Line Laying for Wreck Diving Penetrations – Video Tutorials

Wreck diving courses include line laying practice for wreck diving penetration, however many wreck instructors have minimal personal experience in the finer points of guideline deployment and use.  Proper guideline techniques were refined and perfected in the discipline of cave diving exploration.

Those techniques were adopted by contentious wreck divers and translated into training at advanced or technical wreck diving levels.  Sadly, that diffusion of ‘best practice’ technique largely failed to filter down into recreational-level wreck diving tuition. Too little time (1 dive!) is allocated to developing proper line laying skills… and too few ‘qualified’ wreck instructors have any technical knowledge of refined guideline protocols.

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The following videos (courtesy of Andrew Georgitsis and bilphilips on Youtube) show refined approaches to guideline deployment.

Overview of Line Laying – Team Protocols

This video, by UTD, demonstrates the overall approach to line laying as a team.  Points to note are the constant contact and passive communication (use of lights to aid situational awareness) between the reel diver and the no.2 diver…

Step 1 – The Primary Tie-Off

The primary tie-off should be placed outside of the wreck, where there is direct access to the surface.

Step 2 – Placements

A placement is where the guideline comes into contact with the surrounding environment; normally where there is a change of direction or depth.

Placements are more common in cave diving, than in wreck diving.  This is because wreck diving generally offers more opportunities for secure tie-offs, plus the risk of severed guidelines is typically more pronounced in the wreck environment – where sharp edges abound!  More regular tie-offs present greater security and easier resolution in the event that the guideline breaks.

Step 3a – Guideline Tie-Off (Over-Under)

The most commonly used tie-off is the ‘Over-Under’.  This secures the guideline to a fixed point in the wreck, providing security and allowing the like to be routed in a manner that encourages efficient egress from the wreck.

Having completed a primary tie-off (step 1) outside of the wreck, the dive team enters the wreck and should aim to place another tie-off in the immediate vicinity of the entry/exit point. As the team progresses in the penetration, further tie-offs should be placed at prudent locations along the route.

Inside wrecks, tie-offs should ideally be placed at every change in direction and/or depth.  Spacing of tie-offs is ultimately a compromise between;

  • The risk of a severed line creating a  large jump between divers and the intact exit line.
  • The necessity to maintain line tension and guard against ‘line traps’ (slack line drifting and catching in ‘unfollowable’ places).
  • The need to progress swiftly and efficiently, where unnecessary tie-offs slow down diver penetration and/or egress.

Step 3b – Guideline Tie-Off (Pull-Around)

An alternative tie-off method is the ‘Pull-Around’. This creates an identical tie-off to the ‘over-under’ but can, with practice, be a quicker method.  It is useful if the surrounding environment restricts the reel divers’ ability to perform an ‘over-under’ tie-off, but can only be used if the object used to tie-off with has a ‘top’.  For example, it cannot be used with floor-ceiling pipes etc..

Step 3c – Guideline Tie-Off (Crochet Wrap)

A third variation of tie-off technique is the ‘Crochet Wrap’.  This can be a very fast line laying technique, but requires considerable practice to get instinctive and fluid… but hey, that’s what your garden is for!

As with the ‘pull-around’ wrap, it necessitates an open-ended object upon which to tie-off onto..

Step 4 – Guideline Marking

As the team progresses in the wreck penetration, they may decide to mark their guideline.  This provides information on exit direction, or other features, that can help prevent disorientation upon exit – especially in zero visibility. It also forms a component skill in several overhead environment emergency protocols, such as lost diver drills.

Divers can use directional markers (i.e. Line Arrows) that point towards the exit direction.  They can also use non-directional markers; such as ‘cookies’. These have varied functions; such as when marking a turn-point in a traverse (entrance and exit in different locations) dive.

The REM, or ‘Referencing Exit Marker‘, has a  directional designation, but also includes a small writing area (like a mini-slate) for the diver to leave notes or messages upon.  This can be particularly useful, especially in exploratory dives or when conducting ‘lost diver’ protocols.