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.

GUE Fundamentals Part 3: The Blue Hand of Education

DAY 3: By the third day I had stopped setting my alarm.



I figured I’d best get as much sleep as humanly possible, and rely solely on Kerri to get me up. Failing that I knew Rich would eventually come and get me.

I’m sure Wifebuddy had her alarm set, but I certainly didn’t hear it. She finally resorted to phoning my mobile from the kitchen at 8.00am to rouse me. I had also received a text message or two;

“Are you getting up?” … “Tea’s ready” … “Get up” … “Seriously - GET UP!”



It was well after 8.00am by the time I trundled down the stairs.



I had also stopped using the banister on the way downstairs, in the vain hope that any rest my arms got would aid in a full recovery before the first dive. That thought pattern was a little sanguine.



I joined the team in the kitchen and the morning ritual commenced; tea, Rich’s expensive coffee, and yet another bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

The house was becoming a very comfortable environment, feeling more like home from home, and images of Rainbow were conjured up in my mind; Kerri was George, I was Zippy and Rich was Geoffrey. 


I guess that left Shelley as Bungle; but that seemed a tad unfair.







S-DRILLS – DRY RUN


Breakfast done, it was straight to work and we practiced dry runs of the S-Drill. Regs were attached to backplates with cable ties, can lights donned (minus batteries) and our team of three began OOG scenarios.

Kerri and Shelley in cable tied kit


Rich slowly talked us through the procedure and we took it in turns being donor, receiver and the third man. The drills went well; it was merely a case of doing the right thing in the right order.

Shelley throws a tantrum!


In water, of course, everything changed.



BACK TO THE DIVE SITE


Capernwray was also very familiar by now; we quickly collected our twinsets, analysed our gas, kitted up and awaited our captain’s dive briefing.


Rich explained we would be repeating the Basic 5, and then he would select one of us to demonstrate an S-Drill, followed by the team rotating the scenario, concluding with an OOG ascent.




I was also given a few more tips on my frog kick. Rich seemed really keen to improve my kick a wee bit further every dive.

I gladly obliged and tried to do everything he said as the team finned out to the 6m platform.



BASIC 5 – ROUND 2


Within a minute of reaching the platform we got into formation and began the basic 5 drill. You could see the improvements in buoyancy control from each of us, along with enhanced situational awareness.


Kerri was number one, and rattled through without problem.


I was up next and repeated my performance from the day before; minus the face-plant. I was even becoming more stable with my mask off, which pleased me greatly.

Shelley had a few issues during her drill, developing a taste for her own light cord apparently, but she got there in the end.



S-DRILLS : WET RUN


With the Basic 5 nailed, we progressed to the S-Drill.


Rich levelled in front of us and our eyes darted from one another in apprehension, as to who would be selected for the demonstration.



It was Kerri!



I felt for her, she really had to up her game; the boss man needed her. Wifebuddy performed flawlessly as an out of gas diver, with Rich slowly going through the steps as the donor.



Our trio then took it in turns to donate and receive as we rotated the S-Drill amongst ourselves, with Rich adding any assistance if needed. The drills went very well, the final light cord check proving the only stumbling block.


The final drill consisted of Kerri out of gas, me donating, and Shelley in charge of the ascent.


Everything went very well until the 3m stop. Kerri and I were face to face the whole time, but unfortunately Shelley lost it a bit and disappeared from view; heading to the surface frantically dumping air from her dry suit.



The team thing confused me a little when things like that happened. What was the protocol? It hadn’t really been discussed. I decided Kerri was the “casualty” and our deco obligation was paramount, so we completed our stop and slowly ascended.



Lunch and the video debrief followed.



CAUGHT ON CAMERA, AGAIN!


If I was allowed one video from our class to take home, the OOG ascent would have been the one. I hadn’t realised that Rich had been filming the entire drill, and continued with us on the ascent.


We all watched as I donated my long hose, got Kerri sorted and began our ascent. It was soon apparent Shelley had an issue, and slowly drifted out of the frame. At that stage Rich decided to focus on Kerri and me as we held our simulated deco stop.



I was really pleased; our position in the water was great, trim was good and the ascent rate was awesome.



