Sunday, 29 November 2009


Hi All,
I hope you are enjoying my blog, there are certainly many more interesting articles and images in the pipeline. This is just a wee blog to let you know that after a bit of difficulty with my Photobox photo gallery, I have now been able to update them. I have also added a topside gallery full of Castles and Birds, with lots more wildlife to be added in due course.

The Galleries on Photobox show only a fraction of my work, so if you are after a print of something from above or below the waves but cant see it on that site, just give me a mail with your requirements and i will look out relevant material. So if you fancy something for your nearest and dearest please do take a look at the images in the my prints section of the website and i will get it delivered before Santa arrives.
all the best and have a great Christmas and New Year.
Mike Clark


A weather window appeared and Marine Quest took advantage of it. I was surprised when Jim told me the trip to K17 was on. I had dived the K4 B4 but K17 was new to me and i was really looking forward to the trip. Here are a brief selection of my images from the trip. It was very hard work getting these images as the tide was fierce. I would think that there are very few pictures if any at all of this shipwreck. A more expansive article will feature in due course. Thanks Marinequest.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Red hat 90lb Maximus wing review
There must be dozens of wings out there for use when technical diving. On Dive boats I’ve noted the usual brands and a few lesser known setups, which for me are always interesting to have a look at. Over the years I have used a few types and brands such as the original Northern Diver Sea Eagle with a Stainless Steel (SS) Back Plate, now I use a mares BC for shallow stuff and the new Buddy Tek wing for my independent twins. For my technical diving I was going to use manifolded twin 12l cylinders and needed a SS or Aluminium (ALI) back plate to bolt them onto with ss bands. (Buddy don’t recommend using manifolded twins with the buddy band system).
I was trawling web sites looking for a wing when I came across Red Hat Diving, I liked the look of their wings, so I contacted John Hewitt, the proprietor and he kindly sent me up a 90LB Maximus dive wing with ss back plate and a premium harness to review along with other optional pockets, harnesses, and a couple of weight harnesses. Over the course of the last 4 or 5 months I have been trying out this kit on my deeper technical dives.
The first thing that strikes you with this wing is that it is almost identical to the OMS wing. I had ample chance to compare the Red Hat Maximus with the OMS wing as my buddy Gordon Mackie of GM Diving uses one. There are two important differences between the wings though, firstly, the cost of the Maximus which is a fraction of the OMS set up. Secondly the materials used are lighter than the OMS. So where in these tight economic times I liked the price very much I wanted to ensure that the wing was up to the rigors of deep multi tank technical diving, here is how I got on.
The Maximus wing is a truly modular system and you can customise it for your needs. The bladder of the wing can be supplied in 3 sizes- 90lb, 50lb and 30 lb. The outer of which comprises 1680 denier nylon. Inside of this is the inner bag which is constructed of 210 denier nylon with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) bonded layer.
This makes a sturdy puncture and abrasion resistant package. I had initial fears re the inner bag as it felt so light and flexible compared to the old style clear plastic inner bags found on some bc’s. I found out that it may be light but it’s very strong and the new TPU inner lining performed very well with no leaks or tears. The inner is slightly larger than the outer cover so it will never over inflate, which reduces stress on the inner bag. On further investigation I found out that the TPU inner is the preferred choice for many technical divers. A semi-circular zipper around the inside of the wing allows for easy inspection of the interior bladder.
The wing also comprises a trap door drainage system which allows water to drain rapidly from the outer cover to minimize excess weight and improve diver comfort. It must work as I found no problems with trapped pockets of water. The bladder also contains 2 dump valves, one controlled by a pull toggle at the top of the bag and another to the rear of the wing. There is a corrugated inflation hose with a stainless steel inflation button. I really liked this as it added a wee bit of weight and kept the hose from moving around.
One thing I did change on the wing was initially the corrugated hose came over the shoulder of the wing. I swapped this with the location of the pull dump so that the corrugated hose hung straight down the front of the wing as with the OMS wing. All these valves have the same fitting so you can set the wing up exactly how you like it. The inflation unit supplied does not have a steel cable running through it allowing it to be used as a pull dump as in most sport Bc’s. This I expected from a technical wing as most wings do not employ a pull dump in the corrugated hose.
Lastly the wing is surrounded by elastomeric bands (use is optional) these assist in deflation, but still allow the diver to orally inflate the BC. I liked the bands and found they did not hinder inflation. If anything I would have liked slightly thicker bands adding a little bit more tension, or I could just slightly tighten the existing bands. I personally like to have the wing as streamlined as possible, that said I am aware of the debate surrounding the advantage of using bands or not. With this set up the choice is completely yours.

There is a choice of 3 back plates –Aluminium that can be supplied in a range of colours for the fashion conscious and two types of Stainless Steel back plates. The first one is an Economy back plate from Taiwan, I decided to go for the 316 marine grade SS back plate made in the UK. All come with mounting holes allowing for height adjustment. There are also mounting holes around the periphery of the back plate. There is therefore no lack of mounting options. This gave me the advantage of having 6lb of non removable weight comfortably spread across my back. After my 5 months of use there was no sign of corrosion and the backpack looked like new.

