Saturday, March 23, 2013

First Off, First Aid - The Recovery Position

I have had an awesome few days and have hastily crammed lots in. Earlier on in the week I did both parts of the First Aid course with some instructors in training and instructor trainers watching on. All very enlightening. The CPR speed is a lot slower than I would have presumed and in the heat of the moment, even with the dummy it was quite easy to get drawn in to going much faster than necessary.  Later on that day I was fortunate enough to get to practice on a real dummy! Upon returning to my flat there was a gentleman swimming in what can only be described as barely digested food while adding to the ever expanding pool he had created for himself. I want to mention it because it was a surprise to me when I finally did get some words out of him he wasn't British or Irish. I know shocker right?! Anyway what was the point. Oh yeah. So being the newly qualified Emergency First Responder I leapt in to action with a bottle of water and after some contemplation around the good Samaritan part of my conscience a pillow. I placed him in the recovery position and left. He seemed chuffed with his new purchases and I must admit it felt good helping someone. I decided to leave him in what looked barring the sick, a pretty comfortable position to sleep it off for an hour, while I went for a run. At least I planned for an hour. I'm so glad to be out in Malta training for the big run, rather than back in the UK at the moment where the thought of sticking shorts on and going outside it bordering on crazy. After 45mins of beautiful running I love running on the road at night here, I decided to ask someone which way I needed to head as nothing looked familiar. The old gentlemen profusely explained that I needed to get on a bus and until after much explanation that Paceville is where I had run from he reluctantly told me which direction I needed to run, although and he stressed this it was a very long way. Undeterred probably by naivety or some form of smug arrogance I thought the old man unknowing of my running skills that was until I had run for another 30mins and still couldn't see anything I recognised. I decided to ask another Elderly Maltese looking gentleman who I have to say all seem friendly and speak good English. This guy was shocked not quite as shocked as the previous guy but none the less expressed that I was miles away from Paceville. His friend however was on the same ship as my previous friend and he tried convincing me to get one of the many as mentioned before Arrriva buses which seem to be no more than two minutes away every where I go. Again naive and arrogant I march on undeterred. Another 15mins later and I'm running along familiar coastline still not home but no longer feeling confused by every turn I take whilst desperately looking for the one big sky scraping that, I stupidly thought would be visible from most of the 19mile wide island. This said my training really needs to step up a gear I know this consciously and haven't done too much about it and this could well be my subconscious kicking in. The gentleman, the bottle, the pillow and thankfully the sick were all gone upon returning home.

Back to diving and I have been fortunate to go to a few different beautiful shore spots here on Malta this week. That is the beauty of diving here as many spots are well set up to easily access good diving from the road side. I have also enjoyed taking out a few different nationalities of divers or people discovering diving. It is so apparent to me that diving is universal. Helped as the only form of communication is a limited number of hand signals, everything else becomes translated through the eyes. That is why it is so rewarding to see people's faces light up as the ocean comes alive in front of them. Words  literally can't and probably shouldn't describe it.

I've had some great fun with Nev and Howard this week while we drive about all over the island picking people up, diving and dropping people off. Nev has been teaching me some above water tips that I won't write here but needless to say I will remember them. I have also cracked on with some of the required stuff for the Divemaster course. For some reason unbeknown to me I have hesitated with doing more and tried where ever possible to slow the course down. It is stupid really because I would be very comfortable doing the course in the estimated time. I think it is the rebel in me that wants to fight the norm and challenge any flaw I see. The challenge for me over the next few weeks is to be more accepting even when at first I want to question I need to learn to go with the flow. This said where I have been putting up barriers Nev, Howard, Sarah and Anne Japan have been putting me straight, I do really feel for them as I'm sure over the last few days I have driven a few people mad with my questioning of everything but I'm so happy with what I have learned. My head is becoming more and more crammed with knowledge this is extremely gratifying to feel I am learning lots. It is difficult taking some of the stuff on board that, my tech training doesn't agree with and I  really mean that, it is a massive internal battle that is often spilling out externally in the form of tech diving tourettes and unlike the stand up comedian with tourettes who was on the TV program The Undateables recently, my outbursts are less funny and more like the kind that would make you cross the street if I you were walking towards me.