As we hovered at 3m I clearly signalled “Where is no.3?”


Kerri responded by raising her head, obviously tracing Shelley’s out of control ascent (and pending death if the deco had of been for real), looked straight back at me and gave an exaggerated shrug of the shoulders.



It was classic.



We all burst into fits of laughter and Kerri apologised profusely to Shelley, explaining that the tone of the shrug didn’t translate so well under water.



More laughter ensued during Kerri’s display of overt compassion for the OOG diver; it was so funny. A pattern developed demonstrating that every time Kerri donated her long hose, she cocked her head slightly to one side.




Rich summed it up beautifully;

“Kerri, when you donate your long hose you don’t need to empathise. I can almost hear your thoughts underwater ‘Aw, you’re out of gas; that must be dreadful – here, take mine.’”


Bless; must be the nurse in her.



VALVE DRILLS


After lunch we moved to valve drills.

Kerri a bit chilly before dive two

I really like valve drills, and had been preparing mentally for it all week; as the procedure was slightly different to that of my TDI training. At the shore we ran though several dry runs, then hit the wet stuff.


We loyally frog kicked our way to our platform, lined up, and Rich demonstrated.


It was encouraging to see Rich go through the same set up as I did when preparing, just much faster. I was getting concerned it was taking me too long to sort my “platform,” getting the adequate amount of gas in my suit, and making sure it was all where I wanted it to be.


My valve drill was pretty damn good. Buoyancy was perfect, but I was slightly off the horizontal when turning the valves; about 10 degrees Rich reckoned. It felt good.



THE BLUE HAND OF EDUCATION


The rest of the team didn’t have such a good day out.

Kerri held trim and buoyancy but seemed to struggle with her left post. A little misdirected aggression got her through, but Rich had to intervene on occasion to keep her right; his blue dry glove seemed to come out of nowhere, adjusting the odd valve here and there.



Shelley just didn’t appear to have the movement required to get at the valves, and after a few valiant efforts, repeated assistance from the blue hand of education, she gave up.



BACK TO THE CLEARWATER


Diving done for the day we headed back to the Rainbow House for a video debrief and lectures.


We re-watched the S-Drills, purely to laugh at the infamous “shrug” and “empathy nod” from Wifebuddy, moving on to debrief the valve drill.

My valve drill looked pretty good, but I could clearly see I was moving a little ‘heads up’ when manipulating the valves. Rich explained I really needed to ‘lean into it’ and really stretch my chest out. He seemed convinced I could get it done in perfect trim.



I stashed the knowledge for the next dive.




Kerri’s recording produced another classic video moment.


As the blue hand of education shifted Kerri’s centre post to aid her shut down, Wifebuddy lifted her head and gave Rich a very distinctive look of death. Kerri explained she only looked up to see what was going on, Rich and I concluded it was more likely; “Get off my valve you ****!”





DECOMPRESSION LECTURE


The evening lecture was on decompression. The GUE-F course is a recreational class, so decompression doesn’t really factor into it excessively. However, knowing our background, Rich was happy to go into a little more detail, which was brilliant; he did say it was turning into a bit of a Tech 1 class!

I especially enjoyed the “demonstration” of saturation rates; comprising of a cup of tea poured onto the beloved whiteboard, and a tissue. I’ll leave that with you…





PROJECT TIGER


Lectures concluded early and we all headed back to Capers to witness Rich in all his glory. That evening Mr Walker was giving a talk on a Project Baseline operation he is involved with.

We enjoyed dinner and pints as Rich set up his projector.



The crowds gathered and began a chant;








Rich stormed onto the stage, enjoying his fans, whipping them into frenzy, and finally began his talk on Project Tiger; … or something like that…




All joking aside, the talk was excellent. Project Tiger is a poignant tale, and I urge you to attend if Rich is in your area giving a presentation.






I’ll not go into detail, but I was a little concerned to find out BSAC own a tank.










BEDTIME


The talk concluded at 9.00pm, by which stage we were ready for bed. We explained to Rich we were retiring early and headed back to the cottage leaving him with his fans.


Once we got in I enjoyed a quick beer; but not without taking advantage of Rich’s absence, royally taking the piss out of him and his whiteboard.