This is probably the most important part of any wing system. The Maximus offers 2 choices of harness. The Sports Harness is the more basic of the two harnesses on offer but I would say it’s very high spec. Two adjustable shoulder clips, 4 D rings, Padded Shoulder pads, crotch strap, Chest strap, back plate pad and a stainless steel buckle. It’s fully adjustable and very versatile. If you want flexibility this is a good choice. I opted for the Premium harness which boasts all of the above. The waist bands and shoulder pads are stitched onto the harness and the fitting are plusher. The back pad with it’s red hat logo is extremely comfy. There are a further 6 small D rings attached to the back of the harness for clipping on further items. For the extra few pounds I think the premium harness is extremely good value for money. I have seen a few inspiration users and OMS wing users using this harness. This didn’t surprise me much as the premium is very similar harness to the OMS IQ pack. I found it extremely comfy and easy to use.
The maximus wing comes with a large selection of pockets and accessories.
I found the large utility/ mask pouch which is mounted on the waist band at the stomach very useful for popping all my tables, mask, and line cutters in. The only thing I would have liked to see in it was a little D ring to secure these items too.
Weight pouches are also available to fit directly to the harness but I found these to be of limited use, especially with side mounts. Trim weight pouches are useful and there are pockets for sheers, a no sag pocket which looks good. There is also a vertical mounted weight pocket and a thigh pocket. There is plenty of variety, so you will be able to customise your kit exactly the way you want it.
It’s not as tough as the OMS but then very few things on earth are as the OMS is bombproof. The Maximus is certainly no cheap copy but it is made of lighter materials than the OMS. Is the Maximus tough enough for technical UK diving? Well going from my experience yes, it’s handled all the wreck diving I could throw at it and still looks as good as new. I found it an extremely comfortable and easy to use wing. If you are into designer labels you will prefer to look at the fashionable brands. But if you don’t mind not having a certain logo on your kit I would strongly recommend the Maximus wing system by Red Hat Diving. I liked it so much I decided to put my money where my mouth was and bought the product. I will of course keep you informed how I continue to get on with this wing.
Cost for the 90lb wing, premium harness and the economy ss back plate as a package is £278.50. That’s a 10% saving on buying the items individually.
If you would like to see more about the Maximus Wing and other dive equipment visit
Telephone 01757 702487 or 0845 2 RED HAT (733428)
Postal address,
Red Hat, (or Diver Training Services) as appropriate
Beechcroft, Holme Lane, Selby, Yorkshire, YO8 3EL

Mike Clark

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Scottish Sub Aqua Club

"Mike Clark - Underwater photographer on
- Eyemouth the new Scapa.
Pristine wartime wrecks, undisturbed untill now. With new wrecks being found each month Eyemouth is set to become the new Scapa in Scottish Diving. Add to that the fantastic scenic diving that the area boasts Eyemouth is now seriously on the diving map no longer the silent partner to St. Abbs."
I thought the talk went very well and i certainly enjoyed the day!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

