Wednesday, 13 August 2014


I’ll try not to bore you to death on this blog.  I’m sure that a lot of you will have heard about TEKCamp by now, and if not click on the hyperlinks to find out more.  After attending TEKCamp in 2012 (link), I was given the opportunity to attend in 2013 as a Safety Diver.  Alas, work got in the way so I was unable to attend however I was determined to attend this year.  Although nearly a month late, below are my experiences of the week.

Monday 14th July
Leaving Birmingham at 0530 I made the long drive Vobster Quay.  The site opened at 0800 and as I was there a little early I decided to pop over to the campsite.  In previous years, the site has been just a short drive down the road.  This year however it was at Vobster Quay, located in the field just to the right of the entrance.  As well as the standard portaloos, there was a water point and a camp fire area.  Once my recce was done I headed down to the carpark to setup for the day.  This year I was prepared and my twinset was already full of 32%, so I found a kitting up bench and put my kit together.  Despite working the previous week my O2 sensor in my analyser had packed in so it was off to the shop to get a replacement.  I could see already that the week wasn’t going to be as cheap as I thought!  Once set up I headed off to find Tara to fill out all the paperwork and to hand in a copy of my HSE medical.  The carpark was starting to fill with people scurrying about everywhere which was fine for me as my kit was sorted so I decided to catch up with a few faces I hadn’t seen for a while.

At around 0900 we were all ushered into the newly erected marquee by Tim who had been promoted from general busy body and all round good guy to OIC TEKCamp.  Everyone was briefed on the outline of the week and most importantly, your buddies and diving instructor (and safety diver!). 

I was paired with Phil Grigg on sidemount.  As this was the first dive at the week Phil covered confiruration basics before we entered the water.  We entered the water via the steps off the side marquee and I led us along the 12m shelf to the platforms at the far end.  We then covered mask replacement, propulsion techniques, trim and buoyancy, valve drills, s-drills/OOG and team awareness.  Not all of it was carried out at the platform as we also spent time around the plane and crushing works.

During the surface interval the students/customers/participants had another chance to tweek their kit, grab some lunch and listen to the first of the ‘tech talks’; Deco Myths by Mark Powell and Cave Exploration in Mexico by Garry Dallas.

After the lectures it was briefing time again and I was remaining with Phil Grigg for VMS Sentinel training.  This was a 1 on 1 session for a Sentinel diver, however during the week a number of CCR trydives were being conducted on the following units; VMS Sentinel, Poseidon MkVI and Se7en, AP Diving Inspiration and the Hollis Explorer.  The expense continued for me as Phil noticed a small bubbles from my HP hose so it was back again to the shop for more shopping.

After the second dive the kit was stripped down and the cylinders placed inside the compressor room.  With the amount of cylinders to fill I didn’t envy the staffs job of filling them.  Whilst the BBQ was being served and a few drinks were being consumed, Paul Toomer setup for the first of the ‘Keynote Speaker’ talks; Diving The Wrecks of Bikini Atol.  In his own words, you need to sell a kidney to dive there but this is a must for any diver.  Definitely one for the bucket list.  After the talk I headed up to the campsite to setup and called it a night; it had been a long one.

Tuesday 15th July
No need for an alarm as my usual body clock had me up at 0600, although I lay there until 0700.  I had my running kit but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered.  Once I was up I jumped in the car and drove down to the car park for the final time and nabbed my perfect parking spot.  There was method in this madness as it appeared a few other divers did the same.  Because the campsite was that close you could simply walk back every night.  After using the facilities to shower and wake myself up it was kit assembly time and then wait for Tim to herd us into the marquee.

Today I was safety for Vikki Batten and we started off with Stage Handling.  After a discussion by Vikki I again led the way out to the platform and laid a line along it.  The students practiced ditching and retrieving cylinders using the line, as if they were in a cave, before moving onto single and multiple cylinder gas switches.  Some divers had only ever used one stage, some had never used any but they all did really well.  The dive finished off with a team ascent deploying DSMBs and carrying out multiple switches.

