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 ( 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) ( 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 ( 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

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mares instinct pro green camo freediving / spearfishing fins

I use Mares instinct pro green camo fins ( for my snorkelling. They are longer than scuba fins and are designed for freediving or spearfishing. The green camo design is great for British waters as they blend in well with the often green water. They seem a good match with my Mares camo brown wetsuit. They do seem to scratch and chip fairly easily but Mares say they does not affect their performance.

I have found it easiest to put them on when in couple of feet of water when shore diving, walking in them (even backwards) is not an option.
I have only done 6 or so dives in them but I would recommend them due to their reasonable price and good performance so far. You really feel like you are flying through the water with very little effort, which is the whole point of fins like this. One disadvantage is that when using a SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) it is quite easy to get the line wrapped around a fin. And because the fins are so long it is not easy to get the line off when stationary. You have sort of swim out of the tangle, which is not a real problem in practice. But illustrates the importance of always having a knife for any bad tangles or emergencies.

Mares instinct pro green camo freediving / spearfishing fins

Mares instinct pro fins foot pocket

Mares instinct pro fins heel underside

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Cressi sub Super Totem (or supertotem) dive knife. Initial Review

Having a knife while snorkelling, freediving or spearfishing is important from safety point of view, as well as looking quite cool. Discarded fishing lines, ropes and seaweed are all hazards which can entangle a breath hold diver while underwater. A knife will help reduce this danger as long as it is sharp, secure and quick to access when needed. I bought  a Cressi-sub Super Totem knife which comes with a plastic sheath and rubber straps.

cressi-sub supertotem knife and sheath
The knife is very robust and is actually quite a bit larger than I expected at 23.3 cm. This makes it too large to wear on the biceps or forearm for me. The knife and sheath is designed really for wearing on the lower leg and the relatively long and different size straps are suited to this. This knife therefore is probably not very suitable for spearfishing due to the leg mount. An important thing to remember (which only found out through google searching) is that a knife should be worn on the inside of your leg. This prevents your weight belt catching on the knife handle if you have to dump your weight belt in an emergency.

Cressi-sub supertotem knife in its sheath

I have read that some people do not like the rubber band that holds the knife in the sheath because it prevents single hand use. I disagree with this as you can remove and reinstall this knife into its sheath with one hand if you practice. I use my thumb on the top of the handle and my 1st and index finger to remove/reinstall the retaining rubber band. The back of the rubber band does create a lump on the back of the sheath which is a design flaw, but this can be mitigated by positioning it the strap over it which is no problem. So far the knife has remained secure on my leg during snorkelling and was comfortable to wear. The blades are sharp and I like that fact that you have a plain and serrated blade at your disposal with an ergonomic an sturdy handle.

So for £15 this seems like a good dive knife, but  time and use will tell its true worth and value. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mares instinct camo brown 55 (5.5mm) 2 piece opencell spearfishing wetsuit

I was thinking of getting a 'made to measure' wetsuit after several people recommended it. However I went for an off the shelf wetsuit because of the price and because my measurements matched well with Mares size 3. It was a bit of a risk but the wetsuit fits really well and keeps me very warm.

The Mares instinct camo brown wetsuit comes in two pieces of high waist trouser and a jacket with integrated hood.

The wetsuit seems to be really well made and the outer camo finish is really nice. I went for the brown camo because I hope it well hide me well against the kelp, Fucus and sand of North Wales so that fish will swim past me unaware (I hope). The inside of the suit is open cell which means it is bare rubber and so very sticky and warm suit also very delicate. It seems the main danger is cutting it with toe and finger nails when taking it on and off. So keeping nails trim and smooth and using a lubricant is needed to stop damaging the inside. I have made up a 50/50 solution of hair conditioner and water in a sprayer which is working well to help the trousers and jacket slip on and off.  Getting in and out of the suit was a bit of a mission the first time, mainly because I was paranoid about damaging it, but the is a technique which makes it easier. The below videos were helpful in finding the right on and off technique, the wetsuit came with no instructions on putting it on or off and how to care for the wetsuit.

Mares instinct camo brown wetsuit

Camo brown jacket

Mares camo brown trouser knee pad

Mares camo brown chest pad

Mares instinct camo brown wetsuit

Beaver tail fastening on Mares camo brown wetsuit

Snorkelling in North Wales

I decided I wanted to get into the sea more and observe our local marine life here in North Wales. I always see it all at low tide or on the deck of a ship and so wanted to see underwater life in its most natural state. Before I have done this with a snorkel and swimming shorts (which can be a bit chilly), but I have now invested in some more suitable equipment. It seems that getting spearfishing kit is the best approach for doing snorkelling and freediving around here. I do not really have an interest in catching fish but the camo suit and good kit will make spearfishing equipment ideal for observing underwater life. This is a list of the kit I have bought.

Mares instinct camo brown 55 (5.5mm) 2 piece open cell wetsuit.
Mares camo brown open cell 3mm socks/booties
Mares instinct pro camo green freediving fins
Cressi 3.5 neoprene gloves
Cressi super totem dive knife
Spettoa rubber dive belt
5 x 1kg Beuchasub weights
1 x Esclapez Single Bladder Torpedo Bouy Float including a line

and I already had a Tusa Liberator plus hyperdry mask and imprex snorkel. 

