Wild swimming !! Ah yeah !

Wild SWimming …

I love Wild swimming !! And the wilder the better , it keeps you fit, focused and in deep with nature. Here in the Scottish Borders we have Lochs and reservoirs in abundance !!  …… Lately after my big loch swims a few interested people have been asking how it started and where do you do it.  So just how did I get into it ?  ………..

Early days up the Barnes …

I was first introduced to Loch swimming  by my friend and first class outdoor sportsman Kenny Short. He had been loch training for his triathlons and my Uncle Mick had also been getting involved . Mick is part fish, he has a natural speed that none of us can live with, he’s the fish-boy,  no lie!  Of late Bongo had been joining him longside Deeeksy, Steven Brady,Titch and Andrew Shanky .. Kennys crew of crew triathletes is growing. They took me to the Barnes Loch near Stobs military camp and I did a lap or two with them.  It was fantastic !!!  I was always a decent swimmer , using it on and off for training purposes over the years, mainly for flexibility and stretching to help both the climbing and kayaking that I so loved.  I took to it like a duck to water .. quack quack!  😀  the love was real !

Mad Dog Mick … Alemoor

After a short season in the Barnes I started to hunger for more ! I persuaded “mad dog” Mick Lyons to join me on a recce of Alemoor, a local loch much larger than the Barnes. We jumped on our bikes and cycled out … In we went , it was windy but good to go .. the water was fresh, clear and deep. We swam the 2.5 km out and back to the dam. It was amazing to be floating in the middle of such a large expanse of water, and we were having a full on buzz! The swim home was hard work with tall surface waves and current , we battled on though, attacking the waves and soon we were on the bank tired but laughing our heads off at our difficult battle home.That was it , the Barnes was relegated and Alemoor was our summer home.   Soon after this we were hitting the long swims of St Marys and the Tweedsmuir classics,  even entering the Coniston Chillswim , an amazing swim taking you on a journey to the Islands of Swallows and Amazons  and beyond .. see here ..

Deeks the Alemoor monster !! or is it minnow 😀

Alemoor is now our regular summer training loch and my completion of the Borders big boys  Talla, Fruid , Megget and St Marys is on the back of this amazing spot … get your wetsuit , and get yourself in ……..  also check out Loch Skeen for a bit of adventure if your game ….

Note: Learn your craft , understand water , reservoirs and your own limits … Everyone knows how to swim but now you must learn to wild swim 🙂  Stay safe !

 

 

Posted in Wild swimming | Leave a comment

DPV training Luca syleeee in Portofino

Suck my DPV ..

diver propulsion vehicle (DPV), also known as an underwater propulsion vehicle or underwater scooter, o is an item of diving equipment used by scuba divers to increase range underwater. Range is restricted by the amount of breathing gas that can be carried, the rate at which that breathing gas is consumed, and the battery power of the DPV. Time limits imposed on the diver by decompression requirements may also limit safe range in practice. DPVs have recreational, technical, scientific and military applications.DPVs include a range of configurations from small, easily portable scooter units with a small range and low speed, to faired or enclosed units capable of carrying several divers longer distances at higher speeds.

Mark and Neil … underwater lovers … its all about context !! 😀

Myself and my brother of Adventure the infamous Neil Farmer headed to Portofino to train as DPV pilots with our friend and underwater god Luca Zanzotto. His dive centre was to be the perfect playground to learn the art of technical scootering. Its fair to say that there is far more than meets the eye to safely using a DPV. These can really fuck up your day if they are not handled correctly.

Il Grande Blu

We flew to Milan , they are very relaxed on dive equipment going through customs there , none of the usual questions , Neil was anal probed but for something different entirely 😀 Soon we  headed south in our heavily laden rental car to Portofino where we would stay in Luca’s hill top Villa above  St Margherita Ligure. First we needed to get to the dive centre and drop off our equipment. We arrived to a beautiful night of pinks and blues , IL Grande Blu truly is a spectacular dive centre.

St Margherita Ligure

After unloading we headed to stock up with food and drink before eating with Luca. Its breathtaking both above and below the sea here so I couldn’t wait to get going the next day.

We arrived at the centre early and looked forward to a fantastic day in the sea, the weather was certainly on form. Our plan was to enjoy our trip with a DPV course first then dive what ever wrecks we could using the DPVs.

First though was training! DPVs require respect and self discipline ! the shit can hit the fan fast ! Luca drilled this into us from the start , enjoy but always be in control.

 

DPV stow .. ouch !!

Everything taught in the course  has a reason , no matter how simple you , from where to stow it temporarily, permanently , angles , rope lengths , speed , etc etc etc anything you think ill just do this , or this … NO!! do it properly or your tangles , sinking , floating , bending !! You need to understand the seriousness of this zoom zoom machine in front of you!  Its a highly technical piece of kit with the potential to kill you if used improperly.

Diver tow , way way harder than it looks ! but essential to save your buddy if the time comes

We trained on the basics of stowing , set up , driving , turning etc .. then progressing into DPV dive planning, line laying  and solid rescue scenarios. The course was fantastic , both for DPV handling and all round dive skils. Neil and I both learnt a lot. What a fantastic course !