At lunchtime divers were treated to 2 more presentations; Wrecks of Scapa Flow by Kieran Hatton and Cave Diving by Graham Blackmore.

After the lectures it was again briefing time and I was with Vikki again covering Line Laying.  Vikki’s passion is cave diving, and I am also a cave diver so we made a great team.  We started off with some surface teaching and practices before hitting the water where the students not only practiced line laying, but also acting a number 2s, failures and touch contact exits.

The day finished off with a lecture from cave explorer, instructor trainer, and EUROTEK speaker Martin Robson on his Blue Lakes Project*.

*THE talk of EUROTEK 2012; 200+m deep cave dive along with everything that can (and did) go wrong.  A must listen to talk for all divers.

Wednesday 16th July
I won’t bore you now with the beginnings and endings of the days from now on unless significant, they’re much of a muchness.  Today I was to be a safety diver for Mark Powell covering technical rescues.  The mornings session was based around CCR and dealt with front and rear facing lifts, underwater propulsion with a casualty, decompression stops with a casualty, rescue breathing and de-kitting.  After a discussion on the various options available to a rescurer, we descended onto the Jacquin II where the students saw a demo of the different style of lifts and then managed to practice the skills, including simulated decompression stops. 

The lunchtime ‘tech talks’ were Dive Computers by Mark Powell and Diving in North Carolina by Adam Wood.

The afternoon continued with rescues but involved CCR, sidemount and twinsets.  This time we descended onto the platform below the sheltered water area and carried out similar skills to this morning.  One lesson that become clear was don’t pay lip service to buddy checks!  De-kitting unfamiliar kit off a casualty is harder than you may think, and could untimately have a serious impact on a real life rescue.

The ‘Keynote Speaker’ talk tonight was a little different; a Guided Tour of Wookey Hole by Dr Duncan Price.  I was lucky enough to do this back in 2012 and it was a great show.  I nearly didn’t bother going to this one but I’m so glad I did.  It’s just a shame that you need to be a member of the CDG to dive there L. 

Thursday 17th July
I was back in the company of by Mark Powell today doing a deco overload, or as I call it ‘Dive and Survive’.  Like the rescue session yesterday, this was to be a repeat session with 2 different groups.  The scenario was that they were conducting a 60 something meter dive to try and locate and survey a downed WWII aircraft.  There was going to be a decompression trapeze, drop tank and a safety diver.  The first group had planned on tieing the shot into the wreck, the scond to attach the trapeze to the shot line, and they were the third who needed to put the emergancy cylinder on the trapeze before descending, tagging in and go diving.  Also, if the shot was not on the wreck they would need to line off and try to locate it, and once found conduct a survey, dealing with any problems that may arise.  There was also a set (simulated) deco schedule that they had to hit.

The first group was a group of 3.  The descent was fine, however the line laying started about 5-10m away from the base of the shot with not secondary tie off and a fair distance to the next tie off.  Needless to say, the line was going to ‘break’.  The group eventually found the wreck before by Mark threw in a number of problems.  The first was an OOG which was dealt with well, however due to the loose line they managed to get entangled.  Once this was dealt with they left the line in search of the wreck.  I remained behind to recover the reel and found the group at 9m, one still breathing from the long hose.  With another decompression stop to go, I won’t bore you with the details but there were a number of OOG/cylinder failures which resulted in numerous long hose deployments, use of a yellow DSMB to call the safety diver with an extra cylinder and finally buddy breathing.  All whilst maintaining buoyancy and working as a team to ensure that everyone carried out their decompression obligation.  Remember, had one of the group lost buoyancy and exceeded their MOD of the decompressin gas, a (simulated) O2 hit would have arisen.  The group performed very well.

The afternoon dive was conducted in a similar mannor but with only 2 divers which meant not only were there were less options available in the event of an incident, but there wasn’t a team member who wasn’t involved with the incidents available to deal with the dive.  Deploying a DSMB or running the decompression schedule for example.  The buddy pair performed excellently, and earned a round of applause from Mark and I on the surface.

