TekCamp Part #5 – Wacky Races and a dodgy starter

Day 5

Awaking on the final day of TekCamp was a bit depressing. I figured by the 5th day I would be done with scuba diving and be ready for home, but that really wasn’t the case; I loved it and didn’t want to leave.

Only Trudy joined us for ‘The Breakfast Club,’ which was ironic as she was the only one that actually had anything to eat. By this stage our milk was sour which removed cereal from the equation; so we settled for bacon baps later at Vobster.

Trudy was in rather a good mood.

30 minutes previous there had been a rumour around TekCamp that the golden ticket for the VR diving computer hadn’t been claimed – it was still inside one of the goodie bags we received at the beginning of the week.

No one knew that was where it was hidden. No one had checked.

Immediately we all began rummaging through our bags, tearing pages from the free dive magazines, basically pulling everything apart in search of the elusive ticket.

Trudy found it. It had been lying in her tent all week. I hate her.

Due to Frieda’s minor breakdown the previous evening, Kerri and I had turned motor homing into an extreme sport, as we had absolutely no idea if the van would start. Thankfully, Finn the safety diver had taken an auxiliary role of breakdown recovery. He drove the only other heavy vehicle at the camp so I was relying on his LDV to tow us out of the field if we couldn’t get going.

As Trudy sat in the back, munching a random cereal that looked like rabbit poo, I twisted the ignition key …

It’s alive!” I cried, over the drone of the engine. We all celebrated, Finn lumbered his LDV out of the camp site and we followed close behind; minus Trudy of course, she took her own car – travelling in the back of Frieda at speed is not recommended.

We arrived at Vobster to a sombre mood; it was clear everyone was a bit sad the week was coming to a close. However, we focused on the festivities and diving that lay ahead and got some teas in, as Kerri went in search of an iphone charger. Iphones are so crap.

5 mins later as I was enjoying my brew, Kerri bounded over,

I’ve seen the whiteboard – we're diving with Paul Toomer again!

This was excellent news.

I spied Paul and dutifully explained we would be ruining his day. He laughed and agreed it was a brilliant finale to the weeks diving.

Martin gave his daily briefing and the camp gravitated towards their scuba instructor for the morning. Kerri and I got our kit and joined Paul by the quarry for our last ever dive at TekCamp. Roz, the PR person and accomplished technical diver, would be coming along for the ride.

We had been working really hard all week, as had the instructors, and the tiredness was definitely taking its toll; I wasn’t totally convinced I could digest any more training.

Paul: “What do you want to do today guys?

Kerri: “Let’s just go for a dive.

Paul: “That’s a fucking brilliant idea.

So we planned the dive and dived the plan; and the plan was ‘go diving.’

It was a fucking brilliant idea.

We descended slowly into the deteriorating visibility that was Vobster, and followed Paul on our exploration of the quarry. None of us knew the layout of the site particularly well, so Paul randomly finned around various sunken things to a depth of about 26m until it became ridiculously chilly.

When the temperature bottomed out at 6C the man from Del Malta obviously decided we needed to head back to the shallows, which was great, as my nuts were receding at an alarming rate.

We had discussed the tunnel, but armed only with a Chinese torch from ebay as a primary light between 4 divers; we thought better of it and remained in open water.

Upon reaching a bit of plane wreckage Paul signalled we should frog kick into the fuselage, helicopter turn, and back kick out the other side. This was great. I hadn’t had a chance to actually use any of my new skills in anger, and this was as good a test as any.

‘Lead the way Tall Poomer!’

As instructed I frog kicked into the wreck, stopped, conducted a stunning helicopter turn and back kicked out. It was text book. Kerri followed and repeated the process, again to a very high standard.

Just as Wifebuddy was backing out of the wreck I heard a deep bellow;

A  HA  HA    HA    HA    HA!

Dear God. You could actually hear the big South African laughing underwater. He was obviously tickled by our improved performance throughout the week.

