Alarms & Crocodiles - The scuba dive that nearly didn't happen

The alarm clock goes off; it’s 7.30am on a Sunday morning.


Your brain finally engages and, using your right fist to almost obliterate the snooze button with the ferocity of a jack hammer; the infernal buzzing finally comes to a halt.

Is that a slight hint of a hangover?

Yes. Yes it is … and it’s growing.

Then the realisation begins to unfold. From deep within the psyche it sneaks up like ninja; a ninja with a frying pan. Then, from out of nowhere, the frying pan hits you on the side of the head.

Oh god … I have to go diving.

Oh god no.

I absolutely love scuba diving, and everyone that will listen knows it well. I look forward to the next dive the moment I surface from the dive I was on. I try and plan local diving a month in advance; holidays go as far as 3 years. Currently I have my annual leave allocated until 2015; I shit you not. I look forward to all my upcoming dives, and the thought of drifting over the local shipwreck gets me through the monotony of trucking all week to pay for 3220 litres of Nitrox.

The week leading up to a dive I have all my kit rinsed, zips all greased up, dry glove seals lubed and lights are charged ready to rock. The night before, my kit is neatly packed into the big blue box; every item in its allocated space and prepped to dive at a moment’s notice. Once in bed I slip gently into the darkness dreaming of the upcoming adventure.

Then I wake up and can’t be arsed.

I don’t know what it is, I’m not lazy by nature; quite the reverse. (There is a slight possibility Wifebuddy may disagree, mainly when it comes to such critical tasks as feeding the cat army, but that’s irrelevant.)

Perhaps as a night shift worker I don’t get enough rest during the week, and so ‘bank’ sleep at the weekend, or maybe it’s the one too many Carlsberg the previous evening, or maybe I am just lazy after all?

Either way I can’t get out of bed.

Eventually; after an initial request, polite text message and a final holler up the stairs, Wifebuddy will manage to coax my sorry ass from the bed. By this stage however, we are pretty much late and often miss slack water, arriving at the dive site to a mass exodus of 50 divers - having destroyed what was limited visibility to begin with.

I would NEVER bin a dive; I just tend to hold up proceedings a little.

That was how I awoke on Sunday morning past.

So, having successfully gone through the “Get Andy out of the bed ritual” Wifebuddy and I arrived at the dive site - The Alastor. The weather for the last month had been atrocious, and with so many boat dives being blown out we were expecting our regular shore dive to be bunged; but thankfully it was empty.

We left our wee jeep and wandered down to the shoreline to be greeted by little white horses skipping over the Lough. Even the Lough was rough – I had never seen ‘waves’ on the site before. Nonetheless, we know the dive well and a surface chop was not be feared.

Kitted up, checks done, we descended into the gloom and finned the 80m out from the shore to visit ‘The Alastor.’ The visibility was marginally better than the week before and with our can lights blazing the stern precariously came into view.

I was leading the dive, so I took the helm and swam down the narrow walkway on the port side of the ship onto, what was once, the main deck. Once I exited the walkway I pivoted round to make sure Wifebuddy was clear; carry on to the bow, check out the winch, and maybe see if the conger was about.

As I hovered, Kerri appeared with eyes like saucers and seemed a little zoned out. At 23m deep, in the dark, in poor visibility, narcosis is a bit of a given; but up until then she seemed fine – something wasn’t right.

Kerri floated over and I gave her an inquisitive look and signalled; “You ok?

She responded by giving me a snapping hand signal - a crocodile?

My god, she’d lost the plot. 

The crocodile gesture continued along with additional pointing at her fin. What the hell?

Finally my tiny narced brain kicked in; oh god; the conger – he’s out!

There are 2 huge conger eels on the wreck, but they usually stay within the safety of the structure, only poking their inquisitive heads out when divers appear. The image of one of the 7 foot long, prehistoric monolith, slithering around freaked me out completely. I don’t know why, they are quite passive and we have visited them many times before; but they’re never been out.

Just then a shadow caught the corner of my eye, and I witnessed a long, dull, shape drift over the side of the gloomy wreck.

Holy fuck.

I turned back to Kerri who was furiously nodding her head; I could hear her voice in my head: “That’s what I’m talking about!

As I was processing all the relevant information, and deciding what to do next, Kerri gave me yet another crazy signal: She elevated slightly vertical in the water column, and used her hands like bird wings; but in a lateral movement, not up and down.


Then I felt it. My right fin. Something was pulling it off.

Holy fuck.

