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.

STAR WARS – SCUBA WARS

I’m a big fan of Star Wars.

I remember religiously watching them as child every Christmas, and at every possibility, dressing up as one of the characters. My dad made me a rather splendid light sabre from a drain pipe one particular Halloween; that I continue to play with, after about ten beers.

The light sabre was great, but nothing will top the year my Granny constructed a complete Ewok costume from some rather unconvincing fake fur material. The result was a kind of homeless looking Paddington Bear, possibly addicted to crack.

The battle for the underwater empire

On my last birthday the parents were kind enough to get me the Blu-Ray boxset; praise to High One for the introduction of the Amazon wish list. I thoroughly enjoyed watching all 6 movies over the space of a weekend; the risk of divorce was high, but it was well worth it.



Why do women not like Star Wars?



Upon completion of the Star-Wars-Athon I wondered how the characters would get on when combined with my passion of the scuba world…



DARTH VADER

come to the dark side
Having completed his PADI Open Water and enjoying hundreds of reef dives in the life infested waters of The Red Sea, Darth soon became obsessed with scuba diving. His skills flourished, becoming a star of the local dive shop; others soon came to him for guidance in buoyancy and the refined techniques of fining.

It wasn’t long after that Vader formed GUE. He and his plethora of followers discovered a darker side of diving, retreating to the caves of Florida constantly working on the skills required to take over the underwater galaxy.

He was eventually killed by his own son in the name of UTD.






OBI-WAN KENOBI

Ben basically invented scuba diving. He is very old.

Living out in the hills alone, surrounded by nothing but the great outdoors; Ben went a bit potty. One day whilst preparing a pot of tea, he wondered if it would be possible to breathe underwater.

use the force


With the aid of an old fire extinguisher, a vacuum cleaner and far too much time, Ben quickly worked out a method of surviving breathing in liquid.

Despite being able to make a small fortune selling the units privately, he happily shared his knowledge with a local farm boy; Luke, who subsequently patented the idea, earning a place in the history books.

Ben lives on in the spirit of every scuba diver.



THE EMPEROR

use your anger
This guy had been diving for decades, and knew everything about scuba diving through tried and tested experience. Having become heavily involved in the club diving scene, The Emperor soon realised what was missing – the formation of one club, one reign; a senate.

The Emperor soon introduced GSAC; The Galactic Sub Aqua Club.

Entrance to the club is simple, but once in there is no possibility of leaving. Bureaucracy and red tape hinder all movements and activity.

The banishment of certain styles of kit configuration was The Emperor’s downfall; reports suggest he was strangled with a long hose at the hands of Darth Vader, after refusing him a teaching permit.

This is, of course, unfounded.




JABBA THE HUT

Jabba was noted every weekend at the local quarry, skulking about in his half donned dry suit. He was renowned for having the largest weight belt in the club, and the smallest personality.

Jabba suffered frequent problems finding a dive buddy, and so spent most of his time sweating; perched on a nearby bench barking orders and advice to new divers.

Jabba’s dive rig was like a Christmas tree and it was thought he choked upon getting entangled in his own McMahon reel.



A student diver, Princess Leia, was present at the time but saw nothing.



HAN SOLO

Everyone loves to see Han arriving at the dive site. When not diving, Han can be seen vigorously working on his big 4x4; he loves that old truck and swears someday he’ll get the turbo fixed.

He’s the crazy, risk taking diver that everyone wants to be. Han loves to cave dive and is forever discovering new systems; always making it back to the surface with just 1bar of air in his tanks.



Han has been known to get himself in a trouble the odd time, mostly at the dive shop, especially as he’s a bit of a ladies’ man.

Also bear in mind that wherever Han goes, his long-haired-stoner-hippy-dive-buddy Chewy is never far behind.



LANDO CALRISSIAN

"Trust me!"
Long time dive buddy of Han Solo, Lando is also a popular guy on the dive scene. Lando is a bit of a wheeler dealer, currently running a second hand dive shop; Cloud City.

