At 7.00am the alarm began to bleat.
Usually, when the electronic bringer of doom initiates its overture of depression, it signifies the beginning of a work day; but not last Sunday.
The reason for the ungodly awakening was simple - Wifebuddy and I had a ferry to catch; a ferry that took us over to the UK mainland to undertake our GUE-Fundamentals class with Rich Walker from Wreck and Cave.
I think my last post suitably described just how excited I was about beginning my GUE adventure.
For this expedition, my little jeep was left behind, in favour of the more economical 'Ford Boring' (aka. Ford Mondeo.) The boot was carefully loaded with twinsets and we hit the road.
All I had to do in return was purchase the horrendously overpriced coffees, and drive the Ford Boring onto the ferry.
As a man I feel it is essential that we men, as a species, play up how difficult, frightening and critical, driving a car onto a ferry really is; reinforcing that all women are incapable.
Safely aboard, we located the most uncomfortable seats and began the 8 hour crossing.
Usually, on such a ferry trip, Kerri and I would have our apple products loaded up with variable quantities of heavy metal music and movies to whittle away the boredom; not to mention a pint (or 5) of Carlsberg.
Not this time.
We decided to make the best use of our time by reading our GUE course materials and completing the workbooks; yes, we’re a bit ‘swotty’ when it comes to these things.
Upon electronically registering, GUE enabled the download of a ton of material:
- GUE Policies
- Standard Operating Procedures
- Valve Manual
- GUE-F Workbook
- GUE-F Course Materials
- Supplementary reading
We also had our own reading material:
It was quite staggering how fast the time went in.
The two of us ploughed through our workbooks; learning new methods of calculating minimum gas, useable gas, SCR, decompression, standard gases and various other things; all 'GUE-like.'
We encountered a bit of stumbling block when attempting to learn the GUE valve drill. Our previous valve drills had been completed during our TDI training; which (of course) had a different sequence.
The obvious solution, to get the new measures into our brains, was to utilise a diet coke bottle.
This entailed holding it behind our head and simulating the shut down procedure. We received several confused glances, and one long hard stare, as Kerri successfully isolated the diet coke bottle; whilst seated in the ferry lounge.
Valve drills and workbooks complete; we enjoyed a cup of tea, left the ferry port behind, and journeyed 60 odd miles to our accommodation.
Rich Walker (our GUE instructor for the week) had been kind enough to source our accommodation; and we arrived to Clearwater Cottages at around 8pm. This was, by no means, thanks to our lying bastard Sat Nav that decided to die, literally, as we departed the ferry.
The Cottages were awesome. 3 bedrooms, en suite bathrooms, giant kitchen, dining area, lounge and private balcony that overlooked Capernwray quarry - where we would be enjoying all the diving.
It was total luxury; and of course, I deserve no less.
Within an hour we had settled nicely. Rich arrived shortly after, and we celebrated with a beer – he is a the king of GUE technical training after all.
Our third team mate, Shelley, battered into the kitchen an hour later, having successfully located a shop (4 miles away!) and brought some provisions. Introductions were unnecessary as we had met both Rich and Shelley at TekCamp last year.
Copious dive talk and another beer later we called it quits at 11.30pm. We had a long week ahead.
At 7.00am we got up, discovered the shower only dispersed cold water, and headed downstairs for breakfast. By 8.30am everyone was up, fed, watered and ready for our first day of fundies. I was super excited.
9am sharp Rich donned his GUE polo shirt and it was clear that school had started; always the professional. He also produced the dreaded ‘whiteboard’ from TekCamp fame, to reiterate key points.
Rich led off with an introduction, which followed around our small group, so we had an idea of what level everyone was at, and what we expected from the course as individuals.
PASS OR FAIL?
That said, once we began chatting to Rich about our expectations, he explained it was healthy to have goals, but to concentrate on learning rather than attempting to “pass.”
Although I wasn’t certain if would continue with GUE training, I was fully aware that a Tech Pass was the minimum requirement for anything else I would like to pursue in the future.
Kerri and I both stated, although we simply wanted to learn new skills, further our diving and get to know GUE; we would ultimately aim for a Tech Pass.
Prior to the course, I honestly had no intention of attempting to “pass” at any level. I just wanted to learn. Once the class ‘officially’ began I found I really did want to do the best I could, and felt I needed to set the bar as high as possible in order to make myself perform throughout the week.
I had decided. I was there to work.
GUE HISTORYAn overhead projector provided slides of the program ahead, and we learned the history of GUE.
