Home Testimonies Andy Dowsland, BSAC Inspiration CCR instructor, reports on his CCR Instructor Workshop experienc

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Andy Dowsland, BSAC Inspiration CCR instructor, reports on his CCR Instructor Workshop experienc

"I trained on a rebreather in 2006 after about 14 years of open circuit diving as far as Trimix level.  I took to it well and had a really busy diving year clocking up 66 rebreather dives in the first year alone.  Having qualified on CCR, an aim as Diving Officer in my club was to integrate it within the club, educate non-CCR divers about the unit and try to avoid technical clique effect.

After 30 hours on the unit I registered with BSAC to be able to do rebreather try dives in the pool and did a rebreather awareness session with follow up try dives for those interested.  This was received well within the club and contributed to increased safety due to removing the mystery surrounding CCR and how to manage and dive with CCR divers.

Being enthusiastic about CCR, I wanted to be able to teach it too.  Having approached the CCR coaching team at the NEC dive show in 2007 a date was finally set in 2008.  By the time the weekend arrived in September I had about 140 hours rebreather experience and had my fair share of ‘moments’ of experience to share.  Fortunately the season on the East coast of Yorkshire had been busy and enabled us to get dived up in the sea, with many dives in the 40 to 50m range on trimix.

I had booked onto the weekend with my buddy Brian Smith and we spent a stressful few weeks with our heads in the APD and BSAC CCR manuals revising, also practicing skills.  This diving experience and preparation paid dividends on the work shop weekend.

Our instructor and the weekend:

Our instructor Paul Haynes has a formidable CV of diving experience, a former Royal Marine Commando, he has been diving rebreathers for 20 years, long before they hit the recreational market.  Recently Paul set up his own company, prior to this he managed the defence diving business for Divex, the world’s largest manufacturer of professional diving equipment, a job that included business development, military diving training, rebreather design test and development.  Paul has spent the last decade travelling the world training various Special Operations Forces and Naval diving teams so needless to say we expected to be ‘beasted’ all weekend.

Fortunately the reality was quite different,  Paul put us at ease straight away during the opening brief, whilst at the same time setting out a clear timetable and objectives to be achieved.

I was first up for the classroom teaching sessions with a lesson on rebreather pre-dive preparation, a very hands on, practically orientated lesson.  I can normally assemble my unit safely in a short time but teaching the different components and correct assembly takes rather longer.  Paul encouraged my teaching session to continue after I had fulfilled all the instructional requirements because one of his current CCR students who was present, in Paul’s words, “was getting some excellent tuition”.  This was a very encouraging start to the weekend – the previous preparation was already beginning to pay off.

Following that was a sheltered water lesson in the afternoon teaching some of the many skills involved in the actual course, practising with the flashcards and further getting to know the course content and format.  The workshop doesn’t involve teaching every skill in the course, there isn’t the time or necessity for that.  Candidates are already Open Water Instructors and experienced rebreather divers.  Assessment is made using a selection of classroom, practical and in-water lessons through out the workshop allowing the candidates opportunity to show that they can apply their instructional skills to the CCR teaching environment.

The next day involved more assessment dives and theory lessons.  On one of the later training dives, my ‘student’ actually had a sensor cell ‘die’ at 20m. We dealt with it and took appropriate actions, although the dive was cut short it served as a valuable learning experience and demonstration of ability to deal with real problems.

I trained on CCR with another agency and it did the job.  However if I was advising a prospective student on a thorough CCR course I’d recommend the BSAC CCR course.  It includes everything from the point a new rebreather is taken out of the box to practicalities of taking it abroad on holiday, with a comprehensive and progressive build up of skills in between, including preparation and dive planning, the basics of buoyancy control, mask clearing to diagnostics and resolutions of problems, rescue of both self and buddy, dive management considerations and post dive maintenance. 

The weekend workshop was based at Lochaline Dive Dentre in the Sound of Mull, which was a great base, excellent food too.  The centre had adequate room for presentations, both theory and practical.  Assessment dives were carried out from the local beach looking out to the Sound of Mull, which provides shallow flat sandy areas for skills teaching and an inclined wall allowing deeper training activities.

As with any workshop or assessment, preparation is the key.  Preparation of kit and teaching props, theory study and getting in plenty diving to make sure you’re dived up and ready are all important.

Overall the weekend was really rewarding it was a fantastic achievement to reach the level of CCR Instructor.  Thanks again to Paul.  All we need now is some students!


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