Technical Diving Expedition Reports

Malin Head / County Donegal, Ireland

“Never expect too much and you won’t be disappointed! “

Vital words when it comes to diving. The more I do of this thing; some of us call “recreation” the more these words make sense.

Probably one of the reasons when things do sort of go half right it’s such a high for the most of us!

As things go, there is nothing more I look forward than to  packing up the Discovery for a week or so’s diving in the comfort of a great hard boat with the added luxury of a fantastic skipper who will drop you 100% of the time on the wreck of your choice, normally within inches of where it has been earlier agreed.

Best of all, it’s very comforting when he’s there to pick you up after sitting for 3 or 4 hours on a line.

It’s Friday evening and it’s off to the Downing’s for this weekend’s diving organised by a Guru of Irish Technical Diving, Rez Soheil. Divers on board, Rez, John Malone & Matthieu.

I’m not sure at that point to whom else is coming.

It’s just a coincidence that after the weekend, some of the more experienced divers from Newry are on a back to back trip organised by Diving Dec Burke. There’s Gerry Brown, Jimmy Lyons, Phillip Hand & James Boyle,  Vlad + Adam all from Dublin. This second trip is for a week of Classis Wreck Diving.

Sat Morning it’s absolutely beautiful and we are off for the shakedown dive, which today turns out to be the wreck of the Amazon. http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?11387

At 7am we are off on a beautiful still morning that hasn’t a breath to what is probably Irelands best wreck dive. As the Rosguill cuts through the sea of glass, I’m just amazed at the surroundings and excited at what’s on the menu.  Some 4 hours later I hear Michael shout “Shots In” and fully kitted I turn on the handset. I have checked my unit last night and it calibrated fine. To be honest and no there’s not a lies coming, I have had nothing only issues with the Head of the unit, since its return a month ago, after its first service in 5 years.

Presently it’s looking as my decent onto the Amazon will have to wait for another day. The middle cell is reading a lot lower than the other two cells.

Last week I had replaced the first of three “14”Cells”

This was now the second “14 cell” in two weeks.  I really should have binned the lot! For years I watched forums where people went on for months on end about their millivolts and calibrations.  Never for once did I believe that one day I would become “one of them!”

To me a CCR Unit, irrespective of what its shape design or colour was, never mattered. I only see it as a mode of transport to an objective.  Means to an end! If it works it works and if it does not, well park it up and get something in your gob that does work.

Presently on this dive the unit will not calibrate and I see across the screen every AP  Divers  nightmare. (NO CALIBRATION NO DIVE) Wonder what the figures might be world wide for lost dives this year on AP Units due to cells?   Please don’t answer this…Just thinking out loud!

Over the years, I had heard some really sad stories from some individuals who had got their AP Unit serviced annually and there after it had badly misbehaved. One or two well clued up individuals just got that sick of talking about cells, millivolts and unreliability that they bought Revos or JJ’s, and dare I say the odd Sentinel. Sentinels might be this that and the other, but one thing you will never have is cell issues.

As advised, for over 5 years, I had managed to avoid sending the head of my unit back for a service, as it had behaved flawlessly. However since Xmas, the buttons would not work properly. Sometimes I could change set point and most times just had to fly it manually. Eventually she just would not turn off unless I too out the batteries.  I was left with no alternative. It was becoming more inevitable that the handset would require looking at by the professionals. I would literally put my life in the hands of others and hope that the sad stories I had heard were just people with an attitude!  On 03rd March 14, I was advised my AP that the head would be back with me within 3 weeks. Sure enough true to their word it landed back on 14th June 14.

The cost of the repair was almost £700.

New cable and HUD.

New buttons.

Although nothing wrong with the old style battery box and solenoid, I thought that I would push the boat out and get the new style, low powered solenoid and the new battery box. I headed off to the Isle of Man happy in the fact that I had an almost new head and as reliable a unit as was possible. Right?

Wrong! On the first dive it calved with a cell warning.

Upon ringing AP, I was told that they had filled it with  3 number “14”Cells, as my old cells that hadn’t missed a beat in 18 months were past their date and as such were binned!

The apologies came thick and fast and I was advised that a “16” cell, which would normally be a tenner extra, would be on route at no extra charge. …………………Now apologies for getting side tracked and taking you away and off the “write up on the wreck trip” but as I write, the frustration at missing Irelands best wreck dive has started to simmer my blood….it’s not boiling but could be shortly!

Where to start? Yes at the beginning!

Coming from a farming background, I was driving my father’s tractor, not immediately, but soon after I could walk. Legs were not long enough to sit on the seat, so I sat on the gear box (Sadly only farmers reading this will understand the logistics) That’s just the way it was before the world went mad with Health & Safety.

Thank God for Health & Safety, was it not for it, there is no doubt in my or my Brief’s mind that we would now all be extinct as a species!

Anyway before long I was fascinated to know what made the old Grey TVO Ferguson Tractor move, that my dad owned?