I hit the hay and prepared for the final day of our class. I was sad.










DAY 4 loomed.


GUE Fundamentals Part 2 : Misdirected Aggression & Spag 'Bol



Apparently the alarm sounded at 7.00am again.


I must confess; I didn't hear it. I don't mean to keep going on about the swim test or my apparent lack of fitness; but I was knackered, hence I slept through the incessant beeping that usually makes me cringe at the thought of what the pending day would bring.

At 7.30am my natural body clock finally kicked in, and, as my senses slowly came to life, I remembered where I was, and what I was there for; diving.



Day 2 was all about in water stuff.

Wifebuddy in action


I trailed my newly elongated arms down the stairs, met Kerri, who had breakfast in hand; a choice of tea or coffee at the ready, and partially enjoyed Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

Don't get me wrong, I quite like the cereal, but to be honest, a big fry up would have been more desirable.



Within the hour the rest of the team were up and about, and the boss man had us in our drysuits.





HARNESS SIZING


A properly fitted harness is critical for pleasant diving, and I was eager for Rich to get mine sized properly once and for all; as well a showing me the correct method of adjustment.



He didn't disappoint.



As Shelley had been more or less sorted the day before, Wifebuddy and I got preferential treatment for the guts of an hour. My harness was pretty close; I had my shoulder straps in a good position, but I needed to shift the D-rings an inch and lengthen the crotch strap.

Kerri's needed completely redone.


By the time Rich had finished with us we looked like different divers. Once donned, I immediately noticed the raised D-rings, and became a little anxious I wouldn't be able to locate them; my muscle memory had adapted to the poor placement.



I was promptly educated in the workings of 'ball joints' and shown how to hit the D-ring every time with a double ender.



Oh, how that would come back to haunt me...





Kerri's rig looked awesome. I always thought it looked 'wrong', but for some reason she always seemed content to dive it the way it was; must be yet another woman thing i'll never understand.



By 10am all was done, and finally we made our way to Capernwray for a dive.



CAPERNWRAY


More affectionately known as "Capers" I must admit I really liked Capernwray Quarry. I know local divers find quarries a bit boring, which I fully understand, im lucky as I have a Lough at my back door, but as far as a big hole full of water goes; Capers is right up there.

View of Capernwray from the accommodation


The facilities are brilliant; big car park, lots of gases available, shop, service centre, rentals, training, changing area, and a cracking cafe in which you can walk about in your dry suit. Did I mention it’s fully licensed?

The staff were brilliant and obviously knew Rich well, and treated us students like new friends; we relaxed immediately.


GAS ANALYSIS

Orientation of the centre done, we finally got the twinsets out of the Ford Boring and got a fill of our new standard gas: 32% Nitrox.


Rich then educated his students in the dark ways of analysing and marking up cylinders after a fill.







All of us were tech trained anyway so it was familiar territory, but every agency has its own slant on things; nothing too out of the ordinary.



Gases analysed, we went for a cup of tea and dive briefing.




DIVE 1

Over tea Rich enlightening us in the finer arts of:

  • Buoyancy
  • Trim 
  • Balance 
  • Frog kick 
  • Modified frog kick 
  • Flutter kick 
  • Modified flutter kick 

perfect frog kick
The plan was simple; jump in the water, find the 6m platform, Rich would demonstrate his awesomeness; we would copy if flawlessly, get out and have lunch.



Yeah; just like that.



After a rather hideous walk the entire length of the humongous car park, we slumped onto some strategically based benches at the shore and began GUE EDGE; an almost clever acronym, designed to help a diver remember all the important parts that need stated before a dive.


G - Goal
U - Unified Team
E - Equipment


E - Exposure
D - Deco
G - Gas
E - Environment


It took a few days to get it to stick in my head; along with a new style of buddy check.


Initially I really didn't like our new buddy check, and felt Kerri and I had a better one. After several dives we soon got into the gist of it, and the more logical approach made sense, reducing the chance of missing something.


In hindsight we were just very set in our ways; I'm a bit old for all these changes...




Then we hit the water - awesome!



It felt phenomenal to get weightless and do what I had come for. The three of us made our way to the platform and did our best to remain stationary so Rich could perform for us.


