchor line at the front. After signals, we then descended down in to the water. First thing I noticed was the visibility. There was none! Well, it was no more than a metre or so anyway! We got in to our pre-arranged positions, and started to move off. The bottom could only be described as, well, mud, i could say something else but I wouldn't want to offend
anyone! One touch of the bottom and you would throw up clouds of silt so I had to be very careful, at this point I was hand in hand with Duncan to ensure I was as close as possible. Once we were moving forward the viz cleared up a bit, and I was able to let go, but still stuck right next to him. The first thing we came across were crabs, hundreds of them! They'd be buried in the sand, but as we passed over they'd go mental and swim off kicking mud up everywhere! I'm pointing at every crab I'm seeing now, I swear it looked like a 70's dance routine my hands were going that fast! Duncan came across a huge crab the size of a saucer, it was so big it couldn't even be bothered moving when faced with a friendly shove - it just waived a claw at us as if to say "be on your way or else!". There were lots of bottom filter feeders poking out of the mud too - not sure what they're called yet - must get a decent Marine Biology book next! There were also starfish congregated wherever there was seaweed attached to a rock. We'd been told on the surface that we may run into a certain type of crab, not sure what they're called, but they have pointy heads and walk forwards rather than side-ways. I spotted one walking underneath me and partially flooded my mask I was grinning/laughing so much! I was trying to make sure I didn't touch the bottom at all as I didn't want to damage any of the filter feeder thingies (?!) poking up out the mud, so was popping little bits of air in my suit as we went... We were only about 3.5m at this point so the slight changes in depth were a bit of a pain for buoyancy - and I then made a bit of a mistake! I'd never seen a hermit
crab before, except for the zoo and the tv of course, and there, right below me was the smallest little hermit crab in the world, ever! It was smaller than a snail and happly walking underneath me in the opposite direction. I decided to try and gently scoop him up for a closer look. Mistake! Head down, feet up, air rushed, inverted! Bugger! Not a problem, inversion recovery trained, a simple procedure. Thing was, because we were so shallow, the recovery put my head out of the water!
Duncan was already there waiting for me as I righted, and after OK's we went straight back  down. We did a bit of a turn at this point and started heading back towards the boat. There were more crabs, starfish and huge scallops to be seen as we slowly made our way back. Along the way, we could here this rumbling and banging noise, i'm tucking my head
as far down between my shoulders as it will go - I check my computer and see we're at 4m, and I'm almost convinced we're all going to die as there must be a boat right above us!? The others didn't seem to be bothered so I kept my head down and stayed as close as possible! We surfaced a short way from the boat and swam back on our backs, de-kitted in the water and clambered back on to the RIB. Duncan then
comments on the noise the Stena ferry was making! There was me thinking there was a boat overhead and it was the blinkin' ferry about 1/4 of a mile away! Despite the visibility it was a brilliant and interesting experience - dive time 17 minutes, temp 8c, max depth 6.4m

After the dive, we headed for the shore and did a shore rescue. Was similar to the other rescues but a little easier as there was more room to manoeuvre this time round. Once complete, we stowed the kit at the top of the beach, and with Simon on 'guard duty' Neil took us all out on the RIB around the harbour. We all got to drive the RIB for a few laps, I probably had longer than the others but it was my first go!

After the fun, we headed back to the slip, radioed the coastguard to let them know our excersises were complete, and brought the RIB ashore with the help of another BSAC club (sorry guys, didn't catch where you were from!). We then prepped the boat for transport, stowed our kit away, and headed off home into the sunset.

We then got stuck in traffic on the A55 for blinkin' ages due to the roadworks at Abergele! Still, was an enjoyable day and gave me an insight in to what our Diveleaders are trained to do.

Thanks to Neil, Simon, Duncan, Jan & Andy from Chester Sub Aqua Club for a brilliant day... Now, who's going to sign my QRB for the 'Small Boat Dive' Experience?!

;)
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>Sounds like you had a good time and learnt a few new things Justin, you wanna try to describe these filter feeder thingies in a little more detail and we'll see if we can put a name to the beast?

For purchases I can recommend Collins Seashore guide (about 15 quid) plus saw a new one recently (think it was also Collins) with photos of the beasts rather than the usual drawings, looked quite good at first glance

Chee-az
Steve
 

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Now then, the book you may have seen is the "Oxford Natural History: Photographic Guide to the Sea & Shore Life of Britain (and NW Europe).

Picked it up in my dinner hour from Borders! £15.95.

The bottom feeder thingies are called 'Sea Pens' (Virgularia Mirabilis). They are (i quote) Slender column with a delicate feathery appearance. Polyp bearing side branches extend full height of column.

Amazing how this diving lark can pull you into other areas of interest... It'll be a book on Marine Archaelogy next!
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>Ah...only seen sea pens in 30-ish  metres myself (also dredged some up from 70 metres with a van veen grab)  so wasn't thinking you'd seen them, cool aren't they?

That may very well be the book I was thinking of, only seen it briefly in passing. Check out the priapulid worms if they've got any piccies  
 
 
 
Chee-az
Steve
 
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