GUE Fundamentals Part 4: The Verdict

I will be the judge of that!

By DAY 4 I wasn’t convinced I had awakened, as I attempted to focus on my BlackBerry to determine what ungodly hour it was. Bleary eyed I stumbled into the kitchen; Wifebuddy as usual had the tea on the go, and I was surprised to find I wasn’t the last one up.

Midway through the week’s climactic bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, Rich appeared; shortly followed by Shelley.

It had arrived; the final day of GUE-F…


Within 20 minutes we were sat in the comfy bit of the house and morning lectures prevailed. Rich kindly educated the team on Breathing Gases. Surprisingly, I had been enjoying the lectures much more than expected, and the dawn’s learning was no different.

Narcosis, gas density, hypercapnia and oxygen toxicity all became clear over the subsequent hour and a bit. I was especially intrigued by gas density, and interested there were greater elements at play when using Helium; aside from simply reducing the level of nitrogen in a breathing mix.

By 10.00 Kerri and I were on our ultimate trip to Capernwray.

Aside from the exhaustion, I was loving the course; and was genuinely sad we were about to partake in the concluding dives. On the very brief journey to the quarry, Wifebuddy and I attempted to determine how the class was going, i.e. what grade would we receive?

I know, I know; I said I didn’t care how the class went, but as the finale approached, I had to admit I was damn curious how it would turn out.

Rich had made certain statements throughout the week, including; “We are where we want to be…”, “Your trim is within the limit we are aiming for…”, “Certain elements are outside the 1m window we want…”, “We may repeat certain drills if we get time…”

It was full of mixed signals, and we couldn’t determine which statement referred to whom. In the end we gave up, and knew we would find out soon enough.

Damn you Rich Walker and your convoluted professionalism.


As we prepped for the first dive I noticed Shelley was in a rather splendid looking, if rather well worn, DUI dry suit. In an attempt to rectify her valve drill difficulties Rich had loaned her his “old” suit.

I was jealous, I wanted a go in the fancy DUI suit; I know they are renowned for being a bit “leaky” but up close they do look tremendous.

I made a few comments to Rich about it being “my suit really,” but he didn’t seem to take the hint at all, and merely smirked knowingly.

Once Shelley had a fancy zip seal neck attached we were ready to dive.

Well, i had to wait briefly as Kerri "walked" her cylinders to the steps, then awaited my huge form to carry them the rest of the way...

The first dive was littered with skills:

  • Propulsion techniques
  • Valve drills (in even more flat trim!)
  • Mask off swim
  • OOG ascent
  • Simulated deco stops
  • Rescue skills, including tired diver tow

The drills all went pretty well, although I really had to keep myself together on the mask off swim. It was doable, but the cold was awful which made my breathing hard to manage. I survived nonetheless.

My valve drill was improving further, but not without huge effort. I was able to communicate to Rich if I went completely horizontal I tipped slightly head down and had to ‘wiggle’ my fins a little to counteract it.

He later stated that it was barely noticeable, but reckoned if I loosened my harness slightly it would lower the cylinders and offset the heavy head; obviously my brain is rather densely packed with smart.

Don't make Kerri do another valve drill Rich
Kerri’s valve drill didn’t go as planned.

Her back up reg got caught somewhere, wasn't able to get it into her mouth fully; and essentially breathed water until she was able to get her main post back on, then switch again to the primary.

It wasn't pretty.

I received the “unhappy diver” signal as we finned away. Poor Wifebuddy; it started so well.


Upon surfacing we took turns to tow and/or push each other into shore without drowning the casualty. The techniques were a mix of those learned on my PADI Rescue Diver and the TDI Advanced Nitrox class. A little tiring, but performed well.

Once at the shore Rich demonstrated the “easy way” of getting a diver out of a once piece harness without cutting it.

I’ll be honest; the technique works – but it would need practice. In an emergency I would just cut the webbing and be done with it.


Over lunch we received a thorough debrief of the morning session, a brief of what the afternoon dive would contain, and then conducted the exam.

The exam was fine.I made a few fluffs, but nothing major and was quickly able to identify where I had gone wrong and rectify accordingly.

I hate exams, and it was infuriating how nervous I became once Rich handed them over. True to form, Wifebuddy flew through hers (she’s doing a masters after all) and ensured I wouldn't be copying her by ‘shielding’ her answers. Couples divorce over less you know?

Once the exams were handed over, we lolled down for the final dive of our GUE-F class.

Again Kerri and I attempted to determine how we were doing. Kerri was convinced she had failed miserably due to the valve problem; I just didn’t know. Plus, we weren't officially told we had passed the exam; we did get the odd question wrong.

We were at a complete loss.



Dive 2 was relatively straight forward, containing SMB deployment, OOG drill and ascent. SMB building was grand and we deployed the one breath bag without incident, surfacing nicely beneath it.

Rich advised Kerri she wasn’t ‘knitting’ and to move the whole thing out in front of her, reducing the entanglement hazard and allowing improved situational awareness.

We descended one last time.

I was OOG, Shelley donated (eventually!) and Kerri conducted a flawless SMB deployment and we surfaced perfectly.

