by Steve Barclay
After almost 20 years of recreational SCUBA diving, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. Every now and again I saw something about technical diving but thought, why do I need to do that? I’ve dived deep and know what I’m doing.
Having an interest in wrecks and being new to Sydney, I was very keen to explore what was on offer here. Sydney has some excellent wrecks to explore such as The Adelaide off Terrigal, as well as the wrecks off Eden, however some of the really interesting wrecks are the ones which met their end in a more unplanned, and often tragic way. The demise of these vessels likely involved collisions with rocks close to shore however the final resting place was often outside the limits of recreational SCUBA diving.
Imagine the frustration of fantastic historical wrecks in great condition, with amazing stories of past voyages and dramatic end so close by, however inaccessible as they were 5-10 meters beyond the maximum depths which I was trained to dive.
I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about enrolling in the Tec40 course. The course needed two of everything which included a twin BCD – what’s the point? Also, when finished, who would I dive with? I wasn’t in the ‘clique’ of what I viewed as ‘hard core extreme divers’. Why also, would I do a course which wouldn’t allow me to dive any deeper than the deep specialty?
The course through Abyss was actually a lot of fun. Yes, there was a lot to learn and new equipment to master, however the instructor was thorough, however easy going, which gave everyone confidence in the new skills and equipment we had to use. Having completed the course, I now feel that I can dive much more safely, even at greater depths. The Tec course gives you the skills to be self sufficient if required, the focus on your team, ability to use backup equipment plus a much greater understanding of how to avoid risks associated with depth and gas mixes.
After a weekend at LillyPilly doing skills, we were ready for The Adelaide. Yes, it is still in recreational limits, but diving with a large air supply due to twin tanks plus the ability to extend bottom time with up to 10 minutes of decompression time was awesome! After two dives which still seemed way too short, we deployed the SMB for our decompression stops.
I look back now on my hesitation at undertaking the course – the additional gear is such a great investment – the redundancy with dual tanks, regs and a technical BCD is an investment in my safety. Jamie often said that simply diving beyond the recreational limits isn’t technical diving. Even though the Tec40 course doesn’t allow you to dive deeper than the deep specialty, the additional bottom time due to dual tanks (more air) plus allowable deco time are huge! Finally, I have found that Abyss are regularly organizing deep dive trips. I just went on one to Nelson Bay where we dived the McClay and Oakland with a group of very friendly deep and Tec divers through the shop. The dives are led by experienced and friendly Abyss staff.
Jamie and the Abyss staff are very professional and make the courses fun. With this new adventure into Technical diving, I feel like I have regained the spark which I had the first time I ever went underwater and am looking forward to new experiences in Vanuatu this month on the Coolidge as well as on the Satara next month. Bring it on!
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