GUE Tech 1, Croatia - PART FIVE: The Feeding Frenzy


The night after ascent training Rich had sent our team away with the simple task of planning the following dive on SS Lina. Despite having listened to a five-hour lecture on dive planning, we still managed to complicate the crap out of it. Nevertheless we retired that evening with no less than six solid plans we prepared to relay to Rich in the morning.

I slept better, and actually awoke with an appetite; I imagine that was due to slightly less fear being present than the previous nights exploding lung nightmares.

A glance towards the kitchen revealed a further platter of bread, and the remnants of the 300g of cheese from day one. In an attempt to add variety to the affair Liam and Kerri had begun toasting said bread. I struggled one piece of toast and called it quits.

Once in Liam's rental car we scooted down to the dive centre, simultaneously educating Rich with our dive plan; sorry, dive plans. I was a little disappointed that Rich seemed somewhat unimpressed with the submitted plan(s).

"You only need ONE plan."

 "The first one?" 

"Good plan."

Simplicity seemed to be the key in keeping Rich happy, and in hindsight I don't know why we insisted on several possible scenarios. The whole point of the previous lecture was how to manipulate plans 'on the fly' to compensate for changes in bottom time or depth. As with everything GUE, the teachings appeared to 'click' all of a sudden. I confirmed with Rich;

"Ah right; so if we stay longer we do 'X' deco, or if it's shallower we can extend our bottom time but do the same deco plan?" 

The response was merely a smug smirk.

Gear was assembled, thrown into the back of Krnica's van, and our convoy travelled the 45-minute trip to the harbour to meet the boat. Liam was forced to drive us yet again, but he was coping well with the wrong side of the very narrow, windy, roads we travelled along. I was surprisingly more excited than nervous, and was looking forward to a 'proper' trimix dive; a lovely fill of 21/35 had my name all over it. Literally.

The harbour

Rich setting gear up

Jacko from Krnica Dive

Kerri awaiting the journey out

The boat journey to the SS Lina site was lovely. The seas were fantastically calm, allowing our team to go over our plan a few times and conduct GUE EDGE. At the site we donned our twinsets, performed a firm gear check, and the crew aided our entry into the water.


'The SS Lina was built in 1879 at Andrew Leslie shipyard. 70 meters long and 9 meters wide, it had 1049 GRT. Lina was powered by triple expansion steam engine. The hull was made from steel while the deck was made out of wood. Main Bridge and cabins were positioned in the middle of the ship. It sank in 1912 carrying wooden cargo, of which remains can still be seen. It sank like no other ship in Kvarner bay. During the thick fog it hit the shore of island Cres, near cape Pecenj. The bow sits at 25m, while the stern is at 55 m.'

SOURCE: [Krnica Dive]

Our ascent was slow but steady, and we did our best to stay together descending to the bow. Once we arrived, we signalled we were ready to explore. The plan was to work our way along the wreck to a maximum depth of 45m, turn the dive, retrace our path and ascend. Rich made it very clear he did not want to see us rush to depth, then rush back to the shot line and hang about for half an hour.

We tried. We really tried.

The wreck was fantastic. The visibility was simply astounding, without a doubt the best I've ever dived. It was like floating over the highly intact ship. Post dive, I think Rich was frustrated we hadn't investigated the wreck more closely, but I found it amazing to just stare into the distance at the entire thing. It was like a painting just sitting there, you could see so much from even a few metres from the deck. That said, I did get a good look at the steering mechanism, located the anchors, and confirmed why she sank.

source: Wreck & Cave

Liam hit turn pressure first and our team responded accordingly; a race back to the shot line. As soon as the bow came into view I checked my timer; we had tons of time left. Balls. We had done the very thing Rich insisted we not do. Balls. I was annoyed with myself and couldn't quite figure out the best plan of attack. It didn't seem wise to start going deeper again, it would give a crappy profile, and so we opted to investigate the outside of the ship and inspect where the hull had crashed into the sand. 

source: Wreck & Cave

In short, we hung about the bow like Rich asked us not to until we hit our planned bottom time, then ascended. Morons.

The ascent was straightforward. Our team successfully completed the gas switch and decompression stops perfectly, led by our deco captain Kerri. She was fab.

It was really interesting during the stops, as every time I figured we'd begin to move, I’d glance over my timer to see Kerri give the 'next stop' signal. Diving with a simple timer was fun, more fun than I anticipated. There was no need to faff with buttons or distinguishing what the computer wanted me to do next, it was just so easy.

We broke the surface and all beamed from ear to ear. Our team had successfully completed a Tech 1 dive. It felt great. I explained to Rich how thrilled I was immediately. He nodded:

"It's a good dive. Get back on the boat."

On the boat Rich got straight into a brief. It appeared our skills were in check, but he was disappointed in the actual dive, feeling we didn't get to experience enough of the wreck. He was right, but I felt the 'better' dives would come with time, experience and confidence. Plus, we were very aware the head of GUE technical training was watching our every more; and yer man from Neighbours was kicking about too. No pressure; none at all. I had a great time anyway, and was totally thrilled by the whole experience.

courtesy of JP Bresser

Rich was quickly back to business:

"Right guys. Good. Now - do you want to have lunch now or after the swim test?"

