Sunday, 5 January 2014

Tropical marine aquarium

A Last summer I set up an Orca TL 450 Nano aquarium.




Equipment


  • x2 florescent white/blue bulbs
  • 53 litre 24 x 45 Orca TL 450 aquarium
  • x1 Koralia nano powerhead
  • Orca pump to supply filter


Livestock
Coral
  • Xenia sp. pulse soft coral
  • Rhodactis sp. (indosinensis) hairy mushroom coral
  • Zoanthid colony (green)
  • Green Star Polyps
  • Green mushroom polyp
  • Sarcophyton toadstool leather coral

Green Star Polyps
Zoanthid

Mushroom coral

Sarcophyton leather coral

Pulsing Xenia sp.


Other

  • x2 tank bred clown fish (A. percula)
  • x1 Testus sp. pyramid snail
  • x1 Trochus sp. snail
  • x2 sea squirts
  • Various brittlestars, sponges harpacticoid copepods and polychaetes also inhabit the tank. 






















Sunday, 18 August 2013

Gelert Solo 1 man tent finally tested out, In the Azores! Review

I have had my Gelert solo one man tent for well over a year, and it had never been used. However I recently visited the Azores for work and spent a few days trekking and camping and the Gelert Solo seemed the perfect tent to take.

Its small size and < 2kg weight meant it was ideal, as I was walking with all my gear which including all my freediving equipment. My rucksack weighed over 22 kg in the end which meant it was hard work walking in the very humid and hilly Sao Jorge island of the Azores. The tent is very easy to put up and take down, and not too tricky to get back into its bag providing you roll it up neatly and tightly. It is very small inside, especially with all my gear in it, but I knew that would be the case. I was still able to sleep though, and keep all my gear secure and dry. There were some very heavy down pours but there was never any water or dampness getting into the inner tent. It was also very windy at times but the tent was fine with its low profile helping it survive the winds. The tent only holds its form if on very level ground, which meant when I pitched in the forest the roof of the tent was much lower than it should have been. One negative that had been mentioned by other owners was that the poles are fragile. Near the end of my trip the metal corner pieces in the smaller of the two poles bent, but its was not a major issue. I also replaced most of the poles with candy cane aluminium poles form Alpkit.com which was a good move as they were lighter and more sturdy. The Azores has very rocky ground without much top soil due to its volcanic orgins, making good strong tent pegs a big help when pitching the tent.

For £15 pounds this tent was great and did me well.

Gelert solo with Pico mountain in the background 
Gelert solo in wood at Faja Caldeira dos santo Cristo

Gelert Solo tent at Urzelina camp site, Sao Jorge Azores

Inside the Gelert Solo with all my gear. Its a nylon coffin but that is OK. 



Gelert Solo tent at Urzelina camp site, Sao Jorge Azores


Saturday, 2 March 2013

New on-one chainset and MKS touring pedals for the Peugeot touring bicycle

I bought a pair of MKS sylvan touring pedals for the retro Peugeot touring bike as the old original Lyotard ones were too narrow and damaged. However I could only get one of the old pedals off and to cut a long story short the one that was stuck destroyed the thread in the non-drive side crank arm. So I decided to replace the chainset and bottom bracket and then I can put my new pedals on. Replacing my pedals became more expensive than I planned.
I found a good chainset form planet x / on-one which keeps a bit of a retro look. I also replaced the old cup and cone bottom bracket with a new sealed unit. I'm glad I did replace it as some of the bearings has become loose in the bottom bracket shell. The new touring pedals are great as they are nice and wide so are comfortable no matter what shoes you are wearing. The bearings were not very smooth out the box but not tight enough to be worth taking the dust caps off (not an easy task) to adjust the bearings. 

Old Stronglight bottom bracket and chainset

New planet x / on-one touring chainset

New sealed bottom bracket

New on-one chainset on the Peugeot touring bicycle

New MKS sylvan touring pedals

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Freediving at the Menai suspension bridge


I had been to try and dive by the suspension bridge in the Menai Strait before with little success. I went at low water but the current was extremely strong and the area I was in composed of thousands of tennis ball sized rocks covered in barnacles with little else. This video shows that dive (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3At4Eq6CH1s).

