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.

Scapa Flow 2013 - PART TWO: Ctrl + F8 = HMS Carlsberg


The second day of our Scapa Flow adventure started early, very early. I don't really do early and have been known, if left unattended, to sleep for up to 16 hours; so it was quite a shock to the system to be up before 8am. I was both excited and nervous about the pending dives, so that was enough to get me out of the very comfortable bunk bed and wander around the ship.

The Valkyrie was immaculate from top to bottom. UK weather and UK diving is hard on everything, so i was continually surprised to find how fresh everything looked aboard; not to mention the fact that everything actually worked. TV worked, tumble drier worked, all the breakfast stuff worked, lights worked, toilet worked; it was all very cool. Attention to details says a lot about an operation, so i was fairly confident the president had been set.

Dinner table
Galley
Mid-ships
Drysuit space and benches
Living room


Breakfast was the first task of the day. I'm prone to a little bacon for brekky, but when I'm diving i don't like to 'bag myself up' so usually go for the more boring cereal option; i know - the horror. Helen, the cooking person, had organised a cereal section, toasting facilities, tea/coffee and an egg machine. 


The egg machine fascinated me, and despite not eating eggs i was tempted to have a go out of pure curiosity. That said, Martin Robson appeared to struggle with it and he's a technical diving instructor, so it was probably best for the safety of others i kept away from it.









The diving kicked off almost immediately after breakfast. I had retired to the living room bit when Hazel entered, plonked herself in front of the TV, propped up a whiteboard showing a map of a shipwreck and bellowed:

"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"

Her deep Scottish accent demanded obedience, and divers scuttled from around the ship fighting for space on the sofas. I was just glad i wasn't last.



SMS CARLSBERG KARLSRUHE

I'm completely crap when it comes to dive briefings, they only make sense to me AFTER I've finished the dive, but Hazel's briefing was up there with the best of them. 

The Skipper had obviously a vast knowledge of the wrecks, and was able to provide an excellent history of events and highlight areas of note on the wreck itself worth investigating. 



Wreck info: 

SMS Karlsruhe was a light cruiser of the Königsberg class, built for the Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Navy) during World War I. She was named after the earlier Karlsruhe, which had sunk in November 1914, from an accidental explosion. The new cruiser was laid down in 1914 at the Kaiserliche Werft shipyard in Kiel, launched in January 1916, and commissioned into the High Seas Fleet in November 1916. Armed with eight 15 cm SK L/45 guns, the ship had a top speed of 27.5 kn (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph). Karlsruhe was interned in Scapa Flow after the end of the war, and scuttled there on 21 June 1919. [SOURCE: Wikipedia]



Kerri, Dave and I decided on a dive plan. Gases were simple - 32% and 100%, minimum gas was established, and we calculated we had loads of time. Then a slight problem arose; Orkney was suffering from a lack of oxygen. Initially i was concerned the good people of Orkney were dropping in the street unable to breathe due to some global-warming-apocalyptic-catastrophe; but thankfully that was not the case. 

zero oxygen in Orkney!


It transpired J cylinders of O2 had not arrived as scheduled. Coupled with the fact we had to travel with empty cylinders, team Ireland had to change the dive plan somewhat.


Rob, the third crew member of The Valkyrie, was left the unfortunate task of informing us of said deficit, and subsequently coming up with a solution. Thankfully Rob was able to squeeze enough O2 from his limited supply and grant us 32% backgas, but no deco cylinders. I had a sad. A quick chat with Kerri, and we agreed to simply keep an eye on average depth and manipulate the dive accordingly; accruing no more than 5 mins deco on backgas. Crisis averted. 

We then assigned the team; Kerri was deco captain, Joe was bagging off, i was visual reference and Dave was ... well, Dave was on holiday.



MILKY JOE

As we got our kit sorted and donned the fabulous Santi's, Joe asked if it was ok if he joined us. I knew Joe was a GUE Tech 1 diver so i said that was no problem; we had the same training and would all be on the same page. Then i noted Joe's set up.

"Eh, yeah ... diving with us is cool; but you're going to have to talk me through ... eh ... that."

Joe smirked:

"It's pretty straight forward. It's just an Inspiration Classic, with a few mods." 

"Aye. A few mods. Right."

Milky Joe's tumble dryer

Personally i thought it looked like a tumble dryer. I have no experience with rebreathers at all, and had never buddied up with a rebreather diver before. Joe gave me a quick rundown:

"If i look dead - close this, then bring me to the surface please. Dump air with this button and this button. If you need gas i'll give you this reg, but i'd like you to move to another OC diver in our team after we get you sorted." 

