Giant Congers, small sharks and a side order of Dolphin.
The journey to the trainee weekend in Killary began in January for new trainees, cross overs and instructors alike. Weeks of Sunday evening pool sessions, complimented with weeks of Saturday morning lectures in the clubhouse, medical assessments, application form filing, snorkelling & training dives in Sandycove, culminated in an amazing weekend of diving.
The pool sessions focused on snorkelling skills, water fitness, snorkelling skills tests, scuba skills training and scuba skills tests. The pools session were really well organized. There was always plenty of equipment and every week the number of instructors outstripped the number of trainees. The lectures covered all aspects of the theory on the 1* Diver course, along with practical CPR training as well as training on how to use various Oxygen cylinders. At least 10 instructors generously gave their time and expertise to help prepare this year’s 7 trainees and cross-overs for their first Curragh SAC adventure.
The “Easter Weekend Dive Crew” of 22 divers and some family members landed in the village Leenaun on Thursday of the Easter weekend, for most it was a 4.5 hour journey but for the towers of the 2 boats and the compressor trailer the journey was considerably slower as they could travel at a maximum speed of 80 kms – they clearly have the patience of saints and a weekend away like this wouldn’t be a success without them!
Base of operations for diving for the weekend was Rosroe Pier. The scenic drive from Leenaun to Rosroe perfectly set up the spectacular scenes to come both above and below the water. Every morning the two boats Lir and Danu were driven from the slip at Leenaun to Rosroe Pier and driven back after all the dives were done for the day. The weather certainly played its part with lots of sunshine, warmer temperatures and light winds.
As the group was so large the DO for the trip Paul, split divers into two sticks. Dry coxswain was arranged for each boat and buddy groups were rotated regularly with trainees being paired with a number of instructors over the weekend. The first 4-5 dives for all the trainees were 10metres or less and 20 meters or less for the experienced divers just getting their season started. Some of the standout moments included seeing groups of scallops dancing across sand and up through the water on our first dive, with spider crabs and lots of dogfish also.
The weekend dive sites included Conger Alley, both sides of Inishbarna, the Red Pole and a lovely sheltered dive of Isinhdegil Mor. The dive site at Bird rock allowed the experienced divers to go to 20 meters. The viz was unbelievable at 20 meters; all the way to the bottom!! And the sight of divers 10 meters below those of us still training at 10 meters was fantastic. The wall was incredibly dramatic with a slope that came back overhead at the top. To say it was teaming with life for this early in the season is no understatement. There were shrimp, lobster, spider crap, starfish, dogfish, wrasse, bright blue cuckoo wrasse, scallops, giant sea slugs, nudibranch, sea anemones, and baby jellyfish – all of which were put in the ha’penny place by the piercing blue eye of a huge Conger eel.
The final boat dives at the Doonee Beacon provided plenty of life to take a peek at, with more dogfish, shoals of fish, an octopus, small conger, plenty of spider crabs, a giant starfish eating a large jewel anemone and two large Dogfish, or small sharks when I seen them first….!! These dives did have a lot to live up after the Bird rock dive the previous day and it was “close but no cigar” until that is the trip back; when, out of nowhere the tips of dolphins’ noses broke the surface as they jumped out of the water and continued jumping around us.
For these incredible dives to happen, no small amount of the work was done on Rosroe Pier, from super thorough dive briefs, to loading and offloading the boats, rinsing gear, filling cylinders from the 3 air compressors and for trainees and cross overs – learning how the compressors worked and how to test cylinders. In the middle of all this work, time was still found to celebrate the success of the trainees in achieving their 1* certifications, well done to Aine, Neill & Derek on this and there a formal welcome to the club for all of us with the presentation of Curragh SAC goodie bags. There was also a special presentation of the perpetual cup to Fiona in recognition of her award as Diver of the Year.
Dive debriefing in the evenings generally took place between Hamilton’s bar and the Blackberry restaurant, the food was almost as good as the company! There is no doubt that the Easter Weekend’s giant Conger, small sharks, big Dog fish I mean…. the side order of Dolphins, the craic and encouragement from all members of the club was an incredible introduction to the club and has set a high bar for the rest of the season.