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Night Diving at Big Bay Point January 28, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Technical Diving, Training.
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It was August 23rd, 2007, a week before the Brockville Labour Day dive weekend when a bunch of us set out to do some technical diving practice at Big Bay Point, located on the south side of the mouth of Kempenfelt Bay in Lake Simcoe. Three members of my technical diving class, Dave, Pete and Brian, and I headed out with Brad just after 8pm. Being late August, the days were getting shorter quite quickly and it was twilight when we finally splashed in. Also, in all my 25 years of diving I had only done 2 night dives, so we used this as an opportunity to work on my night diving specialty as well.

If training for technical diving is difficult in the daytime there, it was doubly hard at night, especially with the don/doff exercise. I still hadn’t purchased a wet suit any thicker than my 3mm tropical suit, and while I probably could have put up with the 19C (66F) temperatures if I had been wearing a hood, I had decided to use my dry suit (and a hood for some strange reason). I was still using my fancy Seaquest Raider weight integrated BC which accommodates doubles but no backplate, and while I had zero weight in the pouches and relied only on the weight of my doubles, doff/don was a little crazy. Once you take the weight of the scuba unit off your shoulders, the dry suit tries to rocket you to the surface, while the scuba unit wants to bury itself in the silt. Getting it back on is a wriggling silt-fest that never looks elegant.

I still couldn’t reach the valves, which worried me a lot. I felt that it wasn’t worth being a certified technical diver if I couldn’t do this without adding slob knobs to my tanks and manifold. The remainder of the technical course was done in a wet suit so it didn’t turn out to be a problem, and in early 2008 I practiced with my new OMS backplate system and figured out how to do it. Even so, I still do stretching exercises several times a week to maintain the flexibility to reach them.

I was watching The Sea Hunters yesterday, which if you’re not familiar is a fairly recent TV show produced with a lot of Canadian Government funding feature author Clive Cussler, James Delgado who is the Executive Director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, and the father and son team of Mike and Warren Fletcher, who are the lead divers and underwater cinematographers. Mike and Warren are also part of the series Dreamwrecks but I don’t like that show nearly as much. This episode featured rebreathers, trimix, doubles, accelerated decompression, surface supplied breathing mix, sidescan sonar, a Russian-made equivalent to a Haskel pump not to mention some really good diving sequences going down to 200 feet or so.

I only mention this in reference to reaching my valves. At one point in the show, James Delgado’s LP hose to his primary regulator, which was configured into his full face mask (the water temperature was near freezing) exploded before the dive. They voiceover mentioned that if this had happened underwater, he would have had to find one of the other divers to help him shut down the valve and also face the problem of switching to a backup reg after flooding the mask. This must mean he was unable, in his dry suit, to reach the valves himself – so I don’t feel so bad now about having difficulty. I do wonder why he would put himself in the dangerous situation of doing a deep decompression dive without being able to manage his own gas supply.

We also practiced dropping deco bottles and picking them up again. With the small steel tanks we were using this wasn’t hard. Because they’re quite negatively buoyant, you have to add air to the BC when you pick them up or you’ll find yourself getting acquainted with the bottom, and even more important dump air when you drop them.

After doing all this practice for a while we ended up losing each other so after a few minutes on the surface I swam to shallower water and did solo practice with my lift bag. This worked pretty well also, although it took longer than it should have. After just over an hour in the water and 47 minutes submerged, we call it a night and headed home. I’d used 1100 PSI in my Faber 95 doubles, which is a lot for that depth and bottom time but I bet I used half of it doing the doff/don exercise in my bulky dry suit.

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Comments»

1. psuscubaguy - January 28, 2009

Your don/doff description pretty much sounds like my first attempt as well. I was told to flop on my back and roll out of and back into my doubles. But as you experienced, once you roll out, buoyancy takes over and getting back in is not all that easy.

Thanks for sharing, it gave me a chuckle to remember my experience.

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