SUUNTO HelO2 review

Suunto HelO2 Trimix Dive Computer review

Last year I dipped my toe into trimix diving. I soon found out that it’s a lot more complicated than air and nitrox diving.
It wasn’t long before I was getting frustrated by using tables again; it seemed like a huge step backwards. It’s not the easiest task in the world sticking to a run time. I soon wished I could get a computer to use for this type of diving but the VR3 and other trimix computers appeared to be well out of my budget.
Then I saw the press release re the Suunto Helo2 the first dedicated Trimix diving computer from a mainstream manufacturer. I was very interested in it and I managed to get my hands on one. Over the last few months ive been putting it through its paces for Scottish Diver.
Initially a pre production unit was sent to me, instruction manuals were not available and the dive planning software was a beta version not the finished product.
This in itself was not a problem I had used a Suunto D9 computer in the past and found the menu’s very easy to navigate as will any diver who has used a Suunto computer before. In fact I would say it was extremely user friendly and I was soon imputing trimix mixes into the unit. This is the first plus point for this computer it’s extremely easy to use.
The HelO2 can dive to 120 metres and program and utilize up to 8 gas mixes. These can be set as “Primary” where the computer will include the gas in the dive plan and calculate time to surface etc. The “Secondary” setting is for gas that you do not carry but may use such as drop tanks or a buddies cylinder. These gas mixes’s will be stored in the computer but not used in the calculation until manually selected. Thirdly there is the “off” setting which is self explanatory. Mix’s that are turned off cannot be turned on underwater.
My first dives with the unit were purely observational whilst I dived using V planner tables (Conservatism = + 2). It’s extremely hard to compare a computer to tables. The Suunto HelO2 has 5 conservatism settings. -2 to +2 with -2 being aggressive and +2 adding in safety. I used the setting with 0 conservatism right in the middle, which is the default factory setting for the average diver.
The Suunto HelO2 uses a Suunto technical RGBM (reduced gradient bubble model) decompression model designed by Suunto and Dr. Bruce Wienke. Now unlike these guy’s I am no decompression theory expert so im not delving into explaining that but what I will explain is how the Suunto HelO2 dives.
On my initial dive following the V Planner tables run times looked similar for a 64 metre dive with a bottom time of 15 minutes. Everything worked well on the dive and the display on the HelO2 was clear and easy to read apart from the small dive time display on the bottom right of the screen which I found is partly obscured by the screen protector I could read the figures but not see the label. I repositioned the unit on my arm and this problem was solved. After 15 minutes I ascend sticking to my runtime. The HelO2 utilizes deep stops which are recommended but not compulsory. If you do not carry them out however you will receive a deco penalty at shallower depths. Sticking to my table runtime I missed the deep stops and when I had finished my deco requirements with the V Planner table the HelO2 was displaying a further 10 minutes of deco. From subsequent dives I can confirm that this was due to missing the deep stops.
The deep stop system was new to me and I really liked it. The computer gives a ceiling that can be ascended to; it’s highlighted “deep stop” to avoid any confusion with mandatory deco stops. Once the desired depth is reached a time display starts to count down in seconds. It’s neat and clear and once the time is up the next ceiling is displayed and depending on depth this is repeated until the mandatory deco stops are shown. Minimum ascent time is displayed and an hour glass formed by 2 arrows shows that you are in the optimum deco zone.
Once in the deco zone and using higher % O2 mix’s, the dive time display can be toggled through to view Oxygen information and the current PPO2 and your accumulated OLF% can be interrogated all by the push of a single button. Once again nice and easy.
Changing the gases on a dive is also straightforward. If the gas mixes are “Primary” The HelO2 will prompt you to switch gas once the safe PPO2 levels are obtained when a richer gas for decompression can be utilized. The display at the bottom left of the HelO2 screen can be toggled between max depth and the gas mix that you are currently using. Using mixed gases I kept my unit in the gas display showing O2% and He% for instance my bottom gas was 18/30. This display will start to flash and 3 beeps will occur (I didn’t hear them but I wear a really thick hood) when a better primary deco gas is available. A push and hold on 1 button and then a push on the select button to switch and select the gas. The HelO2 shows a confirmation message. Very simple and straightforward this is the beauty of this computer. I found it simplifies complex diving operations enriching the diving experience. The hand unit is only half of the package though!
The Suunto Dive Manager Version 3 is the software that can be used as a logbook of your dive. The USB interface from PC to HelO2 is included along with the software in the package which is a nice touch as other computer manufacturers charge extra for these items.
The Suunto Dive Manager Version 3 also interfaces with The Suunto Dive Planer which lets u plan dives setting Depth, Time, Gas mix’s to be used conservatism settings etc. From this you can print off a chart showing your runtime which is a great safety factor. This can be printed out to take as a back up on your dive. Another function is after your dive with partially empty cylinders this software calculates how much Helium and oxygen you require to blend your desired mix for the next dive. This is a great help if you are a trained blender on a live aboard trip or if you want to advise the fill station exactly what you would like in your cylinders.
Gas mix’s can be input directly into the HelO2 if you do not have a pc. If you do use the dive planner software though, you will be able to export your gas mixes and conservatism setting from the pc to the HelO2 whilst looking at your selected dive plan on the pc screen. I found this very pleasant to use, all the information you need is on a colour graph on your pc screen. All the deco and O2 requirements are visually brought to you with different colours showing different gas mixes and red’s showing where safe CNS O2 limits have been breeched or your equivalent narcotic depth of a gas has been breeched.
Once again its all very user friendly and easy to use and it certainly helped me plan deep technical dives. I found the package made it a much more interesting, enjoyable and easy task than purely looking at run times on tables.
So for technical diving in the 50-70 metre range as far as I could compare, for the reasons given above the HelO2 gave similar run times to V Planner tables. Also dive times were similar to VR3 computers which were used by buddies. If anything the HelO2 may give slightly longer deco penalties at the shallow stops. I like to keep things safe so this was perfectly acceptable for me. If you are young and fit and diving regularly you can always move the conservatism settings to the more aggressive -1 or -2 setting.
So for somebody like me getting into open circuit trimix diving this computer will make the whole process much more simple and enjoyable. It certainly gave me more time to focus on the diving and the freedom of using a computer rather than sticking rigidly to tables. In short I liked this product very much.
For people who use CCR rebreathers though the HelO2 is only for open circuit trimix. The Max Depth of 120 Metres may be restrictive for some technical divers.
I also used the HelO2 on some standard air/nitrox dives. As previously reviewed I compared the HelO2 to the Apex Quantum. My findings where that on the first dive of the day, although both computers went about their deco in different ways. When completing the deep stops for the HelO2 the deco requirements were almost identical, certainly within a minute.
On the second dive of the day I observed that the Apex Quantum required extra decompression penalties of up to 3 minutes. This may have been a penalty for lingering at depth completing my deep stops for the HelO2.
The Beauty of the HelO2 is its ease of use both the dive computer itself and the dive manager and planning software. The cost of the unit is currently £645 and as a package with a transmitter £955. This in its own makes it very attractive to divers being cheaper to buy than the VR3 and the Shearwater Pursuit. Also the software, pc interface come with the computer. So for divers undertaking open circuit trimix diving I expect the HelO2 to become a very popular unit. The Suunto name and the HelO2 could bring technical trimix diving to the masses.
The HelO2 is designed specifically for open circuit, so CCR divers will find limited use for this product. Also the 120M depth limit may restrict more adventurous divers. To most divers though this is an extremely useful and exciting product my only negative comment would be I found it hard to read the small displays at the bottom of the screen. Not the numbers themselves but the label identifying the max depth or dive time. The text is quite small and is partly obscured by the screen protector. PPO2 and OLF% and temperature are not obscured by the protector. Moving the unit on my wrist certainly helped and I was able to happily read the labels once again I stress that it was only the label dive time and max depth that I had difficulty seeing and not the units themselves. It’s a minor point. Otherwise the display is very clear and displays so much information to keep you completely in control of your trimix diving. Overall an extremely nice product to use.

Mike Clark

Friday, 30 October 2009


I always enjoy diving out at the Farne Islands on Lee Halls Boat Farne Diver 2. This time though was even more special than ever. I have tried for years to get a nice Grey Seal shot with varying degrees of success. This time i was lucky and i had lots of furry friends all around me. It was a brilliant day taking advantage of a wee break in the weather. I was amazed at the visibility which was over 10 metres, considering it was struggling to get over 3 metres earlier in the week.

Farne Island Diving is always special for me and as said before its great to meet up with my buddy Lee. The wrecks and scenic walls are spectacular and when those seals want to play it makes for a fantastic diving experience.

