Malta 2011 ( IANTD Full Trimix Course )

My girlfriendbuddy and i decided that it was time to go back to malta for a few days.

And that was what we did.

I booked my course via Paul again – no problems there,

it seems that i found my home base at the Diving Matrix Teclab.

We flew from frankfurt, tuesday in the evening hours,

a tiny can of “cisk”beer and the obligatory tinned meal later and we landed

at Luqa Airport as i did many times. A driver from the “Rokna” Hotel

picked us up and delivered us in the very well known maltese driving style to the hotel.

After leaving our bags in our room ( equipped with the essential aircon AND a spacious balcony )

we decided to go for a beer in the local pub of the diving commuity “huggins” .

It felt really wierd being back after a year to a place where i used to work for rougly 14months.

Day in day out huggins was always the place to be for a nice dinner or just for a “deco-beer”

with customers.

My course started on Saturday, which meant that i had some days to go diving for myself.

Obviously on the very next day, we showed up at Cresta Dive Centre.

Again a very familiar feeling seeing “boss-lady-charly” and KC aswell as Matt and Dave again.

The new divemasters were former Customers from the time i worked there Vasilisa, Steve and Luke.

Everybody looked healthy and happy – which i can understand –

the life in malta as an Instructor with Cresta isnt a bad life.

So Hannah and I did some DSDs which was really good to get back into our Instructor boots.

We also did some shallow dives for fun in the bay admiring the new seahorses.

I then decided to do a tec dive with Divewise, where i did my Instructor course.

Same here – all the staff was still pretty much the same.

The tec dive for that day was the blenheim bomber –

a WW2 plane which lies at a depth of 42 meters.

Its a really neat little wreck – and it was the first time i did that wreck.

Its a slightly bigger version to the Bristol beaufighter plane which was the local

deeper wreck site just outside of St. Georges bay.

These Planes have lots of little detail on them and you spend a lot of time on them if you have a good camera,

but i was pleased after our 20min bottomtime.

We used 27% Nitrox as backgas and 50& as deco gas,

with a total deco time of 15 minutes it was a fairly easy dive to get into the game.

Crystal clear water, little current but a pretty cold 14 degrees under 40m,

our skipper was ( as usual ) danny with his 10m rib, who is working with divewise.

-> One problem started to show though , my drysuit was giving me on the surface

and on the boat a absolute heat exhaustion, under 40m though i started to get a bit cold,

this will need improvement and the trilam front entry suit is on the shopping list!!!

The next day i was back diving with cresta spending some more time in the lovely shallow water,

i even got to do open water courses which i really enjoyed.

Then Friday evening Paul arrived back in Malta, coming from Sweden,

where he did his Instructor Trainer Trainer Course on the Poseidon Mk.VI CCR Unit.

We met at huggins and slowly the other participants started to show up, there was David,

Andris, Dimitris and Micheal. Everybody was very nice and we started talking about the upcoming dives.

All the divers did the course on Open Circuit apart from Andris who was doing his Mod3

Course on the Sentinel CCR.

The Team started to form.


-THE COURSE-

– Saturday – Classroom and Equipment

The very next day we started at 9 o’clock with Classroom sessions.

This is something you have to like – otherwise technical diving might not be for you.

There was loads of Physiology, Decompression theory, procedures, limits etc. to be done.

Without even realizing we talked 3hour non stop about gradient factors.

Again paul impressed me with his teaching skills, as it wasnt a monolog of him teaching us

but it became a really interesting discussion among everybody.

At the end of our Classroom work we had to get our Equipment ready

and on the truck to get the gas fills at Divewise.

– Sunday – Skill Circuit and first Dive

Sunday – it was time to get in the water. After picking all the cylinders up we headed off to Cierkewwa,

the most popular recreational divesite on the island.

First we wanted to start with a little simulated decompression dive to the P29.

( we did deco stops for exercise , no obligational stops ).

Air as backgas ( max depth 35m), but with 32%,72% and a 20/30 in the leash.

The P29 is a former east german minesweeper which was sold to malta and then after duty scuttled as a diving attraction.

I have to say that i find the P29 rather sad since it is just a hull with everything taken out.

But for the beginning recreational diver its an absolute must dive. So we made our way to the P29 and pretty swiftly back,

because we arrived at the wreck few minutes before our turn and ascend time.

This turned out to be intentional – Paul wanted to see our prioritys regarding safety and the objective of the dive.

Everybody passed. On the ascend we had to do 2 gas switches, unfortunatly on the second one,

the regulator hose was trapped by the base clip of the stage – a classic mistake which

usually happens if some Instructor dude is evaluating your skills.

