Saturday, 15 September 2012


This article is my report of my GUE Fundamentals course I did with Brian Allen at Aquanauts in Plymouth over 27-30 August 2012.  GUE Fundamentals is a course I’ve wanted to do for 12 months since I attended a GUE Experience Day last year with Gareth Burrows and James Sanderson.  Although my own diving was heading that way due to a mate of mine, the experience opened my eyes to a new diving style.  Following that I did a coaching day with James, chatted to John Kendall and managed to dive with Rich Walker at TekCamp.  Time, money and weddings however seemed to get in the way so when an opportunity came up to do the course with Brian at a heavily discounted price, I managed to persuade the wife and jumped at the chance.


I didn’t really think about writing this bit as I presumed that most people knew.  As it turns out most people I spoke to (less my close diving buddies and forum members) haven’t even heard of GUE 
The world according to Tim:
GUE is a non-smoking non-profit organization that not only (probably) have the highest standards, but also actively carry out conservation as well as training.  It’s also (probably) the safest way of diving.  The down side to this is that it’s expensive, very expensive.  Not only in terms of course costs but gas fills; every dive shallower than 30m is on 32% and every dive deeper is on Trimix.
From the website here we go:
Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) is a non-profit organization formed by leading explorers, researchers, and educators; these individuals are dedicated to the training of divers as well as the study and protection of the aquatic realm. GUE and its associated projects are responsible for conducting some of the world’s most remarkable dives, setting numerous world records in the process.  The success of this group encouraged great interest in their diving and procedures.  Of particular interest is the promotion of solid fundamental skills for all divers (recreational and technical) as well as their adherence to a common diving standard.  This general standard requires the following:
·                Divers use the same equipment configuration; this enhances safety and efficiency.
·               Divers use the same well-defined set of breathing gases, including Nitrox, Helium and Oxygen; standard mixes eliminate complexity and greatly enhance safety.
·                Divers use a team approach during all dives, facilitating fun and safety.
·               Divers must have a solid grasp of fundamental diving skills, including refined buoyancy, trim and teamwork; these skills must be developed in concert with the type of dive pursued. Difficult dives require very high levels of skill development.

Over time it became obvious that divers experiencing difficulty in advanced dives and during technical training were suffering from poorly developed fundamental skills.  Among other deficiencies basic skills were lacking, including good buoyancy control, efficient propulsion techniques and effective air sharing techniques; this was true despite the fact that applicants were often experienced divers.  Consequently, the founders of GUE attempted to shift the industry away from quantity and toward a focus that insisted upon greater capacity from motivated individuals.  Over time it became apparent that too many factors were discouraging migration to longer more demanding instruction.  Profit driven forces coupled with general inertia encouraged the persistent reduction of diver training requirements. As a non-profit education, research, conservation and exploration agency Global Underwater Explorers appeared better situated to encourage robust training; ultimately this emphasis led to the expansion of GUE's diver training division.

Additionally, unlike most other diving agencies your qualification card can expire.  All GUE divers are required to perform 25 dives at their highest level of certification over a three-year period to re-qualify for an additional three-year period.  All GUE instructors are required to perform 25 non-training dives every 3 years plus attend a training seminar.  Although 25 dives doesn’t sound a lot.  Imagine you were Tech 2; that’s 8x 75m Trimix dives every year.  Cave 3; that’s 8x multi-penetration exploratory surveys every year.  Easy now?


GUE Fundamentals is the most popular course run by GUE and it’s effectively open to anyone; from a fresh faced 10 dive old open water diver to a salty sea dog trimix Instructor.  GUE Fundamentals is a pre-requisite course for all GUE training (less Recreational Diver 1) which looks at equipment configurations, buoyancy and trim, propulsion methods, problem resolution, basic self-rescue and team-rescue techniques, basic decompression, gas planning and Nitrox; regardless whether you dive a single or a twinset.  There’s also 3 pass levels:

·                Provisional pass.
·                Recreational pass.
·                Technical pass (which I wanted). 

