My first sea dive
That marine baptism is all-important, says Mike Ward - it wont take a bright novice long to learn the most important lessons about diving conduct

Wow, Im really, really looking forward to this. My first ever sea-dive!
Nobody here yet. Oh well, they said be at the car park for half past seven, so here I am. Perhaps I would have had time to stop at the Little Chef for breakfast after all. And perhaps not. I think Im too excited to eat, thinking about all the things I could see out there, in the open blue sea. Well, green sea. Well, dark grey, really.
Never mind, Im sure itll be fine once we get going. Whenever that is. Some time today, I hope.
Heres Andy and the boat! Hurrah! What do I do to help get the boat ready Unfasten the electrics and undo the straps and pull off the tailboard and take the bag off the prop and keep the elephants trunks up and stow all the bits in the boot of Andys car, except the tailboard because it wont fit so we leave it under his car, and make sure the tubes are pumped up good and hard, and check the electronics and the fuel.
Ill do all those things, then, shall I, while you watch and make sure Im doing them properly
What now Get my kit aboard, not forgetting my weightbelt.
What now Shut up and wait for everyone else to arrive. Did I tell you this will be my first sea dive Im so excited I can hardly speak! Just think of the things were going to see today! The fish and the kelp and the...
Im sorry, I beg your pardon Go and fetch the launch permit Where do I get that from The office over there. OK, but its shut at the moment. Wait until it opens so were first in the queue to launch Right, no problem! Ill go and stand by the door!
Here comes the rest of the team. Great people, all of them. Oh my word! Thats Big Al! Hes a legend, he is! The greatest diver of them all! Hes done everything: Scapa Flow, Red Sea, Truk Lagoon, Bikini Atoll, Cocos Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Stoney Cove! Hes been everywhere.
Hurry up, hurry up, open the blindin office, I want to get the chitty sos Im not holding the rest of them up!
At last! Got it. Heres the launch permit, I hope I havent kept you all waiting.
I havent, have I None of you has even got your kit aboard yet. Dont we need to get a move on Oh, the permit board needs to be tied to the front of the boat. Right, how do I do that Are there any special knots to use Just do it as best I can There we are then!
Er, arent we going to get the rest of your gear aboard so we can get away Ill give you a hand, if you like. If you all just point to where your gear is, Ill go to your cars and carry it back to the boat and make sure its neatly stowed away, ship-shape and Bristol-fashion!
There, we can go any time now. We have to wait for the butty wagon to get here Why So Big Al can get a bacon butty for his breakfast. And a cup of tea. Well, if Big Al wants a butty, Big Al has to have a butty! I cant argue with a man of his eminence.
Finished, sir Let me take the wrapper and put it in a bin for you. Now can we go We can! We can go diving!
Ill just get behind the boat and help you push it to the top of the car park, but youd better fasten it on the back of the tractor, Andy, just in case I do it wrong!
Someone needs to stay at the top of the beach to park the trailer OK, Ill do that, then run down the beach after you all.
Coo, that was hot work! What do you want me to do now Stand in the water and hold on to the painter. No problem, just show me what a painter is and Ill stand here and hold it for you.
Wheee, but this is odd! Im up to my waist in cold seawater, and I cant feel a thing. Im still dry!
Oooh, the engines running! Were almost away. I can get in now! Give me a hand over the tubes and Im in and were off!
Wow, this is bumpier than I expected. And that sounded like a big bang to me, was it OK This seems like a very fast boat. It isnt that fast, but it doesnt do too badly once its on the plane Whats that Oh, I see, most of the hull comes out of the water, leaving just the bit at the back supported, so the prop has less water to push out of the way. Ill pretend I understood that for the moment and find out more later.
