PSAI Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures

Jake writes about his first experience with technical diving at the National Diving and Activity Centre, Chepstow.

This course serves as an entrance to the world of technical diving. The jump from recreational diving is huge and as a result, three days are required to develop the skills and the change of attitude required to conduct safe diving practices. The process started with studying the manual, which everyone really looks forward to at the start of every course.


The first day of the course involved no diving (fortunately as I had forgot my drysuit), the purpose of the day was to understand the information learnt prior to the course and to discuss kit setup. We all discussed our own gear, and allowed everyone to view the different ways the twinsets had been set up and regulators routed. Allowing people to comment how it could be done more efficiently or what problems it could present in different scenarios. The most important lesson learnt was that for kit configuration there isn’t a set way that is correct, everyone’s kit was slightly different as it suited what they found most comfortable.


By this point we were all eager to see how the modifications would affect us in-water. We had two dives to do, and a lot of skills to practice. Mike and Carl wanted us to build up muscle memory so that in an emergency, the skills would be fluid and done with precision. This involved sitting on the platforms at Chepstow practicing shut down drills, swapping between regulators, finning techniques and many more. The introduction of a stage cylinder altered the way we all dived and the use of an extra regulator took a while to get used to.


The final day, all our dive planning had led to this day. We only had to do one deeper dive, so we took the day slow and kept emphasis on keeping calm and relaxed throughout. The dive planned was to 43m, with a bottom time of 15 minutes and a total dive time of 38 minutes. We were going to simulate decompression for a longer dive time to develop greater experience with ascent rates and stopping at set depths. The dive was a success, with me discovering what narcosis feels like at the amusement of everyone else. That is something that is unfortunately going to be brought up in every conversation.

I believe I can speak on behalf of the other students and thank Mike Rushworth and Carl Yates for a seamless course that tested our understanding and abilities and provided a solid foundation for safe diving practices.

Scholars Dive the Kyarra

Myself, Jake and Lucy were thrilled to have the opportunity to dive the wreck of the Kyarra in Swanage, Dorset. The liner Kyarra was a casualty clearing ship, with a quick-firing gun mounted on her stern as a defense against U-boats.

On the 26th May 1918 she was ordered to embark 1000 war-wounded Aussie soldiers in Devonport and return them to Sydney. However, she was hit by a German submarine and sank within 7 minutes.

On the 15th August we travelled down to Swanage pier, and boarded the Divers Down boat, ready to discover the Kyarra. We were diving on 32% Nitrox to give us more time explore the Kyarra. Once we had reached the site we entered the water safely and descended 23 meters down a line onto the ships port railing. There was a slight current as we were descending but nothing that made the descent difficult or dangerous. We observed many interesting features and wildlife, for example we saw the remains of the old bollards in the aft hold area, in which one of them had a crab living inside it! We also saw the rudder post and proceeded to swim to across the Kyarra’s hull. There were various fish living around the wreck.

The visibility was fairly good and overall was a very interesting dive. We agreed prior to the dive to start making our ascent when the first person reached 100 bar, which we successfully managed including a safety stop at 5 meters. During the safety stop we launched a delayed SMB so that the skipper could move the boat close to us to pick us up. Once the boat was close enough we held on the line of the side of the boat and proceeded to the back of the boat where the lift was. When we all were back on board we were all very happy about the dive, and made our way back to Swanage pier!

By Natasha

Scholarship Week 4


Women’s dive daSophiey was a great success! A very busy but enjoyable day and we were lucky with the weather. I started the day in the kit room organising wetsuits, BCDs, regulators and cylinders for everyone then up to Andark Lake to assist with a PADI Refreshers course. It was brilliant to see so many women of all ages kitting up and having fun doing the treasure hunt in the lake. There was so much going on with talks, PADI Discover Scuba Diving in the pool, kit displays from Suunto, Cressi and Apex and hunting for coins in Andark lake to win prizes. Emma Hewitt’s talk on her PADI career was very interesting and inspiring. Then it was straight into helping with Aquanauts in Andark Pool; the children were brilliant at mastering new skills. What a day!

 Sunday was calmer with a trip to Vobster Quay, a flooded quarry,  for the PADI Advanced Open Water Course. I spotted lots of little fish while doing surface cover then went on a Wreck dive with students to a sunken plane. I was fortunate to get an extra dive with Simon, a DM, who took me on an underwater tour of Vobster Quay and down to a caravan where the water temperature was 8’C! Much too cold for my liking but I’m glad I’ve done it. 

On Wednesday I helped out with evening training in the pool. It was great to watch students take their first breath underwater on the Discover Scuba Diving and to grow in confidence during the session. I’m now assisting with a PADI Junior Open Water Course where the students are learning new skills in the pool and are excited to be doing their first open water dives this weekend at Andark Lake. 

 Next week we are going to visit PADI headquarters for a sneak peak behind the scenes – I’m very excited! 