The first thing that struck me about GUE was the total lack of paperwork; I don’t even think I saw any on the course.  Once I’d expressed my interest with Brian, he emailed me a link to the course registration on the GUE website.  This is basically where you ‘sign up’ for the course; no different to popping in a dive center and signing up for a course.  If you’ve never been on the GUE website it will first ask you to register (luckily I already had).  Once you’ve got an account you then need to complete your profile them complete a series of online forms; student information, dive experience, medical waiver (2 forms), assumption of risk and student agreement; basically no different to your average course but it’s all online.  Once the registration is complete, you can then download your course materials in PDF format; just make sure you choose the correct one as there’s a variety of language and imperial/metric options.
The materials include a copy of the GUE SOP manual, valve manual and standards as well course specific materials such as the workbook, MD (Minimum Deco) table, worksheets and supplementary reading.  Additional (mandatory) reading is Doing it Right: The Fundamentals of Better Diving.  Another worthwhile book is Dress for Success.  Both are available to buy as hardcopy or PDF.  Luckily I already had the books and had read them so I concentrated on the course materials; primarily the worksheets and supplementary reading as the workbook follows the lesson structures.

Day 1; Monday 27th August
An early start; at 0530 I left Porthkerris following a great weekends diving and headed up the Cornish roads to Devon.  Slightly late due to a detour at Discovery Divers I arrived at Aquanauts at 0910, unloaded the van and tried to find somewhere to park. 

For anyone who’s ever visited the Barbican, you’ll know parking is expensive and most roads only have a 2 hour maximum limit.  The only real option for long term parking is the multi-story car park by Staples/Gala Bingo which is only a 2 minute walk away.  I would recommend using the lower entrance as its 2.7m high which allows for most vans.  I made the mistake on the first day of trying the upper entrance which is 2m high (and it’s also further away).  £5.5 gets you 10 hours and £10 gets you 24.  The 10 hour ticket is fine; again I made the mistake of buying a 6 hour one day when we were going diving only to go back and put another hour on.

Once back we kicked off.  Following the introductions, Brian started off with the lectures which included an introduction to GUE and an overview of the course.  Following an early lunch we concentrated on the dry practical lessons which included equipment configuration and propulsion techniques. 

Now I should really introduce Team Bog Bottom.  Brian and me you should know (if not click our names), Martin and Raffi.  Martin was doing the course to get back into diving however this was technically his second GUE Fundamentals course.  He originally did the course way back when with (at the time) newly qualified GUE instructor Rich Walker and his team mate on the course was our GUE  instructor Brian (I said it was a long time ago!).  Martin has also done a variety of other courses including his TDI Trimix course with Mark Powell.   Raffi on the other hand had only been diving 8 months however he had managed to rack up 80 dives in the process; that’s a lot more than some people do in a year.  Personally I think Raffi was in the best position as he didn’t have to ‘unlearn’ any bad habits he’d picked up.  All of us were doing the course in twinsets (doubles to you foreigners).

For the equipment configuration, we all had our equipment stripped down to our component parts and Brian slowly started explaining each item, why we have it and why it’s configured that way, gradually building our twinsets in the process.  The only changes I needed to make was moving the location of my rear d-ring and adjusting my right shoulder d-ring slightly where it had slipped.  Martin's kit needed slightly more work as some of the standards had changed since his original course and most of Raffi’s kit was new (to him) so further tweaks were needed.

(I will add at this point that I can’t emphasize how important correct equipment sizing is.  Most people who struggle with reaching their valves end up moving their cylinders (which throws the distribution of weight out), trying to undo their harness (do you really want to be doing that when the poo hits the fan?) or give up.  A correctly fitted harness will generally enable you to help reach your valves and de-kit with ease.  It also helps with your trim as the set is balanced. Unless you’ve had a rugby or motorbike accident (or similar) which has affected the shoulder movement even the most un-supple should be able to reach (although stretches will help).  If you still can’t reach your valves then generally it’s your under suit or dry suit that is restricting your movements.  Financially changing your kit isn’t always the easiest option but it is the best if you wish to improve your diving.  Most manufacturers now realise the importance of this and allow a little extra room under the arms but if you’re considering a new suit, take your back plate with you to try it out.).  We then looked at propulsion techniques:

·                Flutter.
·                Modified flutter.
·                Frog.
·                Modified frog.
·                Helicopter turns.
·                And finally the holy grail of propulsion; the back kick. 

Having already watched the official GUE videos and those produced by GUE-UK, we hopped onto the tables and had a play.