Renowned for his killer smile, many a diver has left his shop with a dual bladder wing and a pair of split fins they weren’t sure they really needed.













LUKE SKYWALKER

I know everything already
Luke Sykwalker is simply a pain in the ass. 

Currently a PADI Divemaster Luke thinks he knows everything; is constantly studying, yet never manages to complete his instructor exams. Luke is proficient in dive theory but lacks the dive techniques, constantly striving to become an instructor trainer.

If Luke slowed down a little he could be brilliant, but is overly focused on living up to his father’s reputation.

No one really likes him.



YODA

decompress you must
Yoda was a clever little fellow who studied the science of diving, as much as the physical activity. Although small in stature, Yoda was one of the finest divers to grace the sea, yet didn’t show his skills too often.

He was predominantly known for his teachings and writings, including “Deco For Divers.” His book was initially branded witchcraft, as it speaks of using the force rather than relying on technology, but was later cleared of all associations with the dark side.

Although often difficult to understand, Yoda will be missed dearly.



PRINCESS LEIA

I look good!
Diving is a male dominated sport, yet there is always one wee girly set to change the norm. Leia is a feisty wee minx and insists on doing things all her own way.

She cannot be told anything, is cheeky and always carries her own twinset. Leia is constantly flirting with the male divers at the club, and thought to be doing a line with Han Solo.

Most divers will have to admit she does look well in a 2 piece wet suit.




BOBA FETT

Boba Fett was a solo diving, scooter loving, rebreather fanatic. Boba modelled himself on Phil Short, right down to his black VR Sentinel unit.

Some believe Phil had cloned himself and sent Boba into caves before him as a safety precaution; as the miners did with canaries in the olden days.





Nevertheless, Boba’s passion was deep caves, and it was the mouth of the Sarlacc cave system that claimed him.

Han Solo was thought to be involved in the incident, but swears he couldn’t see anything at the time due to silt out.







R2D2

This unit is favoured among deep wreck and cave divers, often known at the Blue & White Box of Death. Despite early scrubber problems, the model is actually the safest rebreather on the market and certainly more reliable than the previous incarnation; R5D4.

Spokesperson for R2 Technology, Anthony Daniels, explained at DEMA that the R2D2 is the closest thing you can get to diving a twinset.







Use The Force

Darth Short


So there you have it, the Galactic Empire of the scuba world. Safe diving everyone!




Did I leave anyone out?

12 (Diving) Days of Christmas

Christmas is a joyous time of year, and i figured no one would particularly want to spend their precious holiday time reading my ramblings. 

So, Wifebuddy and I decide to write a song for all my I ARE DIVER readers.


My new hit single is based up on The 12 Days of Christmas song; click here if you don't know it to get the idea.


Enjoy folks and happy holidays!



On the first day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

A black shiny O – S – T – C

On the second day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


On the third day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

3 GUE divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


On the fourth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C

On the fifth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C
On the sixth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C

On the seventh day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C



On the eighth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

8 Tanks-a-Filling
7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


On the ninth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

9 Buddys Breathing
8 Tanks-a-Filling
7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


On the tenth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

10 Bar remaining
9 Buddys Breathing
8 Tanks-a-Filling
7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


On the eleventh day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

11 Rebreathers Breaking
10 Bar remaining
9 Buddys Breathing
8 Tanks-a-Filling
7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C



On the twelfth day of Christmas, my Wifebuddy gave to me...

12 Divers Diving
11 Rebreathers Breaking
10 Bar remaining
9 Buddys Breathing
8 Tanks-a-Filling
7 Sentinel’s Flying
6 Reels-a-Laying
5 ‘O’ Rings
4 th Element Halos
3 GUE Divers
2 Turtle Fins
And a Black Shiny O – S – T – C


Happy Christmas and God Bless us; one and all!

The Big Thumb

Thumbs Up!

