GUE Tech 1 class at Portofino
In july went Klaus, Stefan and i to Liguria (Italy), to attend a Tech 1 class at Achim Schlöffel. On sunday, we started at noon from Innsbruck and arrived at the evening at Santa Margharita Ligure, where at the hotel Europa our room was booked. After the check in we took a walk to the dive center "Portofino Divers", which is only about 5 minutes away. There we met with Achim and discussed the schedule for the next days. We were a little bit confused, as Achim told us that there would be a fourth guy in our class, but decided not to worry about that at this moment. After dinner we went to bed early to be relaxed for the next day.
At the next morning we met for breakfast and Achim introduced us to Mirek. Mirek was from Poland and entered the class short termed. After breakfast we brought our equipment to the dive center and had to realize, that Mirek was not that good prepared for the class. First thing we did, was to dismount the boots of Mireks D12, then there was his bungee wing, his handlight and...
We spent the morning with a class overview, a Nitrox review and to check our knowledge so far. In the afternoon we went to the divesite "Lighthouse" for the first dive. This was a so called "Breakdown dive" at which Achim wanted to check how our dive basics were. The dive itself was less deep than 10m, we used only our doubles and breathed Nitrox 32. Achim asked us before the dive, if he should only simulate the "appearing problems", or if we would prefer "real life". We decided for real life, which meant loosing mask without warning, real loss of working regulators, lost line or cut line, etc. Achim encouraged us by telling us that at an average of 7 minutes his students would come at this first dive to a situation with no solution, which would lead to a real bad end...
We had the task to lay line, follow the line and if we would really come to the end of that line, reel back to the starting point and make an ascend by using a surface marker. The first problem didn´t take long to appear and after 17 minutes Mirek found himself hopelessly entangled at the surface. Stefan, Klaus and I didn´t have at this time any masks (or even back up masks), were in an out of air situation and were entangled as well, but did our best to struggle out of the situation. Achim gave the signal for a "reset" of the dive and we went on again with the dive as a team of 4, everyone with masks, working regulators and smooth running line. As we ascended after 60 minutes, none of us had a mask, only 4 out of 8 regulators "worked" (for some time it were only 2), were entangled in pairs, hat at one point repaired the line when it was "torn", and at last had sent up two markers to the surface at the starting point of our dive for the ascent. Perhaps we were not that perfect but we surely survived the dive.
In the evening we had the debriefing of the dive and some changes at Mireks equipment. Bruno of Prtofino Divers charged our tanks and we went together with Achim for dinner, before we went to bed.
In the morning we did the viedo analsys of our first dive and discovered a big potential for improvement. After a lesson about "deco on the fly", we went to our second dive. The goal was the same as the day before, but we should show, that we had learned from our mistakes we made the day before.
We surely did improve, but our eyes were irritated from the saltwater again, caused by random losses of our masks, which brought the saltwater directly to our retina. Achim found as well some possibilities to make our regulators fail and found line, in which he could entangle us. The dive was not really stress-free, because Mirek had most of the time serious troubles with his trim and buyouancy (especially when he breathed the longhose of somebody else), but we were pleased with our performance.
That day arrived Jan, a friend and assistant of Achim, who did the video-work for Achim and did the translations for Mirek. We discussed stagehandling in theory, because for that day the practical stagework was sceduled. In the morning Achim demonstrated first how the protocol at a gas swich should be and after that, it was Stefans turn to lead the dive with the reel. Again the well known problems appeared: Masks were miracously lost, regulators went to freeflow or delivered no gas, suddenly there was a new line, which led away from our mainline, but had no marking, etc. During the ascent with our markers, we should make our gas swich, but due to the "loss" of my whole stage during the dive, we did the "deco" by buddy breathing.
The afternoondive happend at the wreck of the Mohawk Deer. Maximunm depth was 25m with a bottom time of 20 minutes. Achim explained to us, he would only create problems, if we would make any mistakes, which would couse such problems, but at the way back and during the scent at any time problems could appear. The dive itself went without any problems (which was a little bit scary), but during the ascent the troubles started. Surface markers got "lost", stage regulators didn´t work and Klaus had to control on top of that the ascent of Mirek, because he had again his troubles with trim and buyoancy.
