Day 0 – Thu 20 May 2010
Myself, Mike, Maxim and Sean arrived in Malta around the 20th of May 2010. Now the first thing we did as soon as we dropped our kit at the Hotel was to go to Huggins for a pint of CISK!!! That is clearly the proper way to start a diving holiday. Huggins was the meeting point because apart from us (the four that went for technical diving training) 35 more recreational divers of Diving Leisure London had arrived the day before and started their diving holiday. It was going to be a MEGA big holiday and we knew it from the first moment. You could feel it in the air everyone was in for diving and even more for partying !!!
At some point we met up with our instructor who was very pleased to see us all there and of course advised us to make sure we have a good night’s sleep so that we are fresh and happy to start our IANTD Advanced Recreational Trimix course tomorrow morning.
A few hours later and after the last one of us arrived (I think it was Mike with the 01:00 flight) and had the celebrating pint(s) we decided to head to our hotels…
Day 1 – Fri 21 May 2010
Since we had waited for Mike to have his first (the celebrating) pint at 01:30 and we didn’t make it back to our hotel until well past 04:00 the morning after was Painful!!! None the less we managed to crawl to the TEC LAB with a massive hangover and in desperate need of coffee!!!
Once Paul arrived and we got in to the TEC LAB things like headache and hangover seemed to disappear very quickly because the place is awesome filled with toys everywhere!!! As soon as we walked in were welcomed by Paul’s and Stuart’s Rebreathers and the cave line guiding us further into what it looked like the Tech-Divers Dream room!!! Twinsets, Wings, Backplates, Aluminium Stages everywhere!, Diving Computers / Timers and regulators at the walls completed the scenery and immediately we knew we wanted to be here!!!
At that time Paul decided to start with the most exciting work that had to be done: sorting out kit (Yeeeey!!!) This is definitely my favourite part of the course this is where he went through our Recreational diving equipment and slated pretty much the vast majority it. My amber / yellow DSMB!, Split fins, Reels, Random bits of bunge cord on the reel, knives, snorkels, stupidly long instrument consols and other bits of kit were thrown away. Once that was done we got issued with proper technical divers gear J wings backplates, twinsets and other techie stuff that we needed for our course.
Once the kit was sorted we started the less thrilling part of the course the paperwork and the slide presentations. Now on of the problems of the Tec-Lab is that the chairs are a bit too comfortable J Yes I was more than happy to sit there and have my much needed siesta than do anything else!!! Fortunately the massive screen used to display the slides was bright enough and there was no need to deem the light because that would be the end of it for me…
Paul managed to deal with Death by Presentation, which many diving schools employ nowdays in an effort to kill their students by boredom, by breaking the slides and the presentation regularly and running examples with us and primarily Mike who from the very beginning expressed his KEEN interest in mathematics (NOT) and also by taking the mick of us and our hangover (nice!)
Fortunately that did not last for long and we had to break for lunch. Lunch was served at Tony’s and apart from a great steak and egg sandwich in Maltese BREAD (see we went for the healthy option) we got to meet the friendly locals a guy with a very very mean Harley Davidson and a proper German WWII helmet but a very (oh so gay) alarm!!!
After lunch we headed back to TEC LAB for the kit configuration part. Now again that was an adrenaline rush! Moved from the table and the presentations and Paul grabbed his gear and started setting up his rig. From the cylinders (manifold, valves, bands) to the backplate, harness regs everything what do we need, why do we need them how to use them and how not to abuse them. In one word: Awesome!!!
At last having completed all the introductory stuff we headed for the water!!! And I have to say on one hand I was looking for ward to it but on the other hand I was terrified because although I had dived with a twinset before (manifolded and not) but had never tried to isolate it or do any shut down drills L I was scared!!! For our first skills circuit we (Paul) decided to dive the “house reef” it is nothing like a reef since there is no such thing a reef in the Mediterranean (not a coral reef) any way!!! but it is very conveniently located by the sea front of Dive Wise a dive centre that we were using for our gas fills.
