GUE Cave 2- trip report

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Posted by MHK on January 15, 2001 at 10:21:05:

I just returned from 10 days in Sunny ( NOT !! ) Florida. My objective was to complete Tamara’s boot camp A.K.A. GUE Cave level 2 class. I straddled the class in between two weekends so I was able to get some fun diving in with JJ, John Walker, Mike Blitch and see Rich L for dinner. And as a side note JJ gave me a copy of the final draft of the DIR manual that we have been anticipating. I read the manual on the plane home last night and I firmly believe this manual will go a long way to bridging the divide between and clearing up many of the misunderstanding with respect to DIR. I’ll provide a review of the manual under separate cover.

The opening weekend had Mike Blitch and I doing a few shake out dives at Ginnie Springs. Mike is an excellent guide as well as an accomplished diver, he is a joy to dive with and I encourage everyone to give him a call when you are heading to Florida, he is an invaluable resource. Rich L was on National Guard duty that weekend and was unavailable for diving.

My first day of class I met my class mate Dave. Dave was a great guy in town from London who had limited DIR experience. Tamara helped get his gear squared away day one and continued to modify as the week went along. Cave level 2 classes differed from the cave level 1 class in several meaningful respects. While cave level 1 was a fairly even split between academic and skill-based performance, I would say that Cave level 2 is primarily skill based with approximately 25% of the time reserved for academics. The idea is to improve and expand upon the skills learned in the earlier class. Moreover, GUE suggests that you should do 50 cave dives between Cave 1 and Cave 2. This is designed to allow the student to improve upon the basics in Cave 1 and work on trim, fin technique and the like.

Each dive of the class you will encounter at least one problem that must be resolved. Problems include, but are not limited to, OOA, lights out, lost line, valve shut downs, OOA while lights are out, mask removals while sharing air, just to name a few. Tamara does an excellent job of managed chaos. The design of the class is to help the student gain the confidence necessary to handle any particular situation (s) should they arise while in a cave. The emphasis on the skills is as much about resolving the problem as it is doing so while keeping good trim, recognizing the potential for further complications should you silt out the area while solving the problem and acting as a unified team. Of course the team is only as strong as the weakest link. Special attention is paid to pre-dive planning, S-drills, and decompression contingencies. Tamara does a masterful job of getting the student to achieve maximum potential. She is skilled at zeroing in on a diver’s weakest attributes and then helping them overcome them. Every student has strengths and weaknesses and a good instructor will quickly recognize the areas that need improvement and she forces you to concentrate on the weakest areas. Simply put, every diver can use some improvement in some area and Tamara and GUE see to it that you get what you pay for. I’ll note that is was unseasonably cold in Florida, with the temperatures hitting the 20’s at night, so bringing my 3 mil wasn’t the brightest idea I ever had and completing the swim test while in a bathing suit certainly ensured a wake-up call ;-)

After we just about completed Tamara’s boot camp (as we came to call it during the week), the final dive of the class is scheduled to be a fun dive and Tamara promised not to screw with us. The dive team consisted of Dave, John Walker, Tamara and myself. Dave was #1, I was #2, Walker # 3 and Tamara was #4. The plan was a stage dive at little river. The plan called for us to drop our stage bottle when the first team member reached a pre-determined drop pressure. Dave hits first and we drop our bottles conveniently at the T. We continue on and at maximum penetration Dave has a problem. My initial reaction was that Tamara was, once again, screwing with us but I quickly realize that Dave’s fin strap (now I fully understand why DIR recommends eliminating the fin strap) breaks loose. This happens in a tight restriction just as he hit 1/3’s. I begin to assist Dave and then Tamara noticed that Dave’s light head breaks loose. Time is becoming critical, we’re in a tight restriction and Dave can’t swim. Walker and I manage to fix Dave’s strap and Tamara helps Dave square away the light. Everything was well managed and we were never in jeopardy but it spoke volumes that what on the surface appears to be an insignificant piece of equipment could have caused a tremendous nightmare…

We end the class by taking the written exam, Tamara pronounces us certified and we all take Tamara for dinner and relive the week.

Walker and I stay around a few extra days to join JJ for a dive at Cow and then are met by Steve Auer. Steve is the team photographer for the WKPP and we decided to do 2 additional dives after JJ leaves us to get some shots. Cow is one of the most impressive looking caves and hopefully will make for some great photos. Steve will process them this week so I’ve got my fingers crossed.

As you may imagine I highly recommend Tamara and GUE should you ever get the * Cave diving bug*. It bit me about a year ago and now I’m hooked. I’ll be back in Florida over Presidents weekend if anyone wants to join us. I’m confident that Blitch and Rich L will be around and as they are the best local guides you could ask for I would encourage anyone to join us…


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