If you want to get close to some new furry friend get in touch with Lee at Farne Diving Services

or call Lee on Phone: (01665) 720615
Farne Diving Services
St. Ebbas House
NE67 5AP

Thursday, 1 October 2009


and Jim Macleod, a couple of enterprising
divers got together with Eyemouth
skippers Jim and Iain Easingood of
Marinequest, who run the dive boat
North Star. They all had a long held wish
to find the wreck of the German submarine
U12. In January this year they found
it after five years of searching. Three and
a half months later, on the second trip
out to this new wreck, I had booked my
place on North Star and was eagerly
awaiting the chance to descend down to
the wreck.
On the long way out to the wreck, 18
miles out of Eyemouth, I took the chance
to ask Iain, our skipper for today about
the wreck and its history. I had seen
pictures of this early U-boat. It was
unusual in the fact that this submarine
carried a floatplane on the deck of the
sub. The plane would be launched on
the sighting of a target and sent to
I would not like to have been that pilot.
If the sub could not surface, ditching in
the cold North Sea would be a frightening
prospect. This was never intended to
be the case though, as once the aircraft
was launched from the sub and its
observations were complete, it would
head directly back to Germany. The float
plane idea was only used a couple of
times before being shelved.
The History
U12 is a historically important U-boat, as
already said she carried an aircraft on her
deck, which could be deployed at sea.
U12 was the first ever submarine to do
this. U12 was also the sister ship of the
U9 which under the command of
Captain Lieutenant Otto Weddingen on
September 22 , 1914 sank three British
light cruisers HMS Aboukir, Hogue, and
Cressy in under 75 minutes. U9 was
instantly famous and survived the war.
Her sister ship U 12 did not and when
she had her run in with three British
destroyers HMS Ariel, Acheron and Attack
it would be the British that were victorious
on that day.
The day before the battle U12 was seen
on the surface by a trawler and this news
was eventually reported to the destroyers
that were hunting her along with the
light cruiser HMS Fearless. U12 did not
wait around to be found and carried on
her deadly business sending a steamship
to the bottom in the outer Firth of Forth.
The screen of destroyers, which had been
sweeping the east coast of Scotland
moved toward her newly reported
position, then they saw the sub on the
U12 saw the destroyers coming and
crash-dived to 25 metres, readying two
of her four torpedo tubes for use.
Kapitänleutnant Hans Kratzsch may
have seen the opportunity to emulate
Captain Lieutenant Otto Weddingen,
Germany’s U-boat hero, by sinking his
own three British warships. On this
occasion though, the destroyers were
aware of the presence of a Uboat in the
Kapitänleutnant Hans Kratzsch gave
the order to come to periscope depth,
there was an ear splitting crash as the
periscope was blown clean off the
conning tower. Seconds later the bows of
HMS Ariel rammed U12 on the port side
just forward of the conning tower. The
sub rolled over 90 degrees and was
forced under. Ballast tanks were blown
and when the sub surfaced the destroyers
shelled her. 10 men managed to
escape the sub, 19 of their comrades were
not so lucky as the conning tower hatch
jammed. U12 had come to periscope
depth when HMS Ariel was almost on
top of her. U12 and 19 of her crew paid
the ultimate price.
Now she lies on the sea floor 47 metres
down. A remaining survivor of a very
famous class of submarine, that makes a
fantastic dive for a wreck diver.
The Dive
The run out to the wreck site aboard the
North Star had been relatively quick.
Conditions were good, flat calm seas and
sunny skies. It was a perfect mid May
day. The water above the site was a
strange turquoise blue colour. Being 18
miles off the coast underwater visibility
was expected to be excellent but on this
day a plankton bloom had started, due to
the weeks of good weather leading up to
the dive and this was the cause of the
strange colour of the water.
Dropping down the shotline the water
was bright and clear until we passed
through the 30 metre barrier where it
turned dark. I turned on my torch as I
neared the bottom. Viz was around six
metres and the shot had landed in the
sand just forward of the conning tower.
I immediately noted a brass porthole
with its windscreen wiper. The glass
reflecting my torch beam. The unique
pattern of portholes on the conning
tower was one of the details used to
identify this wreck.
A party of divers headed off to the
right, so I followed the hull to the left.
Soon old nets appeared, wrapped around
the wreck. I felt I had finned a long way
from the conning tower and as I was just
thinking that I must be finning towards
the stern when the twin brass screws
appeared at the back of the boat.
This was quite a find for me, as I had
never seen intact screws on a U-boat
before. This was an early class of boat
and I was surprised at how small the
screws were. The power plants that
drove the screws were two stoke engines
fuelled by paraffin.
Unbeknown to me above my head,
whilst I was taking pictures of the
screws, were to be found the twin stern
torpedo tubes. This was the other
unique identifying feature that confirmed
this wreck was U12. I wish I had
looked at more old photographs of U 12
before I dived her. The design of the two
stern tubes was quite unusual, being at
surface level when the boat was on the
surface, rather than being submerged
further down the hull, as you might
I certainly would have liked to have
had a look at this unusual feature of the
wreck, especially when I saw an image of
said area. One picture in particular was
showing a nice big lobster that had set
up home in the tube, with one of the
readied torpedoes that Kapitänleutnant
Hans Kratzsch didn’t manage to fire on
the day of the battle. Reports published
in the New York Times at the time
however confirm that Kratzsch did
manage to fire one of his fish even
though he had lost all sight above the
surface with the loss of his periscope.
I now finned on under the stern and
back up to deck level keeping just away
from the nets. I soon came across the
hatch at the stern section, which was
open. Schools of bib and pollack passed
by the hatch unafraid of the nets that
were wrapped hard into the wreck at this
Further forward the outline of the
conning tower soon took shape again
and I noted more brass portholes and
their wipers. I wondered about their
effectiveness even when used on the
surface. The hatch on top of the conning
tower was fully open, once again
surrounded by fish. This didn’t concur
with the reports of the sinking, which
stated that the hatch had partly jammed.
Perhaps a snagged net at some time had
ripped it open. Or perhaps wartime
Hydrophone and net U12 deco stops
One picture in particular
was showing a nice
big lobster that had set
up home in the tube, with
one of the readied torpedoes
that Kapitänleutnant
Kratzsch didn’t manage to
fire on the day of the battle.
Reports published in
the New York Times confirm
that Kratzsch did
manage to fire one of his
fish even though he had
lost all sight above the
surface with the loss of his
Grey seal in Eyemouth Harbour
Page 14
A very happy Mike decompressing
after diving the U12
divers looking for information visited
the wreck.
There were certainly no remains of the
periscopes, which confirms they were
shot off. Finning further forward, my
computer now beeping, I passed the
port side of the conning tower and did
note a distortion in the hull where
Ariel’s bows had rammed the boat.
I eventually reached the bow where
the other two torpedo tubes were
visible. Martin later suggested that this
might mean that the prow of the Uboat
lies broken off just forward from the
main wreck. That’s certainly something
for exploration for another day.
The forward hatch on this section of
the wreck is also open and once again
fish are plentiful. It is also at this
section of the wreck that two large brass
hydrophones can be seen although one
is partially obscured by the net.
I was very happy with the dive as I headed
towards the shotline. U12 is a fantastic dive
with so many artefacts on display. As U12 is
a war grave the diving on the wreck was
carried out with the utmost respect. The
wreck was not entered and nothing was
removed from the site.
A week later I caught up with Martin and
got some more details about the wreck. I was
told a good wee story about one of the
survivors of U12 - war pilot Volker. He
managed to escape from his prisoner of war
camp and made his way to Hull where he
gained employment as an able-bodied
seaman, on the Swedish bark Ironstrop.
On October 1, 1915 Ironstrop was stopped
and searched by U16. This was excellent
news for Volker who completed his escape by
boarding U16. He was then assigned the role
of war pilot for U44 but he did not manage to
see out the war. He went down with U44
when it was sunk on August 12, 1917.
Jim and Iain now offer fantastic
accommodation and run a small dive
shop and compressor. This enables you
to book the whole package. (NOTE
Mrs. E’s home baking is not to be
018907 52444 / 077808 23884
Rates £30 - 2 DIVES
3, 4 & 5 day packages from
£150pp (group discounts)
Tech. wreck diving from £25

