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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have been trying to take a Tech 2 class since the summer of 2005, when I had a course arranged with Andy Georgitsis in the Red Sea. After finding out that he had left GUE I had thought that I would do the course with Andy Kerslake sometime in 2006, but that also didn't turn out, and the courses which took place in 2006 were during August, when I was getting married and couldn't (wouldn't) take the course at this time. I was beginning to think that I would never do the course, and as I was not willing to compromise my own diving progression, I had considered taking the TDI route instead and had started doing dives which 'flexed' my certifications slightly ;).

Before Christmas I got an email out of the blue from Brian at Aquanauts who said that he had arranged for Rich Lundgren to come over and do a Tech 2 course, so I got in touch with Mark Emery and he agreed so we were all set. Andy Bryson saw my post on here which advertised a spot for a third man, and after a few conversations he jumped on board. Everything looked as if it would happen, until the beginning of April. Andy had decided that he wasn't confident about the course and pulled out, followed by Mark dropping out due to finances and a new addition to the family, so it all looked like it was going tits up again, but in the end I managed to persuade Andy that he had nothing to worry about and we would just go and have fun. If we passed then cool, but if we didn't, we would still learn something anyway. We only had the reports from the guys who did the course in August to go by, so at the moment there is a bit of fear and uncertainty regarding Tech2 and what happens, so this report might just clarify things a bit and encourage more Tech1 guys to give it a go. No pictures unfortunately, as I just didn't really get time to think about taking any.

Preparation

Preparation for the course from my point of view was relaxed. I think Andy and I had done about 10 dives together, all in Stoney Cove. 6 or so of those had been with three stage bottles, 2 had been just standard tech 1 type ascents, and the others playing on scooters as you do. Al had joined us on a couple of dives and demonstrated one of the drills with the multiple bottles. I had been reluctant to do too much with the multiple stages as I thought that it is really the instructors job to teach this and I didn't really want to get too many bad habits that I might need to change. I had already conducted a few dives with multiple bottles and I knew my bouyancy was OK in this respect, but didn't know whether it was up to the standard of Tech2.

Day One - Theory and Swim test

Day one was spent in Plymouth doing a chunk of theory in the morning, looking at the course, what it entailed and the standards required by us on the course. We also covered the essentials of creating a good team, along with discussions on minimum gas (rock bottom) and other stuff. It wasn't much different from my previous GUE training but it is always useful to go over stuff again, as it had been a couple of years since cave 2, so I enjoyed this session. Rich Walker was also helping out on this course and he did some of the lectures which was a bit of a reunion really, as Rich had taught Andy Bryson on his Fundies class, which coincidentally had been Rich Walkers first DIRF course, and I had been the video guy on that course, so that was kind of cool, the GUE 'family effect' in action. This was the first course where I had been asked to come up with a strength and a weakness within my diving, which was quite thought provoking as I hadn't really considered this before. I have dived with many different buddies over the years so I figured my strength was the ability to adapt to many situations and fit in the team, and my weakness was a bit of a gung ho attitude sometimes and willingness to do dives that some might say are stretching me a little too much. Interesting discussion, and a chance to discuss your attitudes in diving in an open manner. The swim test was straightforward, and we both passed easily enough, Andy outswimming me easily with front crawl whereas I have always been a breastroke swimmer, although it didn't help that I forgot how many lengths I had done and did a couple of extra ones. Rich Walker also did a swimtest as an instructor and he just beasted it with some really fast swimming, bowling the OAP's and other swimmers over in his super fast lengths of the pool!

Day Two

Well, our trip to Plymouth was over very quickly having headed up to Chepstow after the swim test to continue the course, the weather forecast not looking good. The plan for today was spent doing three dives to about 15 mtrs. The dives were split into three sections, descent, bottom phase and ascent, during which we had different challenges. The descent was down a line and consisted of doing a valve drill, s drill at 6 mtrs, followed by dropping to 10 mtrs and then back up in one metre increments doing what we called the 'bottle boogy', which is were you move the bottom stage, clipped to the chest, to a leash which is clipped on the hip dring and holds the o2 bottle. You have to swap the bottom stage for the o2 so you are left with a 50% bottle and an O2 bottle on the chest and the bottom stage on the leash attached to the hip. Rich Lundgren was kind of flexible how we did this and Andy had chosen to use two hands, clipping off the lighthead before the boogy, whereas I had always done this with my light in my hand, so it is a bit slower but I can still signal. Andy was very slick and I wasn't so quick, but I felt I was doing OK. After that drill we had to switch to bottom gas at 6 mtrs and then drop down, where we would run a line and explore a bit, where something might go wrong! We were then to reel the line back in and do an ascent at 1 mt/min to 6 where we do 3 mins and switch to 50% and then do 1m/min to 3 mtrs and switch to o2, also doing 3 mins.

