The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

TEKcamp! - A woo hoo!

Having completed the TDI course I’ve become a little tech obsessed. It was thoroughly enjoyable and was great to pick the brains of a tech instructor; it’s just such a different mindset and approach to diving. In short, I want to know more. In fact I need to know more. No wait, I need to know everything. Doing another course isn’t an option, well not yet. I figure I need to get some more diving done to allow my new skills to develop and (hopefully) become second nature, it’s also quite expensive. Another shortfall is that I would like to do a wreck course or maybe trimix next but I’m still about 20 dives short of the required 100. So what could i do?

TEKcamp 2011
“How about 5 days with 10 technical diving legends?”

“Aye, that sounds grand. Where's that then?“

"TEKcamp,"

"Woo-hoo!"





[3 weeks previous…]

Heavy metal madness
Being the avid music fans we are, Kerri would be setting aside her wife-buddy duties and become metal-fan-groupie-wife as we had planned to attend a heavy metal festival over the summer. This has now been binned and replaced with more diving. How did this happen I hear you ask? I will tell you, eventually. I love heavy metal and always enjoy a few days of excessively loud music and large quantities of beer and cigarettes, although I have managed to stop smoking of late - I’ll keep you posted on how I get on with that. So when the festival became less attractive it had to be replaced with something else. Actually that’s not entirely true. This is what really happened.


I are heavy metal
I really do love heavy metal. It has always been a huge priority in my life between attending live shows and also performing as a musician. Kerri is an excellent gig photographer specialising in snapping live acts in dark, murky bars around the local live circuit. She has also been known to take a few splendid shots of me strutting my heavy metal stuff - I make a great subject being so pretty and all that. In addition to regular gigs we also like to hit the odd 3-5 day festival; Wacken and Download particular favourites. This year it was to be Bloodstock in the UK which had the added bonus of us being able to take our 23 year old motorhome (Frieda) as opposed to camping. Initially the line up was looking very promising but as more bands were announced we found our interest waning a little.



TEK text
What followed next was mostly my fault. We were still on a bit of a high from the TDI course and diving was very much in the forefront of our minds, so when I expressed the notion that the festival was becoming a little less appealing, Kerri apparently received a green light to find us something else to do. The next morning I came home from night shift and went to bed as usual. On a normal basis, when I awake from my day time slumber, I often find little text messages from Kerri explaining how her day is going, or reminding me to feed the cat army, or to leave dinner out of the freezer, or asking when I am intending to cut the grass, and so forth. On a late afternoon I awoke to find my Blackberry displaying the new message icon on the screen. Through a sleepy daze I eventually recalled how to open what I presumed would be an expletive of how useless Kerri’s work colleagues were and how she really should quit and look after cats full time. Instead it read, “We are going to TEKcamp. Get time off.”




So that was it. Bloodstock was officially binned and I had to find a way to change my work holidays that I had already booked 3 months in advance. I also really ought to find out what TEKcamp actually was. I presumed it was diving related but it’s never prudent to assume such things when a female is involved. My laptop is never far away from me, I often take it to bed with me to check emails, ebay and other vitally important stuff that can’t wait so this was an easy task. The mighty Google heard my call and in a heartbeat I was staring in blank amazement at the TEKcamp website.

This was amazing. 10 technical diving instructors are giving up a week of their very valuable time to get together to both train and give talks to 80 divers all in the rather superb Vobster quarry. Although I frequent all the usual forums and internet places of scuba interest I hadn’t heard of this, I don’t know where or how Kerri came across it, but top marks all the same. It sounded excellent. Over 5 days you get an instructor every morning for 5 hours for in water training, talks over lunch, more diving in the afternoon to practice skills and finally a BBQ in the evening at the nearby campsite where Frieda will be residing.


It is only 4 students per instructor which is fantastic and you get to request which instructors you want to work with. This is particularly appealing to me as there are 3 GUE instructors on the bill who I can’t wait to speak to as I am very interested in that approach to diving. I’m also hoping it will appeal to Kerri and in the future we could consider a GUE fundamental course. Of course I may no longer have wife-buddy if she runs off with that Paul Toomer fellow who she seems particularly keen to “learn” from.