Once Brian was happy we loaded the kit and went diving.  Unfortunately, the weather hadn’t been kind so all of the planned sea dives were binned in favor of New England Quarry (NEQ).  Although originally only available to Plymouth University and Joint Services Diving Centre, NEQ is (I believe) now available to most diving centers (for a fee).  Now do not confuse this with places such as Vobster or NDAC.  There are NO facilities there.  No cover, no toilets, no burger van and no air.  It’s just an old quarry with a silty bottom.  There are however a few training platforms and attractions such as a Wessex Helicopter (as featured in the BBC’s 999 program) and a Ford Transit van.  As I’d been there various times before I was nominated to lead however Martin had other ideas so with Raffi as his navigator we trundled off.  Unfortunately due to it being bank holiday Monday, the majority of traffic seemed to be leaving Plymouth so the usual 25 minute journey took the best part of 45 minutes. 

On arrival it was site orientation, dive briefs, kit up then in the water.  Because I had dived here before I was nominated as the team leader for the first dive so after our ‘GUE EDGE’ and ‘top to toe’ we headed into the water where we conducted the mandatory modified S drill, modified valve drill and bubble check.  I then led the team down the road to the 6m platform with Raffi as no.2 and Martin as no.3.  Once at the platform we lined up in order whilst Brian set up a line.  First up; propulsion techniques.  In the usual ‘demo-do’ fashion, Brian gave a demonstration of the skill and we practiced it.  In team order from our start point to the end of the line, and back maintaining buoyancy and trim at all times approximately 3” from the bottom.  As always Brian was on hand to film us for debriefing after.  After 35 minutes we left the bottom and carried out our practice stops; 1@3.  Apart from a small buoyancy issue by Raffi the dive went well. 

Following a short debrief we headed back to the platform and this time Raffi was the team leader.  Back kicks and helicopter turns this time which went well and again, 1@3 on the way up.  The final task was to do a weight check.  During our surface swim back we drained our sets to around 30 BAR and once back in standing depth; we ditched all of our removable weight and did a buoyancy check.  All of the others managed to shed some weight leaving them with nil-2kg.  As I had a 2kg tail weight I had to de-kit to remove it and did my buoyancy check separately.  Now recently I had been very self-conscious about my weighting and trim.  During my first dive of TekCamp Rich Walker took the 2kg tail off me however since then people had been reporting I had been slightly head down and as I used my gas I started to find it harder to trim; unless I was leaning backwards I would roll forwards.  Normally you can counter this by moving your feet thus altering your center of gravity but nothing seemed to work.  It became most apparent during my photo shoot with Jason Brown when I was carrying a near empty Ali 80 stage cylinder and the thing kept trying to roll me.  Although Jason is a very skilled photographer, I wasn’t happy with some of the photos because of my trim, however it was also because of that that Jason told me about Brian's offer; every cloud and that…  Back to the weight check then, although I could sink I didn’t look or feel comfortable so decided to keep the 2kg on.

By this stage the weather wasn’t very nice so we quickly loaded up and headed back to Aquanauts for the days debriefs.  Video time!  I was interested in watching the debriefs; a mixture of nerves and excitement went through my body.  I strive for perfect trim.  I look on the internet (I know it’s a bad place) and dream of being as good as the guys I see on YouTube.  It was even worse here due to the added self-pressure from the photo shoot and the fact everyone knew I was an instructor.  During the video critique, I wasn’t actually as bad as I thought however everyone had a few things they needed to work on.  Mine was primarily my modified frog (go figure, surely that should be easier) and my wavy hands.
So that was it.  1900, day 1 down.  So where now for dinner?  Brian suggested the The Marina Bar just round the corner and he had a spare 5 minutes so the 2 of us plus Raffi headed over.  £6.95 for an evening meal plus a pint!  In!  Burger and chips and a pint of Thatchers.  As per my TekCamp article, Diet starts Monday!  After an hour I said my goodbyes and headed over to RM Stonehouse where I had booked in the mess.  Shower, dive logs then a bit of revision before bed.  It had been a long but thoroughly enjoyable day.  Roll on the next 3.
Day 2; Tuesday 28th August
It was almost a lie in when my alarm went off at 0700.  A quick run along the sea front then headed over to Staples for 0830.  CO-OP for breakfast them at 0900 day 2 started.  Today was run in a similar manor to yesterday; theory followed by diving however firstly we had to get the swim test in.  Today also saw the arrival of Joe Tidball who would act as video/safety and allow Brian to purely concentrate on teaching.  Amongst others Joe has completed his GUE Fundamentals and Tech 1, IANTD ART and Inspiration Vision MOD 1.