"Eh, cool."


I had never dived from a ship like The Valkyrie before, and i have to admit i was a little nervous, and so conducted a brief chat with Rob to make sure i knew what the craic was. Rob was very helpful and kept it nice and simple for me; and also slightly amused due to his Yorkshire (?) accent:



"You giant stride out the hole in the hull here, and make it a goodn'" 
"Ok, and getting back in?" 
 "I'll lower the lift. Step onto it. Hold the handles and nod at me. I'll lift ye up, then step off and sit down. I'll then bring ye a tea or hot choccy. Ok?" 

I nodded; half concerned he would lift me up there and then.

"I mean, eh, Ok."




Skipper Hazel soon demonstrated she'd done this a few time before when dropping us in. I could see Rob muttering into a headset of some description, and we were promptly asked to stand and make our way to 'hole in té hull.' Dutifully Team Ireland followed Joe, and on command from Rob, we plummeted into the dark cold water beneath. I signalled OK and the current gently moved me to the shot line; oh yeah, Hazel had done that plenty times before.

Our team gathered and descended the shot line. Bubble check with Joe revealed i had a slight leak at my tank valve. Joe approached and between us we closed valves, reseated first stages, and got things back on track. The process was smooth and simple, a tech 1 scenario played out a million times - GUE training in action, awesome.

At the bottom of the shot line our team gathered again and Joe led the way. When i say 'led' i mean took off like a mad man. At one point i had to double check he didn't have a scooter. We finally caught Joe, curbed his enthusiasm somewhat, and explored the wreck.

Dave trying to keep up with Joe
Kerri in the middle of wreck, as usual
Hugeness!


It was a massive chunk of metal. I couldn't really get to grips with the orientation of it. The visibility was ok, but a cloudy 6m made getting a good idea of the scale tricky enough. We did manage to find the control tower and the huge anchor, as well as some pretty cool swim throughs. We found a particularly dark section towards the end of the dive, and i have to admit my curiosity was spiked, but it was VERY dark...



The dive concluded, our team got sorted, and Joe bagged off as promised. Kerri led the ascent, I provided a visual reference, and Dave ... well, Dave was on holiday.


As we bobbed on the surface, it was very impressive to watch as Hazel steered the enormous vessel that came to rest just before us. It was then time to tackle the lift which was just as Rob explained; a totally straight forward process.





He wasn't joking about the tea either!

Tea and choccy!


LUNCH


The Valkyrie is renowned for it's food and i was looking forward to testing it out. Lunch was hot soup and rolls; perfect after a cold water adventure, yet light enough not to make the next dive uncomfortable. It was gorgeous, accompanied by the lunchtime discussion on the topic of anal bleaching. Don't ask; but the consensus was some assholes do need to lighten up.



A healthy surface interval later ...


"BRIEFING IN THE LOUNGE!"


F8 F2 (3 WRECKS)


I scarpered for a seat on the sofa, making sure Hazel knew i wasn't the last to attend, and did my best to memorise the information she provided; badly. It was an interesting site as it enabled three dives, on one dive, so to speak. There was the F8, or F2 i mean, a crane that was salvaging the wreck and was pulled underwater when they moored too tightly, and finally a dive boat that also moored and forgot about tidal shifts. Thankfully lines were attached to the wrecks, so no one could miss them!



Our team gathered and the plan was to hit the barge, then head over to the F8, i mean F2. Once on the F2 we would see how things were and maybe head out to the dive boat. It was a shallow dive at 18m, so we had loads of options. We elected to dive in buddy pairs, as the visibility didn't lend itself well to a large team, but would probably end up ascending together. Kerri was deco captain once more, i would shoot the bag if Joe wasn't about, and Dave, well ... Dave was on holiday.

I actually enjoyed the crane on the barge section the most. Kerri and I had a great wee nosey through some doorways, and i had to admit i was sorely tempted to line off for a wee look-see; but i didn't - cause I'm pretty much afraid of inside things underwater. A resident conger also poked his head out. A short while later we tagged on with Joe & Dave and headed over to the F2. The F2 was very badly broken up, but still very cool, and it was definitely weird to look at it's guns located somewhere else!

Joe and his tumble dryer

Kerri leaving the crane


Collectively we ended up at another line, which obviously led to the dive boat. I signalled to Joe if he fancied it, to which he OK'd, and the four of us finned for several minutes to the dive boat. I felt shame, bearing in mind there was a 'proper' war wreck not 50m away, but we did have lots of fun on the little dive boat. It was just cool to dive something that i was able to associate with - we had a blast.