One point I would like to add after observing this, if deploying a DSMB for an emergancy, it only actually means anything IF the skipper or surface cover is appropiately briefed prior to the start of the dive (in this case they (me) were).  Additionally, when deploying the DSMB have a glance up to ensure it had reached the surface.  The safety diver (me) was delayed at one point as one of the groups DSMBs had got snagged on a higher bar on the decompression trapeze.

An excellet dive, it’s just a shame my primary reel has about 20m less line on it now!

Taking a step backwards, the lunch time talks were St Georges Survey Project by John Kendall and Cave Surveying Techniques by Vikki Batten and Martin Robson.

The evenings The ‘Keynote Speaker’ talk was Wreck Diving in Croatia by Rich Walker, but that wasn’t the end as Thursday night was party night.  Usually reserved for the Friday, the BBQ is often missed as people shoot of home early so for 2014 it was brought forward.  A top night was had, and a little too much was probably drank but everyone was in good spirits and no-one wanted to miss the final day.

Friday 18th July
The morning after the night before!  Everyone was up, although some later than others, but it wasn’t an issue as today was a one dive day.  After the usual briefs we split up into our groups and today I was in a combined group with Vikki Batten and Martin Robson covering survey techniques.  Linda was the other safety diver.

After a surface brief, we left the students to plan the dive (including any (simulated) decompression), mark up their cylinders and jump in the water.  The dive location was the Jacquin II and after the long swin the group descended.  At the bottom the group split laying their line and survey markers, having ditched the cylinders at the base of the shot.  After the allotted time the group returned to the base of the shot to find some of their cylinders were ‘missing’.  An ascent was conducted where further failures happened resulting in the buddy breather of a single cylinder per pair.  Again the divers performed well under pressure but there are two things possible worth noting.  Firstly, if you come back to a pre-designated  point and YOUR cylinder is missing, DO NOT take someone elses.  It’s theirs.  They will need it.  Revert to your backup plan.  And if on an ascent things are getting too much, leave the DSMB in the water.  Ascend up the line and don’t worry about reeling in.  Things can go from bad to worse very quickly if you add an entanglement to the situation.  You can always pull the reel in once on the surface.

Well that was it, TEKCamp was done.  Kit was sorted out and because it was a lovely day it all dried in the sun during the ‘tech talks’; Cognitas Incident Research and Management by Gareth Lock and EUROTEK 2014 by Rosemary Lunn. 

The prize draw soon followed with nearly a 1:2 prize to attendee ratio.  Prizes included Light-For-Me primary light and GoPro video set, Fourth Element J2 thermals, Otter drysuit, Santi and DUI undersuits, £500 Sea & Sea voucher, £50 DiveSigns voucher, 2 copies of Deco for Divers by Mark Powell, TecLine wing, Miflex goodybag, Apeks Tek3 twinset regulators, Masks, Hollis SMS system to name a few. 

Following the prize draw there were 2 more presentations; UK Mine/Cave Diving and Exploration by Ian France and the Wreck of Norway by Kieran Hatton. 

Thanks for reading.  I hope you enjoyed the blog, unfortunately my words do not do it justice.  There was a number of other classes conducted during the week that I was not safety for.  For a full list of the classes available check out the website.

My video of the week can be seen below.

 In addition, an edited version was done for TEKCamp.  It can be viewed at Vimo here.

Next year’s dates are 13-17 July 2015.  I strongly recommend TEKCamp to any diver.  You don’t know what you’re missing.  Tickets are currently on sale so why not reserve your space for only £100?

See you there next year?

Photo courtesy of Jason Brown at BARDOCreative

The boring bit!
All opinions expressed in my articles are my own and may differ to other instructor’s and agency guidelines; by no means are they wrong and I would not wish to disrepute any of them.  This article is for information only and should not replace proper training.

Safe diving!

Timothy Gort
BSAC, PADI and SDI/TDI diver training
l Mob: 07968148261 l Email: l