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Paul Toomer: Wreck Head



Part 3 – Tie Offs

Well here we are again… Part 3 of Wreck Head!!! Looks like you’re stuck with me.

Last time I discussed reels and spools and their pros and cons. This time we are going to get into the nitty gritty of line laying. Line laying rocks! When I am wrecking and caving you will always see me volunteering for the line work. I love it. Makes me feel like an explorer, ha ha! Did James Bond ever use a spool????

Paul 1

From time to time I’ve had the opportunity to run wreck workshops at dive events, and one of the most popular activities at these workshops is always line laying. The divers that participate in these workshops have the most exciting time – there is something about spools and reels which makes us come over all funny!

Before I start though I need to stress something very important; none of the techniques discussed in my articles are in any way designed to replace proper training. No amount of words can replace a good instructor. Penetration dives without training are dangerous so please seek professional guidance before you dive headlong into some old rust bucket!

Essentially there are three major tie off points when laying line. The first is the primary tie off. This should ideally be in open water or as near to it as you can get. The reason for this is that if you found yourself in a loss of light situation and you followed your line (essentially blind) all the way to the primary placement, you would simply be able to ascend with no fear of connecting with some serious tin on the way up to the light. Select something substantial to tie off to, so you are guaranteed that the line will still be there when you exit. Tying onto something that will move is not exactly the best thing you could do!

Paul 2

On the reel/spool there is an “eye” tied into the line, which is used to secure the line during this initial procedure. Simply feed the line around the object you are tying to and then run the spool though the eye to make a tight connection. Then wrap the line around the tie off point a further three times; this will make it incredibly secure.

Before proceeding into the wreck you must seek approval from your team.  They may spot something that you haven’t, so take your time before moving on. You are now looking for the secondary tie off point. It should be in the overhead environment but preferably still in the “light zone”. The reasons for this are obvious. When tying this knot we simply wrap the line three times to make it secure and then make a spring-like connection with the line. This is what we call a line-to-line connection. To make the connection you feed the line under and over the line coming from the primary tie. This knot causes the most grief, as it is really easy to get a line-to-line-to-line connection. If this happens the knot will not spring it will just grab. The reason for having a spring connection is it helps keep the line taught while moving through the wreck.

The third tie off is called a “placement”, and by design these knots are quick to make and quick to release. To make a placement you simply wrap the line around a tie off point once and then make another line-to-line connection. From then on, we generally use placements for all the other tie offs through the wreck.

Paul 3

We seldom do a “final” tie off in wrecks as we normally bring the team and line back out with us after each penetration. So I’m going to leave final Tie Offs, Line Tees and Arrows until next time when we will discuss longer penetrations (Sounds terrible doesn’t it, ha, ha!!).

When moving through the wreck be sure to keep your spool/reel from free running, as line will trail wildly behind you and may accidently get trapped. This causes real danger to divers exiting in a hurry as line traps stop divers from feeling the line all the way out of the wreck.

Tie your line reasonably low as well and I recommend running near the walls of the wrecks rather than right in the middle of a corridor. Keeping it low means you can pass over your line really easily – swimming under a line is incredibly dangerous due to the possibility of catching the line on your equipment.

There are some very important line rules you need to remember:

  • The team follows a set order into the wreck and at the turn point of the dive; they simply do a 180-degree turn and leave the wreck.
  • The reel handler is first in and last out. This diver is called diver one.
  • No one can overtake diver one on the way in and diver one is not allowed to overtake anyone on the way out.
  • If you can’t see the line you are “LOST”! To see the line, you must either have visual or tactile contact with the line.

Paul 4

In order to hone your line laying skills dry practising is a must. You can use anything, like turn all the furniture in your house upside down, and line yourself from one end of the house to the other. Your family will really love you for this. An easier solution of course, would be to do what my instructor did to me and line off through a row of trees. The sod made us do a simulation of lost lights following the line through the trees. I wish he had given me a helmet!

As ever, all opinions expressed are my own. I am in no way trying to replace proper instruction. My opinions may differ to some agencies and instructors and I do not wish to disrepute any of them.


Paul is the Director of Training at RAID. To find out more about the courses that RAID offers, visit

Main photo: Jason Brown

After living in South Africa for 23 years, Paul moved to the UK, where he discovered diving. Within months of learning to dive he had his own centre in London and rapidly progressed to Course Director before finding his passion for technical diving. Paul is an avid wreck, cave and rebreather diver, and has worked as an Instructor and Instructor Trainer for PADI, IANTD, and TDI. Paul recently held the position of Director of Technical Training for SSI, but moved on when he was offered the chance to co-own and run his own training agency. Paul now holds the role of Director of Diver Training at RAID International.

Marine Life & Conservation

Dive Guides invited to apply for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship



Reef-World’s campaign is helping dive guides in need receive Green Fins environmental certification

The Reef-World Foundation – international coordinator of the UN Environment Programme’s Green Fins initiative – is calling for dive guides to submit their application for the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship.

As a result of the Scholarship campaign, dive guides working around the world – including Brazil, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia, South Africa, Indonesia and Turkey – have received their certificate proving their status as a Green Fins certified dive guide. Yet, thanks to funding from Reef-World’s partner Paralenz, 149 more scuba diving guides will be able to receive their Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course environmental certification.

Dive guides who meet the criteria (outlined below) can apply for the scholarship at any time through the Green Fins website. To be eligible for the scholarship, guides must:

  • have completed and passed all modules of the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course
  • be able to demonstrate they or their employer are not financially able to purchase the certificate
  • be a national of a country which receives official development assistance from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Scholarship was created in response to feedback from dive guides who had passed the Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course and were keen to download and display their personalised electronic certificate but were not financially able to cover the associated cost (£19 / $25 USD). The personalised electronic certificate can be displayed to entice eco-minded guests by informing them the guide has received this vital environmental certification and is aware of how to reduce the negative environmental impacts associated with diving.

Diving related damage to sensitive marine ecosystems, including coral reefs, is becoming an increasingly significant issue. This damage makes them less likely to survive other local and wider stressors, such as overfishing or run-off from land containing pollutants and plastic debris as well as the effects of climate change, such as rising sea temperatures. The Green Fins Dive Guide e-Course, created with the support of Professional SCUBA Schools International (PSS) and running on their innovative EVO e-learning platform, teaches dive professionals how to prevent diving-related damage to coral reefs by following the highest environmental standards and better managing their guests to prevent damage to the reef.

Sam Craven, Programmes Manager at The Reef-World Foundation, said: “We’re proud to be offering dive guides around the world the opportunity to become Green Fins certified; no matter their background. Both the e-Course and the Scholarship have been a great success so far and we’re delighted to see so many dive professionals demonstrating their commitment to sustainable tourism by taking the course. We urge dive guides who haven’t yet taken the course to consider taking this step and welcome Scholarship applications from anyone who meets the criteria. Together, we can protect coral reefs through sustainable diving and we’d love as many dive guides as possible to join us.”

Dive guides who want to be considered for scholarship can visit to apply.

To donate to the Green Fins Dive Guide Scholarship Fund, please visit

Supporters who are interested in helping additional dive guides receive their certifications can also donate to Sponsor a Dive Guide.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February



There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit

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E-Newsletter Sign up!


This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email to book your spot!

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