Author: Brian Grierson, England, November 2008
In 1957, at the age of 19, I enlisted in the British Royal Marines. After initial training it was suggested that, being a strong swimmer, I should consider the Special Boat Squadron stationed in Poole, Dorset . This was an honour in deed as only about 3% who enter actually qualify. I qualified 6 months later as a Swimmer/Canoeist.
Our dive training was quite leisurely really and we used the rebreather sets as used by the Italians in their raids on English shipping in Gibraltar. These sets were about the same size as the present day safety vest with the addition of a canister, containing carbon dioxide filter, hose, and mouthpiece. The pure oxygen bottles (2) were carried on the hip and lasted approximately 1 to 2 hours. We had to hand pump the compressor to fill the tanks. We used dry suits with clothing underneath (sweaters etc.) to keep warm. The whole ensemble was quite light and comfortable.
Fast forward 50 years to my day with Max of Sharkey Scuba. It was insisted that at all times safety was the dominating issue. With Sharkey's private instruction policy being coached on a one to one basis was as good as it gets. Those first few minutes of the dive were a bit "hairy" not being used to the equipment. On one occasion I blew too hard to clear my mask and took in some water. My mouthpiece had slipped from my mouth. Max realised what had happened, immediately giving me his spare one into my mouth, and gave me a quick couple of mouthfuls of air. Once settled down we continued the dive, under Max's guidance. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day.
Today's equipment, complete with wetsuits and the tanks is more cumbersome than the old, but on reflection more reliable.
At the age of 68 years old I had the honour of being the oldest student to be coached for the dive, by Max and Sharkey Scuba. This in itself is a reflection on the patience and skill of the Sharkey Scuba team. To anyone contemplating their first dive or taking a full course I can only say, get in touch with the owner Iain and company, and ENJOY!
N.B. All photos in this article were taken 50 years ago or from Brian's very recent Discover Scuba Diving day at Koh Racha Yai. Present day photos by Maximilian Hand (rest alledgedly taken by Iain!).
Thanks go to Brian for a very interesting insight into how scuba has changed over the years from someone who was right there! As our oldest ever student of any level by eight years I have the greatest admiration for Brian for re-learning to dive at such a time in his life. He is an example to all of what can be achieved regardless of age so long as you maintain good physical and mental fitness.
We hope to see you back here again soon and maybe for the full course next time:)
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