Girls on Gas
It never ceases to amaze me how some men (and other women) stereotype women in diving. Once I was on a charter boat with two other guys and all the other divers were unknown to me.
On the way out to the site all the blokes were chatting to each other and making new friends. I was not spoken to by anyone. The others had assumed that I was there as a non-diving passenger. When kitting up I was the only diver who required no assistance to don my kit and was in the water with minimal fuss (unlike some of the others).
So after the dive there was no shortage of conversation which now involved me too. One guy ended up talking to me about parts of the wreck and was surprised that I knew all the correct terminology for the wreck and it's layout.
Once I had proven that I could handle the kit and understand the difference between the "blunt end" and the "pointy end" of a boat we had something to talk about.
I saw the'Teckies' as a group of macho guys who's only aim in life was to wear more equipment than their buddy.
Well in some respects I might have been right but having now mixed (no pun intended) with these apparently strange folk I find this rarely the case.
The aim is not to carry excess equipment but to aid safety by carrying back ups where necessary (aka 'redundancy').
Several years ago I completed a Nitrox course in order to use the gas for safety and extended bottom times. Next I did a Tech Nitrox Course so I could use 80% oxygen mixes for reduced decompression. To be honest I wondered what I had let myself in for as I would struggle with lifting cylinders and so on.
I was soon to learn that it is not strength that makes a good technical diver.
Equipment management and familiarity together with confidence underwater are the main requirements. Buoyancy control must be perfect so that stops at a given depth for a set period of time can be accurately carried out.
On the course our group of students all related very well. We all had our strengths and weaknesses with our skills and all learned how to compensate. I decided that I would set my equipment up in such a way that it could be assembled just prior to entering the water. When it came down to it the guys did the same - why struggle when you don't have to. I thoroughly enjoyed the diving and drills and found the course great fun.
I eventually realised that the diving I was moving towards required tri-mix in order to go deeper. I don't feel the urge to go to any great depths for the sake of it, nor do
I feel it's wrong to go deep. I simply wanted to have a clear head (no narcosis) when I am diving deep. To date I have found no personal reason to go beyond 67m.
Most of my colleagues' reason for undertaking deep is a virgin wreck. I also like the idea of virgin wrecks but I like to see the underwater life that is often bigger and more willing to interact with divers.
On one such wreck a conger eel not only followed me side by side around the wreck but also kept nudging my leg from time to time!
Diving with tri-mix I find no difference between the guys and me where the tasks were concerned. None of us want to make equipment management any harder than it has to be. All of us find ways of transporting the equipment in as small a unit as possible and have found ways of kitting ourselves up.
Tri-mix is about being self sufficient both above and below the water but not struggling where you don't need to. You must know where all your clips and hoses are located without actually seeing where they are. This also means when you are on the surface you are able to reach and locate clips to don side cylinders by yourself. Removal of equipment underwater is far easier than either on the surface or on the boat.
I had an unfortunate occasion which gave me the chance to find out exactly how capable I was in an emergency.
While descending a shot line I became entangled on a stray rope which caught up behind me. As much as I tried to free myself there was no way I could work the rope loose. It became apparent that I would have to remove my equipment totally in order not to remain there forever.
I made mistakes that day which lead to the unfortunate scenario and have learned from them - but I proved to myself that
I could remain calm and deal with a problem. My training and the drills that
I seemed to have to repeat so many times for no apparent reason now became very apparent. I would like to thank my instructor for his excellent tuition (if you find a good instructor keep hold of them - in fact I have now married him!)
I know many women feel they are not able to undertake of the nitrox or tri-mix diving but if you have the diving experience then come and find out what fun it is. It takes a special kind of discipline with timings and so on but you get a clear head and the opportunity to dive on wrecks that don't resemble Piccadilly Circus in the rush hour.
What is trimix?
Trimix is mix of Helium, Oxygen and Nitrogen.
What are the advantages?
A clear head (less narcosis) and a reduced chance of oxygen toxicity, which can cause convulsions at depth.
What are the disadvantages?
Longer decompression stops and the cost of training and equipment. You need up to four cylinders for different mixes.
How do you work out the stops?
There are different tables to be learned and depth, time and mix all play a part in the decompression profile. The tables are simple to learn and with practice will become second nature as is your current tables. There is also a range of computer software to assist you.
Okay I'm sold - what do I need to do?
Start off with a basic nitrox qualification and go from there. Without taking into account your experience being built up it usually takes up to 5 days to get all the Nitrox qualifications and 4 days for the Tri-mix. It is advisable to split all courses into separate sections to allow yourself time to attain competence at handling the equipment.
How much does it cost?
The Tri-mix course usually costs around £450.
Where can I do it?
There are lots of places but if you want to know more you can phone me on 01305 820870 or you can e-mail me on Portland@netcomuk.co.uk