The lightweight and rigging course contains one of the most exciting days of the whole seven month program: this is the first time you’ll get in the water. In these four weeks, you’ll begin in the classroom, getting introduced to the diving equipment. You’ll take your first breaths through the helmet using surface supplied air. You’ll end the course doing midwater projects off the barge, just like a diver in the field.
"Your entire world becomes about 1.6 cubic feet."- Instructor Matt Jones
Is in the classroom, where you’ll learn about helmets (called hats), suits, recompression equipment, and life support equipment. You learn about the roles that different people play in a dive, and try all your gear on dry.
You’ll get in the water, and continue gear familiarization underwater. Instructor Matt Jones explains that the experience of your first dive is unlike any other. “Your entire world becomes about 1.6 cubic feet.” He says. With one instructor often in the water with you and one on the barge, you’ll learn to become comfortable with surface supplied breathing, communication devices, and your gear. You’ll also start to master the steps of working around other people in the water, which takes focus, as you all have hoses attaching you to the surface. You’ll learn basic emergency procedures, such as how to go on bail out, and use line pull signals to communicate between divers and tenders, as well.
You’ll move back to the classroom to begin rigging training. You’ll go over rules, safety, equipment, cranes, signals, and knots. Some of the knots you’ll learn are the square, sheet bend, bowline, cats paw, figure eight, clove hitch, and rolling hitch. Once you’ve mastered them, you’ll be put to the test, completing each, underwater, with a blindfold on.
You’ll receive instruction in important rescue techniques, including how to change out the air hose of a stricken diver. During this scenario, the rescue diver gives their pneumofathometer to the stricken diver to breathe on while their main air is removed. It’s challenging at first, but Instructor Matt Jones likes to remind students “…that these are all exercises they have done before, and now it’s just time to put them all together.”
You’ll go back down to the barge, and learn how to use lift bags, and a few midwater projects, such as a two person flange job. You learn how to use shackles, straps, pulleys, and come alongs underwater. The last day of the course is a hectic day on the barge, with students doing many different projects. It’s good practice to deal with focusing on what you are doing in a distracting environment.
...a good mixture of confidence and reckless abandon. It's a hostile environment, they need to have it in their head that 'I'm gonna get in there and I'm gonna do this'. They'll learn competence later but confidence helps in the beginning.