Introduction - The Pig Arc Incident

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Introduction - The Pig Arc Incident - Blah Blah - by Simon Campbell

I have never prepared for any examination as much as I prepared for this. So, following a hectic twelve months I thought I was fully tooled up and ready to rock for the four day exam.

Greetings pop-pickers... 

I have never prepared for any examination as much as I prepared for this. So, following a hectic twelve months I thought I was fully tooled up and ready to rock for the four day exam.

I was towing the mighty Ribble Valley Sub Aqua Club (RVSAC) RIB to the venue and thought it would be a cool idea to drive up on the Thursday and have a relaxing journey.

You are examined on twenty three individual elements and I didn't want to be caught out. I therefore packed the LandRover to the gunwales with every conceivable item connected with diving / seamanship plus data projectors, flip charts, text books, my theory presentation (more on this later), six bottles of good red wine and my trusty technical underpants.

Steve Pearson (Pearso) was meeting me at a service station just off the M6 in his Transit van (actually a mobile dive shop). I called him to say I was setting out on the 395 mile journey to the exam venue, the spectacular Kyle of Lochalsh.

The RVSAC RIB is kept in a large barn owned by one of our members who uses it to store great quantities of 'lads stuff' which include an impressive collection of competition ready, hill climbing LandRovers.

I arrived and slid back the huge doors to reveal my first challenge of the exam: a 200Kg pigark right in front of the boat... Many of you reading this will never have seen a pigark. Surprisingly enough they are mobile houses for pigs, but more importantly very heavy and generally difficult to mess with (picture below a small version of the actual arc)..

A Pig Arc

Now, when on your own and slightly on edge with the exam looming, the last thing you want to see is an unwieldy pigark impeding your progress. So after some consideration I put together a rope harness and towed the rascal out of the way.

First hurdle over I set off to meet Pearso.

The seven and a half hour journey, regularly punctuated with vistas of amazing scenery and visits to the petrol station, was relatively uneventful. Glencoe is breathtaking, with an incredible atmosphere. Being a Campbell however, I am always looking in my rear view mirror just in case I am being chased by a hoard of claymore wielding MacDonalds intent on wreaking revenge for my ancestors' murderous past...

Joe, my youngest son, had put together an eclectic collection of CD’s for my journey. As I pulled up adjacent to the aptly named Saucy Mary’s hostel in Kyleakin, Frank Zappa’s 1974 "Cosmik Debris":http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uv3ia0cFWI kicked off. Appropriate I thought...

<img src="{filedir_4}saucy-marys-lodge.jpg" width="210" height="140" alt="Saucy Mary's Lodge" /> 

*Cambo’s Top-Tip #1: Take your own car. You can have everything organised but more importantly you may be allocated different team than your travelling companion which causes havoc if you both have to be in different places at the same time.*

Thursday: The First Night

Saucy Mary’s is a hostel, full of young, international backpackers attached to a very noisy bar. Due to lack of spaces at the Lochalsh Hotel, where the event was centred, local organiser Jim Bromham (Bromo) had booked us into this establishment for the Thursday and Friday evening, four to a room with a move the LoachAlsh hotel for the remaining four nights.

Once Steve and I arrived we piled over to meet Sarah Gucci Carlton (Carlo) at the King Haakon Bar for food and a couple of beers. Within 10 minutes the band had arrived and the place was mobbed with a crowd of international and local mad-folk intent on getting totally hammered and dancing the night away. Under normal circumstances I would have donned my kilt, Aran sweater and Doc Martins and joined them but not tonight, there was serious business afoot.

To the strains of the Proclaimers ‘Letter from America’ ringing in our ears we left and crossed the road to meet up with Andy Procter (Procto) for another beer. The final member of the candidate team, Allan Thomas (Tomo), was driving from Mid Wales; thirteen hours of road-trip fun and wasn't expected ‘till real late.