I took the lead again.

"Swim test, then food. I can't swim on a full stomach."

"Ok, let's go."

Logic dictated food later, but historically I should have known better. We were going to be hungry … again.

We dropped the gear back to the dive centre, and followed Tony's little car to the local swimming pool, which was in a very posh hotel an hour away. I was hungry. The swim test for GUE Tech 1 is 375m in less than 14 minutes without stopping, and a breath hold swim of 18m. Regular readers will know I nearly killed myself completing the GUE-F swim test, which was 100m less. The memory of not being able to brush my hair 'post-swim' has stuck with me forever, and I had no desire of repeating the performance. As a result, I trained for tech 1 with a few swims every month leading up to the trip.

Rich totally thrilled

The pool was 25m long, and full of seawater; which was weird. Rich stood like a schoolmaster at the edge of the pool and demanded the breath hold swim. Kerri launched off the side. 20m: no problem. I was next. I did my Phil Short meditation thing I learned at TekCamp and kicked from the side. I kept it nice and smooth. Soon I could see the wall of the pool and surfaced: a full 25m length. I was very happy. Liam repeated my performance.  The 15 lengths didn't provide much resistance; we were done in under 10 minutes. Training did work, I wasn't sore at all. Huh. I felt it necessary to inform Rich of my new found fitness:

"Better than my fundies swim eh Rich?"

"Yes. It only took you two lengths to remember how to swim; then you were fine."

By the time we arrived back at Krnica we were famished. What was it with Rich not feeding us?

He was like a feeder, only backwards. Either way, we were starving.

We were released for lunch at 4pm. Liam hurtled the rental car up the road and headed for the supermarket. I successfully ordered a reasonable amount of cheese, and as I was eying the cold meats I saw it...

...It was beautiful

I thought it was a mirage, but it was real;

a shrink-wrapped thing of splendour ...


It was uncut, sure, but I could sort that; all I had to do was figure out how to ask for the bloody thing. It didn't take long.

"Give me that."

A little frantic pointing followed, and it was mine. Mine. All. Mine.

Kerri and Liam were still doing the healthy option, talking about some lentil / pasta abomination; I can't remember. It sounded rubbish, and I had bacon. Real bacon. My bacon.

The car felt as if it were on rails as Liam negotiated every turn back to the apartment.

The healthy pair began sensible arranging bread, eggs, and fruit, and setting the table. In the mean time I hacked at my slab of uncut bacon with a bread knife, and flung the butchered mess into the nearest frying pan. I squealed in delight. Liam was horrified as the fat oozed out and filled the pan. It became a bit of an extreme sport, avoiding the spitting, boiling fat; but I knew it would be worth it. 

Our starving team sat at the tiny table, which was heaped with bacon, bread, fried eggs, tomatoes, toast, pepperoni, salami, ham, garlic things and Coca-Cola.

The feeding frenzy began. No talk, no smiles, just food. Liam lent back, sweating slightly:

"I can't do any more of that bacon … it's just grease man… I can feel my arteries hardening as I eat."

"Pussy. Give."

Kerri agreed with Liam also, resulting in me eating the majority of the bacon. It was fucking awesome.

With the feeding frenzy completed, and never to be spoken of again, we trundled back to class for the remaining academics. More planning and deco theory followed. As the class progressed I got to chat further with Jamie, the Intern from Neighbours. Rich was doing a fine job, but Jamie was able to bring a few other short cuts and tips to the fray when it came to calculating 75% of max depth. We basically had two instructors, and I made a point of asking Jamie for advice too as the days progressed.


Throughout the day Liam had explained he liked football.

Liam liked football a lot.

Liam liked Watford.

Liam liked Watford a lot.

Liam really wanted to get class wrapped up by 8pm so he could find a TV and watch Watford win the world cup or something. Rich said that was fine, and sent us on our way at 8.30pm as Liam had begun chewing the chairs. To that point Liam had never moved so quickly. We sped up the road to Pizza Kum and perched ourselves in front of the only TV in the bar.

I enquired:

"Is this the right game?"
 "No. Fuck."

With that Liam simply accosted the barmaid and forced her to search through all channels until the Watford lads appeared on the screen. Liam didn't speak for the following sixty minutes. I did attempt to annoy the avid Watford fan as his team was trounced, but he wouldn't bite. Football fans baffle me.

Liam ignoring me completely

Once the game was done Liam came back to normal, and we planned our dive on The Vis over pepperoni pizza. We unanimously agreed max depth, turn pressure, turn time and deco profile in no time at all. Liam looked up, quite shocked;

"We just planned a 51m trimix dive, in less than 5 mins, without a computer, or even a pen and paper. And we all got the same plan. Fucking hell."

It was true, another light bulb moment. It was simple, and quick. We had set aside an hour to plan the dive, so we drank beer and ate pizza instead. That was a great plan.

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


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