Saturday, 5 September 2009


It was a great weekend for the St. Abbs and Eyemouth splash in photographic event.
Here are some of the images i captured over the weekend. Unfortunately no winning shots this year. You can see the winning shots on the Marine reserve website.


Hi All,

Please read below my exploits on the Lazy G Diver from last years August bank holiday splash in weekend.
Since then skipper Alistair Crowe has retired after many years of great service, to thousands of divers.
Thankfully for those divers the Lazy G has been taken over by new diver/skipper Paul O'Callaghan. I was out with Paul this August bank holiday and had a great time on the Lazy G, which has undergone some improvements. Paul has-

1. Sanded down the hull to the bare wood and repainted.
2. The deck has been raised and the back step removed for extra floor area and easier exit and entry.
3. The engine cover has been extended by 2 feet for more seating and storage.
4. A seating area has been built at the back with under seat storage.5. The cabin bulkhead has been moved forward so there is additional floor area, a covered area for shelter and also a toilet has been installed.
6. A seat has been added to the port side which is under shelter.
This above work has certainly improved the boat and as you can see from my review shelter and an on board toilet were all i missed on the boat. Paul has done well and taken care of this and the raised deck makes the boat easy to get in and out of.
Paul is an advanced BSAC diver and assistant club instructor. He has been diving regularly for the last 12 years at St. Abbs.
Paul holds a commercially endorsed power boat license for the boat.All in all i had a blast and found Paul a great skipper and a good laugh on my trip, being a diver himself he dropped us on a new site which was a nice change from the usual spots. I even managed to find an Angler Fish.


First published in DIVE Magazine Jan 2008 prices and contact numbers at the bottom of the article are current
Lazy G Diver
Mike Clark
Visitors to St Abbs like an easy time, so here's a skipper who'll take off your fins while he's still manoeuvring the boat.
Skipper: Alistair Crowe This dive boat wins attention straight away with its name 'Lazy G Diver' - a play on the famed Lady Godiva. I was on board with skipper Alistair Crowe for the St Abbs and Eyemouth photographic splash-in event, and took the opportunity to run a critical eye over the boat. If you are wondering why you recognise the surname Crowe, Alistair's family lives here and his son Paul runs a dive boat previously covered in this column. First appearances are positive, as the Lazy G is clean and tidy. The bright yellow paint on her hull is certainly easy on the eye - a splash of colour in a year that has been too dull. On board, the deck space is good, for what appears to be a small boat at first glance. There was ample space, even with a full party of 12 divers on board. There is a large engine hatch directly behind the wheelhouse which can seat three divers comfortably, and four divers can fit in the seating area at the stern of the boat. For the remaining five divers on a full trip, it's just a case of kitting-up when you arrive at the site, but only if you don't want to wear your kit for the short run around St Abb's Head to the dive sites. As with most of the day boats at St Abbs, there is no head on board, but this is generally not a problem as the trips take a maximum of two hours. In the wheelhouse, Alistair has GPS, radar and two VHF radio sets, so there is everything necessary for a safe day's diving. I also liked the dual throttle controls that Alistair has outside the wheelhouse beside the ladder. This lets him manoeuvre the boat precisely while picking up divers. The ladder itself is a standard model extended by a couple of rungs so that it's easy to get on to. Once Alistair takes your fins off, it's an easy climb into the boat. Alistair has been a skipper for most of his life, initially as a trawlerman. Twenty years ago, he made the move to take divers around St Abb's Head, and he has been doing so ever since. He has lived at St Abbs harbour all his life, serving as a member of the local lifeboat crew from a young age and now as the lifeboat operations manager. There are very few people who know the area as well as he does. Also, he is a diver who has first-hand knowledge of all the sites that he can put you on, and he can easily match a site to a group's skill and experience level. Alistair also told me of his dives on the principal wreck in the area, the Glanmire. It's a beautiful dive, but 20 years ago the telegraph was still in place and set at full astern, which adds insight into the last moments of that vessel. Diving on board the Lazy G was relaxed and very enjoyable. Even though I was there during one of the busiest weekends of the year for the skippers, Alistair was happy to take time out to let his customers see the Risso's dolphin and minke whales that were feeding on a vast school of herring here. The sites I dived were excellent. Post-dive hot coffee and tea is on offer, along with a generous supply of biscuits. Another string to Alistair's bow is the little harbourside café that he opened at the beginning of the season, which is a convenient and pleasant place to eat. I can testify to the tastiness of the hot rolls and other baked treats. It's always busy and word is spreading, so divers have another place to eat at St Abbs to recharge the batteries after a hard day's diving.
WHAT WE LIKED Good seating and a highly experienced skipper who has perfected his pick-up technique with the use of dual controls.
WHAT WE DIDN'T LIKE Not much shelter from the elements, and no toilet. Boat: 10m open boatMoored: St Abb's Head, Berwickshire
Engine: 120 Perkins
Cruising speed: 8 knots (range: 20 miles)
Heads: None
Optimum passengers: 12
Charter rate: £12.50 per person per
Contact call Paul on: 018907 71525 or 07780980179

