GUE Tech 2-Chapter 4: Maple Bay-Day 1

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October 25, 2021.

I woke up before my alarm feeling rested and content. I was in a really good headspace despite feeling anxious and nervous about the week ahead. The stress of just getting to Vancouver to even start Tech 2 was long gone, and now I could focus on what needed to be done. Guy had mentioned the day before that we’d probably dive on the first day but we’d spend some time in the morning doing some lectures and land drills. This was a common GUE format but it’s not always that you dive on the first day and I quite liked the idea of more in-water time.

I had my morning coffee and chatted with the MWEU guys as they packed all their gear getting prepped for the trip home. I relaxed in the breakfast nook and waited for the garage to open while I sipped on some coffee. Before long the garage opened up and I made my way over to find Guy doing his usual routine of prepping gear, filling tanks, etc. Kelvin arrived soon after, while Jon and I analyzed gas for the day. Afterwards we made our way into little classroom Guy has setup in his garage. Much of the lecture was a recap. Guy gave us the material ahead of time to study via his Thermocline Diving website. I liked this format a lot. He lectured on the course agenda, what to expect, and we covered some gas planning. There was the also the typical history of GUE, safety stuff and some additional specific information on tech diving.

The lecture lasted a few hours and at about 10am Guy told us we’d be going to Maple Bay. This was a dive site not far from his house. It’s the perfect place to train in fairly shallow water. I believe they even teach fundies there. Jon and I followed Guy and Kelvin over to Maple Bay which was only about a 10 minute drive. I was feeling a little nervous because some doubt and anxiety had started to creep into my thoughts. But the T2 train was moving and I was on it.

We pulled into this small parking lot at Maple Bay. There was a long wharf with a few old fishing boats, moored to it. Men on the wharf were unloading what may have been oysters or something. It wasn’t a particularly picturesque place. It was somewhat industrial, with old equipment and rusted fishing gear stacked on shore near by. Guy gave us a site brief and the dive plan. We were going to mostly cover fundamental skills like valve drills, smb deployment, gas sharing, ascent/descent, navigation, etc etc. I don’t even recall if we were using stage (I don’t think so, but we may have). We were were told we’d do one long dive and I was thinking I was going to be pretty cold. We geared up and and I was having trouble with my dry gloves not snapping into my wrist rings which was ultra annoying. I hadn’t had any issue the previous two days, so this was probably an indicator that I was more nervous that I cared to admit. I tried “lube” but that didn’t work so I had to borrow some of Jon’s silicon grease. I’m generally not a fan of Silicon because it seems to migrate to other gear and you really can’t just wash it off, but in this case it was absolutely necessary (so bring some if you plan to dive BC). Jon ran the GUE EDGE. Guy teaches a very specific method for GUE EDGE (but for good reason) that it was notably more regimented than what you typically find us lazy Florida cave divers doing. It’s no secret that cave divers are lazy, that’s why we’re cave divers and not boat divers.

After the EDGE, we made our way down a short set of stairs to the beach. There were some logs on the so we had to be careful getting into the water. The water felt colder or I was just more nervous. Once in the water I started to feel more relaxed for no particular reason which sort of surprised me. I half expected that the anxiety would be worse. I did my usual drysuit stretching routine and received some “ribbing” from the team since I guess I looked kinda silly like a drowning seal or something. But it’s my thing and I like it. Since everyone was basically waiting for me to finish my drowning seal routine gave the “Ok” sign and we were underway. We descended and swam under the wharf down a gently sloping bank of mostly mud and discarded tires, glass bottles and other unnaturally occurring landmarks of refuse, until we arrived at about 35 feet to a cinderblock. Guy had Jon shoot a bag and tie it to the block. Once we “Tied in” Guy gave us both rounds of skills, valve drills, parts of the basic five like S-drill, ascents and more. This lasted for a good 20 minutes and I felt pretty darn good with it. I suppose all that training has put most of that stuff as muscle memory at this point.

Guy handed us a reel and indicated that we were to swim off in a direction from the cinderblock as a team for about 50 or so feet and then turn around. I was number 1. I thought to myself, “This is the part where all hell breaks loose” but I was actually really enjoying myself and was kind of looking forward to it. Sure enough as we swam out about 50ft, and before we reached our turned, Jon had an “emergency” which we handled and “thumbed” the dive. We began making our way back to the cinder block, and soon had more “fun” to deal with but in each case we managed it and safely made our way back to our starting point. We did more of the same and to my surprise I looked at my dive time and it was well over an hour. I wasn’t terribly cold but was feeling it some. Moving and working was helping and I had put on an extra base layer that I got from walmart the day before so I think that was helping.

After almost an hour and twenty minutes of fun (and I do genuinely do mean fun) the dive was over. Guy indicated for us to exit, I pulled the SMB down and helped Jon reel it up. Once out of the water we geared down quickly and headed back to Guys house for the debrief. On the way back I was feeling really good. Most of that nervousness was long gone and I felt like I performed ok enough to move to day 2. I really tried not to have expectations. I was there to learn and passing or failing wasn’t a thought. I quite expected to struggle so I took that day as a win. We debriefed back that the classroom and Guy gave each of us some things to work on. Overall he was pleased with our performance but he did have little tips and pointers, and small stuff we could tune up to make things easier, especially related to diving in cold water. Class ended around 5pm and after getting gear situated I hopped in the car to head to walmart for groceries. This time I had time to get what I needed for the week, since I only had some clif bars and other small snacks I picked up at gas stations the previous few days.

I focused on getting fairly healthy snacks and food items to keep the energy up for the week. Things like hummus and salad, apples, and celery, I also grabbed some canned soup (not healthy but more for the soul) for the days I’d be super tired and just need to heat something up. I got oatmeal and eggs for the morning and fruit pouch snacks to take to the dive sites. However my favorite find was dill pickle rice cakes, which turned out to be delicious. Obviously coffee was a must and I was introduced to “Tim Hortons” which I later discovered is considered by some, a staple of Vancouver culture.

After walmart I made my way back to the BnB to find the MWUE guys had long since left and the house was fairly quiet. SJ and Jon had relocated from the RV they were staying in to the master bedroom and SJ was making some tea. The house was quiet and relaxing. Jon and I had some homework so I cut up some celery and added made some sharable snacks in case my housemates wanted some and started working on my gas calcs. I had a salad and veggie burgers for dinner. Overall I felt healthy and relaxed despite nearly everyone in the vicinity having at least a sniffle from the dreary rainy weather. I expected that the weather would give me a sinus infection but so far so good. I ended the day by prepping gear for the morning, making sure my light and heater pack was on charge.