Hand signals are extremely important to a new diver, and I recall using all of my brain power (which is massive) to retain the hand gestures my diving instructor demonstrated on my initial try dive. I got the usual instruction; the OK signal, the wobbly hand, the pointing at something I was unhappy about, and the ultimate of dive signals –‘the big thumb.’


If I give you the thumbs up” my diving instructor began, “that means we surface; immediately.” 


At the time, I imagined if I ever saw the 'thumbs up' I would belt to the surface like a cruise missile; I had no intention of EVER being left behind alone.


With a little further tuition I learned that 'the big thumb’ really just signalled the dive was over; and was to be followed by a slow, controlled ascent including the safety stop. I was also informed 'the big thumb’ was non-negotiable; once it’s delivered, it’s time to go.


One of my initial outings to the sea involved Instructor Man, and another student, as I continued my PADI Open Water course.

My buddy and I were on our knees, 10m deep, in the local Lough performing regulator removal and recovery.


After inhaling my second mouthful of sea water, Instructor Man decided it was time to go; before I reduced the water level of Strangford Lough any further. Instructor Man gave the two of us a very distinct ‘thumb’ each.


I did the very new diver response thing; nodded my head, caught myself on, returned the thumb, provided an OK sign, and eventually finned to the surface.


As I broke the watery threshold, I scanned around to find I was alone. As per instructed, I inflated my BCD, to within an inch of its life, and waited… and waited.

Just as ‘the fear’ was starting to kick in, my instructor and buddy finally decided to join me; thank Christ.


At our debrief it transpired my buddy had neglected to follow the specific instruction related to 'the big thumb.’ Instructor Man was less than happy and re-established our hand signals, stressing the importance of, not only doing everything he said, but also to follow the ‘end dive’ signal without hesitation.




That really stuck with me; even to this day.




Wifebuddy and I use the big thumb on every dive; at the conclusion of another fabulous underwater adventure. That said, on our last dive it was featured long before the planned time. This of course resulted in a premature finale; but, all things considered it was the correct thing to do.



The plan was a simple shore dive on The Inner Lees; a shallow wreck dive in Strangford Lough. We have visited the site a number of times and know the wreck very well.

The Inner Lees
courtesy DV Diving


Jeep parked up and buddy checks done, we waded through the long shallow area, finally reaching a depth where we could allow the big wings to take the weight off the twin 7’s.

Kerri wading in


It was agreed Wifebuddy would lead the dive as she was more familiar with the site. I also brought along my camera with strobe attached, in the vain hope of capturing something in focus and not engulfed in darkness.

That was perhaps a little enthusiastic, correct lighting and focus still eludes me.

Good viz in the shallows

The dive is best conducted on low tide as that is when the wreck breaches the surface; the 80m swim out is a little easier to navigate that way. Our last dive however, featured a particularly high tide and the wreck was completely submerged, so we had to guesstimate.

Wifebuddy picked a bearing; we descended a few metres and began to swim towards the suspected wreck location. The Inner Lees is one of the few sites in the Lough that sports quite good visibility, well, in comparison to most sites over here, but on that particular day it was uncharacteristically poor.


Viz began to deteriorate as we progressed


Between current and visibility problems we opted for a bit of a surface swim. I hate surface swimming, but it was a necessary evil. Finally, I banged a fin on something solid; I stuck my face in the water and confirmed we were on the wreck.


Regrouping, Wifebuddy and I decided to descend down the side of the hull, keeping close together; as this wasn't our usual practice and it would take a moment or two on the sea bed to orientate ourselves.

On the bottom visibility was atrocious, and personally, I had absolutely no clue where abouts on the wreck we were. Kerri signalled she knew what was going on and led the dive.

After 10 minutes I started to become increasingly unhappy about the whole thing. The dive was much darker than usual, heavy sediment was swirling around, and I was having difficulty keeping track of Kerri as I duly followed her about.