The buoyancy stuff was pretty much as expected; I have a good grasp of how to control it, and was pretty stable once I got settled.


The balance exercise really brought a few things to light. Although I felt I had my arms out in front keeping me balanced, I soon learned I hadn't them spread wide enough. Keeping my legs further apart had a huge influence on balance as well; something I had never tried before.




That was something I would develop as the week progressed.


Trim is something I strive for; I love seeing divers that have the perfectly flat shape in the water, it looks so graceful as they kick and glide through space. I recall just doing everything Rich said; "Arch your back, clench your butt cheeks and keep your head back."

So, I did it. He seemed happy enough, so we moved on.




Watching the boss demonstrate propulsion was just fantastic. I've watched loads of videos of GUE divers looking all cool, fining through caves and stuff, but to see the control up close was unreal.


Demonstrations done, it was over to the students, and the 3 of us began circling the platform with our attempts of the various propulsion techniques. Rich hovered around with his big video camera, taking footage to "educate" us with later.





I felt a bit of a twat. I have been using the frog kick for years, and although in my mind I was doing exactly as Rich did, it felt awkward and weird. The flutter kicks felt much better in comparison, which was strange, as I had never used that type of kick before. The constant knees up was peculiar, but did make me feel pretty flat in the water.


After an hour the big thumb came out and our little team of 3 made our best effort to swim in formation back to the shore. It was iffy, but not bad.


Once out, we semi-stripped out of our suits and headed for lunch and a debrief.


CAUGHT ON CAMERA


I wasn't thrilled to see the camera sitting on the lunch table. I have never seen myself in the water, and I knew it would be educational at best.


Rich pressed play, and the 4 of us huddled around the tiny screen. 







I was happy and disappointed at the same time. My trim looked pretty good, in fact, I was damn pleased with it; but my frog kick was appalling. The power phase was good, but the recovery was abysmal; my fins drooped and lazily made their way back to my arse.


Disappointment washed over me. The kicker was; I had been fining about for years like that, thinking I was all tech and cool like; nah, not the case.

All the students had their problems and Rich gave us individual advice on how to improve the crappy bits.

I needed to point my toes after each power phase, in order to lift my fins and stop sending wash to the sea bed. I was cool with that; twinkle toes from then on!


WE ARE AS THREE

GUE diving is heavily based on the "team" thing. To aid our learning Rich manoeuvred 2 mustards and a mayo sachet around our lunch table to demonstrate how a team should move, and the benefit it brings.



It was actually quite fascinating and made a lot of sense, as expected.



A minute later rich began pouring a small pillar of salt onto his plate. The three of us leaned in close to see what the Jedi master was going to enlighten us with.

As we continued to loom in over Rich's plate he looked up, somewhat surprised; "what are you lot doing?"


We replied in unison: "Seeing what you’re doing with the salt."


Rich slowly and deliberately lifted a chip, pressed it into the salt and ate it; "I'm eating my chips you muppets"




DIVE 2

The next dive was the basic 5.

Basic 5
 
  • Reg remove and replace 
  • Regulator exchange and stow 
  • S-drill 
  • Mask flood 
  • Mask remove and replace 

All to be conducted remaining at a constant depth, and without moving.


We conducted a few dry runs on the benches by the shore, waded into the rather chilly 6c water, and made our way back to the platform.



Once there Rich demonstrated the back kick and helicopter turn. We three students again attempted to replicate; all on film of course.





The basic 5 followed. I was number one, so lined myself up, built my stable platform and started the sequence.



It didn't go too badly. The reg out stuff I found pretty straight forward, until I tried to clip off my main reg. (Remember the moved D-rings?)

Well, I kinda found the rings but my light cord also found them. Rich explained later he has only seen a diver clip to a light cord 3 times; 2 of which were me, as I repeatedly clipped the bolt snap to the cable: twice in a row.

By the second effort I got bit pissed and really threw the light head forward out of my way. The cable was clear and I found the d ring.

stupid light cord


The mask off stuff was as unpleasant as expected, but I struggled through it regardless.


By the time Shelley had made her effort, the water temp had dropped further and Rich ended the session.



Poor Kerri had to wait for her basic 5.





