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.

Don't Weight Up

Too much weight?

“This is your weight belt; it will help you descend.”

I remember those words spoken from my PADI Open Water Instructor very well, and he was absolutely right, it did help me descend; very quickly indeed.


Every new diver is over-weighted to begin with. It is impossible to judge what quantity of weight a diver will need by simply looking at them, but you have to start somewhere; and that somewhere is usually too much.

30lb weight belt - really?


Combined with the issue of a beginners breathing becoming erratic, making it difficult to descend even if correctly weighted, on the first dive excessive lead is added; my first weight belt had 30lbs of rubber coated lead threaded onto it.







My BCD was fully inflated as I conducted a giant stride off the back of the boat. I hit the water, sank a meter, and finally bobbed back to the surface. My eyes sat just above the water line as my fully inflated BCD enjoyed molesting and squeezing every spare litre of air from my lungs.


It wasn’t very comfortable. It wasn’t very enjoyable. It didn’t feel right at all.


I was instructed to press the deflate button and make my way to the sea bed, along with my instructor. Dutifully, I did as I was told. I held the inflator as high above my head as humanly possible, and gripped the deflate button with all my strength; in the hope I would manage to get underwater.


An anvil couldn't have got to the bottom before me. 



All I remember was seeing sun, water line, a blur; concluding with a cloud of silt as I buried myself to the waist in the sea floor.



It was fair to say I was especially over weighted.



The Process of Becoming Correctly Weighted 


Once I became a fabulous diver it was clear my weight belt needed to be addressed, and I conducted the painful process of correctly weighting myself for diving in the sea.



Why weight correctly?

Safety

It is safer to dive with the correct amount of lead. If a diver is overweighted and was to experience a BCD failure; they would plummet to the bottom of the sea, most likely being unable to fin to the surface. In a shallow site this would be manageable, but over a shelf or drop off - the results could be fatal. 






Trim

Too much lead causes a diver to swim in a more vertical position, rather than the desired horizontal. Weight around the hips drags them down, and a diver can respond by constantly ‘kicking up’ to counteract the negative buoyancy.




Comfort

Carrying huge amounts of extra weight is uncomfortable. Wifebuddy found her initial dives so uncomfortable she wasn’t convinced scuba was an enjoyable past time at all; even considering quitting all together. That would have been tragic.

I always found a belt with lots of blocks prodded and poked me; and not in a pleasant way. This resulted in my dives being a constant battle to find a comfortable position. 


Expense

Lead is expensive, so the less you have to buy the better. It is also inevitable that a diver will lose a weight belt at some point when handing it up to the boat; the less lead on the belt: the less money you just lost. 




Options

Weight can be placed at strategic points on a diver to aid even distribution, thus leading to splendid trim in the water. Once the correct amount of weight is calculated, ankle weights, trim weights, tank weights and/or steel back plates can all be used as part of a divers weighting system.


Tiredness

Carrying stuff makes me tired. Lead is heavy. 

The less weight you have to carry about on land, or in water, makes you less tired. Less tired is good. 








How to weight correctly? 


At a recreational level a simple procedure is recommended:

  • Empty a cylinder to 50 bar 
  • On the surface take a huge lungful of air 
  • Dump all the air from the BCD and drysuit (if worn) 
  • The result should be the diver floating at eye level on the surface. 

At a technical level:

  • Empty twinset to 30 bar 
  • Dump air from wing and drysuit (if worn) 
  • Decend to 3m and hold at that depth 
  • Maintain neutral buoyancy breathing in the middle of the lungs 


When to conduct a weight check?

A weight check should be conducted every time something changes:

Kit

Any change in gear, BCD, canister light, back plate, cylinders all affect a diver’s buoyancy.










Thermal protection

Under garments when wearing a dry suit can have massive impacts on weight required. It is important to remember this in the winter months when layering up.


Dry or wet suit

A new wet suit is more buoyant than the old knackered one with all the holes in it; even if the same model as previous.

A dry suit required different weighting than a wetsuit. If you swap between the two you may require different quantities for each.





Body weight

Changes in body fat and muscle mass can affect the weight belt. If you notice your suit “shrinking” over the Christmas period, if may be worth doing a quick weight check on your first dive of the New Year.



The new season

If you take a break over the colder months, a check is advised when returning to the salty stuff.



Conditions

Salt water requires more lead than fresh water. That said, all salty bits aren’t created equally. My local lough has a lower salinity level than the Red Sea; I always find I need an extra pound or two when diving in Egypt.