I’m not usually bothered by bad vis, but I couldn’t orientate myself properly; I didn’t recognise anything.

An overcast day added to a dark dive


We reached the rear of the wreck where she had broken up, or so I thought. It looked vaguely familiar, but in the grim visibility I couldn’t be sure. Certain parts seemed to be in the right place, but beams, pipes and various other metal struts started to make me believe otherwise.



Then the fear really kicked in as I pondered the question – am I inside the fucking thing?



My breathing accelerated and I grabbed Kerri’s arm, attempting signals about an overhead environment. Kerri signalled that everything was OK and to continue on.

The Inner Lees is pretty well broken up, but there are areas where it would be difficult to surface once entered. I became increasingly convinced we’d inadvertently penetrated the wreck.



This is my ultimate fear when scuba diving.



I managed to keep my breathing at an acceptable level and attempted to rationalise the situation. I signalled Kerri to stop. It seemed unlikely we’d ventured into the ship as we had simply been following the hull, but I couldn’t be sure. Even if Wifebuddy knew where we going; i didn't.



I’d had enough. I was getting stressed and not enjoying the dive anyway. It was time to go. I checked my gauge; we’d only been in for 28 mins and had no decompression obligations.


I gave Wifebuddy the big thumb. Kerri responded with an OK and we began our ascent.


I watched my depth gauge as the numbers decreased. I strained my eyes in the hope of sunlight, but nothing; the visibility had eaten my world. I fully expected to hit my head on a steel ceiling as my gauge fell below 1m and I held my arm up to protect myself from the pending ‘clunk.’



Thankfully I broke the surface without the aid of a blow torch and all was well. I have to admit I breathed a sigh of relief and was totally ready to get the fuck out of the sea and go home.







On our debrief Kerri explained she knew our location on the wreck exactly, but was about to terminate the dive just before I did. We had been experiencing some nasty weather of late, and Wifebuddy was convinced the wreck had either shifted, or broken up further.

She had concluded that either way it was unsafe to continue as we simply couldn’t see what had changed.

Safe on dry land



Once a diver receives a big thumb, the dive is over; that is all there is to it. If appropriate, ascend; if not, make your way back to the exit point. There is nothing underwater worth dying for, and it will certainly be there on the next dive.



I am really looking forward to returning to the Inner Lees soon to investigate the possible changes to the site, but if at any point I’m not happy the same rule will always apply.

A familiar, shallow, simple dive site can be changed completely by poor visibility, sea conditions or a different approach.


The big thumb means it’s over; no matter what.

Big thumb = fins hung up for the day
Safe diving folks.

Where is your diving going? : The Master Plan

I predict diving in your future

The other weekend, a buddy of mine and I were discussing training options on the way to the dive site; as we always do. It never ceases to amaze me how I can continue to talk about, and be completely enthralled by, the same conversation every week; nevertheless it happens every time.


On this particular occasion the conversation climaxed with me diving a JJ rebreather, 100m deep, in a cave, discovering some crazy new system that explorers had been searching out for years; subsequently leading to solving the global economic crisis.








I would just like to clarify, that at the time of writing this piece of garbled nonsense, I am limited to 45m and don’t know what trimix tastes like. Also, upon concluding the expedition conversation, I dived to the staggering depth of 22m, in open water, in a sheltered lough in Northern Ireland, for about 45 minutes until I got cold.



Post dive, back in the jeep, the journey home consisted of the same conversation; the only real variation being the discovery of a missing U-Boat, that I raised from the deep with the aid of my smb.



I love talking diving, and I love discussing the huge opportunities that diving can lead to in my make believe world; however, it did spark my tiny brain to ponder a specific question: where do I want my diving to go?



I’ll be honest; I don’t really know where it will end up.



I have a definite plan for my next course, in fact I’ve three dive courses already scheduled – one even has a deposit paid; but why am I doing it? Will there be more?



Where am I now?

