Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Get Charter - The North Star (PUBLISHED IN DIVE MAGAZINE 14 / 09 / 05
see footnote for details of iains and jims new boat Silver Sky)

Salt water runs in the veins of this Eyemouth skipper, though fortunately not in his engine. Mike Clark reports
Skipper: Iain Easingwood and his boat North Star are fairly recent additions to the Eyemouth diving scene. Operating since February 2004, they provide a diver-friendly service and represent a good opportunity to explore this fascinating stretch of coast. St Abbs to the north always steals the limelight, but I believe the diving out of Eyemouth in southeast Scotland is just as good, and offers greater scope for exploration. Iain comes from a long line of mariners - four generations. His great-grandfather was a naval diver who wore the standard dress and lead boots. Before the war, he ran a salvage company in Dunbar, 20 miles north of Eyemouth. Iain - who learned the ropes on his father's trawler - has all the qualifications that you would expect from a charter boat skipper, including RYA advanced power boat, first aid, O2 administration, sea survival, fire fighting, VHF radio operator's certificate and a RYA diesel engine course. The North Star was built by Port Isaac Workboats of Wadebridge, Cornwall and is a standard offshore 105 with a few modifications. The Ford Sabre 280hp diesel engine is so clean and polished you could eat kippers off it! Cleanliness is a running theme with this boat - long after you are ashore and packing up your kit, Iain is rinsing off the deck to ensure it's spotless for the next party. This is especially important, as he sometimes takes parties of anglers out, and as we all know, there's a time and 'plaice' for everything! Above the engine cover, stainless-steel rails run along the centre line, making ideal anchoring points for heavy twin-sets. It's an easy and comfortable way to kit up - just sit on the engine cover and slip into your wing. Once the wing is on, the seats are high and deep enough to make it completely comfortable to sit as you wait to get in the water. It's a little tight to get 12 twin-set divers kitted up in this fashion, but I'd say it readily accommodates ten. The shelf at the stern of the boat has been removed and this affords extra deck space. This boat provides something of a novelty for local divers, as it has a side-mounted ladder that runs up the starboard hull of the boat - you have to twist yourself around when you reach the top. It made for easy access to the boat in the relatively calm weather, but I think it could be a little tricky in a swell. Iain or a crewmember is there for you, ready to grab a fin and help you aboard. Once you're back in, it's never long before the hot drinks are on offer along with some of Iain's mother's home-made shortbread. Bliss! I've dived from the North Star a few times now and I have been impressed by Iain's pro-active attitude to helping divers get the most from their time with him. He was only too keen to put us on the new wreck, East Neuk, and will happily travel distances to take you to your chosen site. His is the only charter boat in the area that will take you well north of the usual St Abb's Head sites, or further south down to Burnmouth. Last year, Iain even took a party of divers out to the extremely exposed Bell Rock, an exposed site right out in the North Sea. If you have a fancy for trying a new site, Iain is certainly willing and capable and has the electronics in the wheelhouse to give a decent chance of success.
What we liked Clean, fast boat with good seating and kitting-up areas, and a willing skipper. What we didn't like The ladder can be difficult in a swell, the head is cramped and there is no stowage at the seats. Boat: Offshore 105 Moored: Eyemouth Harbour, Berwickshire, Scotland Engine: Ford Sabre 280hp Cruising speed: 14 knots Head: one standard marine headMax passengers: 12, plus two crew Optimum passengers: ten, plus crewCharter rate: £25 per diver for two dives on weekends; £20 during the week, group discounts available (prices may have risen since 2005)
Range: Burnmouth to Fast Castle, Bell Rock and Forth wrecks
Contact: 07780 823884,
Email: marine.quest@btinternet.comWebsite: http://www.marine-quest.co.uk/

Iain and Jim have now added the new Boat Silver Sky to their fleet. I will be preparing a review shortly. Keep checking my blog for details