Well, almost perfect. We all had a little fun first, mostly at Shelley’s expense.

Prior to the dive Rich explained, explicitly, that once a team member gives ‘thumbs up’ the team may only surface after everyone reiterates by replicating the hand signal; i.e. everyone puts their thumbs in, then leaves.

Rich threw his exaggerated thumb in first to celebrate the last ascent, then Kerri, then me. Shelley simply stared at us.

I overstated my signal again, in the hope of jerking her memory … nothing. Kerri wiggled her thumb … nothing. Rich moved his whole arm out, and then back in with thumb extended … nothing.

All of sudden Shelley nodded and gave the big thumb; we all applauded and surfaced. It amused me greatly.


Kerri packed away her smb, and together we swam to shore. We were done; the dives were over. It was really rather depressing. The week was over, no matter what way it went, I had completed my GUE Fundamentals class. Despite the fatigue, and ridiculous dehydration levels, I felt great.

Our tired legs hauled the gear back to Rich’s van and instinctively began packing our kit away for the last time. Rich suggested we get changed, pay the bill and then he would de-brief us.

Oh, the nerves!

As I began packing up my gear I could feel the nerves building again. How had we done? Had I passed?

I gave Kerri a look of “What happens now?” She had no idea either, and the two of us were beside ourselves with anticipation.


Rich appeared and asked if anyone was ready for the individual debrief.


(Typically) Kerri nearly fell over herself to get there first; she and Rich skulked off to a more ‘private’ area of the car park. I watched in anticipation for the next eternity as the pair chatted; and Kerri obviously received her verdict.

I stood by the car and Kerri bounded over with a huge smile on her face. At the same time Rich was waving me over and just as I passed by the smiling face, Kerri whispered “REC PASS.”


Even as I wandered towards my GUE instructor I still couldn’t hazard a guess what he would say. My mind flooded with thoughts as I marched over;

Surely I too would receive a Rec Pass? I didn’t think I’d done any worse than Kerri all week, but then there was the exam to consider – did I even pass it? Rich also kept going on about 100% flat trim during my valve drill; what did that mean? There was also the initial face plant during the first basic 5; and didn’t I drop a spool on the smb drill?

All I could think about was the things I did wrong, and attempted to measure just how ‘wrong’ they were.

Stupidly I began to ponder a Tech Pass. Maybe Rich was pushing me all week to try and get me a Tech Pass? Yes; that’s what all the super flat trim nonsense was about. But did I make it? - I couldn’t be sure.

By the time I sat opposite Rich I was all over the place.

How do YOU think you did?

I burbled something about it being tough, but thoroughly enjoyable, and simply gawked at him.

Would you like ME to tell you how you did?

Fuck yeah.




“Straight TECH PASS; I figured you would make it from Day 2.”

I would be lying if I said my face didn’t light up and stretch a smile from ear to ear. I was absolutely ecstatic and violently shook Rich’s hand as he beamed back at me.

I had wanted to do my GUE Fundamentals for years, but as I stated before, living in Ireland made it difficult as we have no resident instructors. Not only that, but I didn’t know any GUE divers in Ireland either.

It was my first experience of GUE training and I had been awarded a Tech Pass - Fucking A.

Rich seemed pleased too, congratulated me and we continued to chat for another 10 minutes about the class, and offered further advice on my future diving.

I took most of it in, and then thought to myself; “You could have told me on day 2…”


Post briefing I headed back to Wifebuddy, and we shared the experience.

Kerri knew how much the GUE thing meant to me, and was totally stoked at how we both did. We continued to smile as we packed the Ford Boring up for the last time, and prepared to make our way to the ferry.

Group hugs and handshakes followed as our team of three celebrated the conclusion of an intensive weeks diving. Rich explained he would be in touch about some bureaucratic bits, and he was only an email away if we ever needed anything.

Our GUE-F Team

It was very cool; Rich made it clear the instruction did not end once the course did, and he would continue to offer advice or further training as, or when, we needed it. I thought that was a fabulous touch.

Still smiling, Kerri and I jumped into the Ford Boring and I turned the ignition key.


True to form; our stupid car had decided to have a flat battery.

Comedy gold followed as the GUE Technical Training Director, and a girl in an ill fitting DUI suit pushed our car [backwards] down the car park at Capernwray quarry at 7 o’clock in the evening.

Some fancy clutch work by me got a nice reverse bump start; we sounded the horn and headed off into the distance, leaving with some fantastic memoires from our GUE-F course.


Kerri and I discussed the course at length on the journey home. The three hour road trip and subsequent ferry voyage flew in.

We arrived home the following morning at about 6am. We were shattered, but accomplished; and I would do it all again tomorrow.

GUE-F was awesome. Go do it.


  1. Absolutely fantastic report!!! Congratulations!

  2. Thank you Chantelle; glad you've enjoyed the report!

    It was great fun to reflect back on it too. :)

  3. Well Done Guys. Great reports Andy!

    Cathal Mullane

  4. Thanks Cathal,

    Glad you enjoyed the report, it was great craic all round! :D


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.