I turned to see a huge dark shape release my fin, move forward and glare at me with giant, black, round eyes.

It was a seal. He was massive.

I focused my attention back onto Kerri, who was nodding even more frantically than before, giving me two ‘OK’ signals and an underwater giggle. I returned the two handed gesture and mimicked:

Ah, right – NOW I get you!

What followed was a most curious and incredibly enjoyable dive.

The big bull seal encircled us, practically on top of Kerri, as we hung over the edge of the bow. It was unbelievable. Kerri later explained he was so close, the urge to stroke him was overwhelming. She also portrayed her postponed heart attack, having being pulled back down the walkway by him at the beginning of the dive.

A malevolent spirit got me... 

Ah, yes; the 'crocodile / fin' signals made a lot more sense in retrospect.

The big lad swam off, and not forgetting the dive plan, we followed our usual route down to the bath for a poke around; then ventured out the starboard gangway onto the upper deck. What I was (thankfully) unaware of at the time, was that one of the congers was hiding under the floor at the door to the bathroom.

Kerri later explained she couldn’t believe I happily swam over the head of the long monster. 

photoshop fix by Ken Hawkhead :)

Had i seen him, I would have sought another option. I love the big congers, but I’m not overly fussed swimming close to their gaping jaws.

On the top deck our big seal swooped down in front of us. As we were enjoying the spectacle, a silver faced seal followed. I couldn’t believe it. I signalled to Kerri there were now TWO seals with us. As we ascended along the funnel, the smaller of the two circled around us darting in and out of view, periodically tugging at a fin here and there. It was a bizarre sensation.

The top of the funnel often accommodates one of the congers, and today we were in luck. His big eye shone through the green as he slumped in and out of the stack. Admiring the grey leviathan, I didn’t notice Kerri signal to a different area of the funnel. In the corner was an enormous lobster. We’d never seen a lobster of this size anywhere near The Alastor before; we were subject to a rare treat.

With our planned departure time closing in, I snapped some dreadful photos, and descended back to the deck. Buoyancy sorted, Kerri and I checked our gas, and just as we were about to leave for the stern, a big silver head popped through the cross beams beneath us. 

It was fantastic. The silver seal just hung there with her big, black, watery eyes and thick whiskers protruding through the members. Her docile expression depicted a combination of a Labrador pup and, the leader of the cat army; our fat cat Lily. I was enthralled. After a good gawk at us, I fumbled with my camera (which had switched to video mode?) just as she heaved herself out and swam over the starboard side of the wreck. 

I knew it was time to go. My Puck computer announced I was in deco, and with only the twin 7’s on my back I had to leave. I wished I’d used my twin 12’s. Damn. Regretfully Wifebuddy and I made a hasty retreat from the wreck and finned towards the shore.

Decompression stops and a little padded safety stop completed, we surfaced; ripped off our masks, globed into the water, and exclaimed how absolutely tremendous the dive had been!

It really was.

Talking later to other divers (who were heading out as we were coming in), it transpired the seals had followed us the whole way to shore. In the poor visibility we were totally unaware, as the seals treated other divers to a mere glimpse as they travelled from the wreck in our wake.

The Alastor is my local site, I have dived her 27 times and will continue to do so. Every dive is different; some are more enjoyable than others; that was my favourite dive to date.

So, in conclusion, when the time comes to get out of bed and go diving; just do it – you could be missing the best dive you never did.

What’s the best dive you nearly didn’t do?

Safe Scuba - Safe Diver

Is scuba diving is a safe sport?

Ultimately, scuba diving is safe; however it is not without risk.

I know that’s a bit of a manufacturers answer to the question but it is the truth. In my tiny mind it’s a bit like driving a car. Cars are safe, but accidents happen.

We can attempt to prevent accidents quite simply; with proper care, attention and training.

Having said that, I have numerous friends and family members who believe I take my life in my hands every time my dry suit is donned. Work colleagues consider me an “Adrenaline Junkie,” or “Crazy Andy.”

Perhaps I don’t get referred to as “Crazy Andy,” I just fancy being called that, but you get the picture.

Wifebuddy’s family, on the other hand, feel quite differently. Kerri explained to her 72 year old mum she may be considering cave diving; her mum responded; “That’s nice dear.” When we completed the TDI deco course and proclaimed our diving would take us to the darkened depths of 45m, this “sounded lovely.”

Everything was grand until Kerri’s dad translated metres into feet. Since that revelation we have been duly informed not to tell Kerri’s mum any further diving stories.

