By Andrew Pearson
For an Easter treat Barry and I headed down to Portland, Dorset for a 3 day TecRec Advanced Wreck course with Ross Finlayson from Active Diving. After weeks of trying to work out what he was going to do with us, we did not leave disappointed!
With day 1 only having 1 dive in the afternoon we quickly got our kit set up and got into some theory focussing on wreck navigation, research resources and kit configuration. Then, to the entertainment of the interested spectators, we set about applying gaffer tape to our back-up masks. The use of which became a very common theme.
The dive, on the Countess of Erne, focused on some of the basic skills, starting with mask and stage removal and replacement. This out of the way, we had a wreck tour with Ross throwing a few problems our way, including switching to our blacked out masks.
Day 2 and we were set for 3 dives, all on the Countess of Erne. The first dive of the day kicked off lining in to the wreck, pausing to clip stages and slates off prior to penetration. With the line going briefly slack, Ross was in like a shot and gave us a demonstration of the importance in wreck skills and teamwork, by very quickly wrapping the line around Barry’s leg and then Barry providing us with a silt-out while trying to free himself. This finally solved and the line tied off we set about putting our blacked-out masks back on and following the line.
The next dive had a focus on finding lost lines using black-out masks, being taken off the line, spun around a few times and left to find our way back. Again – more lessons learned relating to line placement, so that you know where it is and can find it in the dark.
Dive 4 started in the car park practicing lining technique. Lining out, setting a jump line off the main line and, once again, putting on black-out masks so we can follow the line blind to find our way back.
The dive itself had more focus on lost diver and lost line procedures. Stopping half way along the line Ross took us, in turn, head first into a thick silty corner of the wreck, without masks, threw up as much silt as possible and left us to find the line, with limited success. Using a jump line we searched areas of the wreck off the main line for a “lost” team-mate and finally using our SMBs in place of our wings we performed a controlled ascent.
The final day’s dives were not until the afternoon, so we spent the morning putting together the dive plans, and a lot of time debating on how many contingency plans were required.
The dive itself on the Binnedijk, was to run the plan and deal with any issues thrown at us by Ross, leading to only a couple of entanglements and some back gas shut downs.
Another quick turnaround and we were back on the Countess for the 6th and final dive, lining in and searching for a hidden “treasure” turning back after the planned time to the exit where a bag of Cream Eggs awaited us, well it was Easter Sunday.
I would recommend the TecRec Advanced Wreck Course to any technical diver who loves exploring wrecks, and definitely recommend Ross as he has put together this course for DSAT and it perfect for UK Wreck diving conditions.
Ross Finlayson Tec Trimix Instructor