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do you hear boats?...I hear boats
262 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This is my experience of the first of three courses that Martyn Farr from FARRWORLD currently offers.

SHORT VERSION: An utterley amazing course, made so by a fantastic instructor in the shape of Martyn Farr. Worth every penny of the £360 it cost - absolutely jam packed with useful information, completely applicable to whatever type of diving you do. Everyone no matter your level of experience will get a lot from this - book it! It's as simple as that.

OK here goes...first a bit of background on me. I'm essentially a novice diver with 98 UK dives and 30 odd dives in various places from the med to the Maldives (favourite place to dive is definately Scotland - so far). I don't have a particular favourite type of diving I like the big wall dives and overhangs at the Garvellachs (Garbh Eileaich), the drift dives on Skye and Falls of Lora and the odd wreck (Port Napier and the Thesis being my favourites) but mostly I just like getting under the water!

I'm not brave, or looking for that next "thing" to add to my list - diving is the most adventurous thing I do (when my children allow it).

After seeing a documentary with David Attenborough about caves and some amazing underground locations which showed divers floating through crystal clear water I thought that maybe one day that would be something I would like to do - I then came across an advert for Farrworld in a magazine which looked pretty interesting, only when I got home I did a web search for "Farrside" by mistake...anyway, I eventually came across Farrworld and Martyn Farr - this looked like the thing!

There were numerous courses on offer - and at this point I didn't actually think it would be something that I would do (adventurous things were what other people did) it was just really interesting. I bought some of Martyn's books (The Darkness Beckons & Diving in Darkness) - even if cavern or cave training doesn't appeal to you these are still fantastic books - buy them!

The techniques, kit configuration, numerous stories were all fascinating and I started to seriously think about doing the initial course moreso to get a better appreciation of what people like Martyn Farr, Jochen Hasenmeyer etc had accomplished. I'll confess that the kit configuration part became a bit of an obsession - why did they wear their guages on their arms, why weren't their knives on their legs, why did they have 3 lights etc etc, gradually it all started to make sense. After reading other people's trip reports on YD (special mention to Yetz - who has a lot more detail than mine) I decided this was something I needed to do, contacted Martyn and got the course booked (19th & 20th February) Christmas came and went and then the number of "sleeps" countdown begun...

FRIDAY - the trip down
I drove down from Scotland and the journey wasn't too bad, I eventually got to Langattock and after a few wrong turns I found my guesthouse "Park Place" - which was actually just outside Langattock. It was very nice, offered MASSIVE breakfasts and was only 2 minutes drive from Martyn's house.

SATURDAY - Day 1 (slightly nervous)
I arrived at Martyn's slightly nervous (just what was this guy going to be like) - I needn't have worried, he came rushing out of his house with a smile, signalled for me to pull into the drive and I instantly knew this guy was going to be a lot of fun.

My buddy for the weekend turned up a few moments later and he had driven down from Lochaline (further north than me!!) we got invited into Martyn's straight away and Helen was instantly welcoming us, making us tea and getting us to sign the usual training documentation.

Martyn gave us a slide presentation taking us through different types of cave diving, line laying techniques and what constitutes a cavern dive etc before taking us out to his equipment room/Aladdin's cave (maps of the Silica mine at Dinas Rock, amazing photographs and loads and loads of equipment). We then went through the required equipment for the course, safety reel, helmet and Martyn's own equipment. This was great for me - getting an insider's guide from the guy who had quite literally written the book on cave diving. The key was simplicity, with everything to hand within a moment's notice. Martyn then took us through our own kit and made the necessary changes in preparation for the practical lessons in the afternoon.

I should point out here that over the course of the two days Martyn was always providing bits of useful info, the two days were quite literally packed and he didn't waste a moment.

The practical lessons were in a pool, the pool was covered which gave us a great feel for being "underground" and we took it in turn to practise laying line before conducting a lights out/silted environment drill which entailed being placed at one end of the line and feeling your way round the course without getting tangled up or wrecking the line. Martyn placed a black cloth in my mask and then led me into the water. I got a little disorientated and didn't have a clue where I was facing, so I made sure I was a little negatively bouyant and then focused on not letting go of the line. It's quite strange how your body compensates for having one of it's senses cut off, hearing was of little use so I focused totally on the information my fingers were getting through my 5mm gloves. This quite literally was my lifeline - at least that's how I treated it, and slowly but surely I worked my way to the end and came back to the surface to words of encouragement from my buddy and Martyn (this was a great confidence boost).