However during Friday lunch break I went there again with Ryan Mowat with much more success. Part of that success was working out when slack water was, which is not the same as time of high or low water in the Menai Strait. To over simplify it the time of lowest current velocity is roughly 2 – 1 ½ hours before the time of High or Low water. This video shows some clips from that trip.



Going at slack water is important for a safe dive where you’re not drifting away, visability is likely to be better and it means less fining against the current potentially giving longer dive times. Ryan suggested diving down a subtidal cliff on the South side of the bridge and it was a great spot. The vis was about 3 m but we had lots of amazing sessile epifaunal to look including incrusting and branching sponges, large and abundant Dahlia anemones and deadman’s finger colonies. Motile organisms included lots of common starfish, edible crabs, velvet swimming crabs and small spider crabs amongst the sponges. There were no doubt many other species which I did not observe. I always regret not staying in one post and looking for smaller organisms, I so often pass over areas looking more generally at what is there.  It was 5 – 6 degrees C probably and I reached a max depth of 7 metres during my dives but depth was not the objective of the dives. 

Dahlia anemones in the Menai Strait

Common starfish foraging among breadcrumb sponge in the Menai Strait

Common starfish, sponges and an edible crab in the Menai Strait

Dahlia anemones in the Menai Strait

Common starfish feeding amongst breadcrumb sponge with a velvet swimming crab at the bottom. Menai Strait

The finger like structure is either the sponge Haliclona oculata or the bryozoan Alcyonidium diaphanum.   

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How to rinse, dry and store an open cell spearfishing / freediving wetsuit

When I got my nice new open cell wetsuit I was really paranoid about damaging it, so here is what I do to keep it in good condition after using it.

Rinsing your open cell wetsuit after use

If you have been using the suit in the sea, freshwater or pool it is always a good idea to wash it in freshwater  afterwards. After a dive a put all my neoprene into a bin bag for the journey home. This keeps everything else form getting wet and helps protect the suit from damage.  I fill my empty equipment box with freshwater in the bath and wash my wetsuit in it. I don't use soap or anything, just cold freshwater. make sure you fully soak the inside and outside so no salt water is left in the neoprene. Pouring water down the sleeves / legs helps reach all the suit.

Drying your open cell wetsuit after rinsing

I use a clothes horse placed in the bath to dry my wetsuit and equipment. I dry my open cell wetsuit and socks inside out, this is the best way to do it in my opinion. I never got the inside dry properly when just keeping it the right way round. The open cell inside will not take long to dry when inside out (e.g. overnight) and then you just turn the jacket and trousers the right way round to dry the outside which won't take long and won't be dripping water by then either. Water can pool in the hood so it is a good idea to tip the hood up a few times just after rinsing. Easy.

Drying an open cell spearfishing / freediving wetsuit


Storing your open cell wetsuit



Creasing, compressing and stretching your wetsuit all want to be avoided when drying and storing an open cell wetsuit. Hanging it up is not easy to do without avoiding these problems I have found and just laying it out takes up lots of room. Folding the wetsuit is best avoided because it will make permanent creases and compress the neoprene along these creases compromising its effectiveness and keeping you warm. What  I find does the job is rolling up the trousers in the jacket and tucking the arms in. By rolling it you avoid making creases and it ends up not taking up much space for storing and transporting.

Spearfishing / freediving open wetsuit  rolled up for storage

Let me know if you have any other methods which work for you.

Happy diving


Sunday, 30 December 2012

British native marine aquarium update December 2012

My tank is ticking over nicely. The two cuttlefish have been entertaining lots of guests over Christmas. However I am concerned about one of them. The eyelids are tightly closed and its movement does not appear to be under full control. There is a slight bulge to the rear of the mantle and it seems to be slightly positively buoyant. Not sure if I will remove to form the tank yet for quarantine but is still seems to be feeding which is encouraging. Apart from  that the cushion stars, sea urchin, anemones, top shells, periwinkles and netted whelk all seem to be doing well. The odd periwinkle falls prey to the cushion stars but that is not a problem. Here are some pictures and videos below. 


Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) in British native marine aquarium. 

Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) in British native marine aquarium. 
Small brittlestar in native marine aqurium

'Baby' Asterina gibbosa cushion star in native marine aquarium
Snakelocks Anemone viridis in British native marine aquarium. Sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris can be seen in the background.





