TekCamp Part #2 – Wax on wax off: don’t fear the Triangles Mark Powell

Day 2

As soon as I woke in the motorhome on Tuesday morning it was clear I had drunk a few too many of the 60 Carlsberg. Well done me. However it didn’t take long for the excitement to kick back in and with the kettle whistling, it was clearly time to get up.

Within minutes of the kettle boiling Tara (the crazy Canadian) appeared at the open door with a stupidly huge travel mug begging for the remaining hot water. When I say begging, I mean hanging around long enough for me to finally switch on my ‘polite gene’ and actually offer the girl some water.

The hot water subsequently led to a tea bag, the tea bag led to some sugar, and the sugar led to some milk. In conclusion she took all the tea and joined us on the comfy seats for breakfast. Trudy (with the unwritten camping rules) followed shortly, but she brought her own breakfast and was welcomed accordingly.

As a result the camper was quite full and our German neighbour, upon waking, merely got a wave that morning - but no tea; such a polite man to be treated so poorly.

And so ‘The Breakfast Club’ was born.

The club was adjourned, we sparked up our engines and all headed down for Day 2 of TekCamp, pondering what the day had in store.

Martin delivered his morning debrief as we enjoyed a tea, and then passed us off to our instructors for the day. Kerri and I would be joining the decompression legend Mark Powell for the day. This was great news and we were both really looking forward to meeting him.

In hindsight Kerri and I have decided we were a bit star struck. In my mind Mark Powell is featured more than most in magazines etc. I have also read many of his articles and interviews, not to mention he is the renowned author of “Deco for Divers.”

Nevertheless it didn’t stop us bounding over to him with hands outstretched to torture the man.

Introductions all done Mark explained we would be concentrating on stage handling and buoyancy control, with the aid of visual references. This was fine by us; I definitely needed more experience with a deco bottle for my future planned dives in Malin, and my buoyancy can be … ‘wobbly.’

We were briefed on the finer points of stage marking and rigging. We were then joined by safety diver ‘Finn’ who kindly donated an ali7 stage bottle as I didn’t have one of my own.

Once in the water we retrieved our stages, clipped them off and descended down the shot line to one of the platforms. It was clear that I wasn’t really switched on. My descent was crap and if the S-Drill was for real I would be a widow. This would be devastating for the cat army at home, as I often forget to feed them, plus I’m not totally convinced Kerri’s life insurance covers her for tech diving.

So, with the prospect of me and the cat army living in a squat spinning in my head, we finally made it onto the platform.

Mark then set to work balancing out our trim and position in the water. This was quite fascinating. It was soon clear that by manipulating the position of my arms in the water I could counter balance the weight of the stage and stop the ‘wobbly’ effect whilst holding still. As Mr Powell was moving my hands around I couldn’t help envisage the ‘wax on – wax off’ scene from The Karate Kid. If you are too young or too old to remember this timeless 80’s classic; you are missing out, it’s a cracker.

The 'wax on – wax off' approach definitely did things to my trim and I quite enjoyed messing around with my position in the water. I contemplated signalling to Mark that he was ‘Mr Miyagi’ from The Karate Kid, but I couldn't think of the hand gestures.

Wax on - Wax off!

(c) copyright Jason Brown :: BARDO creative

As I had now completely switched off to the further instruction I was being given, I became a little stressed when it came to passing the stage cylinders around. My perfect still position was now faltering and I was fining about a little more than necessary.

Mark was pointing to his eyes, then to the wall, then to his eyes, then to the platform, then to his eyes, then to Kerri. At this point my poor mind caved in and all I could think of were triangles. I found out in the de-brief he wanted me to use the things he was pointing at as a visual reference.


An hour had passed, we had done quite well and Mark thumbed the dive. I was pleased I understood him at last.

Lunch came and went and I enjoyed another finely cooked cheese burger, which would become a constant in my life for the duration of TekCamp. You can’t go wrong with a burger – diving food.

Howard Payne presented his talk: Dive and Survive, or as he eloquently put it; ‘stay out of the poo in the blue.’ This was a stimulating talk as it was something every diver could really associate with, reverberating a theme we all knew too well.