After a fair bit of fuff (getting into that kit was a new experience!!!) and me carrying my twinset for around 100 m without any good reason at all we got in the water (woo hoo!!!)
Now surprise Number 1. Never ever before in my life had I dived with 4 kg of weight and a dry suit now actually I had never dived with 4 kg of weight anyway!!!
Surprise number 2. An 11 (80 cf) cylinder is quite easy to deal with underwater!!!
Surprise Number 3. Shut down drills are a bit over ratted. I must admit think they were a lot easier to perform than I originally thought of and actually every time I had trouble with them it was because I was looking for the manifold far lower than it was!!!
Surprise Number 4. no many how many dives I had done my buoyancy was all over the place. The rig was pushing my head down and I was trying to balance it desperately!!!
After a few shut downs, out of air drills and taking off / putting on our stages we decided to call the day and go to Huggins (of course!!!) for a very hearty meal (think mine was a Huggins Mixed Grill) and a few drinks with the Diving Leisure London divers. Past experience suggested that we should behave (unlike last night) and retire early to avoid this mornings pain J and surprisingly enough we did!
And that Was the end of Day 1!!!
Day 2 – Sat 22 May 2010
We met at the TEC LAB with Paul, loaded our kit to the WARRIOR and headed off to Dive Wise to pick up our cylinders which we left there the night before for them to fill. Once we got our cylinders we went to Wied Iz Zurrieq (Blue Grotto) to dive the reef (much to my disappointment) rather than dive The Um El Faroud
But of course Mr Toomer was right we were not ready to dive Faroud yet! Well we had dived her as recreational divers before but not as Technical divers!!! We prepared our dive plans with loads of simulated decompression stops and after a very long (Toomer style) dive brief we got in the water. I was a bit surprised that Paul gave the return signal before we reached our planned target depth but that was because we had reached our turn around point according to our dive (time) plan (OUPS!!!). After a few “entertaining” gas switching exercises and loads of buoyancy troubles we returned back to the shore for our break before the next dive.
After the debrief of the first dive, a very light lunch (realising that I desperately need a diet) further planning for the next dives the second and the third dive went along in similar lines with more circuit training and more drills.
While we were training (in the classroom or circuit training in the open water) Stuart was always with us and he was filming or taking photos all the time trying in order to create a promotion video for Diving Matrix.
Now at this point I am sure you know what we did next? Yes! we dropped the cylinders for filling, the kit at the TEC LAB and we went to Huggins for a few pre Curry drinks with the Diving Leisure London crew. The curry place was a bit overwhelmed by us since they probably never ever had to serve one 35 person table before with only 20 minutes notice!!! And as you can imagine it did not go perfectly well (think starters started coming at around 23:00!!!) Having said that the food was great! and I would very much like to go again!
Day 3 – Sun 23 May 2010
Having behaved the night before and knowing that today we are actually diving the Faroud (rather than the reef near Faroud) we met at the shop early and after a quick stop at Divewise (to get our air fills) we went to Wied Iz Zurrieq were we had a very pleasant conversation with the local Car Park Manager who was thrilled to see us and our diving kit lying around in the car park. Having said that I must admit that he was really helpful although most of the time he was speaking in a bizarre mixture of English / Maltese that we could not understand!!!
You probably know that I do not believe in sun screen on any sort of creams in general. BIG mistake. While out on a lovely day like this I could feel my scalp frying and that was not fun! Once we got our first real decompression dive plan ready and Paul briefed us on what was the purpose of the dive and what was further skill circuit training we had to do, we got into our kit, did our pre dive checks and jumped in the water. Well some of us jumped in the water (myself, Sean, Stuart, Kirsten and Andris) Mike and Maxim were no where to be seen!!! As we are waiting about 5 minutes in the water floating in the surface hapilly like seals Paul comes to site and very very excited he announces to us that the reason behind Mikes and Maxims delay is two blond girls that Mike and Maxim were chatting up!!! After about 15 minutes they both made it to the quay side and decide that it was time to dive J
Once in the water everything went to plan. We descended according to plan found the Faroud and had a very nice dive around it. I think this is the first time EVER I dived the Faroud without any penetration! But it was still a great dive (who would have thought!!!) As agreed in our dive plan we started our ascent and our journey back. This is where things got slightly more exciting with myself and Sean suffering with Buoyancy problems and Maxim doing a very “hasty” gas switch and switching to his decompression gas only to find it OFF!!!
