TODAY, I DECIDED TO TAKE UP SCUBA DIVING, so I logged onto the computer and ran a search for diving clubs. It turned out that there werent many in my area. I only got three hits.
One had apparently set up its website in 1998. This must have made it one of the first in the country, which was very impressive, but the last time it had updated it was also 1998. I guess the member who knew how to do it left.
The other two looked more promising, but only by comparison. I have no idea who thought advertising their club with a website featuring out-of-focus and badly exposed underwater pictures of nothing much at all was a good idea, but they were wrong.
The third site had lots of pictures and even more over-exposure, but that had nothing to do with the standard of photography. It took me a while, but after an exhaustive review of the site
I eventually realised that it had nothing to do with scuba, so I got a phone number from the second site and rang it. Im going to see what the club has to offer later this week.
Joined the club, and they say I can start my training next week!

Well, the training has gone very smoothly, and Ive just about finished in the pool. It was all dead easy, really. A week or so more and Ill be ready for my first dive.
My instructor is a really nice guy whos been diving a couple of years, so hes very experienced. Turns out hes in an Internet-based diving discussion group and hes given me the address, so I had a peek tonight.
Really interesting stuff, there was a special forum for people like me who are still training.
It seems that other people had the same sort of experiences, apart from someone who took a while to get the hang of mask-clearing, and a bloke who had trouble setting his password and needed help from an administrator.

First dive today! It was absolutely freezing, and it was only as I got home that my fingers started to work again properly and I got some feeling back in my toes. Logged onto the forum to post my first dive experience, and see if anyone else had been in the water today.
There were only a couple of posts, but there werent many diving, so it wasnt too surprising. The people who had posted were all saying how cold it was. Gave some advice to a girl who was looking for a mask, and posted my experiences of diving in a drysuit to help other newcomers.

First club dive in the sea, and my fifth and sixth dives. Really excellent trip, though the water felt as cold as the inland sites Ive been doing, but there were different fish and more life to be seen, and I didnt find the currents a problem.
Got home to post the experience but didnt get far as there were some queries on there about computers. Felt I could make some constructive points, as Ive just sorted out my own.
Clearly the only computers worth considering will be gas-integrated with a reversed-gradient bubble-model algorithm allowing deep stops, plus a back-light for deeper dives and night dives and two-gas switching for faster off-gassing with higher nitrox mixes, and an interface unit so that profiles and dive information can be easily downloaded to a palm or laptop in the field and then networked to the main home computer after each trip.
That was what I went for. Of course, it was expensive, so I had to skimp a bit on other stuff, but the regulator set I bought is fine now that its been serviced, and the woolly bear does the job, even when it gets a bit damp.

Lots of diving. I added another three dives to my total and almost another hour and a half to my accumulated runtime. Ive got nine dives already, so Im starting to find that my computer software is really informative.
I just need to enter up the basic data on the site, my buddy and so on, and the depths, times and air drop into place as soon as I download, to give me a running total and average of each.
Its very gratifying to see that my air consumption is also dropping nicely now that Im becoming more experienced. Posted all this onto the Net and almost straight away got a message from another user suggesting a couple more diving forums to look at.
He obviously has a lot fewer dives than me, but he was right about the other forums. They were fascinating, and made me realise that although Ive done a fair bit of diving, theres still a lot for me to learn.

The height of the season, and the sea seems very crowded, so I only did one day of the weekend trip to the South Coast. Apart from anything else, I had to answer a couple of posts about kit configuration.
Im finding that people seem very unsure about the length of their second-stage hoses. In my view, a standard-length hose simply routed over my right shoulder from the revolving turret of the first stage works well, though I can see that when I move to a twin-set soon that wont be the final answer, as Ill have an extra hose to consider.
I was also able to help a chap with his knife position. It has to be somewhere easy to reach with either hand, but tucked out of the way so that it cant catch on anything, when I go into a wreck, for example. In my experience far too many people dont think about the possibility of entanglements until its too late.
Decided its time to do a bit more training as well, and go tech, but the club are a bit tame so I had to look outside.
The local dive shop has a school that runs courses, so Ive booked an Advanced Nitrox and Deep Diving with Decompression course. The guy there said I can do them at the same time. Im sure thats because of my level of experience.
Of course, it also meant that I had to start upgrading my kit to deal with my new diving. After all, my current PC only has 512Mb of RAM on a 1.6 processor, so it was struggling.
Got a good deal second-hand from a forum-user and Im very happy with the new tower. Twice the RAM and more than double the speed should keep me happy for a long time.

Did my courses. Not happy with the instructor - she gave me no credit for my expertise at all, even though Ive now done 11 dives, so as soon as I got home I posted to the tech and general diving forums to warn other people about the school.
I dont think Im an awkward customer, and I try to be as helpful as I can, but I found her quite abrasive, especially when it came to holding depth for deco stops. My computer has never had a problem with how I dive, and Ive often been deeper than 20m, so I think she was just being over-finicky insisting on a precise depth plus or minus no more than a metre.
Ill certainly be doing my trimix course with a different school.

hspace=5 AUGUST
I was intending to do a couple of dive trips this month, but Id just got all my gear packed for the first and was checking the net for the final time when I saw a real howler on one of the forums, so I had to put it right. Its so essential to download and analyse the data from dives to ensure proper dive safety and conduct that I simply couldnt go off diving without putting the author right, especially as he was using a rebreather.
While I was in the tech forum, I had a look at rebreathers, and found that theyre really quite simple. I was able to advise a bloke who was thinking of buying one, steering him clear of one of the units on the market as its clearly a badly thought-through design, and making suggestions to another user intending to modify her unit.
Got a quick dive at the quarry last weekend, but all the time I felt I should be next to the PC. Accurate information from experienced divers seems to be in short supply on the forums, so I try to pass on as much of my expertise as possible.

Decided to go with open-circuit trimix and not a rebreather. There was another death on one last weekend, this time a woman diving a home-modified unit. Im beginning to think that people should have built up some experience before they start doing this sort of thing.
After a lot of thought, Ive also cancelled my trimix course. Id just downloaded the software I knew Id need to cut tables for the dives I was intending to do, and had run half a dozen simulated dives to get to know the planner when
I got an email asking me to be moderator of a technical forum on a new site.
This took me by surprise, but I was flattered that my expertise was being recognised and, as I said, decent advice is so hard to find that Ive decided to accept. I know its going to take up a lot of my time, and mean upgrading again, but Ive also decided that now Ive got 14 dives Ive really got all the experience I need, so Im selling the dive gear to concentrate on the Internet work.
So if you need any advice, just log on to the site and Ill be there to help.