Pool session over, we went over what would be expected of us on day 2 with Martyn explaining everything on a plan view of the Silica Mine. We then met up for drinks (after I'd had lamb chops at the Vine Tree for the second night in a row) and Martyn went through more theory and a general recap.

SUNDAY - Day 2 (slightly nervous - but with a bit more confidence)
We met up at Martyn's packed up our gear and then headed off to the Silica mine, Martyn was kind enough to answer some of my question around his own explorations and his experiences of Jochen Hasenmeyer. We split up our gear so as to make two trips over the "hill" - other people have relayed that this part was "a bit of a treck" and they weren't joking. I'm basically a jelly doughnut in human form so was begining to pant when only half way up. Martyn and my buddy were way ahead of me but eventually caught up and got into the mine for a cool down. We kitted up, fitted our helmets, switched on our torches and made our way down to the water. l did feel a little nervous and mentioned to Martyn and he explained that this was just because I was doing something new and that I would be fine.

The water didn't look deep enough but sure enough when you stepped in it was already at waist height, we went through our buddy checks, our air (calculating out loud our turn points and rules of thirds) before running through the dive plan and last minute queries. Excercise one was to be led by my buddy, we would then turn around and switch our lights off at a designated point and make our way back to the entry point via the pre laid line.

The dive itself was fantastic, it was very exciting to be diving through the tunnels (we were at no point no further than about 5 meters from a main air filled chamber but you certainly got the full overhead experience) I did not feel tense or worried in the slightest and this surprised me. It was very relaxing and the 30m+ visibility (yes really) made for a fantastic "floating through air" experience - this was what I had came for, absolutely superb. We carefully followed a thick green line that varied on it's course from 3m depth to about 7m depth. After about 13 minutes we turned around and I led signalling "OK" to my buddy every now and then either by rotating my head mounted torch to shine a circle on the mine wall or just lighting up my hand as I would do in a normal night dive. Martyn was with us the whole time but kept back and let us take our own pace. After going round a few more corners Martyn came into site and signalled for us to turn our torches off. It was now time for the lights out drill and for us to execute our "bump and go" strategy of me following the line for a few metres and my buddy then following, squeezing my ankle 3 times to indicate he was OK before I set off again.

The actual experience of doing this in the dark was a huge mixture of emotions. Bear in mind that I was about 7m underwater, in complete darkness whilst overhead there was about 10m of solid rock.

I did not feel panic, not a drop of fear - just incredibly calm... I could feel the line, I could breath.... all I needed to do was replicate what I had done in the pool the day before. Touch became everything. I'd made some mental notes whilst following the line on our entry, this is worth doing as there were a few places where later on Martyn explained there were some deliberate pitfalls, a place where the line goes under a minerail for a metre or so, a place where a much thicker climbing rope is attached. These mental notes were invaluable and the need for laying good line, with good belays with line that you could actually feel continuously were all hammered home. If your visibility was to be restricted - this WAS your lifeline.

Every few metres I stopped to wait for my buddy, after about four or five "bumps" I felt him approach behind me, but no 3 squeezes... what was wrong?... I felt around for where I imagined his wrist to be and squeezed it 3 times - once would have been "I'm panicing" or "something is wrong, help" He had simply forgot, he instantly squeezed 3 times back and we carried on. Eventually I could make out a slightly lighter portion come into my vision, this was the torch that Martyn had placed near our entry/exit point and a mixture of "yes - we've made it" and "over so soon" came into mind.

We surfaced to congratulations from Martyn - he asked how we thought it had gone. I had loved it, and thought it had gone OK. Martyn said it was one of the best practicals he'd seen (now, whether he says this to everyone or not I don't care - right then and there I was on top of the moon!!).

