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“Go on”  she said.  “Go on go on go on go oooooon”  Admittedly she’s considerably better looking than Mrs ‘Tea Father?’ Doyle, but my God Jules C can be every bit as persistent.  And silly me…. Forgot rule number one…..Never show weakness in the face of the enemy.  It’s fatal.  

But I’m ahead of myself already….At about 10pm in a conversation last Wednesday night, I’d idly asked about the TDI Advanced Nitrox course that Jules was going to do at the weekend with the guys from Dalesdivers (home of Andy Hayhurst, Phil Ennis et al. and an awful lot of rave reviews).  I’d seen a post about spaces, and wanted to do the course but thought that the chances of me getting time off work at 24hrs notice were slimmer than a very slim thing.  ‘Still’, she said ‘It wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it?’.  And that, to cut a long story short, is how I ended up driving from Cheltenham up to Cumbria the following evening.  Nothing like leaving it all to the last minute really is there?

In the Classroom

There were four of us taking the course – me, Julia C, Frogman (who is more likely to answer to Rick in real life),  and Nigel…. (who has promised to come and play with us on YD soon).   We spent Friday in the classroom going over all the Nitrox theory in detail with Phil, all the dive planning, physics (or is it chemistry?!) – N.B.  The fact that I don’t actually know the answer to this for definite shows exactly how good I was(n’t) at science at school – but everything on this course was explained so clearly and logically that even I could follow easily.  And when I couldn’t, he was quite happy with me asking daft questions until I did get it.  Thanks Phil!  

We also covered the physiological need-to-knows, equipment etc etc (Jules and I were both sitting writing a shopping list of ‘mmmmm, that’d be nice’ items.  Sometimes I wish I’d got hooked on a cheaper sport
).   As Mdemon mentioned on his report about a similar course, we all took a lot of notes – it’s not just the formal course content which is taught so well, it’s the incredibly useful general diving information which is passed on at the same time.  I learnt a lot about Nitrox this weekend… but it's fair to say that was only about 50% of it - I learnt just as much about everything else to do with diving.  One of the aims of the instructors is to allow you to go away from the course, not just understanding the subject you came to study thoroughly, but also to make you a better diver who is more able to deal calmly and efficiently with situations which may arise under the water.  

The Diving

While we were kitting up we were all picking the brains of the instructors about kit, configuration etc etc.   Andy told me he thought I’d be fine with an awful lot less weight.  I scoffed and talked about my ‘natural floatiness’.  But, you know, when everyone tells you that the man knows diving inside out and backwards, it probably pays to listen.  I gave it a try and guess what  - he was right.  Very decent of him not to say I told you so afterwards!  It was like the Atkins diet for diving – very dramatic weightloss in a short space of time.  Doesn’t make your breath smell though ...

Jules and Rick were both diving twins, so were given a ‘how to’ lesson in useful drills for their rigs.  The main one obviously being a shutdown.  I was watching this one more as an interested observer than a participant …. Looked like they were given an awful lot of useful hints and tips.  Lots of credit to them both – they both managed to get to grips with this – to me (and I’m the first to admit I haven’t a clue on the subject) it didn’t look easy.   The grin on Jules’ face (and the waggle of the dive ears) when she cracked it was great to see!  

I’d heard a LOT about the maskless swim before the course…. Whenever people talked about it, they all started giggling in a slightly unhinged sort of way, and none of them ever used the word ‘fun’…. Unless it was preceded by ‘It’s not’.  In a moment of kindness, Phil had told us that if we let a bit of water into our mask before we took it off our faces would have time to acclimatise to the horror that is 8 degree water in Capernwray.  Foolishly, we all decided to ignore this little pearl of wisdom, and went for the uber-stupid approach of ‘well, if it got kicked off, you wouldn’t get any time’.  So, one by one, we ripped off our masks and went along the line.  And it is obviously true that underwater no-one can hear you scream – I hadn’t picked up from those ahead of me that this was exceptionally stupid, and equally, those who followed made exactly the same rookie error.  I can’t speak for the others, but in my case there was just enough time for one thought to run through my before my brain got hypothermia and went into meltdown.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that thought was ‘Sweet Moses this is COLD’.  I’m paraphrasing slightly of course, but you get the gist.  

