GUE Tech 1, Croatia - PART FOUR: Stop, thief!

The night before day, ... day, ... day, ... three maybe? I can't remember; all i knew was it was the night before the ascent training. Any tech diver will tell you it's not going deep that's the problem; it's getting back. The idea behind going up, or the 'ascent' as we in the business like to call it, is to allow all the nasty, bend you into little pieces, nitrogen bubbles to bugger off nice and slow like. The eradication of said nitrogen bubbles is a controlled process; controlled by the speed of the ascent, i.e. controlled by the diver. In effect, you pretty much decide how badly bent you get. The goal is to not get bent, by conducting a nice, smooth, controlled ascent to the surface at a particular rate, with precisely timed stops in between.


Is it fuck.

Ascending is a nightmare. 

Personally i blame yer man Boyle. Remember him from your PADI training? He's the boyo that took the balloon for a scuba dive and ascertained that when the ballon descended the air got squeezed, and on the way up it expanded back to normal. Who takes a ballon diving? I mean really? 

Anyway, when scuba diving, that means all the air we pump into our wings and suits expands as we ascend, and unless the sudden expansion of said gases is controlled by sequential venting of both suit and wing, we will rocket to the surface, pop up like a jack in the box, bend into little pieces, and most likely die in excruciating pain choking on our own lung blood.

That image is what kept me awake most of the night as i awaited the 30m ascent training.

The morning finally broke, and after not enough hours sleep i dragged myself into the kitchen where my two comrades sat staring at a table of bread, cheese and cold meats. 

"I am so sick of fucking bread."

"Me too. I'm so bloated."

Finally Liam and Wifebuddy agreed the Europeans were totally wrong, and bread should only be handed off the back of aid lorries in third world countries. I concurred; 

"I told you. Bread is balls. We should have got bacon."

*unified sigh

Our trio followed Dr. Walker into Krnica dive centre, having waited only five minutes for Liam, and systematically began attaching regs, wings and lead to the many, many complicated pieces of our tech gear. 

Stage bottles rigged we attended the land drill Rich had prepared outside. The three of us had to ascend the full length of the front bench, following protocols for gas switches and a lost gas scenario. The lost gas procedure was particularly interesting, and pretty straight forward once you got into it. 

Doing it in water of course would be a different matter.

To practice ascents we needed to get some depth, so the day involved diving from a boat to a maximum of 30m. Regular readers will know neither Wifebuddy ,nor I, do particularly well on boats. We went regardless, with increased anxiety of 'boat-fear' to add to the ever increasing 'lung-overexpansion-fear.' Liam seemed pretty happy on the boat, as a seasoned UK channel diver, and i hated him quite a bit at that stage. Bloody boat divers. Thankfully he was equally terrified of the going up bit. I hated him less.

Krnica dive boat

Captains bit

Diver bit

The boat was actually very cool. There was another tech 1 class aboard, plus our class, plus the guy from Neighbours, and we still had enough room for all our gear. I watched the seasoned boaters closely to try and pick up tips on getting kitted without falling over. Thankfully, Rich walked us though a few tricks for getting dressed in a logical order and avoiding moving as much as possible. Before I knew it, i was on the surface staring at my instructor; 

"Right guys; lets do this."

We descended to 30m.

Like clockwork we began laying line and exploring the local topography. BANG! It started again; Mr Squirty was at his work. Muscle memory kicked in; i reached back, closed my left post, simultaneously signalling my team and then began closing my manifold in an attempt to stop the bubbles. The bubbles kept going as Liam investigated. 

He signalled an 'unfixable failure' and it was on; we had to dump the reel, check our gas, head for the shot and ASCEND.

We encircled the shot line, threw in our thumbs, inhaled deeply and started to rise. I checked my depth gauge and knew i had to cover the next 9m in 1 minute, then stop at 21m for the gas switch. The team reached the 21m mark together and switched onto 50%, simulated a stop, then continued at a reduced rate of 6m per minute to the final stop of 6m. From 6m to the surface we gently ascended at 1m per minute. 

We popped up and Rich provided feedback on areas that needed improvement. Overall i was very pleased.

During our next pre-dive checks i noticed the handle on my light had become loose, and was effectively useless. It was really annoying as it was flapping about on the back of my hand, making drills unnecessarily difficult. Rich stepped in; 

"What's up?"
"It's gone floppy."

"Indeed. Does it have e/o cords?"


"Here, use mine."


Seconds later i had a 21w HID light head attached to my canister; the beauty of GUE unified equipment philosophy at work. I sparked up my new laser beam and descended for another round of craziness. Before we knew it lights went out, gas ran out, posts broke and reels were abandoned yet again, as we kicked for the shot line.

