Aquanauts Gets MV Trident’s Jamie Macleod and Stuart Oehl CCR Certified

Posted on 08/12/09 5 Comments
Aquanauts' Roger M. Smith (center) with the MV Trident's Jamie MacLeod (left) and Stuart Oehl. The Trident's famed deep wreck explorers finally got CCR certified with Aquanauts' help.

Aquanauts' Roger M. Smith (center) with the MV Trident's Jamie MacLeod (left) and Stuart Oehl. The Trident's famed deep wreck explorers finally got CCR certified with Aquanauts' help.

When it comes to wreck hunting and exploration in Thailand, there are few who can rival the experience of the MV Trident’s Jamie Macleod and Stuart Oehl. But what may surprise many is that nearly all their technical expeditions have been done on open-circuit, not closed-circuit rebreathers.

“We’ve been meaning to get some proper training on CCR for ages,” Jamie said. “We’ve organized dozens of CCR expeditions and supervised thousands of dives so the theory and logistics of the unit weren’t going to be too much of a problem. It was simply the diving we needed.”

Having known for Jamie for years – and with Aquanauts positioned as one of Thailand’s premier rebreather-training centers – I offered to get both guys certified and started on the road to becoming CCR instructors.

Getting Started

I arrived in Koh Tao around 3 p.m. and both guys wanted to get started right away on some theory and practical application.

That continued the next morning with Jamie on his newly acquired Inspiration Classic and Stuart on the Evolution Vision. The confined-water sessions were done at Koh Tao’s Mae Haad Beach.

Jamie preps his Inspiration Classic rebreather before confined-water training.

Jamie preps his Inspiration Classic rebreather before confined-water training.

The first session mainly deals with becoming familiar with the unit, proper weighting, buoyancy control and breathing. I always like to conduct this session in the sea, as it’s where the student will be using the unit, so there is no need for reconfiguration or weight adjustment. After the buddy check and clipping on their bailout tanks they entered the water.

I felt for the guys as they made their initial decent, remembering how I felt dealing with trim and buoyancy controls. Even for experienced tech instructors, the first descent feels awkward and it’s difficult to accept that you are starting over again.

“At first, as expected, buoyancy was terrible, as well as gas consumption and loads of water in the loop after each dive,” Jamie recalled. “Roger had us swimming around for at least an hour on each dive. Fish and coral. Fish and coral. Very boring. But we did get lots of time to play about with the unit, flying it manually, changing settings and reacting to Roger’s surprises.”

As the session drew to a close I noticed that the guys were feeling and looking a bit more at home.

Day 2

The second confined-water session prepares you for the first open-water dives and brushes up the skills introduced in the first session. It also makes you more familiar with the unit. During the dive Jamie and Stuart were both able to take 2 kg of lead off their harnesses. By the end of the session I knew the guys were ready for following day’s two dives.

At the end of the session we went through logging scrubber time, battery use and cleaning the unit, as well as turning off the electronics.

During the debriefing, the guys admitted to feeling a little discomfort but said they felt confident that they would soon switch their open-circuit brains to CCR mode.

Stuart prepares to refit the head to the scrubber assembly of his Evolution.

Stuart prepares to refit the head to the scrubber assembly of his Evolution.

Open Water Training

Open water day as usual started with theory and practical application. By the end of this session the guys felt that they were ready for the final exam scheduled for the following morning. They had received their manuals early and were sharp.

All dives were to be made from the MV Trident, their well-known wreck-diving vessel.

The first dive was made at Pottery Pinnacle, a shallow site ideal for what we needed. The dive went well with both guys able to meet performance requirements. It was very satisfying that they took things so seriously and understood the importance of doing so. Afterward they remarked how comfortable the dive felt near its end.

Dive two was at the same site. By now they were both looking relaxed and responded well to the problems I surprised them with as well as the ones they knew were coming.

Dives three and four were made at White Rock, a site that gave us more depth but still excellent visibility. First they completed the final exam and, apart from the usual ambiguous questions, their efforts were rewarded with both Jamie and Stuart surpassing the 80% mark required.

This is when I saw the guys become confident and begin to experiment with their hand units, as well as descend and ascend on the reef purposely to master their buoyancy control without wasting precious gas, a skill they will benefit from in later dives.

jamie-filter

Dives five and six are conducted as experience dives where the pressure is off and they can simply relax and enjoy themselves. It was decided that Chumphon Pinnacle would be the site to conduct both these dives.

One of Koh Tao most popular sites was busy and many divers were both surprised and interested to see guys diving on CCR units. As predicted, the guys were in full control of their units and enjoyed the dives.

Both Jamie and Stuart expressed how much they felt they had learnt and were looking forward to continuing there education at a later date once they had logged further dives.

“At the end of the course the dives went very smoothly; no water in the loop, lots of gas left and weighting just right,” Jamie said. “I felt we’d done OK. We had to promise Roger at the end to take it easy, though: No deco or trimix for a while. That’s just fine by me.”

After the last dive we completed the required paperwork for certification as these guys were a breeze.

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