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.

REDTEC PART 7: The Last Supper



Regrettably, the last day of RedTec was finally upon us. Kerri was back on her feet, a mere 36 hours after the on set of seasickness, and we were ready to enjoy a final dive.

The last day was to be one dive only, allowing plenty of time to dismantle kit, rinse it, and ultimately get it dried, before being stuffed back into "The Monolith" for the journey home.





I have to admit it was bloody depressing; although my belly was glad to return to a more temperate climate, as I had consumed the majority of re-hydration powder on the ship.

(I really can't stress how important it is to stay hydrated on big dive trips, and in future I shall be brining many, many hydration sachets with me, in a variety of flavours).








Wifebuddy was in much better form, which was great, as I got rid of that numpty Jim Dowling in exchange for a proper buddy… ahem.



I maintained my new protocol of a light breakfast, got as much liquid down my neck as possible, promptly pee'd it all out, then sorted my kit out for the dive, in anticipation of the next briefing.





HEBAT ALLAH


Our band of deep diving wreck divers, assembled in the sky lounge for the final briefing with saddened hearts; but excitement of the climactic dive was in the air.


source: wrecks of Egypt



Kevin, the Blue O Two rep, took the floor. The briefing that followed went as thus:


"We're going to dive this wreck. I don't know a lot about it, so don't ask me anything. It sank. Have a nice dive."


It was a fantastic way to end the week.



In all honesty, the tears were tripping us with laughter. Kevin had some information, but not a lot, and figured we'd rather just get in and go diving. A vast amount of banter and abuse followed, along with some more rather splendid anecdotes about the crappest dive briefing ever.


Kevin's wasn't the worst, but it was close.







  • Once home, my great allied Google revealed a little more info:
The Hebat Allah was a small cargo ship of 494 GRT built for the Egyptian Government at Breheret Ets., Ingrandes, France, in 1985. When launched, she was 44.5 meters in length and 8.5 meters in beam, with diesel engines and a single propeller for a speed of 8 knots.

The Hebat Allah was intentionally sunk on 07 November 2004 between the Giftun Island and Gota Abu Ramada in the El Arouk Giftun area as Egypt's first artificial reef. The idea behind the sinking was to relieve some of the pressure from dive tourism on some of the other popular dive sites in the area. The ship had been lying on the reef just outside of Hurghada's main harbor for some years after having broken her moorings in heavy weather and drifted onto the reef and looked to be the perfect candidate for a new recreational wreck dive.

The ship was originally to be sunk in 30-meters of water in order to provide access by divers of all certification levels. However, this was not to be. Unfortunately it was sunk in the wrong location and ended up resting in 46 meters of water instead, putting this wreck in the category of a shallow technical dive. [source: wrecks of egypt]





Buddied up with Kerri, we ran through our checks, and strode off the back of The Blue Voyager into the perfect conditions below. No currents, great viz, superb company, a twinset and a stage; it couldn't fail.



Even I, with the sat nav capabilities of a potato, was able to navigate the wreck. It was completely intact, with very little deterioration due to its infancy in the Red Sea and was basically a tech diving playground; we treated it as such.





I know that the instructors on board felt the wreck was a little mundane (a “skip” was the term I believe), but I think it was a brilliant way to end the week. The Hebat Allah was easy to get around, penetration was simple, the shot lines were obvious, the life was pretty cool, and it was a good depth for everyone aboard.


Kerri in the wheel house


We arrived on the stern and slowly worked our way to the bow, enjoying the Lion Fish along the way. The in-water antics were really good fun, and you could tell we had become good friends through the trip.

Lion Fish


The Greek, Ben, Kerri and I mucked about back kicking off the bow, whilst Jim attempted to maneuver Laura into some strange position; 'refining' her backwards technique. (It is as well he doesn't do that for a living.)

Kerri over the hold


As we began to wrap up the proceedings I noticed Jim Dowling had dropped out of the frame. As I’m sure you can imagine, not seeing Jim is a bad, bad thing. I stopped, helicoptered around, but saw nothing. I even looked over my shoulder to check for the evil Brit, but no sign.



Moments later I glanced to the starboard side to see him innocently finning along, but I knew something had gone down.