Even though I dive pretty much every week in the same kit, I try and conduct a proper weight check every couple of months to allow for physical changes to both me and my gear. A sensible technical instructor fellow advised me to do a check every 6 weeks.



I have worked out over the years that weighting is unique to every diver. You cannot compare like for like; you need what you need to get down, and that’s all there is to it.

I have had dive centres look bewildered when I explain i only need 2 lbs of weight to compliment my 3mm wet suit; but they hadn’t noticed the steel backplate on my BCD.

Women seem to hate me regularly, as they need more weight than I do; this somehow translates to me calling them fat.



Conclusion 


There you have it; a guide to the dreaded weight check.

On the conclusion of your next dive conduct a quick weight check; you may be surprised to learn you could shed a few pounds.



Safe diving folks.

The Log Book

My First Log Book


It was the end of my PADI Open Water course before I managed to get my watery paws on my very own Log Book. Wifebuddy, on the other hand, was in possession of hers from the first day.


That was because she stole mine.


There was a delay in the PADI course materials making their way to our dive school, and the instructor only had one Open Water folder thing left in stock; which he handed to me at the conclusion of our confined pool sessions.



That was fine.



Upon returning home I made the mandatory post dive brew, while Kerri flicked through the manuals, tables and log book. By the time I returned with tea, Kerri had scrawled her name across everything; as a small child would upon receipt of their first mathematics jotter.



It appeared I didn’t have log book after all.



Nevertheless, by the finale of our course I had received my acclaimed, blue plastic, zip locked PADI folder containing my own log book.

My Log Book


I took great pride in completing my dive logs. I dutifully filled in all the required information about every dive; giving a very detailed account of what I saw, how I felt, what I learned, along with all the technical information on my gear.

We subsequently handed our log books to our instructor so he could sign us off, proclaiming Wifebuddy and I ambassadors of the sea.



I took my log very seriously; I presumed it was something that PADI could ask to see at any stage to verify my status as a diver, and it was imperative it was maintained accordingly.

Upon receiving my log back from my instructor I was horrified; it was defecated with sarcastic comments.



My so called instructor had ruined my log book! 


Every dive we conducted; detail of an ill fitting wet suit, mask removal failure, the leaking dry suit, the cold water, the bad visibility – all provided a great source of amusement for my so called instructor, and was mocked accordingly.



Wifebuddy on the other hand had a completely different log book. Hers was full of praise and congratulatory remarks, explaining she was a phenomenal diver and, I quote; “Should be staff.”




Our instructor took great pleasure and satisfaction as we flicked through the notes; his every increasing grin spreading across his stupid face.

I too enjoyed a sense of great pleasure and satisfaction, as I made a mental note we would not be taking any further courses, or purchasing any gear from him in the near future.

Well, aside from PADI rescue, and a set of regulators.



Damn him. Damn him to hell.



Time progressed, my log book experience was forgotten, and I often look back upon it with a grin myself.

That was until Paul Toomer saw fit to revive the trend as he signed our log books at TekCamp. We had explained the joke and he thought it was great, subsequently resuscitating the gag on Kerri’s log.



Thanks mate.





What to Log?



I have logged every dive I’ve ever done, and here’s what I put in it:



Dive Site Information



I often add information about a site that may be useful in the future.

  • Entry / Exit points
  • Parking
  • Air / nitrox availability 
  • Food / Drink
  • Site Fees
  • Dive flag requirement
  • Boat traffic
  • Local laws 


Temperature

Keeping track of the water temperature is very useful. When the season changes you can go back to your log and get an idea of how comfortable your dive will be, and if a decompression dive is a good idea; after all, no one likes cold stops.


Thermal Protection



This is linked with water temperature. When diving a dry suit, it pays to keep track of which undergarments work in specific temperatures.

If you dive a wet suit periodically you can judge when it is feasible. The “flush” isn’t pleasant at the best of times, never mind if it’s colder than you thought comfortable.




Weighting

This is one of my primary reasons for keeping a log.

I constantly switch tanks, undergarments, canister lights; all the things that can screw up the task of establishing neutral buoyancy.

I always conduct a weight check when I change any part of my diving kit, and keep a record of all the variables in my log book, along with the lead required for each.

Now, when I head to warm waters in a 3mm suit wearing an Ali 80 I simply check my log and know what lead to ask for before I even arrive.

Nothing replaces a proper weight check, but it’s a good starting point.


Air Consumption


Most log books provide an area to record tank pressure at the beginning of the dive and what remained at the end.

This is great for dive planning on future sites that have similar profiles to those dived previously.