These dives went very successfully I think. Andy was really good running the line (not having done Cave 1 and 2 like me) and we coped with everything they (Rich and Rich) threw at us, which included stage bottle failures, temporary post failures, complex manifold failures, out of gas, blind diver, and full siltouts. The first time we had a full siltout it was in the middle of a manifold failure being suffered by Andy. I saw some clouds of silt coming from behind me and thought it was me, until it kept growing. I had a similar experience in Cave 2 so I moved in and went to touch contact as you do, and the silt cloud just kept growing until I could hardly see Andy at all, and we both started laughing 'bring it on!', as we called the dive and Andy led the way out, before running out of gas and then having to go through another siltout before getting to the tieoffs. I have to say I enjoyed the bottom phases most, and just had fun. After each of the ascents, Rich and Rich would give us a quick debrief and tell each of us to work on one thing or another, and I could see that we were both able to correct this on each subsequent dive. The ascents went fine too, and we pretty much stuck to time on every dive, and even when Andy had 'lost' his mask at 4 mtrs and I had to blind switch him to O2 we still only lost 3 minutes. At the end of the day I felt happy with how we had done. Both Rich and Rich looked happy and disturbingly for me, were providing many more positives than negatives with our performance. I'm the kind of guy who would rather fight as an underdog to improve than be told that we were doing very well, as I end up worrying about cocking it all up. Mind games.

Day 3

Today we were to do one long dive to 30 mtrs max. Actually it was two dives but Rich and Rich had cooked up a way of making things a bit more interesting. We were still going to do the descent phase as before, doing a valve drill and modified S at 6 before doing the bottle boogy from 10 to 6, then switch to the bottom stage and descending. After the bottom phase we would ascend to 21 and switch to 50% and then a 1 mtr/min to 6 and switch to O2. Instead of ascending to the surface we would reset all the bottles and then do a debrief at 6 mtrs with wetnotes, which was interesting as we had to maintain bouyancy all this time and we never really get a chance to relax, before going down and doing another bottom phase and ascent. This was a really intense dive for me, and I screwed up a couple of times. I had forgotten to mark my bottom stage properly which meant we couldn't switch to it and had to do it on backgas, which was embarrassing. When I started the valve drill I went into it a bit quick without fixing my position in the water first, and after dropping a couple of metres and moving away from the line a bit, I decided to scrub it and start again, this time doing it spot on. The bottom phases were cool, no problems really, and we were hit with many failures and situations which required us to change position, solve problems etc. The first ascent went fine, this time it was me who lost a mask and Andy had to switch me over to O2, the second ascent we did well until the time to switch to o2, as we had forgotten to switch to backgas first and I couldn't then tidy my 50% hose up, so I figured Andy could switch and then I would sort it out, whereas Andy wanted me to tidy up and then he would switch. After some gesticulations we kind of lost it and ended up at the surface, a little downhearted but still smiling, as were the instructors, as they said that other than our last minute cockup, the rest of the dive had been conducted well. We had been in the water nearly 90 minutes, never really having a chance to relax, so this was probably the hardest part of the course for me. The rest of the day was theory stuff, looking at the history of deco and creating deco profiles using the tech 2 ratio deco, comparing that with Buhlmann, VPM and seeing where the differences where. This was interesting for me, but then again, sitting around and talking about diving always is :).

Day 4

Two trimix dives to 40-odd mtrs today started with me ensuring that my stages were marked properly as I didn't want to screw up like yesterday. These are experience dives and Rich Lundgren had told us that he would see how we did before he would decide to interfere in any way. The descents are as before but we drop down to 6 and do a flow check rather than a valve drill, followed by a bubble check, and a modified S-drill. Then switch to bottom stage and go down to 42 mtrs where we would run line. Andy told me it was my turn to run line and gave me his reel, which we had been using throughout the course. Dropping down to the bottom of the line I tied the primary tieoff and about 12 inches of line later, there was a tangle. After spending a minute or two trying to fix it I had started dropping down a little and Rich came in to remind me to look at my gauge and I was on 52 mtrs! oops! The line evidently drops down to 48 mtrs or so rather than the 40-42 mtrs we were told, and I hadn't bothered looking before I dropped down to tie a primary tie off making it worse. I gave up tidying the reel and just thought we would swim around keeping an eye on the line, there was no use cutting it and doing it all again, as the reel should really have been sorted before the dive, but as we had used it all through the course, we both thought it was OK. I was happy that it could be tidied up and stowed, as sometimes you end up with a right birdsnest which is a nightmare. The ascent went OK until we had an out of gas at 27 mtrs which was fine and we continued the ascent to 21 and switched to 50%, then on up to 6 mtrs for the switch to o2, followed by a relaxed ascent to the surface, all smiles.

The next dive went without incident and we were using this dive to recon the deeper dive we would do the following day. This time we stuck to the 42 mtr limit and did a wall dive. The viz was easily 10-15 mtrs and plenty of ambient light meant it was really good actually. The ascent went fine, no problems at all, Rich pointing out that everything was looking very slick and cool, and he wished he had a video camera to play with.