Diving for the day was completed and we headed back to the ranch for debrief and dinner.





MORE VIDEO

This time the video was plumbed into the TV and we got a really good look at ourselves. My frog kick was still dropping slightly, but rich explained it wasn’t a show stopper and was actually very good; he just felt with a little extra work I could really make it awesome.

I thought I was just about getting it right, but there did appear to be dramatic improvements from the morning session, so I made a mental note to really keep my fin tips up from then on.


I shall kick like Kermit!


My basic 5 was better than expected. Watching the light cord disaster was kinda funny, it looks so obvious on video;

"You're gonna clip that onto your cord mate ... told you"

Amazingly my buoyancy held quite well during the mask off drill, dropping only about 30cm or so, and face planting the platform. It needed a little polishing, but again nothing to worry about.




The video continued and we got to witness Kerri attempting to clip off a bolt snap to a D-ring. She had managed to clip bolt snap to bolt snap. Any tech diver can tell you; that's a disaster to get sorted in water, usually requiring a buddy to help out.

Wifebuddy, on the other hand, needed no such help and appeared determined to solve the problem alone, through persistence, brute force, bad temper, and finally pure aggression.





The snap hadn't a chance.


Rich explained Kerri had become a little task fixated and perhaps it was a touch of "Misdirected Aggression."


I could tell he was afraid, and quickly moved on...



DINNER


The camera was put to bed and Rich kindly treated us to fantastic spaghetti bolognaise. It was a great meal, and I did my best to finish the enormous helping I was issued.



The boss could eat.



LECTURES

Dinner was done by 9pm, and we moved to the comfortable part of the house for the gas planning lecture.

We covered: 

  • Minimum gas and how to calculate bar needed for a shared ascent. 
  • Turn pressure, based on minimum gas. 
  • Usable gas, and the various equations; all, halves and thirds 
  • Surface consumption rate; GUE version of sac rate.
evening lecture

The gas planning was brilliant. It really simplified how to plan a dive, and work out exactly how much gas was needed, rather than just defaulting to the "thirds" rule we usually used.



By 11pm I was a bit frazzled and class was adjourned.


Kerri skipped off to bed, but I allowed my brain to unwind a little with the aid of a Carlsberg. Rich and I chatted on for bit then finally called it quits.

It had been a really long day, I was exhausted, but satisfied; and waddled off to bed calculating the turn pressure for our local dive site in my head...




What would DAY 3 bring?


DAY 1

GUE Fundamentals Part 1 : Take me to the pool Rich!

SUNDAY


At 7.00am the alarm began to bleat.



Usually, when the electronic bringer of doom initiates its overture of depression, it signifies the beginning of a work day; but not last Sunday.

The reason for the ungodly awakening was simple - Wifebuddy and I had a ferry to catch; a ferry that took us over to the UK mainland to undertake our GUE-Fundamentals class with Rich Walker from Wreck and Cave.

I think my last post suitably described just how excited I was about beginning my GUE adventure.



For this expedition, my little jeep was left behind, in favour of the more economical 'Ford Boring' (aka. Ford Mondeo.) The boot was carefully loaded with twinsets and we hit the road.



In my wisdom I allowed Wifebuddy to take care of the non-important details including; ferry booking, travel times, food and locating my passport.

All I had to do in return was purchase the horrendously overpriced coffees, and drive the Ford Boring onto the ferry.





As a man I feel it is essential that we men, as a species, play up how difficult, frightening and critical, driving a car onto a ferry really is; reinforcing that all women are incapable.



Safely aboard, we located the most uncomfortable seats and began the 8 hour crossing.


THE FERRY


Usually, on such a ferry trip, Kerri and I would have our apple products loaded up with variable quantities of heavy metal music and movies to whittle away the boredom; not to mention a pint (or 5) of Carlsberg.



Not this time.



We decided to make the best use of our time by reading our GUE course materials and completing the workbooks; yes, we’re a bit ‘swotty’ when it comes to these things.



Upon electronically registering, GUE enabled the download of a ton of material:

  • GUE Policies
  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Valve Manual
  • GUE-F Workbook
  • GUE-F Course Materials
  • Supplementary reading


We also had our own reading material:



It was quite staggering how fast the time went in.



