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Having identified that my buoyancy control needed some improvement I arranged with Mark to undertake his Advanced Buoyancy Control course at Wraysbury last Thursday. I met with JimBob, whom I already knew, and Glyn, who had driven from Plymouth to take the course, such is Mr Powell's reputation! We were joined by Rob, who was acting as safety diver for the day, and "Eric", Mark's buoyancy control and trim model frogman!

The day started with each student stating what we hoped to achieve during the day and then Mark talked about the principles that underpin buoyancy control and trim, using "Eric" to demonstrate different aspects of the talk. We were all involved from the start, identifiying negative and positive aspects of equipment and variable and fixed buoyancy. The science part was explained well, even a total science numpty like me could understand the principles! Then it was explained what we would be doing on our first dive and off we went to kit up.

The first dive involved dropping down to the top of a container at 9m and demonstrating fin pivots, moving on to hovering and then to rising and dropping 0.5m at a time, in a controlled manner, on Mark's command. The purpose of this dive was to get used to attaining neutral buoyancy and then altering depth in a controlled manner. Personally I found this difficult and during the post dive debrief Mark did ask whether my feet were made of balsa wood?:embarassed: Apparently I may one of the few people who have genuinely floaty feet!

At the end of this dive we did a weight check on virtually empty cylinders and even though I thought I'd done pretty well on a weight check a few weeks earlier, we still managed to take off another kilo, to take my weight down to 3KG on twin 12's in fesh water. I think Jim removed 4KG and Glyn 6KG, so altogether 11KG removed between the two dives!

The debrief continued over coffee and bacon sarnies and then it was time to kit up for the second dive. This time we dropped down to the container and practiced hovering neutrally buoyant. It was at this point that Mark strapped a set of ankle weights on me to help with the floaty feet and that seemed to help considerably. After we were all comfortable we were then to deploy a DSMB from mid water. So up we went to 6 meters and deployed our DSMB's whilst at the same time trying to use each other as visual references. Well, moving swiftly on! the deployments went ok'ish, but maintaining the depth and visual references went a bit awry to say the least! The exercise was then to ascend very slowly, 1m at a time, from 6m to 5m, hold the stop and then up to 4m etc. At one point Mark demonstrated how we could use the reel as a visual reference and actually let go and just hover, using the reel as a guide, great fun and something I'd certainly never tried.

At the surface we then swam back to shore and after trying a few different kicks, such as frog, modified flutter etc in the 2m section (which may be some of the issue with my feet) we exited the water, de-kitted and went through the debrief, discussing what we had each achieved, what we needed to work on and what we felt we had achieved from the day.

Mark's low-key style inspires confidence and is easy to learn from and personally I found the day absolutely superb. The course covers the points that were addressed in Mark's recent workshops, but obviously in far greater depth (excuse pun!) and I would thoroughly recommend anyone who wants to achieve greater control over their buoyancy to take the course, it's a brilliant foundation for future development, particularly any courses or diving involving mandatory decompression stops.

Thanks to Jim and Glyn for their input as fellow students, thanks to Rob for keeping an eye on us all, and thanks to Mark for a superb course!
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