By far one of the biggest selling points of the PADI divemaster course at Blue Marlin Komodo is the inclusion of a liveaboard trip. Liveaboards are notoriously expensive and highly sought after. Because they can moor up out in the channel, you can reach the more distant dive sites before the crowds and slot in a night dive before bed.
The liveaboard at Blue Marlin Komdodo is called Ikan Biru and in week 5 of my divemaster training, I had the chance to join its crew for a few days.
WORKING ON A LIVEABOARD
The job of a divemaster trainee is actually a lot easier on a liveaboard than it is on land. Of course, there are more dives to supervise on, but at least you don’t have to spend your evenings packing gear and your mornings checking it all arrives on board. Aside from all the amazing dives you get to do, living on Ikan Biru has its unexpected perks. For starters, the food is incredible. You have four meals a day, plus a snack, and the cooked breakfast after the first dive is one of the best you’ll find in Asia. The boat itself is very comfortable, with a large upper deck to relax on during the day. This doubles up as the sleeping quarters. Although you have less privacy than a cabin would offer, you get to enjoy the fresh air, peaceful silence and clear night sky. It also encourages everyone on board to get to know each other really quickly. The real highlight, though, is Aleksi – the liveaboard trip director. He’s a heavily tattooed Finish guy with a great sense of humour and a thirst for adventure that will keep you on your toes the whole trip.
800 M SNORKEL SWIM
You might expect this skill to be slightly less challenging than the 400 M swim. It’s twice as far, but you have fins, and fins enable you to glide quickly and effortlessly through the water. Unfortunately, the reality is that swimming against the clock in the open ocean with a snorkel in your mouth is actually extremely tiring. Not only do you have to contend with the build up of lactic acid in your legs and a feeling that cramp could strike at any moment, but you also need to modify your breathing. When you use a snorkel, there’s a huge amount of dead air space, which means that, with every exhaled breath, a large amount of CO2 remains trapped in the tube. Unless you breathe really deeply, you’ll soon become light headed and you’ll find it very hard to get sufficient oxygen for the high level of physical exertion you’re subjecting your muscles to. Luckily, as with the 400 m swim, you can score at least a 1 regardless of your final time, as long as you keep your head in the water and your hands by your side and don’t stop. Under 13 minutes gives you a score of 5; 13 to 15 minutes a score of 4; 15 to 17 minutes a score of 3; 17 to 19 minutes a score of 2; and more than 19 minutes a score of 1.
100 M TOW
The 100 m tow has to take place with both you and your buddy in full scuba gear. It usually ends up being a 100 m push. You can select whichever method you prefer, but the modified tired diver tow (otherwise known as the Mickey Mouse porno push) is often the fastest. A time of under 2 minutes scores 5; 2 to 3 minutes scores 4; 3 to 4 minutes scores 3; 4 to 5 minutes scores 2; and more than 5 minutes scores 1. Whereas, with the swims, you should pace yourself to prevent overexertion, the tow is sufficiently short for you to treat it as a sprint. This means you might find it a little easier to pick up a decent number of points to count towards your final mark for water skills. Make sure you and your buddy are both well inflated, ask your buddy to lie flat in the water, and put all your energy into covering the distance as quickly as possible.
As a qualified divemaster you’re expected to know how to react in the event of an emergency. Of course, you will already have done the Rescue course, but the aim of the rescue scenario is to ensure that all of the information you’d need in an emergency is fresh in your mind. Most instructors leave this until you’re towards the end of your course because it will give you more time to refresh your skills during any Rescue courses you assist on. Thankfully, you don’t have to re-demonstrate all of the skills from Rescue, but you do have to do the worst one – the dreaded exercise 7. Your instructor will probably have you start with surfacing an unresponsive diver, followed by the tow, removal of gear and rescue breaths that make up exercise 7, and ending with lifting them onto the boat. If you’re in any doubt about what your own instructor will expect from you, it’s best to over prepare.
My divemaster training is being conducted by Blue Marlin Komodo, which is located in the small town of Labuan Bajo on the island of Flores. While PADI lays out a list of requirements for passing the course, each dive centre conducts it slightly differently. The order in which you complete each requirement varies, as does the timescale. Blue Marlin Komodo recommend that you take 8 to 10 weeks to fully experience and familiarise yourself with each dive site. They include time on a liveaboard and provide quality training with a focus on enjoyment and safety. For further information about the course, see their divemaster training brochure.