After an hour we found our way back to shore and headed for lunch.

It was my 100th dive. What a way to do it.

I subsequently learned that it was to my advantage, and even personal safety, that my 100th dive had been kept quiet. I was unaware of the ‘unwritten rule’ requiring said scuba dive to be conducted naked. I have a feeling if Jim Dowling had of known at the time it may have happened…

After lunch we attended our first talk of the day; Gareth Lock presenting Human Factors in Diver Safety. Gareth is an accomplished technical diver and published underwater photographer who has a desire to improve diver safety by challenging current practices; bringing his knowledge and experience from military and commercial aviation to the world of sport scuba diving.

His talk focused on how incidents develop, and, in the main, they have human error at their root cause. His case study was quite frightening and, like Howard Payne’s talk earlier in the week, was something every diver could associate with.

*Visit DISRC for more info or to contact Gareth for any relevant information.*

During the break we annoyed Paul Toomer a little further and got our log books signed. This led to Paul having a flick though Kerri’s log book and noticing our PADI instructors comment on her open water dives:

'Kerri – amazing diver should be staff,' as opposed to my log book from the same dive: 'It wasn't cold – you need to eat more pies you skinny git.'

This proceeded to Paul creating his own little game for the day; “Kerri is a better diver than Andy.”

The game began when Kerri feigned disappointment regarding the lack of “certification” at the close of TekCamp. To alleviate this Paul produced one of his business cards and certified her “Better Than Andy Diver” by scrawling it around the edge.

Kerri being presented her certification

'Better Than Andy Diver' cert card

Funny guy.

However, as with all good games, it wasn’t over.

Kerri bought Mark Powell’s “Deco For Divers” book and wanted it signed. Paul saw this as a wonderful opportunity, and got it signed with a special message just for her.

He also attempted to nab Kevin Gurr and get him to apply the same courtesy. Thankfully Kevin is a gentleman, well; I mean Paul didn’t get to him in time.

As if that indignity wasn’t enough, Kerri’s log book also contained a clear description of her diving across the week, through the eyes of Mr Toomer.

The game was finally over.

As I wandered around the camp nursing my new diving complex I noticed Rich Walker and John Kendall semi naked by the quarry side. I pondered what GUE madness it could have been.

It turned out they were taking part in a swimming race.

Martin Stanton had offered a 400m wreck reel as the grand prize to the first instructor to reach the rhib on the far side of Vobster.

Paul Toomer was next to join the competitors losing his t-shirt, shoes and stepping up to the drink. Martin Robson appeared shortly sporting a fancy shortie he had stolen from the Vosbter shop in a vain attempt to protect himself from the frigid water temperature.

As I laughed along with the rest of TekCamp I noticed Phil Short was standing beside me, tucking into a bap full of lots of fried things. I asked him;

You not having a go mate?

His reply took me a little by surprise;

Do you think i’m mad? – it’s bloody freezing in there!

I refrained from relaying some of his own caving diving stories back to him, confirming that I did indeed think he was mad. Bemused we continued to watch the spectacle unfurl.

Just as the race was about to commence, Howard Payne appeared.

He was fully kitted in drysuit, backplate, mask, fins and a battery operated scooter! The race started abruptly as he jumped in barking;

You’ll never take me alive!

Immediately the 4 other competitors dived in.

  • John Kendall lost his googles and shorts almost immediately. He was out.
  • Martin Robson attacked Paul Toomer. He was out.
  • Paul jumped onto the back of Howard and his scooter. That was the 2 of them out.
  • Rich Walker was powering ahead.
  • Martin Robson closed in behind…

Martin Robson snatched the title from Rich Walker by a hair, reaching the rhib first and celebrated with his new reel.

It was a fix i tell ya!

Howard Payne remarkably finished last and was forced to wear a pee-valve on his head as consolation. It seemed fitting.

The whole event was extremely funny and fair play to the instructors that took part!