Eventually we managed to drain sufficient gas from our twinsets and headed for the surface; Rob's ever pleasant bearded face beckoning with the promise of tea and hot choccy. I enjoy when such little gestures become an expected routine. Another growing routine was Helen the feeder. Once we had sorted the gear, and donned a more civilised attire, Helen provided us with cake; a monstrous cake, a fabulous, tasty, cake. I ate some. 

sight seeing from The Valkyrie


After cake we had a couple of hours to get back to shore; so i tidied up some bits and pieces whilst watching the rebreatherer people deconstruct and construct their mental machines. I'm not sure I've the mindset for those things, but i did enjoy being talked through the ins and outs of Bruce's Inspiration; even if he does carry an underwater man-bag.


As i dozed in the lounge a bell clanged to signify dinner was ready - hurrah! Two giant trays of venison shepherd's pie were presented on the galley table as part of our 3 course meal. As i expected, dinner was fabulous; and i don't even like shepherds pie. I ate too much, as i expected. Post dinner, Helen kindly provided our group with keen directions for a seal walk along the shore.

chimps tea party



Kerri and I enjoyed a relaxing dander along the sea front, but alas no seals.

old bunker
Hamnaove ferry
Sunset of Age



Having conducted some exercise and healthy activities i decided i deserved a beer; so we found ourselves a pub and did just that. Only one beer mind you. The single beer could have been attributed to the weird old man that sat beside me but refused to acknowledge my existence when i politely spoke; or perhaps when i finally noted the 'toilet broken' sign on the toilet door, right after i .. i'd best leave that there.



Back on The Valkyrie, Wifebuddy disappeared to bed, whilst I stayed up and watched a DVD, accompanied by a few others; not omitting Dave and his guffin' feet.










Part 1
 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4






I Are Diver XMAS QUIZ!



Christmas is here, and as an act of festive cheer and general good will I have decided to hold an I ARE DIVER XMAS QUIZ. The questions will be questionable, the prizes will be mediocre, but it will be a sock-full of fun for all!


Here be the details...


WHEN?


  • 24th Dec to 28th Dec
  • 7pm - 8pm (London GMT time)


WHERE?


I Are Diver Facebook page



RULES?


Every night there will be one main question, followed by a bonus question. All questions are to be answered in the comments section under the question.


A point system will be used:


Points

  • MAIN QUESTION

1st correct answer = 5 points
2nd correct answer = 4 points
3rd correct answer = 3 points
4th correct answer = 2 points
5th correct answer = 1 point

  • BONUS 

1 point for 1st correct answer


I get the last say, and it will be how the answers appear on MY facebook timeline. Them's the rules people!

PRIZES!!!


There will be 3 prizes, and they'll be a big surprise! It'll be totally worth it ... Honest! .. ahem...



Good luck folks, see you tomorrow night on the facebook page!







Scapa Flow 2013 - PART ONE: Rabid dogs & Killer Mushrooms

Scapa Flow baby!

Our Scapa Flow excursion had been planned for years. Literally. Wifebuddy came up with the idea at Tekcamp 2011, when we finally met a bunch of people that wanted to do the same type of diving we did. It was a fabulous idea; the trip was booked, deposits paid, and Kerri had emailed her OCD itinerary to our band of adventurers within a month. Then it was just a matter of waiting.



Two years.



As with all things involving humans, it wasn't without problems. People dropped out, people replaced them, more people dropped out, more people replaced them, some people dropped off the face of the planet completely, and others seemed incapable of reading an email. It was an interesting experiment. Thankfully, Wifebuddy is completely undeterred when her mind is set on something, and eventually we had enough divers to fill The Valkyrie for a week diving the Scapa Flow German fleet.



TEAM IRELAND

In the middle of all the 'im going - im not going' madness, our regular diving chum DIR Dave managed to wangle his way aboard for a bargain price; typical Irish man. This worked out very well as we dived together all the time, Dave has a similar easy going approach, and we could all travel together splitting some costs. 



