Day Three - Fileshell Fun

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Day Three - Fileshell Fun - Blah Blah - by Simon Campbell

I love proper diving and this was my chance to really impress the examiners. This morning the midges were out. Bromo had supplied the examiners with nets for their heads to prevent being bitten; a bizarre sight. Bromo mentioned that Avon 'Skin so Soft' is the best midge repellent; apparently they don't like the taste! Clearly nether did the examiners and being rufty-tufty British divers, they didn't like the idea of putting on moisturiser. (I have reliably informed however that the male examiner (who is in the advertising business) regularly uses male 'products' - that's why he thinks he looks so young.

Talking of examiners, the 'shoal' today consisted of Willo, Reedo, Maggie (No 'O') and Mr Wigg. They were backed up by the mighty Bromo who had cooked a couple of beautifully made aluminium quadrats for use on the file shell survey.

Since his arrival late on the Friday evening I had been engaging with my new mate Fergo (Dave Ferguson – pictured below) who was the skipper of the Brenden (http://www.lochaline-boats.co.uk/BoatDetails.html) used on the event. It's always a good idea to keep the skipper happy on any trip and this of course was no exception. He had been on the hard boat prep event and we all found him to be an excellent chap. Also I had a few conversations with the harbour master - believe it or not - called 'Tommo', to ensure we had a mellifluous experience.

*Cambo's Exam Tip #8: Keep the skipper and locals happy; they can make or break your event...*

Kit prepared, boat loaded, brief completed (albeit whilst dodging swarms of midges who all seem to follow Mr Wigg around) we set off bang on time - 0830.

<img src="{filedir_4}Dave.jpg" alt="Dave Ferguson - Fergo" width="210" height="166" /> 

With all that room and toys on the boat 'surface teaching' and 'coaching and mentoring' were the order of the day. There are so many teaching opportunities you have more than you can deal with in the short space of time available between dives. You have to remember that you have to teach how to manage, navigate and crew the boat at the same time.

I embarked on this with great gusto firstly 'teaching'  Maggie how to fill a cylinder then looking on to planning the dive using firstly my PDA (disaster as it's a bit too small to see) and then my trusty VR3.

In the first class exam Willo gave me a hard time about dehydration that ended up with me being sent into the galley to brew up! The tables turned this time as I had the opportunity to teach him this vital skill :)

As Willo and I returned from the galley with a fistful of tea those unforgettable words came from Mr Wigg. ‘Simon, do you have a minute?.’ He then started grilling me on all things technical soon resulting in brain-ache and forgetting my own name. Give me a question in the classroom and a bit of paper, I can work out virtually anything but under the inscrutable eye of Dennis I totally lost it; during the next day and a half it just became worse… As I have now discovered, this is exactly what happens day to day to any ‘National’ as you have to ‘know’ everything and be able to answer questions at any time… Joy.

<img src="{filedir_4}Dennis.jpg" alt="Fearful Dennis Wigg" width="210" height="149" />

I had opted to dive a brand new site with the purpose of producing an outline ‘dive guide’. Everything was good. I gave Maggie the brief to look for / identify marine life and record an outline topographical survey of the site. We had a great dive, no drama and brought back some good information…

Next up (besides Willo and Mr Wigg pestering me to tell them all about position fixing, buoys and general nautical marks) was the project task…

Fileshell Frolics

The fileshell bed was not far from the hotel in Loch Alsh itself and the day before Pearso and Carlo did the same survey but in an adjacent area.

This time I was diving with Reedo and following the teaching of the shot deployment, management and a brief on how we were going to perform the survey, we plunged into the water complete with Bromo’s magnificent quadrats.

It’s an experience diving with Reedo. He straps to his back this device, once a conventional inspiration but now like something off Star Trek; cylinders and stainless steel everywhere. This was going to be interesting as he is a technical diver and not really into ’squidgey' things on the bottom. Bit like me really.

As the fileshells hide in a nest, Willo decided that he would also pop down with us to give us an idea what these critters look like. I thought this spelled disaster as he is primarily a wreck diver and doesn’t really ‘get’ the whole sea life thing. We descended down the shot in 5/7m visibility and when we reached the bottom Willo swam 2m and found one. I couldn’t believe it - lucky b£@$£@*!

Although the creatures look like a clump of shells and generally disguised to look like the surrounding seabed, the nest feels squidgy when you prod them. Reedo and I prodded just to see what it felt like and then got onto the survey.

Part of the task was to deploy a jackstay and some 5Kg weights to mark distances / keep the line on the bottom. We took these down with us and therefore we had to adjust buoyancy to suit. As with the earlier dive the object of this is to mentor and coach a First Class Diver candidate how to operate in these circumstances so it doesn’t involve ‘teaching’ per say.

We had a great dive, vociferously prodded a few fileshells, completed our bit of the survey, found Carlo’s slate that she lost the day before and negotiated the fierce current that developed towards the end of the dive. I ‘showed’ Reedo how to crawl along the bottom, of course neutrally buoyant, then returned to the boat complete with results, Carlo’s slate, quadrats and buddy… Lovely.

Unfortunately I was left on the boat with Reedo and Willo for ages which resulted in me being questioned unmercifully on weather and general stuff… VERY BAD.

<img src="{filedir_4}Sean.jpg" alt="Sean Gribben - NDO" width="210" height="189" />

*Cambo’s exam tip #9: Do your best not to get stuck alone on the boat with a ‘pack’ of examiners; can be very nasty...*

Presentation Postulations

That evening we had to compile the data and put together a presentation of the project dive over the two days. I was tasked with creating the ‘keynote’ presentation, topping / tailing the data and producing a sample of the ‘dive guide’ for the unknown sites. We all had our bits to do…

After this very good day I was getting tired but still full of adrenalin; last day tomorrow, ¾ of the elephant eaten and a comfortable bed upstairs.

Quotes #3 From the Event

Good and bad... It’s impossible to pick one, so here are a few (not a definitive list as there were loads of good bits):

Most Challenging Bit(s): Few and far between, but here are a couple:

<cite>Maggie No ’O’</cite>

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