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Wreck Diving Training on the Henry C. Daryaw January 16, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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The third and final pair of dives on our wreck diving training were optional add-ons to the PADI course. The training went slightly beyond the recommended limit so wasn’t officially part of the course, but it was felt that it would give better preparation for real world wreck penetration. The wreck chosen was the Henry C. Daryaw, which lies at 90′  in the St. Lawrence River near Brockville, on July 22nd, 2007.

There are two buoy lines down to the wreck – the easy way and the fast way. The easy way goes against the current over a shallow area, then reverses going with the current down a wall to the stern. However, I didn’t find out about this line until over a year later, when I found myself leading a bunch of other divers down it hoping I was going the right way. On the training dives we went the fast way – straight down against the current also dropping to the stern.

By this time Pete was a bit ahead of me in his technical diving training and hooked up with us to train with big Jon, a Florida cave diver and technical instructor. I switched buddies to dive with Andrew (who started his technical training the following year) while my previous buddy Mike who was a police instructor buddied up with Maryanne who was having more difficulty with the dives. Once we reached the stern near the twin screws we were met by a safety diver who led us along the starboard side (the left side because the wreck is upside down on the bottom) to a sheltered area in the middle, that is open at the bottom because the bow and stern of the ship were built up higher than the middle.

Going towards the stern still on the starboard side there is a door leading into the wreck. This training sequence was different to the others as instead of separating the buddy teams at the bottom we took turns leading the way, with me taking the first turn to lead. I tied off on a rail and went forward into the darkness. My first impression was of confinement. I was surprised at how low the ceiling (actually the floor) was, and felt somewhat anxious about what I was doing there. There were portholes off to the right which allowed a feeble natural light to enter, but we used our lights to find the way. For seemed to me to be a long way into the wreck, but was probably only 30 or 40 feet, we carefully frog kicked along so as not to disturb the silt, eventually finding our destination which was two doors to our left.

I didn’t see Brad who was in the corner near the entrance, nor did I see Dave W. who was hanging out just past the two doors to make sure we didn’t go too far past them, or enter in to the right hand one instead of the left. After passing through it, and going up towards the bottom of the ship, we ran into Dave B. who showed us around a bit in the small space including a toilet that was hanging down above us. After a couple of minutes in there trying to see things in the darkened and silty room, we headed out, retracing our way using the penetration back to the spot where we entered. There is also a quick exit from the room possible by going straight down, although it wasn’t visible from our position.

Andrew led our second dive, which was much like the first, except that I felt much more confident. The most memorable part was at the exit, because it is not well sheltered from the current and Andrew had a hard time getting his line untied from railing. After a couple of minutes of trying I ended up getting myself a firm grip on the wreck with one hand and a firm grip on Andrew’s tank with the other so he was steady enough to get it untied easily.

After we were back on the ship for a while, Jon and Pete came up. Jon told Pete he’d done well but screwed up on one thing. Jon had given him an out of air signal and Pete immediately provided him with his primary regulator and switched to his backup. Jon told him to check his own air supply first because if he didn’t have enough, he shouldn’t have shared his air (i.e. leave him to die). I hope I’m never in a situation like that, and with good planning I never should be, although there’s always the chance that a diver who’s not part of your dive team happens to be in the same place at the same time. It does drive home the need to respect the rule of thirds in an overhead environment, though, because without it you could very well find yourself in that unfortunate situation.

The water temperature was actually a little warmer than the previous day’s dives, at 21C (70F) at our maximum depth of 86 feet.  I was a bit of an air hog on my first dive which was only 19 minutes bottom time and 24 minutes total but running my AL80 from 3000 to 700 PSI.  The second dive I had a bit more time and a bit less air. Despite the short dives we still used EAN36 in our tanks due to the short surface interval of only 24 minutes.

The wrecks in the St. Lawrence are lots of fun due to the current and warm water. Tobermory has better visibility but the water is much colder and these days I wouldn’t dive the deep wrecks there without my dry suit,. But a thin wetsuit and a hood is all that’s needed in Brockville in the summer time, and there’s nothing else like it in Canada.

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