Combined with depth records, it can also be used to calculate Surface Air Consumption (SAC rate). All divers should be aware of their SAC rate, even roughly, for numerous reasons.



Additional Equipment

Certain dives require more, or less, gear than others. I keep a note of what cylinders, stage bottles, lights, and reels I used on a particular dive, if any.

It’s better to only bring what’s required on a dive, and leave behind what you don’t.


Marine Life

One of the main reasons I go diving is to look at stuff; this includes the fishes.

I like to record species, numbers and general aquatic life on dive sites. This can be interesting when visiting a site at a different time of year, or on a night dive, to see how the marine life changes.



Wreck Information

As a fan of wreck diving I like to get as much information as possible about a particular shipwreck prior to the dive itself. The history of a wreck can be recorded in a log book alongside what was noted on the actual dive.

This can be fascinating. You can often see how wrecks have deteriorated over time, and even witness the damage that caused the wreck to end up on the bottom in the first place.


Dive Analysis


Plan the dive and dive the plan. Although that’s the idea behind a dive, it sometimes doesn’t end up that way.

If a dive goes a bit wobbly, it can be useful to write down what went wrong, or what made it a crap day out.

I have found it very helpful, often indicating a particular moment of a dive that caused the problem. This in turn can provide elements that require further training or refinement.



Online or Offline?



I’m a fan of the physical log book; i.e. pen and paper.

I love the digital age and I am a great user of all things internety, but I find the original paper log book works for me. There are a million resources of online and digital based logs out there; a visit to the almighty Google will reveal all.




There are mobile phone things as well which will record your dives.

Don’t forget your trusty dive computer can most likely download your dive to your laptop; often containing options for additional dive information.






To Log or not to Log?



It’s an age old question that divers throw around from time to time around the camp fire, on a dive boat, or hanging about the dive shop.

Should i log my dives?


I log everything.


As my introduction clearly demonstrates; log books can, and should be, a source of fun. Scuba diving is fun; so why can’t the log book be?

I love reading back over my initial comments on my first few dives. All I did was complain; it’s a miracle I kept on diving. My PADI instructor had the right idea, he attempted to make the dives a fun experience rather than focusing on the negative.

Tall Poomer simply continued the thread, adding further comedic value to my log.



It’s also useful to have evidence of past dives when visiting a resort, a new dive centre, or if taking a course. Technical dive courses require you have a certain number of dives, and at certain depths; if a log is up to date, the proof is all there.



The dive log is the DeLorean that allows a diver to visit their diving history, and I think every diver should record something about their diving; you can’t remember it all, why not just write it down?

Was that a good dive? Let me check!



Do you log your dives?

What do you want to be when you grow up? - A Rock Star!

I wanna be a rock star when i grow up!

This is a conversation I had with Wifebuddy the other evening; inspired by my recent(ish) decision that I would like a different job. At the ripe old age of 35 and 10 years of dedicated service, I have decided driving a truck is getting boring.


My job is non-stressful, but does require working night shift, lifting heavy stuff, it’s not particularly well paid, other truckers are morons, and it’s bloody repetitive.

Kerri’s job is the complete opposite; standard hours, doesn’t lift heavy stuff, is really stressful and gets paid lots.



Kerri may argue she doesn’t get paid enough, but that’s an entirely different debate. Thankfully it’s adequate to take me on frequent global diving holidays.



When I was at school we had a “careers tutor”; a terribly unapproachable woman you had to converse with regarding a possible career path.


We called her Fugly.


I attempted to explain to Fugly on numerous occasions that I wanted to be rock star, and was working ferociously on my songs.



Fugly was less than supportive and explained, in no uncertain terms, I would become a loser when I grew up; and should focus on accountancy, or apply for a job in the bank. My main concern was that every bloke in my year received the same advice; and I wasn’t convinced the world needed just so many accountants or bank tellers;

oh, the irony…


At no point did Fugly encourage me to do anything exciting with my life; cowboy, astronaut, stunt man, rock icon, porn star, reality TV celebrity or race car driver; none of them were on the ‘pathway to success’ poster in the careers room.



One final omission was The Scuba Instructor.



I imagine every diver, that becomes properly obsessed with scuba, considers becoming a professional scuba diving instructor. It's inevitable.



Upon completion of our PADI Advanced Open Water course, Wifebuddy and I continued to hang out with our instructor, helping with the diving school in return for free diving.

Looking back we got quite good value from it; free boat diving, free air, free tank rental and any gear we needed. All we had to do was show up at the pool once a week, tag along on the weekend dives to help kit-up the students and so forth.