Again I simply can't stress this enough Divewise have been such a professional outfit. I'm also chuffed as I have completed all my knowledge reviews which are the small quizzes at the end of each chapter in the DM book and a prerequisite for completing the course. Then the 120 questions Divemaster exam of which, I only got one wrong. I was chuffed, then on to a skills circuit where 24 SCUBA and Skin diver skills are demonstrated by me in the same way they would be demonstrated to a student on a course. I did struggle with a couple of the skills. Namely weight removal and replace due to my 12.5kilo weight belt that I required for use with my drysuit. I did however demonstrate an almost perfect kit removal and replace off the bat with no practice what so ever. I have to say the skill was explained to me very well by Howard and who with out which, I'm sure it would have been a lot more of a cluster fudge. Still with nearly all of the skills completed and only a couple that required further work I was very happy. For some reason I have created a huge pressure on myself to perform well. I think it is because I have some experience and probably more over the fact I have a massive gob that loves to dig me a nice grave that I like to skip around from time to time.

I'm really enjoying myself at the moment and can't wait to see what the next few days bring. Today I am taking out a fellow diver on a fun dive and I'm allowed to dive in my full twinset. Yes!!!!!!!

Things Learned Above ;

CPR is 100-110 compressions a minute. This is easy to calculate with a metronome.

Things Learned Below ;

Doing all the skills in a drysuit with a big weight belt is neither fun nor sensible.


Monday, March 18, 2013

BCD's and Single Cylinders - Listening To Gabba

Over the last couple of days I have been able to get stuck in to my Dive Master course here at Dive Wise in St Julian's in Malta. Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be working with Anne from Japan. Known here as Anne Japan. In the morning we went to Manwell Island and did a check out refresher dive with a student who hadn't dived in a while. This was after we had spent some time working out how to use the key fob to get in via the automatic gates that allow entry to the site. The spot is perfect for check out and refresher dives as it has both easy entry and exit points and remains very shallow with a small number of fish to be seen swimming about us. The student had some difficulties probably due to her long dry spell but nothing that we couldn't over come with the nice slow dive that ensued.

I was slightly under weighted but Anne Japan sorted me out with an extra kilo just enough to allow me to take the squeeze off my suit. Once I had added the weight I felt comfortable even in the unfamiliar kit of a single cylinder and BCD. We did some of the basic skills such as reg recovery and mask removal and replace all done in the correct PADI way. Again I was chuffed that this all came to me very easily as I have been doing things the GUE way for a while and was worried that unlearning this was going to be a nightmare. Believe me when you have practised skills a certain way in quarries time and time again back in the UK, the idea of doing them differently is slightly daunting but fortunately my fears were unfounded.

Later on in the day I was to be helping Anne with a couple of OW students in the pool. We covered a whole host of skills that I won't bore you with here but needless to say I was impressed with the amount we covered and the effort put in by Anne. She is a tough instructor to please and this makes her students all the better. We reran through everyone of the skills she felt needed a little more je n'ai se que. Both students looked very tired and confessed to be so when we were packing the kit away later than planned. Both were happy though and I know they will be better divers for it. Afterwards we went back to the dive centre and packed everything away. It is also worth noting that we weren't the last van back. Testament to how hard these guys work.

I got back to my room at 7PM and grabbed a quick bite to eat over the road before heading back for another bout of food narcolepsy. Falling asleep at 8PM on a Saturday night is not a good idea when your balcony faces Paceville, the local party central of the area. As you can probably guess I awoke to find the town alive at 2AM with all sorts of music pumping at the same time while pissed up people trundle up and down the hall way celebrating their achievements of drinking themselves in to an unsociable state. The only thing I can describe it as, is like living in a squat with Gabba playing at a ridiculous volume all hours of the night while incoherent people talk as if they were standing at opposite ends of a tennis court. I'm thinking of writing to the American's as I think they have missed a trick at Gwantanamo bay.  Still for €9 a night I can put up with one night of loudness and besides if I hadn't passed out so early I wouldn't have woken up. Anyone who knows me, knows I can sleep through anything. Literally anything. I once slept through my room mate breaking in to our bedroom after half an hour of banging on the door before climbing from another window in to the window of our room and violently shaking me because she feared the worst.

