The winter is near, we are at the end of November and here in Italy the activity slows manifestly, because of climate change and of the approaching Christmas and New Year.
Accomplice even the cold and the sea that are capricious and not tempt divers to go into the water, otherwise decides to travel to distant places. The fortune of my work is this, when you think that the season is about to end, here comes the mail from one of my dear student, Luigi, inviting me to give him the courses of CCR Rebreather Voyager 1 and Helitrox NAUITEC in one of most beautiful places in the world, the Maldives!
It’s the realization of a dream, spend a month in the Maldives, paid expenses and everything, but not limited to, make customized courses to these conditions is not something to everyone and I feel flattered.
I met Luigi a couple of years ago, came to my diving OceanoMare to learn use of rebreather and took course SCR Rebreather Voyager 1 NAUITEC.
From there, was born a friendship that led me to work with him and other dear friends of the underwater world, the Maldives. Luigi fact resided several years in the North Male atoll, is a full-time instructor and is also a technician ASSIET, responsible for all equipment of diving centers Albatros in the Maldives.
The preparations for departure are demanding, I’ve got to bring everything needed for the courses, less weight as possible!
Not an easy undertaking given the restrictions of the airlines, pain, high cost of extra weight. But not discourage me, of patience began to disassemble my faithful Voyager and pack everything.
During the trip I find myself thinking how many wonderful places I could work around the world. Egypt, Sudan, Mexico, Maldives, put into even the Mediterranean, where I live now, which is also one of the most beautiful seas in absolute. I consider myself a lucky who loves his work, be professional diving instructors it is. Arriving in “my” island Dhonveli, it seems that little or nothing has changed since the previous time to greet friends found us and immediately start to work with my student.
The island will be our base of operations for the first 2 weeks of the course, here in fact prepare the area with the booster pump for oxygen, analyzers for the mixing system and all that we can serve. Needless to say here is coming monsoon dry, a climate perfect for everything. In the afternoon we go for a tour in Malè, the capital, to retrieve the bottles of helium, oxygen and a few missing links.
Return to base overloaded, we start immediately with the first lesson, assembly and configuration of CCR Voyager. Luigi has spent the last few months to experience in water in SCR configuration, I must say that I found very capable and perfectly at ease in handling the rebreather. While setup rebreathers outdoors, here come the people, not every day, in an island in the Maldives, to see even two rebreathers together and begin spontaneous questions, both by tourists that the staff of the diving intrigued to see us busy around these two “things”, all under the amused eyes of the base leader, Salvo, old friend, who, keen to see the transactions, because the tourists and curious about them approach to diving. The day ends early enough, now I’m beginning to feel the fatigue of travel and a bit of jet lag, tired but glad I left Italy in the cold and bad weather.
Drink with friends of staff Albatros, you begin to dream where we’re going to do the diving course and what we can do, a quick dinner, accompanied by the same themes, and then quickly to bed. I still have a little jet leg and effort to get up, but after a few minutes I run out of bed to begin operations.
This morning’s start with the evidence of oxygen metabolic consumption, after a half hour of theory, Luigi is already on his back with his rebreather and slate in hand, who walks around and writes ! People who saw him took him to be crazy! Indeed, if in a Maldivian island, somebody met a guy in sunglasses, shorts and sneakers, it may seem quite normal, but if wearing a rebreather on the back, makes strange ways through the corrugated and take notes while walking, becomes a phenomenon circus and can not go unnoticed!
The captain Dhoni, along with his crew, burst out laughing every time he walks past them. Luigi cursing me every time I cross with the look, because that is the figure in front of people who are unaware, but I try to make him understand the importance of this exercise to better understand the concept of oxygen metabolic consumption and management in a rebreather schemes such as Voyager 1. The tests continue throughout the morning in different modes, at rest, comfortably seated in a chair on the beach, with moderate activity, running around in the vicinity of diving and exercise, running throughout the island, under the amused glance all!
At the end of testing, it’s back in court to process the data obtained. In this way we succeeded in getting the values of metabolic rate real enough for our needs, in the afternoon we will put into practice everything going in the water in the house reef.
Thank goodness Luigi is an instructor, I must say that it is prepared, precise and meticulous, as not many of our colleagues, that helps me in explaining the concepts amounts to remain firmly etched in who uses a rebreather, my idea is always that rebreather is that for many, but not for everyone. Embrace the warm water is fantastic, it was so long that I did not dive with 3 mm and the reb on my back, he recalls the days of Egypt in Sharm el Sheikh and Hurgadha when I worked with CCR “Infinito” produced by PowerBreathe, are now almost ten years, but now I taste better these moments, because the Voyager 1 is a great machine for its category. Respiratory optimal comfort, combined with the maneuverability of the machine, make it the winning way to learn to use a rebreather mechanical optimally. Accomplice also, the convenience of being in warm water at 30 degrees, instead of wearing a dry suit as the first 4 days at home, with all its advantages and disadvantages. The first exercises in the water flowing fast, so there remains a lot of time to do a good swim underwater, always under my supervision.
The following days passed serene, alternate theory lessons and data processing, for diving in the most varied conditions of current. Here the current is the mistress of the house and we must learn to live with it, the first drift dive is in a nice pass near the island. After 20 minutes of sailing we are at the mouth of the channel, we finish the last briefing to outline the means of a dive, a check for dear bailout and we jump in the water at the negative buoyancy to get quickly on the wall. During the descent the hand is glued to bypass the diluent, in these conditions do not have much time to think, you have to act almost instinctively with his eye glued to the monitor ppO2. Luigi follows me and does the same, do not lose an eye moments, you never know!