I don’t consider myself an unsafe diver, but I have done unsafe things whilst scuba diving, and there is always room for improvement. So, I thought I would make a list to keep a diver safe(r) while enjoying the underwater world we crave so much.


  • It is essential that proper scuba training is conducted before going diving. I had a mate make a comment once; “I must come with you some weekend and try out this scuba thing.” I couldn’t believe someone would even consider donning scuba kit without training, but obviously they exist; and I’m friends with him.

  • Once training has been completed; that is the diving you are permitted to do. If you want to conduct deeper, decompression or overhead environment diving, then additional training with an appropriate agency must be taken. 

  • Diving with a friend that is qualified in a specific area does not mean you can follow without the certification card


Accidents happen. It’s not always someone’s fault, but more often than not there are specific elements leading up to a scuba incident.

I read a lot about diving, including accidents and near-misses other divers have encountered. (see RESOURCES below.) I’m not a sadist, honest, but am curious as to how accidents occur; and more importantly, if I recognise any factors involved in MY diving.

I think this is beneficial as it allows me to learn from others mistakes, and increase my awareness of how accidents develop. Learn from your mistakes is the key I guess.

Ego is a big thing. I am aware I have an ego, but I strive to ignore its rather fabulous head when it makes an appearance. Being ‘too cool’ to call a dive could be the last thing you never do.


There are numerous aspects of equipment that should be adhered to when ensuring diver safety.

  • Maintenance: All scuba gear requires professional maintenance at specific intervals. Refer to manuals with every piece of kit you get. There is no excuse; the internet and local scuba shops can provide any diver with service requirements for most brands. 

  • Care: Look after your kit. Rinsing is an important thing if you dive in salt water. I had salt crystals ruin my power inflator; it stuck in the “inflate” position at 20m. It wasn’t a pleasant experience; I dealt with it at the time, but it could have been avoided if I had taken more care when rinsing my kit.

  • Pre-dive checks: Kerri had a mouthpiece come off her primary regulator, at depth, on a dark, poor viz dive. The situation escalated from a wet breath, to mask flood, to loss of bouyancy and poor buddy skills on my part. Ultimately Kerri switched to her octopus and thumbed the dive. We managed to launch an smb and conduct a safe ascent.

    In hindsight Kerri should have checked her mouthpiece more thoroughly before the dive 

  • Familiarity: I’m a big fan of the GUE approach to kit configuration as all diving is based upon a simple and constant kit arrangement. Of course, this isn't essential for safe diving, but there are aspects that shouldn't be ignored. Every diver should ensure they know where all their gear is located, and should keep everything in the same place so muscle memory kicks in if it is needed in an emergency. 


Once dive training is completed divers tend to walk off with the cert card and never return to the skills they spent so long mastering.

I know divers who spend hours on end rehearsing skills and scenarios; “I did a shut down today with no mask, one fin, no regulator whilst fighting a lion.

This of course is admirable, and not without merit, but not everyone can afford the time, gas or possess conditions for such drills.

Kevin Gurr made a recommendation in his book "Technical Diving from the Bottom Up" of practicing at least one skill on every dive. I think this is a fantastic approach and Wifebuddy and I adhere to this on every dive.

After a long break from diving, all basic skills should be given the ‘once over’ in a safe environment or swimming pool, prior to giant striding off a boat.


This is another crucial part of diving. Breakdowns in communication have led to many scuba incidents that could have been so easily avoided had one party said something…anything.

  • The Buddy Check: This fundamental element of diving is one of the first things I was taught during my PADI open water course, as are most divers. For some reason fewer and fewer divers seem to conduct them?

    Recently I was on a dive boat of 12 divers and didn’t see one single check. It was a recreational dive, which some divers see as an excuse not to do their checks; however, upon a little research I discovered the maximum depth of the site was 55m. The mind boggles.

  • Hand signals: Make sure you confirm all hand signals before taking the dive. On a boat dive I was given an insta-buddy who used different signals to those I was taught. Once underwater this proved to be a little confusing, but could have been dangerous. 

  • Plan the dive – Dive the Plan: Decide what mission of the dive is, then go and do it. With a plan in mind, stress levels are kept to a minimum as everyone knows what’s what. If a buddy does something not in the plan, it may be an indication there is a problem. 

  • Call The Dive: Any diver can call the dive at any time. Better to be on the boat wishing you were in the water, than in the water wishing you were in the boat. ‘Nuff said. 