Joe came unprepared so Brian found him the best pair of 1980’s purple trunks and off to the pool we went.  I wasn’t nervous about the swim test as I used to swim daily, however that was 4 years ago so I was more interested to see how good I’d be.  Unfortunately the pool was busy so we split between 2 lanes and completed our target distance; 275m (11 lengths) in 14 minutes.  4 minutes something later (including a stop to sort out a goggle malfunction) I was done.  Martin was done in a similar time and Raffi a few minutes later.  Next was the 15m breath hold swim which again everyone completed with ease.  We then left the lanes and walked round to the shallow area where the parents and kids were playing.  Slightly out of place we then practiced propulsion techniques again, hoping that the lack of fins would make it easier (the extended blade enhances the technique; both good AND bad).  Brian spent most of the time with Raffi for some 1 to 1 whilst Martin and I were with Joe.  Bizarrely I struggled.  That comment isn’t meant to sound big headed but with fins on I just know what to do.  All of a sudden this felt alien.  I can do it Joe honest.  30 minutes later it was back to the van and back to the classroom for some more theory.

We re-covered GUE EDGE……

·                G – Goal (Objectives, specific tasks)
·                U – Unified Team (roles, duties, formation).
·                E – Equipment (modified s and valve drills, bubble check).

·                E – Exposure (time and depth).
·                D – Deco (ascent profile).
·                G –Gas (minimum gas (MG) and usable gas (UG) stratagies).
·                E – Environment.

……although this time I made sure I wrote it down in my wet notes.  Another agency, another mnemonic.  A little bit of Nitrox revision followed and then we headed over to the store room where we did some gas blending and gas analysis. 

I’m not going to cover Nitrox and gas blending theory here, they’re separate courses however if you are unsure or wish to know more please feel to contact me.  All the cylinders had already been drained and we wished to fill them 32%.  In blending terms this is probably the easiest mix to do; 32 BAR of O2 and top off with air to 230 BAR.  Simples.  This does not work with other mixes so please don’t but 50 BAR of O2 in hoping you’ll get 50%.  The O2 was filled slowly and allowed to cool before topping off.  Once mixed they were analysed and marked up.  I am going to stress here that ALL cylinders should be analysed not only when they’re filled but BEFORE EVERY dive as can you absolutely guarantee they’ve not been touched?  No.  Once analysed and happy, the cylinders were marked up with a strip of tape on the inside right post with the following information:
·                Gas mix (including a decimal.  It proves it’s actually been analysed unless you wrote on the cylinder to the blender that you specifically wanted 32.3%?!?).
·                Date of analysis.
·                Signature.

This then enables all team members to check their buddy’s gas, even if it’s lying down of strapped to a bench on a boat.  Didn’t dive today? Then guess what, you’ll re-analysis it when you do.  It was then back to the classroom for more dry practicals; the Basic 5 and the valve drill.

The basic 5 consists of the following skills:

·                Regulator removal and replace.
·                Regulator exchange.
·                S-drill.
·                Mask flood and clear.
·                Mask remove and replace.

All of the above are skills I’ve done hundreds of times before so it wasn’t the specific skills that worried me, it was maintaining my buoyancy and trim along with my position in the team.  This is where the back kick needed to come into its own.  So far I’ve been able to back kick when I’ve needed to, but not what I’ve had to (if that makes sense). 
(To see a video of our illustrious instructor demonstrate the skills click here) 

The basic 5 was simple enough in the classroom and even though a shoulder d-ring had moved my muscle memory seemed to find it easy enough.  Now it was the turn of the valve drill.  Every agency seems to have their own take on this procedure; switch regulator first? Right post first?  Isolator first?  It’s a drill, it’s used in training to establish whether you can reach your valves.  It can (depending on the sequence) help you diagnose a failure if you’re unsure but don’t think this is the one stop shop for all failures.  It’s not.  After all, if your backup was leaking would you go through the whole drill or just turn off your left post, purge the regulator, turn it back on (it may have re-seated) and carry on/abort the dive/get help from a team member.  The sequence is quite long so I’m not going to write it up but it’s safe to say it goes:

·                Right post.
·                Isolator.
·                Left post.

