Saturday, 6 September 2008

Tech 2 Course Report: Day 3

Day 3

you remember the scene in the Matrix when Neo is being shown "the world as it is today". The sky is dark and evil, constant storms rage, lightening bolts split the sky, everything looks imposing and dreadful. Looking at the weather reports for the day, that's pretty much how I expected to find Plymouth when I woke up this morning. Contrary to my expectations however, the day appeared to be fairly tolerable. the promised "wind from hell" had not appeared, and I had high hopes of getting in the water.

so, off we trotted down to Aquanauts, and leapt onto the boat. Once again we had aquanaut to ourselves, and young Joe as a deck bitch. 3 stages diving requires the strength of Atlas, or in the lack of superhuman arms and legs, a deck bitch. They ony need to achieve one thing, and that's connect the 3rd bottle onto the correct place on the hip D ring. You'd think that's the least of jobs, a mere trifle. And yet we were incredibly grateful to have Joe doing this, as he consistently put it into the correct spot and handed up the bottle at precisely the right moment. It was a sunny morning, and we were dropped in right next to the old fort inside the wall. Outside the wall, carnage was raging. We had put in a fairly tight shotline to give us a visual reference, and dropped down it to begin the planned dive. Down to 6 metres, where Rich wanted to see set piece demonstrations of valve and S drills". We did our best, and put in what I thought was a good performance. we then all did a double bottle rotation, whilst moving the team around the shot to try and provide some break from the current for the person doing the rotation. This worked really well. In terms of team positioning, we were now getting used to doing drills and descending/ ascending in a triangle. Close enough so that your elbows are touching every now and again. what we were adding into the mix now was a little more finesse on the drills and station keeping. We had been moving plus or minus half a metre, and Rich wanted to see the teams together at all times. Once we had doen the bottle rotations, we then ascended for a debrief. Rich decided he was happy with the progress, and we descended to the bottom so that he could mess with us. Having no other option, we lined off from the shot, as there was a current running and we had to return to it. I laid the line, with GLOc and Howard following. Rich descended intermittently and failed right posts, bottom stages, and the like, and problems were thought out and dealt with. This is an area we were developing. We were learning not to rush into sorting the problem you can breathe with a leaking post, and there's plenty of gas in the team. Think about how does this affect the rest of the dive, and then put in place the best solution, which might be one of several. Then re-order the time, and rearrange the dive accordingly.

We laid line for a little while until Rich gave us a failure requiring us to call the dive and swim back along the line. Basically, he put GLOc out of GAs. with Howard donating from the 3rd man position, and myself leading, we sandwiched GLOC in the middle, we left the line in place and swam back along it to the shotline. At the shotline, we stowed the bottom stages and switched back to backgas. up to the first stop depth and we switched to the 21 metre bottles. Once we were all on the 21 metre bottle, we all did bottle rotations and began the ascent through the intermediate stops. Howard bagged up. At 9 metres, we swapped back to our backgas ready for the move to Oxygen. Up to 6 metres and Onto the O2 for 3 minutes simulated deco. Rich came in and congratulated us, and then informed us We were to swap back to our bottom stages, boogie back down to 8 metres, and do the whole ascent again. Which we did.

this time we surfaced, and it was obvious that wind, current and chop were all picking up. i stowed the O2 bottle and cleaned myself up. At that moment I suffered a catestrophic loss of fabulousness. The top of the corrugated wing inflator hose seperated from the plastic connector at the top of the wing. this had the effect of dumping my wing instantly, and the 3 heavy stages dragged me underwater immediately. Arse. I popped my backgas reg back in my mouth, closed the suit and inflated it. As I stabilised at about 1.5 metres GLOC arrived and hauled me to the surface. Then everyone else arrived, and I just lay on my back as i was inflated like an SMb, my stages and anything remotely heavy clipped to me was quickly removed and distributed to the other divers. It was no drama. The worst that could have happened is that I could have been sitting ont he seabed at ten metres thinking "arse, I'm going to have to bag up and connect the stages to the line so they can be hauled up". This little incident ended the diving for the morning, so we headed back in for lunch. Debrief on the boat, and everyone was pleased with the performance so far. the plan was to get back in, grab some food, and head out again in a couple of hours once the various failures had been repaired.

So, 3pm in the afternoon, and TFT are heading back to sea. The plan this time was to drop to about 30 metres, so we could do the ascent with the bottle switches in the right place - 21 metres and 6 metres. This was, in Rich Lundgren's words, "the most challenging Tech2 conditions he had ever seen". We jumped into a faily calm sea to find a raging, swirling current. At about 20 metres God turned the lights out. We got to 30 metres and didnt find a bottom. The viz was les than a metre and it was very very black. Rich decided that conditions were just not up to the course, and called the dive. At this point God turned out two of the teams 3 HIDs, leaving me with the only remaining light. As we were there, we did bottle rotations whilst hanging onto the washing line, and switched at 21 metres, feeling along the hoses from the 2nd stages to the bottles to ensure teammates were switching to the right gas. There was a definite lack of pretty, but everything was functional, and we hit the surface when we were suppoed to, give or take a minute.

Back to Aquanauts, and its now 6pm. Time for theory then. Decompression strategies, decompression illness. It went on through the early evening and continued over dinner. We wrapped up about 2130 and headed back to the B&B. Bearing in mind the abysmal weather forecast, we canned the rest of the week in Plymouth. The plan now is to finalise theory and swim tests and administration and exams etc tomorrow, and then spend two days at the NDAC working up to the 70 metre dive on the deep day. Having tried the salt water, and having been spat out by the sea, we had decided to head back inland to a quarry to lick our wounds.