REDTEC PART 4: Considerably Better Than Andy

I had completely lost track of the days; but I cared not. Samir had installed a new morning procedure, and a splendid one at that. Rather than relying on the annoying alarm of my rather unreliable Blackberry; Samir was kind enough to gently knock on our cabin door, easing me from slumber, offering tea or coffee from his little tray.

I have to admit, I warmed to this procedure almost immediately, and from that point we enjoyed morning tea in bed; awesome.

The crew on The Blue Voyager were astounding. As I stated in my last post, our room suffered from some mild flooding due to the rough seas experienced on our journey to The Thistlegorm. By the time our first dive was completed, our room was free of water, floor dried, and what little clothing got wet, was hung out to dry.

Now Samir was bringing me tea to bed; and yes, I considered kidnapping him.


Before I launch into another remarkable post for today, a brief history lesson is required.

Regular readers, of my rather fine blog, will be aware Wifebuddy and I have met Paul Toomer before; at TekCamp 2011. Jim Dowling was also present, but was a mere ‘safety diver’ at the time, so we paid him little attention; he has moved up a notch in my book, but I will discuss that in a future post. He then moved swiftly back down again, but … later.

Kerri, Paul and I at TekCamp 2011

Anyway, back to the history lesson.

At the close of TekCamp, Wifebuddy explained to Paul it was a pity the TekCamp-ers didn’t receive a certification of sorts; to quantify all the skills learned from the week’s tutelage. Of course Tall Poomer saw this as an ample opportunity to take the piss … primarily at my expense.

A certification card was drafted, and the Diving Matrix speciality cert; “Better Than Andy Diver” was born. [see this post]

Like the legs of a drunken slut at a frat party, it spread immediately; Kerri was certified by technical instructor Paul Toomer as a “Better Than Andy Diver,” and so it became common knowledge across camp.

Even the nice Mark Powell stuck his oar in; that’ll be the last book of his I buy I can tell you. 

Post-TekCamp, that ‘Amateur ‘photographer fellow Jason Brown [BARDO Creative] also got involved in the fray, regularly plaguing my facebook status updates, referring to just how ‘CONSIDERABLY' better than Andy, Kerri actually was.

And so, my tortured, bullied, life continues…


A fine breakfast of pancakes and fresh cold meat selection (minus pig), set me up for the first dive: Thomas Canyon.

Thomas Canyon is a large, eh … canyon, funnily enough; located in The Straits of Tiran at Thomas Reef. It’s deep. Really deep; like, 100m deep.

Jim gave a thorough briefing, explaining the different dives that could be accomplished, depending on certification level. Large boulders that became trapped in the canyon provided cool swim through areas at various depths; which suited our mixed bag of tech divers perfectly. Kerri and I, restricted to 45m, opted for the first boulder.

Briefing done, we kitted up and performed our GUE EDGE check thingy. The initial ‘G’ from our check stands for ‘Goal,’ as per our GUE training, and was supposed to be a recap of the (thorough) dive objectives we set in the initial plan.

By that stage of RedTec our Goal simply became “Follow Jim,” and continued to do so for the remainder of the trip. [Rich Walker would turn in his grave; if he were dead]

The crew kindly loaded our stages onto the zodiac, helped waddle our twinsets over, and once seated, donned our fins for us. It was a process I got familiar with much too quickly, and miss it dearly.

Jim did some weird Jedi thing, using the Sun to locate the exact entry point; he could be very weird. Once there, we rolled off the rib and descended into the canyon.

The visibility was phenomenal. Before we knew it, we had bottomed out at 45m, deep into the dark canyon. It was breath taking. I flicked on my trusty can light to investigate.

Scanning the rocky formations with the wide beam of my EOS, I noticed Jim at the rear of the group waving to me. I finned across to the darker area of the canyon, presuming he wanted me to shine my posh light on something for him.

I was half right.

Wifebuddy also noticed the signal, and was soon beside Jim and me. Jim was pointing at a specific part of the canyon wall. At 45m deep, on air, I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on; neither was the rest of the group who were hovering about in front, waiting for Jim to take the lead.

Looking closely at the Canyon wall I could see something … something white, a slate perhaps? 

It was indeed a slate, quite a large arm slate … with something written on it …

I took my posh light, and bathed the slate in 600 lumens of LED goodness.


Oh, what a cunny funt. It was immediately apparent Chief Dowling had planted it; although I have to admit I wasn’t exactly sure how.

Jim thought this was absolutely hilarious, squeals of laughter from his girly voice filtered through the regulator. Kerri also giggled in glee, flooding her mask entirely.

I merely gave Jim the fingers and swam off to enjoy my dive.

The remainder of the dive was brilliant, and slate free.

Our planned 25 minute bottom time came too fast, we ascended, albeit a little awkwardly, between the canyon walls, switched to the deco bottles, and enjoyed quite a vigorous drift to the end of the reef.

As the currents settled down, Jim signalled for Kerri and I to bag off. Dutifully Kerri led, and I followed, in a fairly decent display of smb deployment from our 6m stop. It transpired Jim videoed the task, and debriefed us accordingly.