But it seemed as if Achim was satisfied with our performance, because we planned for the nex day two wreckdives, which we should do with Trimix 21/35 and Nitrox 50. For Mirek should the first dive (which in fact would be a no decompression dive) decide, if he could go on with the class.
Our doubles were pressed to 270 bars Trimix 21/35 and the stages filled with Nitrox 50. The first dives of the day took us to the wreck of the Betelino to a depth of 35m. The task was after the descent to take a short round across the deck and do after that an ascent with gas switch and deco, to exercise the protocol. Klaus lead the dive and decided for a extra task, as he sent a surface marker for the ascent and ignored the shotline. The deco itself was withhout anything to notice. and we drifted with the current. At the surface we met again Achim and Jan, Bruno followed us with the boat. During the surface break Achim asked me how Mirek performed during the deco, respectively the ascent. I told him, that the tirm was as bad as before, but Mirek had no troubles with the buoyancy, mainly because he had no other tasks.
After a surface break of 3 hours, we moored to the wreck sf the KT. Achim wanted to lead the dive and if the visibility would allow, he would lead a tour through the wreck. After that tour we should do the ascent "on our own".
Already during the descent Mirek went away from the shotline and I decided to follow him, so he would not come to the wreck or the bottom without a partner. When we reached in fact the wreck there was of course no shotline within sight and the rest of our teas as well. I decided to take a turn across the upper deck and look for the shotline (or the rest of our team) and if not, to do an ascent with a surface marker. After a short search I found together with Mirek the shotline and the rest of the team and signalled them OK. Achim showed us the tour through the wreck and after 20 minutes we started our ascent. In the beginning everything went well. But at the 9m stop Mirek had breathed his stage empty. He signalled Stefan with the OOA signal and Stefan gave him relaxed his regulator, swiched to his backgas and decided to do the rest of his deco on his backgas and gave his stage to Mirek. During that Mirek lost control of his buyoancy and at the 6m stop he could not stay at depth. He ignored the signal to grab the shotline as well. After a few minutes he ascended uncontrolled to the surface. Shortly after he went down to us again, but did not hold to the shotline again and only after 2 minutes he shot up to the surface again. For Stefan was at his backgas, decided Klaus and I together with Stefan to do the doubled deco, as we knew that at the surface Bruno, Achim and Jan would take care of Mirek. For the dive was planned very conservative, Mirek had no symptoms of DCS, but was very down as we came on board again, because that was the end of the class for him.
Last day of the class
Already at the breakfast Stefan had to cancel the planned dive to the wreck of the Genova, becouse he didn´t feel too well. So we did a new team matching, with Achim and Jan and another friend as a team of three and Klaus and me as a team of two. We decided to do the dive together, but stay independent teams. Bottom gas was Trimix 18/45 and deco gas was Nitrox 50 with a planned maximum depth of 55m. That gave us a total runtime of 80 minutes for 20 minutes of bottom time. We had excellent visibility and only a little bit of current. The wreck stys upright at the bottom and is easy to penetrate through the cargo deck, even if you must pay attention to cables and lines, hanging down from the upper decks.
The ascent and the deco went without anything to notice and so we were back at the port of Santa Margharita at the late morning. There we met with Birgit and Peter, who wanted to spend the weekend with us and go wreckdiving. Achim and Jan said goodbye after lunch and went back home. We went diving again and did all together a dive at the KT. That dive we could really enjoy, because we finished the class successfully.
At lunch Stefan, Klaus and I were discussing together with Birgit and Peter the last days and the class and did a summary. Because we were doing for some years now technical dives and also had some expierience with dives to greater depths and more than one deco gas, we didn´t learn so much new. So we had the confirmation, that our training so far, couldn´have been the worst.
Weekend with fun dives
We spent saturday morning with a visit at Portofino and enjoyed the flair of the renown town and its picturesque location. In the afternoon we did a dive at the wreck of the Betelino and had a lot of time to inspect the wreck. For sunday we wanted to do again a dive at the Genova, if the conditions would allow. In fact we had luck and the swell was low and quite no current. So we could enjoy the dive and had the time to visit the whole wreck.
After we had to say goodbeye to the coast of Liguria and its wrecks and take the journey back home.
All in all it was a nice week with diving and a lot of fun with good friends.