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

August Images

Here are some of my images from dives around St. Abbs

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

August News

Well after a fairly poor summer, the weather has finally decided to improve. This enabled me to get my first shore dives in at St. Abbs in late July, which is very very late in the year for me.
Ive been playing around with my macro lens and have captured some nice shots and i plan to post them very shortly.
Ive also been out and about with Iain and Jim of Marinequest in Eyemouth doing some lovely scenic diving for a change. I along with a great crowd from Selby Aquanauts had a fantastic dive on the hurkers. Unfortunately john Hewitt of Red Hat Diving was ill so i missed him on the trip. Hope you get better soon John. A review of Johns Red Hat 90lb Maximus Wing will be in Scottish Diver and on this page soon.
As already said i will be posting new images very shortly, I'm also going to completely update my photobox galleries, so please do have a look at them.
I'm always up for joining a trip and taking images of divers etc, so if you are interested in an underwater portrait please do get in touch with me.
One final thing, if you read this blog please do get in touch with me and let me know what you think about it. Its always great to receive feedback and know that the site is valued or can be improved.
all the best and happy diving

Selkie Dive Boat "Peter Gibson" St. Abbs.

First Published in Dive March 2005 but prices are current
Get Charter - The Selkie
By Mike Clark
For a non-diver, this St Abbs skipper has an uncanny ability to brief his divers on the finer points of a site. Mike Clark reports
SKIPPER: Peter Gibson
The Selkie Photo: Mike Clark I have been lucky enough to dive the St Abbs and Eyemouth area many times over the past 18 years. It is such a big place that my exploration of the area has probably only scratched the surface. On my latest trip, to maximise my chances of finding the right marks in the optimum tides and conditions, I turned to Peter Gibson and his charter boat Selkie (which means 'seal' in Gaelic). A local man, Peter holds a coastal skipper ticket and his knowledge of the area is impressive. He has been skippering for divers for the past nine years.Ask Peter if he has ever fancied diving and the answer is usually something like, 'No, but I did a lot of snorkelling here as a kid'. It must have been good snorkelling as Peter's descriptions of the sites are accurate to a remarkable degree. Once, prior to diving a site at West Hurker, Peter advised me to, 'Go through the gully, find the cave and come out to see the pinnacle. If you get lost, I will point the bow at the cave'. It was a relatively complex briefing for a shallow dive, but by following it I was able to make the most of the site, seeing all the highlights Peter had promised. I looked up through the 10m visibility to see the Selkie's bow pointing the way. Fantastic!Peter is a big bear of a man who makes his clients feel welcome. The boat, Selkie, replaced Peter's previous boat, the Guiding Star, three years ago. She is a 10m Berry Boat, with a 40hp Ford engine that provides a comfortable cruising speed of eight knots.The Selkie is a fairly basic dayboat. There is no toilet on board, so most trips involve a return to the harbour after each dive. There is an echosounder in the wheelhouse which has helped to discover some fascinating new sites, notably some previously unknown gullies and pinnacles. That said, Peter never uses it to put you on the wreck of the Glanmire, as he knows the transits in his head and the shot always goes in just forward of the boilers.The Selkie has a small wheelhouse - there's only room for a couple of divers and the skipper. Usually it is filled with dry kit and divers' cameras. If the weather is foul, there is no shelter.The boat has a high gunwale with a nice step to help you get over the side. The advantage of this is that there is a bench running around most of the inside of the hull, which lets you sit comfortably while fully kitted up on your way out to the dive. Another area handy for seating is the engine hatch. However, there is not much room to move about, but this is not too much of a problem as Peter always makes himself available to help, passing cameras in or rinsing a mask.Due to the ferrying back to harbour after each dive, the amount of time divers are on the boat is minimal. The ladder is pretty basic. It's more like a steel step ladder that is dropped over the side when required. When boarding the boat you grab a tyre slung over the side and Peter reaches over and removes your fins for you, and you can climb up the ladder after that. Coffee and tea is on hand to warm you up as soon as you have ripped your hood and gloves off. If you are really lucky, you may even hear him crack one of his jokes on the way back. Sadly, we can't print any of them here!Peter is a flexible skipper and will put every effort into getting you onto your desired dive site. If the tides or weather are not in your favour, he will know of another decent site to get you in the water, in safety.The boat may be basic, but the skipper is hard to beat. What we likedFantastic skipper and comfortable seats around hull.What we didn't likeBasic ladder, no toilet and little shelter.Boat: 10m-long Berry boat Moored: St Abbs Harbour Engines: 40hp Ford Date of manufacture: 1985Cruising speed: eight knots Head: none Maximum passengers: 12 Optimum passengers: ten Charter rate: £10.00 per person, per dive Contact Peter: 01890 771681 mobile 07702 687606