As the instructors dried off and coaxed their man tackle back out, I wandered into the tent where Kevin Gurr led the next talk discussing some of the myths surrounding closed circuit rebreather diving; Rebreather Fact, Fiction and Voodoo (and other adventures).

(c) BARDO creative
A pioneer in rebreather design and development, Kevin's presentation considered many of the fears, concerns and misconceptions that some divers have regarding rebreathers.

 As an open circuit diver I found it very interesting as my knowledge of rebreathers is minimal. Kevin was a very engaging speaker and I would strongly recommend attending one of his talks if you get the chance.

After Kevin was done, Martin took the floor and all attention was sharply focused on him as he announced the competition winners. A raffle bucket was presented and, one by one, names were drawn and allocated a prize.

It was surprisingly tense!

It was soon apparent I was at the winning table.

  • Richard won the first prize for best blogger of the week; a set of Apeks regs. A well earned prize as he dutifully updated his blog every day; unlike me – I was much too lazy. Fair play mate.
  • Tara was next; she picked up the Halcyon Stage reg set. I hate her.
  • Trudy was presented her VR computer by Kevin himself. I already hated her.
  • Finn the safety diver and breakdown recovery man won the Halo 3D. Dam him to hell.
  • Linda picked up the signed Wookey Hole book, which having heard Duncans talk I would really like to read.
  • Our pleasant camping neighbour John won dive rite vouchers. He was much too nice a guy to hate.
  • Safety diver Adrian Smith won the second of the VR computers. This was more amusing as he was sporting his GUE shirt. I would have taken it off his hands to keep him in the good graces of the dark side.
  • Gemma was awarded a BSAC book and wetnotes. Always useful.
  • Even Kerri won a prize. A very large O’Neill coat. We both wear it… together. It’s huge. We hate it.
(c) BARDO creative

With the prizes all gone, the last BBQ was demolished and diver by diver TekCamp dwindled down to the hardcore few. Many hugs and handshakes followed, Frieda started, third time, and we headed back to the camp site.

The last night was really good fun. We parked the big camper for the night beside the remaining tents, the occupants that remained produced chairs, candles, a table, nibbles and booze! We shared diving stories, experiences, reflected on the week and drank quite a few beers.

It was a brilliant conclusion to a phenomenal week.

The morning came too soon and by 7.30am ‘The Breakfast Club’ assembled for a final briefing. Trudy, Tara, Richard, Kerri and I sat around the table enjoying cereals before attempting the arduous journey home.

More hugs and handshakes preceded a tear filled departure as we finally hit the road.

The TekCamp family

(L-R) Linda, Tara, Trudy, Me, Kerri, Richard

TekCamp was over.

The 389 mile journey to the ferry terminal was littered with extreme motor homing. When we had to stop for fuel, Frieda wouldn’t start. When we finally got her going again, with only 11 miles to the port, we got a blow out. That was an experience in itself as I couldn’t risk turning the ignition off for fear of her not starting again.

Lying under a 3.5tonne van with the engine running is not recommended.

Once we reached the terminal the ferry was delayed, which meant we had to turn Frieda off again. Thankfully she did start eventually; we boarded the ferry hassle free, and spent the 3 hour crossing panicking as to whether she would start once we got to Belfast.

Arrival at Belfast was later than scheduled, we boarded Frieda and for the only time all week she started first go! Thank fuck.

16 hours after leaving TekCamp we finally arrived home, absolutely shattered.

TekCamp was most definitely over.

I Are Sad.

TekCamp - The Aftermath


  1. Sounds absolutely epic--thanks largely in part to your blog, I've convinced the girlfriend to go next year. I owe you a beer for that one.


  2. That's excellent news! You won't regret it i promise. TekCamp is a fantastic opportunity not to be missed.

    I wasn't sure i could make it next year, but hell, if you're buying the beer... i'm in!



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Safe diving buddy.