Some of you will remember me as the lanky trainee DM, those who haven't sampled my awesome tea-making abilities won't. Last July I buggered off to join the Navy as a Clearance Diver. For those that are interested, here's the story so far;
Got myself on a train to Plymouth for my 8 weeks basic training at HMS Raleigh. Ironed some clothes, cleaned some stuff, marched a bit, got shouted at by men in vests with excessive hair gel and no body fat, learnt to tie knots and do various other nautical type things, fired rifles, cleaned rifles, marched with rifles. Scooped the awards for being top dog and getting the best exam result and then ended up with two more weeks of seamanship - learned how to make a noose in case of further seamanship courses.
After lots of waiting around and time down the gym, the day finally came for diver selection. 17 people turned up for 12 places on the course. 4 people made it to the end and I was one of them. It wasn't soul destroying, but it was certainly enough to make your bottom lip wobble at times. Soul destroying comes much later in the course during Live-In week. We didn't do much diving, but got plenty of in water time. When you're not actually in the water, you're running to the water, running to make you tired before getting in the water, or falling through the air from 6m before hitting the water. I honestly had no idea I had so much snot to drip everywhere until that week.
The diving course itself started off with OSDS, Open Space Diving System, using Kirby Morgan 17K Helmets and 18B Bandmasks. Great stuff, dead comfy and all the air you could ever want. Not great if you have to hit a chain with a hammer and chisel for 50 minutes. Or if the nose block swivels around and inserts itself into one of your nostrils though, or if your buddy drags you to the surface by grabbing your chest hair through your drysuit in a rescue scenario. Other jobs associated with OSDS include attendant - dressing the diver, controlling the divers umbilical hose and communicating through lifeline signals when voice comms aren't working, and panel operator - keeping the diver supplied with air, managing the pressure reducer and communicating with the divers via voice whilst the staff simulate blown hoses and run you ragged replacing cylinders and changing over various bits and pieces.
Following on from OSDS you get the underwater engineering package. Drilling, cutting and wondering whether you're going to be electrocuted when sparking up the Broco thermic lance - which has to be one of the coolest tools in the world, never has cutting through an RSJ been so fun. Stomping around the bottom in boots and a 17K helmet is a good laugh too, like being on the moon.
Moving onto the more traditional kit now, SABA Mod.1 - all new and revamped. Pretty bog standard scuba gear, 12.2l cylinder with a 3l Pony controlled by a switchblock to allow easy changeover to bailout - sweet, and an AGA Divator full facemask with Comms. All pretty straightforward stuff, set-up in a flash, easy to charge and maintain - complete opposite of OSDS so maximum diving time - a good thing you would think. But only good until you get bored of swimming up and down the same jackstay in Horsea lake for an hour at a time, 7 times a day, between the hours of 0800 and 2230. But hey, i'm probably winning the Meridien Divers Competition jobby, 20+ dives so far this year.
Well, thats about as far as i've got because they broke me. This week I should have been doing ships hull searches, but I've damaged my achilles tendon so now i'm off course and waiting for the next one to start in February. So back to square one! Great, another couple of months before they let me loose on the rebreathers.
Thankfully I can still dive with my injury, as it only effects my running, so I aim to go back to Sussex and hit the wrecks again while i'm waiting on my new course. If anyone fancies a dive sometime, let me know.
Hope everyone is well and maybe i'll see you in the water soon!
All the best,