We surfaced to find the zodiac waiting; Jim continued to laugh, I continued to give him the fingers, and we scuttled back to The Blue Voyager.


Once aboard, news of ‘the find’ in Thomas Canyon circled throughout the group, and I was persecuted by my fellow tech divers. It was all very unfair if you asked me; being ganged up on whilst on holiday. I cried in private later.

After an exquisite lunch Jim, Kerri and I huddled around the iPad; in a vain attempt to view the smb deployments’ past the glare of the screen. The first viewing seemed pretty good to me, but Jim was able to point out a few things that needed tidied up. Bloody safety diver.

I also got abuse for not stowing my light cord correctly, which continued throughout all the photos. In my defence I attempted to explain it was temporarily stowed, the cord did not prohibit the long hose, and therefore was not a hazard; and anyway, Rich Walker said it was fine to do it that way - so there.

It fell on deaf ears and Jim assured me I would be extruded from ‘The Tufty Club.’

Kerri also nursed her "tech divers thumb," providing further evidence that brass bolt snaps have no place in scuba diving.


Licking my wounds from the morning’s attack on my delicate disposition, we attended the brief for the Jackon Reef dive.

Kevin, the Blue O Two guide, gave an excellent briefing in the Sky Lounge on how to approach the reef, and where all the good stuff was. Kerri and I merely glanced at each other and whispered; “We’ll just follow Jim.”

Prepping for the second dive of the day led to meeting ‘The Greek.’

The Greek, Dimitris Papakonstantis [how Greek can a man get?!!], approached and asked if it was ok for him to join us on the next dive. He proceeded to explain his previous group were conducting a training dive and he had no desire to “watch them twiddle their knobs. “

Happy to oblige we gave the full trimix diving Greek a quick rundown of the plan; which was basically; “We’re going to follow Jim.”

Dimitris was an entertaining character, and I must admit, amused me greatly. I especially enjoyed his mentally thick Greek accent, united with perfect English, and a cracking sense of humour that slotted in well with our Irish wit.

He was very grateful that we would buddy up with him, and observed it would be nice to write another buddy name in his log book, besides “JC.”

JC?” I enquired.

Yes.” The Greek proceed to explain, standing tall.

I don’t like to think of myself as a solo diver, so I dive with Jesus Christ; or as he prefers - J.C.

So, Jim, Kerri, Dimitris, JC and I strode from the dive deck, and drifted onto Jackson Reef.

It was a lovely, relaxing dive. Stage bottles were left aboard, so we simply bounced to 40m for a while, and slowly ascended along the reef; snapping a few photos, clearing any deco as we went along.

Towards the end of the dive Kerri, Jim and I mucked about in a GUE triangle formation, practicing buoyancy, control and trim. The climax was another filmed smb deployment by me; adding in Chief Dowling’s suggestions.

We soon realised Dimitris had (accidentally of course) been excluded from the triangle, and was encircling us in a vain attempt to find a way in. No such luck, we were locked tight.

It appeared Drimitris was destined to dive with JC once more.

JC and Dimitris

The zodiac was parked by my smb when we surfaced, and our team of three (plus The Greek) were hauled aboard. Our little inflatable managed 50m travel before coughing to a halt. We had an OOG situation. As per the GUE EDGE plan, we turned to Jim. 

He stared blankly back; “What do you want me to do, paddle?

Yes Jim. Yes we do,” was the reply. 

Submissively, he grabbed a jet fin, and paddled us back to the ship, single handed; or single fin-ded.

Some would pronounce another zodiac was sent over with an extra fuel can, but that would be a lie.


Diving done for the day; we lazed about a bit, chatted some more with The Greek, and finally, were treated to a fantastic dinner; following some more of the phenomenal soup. I know it’s weird to go on about soup, but that stuff was bloody divine. Yum!

After dinner, Paul Toomer nabbed us, and suggested we listen in on his Trimix lecture. Paul was conducting a Normox Trimix course aboard, and explained it would be beneficial for Kerri and I to sit in. The 30min “chat” turned into a 2 hour trimix marathon.

We learned all about the devil gas, its properties, advantages, concerns and how to calculate the correct mix for a particular dive. This in turn led to dive planning, decompression gas choices, narcosis, along with a million other diving related choices.

It was a fascinating, and very educational “chat” which has left me with a pretty good grasp of trimix diving, despite being learned from the back of a tissue box.

What can I say; I forgot to bring my file block to class.


It was around 11.30pm when Paul finally wrapped it up.

My mind was swimming with Trimix combinations, but more dominantly; how the hell did Jim Dowling get a slate with, “KERRI IS CONSIDERABLY BETTER THAN ANDY” 45m deep in a canyon, in the middle of The Red Sea, without any of us noticing.

Stealthy bastard.

Shattered and educated we sloped off to bed, in anticipation of our first ever Trimix dive on “The Lara.”


  1. Thanks Andy

    You continue to amuse me!

    As always, can't wait for the next instalment.

    Cheers mate


  2. Personally I think everyone's being terribly unfair.

    Kerri's more than "considerably better".....


    Sonic x


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.