  • Do you ever get a bad feeling about something? : If at any stage of the dive you don’t “feel right,” whether it is half way through a dive, the start, kitting up, or even about to step out of the car: bin it.

    It’s the same as “Call The Dive” but without any specific reason. It may be difficult to communicate, but often if something “doesn’t feel right,” it probably isn’t.

    I read an article lately about a group of recreational divers on holiday that followed the dive leader into a cave system. Cave diving requires specific equipment and skills recreational divers do not possess. Most likely, somewhere along the line, somebody knew it was a bad idea; they just decided not to be the one to ruin the party.

    Never be afraid to tell a skipper, divemaster, instructor, dive centre, or buddy they’re being a dick. 

  • Physical fitness: If a diver feels a bit sick, perhaps it’s better not to dive. I’ve been guilty of diving when not feeling well, in the end I spent the whole dive worrying about what might happen to my illness at depth, and if it would affect my NDL.

    Excessive paranoia perhaps, but I may as well not have done the dive because I didn’t enjoy it anyway. 

  • The dive isn’t over until you’re at home with a cup of tea: I recall surfacing from a dive and removing my regulator to chat to my buddy about how cool the dive went. I opened my mouth to speak and received a mouthful of salt water. Not pleasant. Choking and spluttering followed, along with another mouthful of wave, until I finally switched back on, and put the reg back in my mouth.

    I have also read stories about divers falling off ladders, dropping kit on each other, and other crazy madness. The morale of the story is to stay “switched on” until the dive is well and truly concluded. I wait until I’ve a cup of tea and a jaffa cake, then I can be bloody sure. 

  • Am I bendy?: Getting bent is every divers nightmare, after drowning perhaps. The problem with being bent is actually knowing you’re bent; and admitting it. Symptoms can appear long after a dive and shouldn’t be ignored. 


These are just a few valuable resources that I tend to keep an eye on to keep up to date with safety issues when scuba diving.

Cognitas Incident Research and Management: are working for, and with, the dive community aiming to improve diving safety by challenging current practices and encouraging a Just Culture using experience and processes from the aviation and medical industries. 

Diving Incident and Safety Resource Centre: provides a single focal point for all safety and incident matters concerning sport or recreational (not commercial) diving.

DAN: The Divers Alert Network helps divers in need, 24/7, anywhere in the world, with medical emergency assistance, and promotes diving safety through Research, Education, Products and Services. Every diver should have DAN insurance or similar.

Diver Down (Seaduction): This section of their website contains numerous tales of diving accidents. They are a compelling read and feature many lessons to be learned.

Lessons for Life (Scuba As with Seaduction, this area of the website features tales of misfortune divers have encountered. They are literally; lessons for life.

Mike Ange: Despite being the chief visionary of Seaduciton Mike also writes loads of safety books, articles and conducts seminars. It’s always worthwhile keeping an eye on his activity.

Talk to other divers: I am fully aware divers are full of shit, myself included, but occasionally you meet those that tell the truth about their diving. Learn from others experience as, and when, you can.

Dive Log: I log all my dives and can learn a lot from reading back over them. On dives where I felt uncomfortable, in hindsight I can often see the reason – overweighted, bad viz, too cold, new kit, different buddy etc. This can be another good reason to keep a regular dive log.

Forums: Despite the nonsense that tends to litter the internet forums, there are plenty of valuable posts about diver safety and awareness.


This is not the definitive list on how to be a safe diver, they are just the things that I try and adhere to. I want my diving to be fun, that’s why I learned to dive. I don’t enjoy my dive if I’m worrying about something.

I find if I stick to my rules as best I can, I don’t worry; the dive is more enjoyable, I am more aware of the dive, a better dive buddy and subsequently one step closer to being a safe diver.

Safe diving everyone!

I Dive On The Internet - The Scuba Forum

The internet rocks, and I firmly believe anyone reading this feels the same, otherwise you wouldn’t be here; you’d be reading a [cue foreign accent], how you say, 'printed' version of some sort.

I have heard of such, [cue foreign accent] how you say, 'magazines,' but haven’t picked one up in a while as most of my reading is done online.

So, whilst in the middle of one of my lengthy Google scuba searches into madness; which often leads to watching bizarre youtube videos of a man dressed up as a unicorn, I discovered some divers love scuba on the internet, and others hate it.

I often ponder how useful the World Wide Web really is for scuba diving, and the obvious resource is the internet forum. Forums are magnificent for both information and entertainment, however, as with in water scuba, ‘internet diving’ requires the same preparation and knowledge before giant striding in.