Needless to say I was absolutely correct; he got to 'scooter me' one last time. *sigh*














The dive plan, as usual, got a little skewed, and the decompression obligation was rather long; but we didn't care. The entire group seemed to end the dive in unison, a clatter of twinsets buzzed around the mast, and we gently ascending up the shot line.

the mast


Kerri and Jim

me blinding Jim with my light


Jim's "anti-Andy's-light" mask


It was the most relaxing deco ever; the lack of currents made it a joy. I kept Kerri in view as she slept on the shot line, and I finned about, snapping a few pics of her and there, and even managed a game of naughts and crosses with Ben on my wetnotes.


It was just loads of fun, and that’s what diving is about.

Jim with sight regained

deep diver Andy on deco


As my deco came to a conclusion, I noticed Mr. Paul Vincent Toomer himself, slightly off the shot line, somewhat on this own. It seemed appropriate that I thanked him 'in-water' for a bloody amazing week of diving; so I did just that.



I swam over, stuck my hand out, and barked through my regulator:


"Tank. Oou. Or. A. Underhul. Eek. Oou. Ock."
[Translate: Thank you for a wonderful week. You rock.]


A hearty laugh bellowed through the loop of the JJ, and I left him to it as he threw me the horns.

Paul Toomer doing what he does





ALL ABOARD


Back on the ship, we enjoyed another fantastic lunch, and then it was back to business.

The stupidly high temperatures, and the windy journey back to port, made drying the dive kit a piece of piss.

The upper sun deck was scattered with dead pieces of gear; the blazing sunshine did the rest.






BACK IN PORT


We arrived back in port late afternoon and, to be honest, we were all at a bit of a loss. The only real option was drink; so the Sakkara was fridge was promptly annihilated.

Big Pat and Paul

Jolly Roger

more BEER!
Laura and her sexy Hollis spool


Most of us decided to remain on board for the "last supper" which was a phenomenally good idea, as the final feast was amazing. The divers were asked to remain seated, and the chef wheeled out a huge roast turkey!



It was remarkable. How the chef managed to make a full roast turkey dinner in the tiny wee galley was staggering, but he did it nonetheless; and it was exquisite.




TO THE BAR


After dinner, the group disembarked from The Blue Voyager and wandered a short distance into Hurghada. Basically we walked to a cash machine, and then continued walking until we found a bar.


It didn't take long.


Tables were moved, chairs reallocated, pints and shisha followed. It was brilliant craic. Dive stories, tall tales, ambitions and dreams were shared long into the wee hours.


I even ended up with some Egytian pussy…



… what?



Unfortunately my inner workings, weren't ... eh, great; so after not enough pints I had to call it a night.

time to call it quits!



MORNING


The morning knock on the door brought tea and a radiant, yet sympathetic, smile from Samir. Kerri and I gloomily made our way for the last breakfast on The Blue Voyager.


The vibe over the table was a hung-over one, and it was noted that Paul hadn't even made it to the table.


Laura was also sporting a knee injury, and Ben looked moments from passing out; to the point were he was totally at ease sending wee Kerri to get his drysuit from the sundeck.



It appeared we missed a good night out!





THE MARIOT


A wonderful arrangement with the hotel around the corner meant that all the residents of the ship got to spend all day in the lap of luxury, awaiting the coaches to ferry us to the airport.


Confirming that tech divers are true gadget freaks, the highlight was the free w-fi in the cafe. As soon as the i-things connected, the room was filled with silence.



A few beeps and buzzes ensued as everyone's Facebook accounts indicated abundant friend requests, as our intrepid troops linked up on the information highway.

It was very cool; after only one week together, a new group of technical divers had found kindred spirits.



DEPARTURE


The buses arrived; hugs and handshakes were made in turn. I think even Jim shed a tear as he clung to my leg, begging me not to leave, and show him the path to awesomeness; next time mate.


At the airport, the usual nonsense check-in procedures were alleviated, as we reflected and chatted about the RedTec experience. We were all on the same flight back to the UK, so it was cool to be able to chat some more to Paul before take off.


I also enjoyed Dan explain he wasn’t bringing his kids back an unconvincing, stupid, overpriced, poorly manufactured, stuffed camel.