Sunday, 1 March 2009



Most folk will have an opinion on which brand of regulator is the best and will probably stick with that brand when updating their regulator or adding to their equipment. I certainly fall into that bracket and over the years I have only owned regs produced by 2 different manufacturers.
I was given the Scubapro Vintage G250 second stage married up with the top of the range MK 25 Balanced Piston First Stage to try out. This was not a manufacturer I had used before. I was very interested to see how it compared with my own regulators which are UK regs, regarded by many UK divers to be the best there is. Would I note any difference?
First impressions- I must admit I liked the looks of the old G250 which was launched in the late eighties and when I saw the new vintage version its still an attention grabber. A metal purge button is surrounded by a chromed ring with the blue of the diaphragm showing through the black casing of the second stage. There is a nice predive switch and a venture adjustment knob, which allows fine tuning of the regulator. They are both easily accessible with thick gloves on.
Reading reviews about this reg I had heard of concerns regarding the size of the 2nd stage, which compared to some regulators is large, although not drastically so, I must admit I did not notice much difference. I could use my camera as usual with no problems. The 2nd stage is a little larger in depth and width than my current reg but it was comfortable in my mouth. The orthodontic mouthpiece is extremely comfortable and I was surprised to find that I liked it more than my usual choice, which was the comfobite style. The exhaust ports were identical in size with my reg and no bubbles obscured my vision, which is something im very aware of. As a photographer I shy away from regs with tiny second stages as the exhaled air always hits the underside of the camera housing.
I tested this reg out during the winter of 2008 and every time I dived there was either snow or ice on the ground. The conditions certainly would prove whether the heat sinks and metal components of the 2nd stage would enable this regulator to perform in cold water. The 1st stage has a Thermal Insulating System (TIS) on piston and spring. Making this regulator cold water resistant, exceeding the CE cold water diving requirements.
So in very cold conditions and at a max depth of just over 46 metres I found the regulator performed beautifully. Inhalation and exhalation effort was minimal and I did notice a slight difference between the G250 and my current reg, which surprised me. The cold water was no problem for the G250 either and in 6-degree water after a surface temperature of –1.5 degrees the regulator performed perfectly and gave me as much gas, as I could want.
In conclusion some people will like it and some people will not. I liked the big second stage and for somebody who has never owned a scubapro reg in the past I would seriously consider buying one.
The best price I could find for the Scubapro G250 with the MK25 1st stage was just under £345, which is very similar to the high-end regulators from other manufacturers.
Mike Clark


