Swimming the Fruid …. never waste the last day of a good holiday

The Fruid reservoir

 Located 9 miles (15 km) north of Moffat, the Fruid is a substantial reservoir lying on the course of the Fruid Water in the Scottish Borders. It opened in 1968 to supplement the Talla Reservoir , via a large subterranean aquapipe , it’s located 2 miles (3 km) to the northeast, in supplying Edinburgh with drinking water. It is operated by Scottish Water and covers an area of 139.6 ha (344 acres).

The past year has been a busy one! With most of my spare time spent training to become a rebreather “pilot”.  Its taken a huge number of hours of underwater training.  And many many more with my head in a book studying gas laws, dive planning, physics , biology and loads more. It’s a tough sport on the technical end , where your education is wide and in-depth and your skills must be practiced not to the point of being able to do them, but to the point of being unable to do them WRONG !    It’s a sport where death is only a minute away at any time so there are no shortcuts to being proficient enough to see in your old age.

However I did manage to squeeze in enough wild swimming to complete a swim on the last of my Scottish Borders big four, the Fruid !  It had eluded me last year because of a road closure but it still simmered away in the back of my mind.   A few long swims with the lads on Alemoor and a few longer ones on my own and I was confident in my ability to solo swim it’s length. So on the last day of my summer holiday I grabbed my wetsuit and headed to the Fruid.

Fruid Control Centre …. 70s retro

It has a strange “Logans Run” type moderno building as it’s control centre , it certainly adds to the surreal feeling of this remote reservoir , kind of like the place Quatermass might hole up in an alien invasion but hey ho …. I was there to swim 😀

Looking up the Fruid towards the Dam , eyes on the prize ! 🙂

In my usual form I started from the tributary leading in and swam a centre line to the Dam. It’s not the longest of the four , neither the widest but it had a foreboding feel to it as the sides seemed to disappear into a bottomless black … solo swimming doesn’t normally bother me and I regularly dive solo under the North Sea but today I had a slight dose of the willies 😀

Mid swim selfie ! Ugly mug gets every where 😀

However my nerves stood the test and I swam purposefully to the dam at a steady pace , but the last few hundred metres had a strange current, my head started to imagine me being sucked into the big tunnel that feeds the talla … not something I would relish but not really a danger, all the same I swam hard for the dam wall and climbed out …. I was glad to be out of the strange current, maybe I’m getting old and more cautious but the head game was strong on this one. Subsequently a few weeks later hot on my heels,  the Lauder eel Jim Finlay swam it and reported the same undercurrents so be careful in there.

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 !

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Diving the Upside down wreck

30 miles out from Eyemouth sitting in exactly 40m of water on a white sand bank lies the aptly named “Upside Down wreck” ….  With Marinequest in charge of proceedings we were sure for a good day … Sure enough the weather was good , the conditions right and it was dive dive dive !!

on the lift and ready to dive !!

Last time I dived the Upside down wreck was on sidemount and my bottom time ran out far too quickly but this visit I was on my rebreather so hopefully I would  dive at least a 40 minute bottom time with very little deco . So I was up for some proper exploring on this visit and its a wreck so deserving of just that …

going down …

I knew the viz was good when I could see the ship itself from 20 m above !! the white sand and the black shape came into view from high above !!  result 😀  As I dropped down onto it I saw the whole wreck !! This is how every dive should be , but its the UK and its a roll of the dice on every trip ,,, This trip I was winning !

I headed for the prop before “flying” centre above the hull for the whole length of it and then dropped down to the sea bed.

the Prop

Its a cracking wreck , beautiful big prop and with a perfectly upturned hull to explore under its going to keep you happy all day long … well we have to go topside to breath at some point … so fair enough 😀

The Hull

You can dive to the prop, shoot along the top of the hull and explore underneath before heading back up the shot for a short deco even on open circuit , it is a wreck that just keeps giving 😀 ..

Every time I have been there I have had amazing viz of between 20-30m.  The further out you get in the North Sea the better it is… if only we had perfect weather more often

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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 !

 

 

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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 !

 

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