Saturday, 25 July 2009

UK Aquasun eLED Review

UK AQUASUN Eled TORCH>>>> Diving equipment is evolving at an ever increasing speed, generally>> pushed on by advances in technical diving. Dive torches are no>> exception, on dive boats now it¹s not uncommon to see only umbilical>> style torches in use. Materials used have changed from plastics to>> aluminium and derlin and power outputs have gone off the chart, making>> good use of improved battery technology. Bulbs have also changed,>> should the discerning diver go HID or LED??? That debate will burn for>> some time (pun intended) but my opinion is the LED is the better path>> to follow. One thing is certain though as the dive torch has evolved>> the price has gone up up up. The Underwater kinetics (UK) UK D4R, which>> has been a firm favourite with sport divers is still available but for>> those divers wishing a bit more candle power in their dive bag>> underwater Kinetics have produced the Aquasun eLED. I had the chance to>> test this torch just after I completed using the Halcyon Explorer 21w.>> This is how I got on->>>> First impressions- well this torch is Bright YELLOW, this is said to be>> for safety reasons? but you can also get it in black. It¹s slightly>> smaller than the UK D4 and it has a strange attachment at its front>> end. I found out that this was a heat sink. This device is stated to>> provide a 100% increase in light efficiency by using water to cool the>> two high intensity LED's via the heat sink. So when used in water this>> torch burns twice as bright as it does in air. Electronics ensure that>> the LED's do not overheat when used in air. So in relation to the light>> output it¹s great, producing a whopping 825 lumens of light. The light>> given by this torch is very even and bright. The reflector merges the>> light from the two led¹s into single powerful beam. There is no hotspot>> and halo, the Aquasun produces a nice cone of even powerful light. I>> would say the beam angle of this light is just right not being too>> wide, which can cause problems with flare in bad vis. This light won¹t>> penetrate as far as the Halcyon torch with its beam focused tight but>> hey the Aquasun is £1000 cheaper. So as for beam angel and light output>> I think the Aquasun has got it just right. I was really impressed with>> the light output whether I was on a scenic reef or a deep dark wreck>> this torch received top marks.>>>> The Battery>>>> This is where I was slightly less impressed with this torch. Underwater>> kinetics has stuck to tried and tested methods that have been>> successful for them in the past. As stated earlier things have changed>> and divers no longer want to wait 10-12 hours for their battery to>> charge. Also with the Aquasun you still have to remove the whole head>> unit to get the battery out of the case to charge it. In my previous>> experience of using Underwater kinetics torches I have experienced>> floods when I have not screwed the head back on properly. I prefer>> torches that enable the charger to plug straight in.>>>> On the plus side though the Aquasun lasts for 2 hours at its high power>> setting, without the need for recharging. This will see the diver>> through 2 good dives. This I liked as some torches of similar price>> will only last for 1 hour.>>>> A point to note is that the battery type I tested was NiCad. I am>> informed that the battery type will be upgraded shortly to use>> nickel-metal hydride. (NiMH) these are more environmentally friendly>> battery packs which should increase burn time. Another advantage of>> this type of battery is that they do not develop a memory.>>>> Construction>>>> Once again Underwater kinetics have stuck with the tried and tested>> using ABS polycarbonate as the housing for this torch. Initially I>> thought this was a bit cheap but on reflection it doesn¹t corrode. So>> the threads, o ring groves and components should not degrade with use>> in salt water.>>>> One thing I did note whilst using this torch is that the head lens unit>> is heavier than the other end of the torch. This meant that whenever I>> tried to retrieve the torch after taking a picture or letting go of the>> torch, I found the torch positioned itself lens down. For this reason I>> found the pistol grip irritating to use. I had much more joy with the>> Lantern handle. Both types of handle are supplied with the torch along>> with a lanyard. Using the torch underwater I found no problems with>> buoyancy as the unit is slightly negatively buoyant. The on off switch>> is the same as on earlier models and switches the torch between full>> power and half power.>>>> This torch is rated to 150 metres>>>> Underwater kinetics Provide a 10 year warranty on the torch body and>> the torch bezel all underpinned by Sea and Sea limited lifetime>> guarantee which the company are proud of.>>>> in conclusion>>>> This is a very good torch with a great light output. Underwater>> kinetics have kept to their tried and tested methods utilised for over>> 35 years. Whether that¹s enough for today¹s demanding divers, we will>> see but on the plus side retailing at £288 it¹s reasonably priced for a>> torch that delivers a very powerful and nicely balanced light, which is>> what a good torch is all about. I found the Aquasun to be a great>> all-rounder whether diving scenic reefs or dark deep wrecks the torch>> suited my needs very well. All backed up by Sea and Sea limited>> warranty. I don¹t think you can get a torch that delivers so much for>> the price.>>>>>>>> Mike Clark>>>>

