My path to tech diving

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jlcnuke

jlcnuke

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It's been a couple months, and I got some more training in. I had started typing up a course report for my Apprentice Cave class, but halfway through realized I simply wasn't going to have the energy left at night to keep up with it, so here's an abbreviated report:

I had arranged for my usual buddy and I to do the Apprentice Cave class with Chris Brock just before Christmas. Unfortunately, my dog got sick and eventually passed so we rescheduled for after Christmas. The original thought was to do the Apprentice Cave course over 4 days and spend a 5th day getting the plus rating to add in deco and a jump as well. In the end, due to some errors on our part, and a desire to get home at a reasonable hour on the last day (I had work the following morning and it's a 5-6 hour drive home from cave country), we ended up foregoing the deco and jump ideas by the end of the course, but still needed the 5th day to finish up as we messed up the lost buddy drill twice and my dive buddy was having some issues getting the lost line drill down (in the end he got it done pretty well though).

I won't rehash all of the other course reports, as @Manatee Diver and @dewdropsonrosa have both discussed how Chris does the course in pretty good detail. we did 11 dives over the 5 days, a bunch of discussions/land drills, a LOT of time in the dark in the caves, etc. The days were long, usually starting at 7:30 or 8 at Chris' house and busy with the class, air fills, homework, etc. until 8 or later most days (though we took it easy one day and cut out a bit early to go get some wings - I got boneless on account of not having great technique pulling and gliding in Ginnie's flow..... oh and I did end up going with the mechanix fingerless gloves discussed earlier in this thread.

I'd say this was the hardest course I've taken to date. There were at least a couple times when I thought "man I hope I can actually manage to get this stuff down and pass the course" or "I wonder if we as a team are going to be able to do this right and pass the course", but in the end, the practice and coaching worked it's magic and we were able to successfully demonstrate all the skills to pass the course, and I even feel comfortable with them now (though I certainly wouldn't videotape myself to use as an example at this point lol).

I'm still not a big fan of diving into the Ear at Ginnie, but I managed to start figuring it out enough that I cut my gas consumption getting through there in half by the 4th dive (still using too much gas for that though), so I hope to continue getting better entering Ginnie as I get more experience. Right now the "plan" is to try and get down for some diving one weekend a month, probably back at Peacock (which we were at 2 days of the course) and Madison (which we didn't get to dive due to conditions, but it's the closest to home here in Atlanta, and as a medium flow cave should help reinforce diving in flow techniques), then after we get a bit more comfortable start heading to Ginnie some more. Maybe looking at full cave next fall or so if all goes well.

I'll say I wasn't expecting my tanks to be an issue for cave diving, but the HP 100s that work wonderfully back home make me the limiting diver in cave country with the LP overfills that others are getting instead. So I'll have to debate weight vs capacity etc. and debate if I want to stick with them anyway, or consider moving to different tanks for cave diving and just keep the hp100s for non-cave deco dives etc.
 

Manatee Diver

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Congrats. The Ear isn't fun, though how Chris had you go through it does make it easier than pulling all the way to the bottom.
 

tbone1004

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@jlcnuke was good to meet you! even if you may not have realized who it was. I was trying to stay out of Chris's way. Did you run into @dewdropsonrosa since she was down there as well? I briefly ran into her at Amigo's one morning.

Looking at the rivers in south Ga and the pix from Madison this week, it is unlikely to be diveable until mid February or later as an FYI and Peacock may get a little funky in the next few weeks.
 
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jlcnuke

jlcnuke

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@jlcnuke was good to meet you! even if you may not have realized who it was. I was trying to stay out of Chris's way. Did you run into @dewdropsonrosa since she was down there as well? I briefly ran into her at Amigo's one morning.

Looking at the rivers in south Ga and the pix from Madison this week, it is unlikely to be diveable until mid February or later as an FYI and Peacock may get a little funky in the next few weeks.

I still couldn't say who you were at this point lol. I saw a bunch of people, and only actually "met" or talked to a few of them (I was pretty busy most of the time at the dive sites, I caught a few names but not many relative to the number of people at Peacock and Ginnie last week), but yes, I met @dewdropsonrosa briefly, and we talked a bit Sunday evening as well.