I will describe and review the kit in separate posts in case it is of any use to anyone else. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Hoop = Food, R2 fish school training

Here is some further reinforcement of the hoop trick, except Siani likes to just sit in the hoop. I used fresh mussel flesh in the last few training session instead of Corophium. Corophium is easy to load into the feeding wand and does not fill Siani up so quickly compared to mussel flesh, but live food is harder to collect and keep.

I'm going to give the fetch trick a go next.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Fish training update, Hoop trick

After Siani has been trained to follow the feeding wand anywhere for a food reward I have moved on to trying to teach the hoop trick. At first I was suing the feeding wand to tempt the fish through the hoop as instructed in the manual, this is in the first video.

After a few sessions Siani now perches onto and then eventually swim through the hoop. I have not got a great video but here is my best effort and a picture below. Due to this species naturally living on the bottom this trick is a little more taxing (or unnatural) for Siani than a free swimming fish like a goldfish. I think the perching on the hoop is still a cool trick. I just need to keep the training up really. I'll keep you updated!

Siani sitting on the hoop, waiting for food.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Snakelocks anemone (Anemonia viridis) in native marine aquarium

I have finally been able to collect some snakelocks anemones for my native marine aquarium. I have wanted some for a long time, but they are not very common in North Wales. I found most of them attached to pieces of algae on the low shore.  One of them lacerated into two within 48 hours of being placed into the aquarium.  This is how they can rapidly colonise an area, they clone themselves! I have a lighting bulb with is designed to promote the survival and growth of photosynthetic organisms. It is important to have this as snakelocks anemones have zooxanthellae in their tentacles which require high light levels and specific wavelengths for photosynthesis, which keeps the anemone healthy and colourful. The tentacles are also stinging and capture live or dead prey.  If the anemones turn brownish then I will know the light levels are not optimum for the symbiont zooxanthellae in their tentacles. They also have fluorescent proteins in their tentacles which gives them their beautiful fluorescent green colour.  I hopeful that these anemones should flourish in the aquarium. 

Anemonia viridis as found on the rocky shore

Anemones in the tank showing bright green tentacles

Anemonia viridis (snakelocks anemone) lacerating itself into two new individuals

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Regatta 4 person tent at Nant Y Big campsite near Abersoch

We took our Regatta 4 person tent (there was only two of us) to Nant Y Big campsite near Abersoch on the Llyn Peninsula. The camp site was brilliant and the tent was great too. It is a cheap tent really but kept the rain and out and stood well in a fairly windy and wet night. It is easy to out up with two people and only takes fifteen minutes. It has a good porch with a ground sheet included and two large air vents in the roof. It is quite heavy and large when packed up compared to other four man tents I’ve seen, but I would recommend this tent. I would recommend the campsite too! A nice beach was only a short walk away and the views form the pitches were amazing. Shame it is so cold at night in April!
View from our pitch at Nant Y Big

Air vent

Fly sheet and inner tent

Beadlets (Actina equina) like their personnel space

The tentacles of beadlet anemone (Actina equina) do not sting, they are just sticky. However, these anemones do have specialised stinging ‘beads’ around the base of their tentacles. These are not used for capturing food but are used to sting and repel other anemones and protect their personnel space. This is so they do not compete for food as beadlet anemones are static ‘almost’ scavengers. The pictures below show an anemone in my aquarium stinging another anemone which is become too close. They pump water into the stinging ‘beads’ and lean towards the other anemone touching it with the purple sting beads. Afterwards purple scars are left on the attacked anemones that are the same colour as the stinging beads it was stung with. Everyone needs their personnel space I guess. 

Beadlet with swollen stinging 'beads' leaning towards another beadlet

Another anemone being stung

Basal disk of a beadlet anemone

Colour varieties of beadlet anemones

Thursday, 29 March 2012

New rear Wheel! Dia Compe ENE Touring hub, Rigida Zac rim and IRD freewheel

I have now got a new rear wheel to replace the bent one from the accident. I had a wheel made by SJS cycles that I thought would be great for touring and carrying loads, but would also fit in with bikes age and other parts. I chose a Dia-compe ENE Ciclo touring hub for a screw on freewheel. The high flange hub fits in with the high flange Maillard hub on the front and the one I replaced. The rim is a Rigida Zac touring model with double eyelets. Both are 36 hole which I though would be good for carrying heavy loads. I also bought a 6 speed 14 - 34 freewheel too. There were some negative reviews on the Internet but it seems fine to me. It has a slight wobble but I don't think that actually affects the transmission. I had it built with DT stainless steel spokes for strength and easier cleaning and maintenance.

Well I still need to get the rear derailleur set up properly with the new freewheel but I think it should be a great addition to the bike. Looking forward to going out on a proper trip.

Rigida Zac touring rim
Double eyelets

Threads on the hub are well greased to try and make removing the freewheel in the future a little less difficult.

IRD 6 speed freewheel, 14 - 34

New wheel installed