Life as a DMT is pretty sweet but there is however also a lot of stuff to do. The DM course is split into three parts: watermanship and skills assessment, knowledge development and practical application.
The knowledge development is mostly done by self-study combined with a few class sessions. The class sessions are part of a two-week program that runs almost continuously meaning that it is possible to participate several times. Dive physics, physiology and dive management, control and planning are among the subjects that have to be studied. The knowledge development is tested by two multiple choice exams with altogether 120 questions.
The watermanship and skills assessment part covers both some pure physical tests and some more dive-related stuff. The physical tests are a 400m swim, a 800m snorkle swim and a 100m tired diver tow – all three things are timed and scored on a scale from 1 to 5. Then there is 15 minutes of treading water where the last two minutes have to be with hands out of the water. The more dive-related stuff includes being able to perform skills on a demonstration level, practicing problem solving and rescue scenarios. The skills that have to be performed are the ones used for Open Water Diver courses such as mask removement and replacement, regulator recovery, hovering (sitting in the same place midwater for at least 30 seconds) etc. The fact that they have to be on a demonstration level means that they should be done as if demonstrated to a student. It is therefore important to be very clear and exaggerating when doing them and pointing out every little step – fx. blowing small bubbles all the time when the regulator is not in the mouth (because rule numero uno in scuba diving is to never hold your breath). All the skills are scored on a scale from 1 to 5. There is a required minimum total score for both the physical test and the skills that has to be reached.
The practical application of the divemaster course involves underwater mapping and assisting on different dive courses to get an understanding of the divemaster’s role when doing both confined water dives and open water dives. And then it’s encouraged to do lots of fundiving just to improve diving skills and get to know the divesites.
I have started on the reading but I think it’s more symbolic than actually counting for anything.
On the physical stuff I’ve ticked off the 400m swim which I did in less than six minutes giving me maximum points. It was one of the things I’ve been nervous about whether I could do so it was nice to get it done. It wasn’t pretty though and I was more dead than alive when I got back on the boat! I spent the following dive coughing every two minutes and the rest of the day I sounded (and felt) a bit like someone who’s been smoking for the past 20 years which is a bit ironic as I belong to the very rare species of non-smokers on Koh Tao.
I’ve started on the underwater mapping project which is basically drawing a map of one of the divesites containing depths, distances, if there are any hazards and possibly where to find interesting stuff to see. I’m doing it along with Tristan and Andy. The first dive we did for the mapping project was.. ehh.. no good? The divesite we wanted to map is along the coastline so we wanted to start by swimming to the one end of the divesite and then work our way to the other end. Since neither of us are really good at navigating so far and we didn’t fully realise how big the divesite is we actually spent the first 35 minutes or so just finding the divesite. So after surfacing to see where we were we agreed to swim straight back to the boat while counting fin kicks so we could estimate the distance. That worked fine until we saw a turtle and tried following that for a little while before returning to our inital route.
The following day Andy and I began mapping another divesite instead and this time we actually managed to note a few distances and depths. The biggest succes though was definitely when we found our way back to the boat without having to surface to look for it. That feeling was incredible and one of my highlights as a diver!
Yesterday I did the skill circuit in the pool but just as a practice. The instructor Chris showed each skill to me and then I demonstrated them and now I just need to practice them a bit more so I can do it for real next time (without him demonstrating first) and get scored on it. It generally went pretty well and had it been for real I would have gotten 5 points on most of the skills and 4 on the rest. So there is some stuff to practice for me in the next few weeks.
A part of the skill circuit is also doing a full equipment exchange (save for weight belt and wetsuit) with another DMT while both sitting at the bottom of the pool sharing one regulator. This means that when you’ve taken two breathes you hand over the regulator to let your buddy breathe.
I did the equipment exchange yesterday with Jorrit who’s leaving tomorrow but I’d like to try it again to feel more comfortable doing it so I asked Chris not to sign me off for it. It definitely wasn’t an easy exercise but I have to say I felt better about it than I had worried. The worst part (which neither of us had thought about) was when we both had to take our masks off and therefore couldn’t see much (thanks to the people filling the pool with pure chlorine). But it went well and we got good feedback.
Today I’ve just finished assisting on my first Open Water Course. I came along a bit into the course so I didn’t participate in the pool dive or the theory but two days ago they did their first confined sea dive and then yesterday and today they’ve done their open water dives 1, 2, 3 and 4. They were nine students to two instructors so they were split up into two groups most of the time and I went with the group where they needed a buddy for one of the students. It was a lot of fun to assist and it’s good practice of my buoyancy control to just float around in the back when they were doing skills. I can’t wait to assist on more courses and see how the different instructors work!