Kerri demonstrating skills in the pool


This was splendid for a period of a few months, until the school finally imploded.


Without the dive centre we were left all alone in the big, bad scuba world, and opted to just go diving lots rather than continue training. For the next 2 years that’s exactly what we did. Perhaps if the school hadn’t disintegrated we may have progressed up the PADI Pro ladder; alas, we will never know.



Back to the here and now; I am still considering my career prospects.

In defiance of Fugly, I continue to play in a band [Honey For Christ], do some gigs, write and record music; generally enjoying the heavy metal life.


That said; 13 years in, my band is not particularly famous and I do need a ‘normal’ job to finance it.

Perhaps Fugly was right after all.

Drunk on roof of motor home - not a loser!

As Kerri and I pondered my job prospects I began to think about the scuba instructor thing once again.


Would I like to be a scuba instructor?


I have become friends with a number of instructors of many different levels. I can clearly see the work involved, and the personal qualities essential to becoming successful in a very competitive field.


Initially, the lifestyle of the full time instructor appears amazing; simply donning a wet suit now and again, perhaps teaching hot chicks a thing or two about surviving the deep blue, all placed against the back drop of a sun soaked paradise.



The reality seems quite different.



Scuba instructors never stop.



The phenomenon of social networking allows me to keep track of all my instructor chums every single move; it is mind boggling.

My facebook feed is littered with scuba instructors from all agencies; TDI, GUE, IANTD, PADI, BSAC; and from every corner of the globe.



Their status updates and tweets are all identical.





I don’t think i have what it takes, well, apart from the drunk bit; i have that in spades.



The lifestyle, the top brass of the scuba instruction world adhere to, is insane.


I am fully aware they get to travel to really cool countries and get to experience amazing dives, but the price is just too high for me.


I also couldn't cope with the stress.

Me? Stressed?


I listened to Clare Wilders (aka Divebunnie - an instructor in Egypt) explain a scenario where she had to aid a diver plummeting over a drop off in The Red Sea, when the elbow of his BCD separated.

I know a technical instructor who had to deal with a diver attempting to bolt to the surface from 100m.


These types of incidents can have fatal results if not managed correctly. Instructors are responsible for keeping people alive while they learn, and providing them with the necessary tools to ‘not die’ once on their own.



Why I can’t be a scuba instructor


  • I couldn’t cope with being away from Kerri, the cats or home on a regular basis
  • I don’t like airport food
  • I couldn't cope with being responsible for a divers life
  • The hours worked per week are crazy
  • Every time I don my drysuit it eats another few locks of hair - I'm too vain to be bald



Ultimately I have the utmost respect for scuba diving instructors, but I just don’t think I could do it.



When I really think about it; I’m too selfish. Scuba diving is mine. I want my diving to centre on Kerri and I; that’s when I enjoy it most. I would be too afraid of the apathy setting in if I did it for a living.



In conclusion I will not be training to be a scuba instructor, so all the future divers are safe for a little longer yet.



Now, where are the keys to my truck anyway?

Scuba Supermarket - The Dive Shop

A dive shop, by definition, is a place where a diver can go and buy scuba stuff.

There was a point in my life when I didn’t know what a scuba shop looked like; that of course is now a hazy memory stashed alongside numerous nights in the pub.


My preconceptions of a dive shop, in hindsight, are rather amusing.


I imagined walking into a humongous Tesco-type supermarket; but rather than displaying cold meat, cheese and fried chicken, it would contain isle upon isle of scuba gear.

I envisioned shelves of dive computers, rails of drysuits, regulators dripping from the ceiling, boxes of boots, hangers of BCD’s, and a whole section dedicated to masks; an underwater opticians of sorts.

As with Tesco, I decided I would be awarded a loyalty card upon entry, preloaded with scuba points; ready to receive my first discount on a Suunto D9.



The first dive shop I visited was ever so slightly different.



My instructor didn’t have a shop (long story - we'll save it for another post), so I resorted to the phone book to find one nearby; Sam’s Scuba Store was top of the list.

Google maps told me all I needed to know; and as we have previously established, not only does the mighty Google know what we want, but also how to get us there.



I planned my first visit to Sam’s Scuba Store with great enthusiasm and allocated an entire day for the affair.



I explained to the Sat Nav where I wanted to go; which is a fruitless task as my Sat Nav is a lying bastard, consistently deciding to take me elsewhere. I can’t determine if the unit enjoys my driving, the countryside or simply taking the piss; either way it took us 20 minutes longer to get there than Google predicted.