I recently entered the technical diving world; which opens up a bazillion more options than available at a recreational level, but I did possess a bit of a plan.

Northern Ireland diving is great, I love it, but a lot of the REALLY good stuff is deep. Some of it is just outside recreational limits, others are far beyond, and some are plain ridiculous.

My original plan was to enjoy some diving around the 40m-45m mark; so I completed TDI Advanced Nitrox & Decompression Procedures course. That was fine, but having completed it I didn’t feel 100% confident I could don a deco bottle, jump off a boat and conduct a technical dive the following weekend.

Kerri on our TDI course


To solve that problem I attended TekCamp 2011. It was brilliant, and I was given further skills to help me become more fabulous.

This actually worked very well, and I subsequently donned a deco bottle, jumped off a boat and conducted a technical dive on a very cool submarine off the coast of Ireland.



So where does that leave me now?



I still have a lot to learn that’s for sure, and although my primary objective has been completed, it merely gave me a glimpse of what’s available.



In short; I want more.



I can conduct technical dives now (to 45m); confidently, safely, within both my training and personal limit … but I could be better. I also want to visit things that are a bit deeper … soon.



How to get better

As with all my hobbies, I tend to get a little pre-occupied with my ability. I love playing guitar, writing music, blogging, music production, playing with computer stuff; but I’m simply not as good as I would like to be at any of them.

Ultimately it comes down to practice; after you exceed the point of natural ability.

I think my natural ability for diving is quite limited, and I have had to work quite hard to get my diving to the level it’s at now.



I’m not awesome, but I’m not bad either.



I don’t want to get better just to be amazing, and be adored by other divers as they bask in my wake; although that does feed into my narcissistic nature quite well. I want to improve my skills as it makes diving easier, and safer.

That is why I have decided to take the GUE Fundamentals course. I am hoping this course will focus on the very basic skills of my diving, giving me a more solid platform to build upon.

GUE Diver in perfect trim
http://www.portofinodivers.com/

Having already spent time with Rich Walker, a GUE technical instructor, I am confident GUE-F will bring a new dimension my diving.



Wifebuddy and I have also signed up for another session at TekCamp.

Primarily, we decided it was a splendid idea simply to catch up with our new scuba buddies we don’t get to see that often, go diving, possibly drink a little beer; upon reflection it will be so much more.

I learned tons at TekCamp 2011, yet barely scraped the surface, and there is no better place to pick the brains of 10 of the best divers the industry has to offer.



So, all of that will make me better. Then what?

Oh yes; getting deeper.



How to get deeper



It’s a bit obvious, but I need to complete another course. The next stage of my technical diving is IANTD Normoxic Trimix. So that’s what I plan to do with **Paul Toomer of Diving Matrix.

This will take me to the depths of 60m, and train me to use the devil gas known as Trimix.

The course will also include further honing of my basic skills, leading to continued improvement in the initial “getting better” goal.



** We decided on Paul as he has tattoos and likes heavy metal. This is critical for any dive instructor. I am also hoping to influence Rich Walker's musical preference during our GUE-F course; culminating in him becoming the number one fan of Prostitute Disfigurement.



In the mean time

The master plan is all very well, but it is in the future. In the mean time I am just going to keep diving as much as I can.

My technical diving experience is limited. I am totally prepared to become an explorer and all that, but I need to get a few more dives in yet. In fact, I need to get a lot more dives in.

I hope to conduct more diving in the 45m range in a lead up to Normoxic at the end of next year.


I may also drink some beer.



Conclusion

I guess I probably think too much about these things; it’s just in my nature. I like to have goals in life, a direction, a feeling that what I do is leading me somewhere.




Wifebuddy just likes to go diving; although it was her research into Irish diving that led to the obsession with Malin Head and the subsequent need to technical dive.

That’s the plan so far. Things change, and Wifebuddy has already pondered what the inside of a cave looks like.



That’s what you tube is for.



What are your diving goals?