ONE LAST GOODBYE


Before we knew it, we were back in the UK and another set of hugs and handshakes took place as the remainder of the group split; and everyone went their separate ways.

We thanked Paul for the best week's diving we've ever experienced, and watched the big South African dander into the swarm of Gatwick's human traffic.



It was all a little surreal as I grabbed the handles of another uncontrollable trolley, loaded with The Monolith, and attempted to find our way to the bus stop.



"That's that then." I observed.

"Yup." Kerri confirmed, and we began the final leg of the trip back to Belfast.






CONCLUSION



RedTec in The Red Sea with Paul Toomer was fucking awesome. I clocked up 772 minutes of technical diving over 5 days, and enjoyed every single second of it. The ship was fantastic, the crew was flawless, the food divine, the diving excellent, and we had no problems what so ever. 


Above all the company made it. 





Paul was great fun, as expected, and having Jim Dowling on aboard was just an added bonus. I found all the other divers exceedingly good fun, and a healthy sense of humor of all involved really made the trip for me.


The diving suited our level splendidly, and the trimix certification (thanks to Paul and Jim) was an added bonus that I get to enjoy from now on.



THANKS


I would like to offer a sincere thanks to: the (amazing) crew, (Big) Pat, (deep diver) Andy, (GUE to be) Ben, (Hollis spool lover) Laura, (the ever laid back) Geoff, (the very sun burned) Karl, (the man with all the spares) Aiden, (you owe me your life) Dave, Keith (teach your girlfriend to dive ffs!), Ellen (learn to dive ffs!), Phil (the man with the red wine), Morty (you shouldn't sleep in airports), (The Greek) Dimitris, Henry (Call me Roger), Dan (burgundy - nice, slick), John and Val (the nicest couple ever), Alister and Nancy (and their big box of bits), Kerri (the vomiting Wifebuddy), Jim (how red can a face get?) Downling-Dowling; and finally Paul (Tall Poomer) Toomer.







Oh, and on a final, final, final note; I found out it was the combination of Jason Brown and Jim Dowling who placed the "Considerably Better Than Andy" slates the week before we arrived.


Jim & Jason planting the slates



Stealthy Bastard.





See you on the next RedTec folks!



Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7

REDTEC PART 6: Scooter!





Seas sickness was is something I hadn't a lot of experience with, but the journey across the gulf (or whatever it was) certainly taught me a thing or two. I am now fully conscious of the fact I don't suffer seasickness well, and Wifebuddy is simply unable to cope at all.

Having successfully migrated to the bed we both struggled a pretty miserable nights sleep, and the morning didn't bring the relief we dearly longed for.



When I surfaced I have to admit I didn't feel great. Wifebuddy wanted to die. I felt for her, but I also felt for myself, as I questioned as to whether or not we would be able to dive at all.









The results were:


  • Once upright, I felt like poo. That said I didn't feel like I was going to vomit on myself, and after a little wandering I started to come around; a bit. 
  • Wifebuddy was out of action completely. Kerri managed to make it to the breakfast table, but once she caught sight of the grub it was all over, and a swift exit followed. 


I force-fed myself a pancake and attempted to stay hydrated, although even fluids weren't sitting the best. To be brutally honest, by that stage of the trip my belly had kind of gone to pieces. 

I love the hot weather, but unfortunately my body does not. Dehydration is an outright hazard when on a dive holiday, and more so when technical dives are involved; and I was pretty concerned about it.






I mentioned it to Paul and he immediately prescribed rehydration powders, which I didn't have, so as with everything else that I wasn't sure about; I went to Jim. Minutes later I was presented with some horrendously, revolting, orange "flavoured" sachets of vile; apparently they were the 'nice ones.' 



BUDDY UP


Temporarily hydrated I went back to the posh cabin to see how Wifebuddy was holding up. 

It turned out Kerri had resorted to the sundeck, where fresh air had stabilized her slightly, but it was immediately apparent no diving would be happening.

Being the loyal husband, I got her a drink of purple juice, and then quickly scarpered off to find a new buddy.



A quick scan of the dive deck revealed everyone had there own buddy systems in place, and I didn't want to interfere with dive plans; the solution was simple - ask Jim.