After a few handshakes it was back to business, I was to lead the next dive, this time laying our own line, my buddy to follow checking the line etc as we went along. We set off, now, other than putting up a DSMB about 40 times, I've never had to carry anything and the act of carrying a reel (and this was a BIG metal reel) laying line, all took a fair amount of practise so I made myself a little more negatively bouyant than usual, tying off the first belay around a nice big rock, every 10 metres or so I made another belay, sometimes tying onto a rock sometimes taking a "snoopy loop" (all hail the mighty snoopy loop) out of the "garter" on my leg, looping this onto the line and then wrapping it around a rock (making sure that the line was always available from the top - we might be relying on this before too long!). A small bit of confusion followed - we were supposed to surface into a side passage and swap over duties but my buddy obviously had his sights focused on laying some line and so I went with it, and followed on just tweaking the line every now and then to make sure it wasn't too tight or (more dangerously, too slack) we headed up to a small opening and my buddy was a little confused trying to make his way through. I had remembered this "window" from the dive briefing the day before and new that our corner lay a few metres further on so indicated to my buddy and we headed off.

We then got to our designated "turn" point and indicated that it was time to "turn" the dive (this hand signal is similar to that of being narked). I was approaching the end of my third of air and so passed that onto my buddy and off we went. I went ahead taking the loops off the rocks and keeping the line fairly taught to enable an easy reel in. We swapped over half way through just as we were going down a small incline and I went down the hill (holding the reel) a little faster than I would have liked, line was going everywhere - not good. I sort of crouched/wedged myself to the side of "The Mine cart" (everyone whose done the course will know where this is) and slowly got myself back on track, my buddy coming to the rescue by gathering up the slack and after a spot of teamwork we were off again. Before we knew it we were back at the surface for a debriefing from Martyn. I hadn't done quite as well this time around but Martyn said that our communication was good and that at no point did he feel like he needed to step in and sort things out.

This (I think) is the mark of a good instructor - at no point were we in any danger, but when things got a little difficult he let us work it out for ourselves, focusing on our communication and methodical approach we learned a great deal purely by doing, rather than being nannied.

All too soon the dive was over, and I had loved every minute of it.

We packed up our kit, trecked back over the hills and made our way back to Martyns going through all aspects of the dive, areas where we could improve, things we did well etc. Martyn gave a more formal debrief once we were back at his house and said that overall we had done well, issued an exam paper to be completed in our own time and went through some of the things we could expect to do should we decide we move onto doing the "Intro Cave" course. Wow, bar the exam paper looks like I actually did OK.

I was a bit sad to be saying goodbye but I know that I will be back (probably next year now) to follow on - who knows if I'll ever go diving in a Mexican Cenote or Floridian cave (I hope I will) but some more training with Martyn is a definite.

MONDAY - the trip home
I had a good 6 hours driving in which to reflect on the training I had received and on diving in an overhead environment.

Was it safe? - YES. At no point were we in any greater danger than any other shore or boat dive - I would actually argue less so.

Would I do this again? - DEFINATELY. This environment was superb, very peacful, no rush to get off the boat because the tide was slack.

My thoughts on Martyn? - this guy is one of the most talented, humbling people I have ever met. No ego, limitless patience, a fantastic teacher, the course was so cleverley designed, each part building on the next. He celebrated your achievement and I definately felt that he got as much out of it as we did. I cannot thank him enough for the confidence that this course has given me.

And that it why, if you are still with me, I would recommend this course to you - it's something I will always look back on and be glad I've done.

Note: It was so good that I've since gone on to do the "Intro Cave course"

You can read about that here: http://www.yorkshire-divers.com/for...90-intro-cave-day-1-training-martyn-farr.html

do you hear boats?...I hear boats
262 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Glad you enjoyed it - it's a brave man that carries twins up that hill...or anything other than himself for that matter! If you are thinking about going on to do the next part of the course at some point let me know (it'll probably be a Feb '12 for me though).

do you hear boats?...I hear boats
262 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Video of Dinas Silica Mine

Hi there - big thanks to DeepJoyFilms for this one.

YouTube - Silica Mines in Wales

This is the Silica Mine near Dinas Rock where I did the second day - you can even see the green pre-laid line where we did ex1. The visibilty is not quite as good as when I was there but at least it lets you have a look.

do you hear boats?...I hear boats
262 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This write up now appears (in part) in the latest BSAC magazine (September '12 issue I think) I think they have all been sent out to members now (I'm not a member so not sure) - everyone else though can buy it in the shops.

There are some nice pictures inside the mine at Dinas Rock kindly supplied by Martyn Farr - which will hopefully distract you from the dodgy prose...
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