REDTEC Part 1: Monolithic Baby!

It was 18 months ago when Wifebuddy stated she had a surprise for me. Usually I’m quite sceptical about such declarations, as they are often code for; “The bin experiment in the kitchen needs dealt with…” or “My car isn’t working…” or the dreaded “I think we’re out of home heating oil…"

However, as I sat in feigned enthusiasm, I quickly learned I need not have worried;

“I’m taking you to Canada on a diving holiday!”

I was absolutely thrilled. I love cold water diving, and Newfoundland has some of the best.

What followed was about 3 months of you tube videos and Google searches for dive sites we would be investigating. Then the wheels fell off. It transpired that I am the only fan of cold water diving, and the trip was cancelled due to lack of interest. Arse.

Undeterred, Kerri quickly had a list of alternatives; a week in Egypt scuba diving the wrecks of The Red Sea was top of the list. This in turn led to the discovery of RedTec; a week long liveaboard consisting of 40m+ technical diving in conjunction with Paul Toomer’s Diving Matrix

Once again I was happy; we were still going tech diving, and I got to wear my drysuit after all.

Subsequently we got to chat to Paul Toomer at TekCamp 2011, which was fantastic as we got to explain our credentials, and determine if we were capable of the diving. Paul explained the plans for the trip, said we were at a perfect level, and should certainly come along to enjoy the festivities.

We booked the trip as soon as we got home from TekCamp.


The trip was booked with Blue O Two; a UK based luxury liveaboard, and shore based dive Holiday Company. 

Well; Kerri booked it. It was fair to say that due to this being “my surprise,” I ensured I had absolutely nothing to do with the arrangements; Kerri prefers it that way … honest. 

Blue O Two arranged flights (from Gatwick), transfers to the boat and the Egyptian visa. I am reliably informed it was at that stage Wifebuddy booked our manifolded twinsets and stage bottles. 

My dear wife also had the foresight to book an extra “scuba bag”; which provided an extra 10kg of gear for a total fee of £30. An added bonus was Thomas Cook allow an extra 5kg on production of a valid PADI card; which meant we had 15kg. Hand luggage was restricted to 5kg.

All that was left was for us to book flights from Belfast to Gatwick. Again, the “scuba bag” was added at the additional cost of £50. Typical of airlines, continuity was lacking, and the bag was restricted to 10kg; but, as we were flying out with Easyjet we were privy to unlimited hand luggage.


Packing 2 sets of technical dive gear into 5 bags, and remaining on weight, was quite the Daz Doorstep Challenge. One thing we quickly learned was ordinary suitcases were crap for dive trips; being too heavy.

In our wisdom we decided new bags should be purchased, immediately. 

Rather than buying “proper” dive bags; we decided on cheapo ebay pieces of crap weighing 600 grams each. Wifebuddy managed to pick up a reasonably well shaped 200litre bag for £20. I, on the other hand, ended up receiving the wrong item; even though I replicated Kerri’s order.

What I got was “The Monolith.” It was a piece of hideous. Rather than the desired semi-rigid 200l bag, I received a 300l flaccid, floppy nightmare.

It materialised that 2 adults with OCD really know how to pack dive kit, and here’s how we did it:

  • HOLD BAG 1: Kerri’s kit – backplate, wing, drysuit, boots, undersuit, can light battery, chargers, clothes, 2 masks, stage regs, toiletries. [19.2kg
  • HOLD BAG 2: The Monolith – My kit, backplate, wing, drysuit, boots, undersuit, can light battery, chargers, clothes, 2 masks, no toiletries. [20.4kg]
  • SCUBA BAG: 2 sets of fins, 4 spools, 4 smbs, 2 wetnotes, cutting devices, Kerri’s back up light, my stage regs, tools. [12.2kg
  • HAND LUGGAGE (x2): Main regs, computers, 2 back up lights, torch heads, analyser, camera, housing ipad, ipods. [11.2kg combined

Shifting the stage regs from the scuba bag to hand luggage, depending on what airline we were flying with, ensured we were bang on weight each time. I are genius.

Personally I wasn’t massively concerned about the hand luggage, but Kerri displayed various symptoms of apoplexy when I suggested we might be ok with 7kg each.


I finished night shift on the Thursday morning, went to bed for a few hours, was wakened at 2pm, instructed to load the Ford Boring with the bags, and then head to the airport.

We stopped en route at our local Frankie & Benny’s for lunch/dinner, at which point I decided I was most definitely on holiday and began drinking.