Take heed, scuba forums are dangerous places. 

I sway back and forward on forums in general. I have been a member of many internet forums or, chat rooms, on various topics; I have concluded they are all the same. Forums contain a certain calibre of personalities; scuba forums are no different.

So I have prepared a list of typical users on scuba forums to protect “noobies” after they sign up.

Mr Real life: A helpful person by nature who has 1000’s of dives, an open mind, and most probably a high level of instructor training. Their knowledge is invaluable, but they don’t post too often as they actually go diving. Mr Real Life also becomes shunned as they genuinely know more than everyone else. Most advice goes unnoticed or ignored.

Mr Reads A Lot: This guy knows pretty much everything Mr Real Life does, but he has accrued such knowledge by reading his posts, but doesn’t dive that much. He can quote plenty of learned experiences and reviews, but nothing he has experienced himself. The knowledge is usually sound, but he will be ousted as not having the actual dive knowledge and be shunned accordingly. Posts go unnoticed once he is exposed.

Mr Knows Better: This guy’s does a reasonable amount of diving and knows more than everyone else. Or so he thinks. He offers nothing short of crazy advice simply because he has done it and is still alive. The reasons for still being on the planet are nothing short of amazingly good fortune. So far. 

Familiar threads will include:

User 567: I’m doing my first 55m dive on Trimix tomorrow. I’m nervous but excited!

Mr Knows Better: I dive to 55m all the time using a 15l and air cause it’s cheap.

User 567: Wow, I wouldn’t be happy doing that. My instructor recommended Trimix.

Mr Knows Better: I don’t believe in Trimix.

Even with my miserable knowledge I’m confident trimix DOES exist. 

Mr Angry: This guy can ask and reply to a question in the most aggressive manner possible. A typical topic would be like this:

Mr Angry: “Why the hell should I use a computer?”

User 319: “You don’t have to mate, just need a depth gauge and a timer (smiley face)”

Mr Angry: “What the f**k do you know! P**s Off you C**t!”

User 587: “He was only offering a piece of sensible advice mate. You don’t have to take it. Hth”

Mr Angry: “You can f**k off an’ all. You two are probably gay and …”

Moderator: “Thread Closed”

He will have thousands of posts and be a genuine source of amusement. I have also noted that these guys are often amazingly friendly in real life. Although I often question which of my lives are the “real” one. 

Mr McClane: This is the Die Hard of the forum. He has his views on diving and will NOT be told any different. He can also amazingly twist any thread or topic around to his way of thinking. His arguments can be quite believable so care must be taken when “discussing” things with him. Mr McClane is similar to ‘Mr Knows Better’ but with reasoning. Threads including Mr McClane are often very amusing and you end up thinking; ‘he has a point you know.’

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: I love this type of poster. Usually this guys will want to buy, or has already bought, a piece of kit and needs verification that it is suitable for diving, or safe to use. They are among my favourite threads as they blatantly ignore everything and everyone until someone inadvertently gives a remote indication it should be ok.

A typical thread would go like this:

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: Should I buy X piece of kit for this dive?

User 345: No, it’s not suitable.

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: Are you sure?

User 345: Yes. It’s not really designed for that.

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: But it doesn’t say anywhere not use it this way.

User 345: I know, but you really need to use Y piece of kit instead, it’s designed for it.

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: So you agree I could you X piece?

User 345: Well, I suppose, but most users here wouldn’t recommend it.

Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted: Thanks man, I’m gonna use it on my next dive cause I’ve bought it online just now.

Moderator: Mr That’s Not The Answer I Wanted got bent yesterday when he got entangled in his new piece of kit.

Mr Posts A Lot: Often, on internet forums, a user is judged by their ‘number.’ This ‘number’ is how many posts they have made, and the higher the number is usually a positive correlation on the users knowledge / popularity.

However, be wary of the number and refer instead to ‘thanks’ or ‘likes’ for a member to decide if their opinion is valid.

They may often post in threads they know absolutely nothing about;

User 247: I’m replacing the solenoid in my rebreather this weekend; I ended up flying it manually last dive.

Mr Posts A Lot: Cool.

User 247: Thanks, just that the PO2 level shot up and I was really worried about an O2 hit.

Mr Posts A Lot: Cool.

User 247: What unit do you dive?

Mr Posts A Lot: Cool. I gotta go.