The two of us ploughed through our workbooks; learning new methods of calculating minimum gas, useable gas, SCR, decompression, standard gases and various other things; all 'GUE-like.'




We encountered a bit of stumbling block when attempting to learn the GUE valve drill. Our previous valve drills had been completed during our TDI training; which (of course) had a different sequence.




The obvious solution, to get the new measures into our brains, was to utilise a diet coke bottle.

This entailed holding it behind our head and simulating the shut down procedure. We received several confused glances, and one long hard stare, as Kerri successfully isolated the diet coke bottle; whilst seated in the ferry lounge.




Valve drills and workbooks complete; we enjoyed a cup of tea, left the ferry port behind, and journeyed 60 odd miles to our accommodation.



CLEARWATER


Rich Walker (our GUE instructor for the week) had been kind enough to source our accommodation; and we arrived to Clearwater Cottages at around 8pm. This was, by no means, thanks to our lying bastard Sat Nav that decided to die, literally, as we departed the ferry.


The Cottages were awesome. 3 bedrooms, en suite bathrooms, giant kitchen, dining area, lounge and private balcony that overlooked Capernwray quarry - where we would be enjoying all the diving.


It was total luxury; and of course, I deserve no less.


Within an hour we had settled nicely. Rich arrived shortly after, and we celebrated with a beer – he is a the king of GUE technical training after all.

Our third team mate, Shelley, battered into the kitchen an hour later, having successfully located a shop (4 miles away!) and brought some provisions. Introductions were unnecessary as we had met both Rich and Shelley at TekCamp last year.


Copious dive talk and another beer later we called it quits at 11.30pm. We had a long week ahead.



MONDAY


At 7.00am we got up, discovered the shower only dispersed cold water, and headed downstairs for breakfast. By 8.30am everyone was up, fed, watered and ready for our first day of fundies. I was super excited.


9am sharp Rich donned his GUE polo shirt and it was clear that school had started; always the professional. He also produced the dreaded ‘whiteboard’ from TekCamp fame, to reiterate key points.



Rich led off with an introduction, which followed around our small group, so we had an idea of what level everyone was at, and what we expected from the course as individuals.




PASS OR FAIL?


I would like to take a moment to explain that GUE-F is a class with varying outcomes; Fail, Provisional Pass, Rec Pass and Tech Pass. It is not a course everyone passes first go and it is advised not to bring any preconceptions.

That said, once we began chatting to Rich about our expectations, he explained it was healthy to have goals, but to concentrate on learning rather than attempting to “pass.”



Although I wasn’t certain if would continue with GUE training, I was fully aware that a Tech Pass was the minimum requirement for anything else I would like to pursue in the future.

Kerri and I both stated, although we simply wanted to learn new skills, further our diving and get to know GUE; we would ultimately aim for a Tech Pass.



Prior to the course, I honestly had no intention of attempting to “pass” at any level. I just wanted to learn. Once the class ‘officially’ began I found I really did want to do the best I could, and felt I needed to set the bar as high as possible in order to make myself perform throughout the week.




I had decided. I was there to work.


GUE HISTORY

An overhead projector provided slides of the program ahead, and we learned the history of GUE.



Our team of three was educated in not only training prospects, but more so, the conservation and environmental accomplishments of the agency.

I became quite enthralled by the expeditions of the WKPP team, and could only imagine the scale of such an operation.

It was captivating Rich had personally been involved and could give an eye witness account.




We then progressed to the training aspect of the course.


GUE TRAINING

Buoyancy is a huge part of diving, and it was soon clear, to be proficient at anything underwater required excellent buoyancy control. Combined with trim and balance, the buoyancy control thing was going to provide us with a “platform.” Getting this “platform” was what the class was all about.


Propulsion techniques were another important area, and we were treated to videos displaying prefect; Frog, Modified Frog, Flutter, Modified Flutter, Helicopter Turn and the sought after Back Kick. Watching the guy in the video was inspiring; the control displayed was unreal.


SWIMMING WITH SHARKS


After a couple of hours the presentations concluded and it was off to the swimming pool for the swim test.




I’ll be honest; I don’t swim. Ever.