PACKING

twin 12s, twin 16's and 6 stages


Usually our dive trips are plagued with weight restrictions (as per Egypt), but the advantage of Scapa was we could drive over. In short, that meant we could bring whatever we liked; like Dave, whom we usually left behind. The jeep would have been a better suited vehicle for the weight of kit, but it was much too small; so everything was crammed into the Ford Boring, despite Dave's complete lack of faith it could cope. The gear fitted in perfectly, and there was plenty of room in the back to slot an Irishman in.

boot

back seats

pod

Dave in his pod


Tickets, passports, gear and divers; we had everything we needed for a fabulous week of diving, so hit the road for the far too many hours drive to The Valkyerie. As with all our holidays, i didn't really know where we were going. I knew it was in the UK, but had no idea how far we were going, or about ferry's and stuff. The roles were clear; i was driver, Kerri was navigator and Dave was ... on holiday.




DRIVING. LOTS OF DRIVING.

Belfast to Stranraer ferry was the first milestone, which we completed with ease, and were soon aboard the big ship soaking up the free wi-fi's, and updating facebook. Life was good. The weather was a bit crap, but we didn't care about the rain; just as long as the seas stayed flat.

view from the ferry

Wifebuddy had become a little obsessed with the Scapa weather. Don't get me wrong, i understood the weather could make or break the trip; but seeing as there was nothing i could do about it (not being god and all that) i elected to let Kerri worry about it. Throughout the journey 'weather watch wife' happily proclaimed random numbers regarding wave height and wind direction that meant absolutely bugger all to me.




Once on the mainland, all we had to do was point the Ford Boring in the right direction and press the pedal to the metal! It was a long journey, but our enthusiasm was keeping us in high spirits.





Then Wifebuddy, and Dave tried to break me.









It's no secret i'm partial to a little bit of heavy metal music. Wifebuddy is also a heavy metal fan; in fact it was musical taste that brought Wifebuddy and I together in the first place. Dave is also a metal fan, so i imagined the soundtrack to Scapa would have been a fairly painless affair. I was wrong. Wifebuddy, despite her fine heavy metal affection, is also prone to listening to a shocking amount of shite. I am usually able to control it, as no other external forces are available to complicate things; then along came Dave.


I knew Dave's music would be a little more mainstream than mine, but it would still be heavy metal, so i allowed him to bring some CD's. Mistake. It appeared Dave was also prone to listening to a shocking amount of shite. Combined with Kerri, this left me and my doom collection highly vulnerable. There would be no My Dying Bride, Anathema, Katatonia, Novembre; instead i was held to the abomination of ...



Don Henley.



What the fuck?






I couldn't control them. Kerri and Dave jollied, danced and SANG to the ramblings of some ridiculous elevator music. I mean really? How many instruments can you incorporate into one bloody song??!!!! Shite. Pure shite.


I finally managed to enforce a ban on singing after an hour or so. Moments later Dave, somehow, managed to sing along with the drums. I wanted to kill myself. Even Iron Maiden was ruined as Dave sang the bass line and announced every riff change ...

"Ohhhh, i love this bit - da, da, da, da, daaaaaa, da, da, da."


For the following 7 hours i endured the cater-wauling duo of death and wished GUE had developed a solo diving class.



Motorway turned to carriageway, carriageway to main road, main road to country road, country road to dirt track, as we moved slowly to the edge of the world.


Our minds were completely lost by the time we reached Thurso.








We collectively witnessed War of The Worlds as the pylons walked across the fields to attack the Ford Boring, Kerri saw "Tatanka" from Dances With Wolves, and Dave continued to sing along with the bass lines. It was no longer a holiday; it was an edurance test, and should be part of SAS selection to test the mettle of fighting men.




I still get flash backs.



THURSO


Arrival at Thurso signified the end of the drive for at least 12 hours; a pint was needed for sure. Throughout the marathon drive we had been keeping up with the rest of our team via check in points on facebook. Soial media really is awesome. One of my Twitter chums Darren and his family had won the great race to Thurso, and it turned out he was held up at the same B&B we were staying in.

kicking back in the B&B


As we booked in at the B&B reception a nearby door popped open.


"You must be Andy?" 

"Em, yeah. You must be Darren? Did facebook tell you i was here?" 

"No, i heard the accent. Had to be you."


Ah, the good old Belfast accent.




We got to meet Darren, his wife Louise, and randomly enough, her parents. We parted ways, dropped our overnight bags into the rooms and headed out for food and drinks.

Team Ireland wandered aimlessly around Thurso in the hope of finding steak and beer. Darren was kindly texting me as we investigated, with ever increasing reports of places NOT to go into, due to menu problems, staffing issues and furniture malfunctions. Darren apparently had high standards.



Eventually i received a text resembling something from Mission Impossible:






I decided this was more of instruction than an invitation and we headed for Y Not, i mean ... why not? (see what i did there?)


A brisk walk past some rather odd looking individuals we entered the Y Not, met up with Darren and ordered pints and steak.