Before I knew it, I was staggering around Belfast International airport leaning heavily on a completely unmanageable trolley of dive kit. Security check done, we painlessly boarded our flight to Gatwick and I continued to enjoy overpriced beer.

attempting to manage The Monolith


Once on the mainland we located the bags, succeeded in securing yet another unmanageable trolley and aimlessly searched for the shuttle bus terminal to take us to Gatwick Travelodge.

That section was arguable the worst piece of travel history. By the time we found the bus thingy, I was feeling more sober than I would have liked; and it was absolutely freezing. We stood far too long on a bus that arrived, and promptly drove off without us.

Another hour followed.

We entertained ourselves by eavesdropping the arguments of an old married couple who were also waiting for the bus. It turned out it was the old man’s fault, as he had obviously booked them into a hotel with no bus service.

The woman was intent on complaining bitterly to the hotel once they got there, but figured she probably be dead by then; also the old man’s fault.

The bus reappeared, and complete panic ensued as I attempted to lift The Monolith, along with Kerri’s bag, plus the hand luggage. The gear was hauled, dragged, kicked onto the bus, the driver received a passive aggressive withering stare, and we collapsed into the seats for the 15min journey. 

Gatwick Airport to Gatwick Travelodge took 2.5 hours. I hate Gatwick; may it burn to the ground in the next riot.


Kerri collected our keys for the room and the comedy commenced once again, as we attempted to manoeuvre the stupid floppy bags around the stupidly tiny corridors of the hotel.

Nothing was safe.

Other residents ran for cover as we trailed the bags into the lift, monopolising the only form of transport between the hotel floors. As expected, our room was at the furthest end of the hotel, resulting in extended traversing with the bags of doom.

Having collected a second fire extinguisher from the wall, Wifebuddy gave up; abandoning her big bag and heading for the room. Needless to say I was sent back to get it, once I got The Monolith situated.

The next morning the process was repeated; but in reverse. I was already VERY sick of The Monolith; and swore it would be burned upon returning home. In a vain attempt to remedy the extreme floppiness, I tightened a luggage strap around the length of the bag to ‘squash’ it into a more acceptable shape. It was a mess.

The "squashed" Monolith outside the Travelodge

Another wrestling match onto the shuttle bus, and we soon arrived at Gatwick Airport … again.


On the third effort, I found the only manoeuvrable trolley in the world, loaded the bags and proceeded through the stringent security, finally making it to the departure lounge.

At last the excitement really began to kick in. RedTec had arrived, and we were about to board a plane and head for Egypt.

As we ogled the overhead TV, searching for our flight information; in that head back, open jawed moronic way tourists do, I felt a big arm engulf me. 

“Ahhhh! A big South African has me!”

The low rumbling laugh signified Mr Paul Toomer had found us.

Paul, Kerri and I at TekCamp 2011

We hadn’t seen Tall Poomer since TekCamp last year; group hugs and hearty handshakes followed. It was excellent to meet up again and we were soon deep in dive talk, right up until the flight departed.

At the gate we also got to meet a few of the other guests that would be aboard for the week, which was a nice ice breaker.


The flight was pretty uneventful, although, as Blue O Two customers, we received a free onboard meal. This was an unexpected bonus, and I could feel the jealous stares from those without the boiled, fall apart, chicken(ish) delight I had in front of me.

The 5 hour flight went in pretty quickly, mainly due to the joys of the iPad; a read at Technical Diving Magazine, and a viewing of The Descent part 2.

It was quite enjoyable as our “neighbour” occasional glanced down at the tablet, only to see a bloodied woman forcing her thumbs into the eye sockets of a naked monster – what a great movie.


Once in Egypt all we had to do was follow the bloke waving the Blue O Two placard. We joined the queue to receive our visa (pre-paid and all arranged by Blue O Two) which was simply stuck into our passport; then carried on with the crowd.

Baggage reclaim was the usual adventure of wrestling The Monolith from the conveyor belt, onto an un-manoeuvrable Egyptian trolley, and heading outside for the bus.

As we awaited the bus, the Blue O Two rep inquired which boat we were booked onto and allocated identifying ribbons accordingly. Bags on the bus, a delightfully short 15min journey to Hurghada pier


The mood on the bus was awesome; everyone was super excited and the travel process had been dead easy, making the whole thing all the more enjoyable. The bus pulled up outside The Marriott Hotel, and we were instructed to leave our bags for the Blue Voyager crew to take care of. Splendid.

As I disembarked the bus I came face to face with a familiar, shaven headed fellow in a red shirt - How the hell did HE get here?

Stealthy bastard.

Yep, it was none other than Jim Dowling; the safety diver from TekCamp.

