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 Visit to the RNLI, Poole

Between 2011 and 2014 there were 50 fatal diving accidents in the UK, and almost all of them were preventable

This is the figure that stuck with me most after our trip to the RNLI. They are now running a campaign which is trying to prevent more diving accidents from occurring in UK waters, and we were lucky enough to be invited along to see the work they do for ourselves.

The charity was set up in 1824 by Sir William Hillary, with just a small group of sailors on the Isle of Man. It became a foundation that now has 238 lifeboat stations and raises £174 million each year. We started the day with a tour around the main college where all volunteers are trained. On the tour, we were taken to see the wave pool that is used for training. All different kinds of weather conditions can be simulated here, and boats can be used in the pool to practice capsizes, making the conditions as realistic as possible. We then had a go in the simulator. This is a room designed like one of the life boats, with screens instead of windows showing the sea. I was given the role of steering the boat first, and I soon learned I’m even worse at steering boats than cars! Different areas and weather conditions can be simulated, and the training crew have to respond to emergencies. Check out our Facebook page for a video!

Lifeboat Simulator

The next part of the day was seeing inside RNLI HQ. Here, we saw all the different departments that help keep the RNLI running, such as media, video editing, and fundraising. We were shown the accident prevention campaign aimed at different activities around UK coast: hiking, kayaking and especially scuba diving. We also learned about the work being done abroad in third world countries, such a Bangladesh, where a person drowns every 2 seconds. Here, programs have been set up to warn people of the risks surrounding water, and how to handle any situations when they do occur.

The last part of our tour was to see the all-weather lifeboat station, including where lifeboats are built and serviced. This was built in 2015 as a way for the RNLI to be able to build their own boats withthe standard of technology they needed, as well as saving the organisation £3 million a year. 3 new lifeboats are made here each year, as well as 398 other lifeboats in the fleet being tested and serviced.

Lifeboat Servicing

Overall I found the visit to the RNLI eye-opening, as it made me think about how taking the time to have a thorough buddy check, carrying the correct equipment and diving safely within PADI limits can allow me to prevent incidents that could potentially be fatal.

Scholarship Visit to HM Coastguard, Portland

Diving is one of the safest recreational activities, if the rules are followed properly. However, sometimes unexpected situations can occur, in which the emergency services are required. We were lucky enough to see the HM coastguard base in Portland on the 25th June, just a few days before it shut down.

We were warmly welcomed into the base, and shown around the communal areas where the staff can wait for emergency calls during their shift. After, we were taken into the back where the helicopters are kept, which were a lot larger than we thought. One of the pilots, Jerry Tribe kindly allowed us to sit in the cockpit and explained the extensive safety checks and the basics of how to fly a helicopter. He also explained the more details about the helicopter itself, including the physics behind it, fuel consumption and he pointed out where all of the external cameras were. Fraser Rowbotham sat with us in the main cab and showed us where all the medical equipment was, and the procedures followed when rescuing someone, including how they use the winch system. He showed us the equipment used to rescue someone at sea, and how he would attach them to it to safely elevate them into the helicopter.

To finish off this memorable day we took some photos, which you can see below, and we even managed to see the helicopter take off as they were off to do some practice using the winch offshore.

Lastly we’d like to thank Fraser, Jerry and to the rest of the staff at the HM coastguard for such a great day!

Andark Divemaster Scholars 2017

This year, we have three lucky scholars who will be with us for the summer to learn the ropes of the dive center and earn their PADI Divemaster qualification. Meet Lucy, Jake and Natasha:

Lucy Martin-Patrick

My name is Lucy Martin-Patrick and I’m 18 years old. I decided to do the Andark dive master scholarship as ever since I started diving a year ago after doing my open water course at Andark I have wanted to progress even further, and I felt doing the scholarship was a great opportunity for me to do this. Once I finish the scholarship I’m looking to do some volunteering overseas and travel for a couple years. Whilst travelling I hope to dive in as many different places as I can and experience the different cultures.


Jake Keys

I am excited to be on the Andark Scholarship throughout the summer. I began the process a qualified Rescue Diver, having done all of my training through Andark already. I grew up in Southampton and I have just completed my three A-Levels (Maths, Physics and Geography) at Peter Symonds. The scholarship is an opportunity for me to develop my skills further and to pass them on to new divers. I hope to carry on after the scholarship and become an instructor, with the aim of travelling somewhere tropical and enjoying a gap year before University.

Natasha Busjeet

Hey I’m Natasha and I’m 22. I have just completed a masters in Marine Biology from the University of Southampton, and have always had a keen interest in marine life and diving. I was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the scholars this year, in which this divemaster qualification will help me to pursue a career in marine conservation.




We’re lucky to have Lucy, Jake and Natasha here for the summer, and hope this process is as rewarding for them as it has been in previous years. Follow their progress here on our blog, and see what they get up to this summer!

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.