Mr MI6: I love these guys. Ultimately they are online to sell a product, and like a transformer they hide in plain sight; but aren’t as cool. They are a secret agent by all accounts. Thankfully they don’t usually last very long and are ousted quickly by sharp moderators. Amongst other signs, they can be detected by a lack of avatar, as they don’t care about that cool photo of them in perfect trim or with 19 stage bottles, and their ‘number’ is quite low.

User 6793: I just got my new torch – here’s a picture.

User 5635: Wow, that looks really cool, seems pretty bright. I might get one.

Mr MI6: That’s a cool light, but it seems to me that the light output and lumens field is quite wrong for the environment you’re diving. Have you considered this light (insert perfect link to a store’s product)? It has a much better lumen output and even has a flux capacitor.

Moderator: Mr MI6 is banned.

The Moderator: This guy is tricky and my least favourite. Their information is sound as they have read ALL the internet. However personality is often lacking hence they volunteer to be the internet ‘security’ or ‘bouncer’ for the forum. We all know bouncers and security people are dickheads. The Hiltler complex is to be expected and, as with any good bouncer, cannot be reasoned with when a confrontation occurs.

User436: You’re so wrong mate, I much prefer this technique.

User357: Nah, I’ll stick with the way I do it.

User 436: I’ll stick with yer mum!

The Moderator: That’s it User 436, you’re banned.

User 357: It’s ok mate, he’s my brother – everyone here know that, hence the joke! C’mon, man, you’re our cousin for god’s sake!

The Moderator: Your both banned, and I’m telling your mum.

Mr Nice: This user is the person you meet at a party that is referred to as “Oh, yeah, I met them – they’re really nice.” That’s it.

Mr Nice can post on any thread irrespective of knowledge or experience without being attacked or ignored. The person everyone wants to be. I hope in ‘real life’ everyone hates them.

The Thread Killer: This is me. I attempt to post valid comments, often in an attempt to become part of the online community; I obviously don’t possess the internet personality required. In short, no one really cares about The Thread Killer either way and is subsequently ignored.

There are of course certain threads that can involve all types of users. They are my absolute favourite and offer hours of amusement regularly spanning over several thousand pages...

New User: I want to do a Decompression course – any advice?

Mr Real Life: I teach this course, and I see from your profile I’m in your area. Mail me and we’ll have a chat, maybe we can work something out if you are interested.

Mr Reads A Lot: You should do that New User, Mr Real Life has put plenty of users on this forum through that course.

Mr Knows Better: Decompression courses are for girls. Don’t pay for a stupid course you don’t need. Use the money to buy a pony bottle and take it slow when ascending. Piece of piss.

Mr Angry: Why the f**k do you want to do decompression dives anyway?

Mr McClane: You should do 150 more dives, do an intro to tech class, practice for 500 hours in the pool, then find an instructor and do a one on one class. It’s the only way don’t you see?

New User: I see what you mean.

The Moderator: You’re banned for oppression Mr McClane.

Mr Angry: What the f**k do you know McClane?

Mr Posts A Lot: This is a cool thread.

The Moderator: No, Mr Posts A Lot, this isn’t cool. You’re banned.

Mr MI6: You should click this link and use this guy. I did, he was brilliant.

The Moderator: Mr MI6 I noted all your posts lead to that link. That instructor is you. Guess what?....

Mr Nice: I hope you enjoy the course! (Smiley face)

Mr Angry: I’m sure he will; nice post Mr Nice.

Mr Reads A Lot: Everyone enjoys that course, well said Mr Nice.

The Thread Killer: You’re right as always Mr Nice. I did a deco course, it was really excellent. I got a lot from it, and my diving really improved.

Thread slips to page 5,658 by 3pm the following day.

As with all internet scuba diving, this is only advice and does not substitute proper training. I suggest any noobie that is considering becoming part of the online scuba fraternity to take a PADI Open Forum User class.

Good luck, and for the love of god keep your avatar below 70px by 70px.

Scuba Dive West - 2 tech divers and an open water diver

Located in the beautiful countryside of Connemara in Galway, West Ireland; Scuba Dive West is one of the country’s leading PADI dive schools and scuba dive centre. It is an extremely well run operation and has excellent facilities, offering both shore and boat diving.

As a result it seemed an excellent idea that Wifebuddy and I graced them with our presence. So, we planned the trip and tripped the plan… or something like that.

This trip report gives an idea of what to expect from a day’s diving with Scuba Dive West.