Also as i normally used my Argon strapped to my cylinders,

i had a bit of room issue with the backplate-mounted argon bottle in my way accessing the hip D-Ring.

I solved that problem by moving the D-Ring a bit to the right.

Its very important that you notice these things early in a big course.

But i wasnt the only one – almost everybodys rig got modified.

The second dive of the day was the other half of the skill circuit – we started on the first dive.

Skills starting from standart Valve Drills, leading to pull and glide

OutofGas & NoMask skills.

A classic one which i really liked was when paul came up to me,

pretending to look at my bottom timer and then hitting my wing inflator buttom (sim. runaway inflator ).

There were extensive debriefings after every dive not lacking ofconstructive criticism.

I was quite pleased with my skills that day.

After the dives we had to rush back to divewise to get our backgas filled for the next day –

the first real deep dive.

The Polynesian !

– Monday –

FIRST DIVE THE POLYNESIAN

With our tins filled with yummy 18/35 we went to marsascala to meet danny and his rib ( like on thursday ).

We also took our 32% and 72% with us .

This day Hannah was coming with us to get used being a support diver.

She really enjoyed being on a twinset again and escorted us through our

12,9 and 6m stops.

Especially for a skipper it is not easy have a group of divers with multiple cylinders and to get them back on the boat safely.

The Poly … ONE OF THE BEST DIVES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN –

I obviously didnt take my camera with me but there are plenty of videos of it on the interweb.

A quick rundown on the ship :

A passenger ship build in 1890 which operated between France and Australia through the Suez channel.

Length : 152m; Displacement : 10500tons; up to 600 passengers total

It got hit by a torpedo in 1918 ( UC 22 )  and sank to a depth of 60m+ claiming the lives of 10 people.

The Dive – we descended in Order – the Rebreather guys first ( they weren’t keen on bubbles strangely 😉  ), i was last.

Having the ascend time of 20 minutes in mind i couldnt get down quick enough.

That is one of the undeniable advantages of open circuit – you can just plummet down

without dealing with your loop volume and so on.

As we arrived on the wreck it was just stunning –

i have read up some history and watched some videos of it ,

it was absolutly breathtaking. Clear water – loads of fish and a pretty intact looking hull with the big stern gun.

What more could you want.?

We dived through the rudder and the propeller which were exactly at our TOD of 63m.

Not long after that Dimitris gave the sign for his gas thirds , so we stared the ascend 2 minutes early.

Poor guy was all worried after the dive about his gas consumption,

but david and i assured him that we would have given the turnaround any second after him if he wouldnt have done it.

Backgas 18/35, 32& and 72%

We caught up on our schedule as we ascended a bit slower, perfect gas switches and excellent team communication.

Hannah came down to us and watched over the 6 divers doing deco below her. A slight current but no issue.

Back on the boat everybody relaxed and we slowly started making our way back. ( leaving the shot line there though 😛 ).

I will definatly come back ! With an extra stage of bottom gas though – or a rebreather 😉 .

The plan was to do another great wreck on the next day – the HMS Southwold, but the boat wasnt availible. 😦

– Tuesday – Ras il’hobz 

By this time all the course students have become a real pro in loading and unloading the van ,

as this had to happen at least 8 times per day .

Kit from the shop on the truck (1) – of truck for filling (2) – back on truck (3) – off truck for diving(4) –

back on truck (5) – off truck for more gas (6) back on truck (7) off truck to stay in the shop overnight (8).

Were talking about 6 divers with at least 3 stages each ( rebreather guys had more ) + all the extra kit.

But we were operating well together so all that happend within minutes.

On the ferry we worked out our diveplan, which was always matched between OC and CCR so we did

some extra minutes but the whole team stayed together. This dive there was a failure annouced.

We presumed that paul would let andris bailout, which was a good thing to be done as there are more and more CC-divers now.

So the team gathered and we discussed what needed to be done in that case,

the important points were : calculating a runtime based on the deco we did and andris bailout stops,

controlling (helping) his bouancy ( as he has the loop full of gas AND his lungs

breathing from his BO Stages, handing extra gas ( depending when the failure happens a classic smaller BO Cylinder

reaches its end swiftly.

The objective to safely reach 80m on the sloping seafloor of “Ras il’ hobz” in Gozo.

The Dive

After a little surface swim out ( to safe time swimming on the dive ) we all gave a thumbs down,

bubble check and dropped to 45m from there on the seafloor sloped in a 50° angle down.

I find that the descend is always the nervous part of the dive, you never really know

what to expect and if everything will go well … and i was a bit nervous …

During the descend i decided to move my guage clip on top of the stage base clips

to makeit easier to get when im on the bottom ( valid idea 😉  ) ,

but fiddling with my clips I unclipped my leash which i didnt notice

( the light 20/30 trimix stage barely touched my thighs ) … dumdum dum …

but then michael grabbed my fin and pointed on a lonely 75MOD stage standing on the sand.

I suddenly got big eyes – rushed to the stage and put it back on.

Luckily this all happend within 15 seconds so there was no lost time.

Also we didnt need the 20/30 on that dive, it was more of an emergency gas.

Still … this is somthing that will not happen to me again – from then on i always checked my leash frequently –

lesson learned.

Arriving at 80m it was a different world …

After few minutes on the bottom i switched my torch off and we started our ascent with the first deepstop at 51m.

I can only recommend being very happy with bouancy and ascents prior to that course.

At rougly 21m paul gave andris the signal to bail out – and bam almost immediatly andris had 4 OC

divers around him assisting with his switch to open circuit.

That went perfectly ( even the instructors words ) – very good communications and all the made diveplans were double checked.

Again hannah escorted us and even handed us my camelbag with fresh water very delightful.

Our heads broke the surface after 80minutes .

Back on the surface i noticed that my Torch flooded 😦 … ( Turned out that i didnt charge it properly prior to the dive,

which caused off gassing of the battery and then opening the

overpressure valve of the canister which then led to the flood.

Backgas 15/45 , 32%, 72% ( 20/30 as emergency gas).

– WEDNESDAY – The endgame

The day of the days … it was a 100m dive on the schedule for that day – and the 3 digit depth number was something everyone of us had respect for.

Again we wanted to do a wreck – the cargo ship – but again the boat wasnt availible, so we returned to gozo ( nothing wrong with that … its a beautiful site ).

There were other logistical problems though … the dive shops didnt have any helium left…. ( afterwards i read about a global helium shortage due to technical problems with

one of the biggest raffinerys).  That wasnt good news. But thanks to paul and to Maltaqua everybody got a twinset fill of 12/60.
Finally settled we took off on the ferry – finalizing our diveplans.

That wasnt a simple task anymore as we had to adjust switch depths to avoid isobaric counter diffusion and to stay within the limits of our gas supply while doing the same

stops as CC.V-Planner on the Iphone is a real luxury though.

We settled to this plan :

Again we arrived at the site – the rented Chevrolet Matiz clearly disliked the heavy gear and rugh terrain ( compared to teh 4×4 pickup ).

At the usual divebriefing gear and gasmatching we started to get the idea of one hundred meters of water above us into our heads… clearly there was a bit of “fear”…
Due to the heat we finished our briefing already kitted up and ready to go in the water.

Then it started …
We descended to 15m – bubblechecks all good – swam out for 5 minutes and then dropped down,

during our descend we switched to our hypoxic 12/60 backgas.

Then the “race” started – everybody clearly wanted to have 3 digits on the depth guage – but turn times are turn times …

We made it to 100m within 6 minutes ( from leaving 15m). As soon as we reached our goal – everybody started to maffick.

Prior to the dive i thought about things i wanted to do at 100m, 1st i wanted to see my gas consumption, then the deco time clicking up and then i wanted to risk

a look back to the surface. 

And so i did – the guage moved with like 2-3 bars per breath ( Double 12l ) ,

the NHeO3 added every 5 seconds another 8 minutes on the asccend time and

the look upwards was just stunning … everything was grey around me …

just above there was a faded blue light guiding the way home.

2minute warning …. 1minute warning … go !

Our first deepstop was at 63m, the MOD of our dive to the polynesian!

On the way we met a group of about 12 recreational divers who were clearly

suprised seeing 6 guys carring three times as many cylinders than they did.

Very relaxed deco … Hannah came and met us again and we were able to shoot some video.

After this dive i really appreciated the favours of trimix – i felt perfect.

Deep Air or Nitrox diving in comparision seemed not acceptable for me anymore.

And that was it ! Everybody passed the course and we celebrated our achievements that night at huggins.

This was definatly the best course ive done so far – and i met really skilled divers and friends.

Even my Girlfriendbuddy announced that she wanted to do her ART Course 🙂 .

Im looking forward to dive with the team again soon !

Thank you very much.

Richard

PS: A little video – hope you like it :

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Posted on October 7, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Brilliant trip report mate. It sounds like a fantastic course; well done on passing! I love the planning aspect of it, all the deco you did was mental!!!

    You still have big cojones; not sure i’ll see 100m on OC!!

    Take it easy bro.

    Andy

  2. nice write up!
    quite an eventful trip but we made it althought it felt like the world was conspiring against us (Malta run out of He, The boat broke and all sorts!!!)
    Looking forward to dive with you again

    D

  3. Nice post. Congratulation!
    I’m sure, you enjoyed it.

    Thomas

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