I found the ever-reddening Brit and informed him Kerri was useless to me. He showed brief signs of concern for Kerri, and then grimaced as I explained I would be using him as a buddy for the day. 

I knew deep inside he was joyful, and keen to learn from such a 'shit-hot' diver as myself.








THE ROSEALIE MOLLER


Everyone, except Kerri, gathered in the Sky Lounge for the dive briefing on The Rosalie Moller.

(c) Shipwrecks of Egypt


HISTORY
The Rosalie Moller is a sister ship of the famous Thistlegorm. It was bombed by a German airplane (Heinkel 111) and sunk in October 1941. The vessel is 108m long, 16m wide and sits on the seabed at around 50 meters; hence it is a dive only for experienced divers with a special license. Her masts reach up to 17-18 meters of depths, leading down to the decks at 35 meters. Much of the deck equipment is still in place, as are handrails and ladders. The ship's funnel is broken and lying over on one side, complete with the 'Moller Line' emblem on it. The bridge is easily penetrated, but the helm and all equipment have long since been removed.



Jim and Paul gave a super thorough briefing on the wreck, and promptly scared the crap out of us all.


Penetration of the wreck was obviously quite popular, but the condition of the ship made the prospect less than appealing. Paul explained "rusticles" formed on the wreck, a kind of icicle made of deteriorating metal, and made the visibility extremely challenging. It appeared, even with the most awesome of diver control, disturbing said rusticles was inevitable; hence the poor viz once inside.


The usual story followed: divers penetrating the wreck, disturbing the rust, becoming horrendously disorientated, and subsequently getting trapped; climaxing in dying a horrible lonely death.

I was completely put off any thoughts of entering the wreck, and even if Jim decided to have a look, I wasn't going in after him.




DIVE 1


Buddying with Jim was very cool, although I have to admit I was a 'little' intimidating. I mean, the guy is a technical instructor and it would be almost impossible for him not to check out my skills on a dive. I was certainly curious, perhaps a bit nervous, but looked forward to the dive.

Kitted, checked off, my new buddy and me jumped in and descended 45m to the wreck below.




Upon reaching the wreck it was clear the site was very different from the other locations we had visited to that point. The visibility, although still good by UK standards, was a lot milkier than I expected.


A few others had signed up to The Dowling Party, and Jim led us around the wreck. Within a few frog kicks we appeared to have been heading in the direction of 'inside' the wreck. I was confused; Jim said we would die in there? 



Needless to say, we all followed Jim regardless. 



Within seconds of swimming through a damaged piece of hull, Jim had disturbed the rust; he's so shit. It was immediately clear why full penetration was a bad idea. 



It was as if a tea bag had exploded in front of my eyes. I could barely decipher Jim's black fins, but I locked onto them like a homing missile and attempted to keep up.




I was perplexed.



I needn't have worried.



Within minutes we had exited through another tear in the rusted metal, and were back in the relative clarity of open water. I later learned that everyone else in The Dowling Party had finned around the outside, as by the time I got through, the vis was zero.

In truth, it wasn't really inside the wreck at all, just in and out of the twisted hull; a valuable experience nonetheless.









The rest of the dive was pretty much business as usual, and I really enjoyed the wreck. It did remind me of a UK dive for whatever reason. I think it was the combination of heavy silting and the duller visibility; well, that was until a clown fish attacked me!



The fallen funnel was especially cool, a giant embossed 'M' still visible, although Jim still felt it necessary to point it out to me; perhaps he had flashbacks of me not noticing the guns on The Thistlgorm? Who knows?




Bottom time done, we were soon ascending the shot line and switching to the deco bottles. Jim signaled he wanted me to switch first, I obeyed, he followed under my watchful eye, and the 28 min decompression obligation began.



It was soon apparent Jim got bored easily on deco, and I began to wonder how he amused himself on the stupidly long exploration dives he had been privy too. Various verbal attacks via slate took place, along with a failed attempt to kill me.

Perhaps “kill” is an exaggeration, but only mildly. Jim later explained he wanted to see how I would react to a deco gas regulator free flow, so he purged my reg ... that was in my gob at the time.



