Day Two - Buoyancy Blues

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Day Two - Buoyancy Blues - Blah Blah - by Simon Campbell

When I was down at the Kyle earlier in the year I experienced the 'awkward' tidal streams of the treacherous Kyle Rae; feared by mariners everywhere! I was in the RIB, put the boat into neutral and the boat was moving at six knots over ground. I saw up-wellings and confused water, whirlpools and much evidence of wind against tide... Of course this is where we arranged to undertake the 'boat dive with an instructional purpose'...

I was a 'little' concerned about the speed of the drift. As I had never done it before and, thinking safety in the planning session, we had opted to dive it towards the end of slack.

We were up early (0630), prepping the kit for the day and rushing down breakfast which only really got going about 0800. Slack happened to be around 1030 and since we were only a 20 minute RIB ride away we decided to change around the order of the day a little to get in some of the other goodies before we left.

The Five Minute Fumble

This particular goodie was the 'five minute meeting'. This is where they simulate a conversation at the bar (sadly without alcohol) with a group of members of a dive club asking your 'friendly' NI something relating to branch diving activites. They (in my case four examiners) give you the subject and within 30 seconds you have to present the subject back to them in a structured way.

For us it was about Nitrox and what 'their branch' needed to do to set up a blending facility. I quickly collected my thoughts and delivered a 'passable' response but before I knew it Maggie had thrown me out, quarantined me and replaced me with Allan...

We all shot out and corralled everyone for a brief. Easier said than done; examiners everywhere and when we had them together candidates were disappearing.

The way we had arranged the management was we had an overall 'day manager' who was responsible for timekeeping (timekeeping is essential) and then the individual dive managers for each element of the exam. This morning it was my turn to manage the diving and, most importantly, teach the management.

*Cambo’s Exam Tip #5: If you give the examiners a good reason they will gladly let you change the day around. Just tell them where they should be at what time - they love it!!*

<img src="{filedir_4}simon_driving_RIB_300.jpg" alt="Simon driving RVSAC RIB" width="210" height="134" />

I allocated the students and examiners jobs and sent them scurrying down to the RIBS which were moored on the pontoon adjacent to the hotel. I had asked Mr Wigg to check that the oxygen kits were all set up. I arrived down at the boats and he said. 'Have you checked the cylinders'. I said yes, they have recently been topped up. The one that was attached was only 1/3 full... GASP! Fortunately RVSAC always carry a spare 2.7L Oxygen cylinder in the boat but I was lectured for two minutes on why it was important to check... Flustered, I boarded the boat supervising and teaching the loading; no keys. B^&&$%!!! I ran up to the car to get the spare set, returned and we were already ten minutes late with ropes off...

Boat Dive with a Buoyancy Balls Up...

During the drift dive part of the dive, Dennis started to question me on all things nautical. We arranged the diving and management between the two boats with three candidates and three examiners. I was on with Dennis; all that time above the water with a very knowledgeable examiner!!!

Finally we entered the water. JOY... I can do this bit. I taught Dennis the aspects of drift diving, speeding up and slowing down as the drag increased on the diver with change of attitude in the water. At between 1 to 1.5Kn it was a relaxed affair. Everything was cool and then I was required to teach deployment of DSMB. I do this all the time and can usually manage this with virtually no change in depth. I love my buoyancy, its my mantra, I hang around for hours on line just keeping it all within a few cm's whilst doing loads of deploying stuff, reading stuff, clipping on stuff, demonstrating stuff everything...

Not this time, pressure on and I was up and down like a brides nighty. I couldn't believe it... Rattled, we surfaced and then I had to demonstrate use of a surface detection aid. Used a flag, should have been more creative...

Maggie unfortunately didn't get a good drift as the tide had turned; she was upset. Not good getting the exam boss agitated...

*Cambo’s Exam Tip #6: If you say you are going to arrange a drift dive, make sure you drift - quickly.*

Napier Nonsense

The cock up behind me we set off back for lunch, change of dive manager and on to the task related coaching boat dive. We regrouped and did the dry run. Andy, myself and Allan had complimentary tasks. Andy was to run the line into the wreck and I was to follow the line and then teach the measurement of an internal section of the Napier.

I realised at this point I had planned everything except this task... Oh no. So thinking on my feet I whipped up a plan to do the measurements. My 'students' were Dr Peddie and Reedo. Great... I told them that I would be demonstrating all that I wanted them to do underwater but ran through the measuring devices I was going to use. These were the tape measure, reel and the depth gauge... We participated in Andy/Allan's dry run so we knew what to expect when we were down there.

