GUE Tech 1, Croatia - PART SIX: Remember Larry Steakman & Maurizzio's Big Bill



The fifth day of tech 1 involved two experience dives, which would effectively complete the class. We did however have an additional day available if Rich felt any areas needed attention. Although this provided a nice buffer, it came at a cost; we felt the pressure. That morning over breakfast we had a conversation reminiscent of my GUE fundamentals class as Liam posed the quandary:


"How do you think we're doing?"


All proclamations about not caring how the course ended, and 'it's all about the learning,' were cast out the window. To be honest, after the amount of work put in to that stage, I wanted to pass; I wanted to pass real bad! It was quite a sobering thought as our team thrashed out various reasons that could lead to our triumph, or failure. 


The biggest fear I had with failing was I had tried my best and felt I was doing well. If Rich told me otherwise I simply couldn't imagine how I could fix it; I was at my peak.










We came to the conclusion we couldn't do anything more than try our best. As we rose from breakfast Liam made a poignant statement:


"No matter what happens today, I'm not trying to fuck this up for anyone."


It was funny, and I did chortle, but a truer word was never spoken. We agreed that was a good motto for the day and everyone relaxed ... a bit.


We collected our instructor, Jamie the Intern, and drove down to Krnica Dive Centre. On the way Rich pointed out our team could be a bit erratic during pre dive operations and we should have thought more about what, and when, we did things. 

To remedy our eclectic behaviour we allocated jobs to the team; Kerri got the analyser and suits, I got the cylinders, Liam got the boxes, and we all met outside on the benches to begin kitting up. It did work much better and we were ready to dive in no time. Liam was still last of course.





As we waited for the daily briefing we got to meet the coolest GUE diver out there - JP Bresser. The tall Netherlander strolled down from the pier like he was taking a stroll in the park; except he was decked out in a tailored DUI, full twinset, an Ali 80 on his shoulder, and a pair of mirror-finish ray bans. It was a Top Gun moment. Hell, even his van was cool.



A brief chat with JP revealed he and his tech 1 class would be joining us on the dive as well; that meant two of the top GUE instructors in the world would be in the water with us, plus an intern. The pressure continued to mount. 

Rich revealed we would be diving SS Vis and the Caserea Roserole; 51m and 45m dives respectively. I was thrilled about diving SS Vis. I had watched loads of you tube vids about the big cruiser, and I couldn't wait. It would also be my deepest dive to date and first on 18/45.


SS VIS

source: Technical Diving College


'Vis SS was a Yogoslavian Cargo Steamer of 1,872 tons built in 1921 by Dunlop Bremner & Co, Port Glasgow for Dampskinlsk Garonne (Fearnley & Eger) as the RENTERIA SS. In 1934 she was acquired by Brodarsko Drustvo ´Oceania´, Yugoslavia and renamed VIS SS. On the 13th February 1946 she was mined in position 45.07N 14.13E off Cape Masnjak on the Istrian coast.'




En route to the site our team conducted GUE EDGE and double checked our dive plan. We looked to Rich to confirm we speaking sense, but he was sleeping. I contemplated shaking him violently, waving a lifejacket in his face and screaming "WE'VE HIT A MINE AND BROKEN IN TWO PIECES!" but my tech 1 cert was within reach, so i didn't risk it.



The Dive

Checks done we were soon descending the shot line. The visibility was milkier than on the Lina dive, but it was still really good. Kerri had a few issues with her ears which resulted in a five minute journey to the bow of the wreck. 


The SS Vis came into view standing upright and proud - it was mind blowing. I checked my gauge to see i was at 50.0m. I felt very happy, which was excellent (I'm not a huge fan of deep) and then became irritated as i noted my dive time was creeping over the 7 minute mark. Our planned bottom time was 20 minutes, of which only 13 remained to explore the giant steamer.

courtesy Wreck & Cave

courtesy Wreck & Cave


We headed to the blunt end of the ship slowly taking in the vastness of the wreck. I loved it. The wreck was draped in old fishing nets, and when combined with the milky blue visibility it created a spooky 'ghost ship' like appearance, almost as if giant cobwebs hung from protruding masts and aerials. I searched and found Rich lingering within range, flashed my light to get his attention and gave him a huge 'OK' signal - it was awesome. He responded in kind and pointed to get close to the wreck.


