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 !! 😀

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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

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Wild swimming and the Grey Mares tail … Loch Skeen

Grey Mares Tail …

Loch Skeen is a loch in Dumfries and Galloway in the south of Scotland. It is located about 10 miles to the north-east of Moffat and feeds the 60-metre (200 ft) high Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall.  Glacial sculpting at its best !!

Bongo and I had talked about swimming it a few times and today was the day no matter what. Indeed there were a few “whats” trying to put us off 😀 but we braved the torrential rain and winds to climb up to the loch that feed the Grey Mares tail and swim it. I love it up there, infact its where all those years ago I took my mountain craft and navigation book and learnt to find my way around in the hills, so many good memories over the years from that area and  here was a chance to make more <3    So off we went, the gruesome twosome go forth !  I like Bongo a lot, hes up for anything and we share very similar views on life and existentialism in general …. yes we talk some shite when were together 😀  makes sense though .. to us 😀

a  The Loch Skeen monster

We arrived at the loch after a long wet walk up in high winds but the temperatures were high and hopefully the water not as cold as my first recce’ .  I dipped my fingers in and it was balmy, well Scottish balmy (no ice) 😀 …. We changed into our suits and in we went , the waves were huge but coming in bursts between calm stretches. The weather was the same and it was crazy to watch the winds blow torrential rain clouds overhead then calm sunny spells .. the water danced like hungry piranha approaching , consuming us then going calm … Surrealism at its most surreal.

Bongo doing his fonzy impersonation .. hey hey its the Bong

We fought our way up to the far end sheltered by the looming hills either side and turned … we flew home with the wind and waves behind us … what a day !!!   what a swim , what an adventure !!!!

We quickly changed and headed for the car , it wasn’t so warm now … We hurried down the hill path , stomachs growling as if knowing a giant Gordon burger awaited !

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 MT Haven…… largest ship wreck in the Sea!

MT Haven, formerly Amoco Milford Haven, was a VLCC (very large crude carrier), leased to Troodos Shipping. In 1991, while loaded with 144,000 tonnes (1 million barrels) of crude oil, the ship exploded, caught fire and sank off the coast of GenoaItaly, killing six Cypriot crew and flooding the Mediterranean with up to 50,000 tonnes of crude oil.It broke in two and sank after burning for three days, and for the next 12 years the Mediterranean coast of Italy and France was polluted, especially around Genoa and southern France. It is the largest shipwreck on the ocean floor….

Tragic and a huge eco disaster …

Our plan was to head to Italy and dive it ….. I had the pleasure of meeting a fantastic Italian diver named Luca Zanzotto while diving in Scapa Flow. He was a real cool guy and turned out that he ran his own dive centre on the coast of Italy near Portofino, Il Grande BLu .  We had  gotten along very well , and he invited us all out to his centre to dive with him  and meet the MT Haven in person 😀  So, as you do ,  Karon and I headed to Portofino with big wrecks on our mind.

Myself and the legend of Portofino diving .. Luca Zanzotti

Luca welcomed us with open arms, he is a big handsome friendly fellow with a calming disposition, huge smile and dive skills to rival Jacqes Cousteau 😀 . We were sure to have an amazing time !

His dive centre the Il Grande Blu was amazing !! Built into the  side of a coastal wall and equipped with everything a diver could want , from rec scuba to hard core trimix re-breather diving its got it all. And a workshop built into a cliff !!  I loved it !!

the cave of dreams

Soon it was time to dive and with a check dive under our belts we were soon in the boat headed out to sea … The Mohawk Deer at 50m 40-50m was superb and beautiful viz made the first day .  The following day was astounding ! Soon a visit to the UJ2216 KT wreck blew my mind !! WOW the diving in Portofino is unreal !! 🙂

UJ2216  SUBMARINE CHASER

After 3 days of progressively harder and deeper wreck diving we set off for the main event the “MT Haven” a long fast Rhib trip along the beautiful Italian coast line away. The journey there was astounding , such a beautiful coast , staggeringly so !!  However our eyes were on the prize and soon we were kitting up readying for the Haven.

Dropping on to the Havens funnel … still a long way to go!

sure was a big funnel 😀

We dropped over the Rhib , checked and sank headed for an ominous black shape below. At around 35m we hit the funnel and using this as a guide descended to the first deck and beyond until close to 55m. We had to be careful here and to follow our plan, keeping it tight. Karon is a fantastic diver and looked relaxed and in control as we had time to take in the sheer enormity of it all before ascending via the staircase, keep it interesting.

down down down…

follow the staircase

Exploring as we went up , soon we were in the control room and the upper decks.

The Control room

Our dive plan was to short !!  I could have spent all day down there , it was the most amazing wreck I have ever been lucky to have dived. All too soon were heading back up the funnel and buoy lines to begin our decompression.

see you again soon MT HAven

Our friend Max chilling

On our way back we stopped by the Christ of the Abyss sunken statue for a free dive , this was sunk here years ago and is a real eye opener !  I shook his hand quickly to say hello

Christ of the Abyss

What can I say about Portofino !!  not enough 🙂  its a beautiful place with world class diving. Il Grande blu will be a regular on my yearly calendar and I hope to bring my daughter along to learn to dive here …. for the rest I will let my photos do the talking.

Apres dive Chillin….

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