Friday, May 09, 2008

GUE Tech 2 - May 2008

My team just completed our Tech 2 class with Gideon Liew at Puerto Galera. The class was hosted by Tech Asia. Leon and I are still here until Sunday evening but Gideon and Michael already took off. We are doing an additional 2 days of diving before heading back to Singapore.

Leon and I arrived on Sunday afternoon from Singapore, after each paying about S$150 in excess baggage on our Jetstar flight (note to self: good example of the false economy of flying budget airlines). Michael arrived in PG a couple of days earlier and Gideon had just finished teaching another Tech 2 class, also with Tech Asia.

Throughout the class, the Tech 2 configuration that we dove consisted of double AL80s for backgas, one AL80 stage (with backgas), one AL40 with 50% and one AL40 with oxygen. On days 1 and 2, we used nitrox 32% in all the bottles, as we were not diving deep. We would start each dive with the stage and 50% chest clipped and the oxygen bottle on a leash. At some point along the dive, once we had switched off the stage, we would move the stage to the leash and the oxygen bottle to the front for the deco.

The class officially started on Monday morning. We did a series of shore dives in front of Tech Asia. We went down to about 12m and spent several dives doing valve drills, s-drills, and Tech 2 ascent drills (which consists of 1m/min stops, gas switches, and bottle movement). The current picked up at one point and we had to move to a more sheltered spot. After several ascents and descents, we did 2 scenario dives, where we laid line and simulated a dive, complete with simulated failures. All in all, we spent 5 hours in the water and exited at about 3.30pm. Since we were already wet, we jumped back in for our swim tests. We finally broke for lunch at 4.30pm… what a start to Tech 2! Fatigue and hunger were setting in and it was a relief to get some food and water. We reviewed video of our dives and debriefed over lunch. We all had definite points for improvement but overall our performance was decent, which was encouraging. We finished the day with a lecture on gas management and a late dinner.

Day 2 consisted of a series of drills and scenario dives again in shallow water. We spent about 3 hours in the water before getting out in time for lunch. The day was spent on dive debriefs, video review and the bulk of the lectures.

On day 3 we were using 21/35 for backgas and actual 50% and oxygen in our deco bottles. We did 2 Tech 1 type scenario dives at Sinandigang, which is a sheltered reef in a small bay. We did them back to back as we had plenty of gas with us and they were short dives. We got out in time for lunch. The afternoon was spent on dive debriefs, video review, and a lecture on contingency planning. After dinner, we did the quiz as a team.

Day 4 was 2 experience dives to 50m, using 18/45 for backgas. On these dives, I tested out Gideon’s Evolve wing, which I liked very much. I had to shift gas side to side a lot while using my Explorer wing due to the changing weight of the bottles on the left side. The morning’s dive was meant to be at Sweetlips Corner, but the current was counter to what we expected, and we ended up with a long sandy swim and at Marcus Cave instead. We attempted the same dive after lunch but the current had really picked up and there were washing machine currents at Sweetlips Corner. The team was at risk of being split up so Gideon called the dive early.

Our experience dive on Day 5 was a 63m dive for 25 min at Hibo wall. Hibo is about a 30 min boat ride from Tech Asia and consists of a small ledge around 18-21m, a sloping reef to about 30m, and a relatively steep wall down to about 88m. We had a nice drop and found the wall pretty quickly. There was a slight current that kept us moving along the wall. After breathing the stage down, we switched to backgas for a few minutes before calling the dive. We ascended along the wall through our deep stops and did a gas switch at 21m. By then, we were on top of the ledge and the current was quite strong, so we drifted and shot a bag. Total deco from 21m and up was 45 min. It felt like ages because we spent it all in blue water. On the boat, Gideon shook our hands one by one and congratulated us on passing the class.

PG is a great location for tech training. Deep sites are within a few minutes’ boat ride from shore. The currents can be unpredictable but there are always reasonable dive sites available; current and unpredictable conditions can sometimes be a boon to tech training, anyway.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Tech Asia is a well run outfit well suited to supporting technical training and dives. They are knowledgeable about local sites and conditions, the staff and boat crew are very well trained and take their jobs seriously, and they are a nice bunch of people. This is why I keep going back.

After I completed Tech 1, I said that I was content diving in the Tech 1 range and wasn’t interested in Tech 2. After 4 years of diving in the Tech 1 range, my dives were approaching the Tech 2 range and further training was needed. Tech 2 was the perfect class for me because it made clear the skills, planning, knowledge, and mindset necessary to undertake more aggressive dives. The more GUE training I take, the more I realize that everything comes back to the fundamentals. With about 50 Tech 1 dives apiece, our fundamental skills were generally good and therefore we were receptive to the training and lessons that Gideon taught us.

Thanks to Gideon for not only having the knowledge and experience to be a qualified instructor, but for having the skill and teaching style to educate effectively. Gideon is a great ambassador for GUE.

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