Picture of By Piers Boileau-Goad

By Piers Boileau-Goad

22nd January 2024

On the 22nd we found themselves asking why we were at vobster. The temperature was 7 degrees or thereabouts with a brisk wind and a sense of impending rain, why would anyone want to leave their warm bed at 04:45 for this? It is fun they say..

With a grand total of four divers and 3 swimmers on site, it seems that staff available outnumbered customers. There was even one swimmer entering the water with just his speedos on..a brave man indeed! We organised ourselves as best we could, decided on skills to be done and did our dive briefing. The first dive was to include an S and a Valve Drill for the Open circuit diver and Hyperoxic, Hypoxic, Bailout, loss of diluent/out of gas and plugging in an ‘offboard’ diluent (a spare cylinder carried as a bailout). Knowing it was going to be fresh I had put two pairs of under gloves on but would this still be enough?

Both divers walked gracefully into the water just after 10:00 donning their fins, masks and attaching bailout as necessary so at 10:08 both gave the ‘Ok’ signal and descended, making their way over to the nearest platform, all of which were of course empty. The skills refresh started well for the closed circuit diver but not so well for the open circuit. Sometimes things just don’t work out on the day, that’s why we do skills dives! When we learn a skill we need to keep refreshing it, building muscle memory so that when it hits the fan we can solve on reflex without having to think. Things will go wrong, indeed, I have had a few serious problems in the water which because of constant maintenance of skills have been solved easily enough.

In order to avoid getting too frustrated we decided to leave the platform about 18 minutes into the dive. As Piers’ navigation leaves a bit to be desired it was very much a case of ‘Ladies first’ so off we went, I duly followed the bubbles. Going along the 12 metre ledge following the road down to the tunnel, but bypassing it as my buddy was starting to get a tad cold. On arrival at the plane the visibility had been kicked up by the other two divers on site but we had a bimble around the area all the same, and then when the cold was too much, we headed back. It had been agreed that we would practice bagging up in order to rebuild familiarity so we did and up went two bags – mine was still in my hands this time unlike the last attempt. While bagging up was done in a satisfactory manner, more practice is needed as things were not as smooth as I wanted them – my reel was not in its usual place so was a bit awkward to remove and start the process.

We simulated deco stops at 12, 9, 6 and 3 followed by a gentle ascent from 3 to the surface which all went well, again, more practice is needed as the depth of stop did vary by more than I want it to. Ideally I would want a variation of around 20cm, not the 60cm I actually had. Generally, the first dive was a very satisfactory 52 minutes.

Max depth: 16.7m
Visibility: 3-5m
Time: 52 mins
Temperature: 8 Celsius
Gas consumed:     44 bar O2 = 88 litres
                  27 bar Diluent (air) = 54 litres

After a lot of rewarming (plus the ubiquitous burger van special) for my buddy while my battery warmed up my suit, we went back into the water to go over some more skills. It had come to pass that my buddy also had a slight leak which had exacerbated the cold. I wanted to get back into using two bailouts again as this is a skill which is hugely important for my preferred dives. Smooth operation, speed, and ease of use is vital. All of these ‘skills’ or perhaps qualities will ensure that if the proverbial does hit the fan, they do not add further stress to an already unwanted situation.

While on the platform skill refresh was done. The usual skills were done again – hypoxic, hyperoxic, bailout – followed by the stage handling which was initially not as good as I wanted. Buoyancy was ok but I was all over the platform, and not in one position – i.e. too much subconscious finning propelling me around. Taking both stages off and then replacing them both caused problems as I could not clip the second one onto my frame as easily as I used to be able to. Buoyancy was fine, it was simply clipping them off on the frame which proved awkward so I think that I shall change one of the stage rigging kits to make it easier to do so for the next skills dive. After two sets of stage handling, things were better but far from perfect. Fed up as I was and, increasingly frustrated, we went for a wander again to calm the mind.

Off to the plane once more, slightly better vis this time as, unbeknownst to us, we were now the only divers in the lake – not often you can say that! – so Idecided to have a wander through the aft section of the plane as we passed. I tried to call to my buddy that I was going through and honestly, I was too lazy to turn my torch on, so after calling a few times and having no response on approach, I decided to simply wander through. Should my buddy turn and realise Iwas missing, it would be mere minutes that I was absent. Wandering through I turned through that rather tight exit hatch wondering whether or not I should have unslung my bailout and pushed it ahead of me rather than pulling myself through gently and waiting for something to catch. I should have been more confident, nothing caught and I gingerly eased myself through the hatch while hearing – ‘you scared me’ being shouted through her regulator in my direction, followed by my apologies. It is actually pretty to talk through a rebreather, but it comes out a little weird so it takes some getting used to. Sometimes writing things down might be easier!

Off we headed after that excitement, back to the slip way and again, bagging up for practice. Once again, this was much easier than before, proof that practice does indeed make perfect.
44 minutes after submerging, we emerged and headed over to the slip road, taking fins, masks and bailouts off as we left the water for a nice warming hot chocolate, sans marshmallows and whipped cream sadly. It felt a little strange though, knowing that we were the only divers still in the water and indeed, once we got out of the water, the only divers onsite!

Max depth: 15.6m
Visibility: 3-5m
Time: 44 mins
Temperature: 7/8 Celsius
Gas consumed:     32 bar O2 = 64 litres
                  15 bar Diluent (air) = 30 litres

As a side note, if you get cold it does feel cold at the moment, I had heating (because I get cold really fast even in 20 degree water!) and my fingers got cold so if you are thinking of jumping in, make sure you either stay warm or get out before getting too cold. Being cold will of course reduce blood flow around the body potentially increasing susceptibility to DCI.