Kerri came home from work that evening and explained further what TEKcamp was all about and how much fun it was going to be.

At that stage the tickets hadn’t actually been released so that left a week to sort out my leave and move some money off the “Maltaqua credit card” to allow further diving. The following Monday morning all the work rubbish was taking care of and like two weirdos Kerri and I huddled around the laptops waiting until 9am to purchase our tickets. In case you hadn’t noticed I used the term “laptops,” as in plural. Yes, you see Kerri was concerned my computer might crash and we would miss out on our 2 of the 80 available tickets while the thing rebooted. So there we were with both our laptops on the TEKcamp website waiting to buy our way into the tech diving hall of fame. Sad. So very sad. In our defence though we don’t get things like this in Ireland so it was an opportunity that could not be missed and it was essential to our eternal happiness that we attended. Sad.

The laptop didn’t crash and we got our tickets. Twinsets at the ready we are going to TEKcamp!

Visit the site and pick up your ticket now, it's going to be amazing. TEKcamp 2011



I are diver and i can’t wait.

TDI Adv Nitrox & Deco Procedures – Part 5

DAY 7

Our day off proved to be a worthwhile investment in our bodies. We both felt a lot better than we had done and it gave time for the training to sink in. I think I felt it most in my legs. I can’t be sure if it was the finning around or simply not being used to hauling the almighty twinset around, either way it was certainly something to work on.

Maltaqua up ahead
On our short walk to the dive shop we discussed the possible dive site for the day. We were both mentally traumatised from the less than perfect day out at the Faroud and silently hoped that another day at Cirkewwa lay ahead. As we rounded the corner David waved us over. “Hi guys, let’s hope the Faroud is calmer today eh?” Oh balls.





Arrival at the site was met with a little trepidation. As we stepped out of the truck both Kerri and I scanned the entry point for the 10m tall waves and breaking surge. As we gazed down we saw ..... nothing. It was like a puddle. Oh yeah, this was more like it - this was why I came on holiday. I mentally envisaged a successful and enjoyable day diving, we only had the one dive left and I wanted the final dive to be a memorable one. A pleasant memory.

Today was different on all counts. David talked us through dive planning, rule of thirds and our turn around time based on minutes and our gas reserve. We had learned about this in class but it was great to finally put it into practice. I also got to finally put my super cool tech diver wetnotes to some use. I had been carrying wetnotes for ages and never used them, I knew they would come in handy eventually, i just wasn't sure when.

Kerri at the entry point
Entry and exit was discussed, with Kerri adding some emphasis on the exit strategy. We had a new plan for the exit having watched previous divers crawl up the slipway the last time we were there. Made sense. We checked our gear, ran through our checks and made our way down to the entry point. It was really sunny and as I was sweating to pieces some Japanese tourists were insisting I stand up in my twin 12’s and 7l deco cylinder so they could get a better picture. Yes luv, i'll be right there. By right David was the more impressive diver as he was doing the dive in a single 10 with no stage, but I must admit I enjoyed the attention in all my tech gear.


Once in the water Kerri and I focused and got to work. Bubble checks and S-Drills were totally on the money, we checked our stages, kept them pressurised, valves closed, then stowed them on the line. This was all going quite well, I wondered when the wheels would come off the bus and we would all die.

Kerri penetrating the Um El Faroud
We dutifully followed David out to the wreck and had a fantastic dive. We did some more challenging swim throughs on the wreck, up stairs and around dangling cables. I really felt the part now and was having a magnificent time concentrating on my breathing and controlling my buoyancy. Wreck diving is definitely next on my list. However, as with all dives we were restricted by the fact as humans we require air on a regular basis, so Kerri and I signalled our turnaround time and we headed off the wreck for our deco stop.



On our decompression stop we launched an smb as a team, then simulated smb failure and sent up our reserve blob. This was a great exercise and I really enjoyed how intelligent the procedure was, it had never occurred to me to send the second smb up the same line. I just presumed we would re-do the whole process. This was all done with Kerri and I keeping close buddy contact and maintaing reasonably good buoyancy. The whole thing just felt right, it had finally clicked.