Friday, 2 November 2012

Sepia officinalis Common cuttlefish in Native marine aquarium


I was given two small Sepia officinalis by Dr. Nick Jones (http://www.bangor.ac.uk/oceansciences/staff/php/staffdetails1.php?person=0064) at the School of Ocean Sciences which were left over after experiments they were conducting on egg hatching. I made sure I had some fine shell gravel in my aquarium before adding them into the tank. They like to burrow so normal pea gravel would likely be too coarse to allow this. I have had them almost two months now and both are growing well and seem to be well adjusted to living in my aquarium. I have no chiller, the seawater is dependent on the room temperature. I have been feeding them on Crangon crangon brown shrimp, common prawn P. serratus and the occasional small sand goby. They need a good source of live food and are really amazing to watch as they stalk and attack their prey. This hunting is often accompanied by vivid pulses of colour across the mantle of the cuttlefish. They have been great inhabitants of my aquarium but as they grow larger I will probably need to find a new home for them. Here are some pictures and video. 

 Sepia officinalis Common cuttlefish

 Sepia officinalis Common cuttlefish feeding on a prawn

My British native marine aquarium 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Recent dives off Anglesey

A collection of recent highlights from my snorkelling and freediving around Anglesey in North Wales. Seeing the plumose anemones at St. George's pier was a real highlight for me. All the dives had very poor vis, maybe 1 - 2 metres. You can still see amazing marine life in poor vis if you are willing to give it a go, and go down into the murk. 




Sunday, 16 September 2012

Snorkelling / Freediving at Trearddur Bay, Anglesey, UK

Trying out my new mask at a small cove in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey. It was high tide so there was no that much life to see apart form plenty of Fucus. It was still a fun session. Here is a little video from it. I'll add some more but the editing takes ages on my laptop.

Beaver Odyssey Low volume mask (Suitable for Spearfishing / Freediving)

My old Tusa mask with the hyperdry purge valve that made equalising tricky

I previously used a Tusa Liberator Plus mask with the Hyperdry purge valve for snorkeling. It is great mask for scuba but the problem with the purge valve is it makes the nose piece very rigid. This made equalising quite tricky. I have now bought a black Beaver Odyssey Low volume mask from Anglesey Divers scuba shop in Holyhead. I have only tried it once but I really like the mask. It fits my face well and the silicone is very soft. It also has a frameless design. Not sure why they call it ‘frameless’, as it still has a frame, but it basically means the straps attach to the silicone skirt instead of the plastic frame like most masks. The lenses are smaller than my old mask but I can probably see more. I guess the low volume design bringing the lenses closer to the eyes keeps a good field of view. The straps adjust really easily by pushing some buttons on the buckles which will make adjustments easy, even with gloves on. Anyway I have only done one session with the mask within an hour of buying so I’ll see how I get on with it. Equalising is much much easier thanks to the soft nose piece. It comes with a box as well which is good. 
Beaver Odyssey Low volume mask (Suitable for Spearfishing / Freediving) 


Buckle attached to the silicone that makes it a 'frameless' mask

Beaver Odyssey Low volume mask (Suitable for Spearfishing / Freediving) 

Beaver Odyssey mask in action 


Friday, 14 September 2012

Testing GoPro 2 with dive Housing Fish in the distance, Snorkelling off Anglesey, North Wales


Here are some clips of the only real glimpses I got of some fish whilst snorkelling off Anglesey last Sunday in some rough weather. I saw mainly wrasse but also a few Pollock, and a school of sprat and adult sandeels.






Sunday, 9 September 2012

JB Esclapez Torpedo Buoy (SMB)

I bought a JB Esclapez Torpedo Buoy SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) (http://www.esclapezdiving.com/en/article-fiche-89-Torpedo_buoy.html) for snorkelling. I wanted one for safety to alert boaters that I'm in the water. I don't want to be hit by a propeller. It is also very handy for attaching stuff to like my car keys, mesh bag etc. I put some stones in the mesh bag to weigh the buoy down which helps it stay upright and makes the flag as visible as possible. The SMB will take my weight so I do use it to rest on sometimes. 