This review starts with a wee bit of a story. I had a reel, a plastic mass manufactured thing that I absolutely hated. It had a wee switch on its back to select STOP/RATCHET/FREE modes. The truth is this wee switch wasn’t up for the job and the reel had a habit of switching into the free mode, this often resulted in line spooling out of the reel causing a right mess which could be potentially dangerous. I put up with it though, as I knew of the fault etc and would keep an eye on it.
Surfacing after a dive I started taking some images of the boat, while I was involved in this, my wee reel did its party trick. The dive boat came in close to pick me up and I made to fin to the lift. I couldn’t move. I was trussed up better than a pig on a spit! The reel had disappeared into the depths and done the best thing it possibly could have by running right off the line never to be seen again. Was I sad or upset "NO" good riddance! So once I managed to get back on the boat and unwind the line from me I switched over to my back up reel which performed a lot better.
Anyway I was over the moon when I was given the opportunity to test a couple of Kent Tools Dive Reels. In the UK there is a big following using these reels. I was given 50 and 100 metre reels to test. These are solid units made from marine grade 316 stainless steel.
First impressions were a solidly engineered tool with a fantastic ratchet operation. A solid chunk of metal with counter sunk screws and no rough edges, a quality product.
These ratchet reels can be supplied to your desired specifications and come in left or right handed set up’s. Narrow or wide spools can be specified holding line volumes from 40-125 metres for sport divers and even larger spools for the extreme technical diver or cave diver. Lines can be supplied in Yellow, pink and White for the fashion conscious. The reels also come supplied with a nice P clip for attaching the reel securely to your D ring. No clip is supplied for the end of the line though, so if you intend to use the reel for a DSMB you will require to invest in a clip for this job.
Underwater I used the reel on a number of cold dives with 5mm gloves and I found the ratchet system a joy to use once I got used to it.
When holding the reel, the ratchet lever can be depressed by the thumb of the same hand allowing the line to spool out. Releasing the leaver locks the spool. At the end of the leaver is a knob, which can be manipulated to lock the spool free and running. John of Kent Tooling who sent me the reels told me that I could use this function if I ever experienced a problem. Lock the reel open, inflate the bag and throw the reel away. I decided to give this a try the buoy went up, the reel hit the seafloor and my hands were free to deal with any potential problems. It worked a treat on the flat sea floor, where the reel couldn’t disappear anywhere.
Another feature I really liked was that the reel is heavy and it holds the line taught and straight in the water. With the spool locked the reel sat in front of me, while I made adjustments to my camera.
In conclusion a beautiful reel made of quality materials designed to last a lifetime of use. The 100m reel was ideal for diving deep wrecks and the 50 m real was great from the shore or for shallower boat diving.
So apart from the weight of the larger reel which some people may not like but I found to be an advantage the only thing I saw that could improve this reel would be for the handle that winds in the reel to have a bulbous end or a grove in it? This is purely so that when I attach bungee cord to the reel to secure my DSMB I like to loop the bungee over the handle to secure it. A grove would just keep the bungee in place and stop it slipping off. It’s a very small point!
This reel cant be compared to plastic reels as they are just not in the same league in design or the fact that the Kent Tool Reel is indestructible and will outlast many a plastic version. I suppose it comes down to the type of diving you carry out. If you want to invest in one of these reels, which cost almost twice as much as some of the plastic reels on the market. I would say it’s a wise investment as the Kent Tool Ratchet Reels are a quality product.
Prices for the supplied reels are-
50m- £92
100m- £103
Mike Clark



Well I certainly picked a good few months to review this product. Snow covered hills at Loch Long or out in a boat off of Eyemouth with air temperatures of –1.5 degrees centigrade. It was difficult enough getting to the dive sites never mind keeping warm in the water. I was very pleased to have this 2-piece garment on when I left my home for the dive sites. The extreme weezle skin is a close fitting base layer but unlike thermal base layers you can pick up from hiking shops etc the Weezle extreme skin is thicker.
The material stretches in 4 ways and I found it to be very comfortable. Donning the garment was easy as foot loops and thumb loops are designed into the garment for this purpose.
For the cold conditions I was experiencing I dived with the garment under a 200-grm undersuit with a membrane drysuit. I found whether in the cold freshwater run off on the top of loch long or on long decompression stops after diving east coast wreck I was comfortably warm in this set up.
The Weezle Extreme skin was very good at wicking the moisture away from my body. All this nice extra warmth did demand another kilogram of weight on my belt, as I did feel a little more buoyant when wearing the Weezle extreme skin.
The toughest test of all though was standing about in on the frost covered ground at Finnart on Loch Long in between dives. It was really cold here and the frost and icy puddles never disappeared all day. My feet were cold but that was about that and I happily entered the water for another dive.
The Weezle Extreme Skin is a 2-piece garment finished in black with red stitching. There are a vast range of sizes and after taking a few measurements and applying them to the size guide, I received, a couple of days later the undergarment which fitted perfectly.
Weezle claim that the Weezle Extreme Skin can be worn on its own. I think for diving in Scottish waters this would be best for under a thick neoprene suit. Under a membrane suit I would certainly advise use in conjunction with a thinsulate undersuit of some type.
Now with a sweat wicking garment like this you want one that is easy to take care of. Not being great at this I bunged the garments in with my usual wash cycle and the garments came out great every time. I used my normal powder etc with no problems at all, although Weezle do recommend and supply special powder to keep the Weezle Extreme Skin in tiptop condition.
In Conclusion a wise investment for divers who plan long deco stops or are keen enough to dive right through the winter. The Weezle Extreme Skin gives you that extra bit of protection that you need on extreme dives.

Mike Clark