At 21m Liam and I conducted our switch, then i turned my attention to Wifebuddy to oversee her 50% deployment. I signalled for her to begin. She provided some strange hand signals. I signalled again for her to switch. I received further erratic signals. I became annoyed and held out my stage waving it in her direction. Kerri tilted her head slightly and pointed to her ... ah, i got it. There was no stage. I have no idea how i didn't notice. Somewhere throughout the dive Rich had robbed Kerri of her deco gas. It transpired Rich wrapped Liam's gauge in line, and while Kerri was sorting it, he stole her bottle. I used to think Jim Dowling was a stealthy bastard, but Rich's display was something else! In Kerri's defence, Rich said she noticed earlier than most. Our team got into position and began the lost deco gas procedure, getting Kerri to the surface safely. 

The final dive of the day was a nightmare. We were plagued with fixable failures, lost lights and OOG scenarios. Ultimately we had to retrieve the reel, which we did ... having spent 3 hours in water. The ascent soon turned nasty. Liam signalled he was bubbling whilst on his deco reg. I came in to help as Liam began shutting his post and attempted to switch. My brain slowed slightly as i worked out where he was breathing from, and finally signalled for him to stay as he was while i closed his backgas. During that episode we had to abandon the fix as we needed to progress to the next stop at 6m. Rich's words swirled in my head; 

"You can bring every problem to the next stop except a buoyancy problem." 

The 6m mark proved equally challenging. Liam and I finally sorted his posts out just as Kerri signalled a lost mask. Wifebuddy did really well maintaining the stop as she ransacked her pocket for the back up mask. Mask in place we drew a close to the day with a gentle ascent to the surface.

I was shattered.

Back on the boat Rich explained he was pleased with our performance, and although we had a day in place for further ascent training we wouldn't be using it; it was all about the wreck diving from then on. 

*air punch 

One amusing critique from the day was Rich's concern that Kerri had a tendency to come to me when she was OOG. Rich explained at one point he physically blocked me from Kerri's vision, and she simply barrelled him out of the way to get her dear, dear husband. 

What can i see Rich? The chicks dig me. We made our way to shore nice and relaxed and i chatted with Jamie, who also provided some excellent tips and tricks for future dives.

The afternoon lectures that followed were intense. Rich explained we had to have a solid understanding of what he babbling about, as surviving our next dive depended on it. Gas analysis, bubble mechanics, nitrogen dispersion, deco planner, pragmatic planning, ratio deco, average depth, and deco on the fly brought us into the twilight hours. 

I have to admit i struggled to stay focused. I was very tired and a stranger to study. It seemed i was always he one to ask Rich to go over something again. I truly expected him to lose the plot as i requested a further example of ratio deco on the fly, but he didn't. Rich  simply ran another dive and got me to run the deco. It was satisfying finally getting it straight in my busy, busy head.

Light relief was granted when one of Kirill's kids locked us in the classroom. The child gleefully mocked as the four of us struggled to find the Russian equivalent "open the door or i'll tell you scary tattooed dad!" In the end we gave up. Rich had to phone Maurizzio, get him to find Kirill, who had to ring his wife to finally release us.

By the end we tired, over educated and hungry.

Maurizzio treated everyone to a BBQ at the dive centre, and more bread. We stayed as long as we could awaiting the Russians who were bringing more food, but we were simply too exhausted and had a dive to plan. The next day brought our first wreck dive in Croatia. We headed back and home and planned a 45m dive on The SS Lina.

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


  1. FFS, hurry up and finish the Croatia story, already. You know you're not allowed to have another adventure before you finish!

  2. Still fun to read your stories. I`ve heard the classrom lock-in story from Big M and Dr. Walker while we conducting our T2 class there a few weeks ago; priceless!

  3. I'm getting there John! :)

    Yes Vergard, I'm sure it's local legend now! Lol! Nope the tech 2 class went well.

  4. isn't "unified" a swear word???

    sadly I never had anyone attempting to steal my deco gas sounds pretty awesome drill to go through!!!

  5. Andy: We had Gideon Liew as our instructor, and had a fantastic week. GUE Tech 2 is rather easy, compared to Tech 1, and Krnica is the place to conduct these courses; Big M is the man, and I can`t see any other place which offers the same level of service, and access to wrecks as Krnica Divecentre.

    The Adriatic might be just a little bit shallow for T2 (we had max depth of 66 meters), but that just means longer bottomtime ;)


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it!

Safe diving buddy.