The hours that followed were fantastic. A continuous flow of divers entered the bar and our group grew to include almost everyone that had booked aboard The Valkyrie. It was great to catch up with Tekcampers I hadn't seen in years, as well as meet some new faces. Pints kept coming and before long the live band Darren promised took the stage.

Scapa Team 2013

Darren & Me

The live band!


At a sensible hour Wifebuddy and Dave decided to call it quits and head back to the B&B. By that stage i'd had far too may pints and elected to stay on for more beer. Thankfully Darren left not long after, and seeing as he was my new key to the B&B, i had no choice but to follow. Darren proved useful once again on the wander home as he refused to attend the local nightclub with me, and i didn't want to fly solo, or sleep in the car.


Dodged a bullet there...

Thurso nightclub


I made it to bed and slept soundly.



The morning came quickly and i struggled down to breakfast, safely navigating past the huge bookcase kept upright by a strategically placed box of playing cards.

It was little bit Indiana Jones; i admit it took all my self control not to pull it out and watch the impeding chaos. I imagined bolting down the stairs avoiding flying splinters and books from the 70's.






We joined Linda and Bruce (Tekcampers 2011) for a fry up. Dave followed shortly after carrying the breakfast card he was given the night before.



Someone politely informed Dave:

"I think you were supposed to fill that in so they know what you wanted for breakfast." 

"I have filled it in."

Dave then promptly handed the card to the cook. I found this absolutely hilarious; Dave proved to be a truly worthwhile addition to the trip. Mouldy toast and sausages done, we squeezed back into the Ford Boring and headed to the ferry.

Scrabster ferry terminal

My perceptions prior to a dive holiday are persistently incorrect; to the point where i amaze myself, as well as Wifebuddy. We had to get a ferry from Scrabster to Stromness and i was expecting to drive onto a big floating platform with a small outboard, that would motor across a short gap between two islands.


"Can you bring me to Stromness please?"

"Certainly kid sir - come abaord!"


I mentioned this to Kerri.


"Seriously?" 

"I thought you told me it was a short crossing?" 

"It is. But it still has to fit real cars." 

"Oh. Cool. Will if have Wi-fi's then?" 

"..."


Just as Kerri promised we boarded a big ferry, and it did have wi-fi's.


location of the wi-fi's

Kerri braving the 'sun deck'


A lumpy two hour crossing ensued, and we drove off to reach our final destination. A quick u-turn once in the port took us straight to the pier to find The Valkyrie moored up and waiting for us. I was ultra excited.



A collection of cars and 4x4's queued alongside, dive gear was quickly strewn across the concrete, and proceeded to slowly migrate to the deck below. Kerri had already jumped aboard to meet the skipper Hazel, which left Dave and I to do the grunt work. I took charge of unpacking the carefully stocked Ford Boring, and I kept loading Dave up with twinsets and stages.



The deck of the ship was bonkers. A ridiculous number of cylinders piled up within minutes, and it looked enough to embark on some mad expedition.


I glanced Hazels direction, and she too looked 'curious' as to the sheer quantity of steel that lay on her deck. I found myself contemplating if Hazel was concerned about the logistics of what we brought along, but a quick comment in her husky Scottish accent put my mind at ease instantly.


"Thats quite a lot of cylinders. but i've seen more."






Team Ireland quickly reserved a spot near the diver lift, and within a few hours the deck was cleared - a collection of twinsets and rebreathers spanned the benches.

Martin, Bruce, Linder, Bell Johnchamber & Milky Joe
our ship - MV Valkyrie

Wifeybuddy & I Are Diver


Skipper Hazel wasted no time, and our group was immediately assembled in the galley for a safety briefing and some paperwork. It was a friendly, yet informative presentation from Hazel on how the boat was run, where to get stuff, how to get stuff, when food happened, and where to sleep. We received a hearty "Hello" from Helen the cook, sounding from deep within the ship somewhere, but didn't get to meet her until later.


Everything was simple enough, and the only challenge our group created was in the form of technical diving instructor and cave explorer legend; Martin Robson. It transpired Martin had an allergy to mushrooms, and a fear of dogs due to an unfortunate incident involving a rabid wolf in Mexico, or something.


Hazel accommodated Martin's needs without hesitation.

"Ok. Thats no problem. I'll keep the rabid dog in the wheel house, and promise not to allow Helen to feed you any mushrooms."



Meeting concluded we headed out for beer, steak and discussed how phenomenal the week was going to be.




Part 1
 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4