Today I was blessed to spend the day with Nev one of the owners of the centre and go out with some qualified divers on a guided dive. Well that was the plan anyway. In diving as with anything the best laid plans go to waste. On this occasion the problem was as simple as a regulator leak meaning I surrendered my kit to one of the students being guided. If I'm honest I was quite happy to do this as I was tired from over sleeping the night before and it meant I could make repeated trips to the snack van parked up on site. The dive site looked interesting but the weather was still not quite perfect with the wind blowing slightly on to shore creating a small swell making both entry and exit a bit of a coffufle. I helped the students set the gear up, do buddy checks and then helped them down to the water. I'm so happy doing this stuff. I feel relaxed working with the students and Nev seems happy letting me do it which, makes me even more comfortable that I am doing it right. With only a couple of pointers about how to demonstrate just to make it easier for the students to understand. Because of my surface cover day it means I have been able to get that signed off as it is an essential part of the DM course and is critical to understanding the logistics of running a dive operation.

Back at the dive centre I have been helping all the rebreather guys analyse their gas which I'm sure sounds strange to say but I really enjoy doing this. Watching them tinkering with their rebreathers I can't help planning ways I can buy one. My passion as has been mentioned is tech diving. Big thanks to Ad ad Mic, who without their enthusiasm being shown to me I may not have picked up the taste for helium. I'm not sure it was intentional on their part and I'm not sure when they gave me a CD with the Scuba Guys video of Narvik 2005 on it that they knew that it would have quite the effect on me that it did but here I sit having been surrounded by divers all day talking about diving and thoughts pretty much dominated by diving and upon finishing work (ha if you can call it work), I go to the restaurant (mainly to use the free wifi) and eat my dinner whilst watching some dive videos uploaded to DIRx ( dive forum Here ( / I love this stuff. It does make me think that really my passions lye away from teaching recreational divers but I suppose we all start somewhere.

Things Learned Above ;

Nev is a legend! Super chilled out and passionate about what he does, like all the staff I've met here at Dive Wise.
Falling asleep before necessary is not a good idea on Saturdays in Paceville.

Things Learned Below ;

I'm comfortable and relaxed when working with students. A feeling I wouldn't have said was common place for me but seems to just happen naturally while I'm doing this stuff.
I can do skills the PADI way with no drama.
Diving with a BCD and a single is not difficult or even massively more cumbersome which, I thought it would be as it is something I haven't done since 2007 when I did my Advance Open Water.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting Settled - Pizza, Beds and Briefings

First off I suppose I should mention that which I am most excited about. This morning upon arriving in the centre Alan turns to me and says I will be getting to have a go on the JJ , he may have been joking or maybe not but what he doesn't know yet is I am now going to be like a dog with a bone and not stop until I've satisfied my rebreather thirst. That feels like an expensive sentence as I type it and I can feel the ever increasing charred remains of what used to be my pockets getting hotter.

Anyway back to other more pressing issues. Everyone at Dive Wise are amazingly friendly. I literally could not feel more relaxed and at home here. My room has turned up more surprises in the shape of a fourth bed which doubles as a sofa.

Today I went in to the centre for a Dive Master orientation with Sarah or Soogle as she is affectionately known here. The reason for her nick name is because she is the fountain of knowledge and I am informed if I have a question she is the lady to ask similar in ways to Google. Sarah did a great job of making the boring task of going through some of the slides as interesting as possible. This may be an unfair statement as some people may find the slides fairly interesting however, I was not ever one for school or sitting still for longer than I deemed necessary. Still it was fairly fun, nothing major new covered but one essential part over and out the way.

Alan the owner then asked me if I would like to go for a car ride with him. We had a talk and for some reason I got quite emotional still I'm hoping for the sake of my man hood and pride I kept it hidden (I realise I'm publishing this online, proving the point it is incredible what people will write online.) I mean this when I say it. I am completely amazed at Alan's positive friendly attitude towards life. It is great to have a good role model to look up to especially as a large part of this course is learning how to become a good role model. Something which, in the past I have not been very good at. I have bent and broken most of the rules and luckily lived to tell the tale and had the balls to publish it online. I feel this is important as it can stop people making the same mistakes and not being as lucky as me.  This is something I'm sure Gareth Lock agrees with me here.