Neil and I Portofino sefieeeeeee

Versace lives up on that hill, right next doot to Dolce Gabanna … shit neighbourhood 😀

To celebrate finishing the course we headed to my favourite restaurant in Portofino (the beach snackbar) I am a poor man !! and did the tourist thing , amazing place ! Although If I was spending ten million for a little apartment I wouldn’t want all the tourists gawping at me 😀

Traffic Jam

Was dark down there !!

Soon it was time to put all our training into practice and we were out to sea in search of wrecks … yessssss!!  The Lust for Rust was consuming us ! The wrecks of Mohawk Deer , Bettloini and Cargo were visited but a return trip to the fantastic Haven wreck had to be cancelled due to sea currents but no worries there is always next time !

KT wreck

The mix of huge wrecks and sea walls and reefs around Portofino makes it an ideal destination for all divers from rec to Tech and Il Grande blu will cater for the most relaxing to the most extreme with ease …

Rhib diving in the med <3

AS usual it was all to soon to say our goodbyes to both Luca and the mind blowing Portofino area and head North to Milan ….. See you soon Luca and the crew!

Neil takes the plunge !

 

Posted in diving, Training | Leave a comment

A true WILD swim ………… A Xmas holiday micro-adventure

Xmas swim…

Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ,[8][9] observed primarily on December 25[4][10][11] as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world…….. that is the official take … for others it’s a chance to find time to let the hair down and put some excitement back into your life.


Sitting around the table eating the festive turkey with my family I received a text from Kenny with the details on the Xmas Wild swim he was planning , jobs a good un I thought as I read the details… We would meet at Stobs camp and walk into the Barnes loch for a swim early on Boxing day. For years on and off we have had some great local adventures on Boxing day….  kayaking , climbing,  mountain biking , running and this year it was to be Wild Swimming. Kenny and Mick are mad on the wild swimming and try to swim once a month through the winter, even breaking the ice to get in if they have to 😀 😀

Hiking into the Barnes in gale force winds …

Mick , Kenny and I met up in what can only be considered storm force conditions. The temperature was a nice 13 degrees which for wild swimming helps a lot , even if the water was a cool 7 degrees the surrounding temperatures were toasty enough to let us heat up when we got out the water. But the WIND !!  it was gusting at 60mph which was sure to make for an exciting swim … We hiked in with anticipation of big waves !!

Sure enough the surface waves were tall, hard and fast , we prepped up and got down to business!  in we went with huge sets dunking us as we swam on … 1 , 2, 3 …. DUNK !!  1,2,3…… DUNK !! it was hard work …

 

Spray shooting off my arm in the winds ….

Made harder for me as I had opted  to swim in a thicker scuba diving wetsuit for warmth , with way more buoyancy in the legs than was comfortable for waves coming from behind… they were lifting my legs along and throwing my head deep under the water … exciting 😀

Kenny beasting up the loch

We were swept along quickly and soon the water was throwing us up and into the logs at the end of the loch. Even standing in the shallows was proving impossible due to the force of the water … truthfully we were never in real danger but things could easily have gone south quickly if we weren’t careful …

All went well though and we were laughing and joking as we changed back into our clothes and headed back to the cars …. thanks again Barnes Loch you were the perfect host to this years Boxing day bash …

Wild swimmers !! 😀

Posted in Wild swimming | Leave a comment

Searching for Peace …. Solo swimming the Megget ….

Megget Reservoir is an impounding reservoir in the Megget valley in Ettrick Forest, in the Scottish Borders. The 259 hectares (640 acres) reservoir is held back by the largest earth dam in Scotland. The reservoir collects water from the Tweedsmuir Hills, which is then conveyed 28 miles (45 km) via underground pipelines and tunnels to Edinburgh. The pipelines are routed through the Manor Valley and the Meldon Hills, to Gladhouse Reservoir and Glencorse Reservoir in the Pentland Hills. These two reservoirs store the water until such times as it is required. Excess water which overflows from the reservoir is returned to the Megget Water, and hence into St. Mary’s Loch.

I have always looked at the Megget as the best wild swim in the Borders , its a foreboding body with deep and dark water. It is a long swim with a big dam wall waiting for you and its probably the most important reservoir in Scotland as it feed the Capital city …. So I woke up feeling daring and headed to Tweedsmuir for a long solo swim with Emma as designated driver and Frank as support dog 😀 …

heads in gear … anything is possible !

I entered the water in what I would like to consider the best style, starting from the inlet of the Megget river . I believe that entering the water from its natural inlet and swimming to the end that it escapes into the old river is the purest most natural and respectful way to swim a reservoir.  I always believed in best style when I was a climber and as a swimmer I am no different. Soon I was half way and the big dam was closing in. I had thoroughly checked out the building of this dam previously and researched thoroughly the implications of getting close to the dam and its water inlets. Reservoirs are dangerous places to the uninitiated and should be treated as such. I swam left to avoid the control centre and its inlets, you never know 🙂

cruising up the middle ….

Soon I was powering up the last 100 metres and as its late September the water was cooling down so despite my work rate I could feel the cold starting to enter my body , happy days though as  I was almost there ..

nearly there

Finally I was on the Dam and leaving the water with Emma and Frank waiting high up on the Dam wall to congratulate me. The Megget was mine and the inner glow of satisfaction warmed me up no end …. Just the Fruid left and the biggies are done 🙂

Note: Learn your craft , understand water , reservoirs and your own limits … Everyone knows how to swim but now you must learn to wild swim 🙂  Stay safe

Posted in Wild swimming | Leave a comment