Halcyon 21w Explorer torch review


I must admit I was a little bit excited when I was given the HALCEON EXPLORER 9/21W PRIMARY LIGHT to test. It’s a piece of kit from an American manufacturer with a loyal following. I had some deep and dark dives planned for February, which were ideal to test this light out. Would I become a Halcyon fan or would this light not live up to my expectations?
Slipping into Jeremy Clarkson mode some would say that this light is so powerful that it can place a dot of light on the moon and that its beam is so intense it’s solely responsible for melting the polar ice caps. This is total rubbish of course but when you hear of the massive £1219.00 price tag for the version I tested you can bet my expectations were high. It’s a serious price that demands a torch of the highest quality.
On looks, quality and materials used the torch certainly delivers. The battery compartment is manufactured from a solid rod of derlin, which is strong and light. Two stainless steel locking latches press the lid of the canister down on a large blue dry “o” ring. Two stainless steel jubilee clips secure webbing to the canister and this enables the unit to be secured to cylinder bands or a suitable mounting point. The on/off switch is on the top of the canister so the final position must bear this in mind.
The cord is strong and flexible and includes strain relief fittings. Should the cord be pierced or damaged the lid of the battery canister is completely sealed from the cord and light head, protecting the battery. The unit I tested was supplied with an E/O cord, which enabled the light to be disconnected underwater. I found this to be a great aid when rinsing the light off after the dive. I could leave the canister attached to my wing whilst safely storing the head unit.
The light head is the business end of this system. It’s fitted with a Goodman handle, which was a joy to use, and the light head rested along my forearm. I quite happily used the unit while also using my camera. The light itself is supplied from a 21 watt HID bulb, which costs £95 to replace. (If you wish to learn the difference between HID and LED lights take a look at Halcyon’s website It contains all the facts). I found this light took around 10 seconds to warm up to full power. The head unit contains a small plastic screw, which enables the head unit to be moved around 1 cm and this widens or focuses the beam of light. Here I was disappointed to note that the wide setting was throwing out a doughnut of light with a dark unlit hole at its centre. Flare coming off the light was also a problem. It had the similar effect of driving with full beam on in the fog. For me that setting was completely useless. Bringing the light into a more focused beam the black spot in the centre disappeared halfway through the available adjustment. At the other extreme the beam at its narrowest sent a very powerful but narrow beam of light that penetrated through the dark water. Apart from the hotspot there was very little peripheral lighting. My time with this torch was limited to the month of February and weather considerably reduced the dives I managed with this torch, so I didn’t get the beam setting I really liked on my dives but minute adjustments to the beam setting could eventually get it right.
That said other similar torches don’t suffer from that annoying black spot at the wider settings.
This is a serious torch for serious divers. The burntime is 4hrs, which is excellent. The torch comes with a quick charger that charges the quality battery in under an hour, which is superb. The torch can be dived to a depth of 90 metres. (Its tested to 152 metres)
In conclusion this is a beautifully made torch using high quality materials. For me though the wide beam setting was a disappointment.
I also tested the Halcyon, 2 cell, LED scout back up torch. Made again from derlin this unit was light and strong and gave out a nice beam of light. It’s rated to 90 metres. In comparison with the led lenser frogman torch I reviewed a couple of months ago, the scout gave off a brighter light and if you have read my review you will know the frogman is no slouch. That said the 2-cell LED scout retails at £135. Realistically then the Scout will only be of interest to Technical Divers that dive over 60 metres of depth.
Tough torches for extreme diving but at a price.
Mike Clark

Monday, 1 June 2009

Farne Diver Get Charter

First published in Dive Magazine Jan. 2005
Get charter - Farne Diver
By Mike Clark
The Farnes have become a firm favourite with generations of divers. Mike Clark boards a boat with a skipper from the new wave…
The Farnes have become a firm favourite with generations of divers. Scott MacDonald boards a boat with a skipper from the new wave

I first dived the Farne Islands off Northumbria 18 years ago, with skipper Stan Hall. Stan's eldest son, Lee, now continues his long-standing family business, offering diving charters on the Seahouses-based Farne Diver. Lee Hall, 29, is a fantastic skipper and incredibly laid-back. The man commands respect though, as he demonstrates his outstanding knowledge of the area in a characteristically low-key manner. For instance, when he told me that he would drop me exactly on the prop of the wreck of the Abyssinia in 5m of water, I was impressed. However, dropping me 2m south of the bow of the Britannia at a depth of more than 30m was quite outstanding. Lee is also a useful source of information on the resident grey seal population and knows all the best sites for providing divers with good encounters with them. The Farnes are well known for their confused seas and the tidal rips. You need a skipper who will find the optimum site for protection from the tides at any given time. Much of Lee's experience comes from his father, who has taken divers out of Seahouses for 30 years. Lee started going out on the boat with his dad when he was just five years old and has absorbed a wealth of knowledge about the area. He also worked on trawlers for seven years before taking divers out full time. He's been working with divers for seven years now.Farne Diver is a no-frills working boat. She is comfortable for ten and the wheelhouse can cram in most of this number, but apart from that there's no other shelter. There is a large shelf at the stern of the boat which is ideal for stowing cylinders on the way out to dives, and the sizeable engine hatch makes a handy seat for kitting up. The downside is that you find yourself squeezing past divers every time you walk up and down the boat. The only other seating available is inside the wheelhouse or on the gunwale, which is quite shallow, only coming up to a diver's knees. The galley is typically basic, with just a couple of gas rings for heating up those welcome cups of tea and coffee. The head is also found down here and is big enough for a drysuit-clad diver to disrobe in privacy. Otherwise, the forward section of the boat is mostly used for stowage purposes.The Farne Diver isn't fast but her average cruising speed of 8 knots is more than adequate for Farne diving, and even for the longer cruises to wrecks such as the fantastic Somali. The standard dive boat ladder makes entering the boat relatively stress-free, even with a heavy twin-set.The wheelhouse does have some electronics onboard, including GPS, a sounder and radar, although I don't think Lee needs to use them unless one of the area's harrs (thick sea fogs) comes in.I've always enjoyed diving from the Farne Diver, and much of my pleasure has obviously derived from the coastal scenery. That said, a lot of my good times here have been thanks to Lee's abilities as a skipper. He has an uncanny knack of predicting what you will encounter on the sea floor, even though he is a non-diver himself.
What we liked The skipper's laidback style and undoubted ability.What we didn't like It can be a bit of a squeeze when divers are kitting up.Boat: 12m-long Cheverton general work boat Moored: Seahouses Harbour Engines: 120hp twin Perkins Date of manufacture: 1996 Cruising speed: 8 knots Head: one standard marine head Maximum passengers: 12 Optimum

Contact: 01665 720615, website: