I have been rather bad with blogging lately, but I do have some very good reasons ... half of which I can't talk about at the moment...
Okay, that probably sounds a lot more ominous than it actually needs to be, but I've gotta hook you in for more somehow ;-)
In the meantime, I think I'll bore you with yet more diving stories!
In preparation for the three adventure dives at Capernwray next weekend, the last three needed to complete the Advanced Open Water Diver certification, Pygmie and I went up to Tiger Dive in Sheffield for a dry suit orientation course.
It may be that we were spoiled by going to Emperor Divers in Sharm el Sheikh as they have now set the standard by which all other dive training centres are going to be measured. Our experience with Emperor was so good that the apparent mayhem at Tiger was something of a disappointment.
It probably didn't help that the seven open water learners were not booked in to hire the full kit, so there was something of a shortage of BCDs, fins, masks and so forth. However, that doesn't explain the lack of suitable dry suits as there were only four of us on the orientation course.
After trying three suits on that were tight enough to risk either squished family jewels or a split behind, I finally got handed a suit that made me feel like a child in adult clothing, which I had to settle for as we were running out of time and had to get to the local swimming pool ... and they had run out of sizes!
This proved to be worse for Pygmie as he had the same sized suit as myself which, considering his smaller size, left him looking like a crumpled up, half-fluorescent version of the Michelin Man.
Finally, after getting to the pool, working out how the kit was supposed to go together, and getting ourselves all kitted up, we finally got into the pool. Last. The other 30+ people on courses were already in and getting underway.
We would have been in the same position if we had been given some instruction beforehand...
The diving was quite tricky at first and we all sank to the bottom like stones when we vented the BCDs which, quite rightly, earned us all slapped wrists. It was like starting again from the beginning: I didn't appreciate just how quickly I would forget the first lessons, though I think that came down to nerves!
Diving in a dry suit is a very different sensation to diving in a wetsuit as you are very aware of where the air is in your suit, so as you change your position in the water, you can feel the bubble of air moving around in the suit - very weird!
Once we had gotten a feel for the suits, we made a start on the exercises which were a mirror of those from the open water course: necessary as dry suit diving is a little different to wetsuit diving, so its necessary to get the skills with different kit.
My favourite exercise was definitely the hover: once I had finally gotten up to a level where I could just sit in the water and control my height with relatively light breathing (in comparison to what I was having to do in the wetsuit), I found I could totally relax and just sit in the water. Excellent!
The worst part was the inversion. I just couldn't do it. Or at least, I didn't think I could do it. Four attempts and I was getting rather frustrated with myself, so our instructor took me to the surface for our second(!) chat and told me that I had actually done it but had stopped halfway round.
What a numpty! I hadn't seen the air being dumped from the suit's exhaust so I had stopped because I didn't think I was doing it right. Idiot!
Anyway, the orientation complete, Pygmie and I said our farewells to the guys we dived with and made our way back home, picking out the faults of the orientation and voicing our concerns for next week's adventure dives. That is, until I fell asleep half-an-hour later!
Overall, it was very worthwhile doing the orientation just to get the experience before doing the actual dives themselves, but the lack of decent equipment, bad organisation and the apparent lack of experience of our instructor* leaves me feeling rather nervous about next weekend...
* Our instructor was a very nice girl, but with the manager of Tiger Dives dipping in on the training, taking over some sections and then giving her examples of what we should be doing for the inversion, it gave a definite impression that she was lacking experience.