The old way was to strip it down. Putting it back together took up any spare time that my Dad had. For me it was the beginning of a long love affair with all things mechanical.

It was only naturally that as soon as I could leave school, I would become a diesel Plant Fitter, working on all types of earth movers.

Just hold on…..I’m almost there………The man who I served my apprentiship with was one of the most meticilious individuals I have ever met.  His word was final and if the 30 Tonne Excavator that he repaired in the workshop died on site, both his reputation and his job, which was his livelihood was on the line. In the business of heavy earth moving,  never was it more certain that time is money.

On occasion when I would be assisting him with a rebuild, his immortal words ring in my ears to this day. “If in doubt throw, it out!”

Fast forward 35 years and today we have Rebreather Manufacturers selling life support units.  Fantastic items of equipment when they are operational.

Like any machine, they are prone to failure. However to minimise the failure it would be logical to use only tried and trusted parts from a well tested and reliable source. If there was a vital component that was causing a problem, it should not be put in to the machine. Yes?………. Wrong!

The main components in this case are cells. It’s ironic that when you mention that word in a CCR topic over the past few years, your mind really only thinks of one CCR Unit.

“14 cells” have been proven as totally unreliable . From Facebook to every diving forum in the universe!

Recently AP have introduced  a new family of  “16 cells”

Now ….stop for a minute and ask a simple logical question? What’s the reason for the introduction of 16 cells? …were the “14” cells too good?

Anyway, instead of AP throwing all 14 cells in the bin and taken to the where James Cameron filmed his latest blockbuster, consumers are being sold them and they are continually failing.

It can only be one logical answer?  Here’s a clue…..It’s what makes the world go around!

The 1976 Sale of Goods Act advises that a product must be of merchantable quality. It’s very simple, “14 Cells” are sub standard and should be withdrawn from sale! Well that’s just my opinion and sure what do I know?  I’m just a venting a view and now feel better!

Right, where was I. Yes, 4 hours out to the Amazon, 4 hours with Michael and Natcho, Michaels new Deck Hand and one of the nicest friendliest people on the planet, and then 4 hours back to Mevegh Boat Yard.

A great day out for some however unfortunately I was not one of them!

Some people have a guardian angel.  I have Tom Brett.

That evening Tom puts something into my hand, it’s a pack of 3 Narked at 90 Cells. Within minutes all AP Cells are out and a new batch fitted.

Yes! Looking forward to the Viknor in the morning. http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?11823

Sunday morning we are all down at the slip @ 7 and we are away again this time to what I consider the second best wreck that I have dived in Ireland.  Conditions today are not good with a 4-5m swell. The Viknor lies in around 85m and as I slide down the shot line I hear my brand new solenoid gushing away.

Whaooo……..although top side conditions are not ideal, sliding down the shot line, the conditions are just absolutely  amazing. In front of me are John Malone  and Rez + two thirds of the Delta Team, as Ivan is not with us today. The shot lands on the port side not far from the engine block.  I head over to have a real good look at the massive engine block which points up towards the surface and is an amazing sight for those who have never seen it before.  I have the usual periodic glance at the handset and all is great as I listen to the solenoid purring away. I open up the DiveX and head on up towards the bow, whilst heading in the direction of the starboard side. It’s now min 25.  All is great!…..except ……. My God, the bloody HUD….. is dead…..Ooopps!…….The handset is blank!

15 mins later and I’m around 30m when I do my gas switch from 12/50 to air with 130bar left in my 12/50 (ICD was .79 bar of N2 if my maths are right)

All has gone well and a hell of a lot better than I actually thought it would. Actually managed a deep stop at 70m.  Even though I have a full Ali 80 of air, Eoin has noticed my situation and hands me over his Ali 80 of air in it as I deco at 30m. Soon I see Rez and he hands me his Ali 80 of air as well.

Couple of minutes later up goes the yellow SMB and soon I’m looking at a 4500 ltrs of 80% in an 18 litre.

If I can manage to avoid breathing like a pediofile in a sweetshop, that’s good for over 4 hours.

I figure I should be well cooked by then!.

3 hours is a long time and I start to play around with my buttons on the hand set @ 9m. I have been on OC for around 45 mins. I press the two outside buttons, the handset jumps back into life and advises an Estimated Deco Schedule of around 125 mins. I look over at my Predator and she saying 165 mins.

165 mins later I climb back on board the Rosguill.  I feel 110% and 20 mins later I feel just relived that everything had gone as it had and in a sense feel reasonably content  that I now had reasonable confirmation that I could cope with this emergency again if it was it to happen at a similar depth.

What happened? I don’t know. AP have asked for a down load and rather than mess around waiting on a verdict or a maybe, the head was posted off to them today with the dodgy cells.

Monday:

Checked the unit and could find nothing wrong and was left with decision time. It was obvious that the most logical and only thing to do was ……to carry on!