GUE instructor John Kendell then proceeded to educate us with a presentation featuring the work of the WKPP: Woodville Karst Plains Project. This was another crazy cave diving thing (does no-one dive in the sea anymore?) that scared the life out of me. John was a support diver for the world record breaking traverse from Turner Sink to Wakulla Spring. The dive itself sounded hectic, but John’s role was both difficult and critical to the success of the dive. It was a great talk.

Kerri and I then met up with Mark for our next debrief. Fellow Tekcamper Nicky (Diving Fundamentals) also joined us on the dive for some further stage handling madness. A more controlled ascent and improved S-Drill made for a decent start to the dive. Then all of a sudden Kerri stopped midway suffering an equalisation problem. Finn escorted Kerri to the surface demonstrating an “excellent ascent,” in his words, and she headed onto dry land for a tea. Clever girl.

This left only Nicky and I to conduct the skill circuit. Nicky was obviously no stranger to stage bottles and was more than competent in the water. I on the other hand, struggled. I just couldn’t get it together and ended up doing laps of Vobster losing the ability to stop fining. It was very frustrating. To make matters worse, once the dive ended my ascent was atrocious. What was going on? The day before I was a diving god and at that point I was barely able to stay still.

Darts. I should take up darts.

Shortly after as I continued to concentrate on dropping stage bottles I thought I heard a noise. 

The internal monologue followed:

Bong! ! !

  • What the fuck was that?

Bong! ! !

  • Jesus Christ. I’ve lost it. Mark Powell has sent me over the edge.

Bong! ! !

  • What the hell am i banging into?

Bong! ! !

  • Oh dear God, I’m narced out at 6m. I bet this is in his bloody book? I knew I should have bought it earlier.

Bong! ! !

  • I'm hearing bells… it’s the triangles … they’re ... they're ringing …

It turned out Mark, the stealthy bastard, had clipped off an Ali 80 to my butt ring and it was banging on my twinset. Stealthy bastard.

I hadn’t felt a thing.

That was one to the Welsh man.

Once we surfaced Mark could clearly see I was less than impressed with my performance with the stage bottle and suggested another weight check was in order. It appeared with only 70 bar in my twinset I could be a little light. We drained the tanks down to 30 bar and attempted a descent.

I almost held it at 2m with a little assistance, but couldn’t quite manage it. Another 1kg was in order.

It was excellent to complete a thorough weight check with an instructor like Mark, as I now have a proper benchmark for what is too light and just right. I put on a 2Kg tail weight and all was well with the world. Happy diver.

As I exited the water I met Paul Toomer who asked how I got on. I explained I was a bit frustrated with my performance on the day. He was brilliant. We both stood at the exit as he explained how a poor night’s sleep, a few beers, poor concentration could ruin even his next day’s diving and to simply write it off.

That worked for me and my mood improved.

Later that night I had a chat with Mark about it, as he signed my log book, he said I was being much too hard on myself and to relax a bit. Good enough for me.

Back on shore I regrouped with Kerri who had been receiving medicine from Howard Payne for her ear condition. This worried me greatly. Howard and Rohypnol go hand in hand. She was in good form and her ear seemed to be recovering from a slight blockage.

Another BBQ done we found ourselves back in the campsite grabbing a few more beers for the evening talk.

Rich Walker was the speaker on the evening talk presenting Wreck Diving in Norway. Rich has dived on many of the wrecks from Bergen, Sognefjord, Ålesund and as far North as Narvik, 200km into the Arctic circle. Many of these wrecks have significant histories, from being part of Hitlers Operation Weserubung, the code name for the German invasion of Norway in 1940, or part of the general losses of the war.

It was a fascinating talk and he had some truly magnificent photographs of the wrecks he had dived. This was my type of diving; a very engaging presentation.

Afterwards Kerri and I opted for an early night which was great as it stopped me from drinking the rest of the beer.

Day 2 done.

Day 3 - Rich Walker's Human Centipede


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