The Buoy is well made and has two air bladders which is a nice feature. It has lots of attachment loops and the flag rotates with the wind. It comes with a long nylon line which is very thin and has frayed slightly but does the job well. I attach it to my weight belt at one side to help stop it getting wrapped round my fins. I tie it up with a figure of 8 and tie each end off with a double clove hitch which makes adjusting the length fairly easy.  This is a great SMB for the price but a small weight is needed to keep it upright. 

JB Esclapez Torpedo Buoy (SMB)

JB Esclapez Torpedo Buoy (SMB)

JB Esclapez Torpedo Buoy (SMB)

Testing GoPro Hero HD 2 snorkelling off West coast of Anglesey

Some footage of from my GoPro Hero HD 2 with the dive housing. I used the head strap which felt secure and seemed to work well. I may think about holding it next time as I move my head all the time which makes the footage vomit inducing to watch. I went off the West Coast of Anglesey but cut it short as the wind, waves and swell was picking up.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Repairing open cell wetsuit with McNett Black Witch neoprene adhesive

I had a fairly large tear in my Mares open cell neoprene sock caused by slipping in the car park after a snorkel. I thought I would have to buy another pair. However I thought I would try glueing it as the glue is cheaper than new socks and people seem to find it very effective. Well I can confirm it works! McNett Black Witch neoprene adhesive (http://www.wiggle.co.uk/mcnett-black-witch-adhesive-28g/) is really really effective at repairing an open cell or standard wetsuit. It is very noxious and sticky stuff and I found a cotton bud was the best way to apply it. But it really works as after drying the repair is very string and still has some elasticity. I recommend this 100% if you need to repair your spearfishing, freediving or surfing wetsuit.

IRD 6 speed freewheel 14 - 34 review



The 14 - 34 IRD 6 speed freewheel I bought from SJS cycles for my Peugeot touring bike has been a great success. I was initially concerned after IRD freewheel s had received some bad reviews but I have not had any problems. With the rear derailer set up properly this freewheel runs really smooth and gives a good range of gears for the riding I do, which is in hilly and mountainous North Wales. This is a good choice for keeping that retro bicycle going an keeping the retro look. I recommend this freewheel. 



IRD 6 speed freewheel 

Brooks B17 standard leather saddle in Honey – Review 1 year on


I have had my Brooks B17 saddle for just over a year now. It has been clamped onto my Peugeot touring bike which I use to get to work and to run errands. So far I am very pleased. My millage does not really add up to much over the year and so I’m sure there is still allot more improvement to be had as it softens up and takes the right shape. I have applied ‘Brooks ProofRide’ not as regularly as I should have but the saddle still seems in good shape. I have always put a plastic bag over it when its locked up top protect the leather from rain.  However there are some watermarks on it form times the bag has blown off etc, but that does not bother me. It does look great, especially with the matching brown leather effect Deda bar tape. The saddle has a few scratches on the edges from where it has brushed up or fallen against a wall but nothing serious thankfully.
Bearing in mind I have not done any particularly long rides but just commuting, I would recommend this saddle. The verdict so far is that it looks great, it is comfy (after a month or two) and maybe best of all it will last a lifetime.

Brooks B17 leather saddle after 1 year

A few water marks but still looking and riding brilliantly

The odd scratch from walls

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Mares Camo brown 3mm Open cell neoprene socks (Size 6/XL)

I decided to have the matching open cell Mares camo brown booties/socks to go with my wetsuit. This will prevent rubbing from the fins and keep my feet warm. The camo pattern matches the Mares camo brown wetsuit perfectly, although with the fins on not much of the sock is really visible anyway. I'm UK 9 shoe size so the size 6/XL seemed to match up best. I could have done with a size smaller though as it is not really a close fit and bunches up when i put the fins on, and is like having two buckets on my feet when getting out the water. However in the water I have had no rubbing and my feet have kept warm which is what they are supposed to do. I went for the 3mm which I think is the thickest they come in which has felt fine so far in the British waters as most of your foot has the fin as an extra layer of insulation. The sole is not really protected form rough or sharp surfaces which you may walk on, but it does have a grip coating on the outside similar to what you find on diving gloves to help prevent slipping.

Overall I'm pleased with these socks and would recommend them as long as you can get the right size of course.

Mares Camo brown 3mm Open cell neoprene socks (Size 6/XL)

Brown camo sock grip sole

Mares open cell sock in camo brown