I'm probably going to have a week off mid-February, and currently don't have any plans for that week, so I'll probably be down trying to get some dives in then. Maybe go down one weekend between now and then as well, but we'll see how things go, my dive buddy has some projects he's working on right now as well that might keep him busy Hopefully Madison clears up by the February trip though.
 

tbone1004

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I still couldn't say who you were at this point lol. I saw a bunch of people, and only actually "met" or talked to a few of them (I was pretty busy most of the time at the dive sites, I caught a few names but not many relative to the number of people at Peacock and Ginnie last week), but yes, I met @dewdropsonrosa briefly, and we talked a bit Sunday evening as well.

I'm probably going to have a week off mid-February, and currently don't have any plans for that week, so I'll probably be down trying to get some dives in then. Maybe go down one weekend between now and then as well, but we'll see how things go, my dive buddy has some projects he's working on right now as well that might keep him busy Hopefully Madison clears up by the February trip though.

big guy in a wetsuit with the Tigger hood. Was diving with @mer when I saw you
 

Graeme Fraser

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It's been a couple months, and I got some more training in. I had started typing up a course report for my Apprentice Cave class, but halfway through realized I simply wasn't going to have the energy left at night to keep up with it, so here's an abbreviated report:

I had arranged for my usual buddy and I to do the Apprentice Cave class with Chris Brock just before Christmas. Unfortunately, my dog got sick and eventually passed so we rescheduled for after Christmas. The original thought was to do the Apprentice Cave course over 4 days and spend a 5th day getting the plus rating to add in deco and a jump as well. In the end, due to some errors on our part, and a desire to get home at a reasonable hour on the last day (I had work the following morning and it's a 5-6 hour drive home from cave country), we ended up foregoing the deco and jump ideas by the end of the course, but still needed the 5th day to finish up as we messed up the lost buddy drill twice and my dive buddy was having some issues getting the lost line drill down (in the end he got it done pretty well though).

I won't rehash all of the other course reports, as @Manatee Diver and @dewdropsonrosa have both discussed how Chris does the course in pretty good detail. we did 11 dives over the 5 days, a bunch of discussions/land drills, a LOT of time in the dark in the caves, etc. The days were long, usually starting at 7:30 or 8 at Chris' house and busy with the class, air fills, homework, etc. until 8 or later most days (though we took it easy one day and cut out a bit early to go get some wings - I got boneless on account of not having great technique pulling and gliding in Ginnie's flow..... oh and I did end up going with the mechanix fingerless gloves discussed earlier in this thread.

I'd say this was the hardest course I've taken to date. There were at least a couple times when I thought "man I hope I can actually manage to get this stuff down and pass the course" or "I wonder if we as a team are going to be able to do this right and pass the course", but in the end, the practice and coaching worked it's magic and we were able to successfully demonstrate all the skills to pass the course, and I even feel comfortable with them now (though I certainly wouldn't videotape myself to use as an example at this point lol).

I'm still not a big fan of diving into the Ear at Ginnie, but I managed to start figuring it out enough that I cut my gas consumption getting through there in half by the 4th dive (still using too much gas for that though), so I hope to continue getting better entering Ginnie as I get more experience. Right now the "plan" is to try and get down for some diving one weekend a month, probably back at Peacock (which we were at 2 days of the course) and Madison (which we didn't get to dive due to conditions, but it's the closest to home here in Atlanta, and as a medium flow cave should help reinforce diving in flow techniques), then after we get a bit more comfortable start heading to Ginnie some more. Maybe looking at full cave next fall or so if all goes well.

I'll say I wasn't expecting my tanks to be an issue for cave diving, but the HP 100s that work wonderfully back home make me the limiting diver in cave country with the LP overfills that others are getting instead. So I'll have to debate weight vs capacity etc. and debate if I want to stick with them anyway, or consider moving to different tanks for cave diving and just keep the hp100s for non-cave deco dives etc.
Congratulations on your course. Sorry to hear about your dog, by the way. I know how bad that hurts.
 
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jlcnuke

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Well, I've been busy racking up some cave dives and other diving. Since my last update I've been heading to cave country every month for at least a weekend (a week for one trip) to get practice in the caves. I completed my Apprentice Plus training to allow for 1,500' penetration, light deco, 1/3rds, and 2 jumps now, so there's more cave in cave country than I'll see anytime soon within those limits. I'm looking to do full cave this fall after my IDC.