Today the weather is absolutely dreadful so we are off to the sheltered location of the The Audacious.  http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?603

New Team on board is Vlad, Adam, Gerry, Jimmy, Philip and James.  It’s 8.30and it has rained exactly at this time for 3 days in a row for 15 mins. One day the weather is beautiful, the next day it’s absolutely atrocious. Very very strange trip!

Tom and myself  have a great dive on the Adacious, well as good a dive as you can have with one eye on the handset and the other on the HUD. I have had my new Go Pro with me today and I’m happy with the footage.

2 hours later we climb back on board the Rosguill.

I’m happy that my old girl has not misbehaved herself and think to myself that maybe it’s her way of letting me know that I was not giving her enough attention! Women are like that you know.

Tuesday:

It’s 8.30am, yes it’s just started to rain and as usual by 9am its stopped. As ropes are cast off, it’s a beautiful calm morning and today we are off  to The Justicia. http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?10361

I love this wreck. Michael has dropped the shot on the portside not far from the prop. I video half way up the wreck and back down again around the prop. Off again up the port side only this time a lot further and again off out on to the seabed and back down the starboard side. I see that everybody else has gone home at its now around minute 38. I start to head back up the shot. I see Gerry coming down my himself. I stay high off the wreck and after another 20 mins we both head home.

At 40m Gerry whizzes past me. This extra 20 mins is going to be expensive in relation to deco.  Please Girl, please be faithful!  183 mins later I climb back on board the Rosguill.

Wednesday:

An real stinker of a day. Michael says 3 options

1 The Laurentic

2: The Audacious

3: No Dive.

I’m out voted and I take option 3, with everybody off  to The Laurentic.

Tom’s with me as he’s got the family up. I head off in the Landrover.

The lads had a real good time on The Laurentic and the break will recharge my batteries.

Thursday:

Roscommon. Formerly known as  SS Oswestry Grange http://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?63170

Weather wise, today is probably one of the best days of both trips, however there wee bit of concern over the choice of wreck we are diving. It’s been well dived and have had it from a couple of good authorities that there’s not much to find or see, apart from some bottles and glass. My attitude is “it is what it is”.

I recall the last time I dived this wreck 2 years ago and the Bell was found, so there’s no chance of finding that!

We leave the pontoon at 11am and today we have 12 divers on board, including all of One Direction!

It’s going to be awkward getting a dozen divers in the water at one time so Michael decides to keep Team Delta behind until the other 9 lads have gone in. I’m amazed that the Delta Team has agreed to these terms as they are normally in Pole Position and faster off the mark than Lewis Hamilton on home ground.

Tom and myself are in the middle of the group as we drop down the shot line into the dark blue gin clear waters of the North Atlantic. The visibility is around 30m and at around 50m, I follow Tom on his Suez Scooter as he jumps off the line and heads up the starboard side of the wreck towards the bow. Contrary to popular belief, I think the Roscommon is a great wreck with just so much to see. We head up towards the bow and are now both well off the wreck. I am looking at various articles concreted into the seabed. I check the Go Pro and all is well. I just cant believe how well everything is going. Even my Old Girl seems to have gotten over her tantrum and purrs away contentedly.

After 45 mins it’s time for Tom and myself to head home. I look forward to having another look at the Roscommon as I feel a very special affinity with this wreck.

Friday

The weather is howling something fierce and in all the years I have been in Mevegh Boat Yard, I have never seen it blow this hard. It’s coming from the East and even the waters in this sheltered location are turbulent.

Michael decides it’s The Audacious.

I decide to head for the hills as I have now been down here a week and I have had an absolutely marvellous time and would not have missed it for the world.

I hear later that all have had a great time on the Audacious.

Saturday

Today was the last day of diving and although I am now back to work, I hear that all on board have had a great day on the Viknor.

Sincere thanks to both Rez and Dec for organising two great trips. I know it cannot be easy catering for everyone’s particular taste, especially when you have varied people of different tastes and qualifications. Once again,  sincere thanks to Michael for the usual 110% first class service & to Nachos for helping us get kitted up, in some unfavourable conditions.

Late last year I had a full flood in my camera, hence no photos on this trip. However there is, what I consider some half decent footage of the Audacious, Justicia & Roscommon and I’m just in the process of editing it and will stick it up when it’s finished.  I have always used U Lead 11, however it’s not recognising it for some reason?

Last week, the missing piece in my photographic replacement puzzle arrived in the form of a 10-17 Tokina so next time, please God  I will have some pics.

Just deciding now on which direction to head in relation to photographic lights. Z240’s or Big Blue 15000 Lumens Video Lights. http://www.bigbluedivelights.com/products-detail.asp?REC_ID=116

There’s some decent photographic stuff been taken with just video lights, so maybe some of you might have an input on this?

In conclusion, this trip was full of highs and lows, however during each and every one there was a learning curve with one or two of the curves being tighter than others.

I never expect too much from my diving and hence I’m seldom disappointed.

If by chance nothing breaks down and you get a wee bit lucky,  just be grateful!

Peter McCamley

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