Aquarium of the wall is very bright, the water is crystal clear and is full of reef fish that hover around us. They seem confused when we arrived, they can not understand who or what we are, the shape is exactly that of human thinking, but do not bubbles! Besides the advantages of high autonomy, respiratory gases comfortable and soft deco profiles, the fact does not bubble, it is often undervalued in the open sea, but when you are close to the fish, we realize the value.
The last day of class we do a reef dive in the house reef, we need to repeat all the skills on emergencies, to give a little more practice, but while we’re on the bottom, a shadow is close behind me, Luigi sign me, but I do not understand right away, I turn and see a figure increasingly clear. I am surprised at the sight of the dolphin that comes to us, it’s a beautiful grey bottlenose great, starts to circle around once, twice, three times, passes over our heads, next, he stops and looks so curious. Although we are a surprise for him, big and quiet, who knows what will he think? Finally, after a long minute, he turns and walks away with a few strokes of the tail. Another one of those unforgettable experiences, thanks to the Voyager 1.
As planned the CCR course ends in a little less than a week, with one more beautiful than 6 dives, some in the current pass with rivers, some on the tile, the shoals that dot the inner sides of the atolls. Almost all performed at about 40 meters with air diluent, as it is the first step and a recreational ppO2 of 1.3 constantly monitored by Luigi. Rinsed and disinfected for good, so we move immediately to set up gas cylinders and regulators in planning for the Helitrox course Nauitec.
The program of theory, completely changes the arguments over the course CCR and my student is faced with new ideas forward. Before diving into our beloved house reef, just to develop the equipment, various settings, some refresher on skills with technical SMB and we leave the water satisfied with the work done, even though it may seem superfluous, but a dive like that, it becomes crucial to obtain a proper weighing, particularly in the technical set-up. The rest of the afternoon we spend in the blending Helitrox into the twin tank, prepare the deco stage, gas analysis and labeling rite.
At this point we end the day at the computer to print the plans decompression we needed the next day. We discuss the pros and cons of various choices of blends, then learn about the software gap for tables RGBM, program funding NAUITEC.
The 4 dives only do the walls and ocean pass, the meetings are always interesting, turtles, manta rays, sharks and eagle rays are always present in this rich sea. We are much more advantaged than other recreational divers, we can stay under water longer and even deeper, thanks to our Helitrox 26-17 and deco stage with Ean 50 and pure oxygen.
Just 3 days and already completed the course, at this point during the appetizer, I would also hand over the diploma courses CCR Rebreather Voyager 1 and Helitrox NAUITEC, farewell toast and dinner at the Taj restaurant in Malè, tonight we celebrate! The evening is pleasant, the friends of the diving there studded with technical questions and not, Hogartiane configurations, on the rebreather, the mysteries of deco and much more. Allowed to answer most of the time of Luigi, are quiet, is a model student and prepared and do not run the risk of looking foolish, thank goodness!
Countdown 10 days to departure, I have finished the course in time and instead of remaining on the island, we decided to prepare all our equipment for a cruise diving, we will be guests for a week aboard the luxury yacht “Conte Max” pride of the fleet of Albatros Top Boat. We have little time and lots of gear system, the goal is to go there to do some dive into CCR and others in technical configuration in OC to implement everything that was taught during class, what better opportunity? To do this we must bring all the reb, booster for oxygen, helium, twin set, internships, etc. etc.
It gives us a ride in support of the dhoni boat to the island is, is a luxury service, but with 2 important guests, you could not do less, one is responsible for all equipment of diving Albatros, other, is his personal trainer! We placed in the cabin, so we are starting today when they arrived all the guests from the airport, the destination this time is down south, we’ll go on atolls of Mulakhu and Felidhu. After almost a night of sailing, the boat is still for us to rest, the show that gives our eyes the next morning is beautiful. No boat, no island, nothing except our boat and the reef that surrounds us.
Luigi once we are ready, prepare the new sofnolime of rebreather, setup sensors and assemble all the other diver guests before they arrive. The first fun dive for my boyfriend, does not believe even he should not do exercises or robe like that, but only needs to put into practice what he learned in the days before, a tale!
After returning from the dive, crew welcoming us with towels and fruit, I feel almost embarrassed at the bottom are not used to because I too am a staff and usually I take care of the welfare of my divers. The week in the boat flies off that not even realize it, we made 13 dives, all in different places and were more beautiful than the last, difficult to rank, in part because some were perfect for diving into other CCR diving more funds to the mix, all the while accompanied by the curious eyes of several guests of the boat and the divemaster who promptly asked for everything.
I realized that here in the Maldives, rebreathers are not very common, there are a couple of realities such as the famous Axel Horn (NAUI instructor) who has been working for 25 years in these seas, and another island that offers some discovery with rebreathers SCR, but nothing more. Luigi started to put on the idea to start doing cruises in the Maldives for diving rebreather, a completely new service for these areas. We take the opportunity and prepare a program to be presented to the chiefs of Albatros, Massimo, and Dodi, who welcome the idea with enthusiasm and give us a year to prepare everything, but that’s another story.
Upon my return in Italy, I am greeted by the cold and rain, but still, I always carry with me great memories of this experience and I am pleased and proud to have brought a piece of NAUITEC in this place, knowing that it will not be the last time.
Massimo Ardizzoni CD # 44259
All photos by Massimo Ardizzoni CD #44259 – S.Insolera – Naoko