Additionally, yesterday I just finished up my TDI Trimix course. Based on the advice from this thread, and my own research/discussions with people elsewhere, I decided to do the training with @LandonL at Aqui Water Sports in Fort Lauderdale. Here are my thoughts on the course and my experiences from it.

TDI's e-learning for this course is alright, but nothing to write home about. Some of it is clearly there to use the same materials whether it's for an OC or CC course, but the CC stuff while "tested on" academically is stuff that I'm simply not going to remember worth a darn 6 months from now as I don't dive a rebreather. Good to have that info for later, but you're supposed to get trained on this stuff for a rebreather too, so a bit redundant. I can "intellectually" understand the idea of "you may be diving with a rebreather diver, so knowing this stuff is good", but in reality I don't normally dive with a rebreather diver so I'm going to forget that stuff.

In addition to the coursework, Landon conducted multiple video-calls prior to the course to go over things from planning to deco-theory, and gave us additional homework to go over various studies and lectures on the subjects. I found this additional insight and the information contained in the studies to be very insightful and helped me to understand the theory and how it has been evolving, especially regarding different models and gradient factors etc.

For the in-water portion, we did that on 4 wrecks as well as some shallow work for skills such as tox diver ascent/gear removal/tow etc.

IMO, at this point, most of the skills should be things you've done to some extent before. Sure, I didn't have a bunch of experience doing the "exact" thing, but planning a trimix dive to 200' uses the same steps as planning a deco air dive to 150' with just "more" of the same type of things. There was some good discussion regarding how to most effectively deal with specific failures that wasn't part of AN/DP (such as when to shift to 50% when you lose your O2 deco gas, etc), and we used different software for planning to see the various differences in how they do things, but for the most part the skills are just extensions of things done previously. While it definitely involved doing things "new" during the course, because they were so similar to doing things previously it didn't feel uncomfortable or intimidating imo. I can see how if you quickly went from single tank to rushing straight to this level of training without getting some dives at various levels in first how it could be a lot of task loading though.

The dives were, well, all pretty damn great. We did two drops (shoutout to Scubatyme charters for great crew and good drops all week) on the Hydro-Atlantic, one on the Lowrance, and one on the Miller Lite. Only one day had significant current (we drifted 1.3 miles after leaving the wreck to start deco before we were back on the surface), but 2 of the days we were pretty much just dropped right on top of it. I'll say that my least favorite part of the dives was getting off the bench and standing with all that gear on waiting to get in the water.... that's a lot of weight lol.

The Hydro-Atlantic is a beautiful wreck. We did mask swap drill on the second trip there and my mask ended up fogging up a bunch afterwards unfortunately, which was the only feedback I had for Landon (try to do that skill either in the shallows or at the end of a dive instead of early on in one in case fogging becomes an issue). Though honestly if I'd swapped back to my primary mask it probably would have been better, but I did the rest of the dive on my backup with my primary mask in my pocket. I could probably do 2-4 more dives on that wreck before I'd have seen and remembered all of it.

The Lowrance is pretty awesome. She's a big wreck with tons to see. A good amount of life on the wreck, tons of places to swim through, though we obviously didn't get anywhere close to everywhere you could go on that wreck during the class. We started at the sand where I did get exactly 200' on my computer, because why not if you're doing a trimix class, right??

The Miller lite was the shallowest wreck we did this week, and had the most life that I saw (though the others were far from devoid of life). We saw a nice goliath grouper, bull shark (it was seen at the bottom, saw one mid-deco, and another -could be the same one- way below us while hanging out at 20'), tons of adult fish (angel fish, a trumpet fish, etc.). It has some nice passages for swim-throughs to explore. Overall a great dive.

Overall, all the people we went out with or worked with during the course were really good people, everyone having a good time, and a ton of laughs were had throughout the 4 days of the course. I'm looking forward to coming back and diving with them again. The course was informative and very helpful in continuing to evolve skills and make me a better, more knowledgeable tech diver. I'm still far from an expert at any of this with my limited experience so far, but learning from courses like this and great instructors like Landon is how I hope to continue to grow as a diver.
 
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