As usual I left all the planning to Kerri; I tend not to interfere with these things as it removes the possibility of associated blame if things go tits up. The plan was simple; drive the 5 hours down to Galway on the Friday morning, dive all day Saturday and head home Sunday morning. So that’s what we did.

The only spanner in the works was that I was coming down with a cold, possibly even man-flu. As a result I had formed a dependent relationship with Sudafed, Vicks Sinex and Airwaves chewing gum. I appreciate this is very bad practice, but the trip had been booked for ages and we were both really looking forward to a weekend away; not to mention the diving and accommodation had already been paid for.

Subsequently I got away with it as my cold didn’t really develop, but I really can’t condone my actions; especially as I have suffered a reverse block before and should know better. I are bad diver.

Kerri drove the 214 miles across Ireland while I slept. In my defence I has just come off night shift that morning, and needed to save my strength to fight off the man flu. As we pulled up at The Bards Den I was feeling quite good. Kerri looked tired; no stamina that woman.

We did the checking in thing and were led to our accommodation. The staff were very friendly and explained what was what at the inn, and gave us a brief rundown on the local pubs, restaurants, shops etc.

I was especially curious about the pub across the road which hosted ‘Live Irish music with reggae.’ I must have made ‘a face’ as the girl quickly explained it was ‘quite good the way the guy did it.’ The mind boggled.

Dutifully we were shown around our room, which included its own bathroom; a bargain at €25 pps including full use of kitchen facilities and breakfast stuff provided. 

I’m not totally sure, perhaps it was the tiredness but I became a little concerned about leaving all our kit in the car overnight unattended. Kerri didn’t seem to want to sleep in the car, so I figured it best to bring the more expensive items into the room, and ‘hide’ them. So, with the regs in the wardrobe, lights under the bed, and my paranoia settling we headed across the road to the pub for Guinness and dinner.

You can’t go to Galway and not drink Guinness – that would be rude! 

Four pints, a burger, and some smoked salmon later we called it a night and got some sleep in preparation for the diving ahead. 

Up early, we had some cereal in the communal kitchen area and got lost on the way to Scuba Dive West. This was quite impressive as it was clearly signposted from the hostel right to the entrance of the dive centre. Insult to injury - I was driving for the first time all weekend. 

Finally we pulled up in the car park area, introduced ourselves to Cillian and confirmed our boat dive. (Boat dives are at 10am and 2pm every day except Tuesday) We opted for a boat dive in the morning and planned to spend the afternoon diving from the shore. (Boat dives are €35 / shore dives €8)

The inflatable ship appeared and 13 divers clambered aboard. As usual, we were ready much too early, got our kit aboard and subsequently ended up holding the rhib while the other divers arrived.

A primary objective of the trip was to continue Kerri’s rehabilitation back to boat diving. As she stood waist deep in the swell, holding the ropes of the balloon, I could see she was less than impressed and the objective was failing. The usual faff followed of attempting to get 13 divers in the same place to do the same thing; this reaffirmed why I don’t dive with a club.

Why can’t divers be on time? Seriously? 

Once on board Kerri settled and skipper Colin powered the boat to the dive site. The trip was a little bouncy, but as I have limited experience on a rhib I have no idea if it was rough or not. Kerri didn’t vomit, I felt ok, so all was well with the world. 

Inishbarna Reef was the planned dive and skipper Colin gave a detailed brief. I was at the stern and almost missed it, but Kerri got a good grasp of what was what. The group was broken in two as the boat was a little busy; this was well managed as it gave all the divers more room to kit up, reducing any possible stress.

Kerri and I were in the second group so we kept out of the way allowing the other divers as much room as possible. As the first group plummeted off the boat, Kerri and I buddied up and donned our twin 7’s. 

Cillian and Colin, the only SDW staff on the boat, were brilliant; helping both Kerri and I get into our kit, making us feel like we were the only divers on board. Our long hoses, can lights and lack of snorkel caused no confusion; clearly demonstrating their experience with divers of all configurations. 

Our lack of rhib experience was praying on our minds, but quickly dissipated once we secured our waist straps.

As Wifebuddy and I conducted our buddy check i glanced around the boat and was a little dismayed at the lack of other similar displays. Buddy checks are paramount when it comes to diving and there is never a valid reason not to perform one. I don’t want to dwell on it, but so many diving accidents could have been prevented with even the simplest of buddy checks, it’s my pet hate in diving. 

Anyway, moving swiftly along… 

Kerri rolled off the inflatable, signaled ok, and I followed. We descended 20m, did a quick ‘sanity check’ and proceeded on the dive.

