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PADI Pro Weekend: Diving the Keystorm June 16, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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The newly minted instructors, Steve, Marty, Matt and I, along with a our Course Director Ed, fellow student Yoon, Staff Instructor Siodan, and several others from our dive club just along for the dive met up at Caiger’s Resort West of Brockville to catch the Osprey for a 3 tank dive. The boat was captained by Lawrence, an old-timer and “river rat” who started piloting boats on the St. Lawrence not long after he learned to walk. He’s the guy we usually get when we go on charters in that area, even though there a several other captains working in the same outfit.

Captain Lawrence

Captain Lawrence

Most of the divers had driven up the night before, but as I wanted to get some work done, and miss the Friday night traffic out of Toronto, I chose the 5:30AM start which got me to the dock at 8:45 after an easy drive with the cruise control engaged 99% of the time. I spent a half hour organizing my gear, complicated by my choice of diving my 95 cu’ doubles, but also a pair of AL80 tanks for the second and third dives. This meant also taking both my technical regs and my recreational reg, an extra hose for the dry suit, a single tank adapter and additional weight, for which I used a standard weight belt.

The Osprey is a large, fast, comfortable boat with plenty of room for gear. In addition to the customary bench seating on the port and starboard gunwhales, it has a centre rail where tanks can be accommodated standing upright, leaving lots of room for other stuff. It also has overhead nets for lighter gear like clothing, which can stay dry without being packed in dry bags.

We got to Hart Island, where US Customs is located, at about 10AM, but waited almost 20 minutes for someone to come out to the boat. They collected our passports and took Lawrence away to go through the paperwork. Lawrence complained that the staff were all new and he had to tell them what papers they needed and where to send them.

A short ride from customs through a very scenic area of the St. Lawrence took us to the entry point for the Keystorm. There are (at least) two lines to the ship, one going directly to the bow and the one that we took which led to a “basket” (big concrete block) located near the bow on the underside of the ship. My buddy Steve Irwin and I splashed in at 11:15 and made our way around the bow and along the deck, which slopes from around 20′ to a maximum of 115.

If you’ve been paying attention or know the wreck, you realize that it lies on its starboard side, facing away from the basket. We poked in and out of various large and well lit holds which were nice because they were out of the current , before crossing under the starboard side back to the undersdie at a depth of around 100′ and down to the screws propeller at a maximum depth of 114′. All around the wreck, especially near the bottom, I noticed more fish than other times I’ve been in the area. This was true for all the other dives as well. It may have been because it was so early in the diving season and they hadn’t been chased away yet.

This part of the wreck is one of the training spots we use technical diving training. It’s a flat bottom with good visibility at a medium depth that’s a good place to practice shutdown drills and stage bottle drops and pickups.

We then worked our way back up, looking around for a little longer in the holds before reaching the bridge and ascending along it, running from 60′ to 30 or so. Crossing the bow, I found a spot where air accumulates and we played with that for a while. Steve noticed that when he pushed his dive light into the air pocket, it became heavy again. Physics at work.

Deepstop next to gash that took the big ship down

Deepstop next to gash that took the big ship down

On the underside at the bow end we could clearly see a large gash incurred when it struck the shoal in October 1912, and after taking a few photographs in that spot we headed up the line for our safety stop and exit at 12:01 pm. This long deep dive was aided by our 31% Nitrox mix and the multi-level  dive profile, staying well within the no decompression limits.

Near the bow, a Goby waits among the Zebra Mussels

Near the bow, a Goby waits among the Zebra Mussels

This was my first time in my dry suit for 6 months, and I was reasonably comfortable in it, and also warm. The water temperature was only 56F (13C) and I’d initially chosen to dive without a hood because I thought the water was a little warmer than that. Once I’d jumped in, I asked the boat crew to hand it to me and was very glad I had. After starting the dive with 3000 PSI in my doubles, I emerged with about 1600 left.

The intended purpose of the weekend was to complete our PADI Specialty Instructor ratings. This mainly involved reciting briefings and debriefings of the dives, rather than underwater exercises. After the weekend we were all set to start teaching once our confirmations come in from PADI and our insurance gets upgraded.

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1. PADI Pro Weekend: Diving the America « Chronicle of an older diver - June 18, 2009

[…] St. Lawrence River, Training, Wreck Diving trackback The America is a common second dive after the Keystorm. It’s a medium depth dive with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Care is required not to […]

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