courtesy Wreck & Cave


The funnel came into view, which was enormous. As i was skulking about the stack Liam signalled he had hit turn pressure. I signalled Kerri and began a bit too quick return to the shot. I was gutted the dive was over, it was just too short. We were also limited by our new 51m restriction. There was a lot of wreck beneath us that we couldn't get to. It seemed it would make a good Tech 2 dive …


courtesy Wreck & Cave


Back at the shot we positioned the team and initiated the ascent. I was deco captain and would be responsible for not bending everybody. I found it quite a liberating experience not having a computer telling me where to stop and for how long. It focused my attention and made me feel in complete control of the dive. The ascent rate of 9m/min was pretty good, and soon we were at 75% of max depth, where i slowed us down to 6m/min until we reached the 21m switch depth. The gas switches were much better than the previous dive, and i figured we were doing well. The stops were all pretty uneventful and soon we were counting down the minutes at the 6m mark. I did notice both Liam and Kerri appeared to be a little uncomfortable looking, which turned out to merely be a weighting issue.


Back on the boat Rich provided encouraging feedback. Overall the response was good. As per the Lina dive he seemed disappointed we hadn't had a decent look at the wreck, but i felt i got a lot from the dive and really enjoyed myself. When Kerri explained she was having trim issues all of a sudden, Rich did that weird GUE instructor sixth sense thing that always amuses me:


"Kerri, are you using a 3Kg tail weight?" 
"Yes," 
"Turn it round. You need the 2Kg to the bottom."



How did he know which way round? How did he know she was using a tail weight at all? Freaky.




Liam was next for a pep talk:

"Liam - you've changed something. Change it back."

Liam laughed;

"I haven't changed anything. I was just being a bit shit." 
"Well, don't be on the next dive." 
"Ok."



Our ship headed back to Krnica to exchange the cylinders and, amazingly, get fed over a well earned surface interval. I was half expecting to throw the tanks into the van, but apparently they were to be walked over to the dive centre; which was far enough i can tell you.


As i deliberated the shortest possible route to the bench at the front of the dive shop Jamie (from Neighbours) stormed past, twin 12's on his back carrying an ali 80 like a coke bottle. I decided 'i could do that' and followed suit. I decided 3 minutes later i couldn't. 





Liam kindly offered to carry Kerri's twinset, but she was already half way across so we left her to it. Kerri returned for her ali 80 and was awkwardly lifting it from the boat when Rich stopped her.


"That's a crap way to carry it; put it on your shoulder." 
"I can't, it's too heavy to lift up." 
"Allow me."

Kerri smiled. Rich gently took the cylinder from Kerri's arms, and promptly dumped it onto her right shoulder.

"There you go."


And they say chivalry is dead?



Lunch was had the cafe next door for simplicity sake. Simplicity was the key word as the menu-less waiter again offered only Scampi or Kilimanjaro. I decided to throw caution to the wind and order the octopus, again impressing Rich with my cultured behaviour.

Wifebuddy enjoying scampi

Top Gun JP Bresser politely asked if he could join us and ordered an espresso as we awaited lunch. After 5 mins JP took a phone call, just as his coffee arrived and never returned. 


A few minutes later Liam stated:

"That espresso looks really good."

My inner child couldn't help it.

"Drink it. He's obviously not coming back, it will only be wasted. He won't mind, you can buy him one next time."

Just as Liam lifted the cup i took a picture and sent it to immediately to JP.


"Oh, you fucker!"





I was amused, no end.



Cesare Rossarol

source: warships

Cesare Rossarol was a Poerio class light explorer build in Sestri Ponente, Genoa. It entered the service in 1915. Main duty was scouting, escorting destroyers, fighting other smaller ships and airplanes and patrolling high and low Adriatic Sea. Extremely fast, was very efficient in combat. At the end of WWI Cesare Rossarol was participating in occupation of Istrian and Dalmatina coast by Italian troops. After the proclamation of armistice on 4th of November 1918 Rossarol was in Pula. 16th of November 1918 Rossarol was on the way to Rijeka (Fiume). It was lunch time, just around noon. The boat hit a mine in front of Ližnjan, a mile from the coast. Explosion scrapes it in two parts. Ship sunk rapidly, in few minutes. Unfortunately 98 men died. Bow part of the ship is separated from stern and turn upside down. Some munitions can be seen on the bottom around the wreck. Stern part is lying in sailing position, slightly inclined on the left side. Maximum depth is 49 meters.



Lunch complete, and Liam suitably touted on, we headed out on the ship once more for a dive on the Cesare Rossarol. When we arrived it was a little choppier than before, and i have to admit i started to feel a bit ill as we waited for the boat to get into position. Once in water all was well and we descended the shot to the wreck below. Once on the bottom i felt the thermocline immediately, and was pleased once we began finning about, generating some heat.