People for so long have tried to put me off working in the diving industry because there is no money in it. This is true it is difficult to make a decent living diving, these people have forgotten that money does not equal happiness though. Ha the naive opinions of a 24 year old. Anyway Alan seems like a great guy and kept asking me what I want to get out of my time here. My answers were simple, fun dives, DM cert, some specialities required for DM certification, experience with a very busy dive out fit and some sneaky squeaky mix dives of which Malta has lots to keep me busy.

I suppose before I go any further I should elaborate on the horrible looks I got when I pulled my DIR compliant kit out of my bag and then again when I sorted it all out this morning. Apparently it is not good for the students to see me in different kit however most of the instructors dive in single piece harnesses with wings when they dive for fun. This raises the question why on earth are we (and by we I mean the majority or the diving industry) still in the dark ages of teaching in rubbish kit that even the instructors won't use given the choice? Anyway this is not a dig at Dive Wise or PADI or anyone, more a question I think needs to be worked up through the ranks. I know some people will argue that most people will never complete techie dives and thus not need better kit but the better kit costs the same and why are we working to lower standards of equipment for the average diver who has a 5 year life span. 5 diving years that is. I think this will change in the future as it is now so common place to see people diving single piece harnesses very early on in their diving careers. I do hope I'm right but I feel the dive industry has more to gain from selling everyone recreational kit then a completely new system when they progress to technical diving and this may be the factor that tips the scale.

Alan dropped me off outside my hotel which I have just discovered has a pool and a fully and I mean fully functional gym. YES! I mean all this for €9 a night. Seriously I feel like I am doing them an injustice. I went back to my nice heated room to do the knowledge reviews at the end of the first four chapters of the Dive Master book. Again not really my fortey (sp?) so I decided to get half way have a break return to the centre and then grab a humongous 20" pizza for an amazing €9. Wow! That is literally going to keep me fed for the next two days. Then back to my room to finish off the last two chapters. One last thing I was learned from today and more specifically from Alan is to stay away from the Maltese women because they are crazy. Something else Alan didn't know but I was quick to tell him is that they are exactly the type I go for. In fact just before I started writing this I was walking down the street and I copped a glance from a girl who has dyed her hair bright green. I mean this glance was more like a 10 second staring match before I remembered what Alan had said and decided to head the warning.

With all the knowledge reviews done I passed out from what can only be known as symptoms of food narcolepsy. I woke up feeling awesome it is so nice to wake up and realise you have no places to be or go. I decided to go out for a run as the Marathon is gaining on me faster than I'd hoped. Despite this morning the wind being much decreased from yesterday it has seemed to kick up again this evening so running was, well refreshing. I can not believe how much I love being by the sea. I had forgotten how different the air is. I love it!

Lessons Learned Above;

Money does not equal happiness.
Sea air is the best! 
Please sponsor me the Virgin London Marathon is 5weeks away and I am doing it for a good cause ;
Stay away from the Maltese women, more on this to follow.

Lessons Learned Below;

Still N/A yet.
This first post comes to you straight from Malta where I am completing my Dive Master course with Dive Wise based right in the heart of the beautiful town of St Julian. The blog has been a long time waiting on the back burner as has the DM course. Anyway here goes;

I decided to come out to Malta to do the DM course because I have heard good things from a lot of people that have been here I am also running the London Marathon for charity this year and as result thought training in Malta would be more enjoyable (please sponsor me here - Dive Wise also has a sister company Tech Wise which concentrates on everything techie which is my real passion. I'm hoping while I am out here doing the course I will have a chance to dive some of the deeper wrecks and do a spot of cave diving. Malta is a very small island 60miles south of Sicily and 160miles north of Libya. The dive season really kicks of in May and ends in October. Ryan Air and Easy Jet do very cheap return flights for less than £250 including an extra 20kg sports bag of which I managed to squeeze and extra 0.2kilos smashing apart my preconceptions of Ryan Air and their baggage policy.