We did our gas switch having retrieved the stages, surfaced and immediately congratulated ourselves on how amazing tech divers we were. I thought we had earned it, we did really well on that final dive and deserved a pat on the back. We restowed our smbs and dropped back down to practice buddy breathing from the deco bottle. For one reason or another Kerri and I were quite rehearsed at this having practised it, very early on, in the pool when we were doing our PADI course. We recalled the signals and had no problems swapping the reg over. Buoyancy suffered a little, but not enough to cause any great concern and we completed the simulated stop. Missed deco stop drills followed then David announced that training was complete and thumbed the dive.

As soon as David began heading for the slip way I got the camera out. Like little children we started posing in all our tech gear for the camera. We HAD to get some photos of this. There we were with all our kit on taking sneaky photos of each other while David was scratching his head on the shore wondering what was taking us so long. I could barely contain the laughter as we both surfaced and signalled OK. We made our way to the slipway and bar a little help getting our fins off, we both got out under our own steam. We were ecstatic, it really was a good day out, the wheels had stayed on the bus.


Posing for the camera

Hot chocolate was next in order and both Kerri and David began the rather bizarre ritual of consuming the sugar laden brown stuff. Looked a bit grim to me to be honest, Never understood the hot chocolate fixation, I was happier with a cup of tea. I could tell David was very disappointed the course was over and would miss us greatly, or maybe the chocolate wasn’t up to the usual standard. I'm sure i saw tears...

Back at the classroom we completed our final paperwork and we were congratulated with firm handshakes and were now certified TDI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures divers!



DAY 8 


I awoke with a hazy head on our final day in Malta. It appeared after the momentous passing of the course we considered it mandatory to drink all the beer in The Peppermill. Mission accomplished, I felt a bit worse for wear. Nevertheless we managed to find a full English breakfast after too much walking and began to feel human again. We repacked our now much heavier suit cases and courtesy of David headed for the airport. Another teary moment from our great tech diver instructor, firm handshakes and, I think, Kerri scored a kiss on the cheek. It was sad to see David drive off, everything about the week had been excellent.



EPILOGUE

The course was brilliant, excellent value for money and I recommend it to anyone considering moving into tech diving. Obviously I only have experience of TDI, but I can say that the approach was logical and the extension it has given to my diving seemed a natural progression. I highly recommend Maltaqua. The centre itself is run very efficiently, all the staff we encountered were polite, well informed, extremely friendly and suffered from the same sense of humour as ourselves. Our instructor David was superb. In the water his diving was excellent. On land his knowledge of the course and diving in general was second to none. He also contained a plethora of other less relevant information.

As for our next adventure, it is all in order. Savings plans are in order to facilitate the TDI wreck course as we had such brilliant fun doing what little penetration we did. The plan is definitely to go back to Mataqua and hopefully David can instruct.

I also need to buy a mixed gas computer, I hear Tri-Mix calling!

TDI Adv Nitrox & Deco Procedures – Part 4

DAY 5 

It was clear at this stage that Kerri and I despite not being the most unfit divers in the world were starting to suffer fatigue from the long days, challenging dives and lugging around the bad boy tech diving twin sets. Physically I was a bit stiff and a little sore, Kerri was suffering more, but true to form her stubbornness overtook any possibility of giving up; hence the reason we are still married. We trailed ourselves from the apartment and made our way to the concentration camp, sorry, I mean Maltaqua to meet Josef Mengle, sorry, I mean David.

The usual proceedings of kit assembly, gas checking and truck loading ensued. I was really enjoying carrying Kerri’s twinset around as well as my own, that would be 4 sets of doubles I was carting around all day. I don’t remember that section in the wedding vows. “For better, for worse," - yes, "In sickness and in health”  - yes. “In twinsets or single cylinders” – no, I don’t recall that one. Either way I carried them on and off the truck religiously like a good husband. See what you’re missing ladies?

A 20 minute journey later, on what I think was a road, but to be honest that’s a very loose term for the stuff that goes under the tyres in Malta, Um El Faroud was our dive site for the day. It is a Libyan wreck that suffered a severe explosion while docked in which 9 Maltese workers were killed. In 1998, 3 years after the accident, it was scuttled for divers in roughly 36m of water. We had watched quite a few you tube videos of the site and were quite excited about the dive. Then we got there.

