Well at long last, and after a very difficult few months, I start to think about writing the blog post for the seven weeks i spent on Koh Lanta doing the PADI Divemaster training.
This blog post is touched by the sadness that comes from the death of Martina. However the only thing that i can about that is that life must continue, and I cannot look back over my shoulder at past events.
Hidden Depths Diving was where I was recommended to do the diving given the fact that its on the Andaman coast with beautiful seas and underwater wildlife, and the company has a speedboat which makes getting to and from the dive-sites much quicker than a big ol’ boat.
The main instructors (and owners) there are Gary Eldridge and Rich Mean and they are supported by a great crew of people (and friends) whom I had the great privilege of meeting, learning from them and spending time with them. So to begin, thanks go to: Jo Healey, Ali Stevenson, Cynthia Ouelette, Michelle Morgan, Dora Costas, Drew Johnson, Stefan Schlenk, Steve Branson, Captain Bao, Did, Gia, and the other Divemaster trainees who were there at the same time as me being Robbie Newton, Onkel Thomas and Alessandro (and apologies if I have missed anybody off, as will fix in a later blog update).
Martina and I decided several months before I started the Divemaster course that it would be really good for me to allow some of my scuba-diving dreams to become a reality.
The Divemaster training was planned as a six week course, on the assumption that I would be gaining all of the knowledge and experience that you need whilst at the Dive centre.
So it all starts with lots of reading, it’s recommended to skim read the chapter first to gain a overall knowledge of the topic being discussed, then re-read the chapter and answer the questions and knowledge reviews. It was convenient for me to start this way as the Hidden Depths Diving speedboat HD1 was out of the water for it’s annual refurbishment for a few days when Martina and I arrived in Lanta in late October.
Once you get passed the first 3 chapters, then real life experience with customers is allowed – a scary, but satisfying experience. The HDD staff are all trying to give you as much rounded experience as possible. So this means this means interacting with customers at all levels, from the moment they walk through the shop front door, until the time they leave, or you drop them back at their accommodation in the Dive Centre pick-up.
The main places I dived at was at Koh Haa and Koh Bida as these places were great for novice divers to gain their skills. More interesting diving was at Hin Daeng (red rock), and Hin Muang (purple rock), as these places often had strong currents and had great corals and a chance to see some of the bigger sea life.
Life as a Divemaster trainee, also involves lots of running around and doing some of the less glamorous jobs that still need doing when running a dive shop. One of these jobs was to wash the PVC cover of the speedboat whilst it was out of the water. Well we (me and other DMT’s Thomas and Robbie) had a good old time scrubbing away with only a small hand held brush and a broom – this was on both sides of the very large PVC cover, and occasionally having buckets of cold water thrown over us (unawares) by the ever so friendly instructors. Well in that heat it probably helped and kept us cool.
One of the interesting things in the course that I had to do was draw a map that included underwater features, and the assigned item was the underwater caves at Koh Haa. There are 3 submerged caves next to each other, and are one of the most notable reasons for people choosing to go diving at Koh Haa. The underwater mapping took two goes as I was trying to measure distances by fin kicks, and depths in relation to the depth gauge on my computer. I then drew the whole thing out as creatively as I could to include topography, points of interest, how the island looks like from the surface. All in all I can say that my drawing skills improved enormously doing this project.
Some of the other skills I learnt and tasks that I did were as follows (and many others that I have not mentioned below):
- Customer pick-ups and drop-offs.
- Cleaning and rinsing dive equipment after use.
- Guiding qualified and newly learning divers underwater.
- Helping with the pool shows at Twin Bay resort.
- Skills circuit at the indoor pool (practice made perfect to successfully take your mask off, swim round and then putting it back on again whilst breathing from the regulator).
- Shifting scuba tanks around the place.
- Snorkelling for 800m without lifting my head out of the water (lesson learnt here was just to partially lift my head out of the water to ensure that I was fin kicking in a straight line).
- Scuba tank knowledge about filling tanks at Ace and Esther’s.
- Preparing an emergency action plan for the Koh Haa dive site.
- Assisting with another diver’s Rescue diver course by pretending to be a panicking diver.
- Helping with another diver’s Rescue diver course.
I do have to point out that I was spending many hours at the dive centre and other dive related activities. I did take a few mornings and afternoons off (and occasional days), and this helped with being able to spend some time with Martina. We walked together to Kaw Kwang beach which was about 20 minutes walk from our accommodation. In hind-sight though, and I may never truly know this, I wonder if I was able to spend enough time with Martina, as I know that she needed me at that troubled time of her life, which was very difficult for me whilst I was doing the course. All I can say that when Martina passed away on the 5th December, was a point from when I started living more from my heart, and less from the mind – and would this have changed the past if I had done this earlier, that I do not know! All said, Martina RIP, love ya honey XXXXX.
I was very close to completing the Divemaster course at the time of Martina’s death, and my brother Martin came out from England to support me for the last few days I was in Lanta. So before Martin and I left Lanta, the last DMT task I had to do, and definitely the most challenging one was the equipment exchange. The point of this task is to do a complete equipment exchange underwater with a buddy whilst only sharing breathing from one regulator from one scuba tank between us. Thus you have to alternately hold your breath whilst removing and putting on scuba equipment, then take a few breaths from the regulator, and hold your breath again. All this and not feeling like you are drowning – for me definitely a big challenge, and I am glad I passed. Many thanks to Thomas (Onkle Tom), a fellow DMT during this exercise for being quick with the skills.
Upon completion of the Divemaster qualification, a tradition is that the person has a snorkel test. Normally this involves different types of party games designed to embarrass the Divemaster, and to complete the evening by drinking various alcoholic liquids which are poured down a snorkel tube into the Divemaster’s mouth who has to drink it all in one go. Well given my circumstances at that time, we (myself and the HDD crew) all thought that would not be in my best interests (and in reality I am getting a bit old for that sort of thing), so instead a BBQ and drinks evening were held instead for all available HDD crew and various friends. There aren’t any good photos of the event unfortunately, as the Nikon camera I was using was a bit ‘knackered’ and could not focus properly on anything when it was dark.