(To see a video of our illustrious instructor demonstrate the skills click here) 
Again, stood up in the classroom all was fine but what would the water bring?  Before heading off to NEQ it was time for lunch.  Opposite Staples car park we had spotted a little deli and muttered what and odd position it was located in; off the main road down a little side street.  Fancying a change Martin and I headed off to Blue Bear Deli.  The Blue Bear is great little deli and I for one will go there again whenever I visit the Barbican.  Lunch meals deal for £4; any sandwich, baguette or roll (with any filling), homemade cake or crisps and a drink.  Amazing.

After we had stuffed our faces we loaded up the vans and made the magical mystery tour to NEQ.  The weather was a big improvement from the previous day as the sun was out to play.  Kit was prepped, GUE EDGE was done and we surface swam over to the buoys.  Martin was the team leader and I was nominated with the stops; 1@2 and 1@4.  Both on the way down and on the way up.  The dive was just a repeat of the classroom drills with more propulsion thrown in for good measure.  It amazes me; how many times have I done the basic 5 skills individually?  Hundreds I would think.  Easy?  They should be.  However think again.  My added self-pressure kicked in again things went ok although I dropped slightly during the mask removal.  51 minutes.

Dive 2 was very similar although this time we headed over to the helicopter.  Because I was apparently the local expert I surface swam us to where the helicopter should be although the visibility meant we couldn’t see it from the surface.  Raffi was the designated team leader and off we went.  It must have been a pure fluke on my part but we dropped down right on the helicopter although it could have been easy to miss; the visibility was poo.  This dive primarily concentrated on the valve drill, and by pure accident gave us an excellent debriefing point.  During Brian's demonstration his right post started to leak and I was ready to signal post demo.  Joe however beat me to it and sorted it out.  It was a simple fix; Brian's first stage had just come undone slightly when the regulator was purged; switch regulators, turn off right post, tighten up first stage, turn on right post, switch back.  This unintended failure showed the importance of team diving and how most failures can be resolved underwater thus avoiding the need to bin the dive early.  I went first and everything went well except my muscle memory must have been left behind; where was my bloody right shoulder d-ring when you need it?  Everyone else had their practice and at 29 minutes, the dive was done.  Another quick turnaround and it was back to the shop.  By this time however it was verging on 1930 so rather than mess about whilst everyone was tired, Brian decided to call it a day there.  I thoroughly enjoyed the day and everyone progressed with their skills.  Raffi lost his trim today for some reason; hopefully only a temporary glitch.  He was fine yesterday.  Dinner called so it was back to the The Marina Bar. 

Day 3; Wednesday 29th August
The alarm went off at 0700 in my one man palace however I was started to feel a little tired so I rolled over and tried to catch up on my sleep for another hour.  Unfortunately this was wasted.  I knew it would be; it always is.  Bloody body clock.  Once I’m awake, I’m awake, regardless of how tired I am.  I got up at 0800 in a zombie state wishing I had gone for a run to wake me up.  A quick shower and I was out for 0815 as team Bogbottom had decided to have breakfast at Blue Bear Deli.  £5 for a breakfast; all freshly prepared.  The other 2 went for the full monty whilst I decided to still with my staple diet of poached eggs on brown toast.  As 0900 approached we headed over to the shop for day 3.  Today was a change as Brian had opted for a full day in the classroom thus giving us a full day in the water tomorrow so we had as much time as we needed to hone our skills to ensure we all got a Technical pass.

First things first; the video de-brief.  We all watched the video and each identified the areas we needed to work on.  Surprisingly I had very little other than my back kick.  Although it was effective I should now try to make it more fluid as opposed to 3-4 separate (demonstration) movements.  The biggest area of improvement however was agreed on by pretty much everyone; Joe’s video skills!  Sorry mate.