Friday: Tension Time

I know I don’t snore, I have never heard myself but Pearso, Tomo and Procto insist that I do. Pearso is a very light sleeper and as he had roomed with me during some of the preps he had brought with him earplugs and a blindfold - very Liz Taylor. Unfortunately the other chaps hadn’t. I of course, woke up in the morning fresh as a daisy as once my head touches the pillow I am out like a light in seconds.

We consumed a substantial Scottish breakfast in the company of a group of bright young antipodeans. We then set about rearranging the furniture in the breakfast room for last minute preparation. Laminators, printers, charts and computers were all in evidence along with much discussion as to what was to come.

Historically the identity of the examination team and the order of events was kept under wraps until the briefing. This year the event boss, Maggie Cowing, was quite transparent about the team and we worked out the basic programme between ourselves based on a few well placed calls to the hardboat skipper and the pool manager.

A couple of days prior to the exam we had been given the format of the rescue workshop, cooked up by Mr Wigg. Some of the morning was used in working out the logistics for the workshop. The brief wasn't very expansive and therefore Andy, who we ‘volunteered’ to run the workshop, was in contact with Dennis by mobile to ensure we were on the right lines.

Following lunch at the Castle Maol restaurant, we decided to take the mighty RVSAC RIB out for a spin so the team could get used to the feel. Launching at the Kyleakin slip and following a bit of tooling about we came back leaving the boat in the water at the pontoon. These events are VERY busy and we thought it sensible not to have to launch each day.

<img src="{filedir_4}Bromo.jpg" width="210" height="235" alt="Jim Bromham - aka bromo" /> Bromo _(pictured)_ provided the second RIB. Particularly brave I thought considering its his own personal property! He towed the boat over to Kyleakin and gave us a safety brief. We were all stood around the boat with Bromo pontificating from inside rather like a preacher in a nautical pulpit. One of the more ‘colourful’ locals took exception to this ‘sermon’; unfortunately Dr Procter, our resident psychologist, had no jurisdiction in Scotland...

Pearso, Carlo and I decided that Saucy Mary’s was not the best place to be when chilling out for an exam so we booked in to the Kyle Hotel which was 100m from the pool where we suspected the first event would take place. We arrived at the Lochalsh hotel at 1845 for the 1900 brief.

Maggie summoned us into the private area reserved for us at the end of the dining room in the Lochalsh hotel. Rather dramatically it was behind a large curtain. We parted the curtain to reveal the examiners were sat in a circle, every alternate seat empty. I expect if you are reading this you are possibly thinking of going for your NI. If so, you will know that generally at this level examiners are a miserable bunch. To my surprise there were smiles and humour; not at all what I was expecting. The examiners were led by Maggie (No ‘O’) with Sean Gribben (ND’O’), Jim Watson (Watto), Mark Wilson (Willo), Dennis Wigg (Mr Wigg to you son), Clare Peddie (Dr Peddie to you Sir), Jeff Reed (Reedo), Pete Church (Churcho). The team were very ably assisted by local organiser Jim Bromham (mighty Bromo).

The brief was given and outlined the programme for the next few days. I made it clear that the candidates intended to engender a team spirit into the whole event. This followed on from the hardboat prep event with the ‘O’ suffix. Yes I know, sticking an ‘O’ on the end of everyone's name doesn't make a team but what it does do is add some humour into the proceedings and gives a common bond between examiners and candidates alike. The Lochalsh Hotel is a coach party paradise and when the briefing concluded the dining room was packed full of elderly Germans troughing down. Deutschlando - quite bizarre.

Surprisingly there was no planning meeting following the brief so we went to eat and take in further liquid refreshment. Early bed was in order so Steve, Carlo and I went to single rooms in the Kyle Hotel.

Allan and Andy went back to Saucy Mary’s. Quite by coincidence there was a festival on that weekend. The band in the marquee 50m from their room finished playing at 0200. Hmmm...

*Cambo’s Top-Tip #2: Get a room your own. You can spread out, have some space and truly relax. The cost dwindles into insignificance compared with the cost of getting there in the first place.*

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