It was an excellent reef dive. The visibility was around 15m and the life was superb. I found a big lobster to photograph, really badly, and a conger eel hiding in a rock formation. I couldn’t get a picture of the conger, so I settled for shooting Kerri instead. The giant clams were good fun too, even though they wrecked the vis - bloody clams and their shit buoyancy.

50 mins later Kerri fired up her smb and we surfaced a couple of meters from the ship; nice piece of navigation by me. Once at the inflatable Cillian was there once again to help us out of our kit and kindly pull it onto the deck for us.

Do rhibs have a deck? Maybe it’s more of a floor. Either way that’s where my kit ended up.

The boat dive was a success and we sped back to the shore for lunch.

We left our twinsets at the air fill station (which also provided nitrox), headed for the changing rooms and then had lunch. The dive centre provides a good sized kitchen for divers to use; including kettle, cooker, microwave and plenty of crockery to suffice any meal. You must bring your own food to cook, although there is a coffee machine.

Over tasty microwave burgers, Kerri and I planned our afternoon shore dive; which involved playing with our new deco bottles in practice for an upcoming tech dive.

At that moment we got to meet Marko.

Marko was a very keen diver, explained in great detail how he needed a buddy for the afternoon, and asked if he could join us. This didn’t really work for me as I wanted to practice gas switches, ascents and basic stage handling. I figured this would bore any other diver aside from Kerri.

But no, Marko explained he could do skills with us, as he had just completed his PADI open water. It all made a bit more sense now.

I recall how amazingly disappointed I was when I began diving and couldn’t get a dive. Neither Kerri nor I wanted to be the reason Makro didn’t get his 5th dive, so we agreed to take him with us for a maximum dive time of 30 mins and keep it shallow. Marko was ecstatic, and his enthusiasm was infectious and I have to admit I was looking forward to the experience.

We were chatting to some other divers outside who suggested taking him straight to 40m, tell him to hold his breath and then inflate his BCD, but that would have been rude. Bad other divers.

40 mins later Kerri, Marko and I were at the shore conducting our buddy checks. I’m sure it was quite a sight; two divers dressed in all black dry suits sporting backplates, twinsets, and stage bottles, coupled with a newly qualified PADI open water diver in yellow fins, blue wet suit and BCD.

I think we maxed out at 7.6m and, as planned, enjoyed a 32 minute dive. Marko was really cool to dive with; he never left my side, communication was good and stayed off the bottom most of the time. He was a credit to his instructor, who I met briefly before the dive. Marko's instructor was also a nice fellow and gave us the  courtesy of confirming we didn’t mind taking his former student on a dive. I thought it was a nice gesture.

The most amusing thing was that I led the dive. This was the height of irony as I had absolutely no clue where I was going and couldn’t really find anything of interest. As a result, I may have finned about a little more enthusiastically than required, giving poor Marko a cramp and leaving Kerri a little out of breath.

Overall if was a fun experience and I hope Marko enjoyed himself with his two tech diving buddies.

So, with our guiding done for the day, Kerri and I watched Marko stroll up the slipway as we got down to work. We mucked about with the stages for about 40 minutes switching regs, holding fake stops, and practicing ascents. Kerri began to feel the cold shortly after so we thumbed the dive and headed back to shore.

I packed up the ludicrous amount of kit we brought while Kerri paid the bill. We headed back to the hostel for a shower and I treated us to a magnificent dinner in The Bards Den pub that evening. I can honestly say it’s one of the best steaks I’ve had in years.

The days diving caught up with us; we could barely manage a single pint of Guinness each, so strolled back to the hostel and gratefully slumped into bed.

10 hours later we were back on the road as we journeyed home. It was a splendid weekend away.

Lesson learned

  • Get lots of sleep before dive trips so Wifebuddy isn’t bored driving to the dive site. 
  • Don’t dive with a cold, a reverse block is a real risk and rather unpleasant – (see this post
  • Bring local currency – we didn’t even have enough euros for a cup of coffee. 
  • Be early for the boat, it makes everyone’s life easier. 
  • Keep kit tidy and compact when diving off a rhib; I was a little upset to watch divers inadvertently tramp on my light cord. 
  • Always do a buddy check. 
  • Bring a hat – rhibs are windy. 
  • Don’t fin too quickly – Marko will get a cramp. 
  • Carry tea bags at all times – we didn’t get a brew all day. 
  • Don’t eat so much you can’t drink Guinness. That would be rude.