Are we on the plane now, then Too many divers and too much kit. Ah, well. Why are we stopping Why are you taking the top off the engine
Its running again and were off again! Where are we going Out to the islands. Right. I think I could have worked that out for myself, actually. What I really meant was, where specifically At the back of the big island with the lighthouse on it. OK, great. What will we see there
I said, what will we see there Yes, it is a bit hard to chat with the engine noise, isnt it
hspace=5 Here we are, here we are! Im in first Im diving with Big Al Get outta town! My first ever dive and I get to dive with Big Al!
Time to get kitted up. There isnt a lot of room in one of these RIB thingies, is there If I watch Big Al, though, I can pick up some tips. Weightbelt first, then hood, then the left glove, then the BC and tank, then fins, then the right glove. Ready when you are, sir.
Oops! Buddy check. I was so excited, I forgot. I hope Big Al doesnt think Im a complete idiot.
Im in the sea! Im diving in the sea! Thats seaweed, that is! Im diving in the actual sea and looking at actual seaweed! This is brilliant!
Wow, look at the bottom. Just like somebody filled a skip with starfish and poured them out all over the floor right here, and covering that rock and everything.
Oh, oh! Whats wrong Why is Big Al pointing at that rock Why is he tapping the side of his head I dont know what you mean, but if I nod and look impressed, I can ask him later.
Theres a fish! A big, greyish pointy fish. Im going to have to get a fish book.
Is it over already Oh no! Ive got lots of air left. Please can we stay down just a few more minutes Just five minutes Just two Just one more Oh, pleeeease
Great, brilliant, fabulous! That was absolutely brilliant!
What do we do now Wait for everyone to finish their dive, then were back to land for lunch and to refill the cylinders.
Er, Al, why were you pointing at that rock I mean, I know if I had a bit more experience Id understand, but Im just trying to learn. You once got a big lobster from under it. A very big lobster. There was nothing there today, but twenty years ago there was a great big lobster under it. Youve never seen another lobster anywhere near it ever again, but the one you got was absolutely huge.
So, let me make sure Ive got this entirely clear, what you were doing was pointing at a bare rock, with nothing except bare rock to see, except in your memory
Back to land for lunch we go.
Ill give you a hand to unload your cylinders. Let me carry yours up the beach as well, its as easy with two as it is with one.
Bloomin eck, but theyre heavy, and its a lot longer up the beach than it was coming down. Ah, the tide is going out.
Where do we get the cylinders filled Theres an air station in the village, and normally one of us will take them all and fill for everyone Ill do...
Er, hang on a minute, I think Im starting to get the hang of this. Im going to keep quiet. Yup, thought so. I get to go and fill the cylinders while everyone else has their lunch. Fair enough, I suppose, I am the novice in the party.
Oh no! Ive forgotten Big Als cylinder! Al, Al, I forgot to take your cylinder, where is it so I can go back Dont worry, you didnt use enough air to need a fill Wow. I mean, I used almost a full bottle and yours was smaller than mine to start with. I hope one day Im as good a diver as you are.
Where are we going this afternoon Around the headland.
This is even better than this morning! It isnt deep and the sun is shining and theres just so much to see. Thats an octopus! Or a squid. I wonder what the difference is. And another of those pointy fish, but this one is brownish-green, not grey, so Im really going to have to get a fish book and...
Wheres Al He was here just a moment ago. Oh no, Ive lost my buddy. Where are you Oh no! Oh no!
Aaaaah! What the hell was that Something tapped me on the shoulder. I darent turn around. I darent not turn around.
It was Al! What do you want me to do Come over there and get really close to the seabed and put my hand under that rock and... ouch! That really hurts! Get the damn thing off me! No, I mean it, I think Im going to lose my thumb.
That wasnt nice, you did that on purpose. All right, it was quite funny really - well, it will be when I do it to the first novice I take diving.
Back to shore again. Nah, pal, Im standing here and holding the painter while some other daft beggar runs up the beach and fetches the trailer down to the water. I might be keen, but Im not a slow learner. And I cant possibly winch the boat onto the trailer on account of having a severely damaged thumb.
Oh, and which of you is filling tonight, I need my bottle doing ready for tomorrow

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