[edit – Jim is actually a Technical Diving Instructor based in Sharm El Sheik, and cave exploration pioneer, who I first encountered at TekCamp 2011 under the guise of safety diver. He is also a stealthy bastard, see this post]

As I stood, attempting to determine what “The GingĂ© One” was doing on my holiday, Tall Poomer and Kerri were giggling silly. It turned out the pair where in cahoots with the stealthy one and this was a prior arrangement everyone was privy too; bar me of course. Either way I was thrilled. (Little did I know more than a surprise visit was in store...)

Jim was great craic at TekCamp, and since then we had been in touch plenty via facebook etc. Things improved further when I asked was he hanging about for a drink, and he replied;

I’d like to bloody think so; I’m your guide for the week.

I was then even more confused; “What? … Like … on the boat?

No, from my house; yes on the boat you muppet!” – Or words to that effect.

On closer inspection the “red shirt” he was wearing had ‘JIM’ written on it (probably so he could tell it was his), and was further emblazoned with the RedTec logo. The trip had just improved somewhat; I knew he would make an adequate dive guide.


Collectively the bus load of tech divers made their way the short distance down to The Blue Voyager. It was an amazing sight.

I’ve never done the liveaboard thing before and I was surprised how large the boat was, as it gleamed majestically in the moonlight. Delicately, Kerri and I walked the plank onto the dive deck; our kit following shortly after.

Once aboard we received a short, but concise introduction from Kevin, the Blue O Two dive guide, who then handed the guests over to Paul Toomer and he explained the logistics of the week.

It was really well organised, and everyone soon had a clear understanding of what to expect from the week, and how everything was going to work.

Paul gave an excellent introduction to himself, then Jim, clearly explaining their roles and how to verbalise any problems we may have. Introductions then fell onto the guests as Paul gave a quick rundown of each diver on the trip.

Despite getting a little stick for being GUE, I found this an excellent idea, as everyone got a good perspective on the level of divers onboard. As usual, Kerri and I were the least qualified and least experienced; but that was grand – we were there to build on it.

It was also clear, aside from 2 extended range divers, we were the only pair not qualified to dive Trimix. It wasn’t a massive concern, (we are limited to 45m), but we did feel a little left out when the gas planning began.

Gases were discussed and everyone agreed standard gases for the various dives, along with decompression gases. It was a brilliant move as it eradicated any gas blending problems that could have arisen later in the week.

Briefings completed we were treated to a fantastic meal on the boat, allocated a room (no.10), then Kerri and I set up our belongings for the weeks stay. By that stage I was hyped!


Post dinner, in typical tech diver fashion, the group began a 2 hour setup of kit.

Jim was especially useful at that point. Kerri’s tank bands were all over the place, and Jim practically stripped the thing down and started again in order to get it just where Kerri wanted. He even went as far as to swap out the bolts, as it protruded way more than necessary and looked like an entanglement waiting to happen.

The kitting up area looked awesome once all the twinsets and rebreathers were set up.

Open circuit kit

A load of JJ rebreathers

Every diver was allocated a ‘station’ where their twinset/rebreather would stay all week, including filling. Each station was twinned up with a deco bottle under the bench, alongside a crate for the peripherals. It was a simple an effective system.


Gear done, there was no other option than to go for a beer.

Obviously we had no money, so I nabbed Jim to determine if cash machines existed in Egypt. As expected I received the look of ‘really?’ followed by a more helpful response, and a kind offer of cash if needed.

It turned out The Marriott around the corner had a machine, I lifted some cash and we stopped at the first pub we came across and enjoyed a couple of Sakara beers. Some confusion over time difference led to a late departure from the pub at around 1am; however, that time is debatable.

By that stage Wifebuddy and I were completely shattered and retired to the boat; but the excitement barely faded as we drifted off to sleep in our posh cabin, on the gentle bobbing surge at the dock.

RedTec had begun.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7


  1. "Kerri and I were the least qualified and least experienced"

    says who????

    surely not the barbarian horde!!!

    Wish all my "least qualified and least experienced" diving buddies were half as good as you guys!!!

  2. Dude!!! Tell Kerri there IS warm water excellent diving in Canada! The St-Lawrence River in Ontario is packed with wrecks at all dephts, and there is no thermocline:in july and august, it's toasty warm!
    Come dive with us!

  3. @Dimitris - yup, we were the least qualified by quite a stretch mate. We had the least dives, shallowest depth rating, no trimix ticket and Kerri had done zero tech dives ever, I'd half a dozen under my belt.

    Kind words my friend, thank you; we certainly weren't as frightening as the The Barbarian Horde! ;p

  4. @ Jean-Louis - you're on 'the big places to dive' buddy! We'll get out there at some stage and come diving with you! :)


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.