I have to admit that the thought of losing a mask underwater is something I have always dreaded.  It’s clearly not something that I now think ‘woohoo, what fun, must do that every dive’, I’m far too much of a wussy Southern Jessie for that… but I do feel a lot more equipped to handle it should I be unlucky.  It’s something I’ll practise again, regularly (I’m also planning on re-trying most of the other drills our group did over the weekend – except the shutdown of course – that might not be fun on a single cylinder
)

Then in the evening, back to the school to sit the exam, have a Chinese, pick Andy’s and Phil’s brains even more, and mock the recently arrived Mr Tierney for general gingerness and his failure to bring his dive gear with him.  He must have been tipped off that we were going to get him to do the no mask swim on Sunday….

First trip to Hodge for me – bizarre experience of bumping into more YD-ers – nice to meet you Stuart (PressurE)…. Diving different mixes here, with a few more top tips and exercises along the way.  It’s an old slate quarry, absolutely stunning location up in the Lake District.  It’s not a place to go unless you really want to dive though - only because the 200m walk bent double in a slate tunnel half filled with water while carrying your kit would put paid to the half-hearted.  I was SO glad that I had taken the extra weights off at Andy’s suggestion yesterday.  You really have noooooooo idea how heavy all your gear is until you have done this walk.  I have to own up to a fit of childish sniggering at those who had twin 12s on their backs.   And that’s before you get to the ladder….In an effort to keep this post at least vaguely suitable for family consumption, I shall omit a direct quote from Mr Ennis (who also had the fun of the twin 12s) after he straightened up quickly and his head connected with the roof of the tunnel.   Suffice it to say that it was rather to the point, and all sounded fairly heartfelt.  I’m sorry I laughed
 Will you be back at Hodge in the near future Phil  
 

I’m reading back all of the above, and should probably apologise to Jules, Rick and Nigel if this is more my perspective than a group one.  I’m sure there are loads of things I’ve forgotten.  But then that’s partly your fault for stitching me up with writing this report!!!  That said, I would like to thank the three of you for your part in making it such a fun weekend for me – I really enjoyed all your company and the laughing and banter along the way.  Hope to see you all in the water again soon.

But as with any course, it’s the quality of instructors that makes or breaks it.  I guess the best way for me to express how much I got out of this weekend is to say that it’s now about 3am, I’m tired, I’ve spent 6 hours in the car today, lugged more kit back and forth along that blasted tunnel than I care to remember, and twice jumped into water that is best described as ‘quite brisk’.  But I still have a huge grin on my face and am absolutely buzzing from a fantastic training course, with superb instructors who were always full of loads of knowledge, patient, good humoured and fun.  I’ve learnt a hell of a lot this weekend – and Dalesdivers will definitely be seeing me again.  Thanks guys.

Helen
 

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Mugshot at the edge of hodge close... showing Nigel, Rick (Frogman),Helen M, Phil Ennis, jules and Paul.


I can only add to Helen's brilliant report that i loved the course and learned so much about diving (and how much i still have to learn...which is the first step).

Phil's teaching style was good and i will always remember the number and variety of circumstances resulting in "and then only bad things happen". It was great to meet everyone, particulary Helen since before this weekend we had only talked (at length!) on the phone.

These guys are passionate about diving and helping people progress with theirs. I am really looking forward to diving with Dales Divers again.

Thanks to both phil and Andy and the other instructors paul H and Paul ?  who were helping us with the drills and skills. and to mr Tierney for turning up with the sherries  and being photographer.

Bren did note that after the second long walk through the tunnel at hodge a the end of sunday my grin was flagging a little but it is now fully restored! Not a walk in the park but it's a beautiful place and lovely to dive except if you are a brass monkey.

Jules
 

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<font color='#0000FF'>Think the ladies have said it all really (as usual, LMAO
 
)

An excellent course with excellent instructors and so much more than just a Nitrox course!

Anyone interested in bettering their diving skills would do well to give Andy and Phil a call at Dalesdivers.

All in all, a fantastic weekend and a pleasure meeting with Dalesdivers, HelenM, Jules, Nige and the ginger ninja that is Mr Bren Tierney


P.S It's amazing just how quiet a big lad like Phil can sneak through the water when he's hell bent on turning your post off
 

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Excellent report Helen, it's takes me back to my Adv Nitrox adventure with Andy and his crew... brilliant read, thanks for that.

Dave.

p.s. Rick that beard is a direct violation of Rule Six please have it removed before DIR-F, thank you....  
 
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