The evening was spent discussing dci and the ways to identify it, treat it, and prevent it. Throughout all the theory sections Rich was very knowledgable, and there was no pressure to do it just one way, it was just a way of him sharing his own experiences with us, and this was a relaxing course in this respect, as his style is very relaxed.

Day 5

Today we had to wait for gas in the morning so we did the exam and planned the dive for today. We were to drop down the 48 mtr line to about 40 mtrs and start the bottom time. Swimming round with the wall on the right until we reached a submerged boat, at about 50 mtrs, and then head down to a max of 70 mtrs, before heading back up again to 40 mtrs where we would confirm our bottom time and depth with Rich before conducting the deco accordingly. I had a dim view of Chepstow before this course, as all I remember was a really steep climb with cylinders and not a lot to look at, but the viz during the course was really great, and the dive to 70 mtrs was almost like a cave dive, just without a ceiling, as the wall and the landscape is very mountainous. There isn't really a lot to say about this dive, we just executed it exactly as we planned, and it was a very chilled out and relaxing dive. I did the dive on a backup light, as the light cord had pulled out of the lighthead during the lifting and carrying, and my spare primary light was already being used by Andy. As there was plenty of ambient light yesterday Rich said it was OK, but would call it if it became too dark. As it was it was fine, and as I had new batteries in the light the beams was actually quite good at 60-70 mtrs. At the end of the ascent, about 3 mtrs from the surface Rich came over and shook our hands, which was the confirmation that we had both passed the class, which made us both grin, and drop a couple of mtrs with the inevitable sigh of relief!

The end of the course finished with the debrief, during which Rich stated that he thought we had made a great team and we should continue diving together building up our experience as we go, and said that it had been the strongest class he had done in two years which made our heads swell a bit, but he might say that to everyone who knows?

Conclusion

Tech 2 from my point of view initially seemed to be unachievable, and this opinion was formed from the many disappointments and frustrations I experienced in even joining a class, previous reports I had read seemed to make it out to be a course which requires almost godlike skills and then again I had discussions with people who said it was all about bottle juggling and I had wondered whether it was just one of those courses you do so you can buy the gas. I have to say that I didn't see that in my course. You have to be better than the Tech 1 standard, but it seems very similar to the increase in skills needed to move from Cave 1 to Cave 2. Perhaps having Cave experience helped, but Andy didn't have any problems either, and has better skills than me in many respects, which I seem to achieve by sheer bloody-mindedness :) Andy is a great buddy to have, and we seemed to both understand each other very quickly, making the course much easier I think.

The course is built around the individual, and it was clear to me that at this level not everyone gets the same course, and the instructor will try his or her best to improve your skills to reach the standard required. I definitely feel that my skills improved during the course, both in terms of general diving skills and communication skills.

The staff at Chepstow were really helpul and friendly and I have a much more positive opinion of the centre, and will use it as a backup plan I guess when blown out in the future, as I know you can have a nice relaxing dive there (with a scooter perhaps ;) )

Brian at Aquanauts was also incredibly helpful, and despite the weather and the lack of time we spent at Plymouth, he worked hard to make sure we had accommodation and gas sorted, which meant that Andy and I could relax without the frustrations of complicated logistical problems.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to recommend Rich Lundgren and Rich Walker as instructors. Rich Walker isn't a full tech instructor yet, but hopefully he will get there soon, and then we can continue to build the number of Tech1, and Tech2 divers in the UK. He is the most experienced GUE instructor in the UK, and is therefore a very good choice for a DIRF class. Rich Lundgren is relaxed, funny, and looks phenomenal in the water, one of those guys you see and say 'I want to look like that in the water', and I hope that Brian can organise some more courses from Aquanauts with Rich Lundgren involved.
 

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Congratulations - just spoken to Andy B, who has broken down on the motorway, but is still smiling.

Good to hear you both had a succesful and, above all, an enjoyable week - and really good to hear that Rich is progressing towards tech instructor - just what GUE in the UK needs.
 

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Well done guys - all the best :D
 

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Bloody cars! :)

Great report Andy. I'm sitting here smiling thinking back through it all.

I was so gutted to leave Plymouth on Friday as the weather was completely awesome, and I didn't want to do the course in a quarry. However, the winds picked up, Plymouth would have been undiveable, and Chepstow really exceeded my expectations, so all is well. You need a backup plan when the instructor comes all the way from Sweden.

Cheers
andy
 

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TDI Trimix trained and used to own a pony
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Congrats guys - nice write-up. Sorry to hear you missed Plymouth - I did wonder what was going to happen when I looked at the weather and thought of your course!

Cheers
Al
 

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Congratulations guys! And thanks for the great write-up....

Dianne
 

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Well done guys.

It's bad enough that the GUE instructors 'assess' your weaknesses then 'play' on them. But there are getting lazy by asking you what they are now :)

And, you should have told him that you are really not that good in confined overhead environments and hoped that he would keep testing you on that :D
 
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