This is the fourth edition of the First Class Diver diaries written for DIVE magazine in 2005.
Yes I know. There was an accurate description of a snoopy loop by Martyn Farr in last months Dive magazine. Unfortunately the question has been and gone in the First Class theory exam, probably never to return. Naturally, now I have piles of old inner tube all over my dive kit.
The single most important factor in the First Class Diver (FCD) programme is the ability to organise and ensure the divers on an expedition work as a team. This was really brought home to me on my first real FCD training weekend.
As I mentioned in last months column, I met up with Paul Rosendale and Sharon Taylor at the theory exam in London. When I returned, Paul called me up and asked me if I fancied going down to Plymouth with a small team of divers and National Instructor Colin Yule to go through some preparation. Of course the answer was yes!!
I had never dived out of Plymouth before as being from the North we tend to go up to Scotland or the East coast. We also tend to stick to the North as we are reliably informed that hoards of cannibals roam the lands South of Stockport. So I packed up my trusty LandRover with all my kit (not forgetting my North/South translation dictionary) and trying not to look appetising, made the six hour drive to the South coast.
After a good night's sleep in the Borringdon Arms, I arrived first thing on Saturday morning with Paul, Sharon and another of Paul's buddies, Simon Ferrari (yes that's his real name) for Colin to brief us on the day's exercises.
It did take me a few attempts to translate; creating a 'plaaan', go and get the gear out of the 'vaaan'. What's wrong with PLAN and VAN, good job we didn't have a diver called Stan!
The first dive we had to plan was to measure the underwater visibility and take a water sample at multiple depths; the second to create a 3m x 3m search grid on the seabed using only line.
On the face of it these tasks seem very simple but, as we all know, when underwater things are different. My advanced instructor training had really prepared me for this. The key is to ensure that you do a dry run. If you can't do it on land when you can talk to each other, you certainly can't do it underwater.
So dry runs were completed and we loaded the piles of re-breathers and twin-sets onto the lovely Clidive Rigid Inflatable.
The team exercises went pretty well and we even managed to deploy and extract the search grid using multiple reels and weights without making spaghetti. Unfortunately when we all returned to the boat, Paul found he had come up with three of his reels missing!! By the time we had discovered the loss we had drifted quite a distance from the dive site. It was pretty clear what we were going to be doing tomorrow: search & recovery.
Of course we thought we knew pretty much where we were the day before. So we deployed a shot and created a 120m jackstay (a line running from the shot along the seabed) to a further shot and performed the first search for the reels. The line was moved and a second search was performed in the afternoon.
I was nominated to swim along the jackstay to prevent the karabiner snagging, having made a glib comment the day before about there not being much kelp down there. NOT MUCH; there was a forest of the blasted stuff!!! So I spent both dives wrestling with it ensuring my colleagues managed to perform their search without a hitch.
Much to Paul's dismay, we were unsuccessful. So if anyone finds three reels clipped together on the south east bit of the breakwater you know whose they are.
Tips for this month:
Next time, the surprise practical exam.