It led to an interesting discussion back on ship, and a rethink of my gas switching procedure.







LUNCHTIME


After lunch I had a brief flashback I brought my wife aboard, so I ventured off to look for her. Kerri had sought solace in the posh cabin and was sleeping off the sickness, along with an inappropriate collaboration of anti-sickness pills.



I left her to it, and sloped off to prepare for the second dive on The Rosalie Moller.





DIVE 2


Despite trying to kill me, I had no option but to dive with Jim again. Most of the guys didn't bother with a deco bottle, but I had a fair amount of 50% left, so I figured I might as well use it. Jim and I agreed we would end the dive once we hit a 20-minute decompression obligation.

I was getting very comfortable with decompression diving by that stage, which pleased me greatly. On the first few dives when my computer explained I couldn't surface for 27 minutes, it felt a little weird to know if I kept on ascending I would get bent.


The tech diving thing was beginning to feel normal - splendid.





The second dive was even more laid back than the initial effort, and Jim decided he would amuse himself further, at my expense; of course.

I didn't really know what was going on at the time, but hindsight, and a dive debrief, gave me the accurate account of proceedings I have now.




I recall finning along the deck, minding my own business, taking a few bad photos, enjoying all the beasties and various parts of the wreck. 




At some point I did recollect 'feeling' something strange, but couldn't put my finger on it. After said 'feeling' I also noticed an increase in ‘OK’ signals I received from various other divers, for the entirety of the bottom stage.

Jim seemed to disappear occasionally during the bottom phase as well, I knew he was guiding, and there were plenty of our team around so I wasn't massively concerned; but I sensed something was going on.


Photos later emerged displaying a spool connected to my manifold, and a very amused Jim Dowling on the other end; effectively using me as a scooter to drag him around The Rosalie Moller.



Of course everyone else found this amusing too, hence all the OK signals and constant photographing. It may also have been caught on video camera.





I regret to use the term, but Jim Dowling "scootered" me.







All the tomfoolery interfered a little with the dive plan, and a few of those without deco bottles had to do a little begging on the shot line, and 50% stages were rotated.

 
I admit, my plan was a little sketchy too, but a quick inventory of gas proved I had plenty to decompress on, and enough backgas to get me to the surface if I needed.



Jim and I conducted our switches, and then he finned about annoying various other divers on the shot line.







BEN? WHERE ARE WE BEN?

In the mean time I buddied up with Ben, as he asked me to watch his switch, which I watched a little too closely. 

By that I mean, when I rose my awareness back to where it should have been, we had drifted completely out of sight of the rest of the group. I are useless. 




A little mental slapping ensued, and then I signaled to Ben we needed to stay together, as we were now the only alternate gas sources for each other. Ben signaled he was damn happy with that arrangement, and we stayed bloody close together for the pending 20 minutes. 




The deco was slow. Not only was I mildly concerned as to our location, but also we were also completely swamped in jellyfish. 

We kept out hands tucked in and kept signaling and shouting through our rags every time a jellyfish drifted near our faces; it was a bit mental, but kind of funny. 






What was more amusing was the jellyfish turned out to be stinger-free. 


Doh!




Just as I was about to shoot an smb a rope drifted into vision. Thank Christ.

I pointed enthusiastically towards the line. Ben didn't need any encouragement and we completed our deco within spitting distance of the shot. The strange thing was that no one else was there. I soon established the only valid explanation was we were on the wrong shot. 




Bollocks.



I figured, worst case scenario, we would board the wrong ship, radio Tall Poomer, and he would get Samir to come and get us. Perfect.





We surfaced.







"This isn't our boat is it?" I confessed.



"I dunno" Ben contributed.



A moment later I spied the name, 'Blue Voyager.'



"We're dickheads" I proceeded; "We're on the bow shot line!"




We gave a celebratory laugh, and drifted down to the stern, where the rest of our gang were exiting up the ladders.





 I stuck my head below and spied Jim at the 6m mark blowing bubbles, still amusing himself apparently. I gave him a quick OK, which he saluted; and I left him to it...



Well, he did scooter me!







... and look what he did to my Helitrox certification!







Stealthy bastard.




Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7