Let’s just say the sea looked a little rougher than I would have liked. There were also a number of steps that led down to the entry point. Not looking like a good day out. Once kitted up it was blatantly clear that Kerri was approaching knackered. With the twin set and stage cylinder poor wife-buddy was having a few problems getting up from the seated position. I too was feeling over heated, shattered and was not enjoying standing around in the sunshine fully kitted. I tried to help but I was exhausted too and only succeeded in throwing Kerri off balance. Finally we got in, the vibe wasn’t good. Perhaps it was one of those moments when a dive should have been thumbed. I don’t know and never will I guess, maybe we should have.

Blue swims again
All the usual formalities too place and the dive began. Now that I was in the water things started to slot back into place as I cooled off a bit, but I was still preoccupied with getting out. A blue swim later we reached the wreck and did our circuit. It’s a great dive and we enjoyed the site pretty much on our own. We signalled to David that we had reached our turnaround time and the 3 of us headed down a final walk way and off the wreck into the blue.







Kerri looking for a capstan
Just as we were leaving, a team of Jedi on rebreathers loomed over the bow. I immediately switched on and really got myself together in the hope of regaining some dignity after the rather embarrassing stage handling display from my previous encounter with these guys. Oh I looked good this time; perfect trim, slow breathing, can light blazing, I was the text book tech diver. I turned slightly to give Kerri a nod to make sure she was doing the same. She was. Ah, look at us in all our tech diving glory! Then, a moment later, just as the Jedi were cruising past and giving appreciative nods, Kerri swam straight into a capstan. It was outrageous. The crotch strap on her harness seemingly hooked over the lip on the capstan and she effectively “went over the handle bars.” I then had my first experience of full on hysterical laughing through a regulator while simultaneously wishing I had a p-valve. She actually had to reverse to “unhook” herself then continue on, hanging her head in shame, and shameful it was. Poor dear, she does try. I was really looking forward to winding her up about that one, Mastercard or not, this was priceless, comedy gold. I couldn’t wait.

Decompression stops were required, but at 18m David signalled that we would be doing a skill or two. This included; LPI failure drill, mask off / replace, relocate stages, smb deployment as a team and gas switching. It was a pretty crazy 15 mins and the task loading got the better of us. Task fixation became the order of the day and we drifted about the reef not really paying any attention to what out buddy was doing. Bad divers. To be honest I was so worn out, a little downing would have been fine by me.

Then came the exit. The sea was really rough now and it was clear the clamber up the slipway was going to be a nightmare. David managed first, but with only a single cylinder he had a real advantage over us. Kerri was next and did fantastically well even though she was completely knackered, plus a breakdown in communication with the shore confused the matter further. I struggled out amongst the swell and was finally on dry land. Bugger that for a game of soldiers. Diving for the day was over. No second dive.

A rather fantastic hot chocolate at the Blue Cave was enjoyed over the dive debrief. The whole dive had gone to shit at the exit and unfortunately that was all we were focussing on, well, that and the hot chocolate which David seemed particularly pleased with. The dive was good, but it was overshadowed by exit problems. We were both really disappointed by the whole thing and basically wrote if off as “experience.”

Back in the classroom we were a bit subdued but did our best to learn the final deco procedures stuff and were shown how to use from PC software to aid dive planning. The classroom session was finished off with the TDI Decompression Procedures exam. I was really impressed we managed to get it together to complete the test after the day we had. Nevertheless we both passed! Another hard days tech diving over.


DAY 6 


It was clear that egos were bruised and bodies were aching so we took Sunday off and did a little sightseeing of Malta in the cool sunshine. We found English breakfast, ice cream and strange shops. There was even an area in the town square with free wi-fi in the street, not that we could get it to work. To be honest after a few hours we missed the diving, and even David to a certain degree, got a bit bored and went for a siesta. Dinner that evening and another early night followed in preparation for the final dive of our course. We just hoped it would be better than the last. To be honest though, could it really get any worse?

Where you buy,,,,, things...