Hailing from South Africa, I trained as a diver in Seadog commercial diving school in Saldahnha Bay, SA. Over seven nationalities went through the course with me, including those from Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Indian, Nigerian and, of course, other South Africans.
I dove with every single nationality there and loved every experience. They communicate a little differently than I do, but after a few weeks of working with them you hear them out – loud and clear. During your training, you grow close to others since you share common experiences, both good and bad.
I worked extensively with Nazzarudin Abd Majid, a Malaysian who was my dive partner. He became one of my best friends. We had great chemistry in the underwater world of metal and grime. He focused more on the technical aspects of a project, and I focused on the physical labor portion. We made a great team, and I still keep in contact with him.
Throughout my coursework and training, there were three projects that still stand out in my mind. They challenged my mechanical ability, sensory acuteness, speed and confidence.
The Invisible Hydratight
On the surface, mechanic assembly happens more comfortably, if not always easily. Under the waves it gets more complicated. My objective? To build a hydratight, a hydraulic jack used to tighten the nuts on bolts by stretching them. There was just one catch:
I was blindfolded.
All my worked took place in a tank. Nazzarudin was the seeing diver but was only there to see if the task was done correctly and to give feedback to the instructors. To assemble something blindly, you have to draw the picture in your head and work quickly, since it was all timed. As the watch ticked on, I used my sense of feel and sound, twisting, pulling and pushing methodically. At the 33-minute mark, I put the last piece in place. Then I took it apart again and exited the tank.
This task gave me loads of confidence underwater. The goal was to be sensitive with your hands and to make you realize at the end of the day it’s only your hands you need to do the job. The rest is just a bonus – visibility included.
Teamwork on the Flange Assembly
Nazarrudin and I did this on a night dive, near the shore down at 12 meters. We swam in something like three meters of visibility. Like I said earlier, he was in charge of the technical portions – in this case, lining up the holes and tightening the nuts and bolts. I lifted the flanges and used the lifting bags. The whole project was done in record time. This exercise gave us familiarity with flanges and helped us learn you must keep your fingers in a safe area while assembling the flanges. It’s easy to get your fingers caught in there.
Support for Seadog
At Seadog, they have a wooden jetty, the oldest in Saldanha. It’s falling apart from age and rot.
The school decided to install a new wooden pillar for better support and in the process, we replaced the rotten one. After removing it, we used a dredge to suck a huge hole in the seabed located five meters down. Then, we lowered a drum into the gaping hole. Fitting the drum into the hole, we stabilized it using heavy bags filled with rock.
Finally, we then centered the wooden pillar in the drum and pumped the drum full of concrete. This was the perfect job that gave me experience both in and above water.
At the time of this writing, I am fresh out of diving school – I trained from the beginning of the year until the end of March. I’m confident my best days are ahead of me, though, and I look forward to plunging back into the water – certified and ready to apply my abilities.
– Francois, Class II IMCA qualified (50m offshore on air) commercial diver