MOST OF US LIKE TO slip a single tank on our backs and swim around a wreck or on a reef among the fishes. Those who are technical divers make up a very small, if vociferous, proportion of the overall diving population. Undertaking the raft of courses necessary to become a proficient technical diver can be both time-consuming and costly and, for many of us, it just isn’t practical.
On the other hand, few of you reading this magazine enjoy a holiday simply relaxing and reading a book in the sun. We like to come back feeling that we’ve achieved something.
Many of us took a learn-to-dive course while we were at some delightful tropical location and many of us would like to go a bit further, but without too much commitment.
What about trying a diver-propulsion vehicle (DPV) or side-mount diving Neither are really technical, yet they can add a new dimension to what you do under water. How about trying multiple-tank diving, perhaps with some gases other than nitrox
Or do you fancy having a go with a closed-circuit rebreather You don’t have to go to depths beyond those that you may already be used to, although you could, and it might give you an insight into ways of increasing your range of expectations from scuba-diving.
I went to Na’ama Bay near Sharm el Sheikh to experience all of this, and I chose Werner Lau Tek. It sounds a bit German, doesn’t it It’s run by Brits, rebreather-instructor-trainer Aaron Bruce and David “Dinky” Armstrong.
Dinky is one of the youngest fully qualified technical instructors you’re likely to meet, but he’s very sharp and has made up for his youth by squeezing a lot of in-water experience into
his life. He certainly knew how to look after an old codger like me, and he used one of my favourite diving expressions: “All your equipment is already on the boat!”
This particular Werner Lau dive centre runs introductory technical-diving courses alongside its busy leisure-diving business, so you won’t feel daunted by any lack of ability to join in the techno-speak.
The dive staff is a mixture of English, Swiss, German, Belgian, Dutch, Italian and Danish, managed by Hungarian Angel Balazs, and the customers reflect this eclectic mix of Europeans. There are South Africans and, of course, Egyptians too.

Imagine the sort of distance you could cover under water if you could spin along at a rate of knots (let’s say three knots) and not have to use your legs to fin. Aaron and Dinky have proper technical-diving DPVs for you to use.
These DPVs are made by Silent Submersion in the USA or Bonex in Germany. They have a long running time and, in the case of the Bonex, can be speed-adjusted on the fly to mask-ripping effect.
A DPV is simply a big battery enclosed with a powerful motor that drives a propeller and is controlled by the diver.
Of course, jumping off a boat in the middle of the ocean with a heavy bit of kit can be a bit off-putting. Werner Lau Tek is conveniently situated at the beach as well as close to Na’ama Bay’s jetty, so you can enjoy your baptism in a very easy way.
The boys will show you how to adjust the towing lanyard of your DPV properly to a D-ring on a crotch-strap or a belt, so that you only have to rotate the scooter with one hand to steer it (the torque of the propeller does the rest) and off you go.
Suddenly, a shore dive doesn’t limit you to the area in which you first submerged, and you can cover a very large area in an hour.
Next, you’re ready to use the DPV at one of the Sinai’s famous dive-sites. No more swimming, especially when you find you have a slight current against you, and other divers
will be full of envy as you sail effortlessly past!
I went out with Dinky and an old friend, Anglo-Italian Sergio Anderson, and we spent a lovely afternoon scooting around in Na’ama Bay, just to get some pictures of the DPVs in action. Then it was off to deeper, more adventurous sites.
Suddenly, those long swims out into the blue from Shark Reef looking for the schooling barracuda don’t seem so far.
In fact, you’ll find that a cruise from the Shark Observatory all the way round to Satellite Reef is easily do-able.

What’s the point of side-mounting The practice originated with cave-divers who might have needed to pass through tight restrictions. Side-mounting gives you the possibility of unhitching the tanks and, while still breathing from one, passing them through a difficult passage.
We ordinary leisure divers don’t need to do this. So, despite the obvious advantage of taking twice the amount of gas with you as is normal on a dive, what’s the point
Slinging a tank from either side really spares the load on your back. As a regular twin-set diver, I found it a revelation to be able to walk about on the deck of a boat without having to stoop to balance the weight on my back.
You have complete access to both tank-valves so that, in the event of one free-flowing, you still have access to the gas by simply opening and shutting the valve, as and when you need to inhale.