I suspect Google will kill my Sat Nav.



Destination on right” squawked the small bionic woman on the dashboard.



As per usual, the Sat Nav was lying. I stared out the car window and was simply greeted by a fence, a gnome, a front door and the back end of a dusty, mid-priced saloon; no huge scuba supermarket.




As I weighed up my options I noticed a scuba cylinder in the driveway. Closer inspection of the house revealed a piece of compressor in a flower pot, a mask strap lay dying on a paving slab, and a single jet fin was attempting a bid for freedom over the fence.



Sam’s Scuba Shop was actually Sam’s Fucking House.

Sam was a lying bastard.

Sam didn’t own a scuba shop.



Nevertheless, I was there and figured I may as well investigate.



I wandered up the path, which was more of a scuba graveyard, and finally noticed the garage door had “S m’s S uba S op” etched onto it with black marker.



What followed was a scene from a horror movie.



I gingerly leaned against the door as it whined in protest…



Hello?



Sam?



Nothing.



I moved slowly into the gloom, and as the light faded I could make out a faint drilling sound.


Christ the night. 


I pondered if Sam had been murdered; and at that moment some psycho scuba hater was chopping him into small pieces, slowly stuffing the remains into a mask box. 


Venturing towards the rear of the garage I was slowly engulfed in darkness, but could see strands of light pushing through a cobwebbed window on the far wall.

The shards of light fell onto a large human figure, looming over an intimidating contraption, evidently producing the whirring noise.



Sam?




My voice quivered and I barked a little louder;



SAM!



The figure span on his feet, slipped into a spasm, and promptly backed into the corner of the garage.



Holy shit.



As the man recoiled he backed into a heap of dry suits. He stumbled, tripped, and finally fell awkwardly on top of  them. In an attempt to right himself, his hands landed on more neoprene; which resulted in a further cascade of rubber garments.


He was burying himself in dry suits.

Alive.


At that point I lost the fear, as it was quickly being replaced by the urge to laugh out loud; it was overwhelming.



I stepped forward with a hand outstretched in a meagre gesture of help.



As my hand hung in limbo, the dry suits slowly carpeted the ground; finally giving the figure a solid footing to heave his sulking frame from the deck.



Sam?



Christ the night.



Sam got himself to his feet and brushed himself down as if nothing had happened; the way a child would attempt to hide their embarrassment after going over the handle bars on their BMX.

He failed miserably; confirmed by his reddening neck line.





Sam: “Uh, what you want?”

Me: “I’m a diver. I wanted to look around your… eh …. garage?”

Sam: “But what do you want?”



By that stage I was petrified I may end up inside a mask box, so I quickly blurted



Me: “I want a drysuit hose!”



Despite my sudden enthusiasm, I didn’t need a drysuit hose. I already had 2 drysuit hoses. We walked to the ‘front’ of the shop and he grimly handed me a hose.



Sam: “Twenty pounds”

Me: “Great, do you take credit card?”



Judging by his facial expression to the question, I was concerned I had inadvertently asked him for sex up the wrong’un.



Me: “Em … actually, I have cash. It’s fine.”



I handed over the cash for my 3rd drysuit hose; no bag, no receipt, no thanks.



I concluded that my visit to Sam’s Scuba Shop was over. I attempted to browse the scuba delights on offer, but merely caught a glimpse of a set of Cressi regulators that Moses may have left in for a service.


I thanked Sam, wished him safe diving, and left twenty pounds poorer; trailing my drysuit hose behind me.



I visited Sam’s Scuba Shop on a few more occasions to get air, but by the 3rd visit his prices had escalated so much I simply couldn’t do it any longer.

He also seemed dreadfully upset I was taking his precious air from him; not to mention that I had to telephone in advance to confirm availability.


Air is everywhere; he had a compressor - what was the problem?



I returned to Google and was re-directed to another store a substantial distance away.



I don’t resent a single mile.



My new shop is awesome: 


  • Nitrox up to 32% is always available

  • If I call in advance they can make sure they have richer mixes.

  • Staff are super friendly, mostly young(er) and extremely enthusiastic

  • The shop, although small, has stock relevant to this decade

  • The tech guy can service 90% of my gear

  • They will talk scuba all day, yet not preach or declare omnipotence

  • I get a cup of tea and a biscuit 


All these things, and more, are critical to the success of a dive shop and it baffles me how some ‘business men’ run their stores.

I appreciate the scuba industry is a niche market, but if you CHOOSE to become involved, make an effort – your livelihood will depend on your attitude.


Do you enjoy visiting your dive shop?