This is the final edition of the First Class Diver diaries written for DIVE magazine in 2005.
So this is it, the final edition. I have really enjoyed writing this column although sometimes it has been hard to fit it all in. Last month I missed the publishing deadline and was very touched by all the emails I received wondering what had happened to me. Simple answer - I was doing too much diving!
Before you ask, I passed my practical and was truly shocked. I was quite amazed by the report on my individual performance over the two day event. It's very comprehensive and gives you a great insight into your weaknesses and strengths. I think this is where the First Class examination 'really rocks' as it gives you the opportunity to have your personal diving and leadership skills assessed by some of the most knowledgeable divers in BSAC. Out of the twelve candidates taking the Plymouth practical: nine passed, one failed one of the days and two failed both days - it's not easy!
The rest of this column, in true BSAC style, summarises the programme and hopefully will encourage more of you to test how good you really are. I am pretty sure there are many of you who could quickly get up to speed and would enjoy the challenge.
OK, before registration you must have:
Once you register there are four sections to the examination:
These practical days are assessed on twelve criteria:
4. Finally the Expedition Plan: This should detail an expedition for 10/12 First Class Divers giving up to three challenging dives per day over a four day period in a variety of diving environments. Naturally you have to take into account everything such as tides, cost, accommodation, passage planning, decompression techniques as well as potential requirements for mixed gas and rebreather divers.
I based mine upon a trip to my favourite diving spot in the world, St Kilda, where I led a trip earlier this year.
The whole programme is based on self / group study, so don’t expect to have your hand held. There are mentors and National Instructors in the regions who will help you, but you have to get on the phone and ask!! It’s all about self motivation and drive to achieve something quite exceptional.
Has it all been worth it? A resounding yes which is echoed by all the divers I know who have gone for it.
I personally have had a great laugh; learnt a great deal more about diving; realised how much I still have to learn (FCD is not the end, its just a check half way through); met some interesting people that have enriched my diving experience; made a load of new friends; learnt a great deal about myself making me a better diver and also positively influencing my work.
More dramatically, last week, I helped manage a DCI incident and helicopter evacuation from a hardboat on a deep diving expedition. There were two other FCD aboard and the rescue and casualty management went like clockwork. The guy was fine and when returned from the chamber came and thanked us. What a great feeling. When something like this happens it really proves that all the training and hard slog really pays off.
Who should go for FCD? If you are an advanced diver who really wants to really test your mettle and see how good you REALLY are, the FCD is for you.
As this is the last edition and the expedition plan is the final section I have to complete, I won’t be able to tell you the final outcome. But, if you come along to the Diving Officers Conference (DOC) where all the First Class Awards are presented, you hopefully will see me (sporting my new shaved head look) going up on stage to receive my award.
Finally I must thank the key individuals that have influenced me over the years. There are literally hundreds, but turning points were brought about by: Rennie Alcock (who motivated me to start diving in the first place), ‘Big Al’ Grey (who convinced me to join BSAC and ‘do’ British diving), Neil Walker (who taught me how to dive properly), Jack Ingle (who took my diving to another level), Mark Wilson / Pete Church (who inspired me to go for FCD) and the rest of Ribble Valley Sub Aqua Club.
My final words… Just DO IT (that could be a strap line for something).
Take it slow and see you at the DOC…