Bearing in mind the swim test was 275m in under 14 minutes, not going for a swim prior to the class wasn’t one of my better ideas.


Rich and I were in the pool first and we waited for the 2 ladies to join us. Kerri was next, and plodded carefully to the edge of the water and stepped in. The three of us stood waist deep, in the slightly too warm chlorinated water, and waited for Shelley.


Shelley stepped from the changing area donned, in what can only be described as, the official costume of the 1978 Romanian Oylmpic Swimming Team.; a one piece black skin tight shortie type thing with a yellow stripe down each side.





It was lovely really…











Three lengths into the test I really began to wish I’d gone for a bit of swim a few weeks before. Rich conducted the test with us; joining a few lengths in and finishing first; what a git.


Shelley finished second, and even Wifebuddy left me trailing, completing the test a length ahead of me. Needless to say I finished last; taking 9 minutes. I was a bit disgusted with myself and the back of my arms were killing me.




I blame my mum. She taught me to swim like a girl. The breath stroke was the only technique in my swimming arsenal, and after years of being mocked in school I never swam much since.

I have since vowed to learn the front crawl.







That said, I redeemed myself somewhat, leading the underwater breath-hold swim with a staggering 20m; 5m over the required distance. Not bad for an 20 a day ex-smoker. Oh, I miss the lovely ciggies…


With the swim test out of the way, the mood lifted among the students and Rich demonstrated correct propulsion techniques, including back kick and helicopter turn.


I must confess, at the time this seemed a little bit mental, but once proper scuba stuff began, all the muscle memory kicked in and the leg movements began to resurface.



SUPERMARKET SWEEP


Pool done; the 4 of us visited the local supermarket to stock up on supplies.


The shopping excursion was a bit random. The GUE Director of Technical Training was taking three children out grocery shopping, and asking what we would like him to make us for dinner.


I did chuckle; it was all a bit surreal.








I especially enjoyed when Shelley suggested an additional bottle of wine, to go with the planned “Spag’ Bol” Rich offered to cook. She received a candid reply, “We just need a glass of red over dinner Shelley; we’re not having a party.”

I gently replaced the 30 can box of beer I was cradling and exchanged it for a more social 4 can concern; good GUE diver.




The vibe was good, it was clear Rich could take a bit of banter, and Kerri and I followed his (blue) postman pat van back to Clearwater Cottages.



Back at the house i volunteered to make lunch; this was mainly in the hope of avoiding cooking dinner. I fashioned some rather splendid grilled cheese and tomato on toast; the boss was content and we continued with lectures.



EQUIPMENT WORKSHOP


The afternoon workshop was brilliant - Gear!



Rich produced a lovely clean set of twin euro cylinders and, probably, the oldest harness in the world. A breakdown of the standardised GUE equipment configuration followed, along with a thorough explanation of why everything went where.





Rich then produced a few things that hadn’t quite hit the shops yet. I got a close look at the new Halcyon cordless light on goodman handle, and my favourite; the newly designed Halcyon spool/reel type thing.

I Want

Rich and I had a bit of a play with the reel, concluding that it would probably perform best pre-rigged; well, Rich did, I sort of just agreed.




Wifebuddy took a bit of a migraine and had to lie down for an hour. Rich was totally understanding and halted proceedings until she felt better; insisting the class could be concluded for the day if necessary.



In the mean time Rich helped Shelley configure her harness and primary light; with the aid of his legendary boltsnap tying technique.








An hour later Kerri was up and about; just as well, as she was in charge of the chicken dinner - after the cheese/tomato toast affair, my culinary skills were spent.



A late dinner led to a beer and a few hours of dive chatter.


DAY DONE

I figured Rich would have plenty of things to take care of in the evening, but in truth, our class never really stopped. Dive stories, lessons learned, experiences and funnies continued until about 11.30pm. By that stage I was absolutely shattered. The swim had killed me; I needed sleep.

I had really enjoyed the day’s academics; more than I anticipated.

Initially the lack of diving was frustrating, but at the close of the day I was thrilled reflecting on all I had learned, and it made me look forward to the pending dives even more.


Wifebuddy and I retired to our luxurious room, that I was slowly making a mess of.


Roll on DAY 2!