I became quite enthralled by the expeditions of the WKPP team, and could only imagine the scale of such an operation.
It was captivating Rich had personally been involved and could give an eye witness account.
We then progressed to the training aspect of the course.
GUE TRAININGBuoyancy is a huge part of diving, and it was soon clear, to be proficient at anything underwater required excellent buoyancy control. Combined with trim and balance, the buoyancy control thing was going to provide us with a “platform.” Getting this “platform” was what the class was all about.
Propulsion techniques were another important area, and we were treated to videos displaying prefect; Frog, Modified Frog, Flutter, Modified Flutter, Helicopter Turn and the sought after Back Kick. Watching the guy in the video was inspiring; the control displayed was unreal.
SWIMMING WITH SHARKS
After a couple of hours the presentations concluded and it was off to the swimming pool for the swim test.
I’ll be honest; I don’t swim. Ever.
Bearing in mind the swim test was 275m in under 14 minutes, not going for a swim prior to the class wasn’t one of my better ideas.
Rich and I were in the pool first and we waited for the 2 ladies to join us. Kerri was next, and plodded carefully to the edge of the water and stepped in. The three of us stood waist deep, in the slightly too warm chlorinated water, and waited for Shelley.
It was lovely really…
Three lengths into the test I really began to wish I’d gone for a bit of swim a few weeks before. Rich conducted the test with us; joining a few lengths in and finishing first; what a git.
Shelley finished second, and even Wifebuddy left me trailing, completing the test a length ahead of me. Needless to say I finished last; taking 9 minutes. I was a bit disgusted with myself and the back of my arms were killing me.
I have since vowed to learn the front crawl.
That said, I redeemed myself somewhat, leading the underwater breath-hold swim with a staggering 20m; 5m over the required distance. Not bad for an 20 a day ex-smoker. Oh, I miss the lovely ciggies…
With the swim test out of the way, the mood lifted among the students and Rich demonstrated correct propulsion techniques, including back kick and helicopter turn.
I must confess, at the time this seemed a little bit mental, but once proper scuba stuff began, all the muscle memory kicked in and the leg movements began to resurface.
Pool done; the 4 of us visited the local supermarket to stock up on supplies.
I did chuckle; it was all a bit surreal.
I especially enjoyed when Shelley suggested an additional bottle of wine, to go with the planned “Spag’ Bol” Rich offered to cook. She received a candid reply, “We just need a glass of red over dinner Shelley; we’re not having a party.”
I gently replaced the 30 can box of beer I was cradling and exchanged it for a more social 4 can concern; good GUE diver.
The vibe was good, it was clear Rich could take a bit of banter, and Kerri and I followed his (blue) postman pat van back to Clearwater Cottages.
Back at the house i volunteered to make lunch; this was mainly in the hope of avoiding cooking dinner. I fashioned some rather splendid grilled cheese and tomato on toast; the boss was content and we continued with lectures.
The afternoon workshop was brilliant - Gear!
Rich produced a lovely clean set of twin euro cylinders and, probably, the oldest harness in the world. A breakdown of the standardised GUE equipment configuration followed, along with a thorough explanation of why everything went where.
Rich then produced a few things that hadn’t quite hit the shops yet. I got a close look at the new Halcyon cordless light on goodman handle, and my favourite; the newly designed Halcyon spool/reel type thing.
Rich and I had a bit of a play with the reel, concluding that it would probably perform best pre-rigged; well, Rich did, I sort of just agreed.
Wifebuddy took a bit of a migraine and had to lie down for an hour. Rich was totally understanding and halted proceedings until she felt better; insisting the class could be concluded for the day if necessary.
legendary boltsnap tying technique.
An hour later Kerri was up and about; just as well, as she was in charge of the chicken dinner - after the cheese/tomato toast affair, my culinary skills were spent.
A late dinner led to a beer and a few hours of dive chatter.
DAY DONEI figured Rich would have plenty of things to take care of in the evening, but in truth, our class never really stopped. Dive stories, lessons learned, experiences and funnies continued until about 11.30pm. By that stage I was absolutely shattered. The swim had killed me; I needed sleep.
I had really enjoyed the day’s academics; more than I anticipated.
Initially the lack of diving was frustrating, but at the close of the day I was thrilled reflecting on all I had learned, and it made me look forward to the pending dives even more.
Wifebuddy and I retired to our luxurious room, that I was slowly making a mess of.
Roll on DAY 2!