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Richard Clegg

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Telling the waves to roll back [May. 10th, 2010|12:40 pm]
Richard Clegg
This weekend I've been administrating the sea... or rather I have been trying my best to do the fist "two day planned expedition" which is part of my advanced diver training.

Actually, getting the tide to roll back would have probably been easier. It doesn't sound really that hard. Get 14 people to show up at the same place and time with dive gear, get some boats, get the people into the boats then out of the boats into the water, out of the water into the boats and out of the boats onto the land. How hard can that possibly be?

Of course diving has to meet certain schedules, time and tide famously don't wait in particular for the person who hasn't actually remembered that they will need air in their cylinder or two gloves on the boat. Given that you have to dive certain places in certain stages of the tide (or you will end up drifting helplessly out to see in a howling current) then actually doing this in a timely manner is pretty important. Add to this the fact that I was actually planning to train people myself and organise other people to do dive training and suddenly it starts to look painfully tricky.

I must admit that day one was a bit of a shambles all around. All we had to do was paddle around by Swanage pier. This is a "classic" English dive (though it is cold and it is murky). The plan was for every pair to dive the pier twice. We met at 9:30 and wanted to get finished by 17:00 when the pier shuts. Really doesn't that sound easy? In that time I'm pretty convinced I could get a lot of things done left to myself. Really there should not be much need for me to be racing up and down the pier yelling "where on earth is our shore cover" (he'd gone to chat with a boat skipper for 30 minutes), "for the love of god does anyone else have spare weights" (trainees really float), "weren't you guys meant to be in the water two hours ago?", "You do realise you'll probably need air in those cylinders to breathe from them?" and similar things while all the while trying to appear jolly and "aren't we having a wonderful time". Honestly, I was heading for a nervous breakdown by the time I set off for my own final dive of the day (which for logistic reasons was a boat dive with just me and a trainee as someone else had booked 14 people into a 12 person boat for the next day -- that's the joy of delegation).

I can then say that I had easily the most disappointing dive of my life. The plan was -- descend to 10 meters, send up the magic balloon which marks where you are (Delayed Surface Marker Buoy to divers). Unfortunately, the deploy of my buoy did not give me joy. Deploying the buoy (no euphemism intended) can be moderately tricky in thick gloves and cold water. You have a sort of long thin balloon and a reel, you fill the balloon with air at which point it races to the surface. You let your reel roll out so you don't get dragged up and you make damned sure that nothing gets tangled in it or you are going up with it. This is the plan anyway.

What actually happened was that I inflated the buoy and instead of inflating stiffly and rising it drooped flaccidly and sank back exhausted. It may be a cliche but this does happen to most divers at some point in their lives. Give them a minute and they can try again. Not in this case however because there was a huge gash in my buoy which leaked air and there was nothing to do but head back to the surface and wave the boat down to come get us. Total dive time 4 minutes most of which was spent kneeling in mud looking mournfully at a leaky buoy. "These are the times that try men's souls," as Thomas Paine would have said had be been a diver.

I didn't sleep much the second night as we were already very short of instructors, one dropped out before the trip and another had sinus issues so might not be able to dive. One of the trainees who we thought was well qualified turned out to be rather less ept than her qualification with a rival dive agency would suggest. She was a fun buddy though and not as
bad as some warm water divers who get towed around like a spare bit of kit, occasionally pointed at fish and then signed off as competent to dive two days later.

The second day began badly with two trainees showing up late for my "absolutely be there without fail for 8:00 and no excuses or we go without you" deadline including one who was 30 minutes late with the excuse "sorry, the hotel did not serve breakfast until 8:00 and then my taxi was late". This incurred the full force of my wrath which, while not much force I like to think of as effective as it is so rarely used. I'm probably deluding myself in that so I also got a rather fiercer person to have a sharp word and I don't think he'll be reoffending. (Also, to sharpen the lesson, we did go without him).

However, I must say the second day's diving was absolutely bloody wonderful. We got to see the two "wrecks" one of which was the wreck of some D day tanks. The valentines tanks sank in WWII when they were practicing off Poole. Apparently the idea was to create completely amphibious tanks which could cross the channel. They got a few miles in training and are down there today proving a home for crabs, fish, conger eels and an ugly looking lump sucker (which I missed on seeing). Beautiful diving and watching the sun glint off a pod of jumping porpoises reminded me why we go to sea in the first place. Despite the strain on my nervous system it was a great weekend, we got three people signed off as qualified and thirteen people to have a really great dive trip. I just thank god that the next few I'm doing, I'm just being a diver or (assistant) instructor and not an expedition manager.

For those of you who like to see what these things are like you can see a little video of the tanks here (worth looking to the last 30 secs for divers circling the turret) and a picture of a lumpfish/lumpsucker here.

Oh, I nearly forgot, I had to give my best ever management instruction: "There is a lumpfish in the second turrent. Do not poke the lumpfish, she is nesting."

[User Picture]From: steer
2010-05-10 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks, now fixed. They are spectacularly horrible to look at.
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[User Picture]From: mjl
2010-05-10 01:30 pm (UTC)
Well maybe you wouldn't think that if you were a lumpfish as well...
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