Last weekend I flew back to Southampton to visit friends and to continue on my BSAC sports diver course and hopefully finish it. I can tell you, I did not expect it to be this hard, but I made it and am certified as a Sports diver with BSAC now!
The weekend started on Thursday with a full day of studying at the airport, in the plane and on the bus. I still had 2 out of 6 lectures left, which we were to tick off in the evening, with the theory exam straight after. Theory for BSAC scuba is taken way more serious than in my previous PADI courses. We focussed on
- weather influencing your dive and how to prepare for that
- rescue skills for when you yourself have a problem or your buddy does
- advanced equipment use, like a compass, lines, and floaters
- planning oxygen use related to depth, and subsequent use of different gas mixes
- different backup systems for out-of-gas situations
- nitrogen narcosis, decompression illness, hypothermia, shock, strokes and other ways to die
Haha, my lord, it has been a lot of new information. I think I understand all of it now and can remember most of it by heart. Still, both the theory and practical experience has made me realise that, in order to be a good rescue diver, I need to keep practicing.
The diving itself took place over the weekend. We gathered at 06:20 to drive for 2.5 hours to Vobster Quay. Last time I dived we also went to this old quarry – it is the perfect location for training with lots of platforms at different depths and different entryways. We would be focussing on equipment use and rescue skills, so deeper diving was not necessary. Diving to a max of ~12 m, but in the water all day. And what did we just learn? Using nitrox on shallow dives can help you extend your dive. So this was my first nitrox experience as well! We dived on Nitrox 32 = 32% oxygen, 68% nitrogen. (Btw, this whole day was set up especially for me. Ian came along to be my buddy and Phil trained us. I felt a bit bad sometimes because we needed to focus so much on me finishing that Ian didn’t get time to do all his practice. He was fine with it he said, sweetest buddy. )
We got kitted up to prepare for the first dive. I think I wore exactly the same kit as last time (except for an extra knife and line+reel+dsmb), but man it was sooo heavy. My kit consisted of warm fleece undergarment, a compressed neoprene drysuit named Fiona :), a hood, gloves, mask&fins, a BCD (buoyancy control device), torch, knife, dsmb reel, a 12L cylinder and a regulator. Not to forget a 6 kg weight belt and 2x1kg weights in my BCD to keep it all from floating!
For the first dive, we jumped in at the far end of the lake entry. I knew it would be freezing.. but pffff 7°C is a whole new level of cold. We started with a buoyancy check and practiced line laying. My previously learned skills came in handy right away because my drysuit boots got filled with air and I started floating up upside down!! The air vent for the drysuit is on your shoulder (bottom in this case) so I had to do rolls to get my shoulder to be the highest point of my body. I did three rolls, did not manage to expel the air, but did manage to slow down my ascend before I surfaced. I found it all quite annoying but funny as well. I ended up being proud of myself for not panicking and staying calm while Phil fixed my boots on again and gave me some ankle weights.
Line laying turned out to be so much harder underwater than on land. The line is laid for the purpose of finding your way back in murky water and being able to follow your buddy while not being able to see them. The third dimension means your buddy (who needs to stay close) can also divert to swim on top or underneath you. But! You both have a lot of gear and frozen hands. Leading to the line easily getting caught up on parts of the wreck, you or your buddy. Small errors like this can easily lead to big problems (imagine getting the line caught on your regulator) so you want to do it right. I love to practice this again, maybe with non-frozen hands 🙂
Other stuff on the first dive: sharing gas when you or your buddy is out of air followed by a controlled ascend; A bit of dive leading; Ascending an unconscious casualty found on the bottom, and made a start with rescue breaths and the de-kitting process for when you’ve got them to shallow water. We spend more than 2 hours in the water on this first dive! A normal dive would last 40 to 50 minutes. But thanks to Nitrox and being above the surface quite some time, we managed to extend it. Needless to say, I couldn’t feel my feet and hands in the end. (But, you know when you “can’t feel your feet” and they are all tingling and feeling weird? This was not that. I literally could not feel ’em anymore.) It took me at least 25 mins in the heated dressing room to be communicative again.
The second dive was a full rescue dive. Ian was casualty first. He had to lay down on the 10 m (?) platform and act as if unconscious. I can tell you he is good at that ! I floated down towards him and checked if he responded to sight or movement. Since he did not I concluded ‘he’s unconscious’. First thing is to get him vertical, either on his knees or fully “standing”. I struggled quite a bit with this since you don’t want to use too much air in his BCD and lose him shooting up to the surface, it took me a lot of strength. At this point, you would also check whether he’s holding his breath (dangerous) and if there’s anything else off. I deflated my drysuit and BCD, laid his arm with the drysuit vent on my shoulder so this would be his highest point and his drysuit could vent (and in real life, I should check whether his vents are actually open). We made a controlled ascend on his BCD and when we got to the surface I filled his BCD full and mine after that. I got into position for giving 10 rescue breaths, which is exhausting and very difficult when both floating. You don’t want to rise above your casualty, that would push him under water. So you need to twist and turn him towards you. 10 rescue breaths and waving to imaginary help troops on land/ the boat later, we took off, me towing him towards shore. In shallow water, I started de-kitting us. His weight belt, my weight belt, my BCD, my fins, his BCD. In that order. You are worn-out at this point, but still have to get your casualty on land. I got underneath Ian, crossed over his arms and started dragging him on land. I couldn’t. It was too heavy. ‘How am I supposed to be able to lift 85 kg on my own!?‘ I shouted out, frustrated, exhausted. ‘He’s dying Jouke, focus.‘ ‘Maybe there are people on land who can help.‘ Two good suggestions. With help, I got him on land and got him into a stable position.
Next turn was me. Being unconscious in freezing water wasn’t as relaxing as I hoped for unfortunately haha.
The third dive, or dive 2.2, we did some more skills on the 12 m platform. We had to take our masks off, put it back on and empty out the water. Brainfreeze, but we managed. We also used a compass to navigate underwater. Swimming a straight line back and forth was never so hard. We learned how to deploy a delayed surface marker buoy (dsmb) and how to use it as a buddy swimming line. We got out on the ladder, practicing a boat exit. When we started walking back I couldn’t use my legs again. This time not out of numbness, but because I was so so tired. No energy left. Luckily Phil took over my weight belt – but it still took me a while to walk back. Joshua was so kind to tidy up my gear so I could go change and warm up.
I don’t know why, but I loved it all
A big thanks to Terry for arranging all this, to Phil for making even the most packed training fun and to Ian for letting me blow up your nose ❤