Seriously if you feel like James is a good fit for you I wouldn't worry about every possible alternative like Monterey or Fort Lauderdale. Part of this process is narrowing down to the realistic and achievable so that you can actual get into a course in the near term and get diving.
Personally I have backed off some of the deeper stuff cause 90-130ft dives on 25/25 with O2 deco are like the sweet spot for fun with me and my buddies. Long enough to see stuff, realistic logistically, don't require support, gas costs aren't insane so we can go alot, etc. So I wouldn't assume these are just going to be a short term stepping stone to much deeper.
I can't say that the GUE Tech training is for everyone, and I would never push anyone into this type of rigorous coursework. I respect your decision to make the best personal choice for you. People may be looking for different things in a class and instructor, and I don't think that all instructors are created equal. That's just a reality of life. I would also recommend having conversations with your potential instructors rather than merely emailing backing and forth. Pick up the phone or visit them.
If I lived in Chicago doing Great Lakes wreck diving, I would highly consider training with Bob Sherwood out of Cape Vincent, NY when you're ready. The logistics of diving and training there are convenient, and I would imagine that the conditions would be very appplicable to your own local water conditions for diving. Having said this, I can't say enough about how much of a positive impact Bob Sherwood and GUE have had on my own diving, and I am thankful for the training as it has worked well for me. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, he can take you where you want to go as a technical diver. He is also definitely the kind of instructor who does a ton of diving outside of teaching, and I see him keeping in touch with his students to continue to do fun dives.
Just thought I'd offer another data point for you. Good luck with your search!
"Appreciate your life!"
At least streetdoctor is actually making some contacts and trying to get something on the schedule. The only way he's (really) going to know if he made a good choice is to go diving with his instructor.
My GUE C1 instructor has a poor personal reputation as a misogynist in some circles but my wife and I have gotten along with him great, which just goes to show you that rumors and reputation - especially on the internet - aren't worth much more than the internets.
You should check out Tami Thomsen in Madison, WI. Right up the road from you in Chicago.
Tami is awesome. Not only is she a fantastic and experienced diver/instructor, she is a lot of fun to take courses from as well. She is one of my favorite people in diving.
I know she has dove the Doria, Oregon, USS Monitor, all the Milwaukee wrecks, Whitefish point and a ton of other stuff. She is an ice diving instructor and explores new Mexican cave systems almost every year. She dives/teaches rebreathers, sidemount, cave diving, wreck diving and DPVs. She is a field editor with ADM and has dove every major cave system in Florida including Dieploder, Eagles Nest. If my memory serves me correctly, she has even dove Wakulla Springs!
I don’t think you will find anyone more experienced in the area than Tami. Or more fun to take courses from. Her boyfriend runs Points North charters and can get you to some great spots. Plus she is very safety conscious as well.
Then again, she did have a QR buckle on her harness the last time I dove with her…..
In your planning, keep in mind that Gilboa typically freezes over sometime in January most years. It doesn't open up again until sometime in March. I know you know this already, just reminding you to factor it into your planning.
I was under the impression that it rarely freezes over?
I have a hard time believing that quantity of students taught has much bearing on quality of the outcome.
Sounds like the OP has spent a lot of time figuring out what he needs, finding some good sources and picking one that is the most feasible logistcally. Maybe somebody can compile a nice little sticky about what should be considered when looking for an instructor.
I think you guys are way over thinking this thing, if it was worth all this heavy brainiac thought, Tobin would be on here. Go diving. -- AzTek Diver
I've been following this and thinking alot about what you've been saying. I think you're on the right path, you might consider waiting until the summer to take your classes so you can practice what you've learned in your recent classes and have more time to think about what direction you want to go in while diving more. BTW, I truly think keeping the class close to home is an excellent idea.
Sincerely, Your broke and unemployed buddy who really want's to take the class with you but is seriously considering selling a kidney to be able to continue to dive next season.
Are you guys really thinking about taking it in January at Gilboa? Man is that a brutal time of year for training here in the Midwest! Best of luck to you guys. I'll be home by the fireplace.