SAY GOODBYE TO ALL THOSE AWKWARD shutdown drills designed to humiliate the less-flexible divers among us. Of course, there is o manifold. Each tank is independent. You
could even dive with different nitrox mixes in each tank, appropriate to getting the optimum mix in different depth ranges, provided you were sharp enough to know which tank held which.
It’s “rich” to the right.
Getting ready to dive, you simply hook on the top tank clip and then lift the bottom clip up onto the rail provided at the back of the BC. Simples!
With a drysuit and negatively buoyant steel tanks, the rigging is very important to get the trim right. Rig the tanks too high, and you’ll be ploughing the seabed with your face.
With a wetsuit and aluminium tanks, your weights are on your belt and the tanks become almost unnoticeable in the water.
It’s like swimming free and breathing off someone else’s tank.
The only problem I encountered was that I had to modify my trademark headfirst dive off the swim platform.
And it is amazing how two standard 12-litre aluminium tanks can become almost inconspicuous once they become neutrally buoyant.
I was able to spend inordinate amounts of time at the deep-water sites of Ras Mohammed, snapping away with my camera and not under any time pressure to get back to Yolanda Reef before I ran out of gas. I’m going to side-mount every time I need to use two tanks in future.
Anyone can do side-mount diving, and there’s a PADI side-mount course available to anyone with an Open Water Diver certificate upwards.

Once you have mastered side-mount diving, you might be tempted to try it with two tanks on your back as well.
This is what you’ll need to do if you want to try hypoxic mixes that include helium. You’ll need to take a bottom mix, a travelling gas and a gas for accelerated decompression.
Werner Lau Tek can accommodate novice technical divers and can also provide a full range of TDI courses. However, for those initial dives you won’t be going very deep or for very long. In fact, you’ll be getting back on the boat at the same time as single-tank leisure divers. However, it gives you an introduction to the techniques and drills necessary to move on into true technical diving depths, and Aaron and Dinky are kind and sympathetic instructors who will gently guide you along that path.
It’s a great way to perfect all those drills, and with clear warm water, there’s no hurry. Enjoy!

Many people do the course and buy their rebreather, but the initial dives they make can be the most daunting and possibly the most hazardous of them all. What better than to go to the warm waters of the Red Sea and get in some practice
Aaron and Dinky are both CCR instructors with Inspirations, Poseidon Mk6s and Megalodons, as well as the Kiss Classic and the Pelagian.
It’s nice to get on a boat with leisure divers and do an undemanding dive while getting used to the very different world of bubbleless diving.
Sometimes, the complexities of CCRs can be frustrating. It helps to have someone on hand who understands the problems and, when everything goes right, you can enjoy the wonders of Red Sea marine life at famous dive-sites such as Ras Mohammed, the Straits of Tiran or even the wreck of the Thistlegorm.

Did I mention lunch It’s not something I would normally bother to write about, but in this case I will make an exception.
The guy who did the cooking on one of the Werner Lau boats, Eagleray, is a wizard. It looks and is presented like dishes served on any other Egyptian day-boat, but I had some of the best-tasting food aboard that boat that I have encountered in Egypt. ’Nuff said.

GETTING THERE: Fly with a charter airline from Gatwick or Manchester. Scheduled Egyptair flights via Cairo with good connections to Sharm el Sheikh offer 42kg of checked-baggage at no extra cost.
DIVING & ACCOMMODATION:Werner Lau Sharm, The Helnan Marina Sharm is across the road from the dive centre.
WHEN TO GO: Any time.
PRICES: Side-mount recreational diving for three days pre-booked costs 150 euros plus 25 euros equipment rental; side-mount technical diving for one day, 90 euros; DPV diving for three days pre-booked 150 euros plus 35 euros scooter rental; entry-level trimix course 850 euros; entry-level CCR course 850 euros. Regaldive can arrange flight and B&B packages £399.