The journey out to Malta was fairly uneventful after a rush through the Luton airport due to my perfectly on time (not early enough) arrival I boarded the plane with not a second to spare. I had reserved seat 1a right next to the front door. I'm not sure why but this gave me a sense of some increased safety at a premium. I think in reality the fact is that, if we crashed no one would have gotten off but I still felt safer knowing I wasn't going to have to barge my way through cattle class in some vein ditched attempt to save myself while the plane turned in to something from a hollywood special effect scene.  This feeling was increased when the safety demonstration was performed the row behind us out of site of us, as if to say, "you guys next to the emergency exit don't need to hear this safety briefing because your the only ones who are going to survive." The flight was slightly delayed as they had to de-ice the plane. I say de-ice what I actually mean is defrost the frozen layer of snow that had settled on the plane from the previous night. Good bye minus something degrees Celsius.

I arrived in Malta airport to find that no one was there to pick me up which in reality is probably my fault for a lack of communication. After some wandering around I decided to find the dive shop on my own which, fortunately didn't turn out to be too hard.  I had an enjoyable bus journey through some beautiful but slightly unfinished parts of Malta. I'm taken away by how at home I already feel here. The buses are all Arriva as they are at home and everyone speaks better English than myself. I arrived in Schlim (?) where I stopped at a cafe´ and caught my breath. Fortunately for the sake of breath catching it was blowing a force9 so this required little to no effort and was more to do with opening the air way than actually forcing oneself to breath.Breath caught I got taxi to dive wise. €17s the taxi driver charged me to travel all of about 1km but I wasn't going to let this deter me from feeling epic. 

I met Viv and Alan the owners of Dive Wise. Alan was playing with JJ's outside the centre with Richard Stevenson who for some reason I became to embarrassed to talk to. To anyone who knows me that will come as a shock as usually it is shutting me up that is the problem. I really hope I get a chance to post more here about the JJ, what I'm saying is I hope if I beg and plead they might let me have a play. This might come as another shock to anyone who knows me as I have been a die hard GUE ( / DIR diver for some years now and since discovering the ways of the force haven't looked back and as such haven't done training with any other agency in a while. GUE have a very clear policy on eCCR (electronic closed circuit rebreathers) they feel that the technology isn't there yet and the risk is not out weighed by the rewards, this is easy to say when you live in Florida where Helium is half the price than it is in Europe. They do however use a SCR called the RB80 which has many of the benefits of CCR without some of the major pitfalls.  Alas I can see the future, the futures black and the futures JJ, or at least bubble less.

Alan returned to JJ land while Viv showed me around the centre. The centre is great they have two class rooms, a massive kitting up area, two compressors, loads of tech and rec kit to hire and all the usual jazz. Viv showed me the kit room and the compressor and Helium, "you know the stuff that makes your voice go all squeeky," :) I'm sure my ego will recover later today at some point. I was some what alarmed to find out that I would be starting at 8:30am every morning and finishing at 6:00pm 6days a week. Woah! Here was me thinking I was on a jolly holiday. Still I know this means I will get absolutely everything out of the course that I can.

After the very thorough guided tour of the dive centre and the standard form filling in session Viv showed me where the hotel was that I would be staying in. I had booked the Hotel myself and was remarkably impressed what you get for €9 a night in the off season. I had a TV, heater, air con, balcony and 3 beds. Yes I said 3beds. From this moment forth I'm going to introduce myself to the local talent which, there seems to be an abundance of probably due to the 3 international language schools in close proximity to the hotel, as Benny 3 beds. More on this to follow.

On the way to the hotel Viv said when it rains in Malta it rains really hard and really fast. All of 30seconds later and we had a quick 5 minute torrential down poor just to make me feel like I'm abroad and some what in awe of Viv's weather girl skills.

I parted company with Viv at 3PM and agreed to meet back at the centre at 6PM. The centre was literally a 1-2minute walk from my hotel. I decided to quickly lay down and recoup post travelling. This was not a good idea although I feel somewhat more alive now some 6hours later after a fully clothed sleep, shoes and all. Fortunately for me I still have eyebrows as none of my friends were here to witness it.

A greasy chicken and chips to make me feel at home, a quick message home to counter tips the balance, the obligatory smug facebook update and off to bed to write this.

Lessons learned above ;

Ask Taxi drivers for the price first.
Call ahead and confirm arrival times.
Don't have a 5minute lye down with out setting the alarm.
Ryan Air aren't all bad. I think I had a total of 51.5 kilos so was over by 1.5kg and they didn't bat an eye lid. No excess charges and even a smile from the lady behind the counter when I expressed my concern.

Lessons learned below ;