Once we got over these “minor” issues we were again in control and headed back to our exit point. Rather than surfacing though we went at the back end of the gulf and finished our circuit training after a fairly long 90 minute dive (new personal record!!!)
Having completed our circuit training we dropped off the cylinders for filling and then back to TEC LAB to finish off the remaining theory of our ART course.
Not too late we left the TEC LAB and headed to Huggins where we had dinner without the Diving Leisure London crew who were having dinner at the Avenue to celebrate their last night in Malta with a great meal! We would have joined in that but we were delayed by best trimix and other similar trivial calculations unfortunately! Of course as soon as they finished they came to find us and party! After a few sensible drinks I had to leave and go to bed just when they were working on the Karaoke list!!! There are many photos of that night (and the part that I missed) on Diving Leisure London facebook page and other profiles and you can see the first light of the dawn on them…
Day 4 – Mon 24 May 2010
Gutted because we had missed a great night out but SUPER excited to dive the Imperial Eagle a car ferry at 40 m deep we were up bright and early!!! This was our first technical dive. The first dive on trimix (26/23 and 50) and for me a new dive site!!! A new wreck that I had not dived ever before! And needless to say I was really really excited about it. Once we got everything ready we went to the coast to meet with Danny and his friendly Maltese skipper Owen. These two made Statler and Waldorf look like a friendly couple of old friends!!!
After quite a few near misses (very slippery jetty) we boarded on Dannys RIB and headed out to the Eagle. Once Owen shot the wreck Mike, Maxim, Sean, myself, Andris, Alex, Adam, Stuart and Paul jumped into the water and started our descent to the Statue of Jesus Christ. From the statue the wreck was visible and we made our way to the bows. When we reached the wreck we descended (well I did) to the seabed which much to my disappointment was only at 38 m trying to get 40 m on my computer. Soon I realised that that was not working and I lifted my self up and started enjoying my dive. The Imperial Eagle is a very beautiful wreck and it looks like there is a fair bit to penetrate. This is what Alex and Andris did and we saw their stages left outside one opening, that they decided to penetrate. Moving to the stern I could see that the bottom had formed a trench and the propellers were still visible and immediately I dived down and got my UEMIS to record 40 m!!!
After that we reached our turn around point and headed back to the statue of JC and the shot line. After an ascent that went exactly as planned our heads popped out in the surface and Owen brought the boat to pick us up.
One of the things I had not got used to was my stage and as I tried to climb the ladder Danny kindly volunteered to help me an relieve me of my stage cylinder. Only problem was that my stage was still connected to my dry suit!!! (more OUPS) I think this is where I earned the “Zorba The Greek” nickname although Zorba was never known to be a dumbass like me!!!
Once back in shore we had a great lunch at the café next to the quay and made our way back to the hotel having of course agreed the time that we will meet at Haggins to celebrate!!! Back at Huggins with Andris, Alex, Mike and Sean ready to celebrate their last night in Malta and myself and Maxim always up for a drink and looking forward to celebrate our qualification what followed can be described very well by one word: CARNAGE !
We started with CISK of course and gradually went through to jags of Vodka & Red Bull, Gin & Kinnie, Southern Comfort & Kinnie, Jager Bombs, Sambuca Shots averything really it didn’t matter what it was we would drink it! At any point in front of us we would have at least a pint of CISK and a long drink and a shot on its way J. When we had enough of that we moved on to PLUSH for shisha (as any good diver who respects his / hers lungs would do!!!) After that a tour to Havana and Fuego followed and it was about sunrise when we decided to get back to our hotel.