Out to the wreck in the RIBS I was demonstrating some seamanship to Clare and Reedo. Joy.

<img src="{filedir_4}Reedo.jpg" alt="Jeff Reed" width="210" height="265" /> 

Andy was the first to dive and I was left on the boat with Reedo. He of course questioned me relentlessly on all things technical... To my relief Andy appeared on the surface BUT he had not found an entrance into the wreck!!! Disaster - what was I going to do? Thinking, I began to kit up.

We descended down the shot and taught a prussik loop on the way down to hang on a strobe... Things were good. I was feeling good. Buoyancy recovered, calm... I taught the measurements on the prop shaft / rudder area of the ship and the sketchy mental plan seemed to work in practice using tape measures, reels and depth gauges. Returning back to the shot was good with the strobe leading the way.

Frantic Feedback

At the bottom of the shot Clare performed a five minute lesson which I had to critique. She performed an AS lesson whilst using a rebreather offering me her regulator which was round her neck on a necklace. I was mimicking whilst trying to see what she was driving at and analysing her technique. My kit was very different and not set up to donate my necklace as I have the long hose on my primary... Difficult when you are faced with this scenario as I couldn't exactly mimic what she was doing.

Back on the boat and Clare then interrogated me on Marine Life, not my strongest suit... EEEEEEEK. Remember this is still day two...

*Cambo’s Exam Tip #7: On the AI type examination elements use pretty standard kit...*

Back to the hotel and guess what, I walked into the hotel ready for a wee and a drink in that order, Maggie (No 'O') stood in the doorway to the dining room and said. "Ahh, you're just in time".

Branch intercourse

I was taken to the room behind the curtain to find a clutch of instructors around the table all insistent on forming a virtual branch with membership spread across the whole of the UK. Mr Wigg kept butting in and having a 'why do we have to dive nitrox' rant just to distract everyone. This was challenging but at least people and politics are my strong suits - I just upset everyone...

Out, quarantined again and then straight into the planning session for the adventurous boat dive and boat dive project planning.

Planning Pandemonium

Now planning and running diving is something I can do (does this mean I am rubbish at everything else?) and i really enjoyed this session. We were planning for diving on sites that were unknown with a view to writing a mini dive guide to the area. The specification was:

<img src="{filedir_4}o_limhia_300.jpg" alt="Copyright Sue Scott (published on the MarLIN Web site)" width="210" height="158" /> 

The project dive was to conduct a survey for Scottish Natural Herritage to confirm the location and establish the extent of an area of reef made up of the bivalve mollusc Limaria hians, also know as the “Gaping File Shell” or the “Flame Shell”. 

The task was to investigate:

We were up on this task till 2330 as we not only had to teach the planning of the expedition but teach examiners how to plan and conduct the survey... Again Bromo came to the rescue with some beautifully made quadrats for the file shell philandering. The examiner team left early with Watto muttering about having eaten half the elephant...

<img src="{filedir_4}half_elephant_300.jpg" alt="Half the elephant left..." width="210" height="235" />

Beer, bed, sleep but in the 20/30 seconds it takes me to drop off thinking about the issues of the day and what I needed to do to recover...

Quote #2 From the Event

My memories of the event are a bit blurred – I remember a caffeine fuelled few days of early starts and late night planning sessions. Interspersed in this are windows of lucidity with clear memories of totally unrelated events – why I choose to remember the bits I have, over and above others will keep me in professional papers for the next few years.
The best thing about the event overall for me was without doubt about an hour after getting my result. Following that things get a bit blurred again but I don’t think that was due to more caffeine. It took me an hour if not longer to really appreciate the result and believe it. Having been unsuccessful before made it all the better.
There are other clear good memories. The second day of the small boat prep in Anglesey sticks in my mind with good weather and relaxed (??) diving. I am sure that the dolphin we saw jump clear of the water was not doing so because the vis was so bad that he had got lost.
The challenges of the exam were relentless. It is the intensity and length of the exam which I found the greatest challenge. The planning sessions were long but there was a lot to do and it was not inefficiency which made these go on.
The sight of the blood-stained fellow candidate who had cut himself shaving, fresh from his shower, will stay with me a long time. Overall it is the camaraderie of the entire group – candidates and examiners, which was the high point for me."



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