Fin sizing; L to R Scubapro XL, Turtle 2XL,
Scubapro 2XL, old style Scubapro 2XL (new style 3XL)
Next up we did a kit fettle.  Everyone had something that needed changing or sorting less me (more luck than ability).  Snoopy loops were added, bolt snaps were re-tied, hoses were swapped out and things were generally tidied up.  We also found the root to a lot of Raffi’s problems.  His fins.  Raffi has a set of 2XL Scubapro Jet fins, the problem is they’re the old style 2XL’s which are the same size as the new 3XL’s thus they’re too big for his feet.  Following a quick compare my fin session it became apparent he needed the new 2XLs.  A quick cash injection saw new fins coming his way.
Next up was more theory; dive planning (team work, gas planning, gas stratagies), breathing gases (narcosis, hyperoxia, hypercapnia, more Nitrox inc Daltons Law, standard gases), decompression and diver safety.  And lets not forget a Blue Bear Deli lunch in the middle.
Most of the day for me was revision however every days a school day.  Most agencies generally work on the rule of thirds (1/3 down & out, 1/3 back & up and a 1/3 for that just in case moment) for all diving which works well, however it can be very restrictive especially for no deco dives which is why a lot of divers tend not to stick to it and do the generic ’50 BAR on the surface’.  Now if you’re lucky (that’s luck rather than judgment) that may suffice from 15m.  From 30m, I think not!  GUE tend to run 3 different strategies;
·                All available.  This is where the dive can be ended at any point thus not required to  come back to the start point/shot line.
·                Rule of halfs.  This is where returning to the start point/shot is recommended and is the preferred method but not essential.
·                Rule of thirds.  This is where divers must return to the start point/shot line (ie. Cave penetrations).
In addition there are also the following 3 factors:
·                Minimum Gas (MG).  The amount of gas required by 2 divers to go from the bottom to the next available gas source (staged bottle, surface).
·                Usable Gas (UG).  Total Gas-Minimum Gas.
·                Turn Pressure (TP).  Once this is reached the dive is called (ended).
The above stratagies always ensure that the dive is ended when the MG is reached, which depending on the depth may only be 30 BAR but it could also be 100 BAR.

(the above is just an introduction and should not be used soley for gas stratagy education)

And finally there was the exam.  Again the added pressure was building but hey, lets give it my best shot.  Open book right?  Wrong!  Bugger.  91% pass (pass mark is 90%)!  I put it down to a few ambigious questions and I should have listened to my first instincts!  Finally it was also decided that we would meet directly at NEQ on the last day to enable those travelling (me) to head off straight from there so it was time to settle the bill and load up.  Gas and quarry fees came to a very reasonable £105.  Try getting that price anywhere else!
The day finished at an almost social 1700 so Brian invited everyone over to The Marina Bar for dinner.  Chilli beef nachos mmmmmm.  By 2000 it was time to hit the sack ready for the last day.  BOOOO!
Day 4; Thursday 30th August
This was it, the last day.  I was looking forward to it but I was also a bit nervous.  Had I done enough?  What level pass would I get?  Brian never misled any of us and he was always straight to the point, however there was a variety of mixed messages coming across.  Bloody instructors!

At 0700 the alarm went off so I was up & loaded the van as I was heading straight off to Birmingham from NEQ.  I picked up Joe en-route and we trundled off via Joint Services Sub-Aqua Diving Centre (JSSADC) to collect some more supervisor slates (mine blew off the RHIB whilst diving at Porthkerris).  Just outside NEQ we found Martin waiting in a layby so with a bit of shunting we both managed to fit side by side.  Following a short delay, Brian arrived and it was back to business.  We started preparing our kit and Raffi knew there were a few things that he needed to work on so he decided to make a mental note (in Polish) to ensure we wouldn’t forget (he wasn’t wearing gloves).

The first dive was back to the platform with Martin as the team leader.  Raffi was practicing his back kick with Brian.  Whatever had changed had worked; Raffi looked much better.  His trim was there and he was starting to kit his back kick.  Unfortunately the 2-3 good strokes would be wiped out by a bad one thus returning him to the start point.  From here we all went back into the star formation and did our skills; basic 5 and the valve drill.  The valve drill caused me no issues as did the first 4 of the basic 5.  During the mask removal and replace I must have left my common sense on the surface as it took me 4 attempts.  During the first I started to ascend and Brian dragged me down.  He told me to repeat it which I did, and I continued to until I was happy; Brian didn’t even get a chance to tell me not to.  I signalled ‘me’, ‘knob’ and ‘repeat’.  I think he got the gist!  Finally we were done then it was and then it was demo-do with Brian and Joe on the no mask swim followed by our practices.  No problems there; even I managed it ok with my mask off.  Next it was s-drills which Brian demo’d and everyone did followed by DSMB drills.  Again Brian demo’d the procedure using 2 different DSMB’s; oral inflate and open ended.  We all individually sent ours up and at 92 minutes, ascended under Martin's direction with stops at 4m and 2m.