There were some lovely features on the wreck. We looked at the gun, the range finder and the steering wheel thingy. It was a very cool dive, but surprisingly darker than on the Vis; our lights proved necessary for navigation as well as signalling. There was a peculiar feature on the sea bed that created a distinct 'ether' layer that hovered on the deck of the wreck. It was very strange but created a notable effect; like lost souls encircling the divers. 

My imagination left me feeling a little unsettled. For some odd reason it reminded me of our local wreck in Strangford Lough; purely a feeling. It was hard to explain. I did attempt to expound to Kerri post dive, but i was merely accused of being odd and to stop. Five mins before our planned bottom time i started to feel the cold. The shot line had just come into view as i signalled the team i was cold and we began our ascent with Liam in charge of the deco.

courtesy Wreck & Cave

He didn't bend anyone. Another successful Tech 1 dive.





That evening we visited our favourite (only) restaurant in our little village and enjoyed the final meal in Pizza Kum. Rich finally joined us and gave the most peculiar dive briefing ever.

"Ok guys. To this point all three of you have met the requirements for GUE Tech 1."




We looked at each other.

"Cool."

We retuned to our drinks.


"You still have to pass your exam of course."


It was bonkers. I wanted party streamers and screaming chicks. Alas no. Pizza and beer completed we left Rich with the Krnica dive centre folks, and wandered back to our apartment. Liam and I chatted along the way, Liam pondering:


"We're Tech 1 then?" 

"Yup. I think so. Very cool isn't it?" 

"Yeah. Bloody hard wasn't it?" 

"Yup."


That thought sent me off to sleep that night.




FINAL DAY


Although we had effectively completed our GUE Tech 1 class Rich provided the option of a further experience dive. We jumped at the chance and got kit together and prepared for another wreck dive.

Argo

I stood in the dive centre with Rich as he briefed Kerri and I on the overhead projector image of the wreck we were set to dive. The wreck had broken in two pieces (as with all Croatian shipwrecks!) and Rich explained we could dive the two pieces on one dive if we didn't mind a bit of a swim. I merely asked a simple question:

"What length is it?"

Rich seemed particularly unimpressed.


"Does it matter?"

"Well, not really i suppose, but it would be nice to know."

"Just do the dive."


It must be a pet hate or something, but he really wasn't happy with my persistent questioning about length. Just as we finished chatting Liam sauntered in, a bit late as usual.


"Is this the wreck?"


Rich sighed…


"Yes."

"Cool. What length is it?"



I exploded.





Alas the dive didn't happen. The weather closed in and torrents of rain belted against the windows as we waited in the cafe. After an hour Rich asked what we wanted to do. The option was to head out and see if it was any better out at sea and take it from there, but it would be rough.


The other divers at the centre weren't going out and we were happy to follow suit. I didn't want to end the class on a negative experience, especially one spent vomiting on a boat. Instead we ordered tea and agreed to sit the exam. The exam was fine. I was expecting madness, but it was everything we had learned during the week and we all passed with flying colours.





Exam completed, Rich sat us down as a group for a debrief. He summarised the class and dissected areas we struggled with, and how they were overcome.

There weren't any major issues and Rich explained we had all done very well and congratulated us on becoming GUE Tech 1 divers!

It was a much better conclusion than the pizza place declaration, and we all left happy divers.



BBQ


All that remained was to hang our dive kit around the entire apartment to dry it out and head back to Krinca Dive that night for one of Maurizio's famous BBQ's. The BBQ was immense.

human flesh?

Just meat for me thanks

Maurizio carves another hunk

More bread? Really?

It was a simple, yet effective affair; as with everything connected to Krnica Dive Centre. It was simply a ton of meat (that continually appeared) bread (which i passed on) and a bowl of salad (that i also passed on). I ate my own body weight in red meat. The steaks big M was throwing on the flames were colossal. I was perplexed when i noticed the friendly giant was constantly lifting meat from the boot of his car, which was positioned just behind the BBQ. They didn't look like human steaks …

Yes, the steaks are the size of his arm!

Velimir and me

Me and Maurizio








After many beers and a ton of meat we called said our goodbyes and called a close to the entire adventure. Liam stated:


"Well, i don't think they'll forget the little Irish couple in a hurry anyway. They probably forgot my name already."

"Not at all ... Larry Steakman."