Andark Scholarship Week 3


My PADI Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Emergency First Response (EFR) qualification cards arrived in the post. I have been busy at Andark over the past couple of weeks; I’ve dived at Vobster Quay and seen Perch, helped with Group Try Dives, Scuba Parties and Aquanauts in the pool, assisted with PADI Open Water Courses at Andark Lake, experienced the HUET, and explored Portland Harbour and witnessed fascinating marine life. It’s hard work but lots of fun! I found the PADI Open Water Course most rewarding; it was great to see students who were nervous at first really progress over the four day course and become PADI qualified divers.

I’m looking forward to Women’s Dive Day on Saturday 16th July at Andark Lake – it will be a great day with a treasure hunt, underwater photography, talks from female diving professionals and prizes to be won, plus lots of freebies 



In the past week I’ve been busy doing lots of different activities around Andark. I’ve been keeping the kit room tidy and organised- which makes kitting up and loading the van a lot easier and faster! I’ve also spent some time weeding the lake; collecting lots of blanket weed and helping to keep it clear for divers to enjoy. On Monday I helped out with a SCUBA Refresher for the first time, going through the main skills in the pool with divers who haven’t been diving for a while. The SCUBA Refresher was good fun and it was nice to be getting people prepared for diving again after they’ve spent some time out of the water. Throughout the week I also helped out with some group try-dives and SCUBA parties, which are always good fun- it’s great to see people enjoying SCUBA diving, often for the first time. The highlight of my week was a dive trip in Portland Harbour- where I went RIB diving for the first time. I did a wreck dive on The Countess of Erne and a drift dive in Balaclava Bay. Both were really enjoyable and there was plenty to see; both marine life and the wreck, which sank in 1935. Overall it’s been a great week and I’ve learnt a lot!



Andark Scholarship Week 2


On the weekend of the 2nd and 3rd of July I helped out with a PADI Advanced Open Water course. The first day of the course was run at Andark Lake and involved 3 dives- Search & Recovery, Navigation and Peak Performance Buoyancy. Alongside helping those taking the course with equipment, I was a safety diver for the dives. This involved watching over people whilst the instructor demonstrated skills and following behind the students to ensure everyone stayed together. On Sunday we went to Vobster Quay for the Deep and Wreck dives, which meant organising and loading a van full of gear to make sure nothing was forgotten! I was then safety diver for the two dives, and towed a SMB so that Surface Cover knew our location in the water at all times. These dives, and the weekend in general, were very enjoyable and it was great to be helping students whilst getting to dive at the same time. The weekend was also really useful for getting more familiar with Vobster Quay and the running of the Advanced Open Water Course.


Advanced Open Water Course


On Monday 4th July, the scholarship students and an instructor took part in the Helicopter Underwater Escape Training. A large yellow box made to represent the cabin of a helicopter or potentially a powerboat was on a machine which had the capability to move the box out over the swimming pool and go on to ‘dunk’ it. This machine was also able to roll the box to a 180° degree (a complete inverse) with several people inside it. Mike Lindsell supervised our group of 4 (3 interns and an instructor) whilst we were moved into the water and flipped upside down, with water rushing up to meet our faces and go up our noses before we had to unbuckle our safety harnesses, push a plastic window out into the water and pull ourselves out of the cabin. The training session was a great experience both for preparation and for its uniqueness. At the same time, it was a very unpleasant sensation of voluntarily allowing water to reach your sinuses and your eyes. All in all, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but will not hasten to do it again unless we are working out to sea!



Michael Andark Scholarship, Week 1

I’m looking forward to a summer full of diving, meeting new people and learning lots through the Andark Divemaster Scholarship.  I grew up in Kent and have just finished studying Geography at the University of Southampton, with a particular interest in climate change and environmental issues. The scholarship is a brilliant opportunity for me to learn new skills and have fun whilst doing so! I’d love diving to be a big part of my life and/or career in the future, perhaps even becoming an instructor. The Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Emergency First Response courses which I have just completed at Andark were challenging, rewarding and very enjoyable. I’m extremely thankful to Andark, PADI and Suunto for the scholarship, and look forward to meeting those involved in the planning and sponsorship over the summer, including an upcoming visit to Suunto.




Sophie’s First blog about the Andark Scholarship

I am excited to be doing the Andark Scholarship for PADI Divemaster this summer. I have just completed my PADI Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver and Emergency First Response with Andark and can’t wait to begin the Divemaster. I’m looking forward to visiting the Suunto factory in the next few weeks to thank them for the sponsorship. I met Mike Rushworth from Reveal Coaching last week to plan out my goals for this summer.

I’ve completed my first year at the University of Southampton studying Marine Biology. I began diving this year through a university society and absolutely loved it and I hope to be able to use diving for research in my future career. I grew up in rural Gloucestershire (quite far from the sea!) and I am a Girlguiding Rainbow leader in my free time.


Andark scholarship