During the surface interval the laptop was out and we went through the video de-brief.  I can’t stress how useful the video is as students can physically see any mistakes they’re making.  I’m surprised that more agencies don’t make it compulsory.

Copyright (c) Jason Brown.  All rights reserved.
After a lengthy interval we headed in for dive 2.  Brian agreed (decided for me) that he wanted to look at my weighting again so the 2kg tail weight came off.  I led and conducted the final brief, checks and in-water drills.  We surface swam back to the platform and headed back down (with a small stop).  I took a few minutes to sort myself out and it soon became clear that I was struggling to hold trim with half empty cylinders (as per my photo shoot), regardless of where my feet/legs were positioned.  Apparently I’ve floaty feet, even whilst wearing heavy fins.  I think I’ll be putting the 2kg back on from now on.  Dive 2 now consisted of s-drills with DSMB ascents.  Prior to the dive we had agreed that the ‘rescuer’ would deploy the DSMB as well as support the out of gas (OOG) diver, and the OOG diver would time the stops.  The third would just observe.  First up I was the OOG diver for Raffi.  I was then next with Martin who was briefed to go OOG whilst I was doing the DSMB deployment.  Thanks Brian!  Finally Martin had his turn.  Everyone coped and everyone was brought to the surface alive.  The dive finished off in the shallows with a demonstration of rescue techniques and de-kitting a casualty out of a harness.  We each had a go and then that was that.  The course was over.  Now what?  Had I done enough?  I’m sure I had passed but at what level?  I managed to fluff my mask removal today.  Was my trim inside the limits?
As we were packing away our kit, all in our little worlds, Brian came over to each of us individually for our de-brief and results. 
Brian “So Tim, how do you think you did?”
Me “Dunno, shit”
Brian “Yep, completely!  Nah, Tech pass well done.  Expected nothing less.  It’s obvious you’re an instructor.  What can I do to make the course better?”
Me (puzzled) “You’re asking me for advice?  Nothing, the course was spot on.  Thank you for a great time and thank you for your amazing offer.”
Well, that was it.  I had achieved something I’d been wanting to do for nearly a year.  Many times thinking; Am I good enough?  Could I pass?  Now I know my answer.  A technical pass and now a member of the GUE fraternity.  So how did the other 2 get on (I hope they don’t mind me saying)?
·                Martin. Technical pass.  He blooming shoulda’, he’s done it before.
·                Raffi.  Recreational pass.  Raffi should be very pleased with himself.  He’s only been diving 8 months and has just got his twinset.  I know people with years of experience who couldn’t manage that pass grade.  In my opinion (obviously I don’t know his de-brief points) if he nails his back fin, left post shutdown and is a little bit more team aware he’ll get a technical pass upgrade within 6 months.  Would I dive with him again?  In a heartbeat.
What can everone take away from the course?  Don’t rush.  If you’re doing a skill and somethings goes wrong (generally buoyancy and/or trim), STOP.  Sort it out.  If you don’t, the rest of the skill will continue to deteroriate.  REMEMBER "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast".

Thanks for reading.  Hopefully you enjoyed it and it’s inspired you to do your Fundies course.  Regardless of your pass grade, any level of diver will benefit massively from it.  Brian is a great instructor and I can recommend him to anyone.  If you’re interested in doing a course with Brian, he is running another back in Plymouth on 15th -18th November.  Until then I would publically like to wish Brian and Anne all the best for the future and hopefully it’s a stress free move up to Edinburgh.

The final words though will come from the man who gave Team Bog Bottom their name; Martin.  “Big thanks to my fellow team members for making it a great course.  Good work from Brian Allen for coaxing the best out of us.  The team was made up of Raffi (Mr Trym), Timothy Gort (Tim Trim) and me (NO – it’s MY gas!).

Pictures from the course can be found here.

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI and SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: l