Maurizio's BIG BILL


The next morning we surfaced as a team and said our goodbyes to Liam. I was really sad to see him go. The team had been flawless; Liam had fitted in perfectly with Kerri and I. A solid sense of humour and good dive sense made a truly enjoyable experience for everyone. Wifebuddy and I thanked him:


"It was great fun mate. We're so glad it was you; we were really concerned we'd get some shit-hot-diver-GUE fanatic." 

"Eh … thanks guys. I think."


Next on the list was to pay the rather large helium bill and head for the airport via our good friend Tony. At the dive centre Jacko sorted our personal bills on an individual basis. Despite appearing laid back and a little erratic, Krnica Dive Centre had an extremely precise system.



It transpired, after every dive our cylinders were measured, and we were only charged for the gas we used, not per fill. This resulted in a very reasonable gas bill for the week, especially as our bill included our instructors share. The only downside - cash was king; which was a shame - my credit card was all set for the pounding!


After that it was a 3 hour drive to Venice, or Vienna; i can't remember which and a flight back home.

Tony leaving Kerri & I off at the airport



CONCLUSION


Jamie - Me - Rich - Kerri - Liam


Tech 1 was an amazing class and i highly recommend it. I did however find it demanding, stressful and a lot of bloody hard work; emotionally and physically. Personally i thought the ascent training was the toughest, but i also I had to pay increased attention during some of the academics. Wifebuddy and Liam are apparently smarter than me; disappointingly.

I enjoyed aspects of the class at the time, but i have had the most enjoyment AFTER the class. The more tech diving I do the better I get, and the better I get at utilising the training to get the most out a dive; and that is where the GUE tech 1 class truly excels. It works well at a base level, but it works brilliantly when you start adapting a dive to squeeze every litre out of the very expensive twinset of helium on your back. It's bloody clever.



For those considering the class, do this:

  • Practice your GUE fundamental skills to a high standard.
  • Get fit.
  • Do lots of diving.
  • Do it in Croaita with Krnica Dive Centre.

Do NOT attempt to rehearse tech 1 skills.



The tech 1 class has brought me to a level where i am totally at home 50m down, and I know any GUE team and i can deal with any problem that may occur. The confidence i have gained has been immeasurable.


I are tech 1 diver

THANKS


Sincere thanks to Kerri (Wifebuddy), Liam (Larry Steakman ), Rich Walker (prepare for T1+), Maurizio (and your big bill), Jacko (for calculating Maurizio's big bill), Tony (for driving to Italy to get us), Velimir (for the encouragement & support), all Krnica dive staff and boat skippers, Jamie from Neighbours (good luck as a T1 instructor), JP Bresser (for being cool), staff at Pizza Kum (for working somewhere called Kum, and the big beers), everyone we met along the way who served me beer/food or chatted, and finally the Croatian Police for letting Rich out of prison; or this blog post would never exist!




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









12 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed all 6 posts and well done to all 3 of you. Its been good to read about your first hand experience and how tough but rewarding the T1 is. Helped make my mind up on witch direction to go in. Thanks and keep the blogs coming.

    Giles

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  2. Thanks Giles! Tech 1 was awesome - go do it! :)

    Good luck with your diving future and dive safe. Don't worry; there'll be plenty more blogs to come. :D

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  3. "Do NOT attempt to rehearse tech 1 skills."

    I fully support that !

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  4. Top blog!
    And guess what... Top gun diver JP is also an amazing cameraman and producer. He made a movie of our ('the other GUE Tech1 team') dive on the Vis. Starting our ascent you will see you and your team starting the dive: http://vimeo.com/65982539

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  5. Excellent Frank! That's so cool! :)

    Wish we had footage like that; JP is the man!

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  6. am impressed you remember it all...
    like 5 months after the trip!!!

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  7. Found a photo of you actually listening to Rich on your course! taken by Jamie Obern, newly qualified GUE Instructor Trainer (only GUE Instructor in NZ!).
    If you had hung around for a couple of weeks Jarrod Jablonski was at Krinica!http://www.techdivenz.com/gallery.html#

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  8. Thanks for the cool blogs on this course. You have made me laugh more than once and I am looking forward on doing this course as well.

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  9. I really appreciated this blog. Thanks for sharing your experience and great sense of humour. Your Scapa flow is synced and ready for reading on my flight to Tenerife next week. Keep em coming....

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  10. Thanks Graham; glad you're enjoying the blog!

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  11. Great blog, really enjoyed reading it and looking forward to doing T1 one day in the future.

    Jamie was carrying the kit like that was probably training for his stroll through the forest for Blue Creek :p

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Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.