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PADI Pro Weekend: Diving the Daryaw, part 1 June 20, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
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The Daryaw is cool wreck, although it is not for the inexperienced. It lies in a part of the river where the current can move quickly, is at a depth of 90 feet wedged between rocks, and is upside down, making any attempt at penetration potentially confusing. By now it’s Sunday, June 14th, 2009 and there are 3 of us in the buddy team, with Ken added to the previous day’s pairing of Steve Irwin and me.

Our captain, Lawrence, remembers the night in November 1941 when the Daryaw struck a shoal in the fog. It was visible for two days before slipping below the surface to its current resting place.

There are two lines which lead down to the Daryaw. We used the one I’m most used to, which goes straight down to the props against the current. The other line is much further to port, which in the upside logic of positioning around the wreck, means closer to the Canadian side of the river. This line leads to a rock shelf much shallower than where the wreck lies, then turns about 135 degrees to the left descending diagonally downstream to the props. I’ve only used it once.

Once at the props, the next stop is underneath the wreck – out of the current, almost. You can get there by pulling along one of the two lines running left (i.e. starboard) from the props. The upper one looks like a strong rope, while the lower one is a flimsy flat cotton affair that looks like it might break at any time. It doesn’t, and that’s the one I used, although about half way to the destination I dropped to the bottom into a narrow protected channel where the current was much less and pulled myself along the rocks.

The ship’s stern was built higher than amidships, so the middle of the boat is well off the bottom. I also believe the terrain is a bit higher near the bow, leaving lots of swimming room in and around that area. Most divers spend their time amidships looking around. During my DSAT Tec Deep course I did valve shutdowns, stage bottle drops and pickups, and Scuba unit doffs and dons in that area. This time, however, our destination was inside the ship.

Well up from the bottom there is a door leading astern on the starboard side. We had agreed before getting in the water that I would enter the wreck and wait by the door. As the only one with a long hose and redundant air supply (I was back to using my doubles) it made sense that I would be available to the less well equipped divers as soon as they were in. Next Steve came in, and he had planned to affix a small flashing beacon to a convenient spot near the door.

I was surprised that he didn’t tie off his line right at the door as we’d agreed, but I think he was focused (fixated?) on the beacon. He then chose the second post, about 8 feet into the wreck to hang it, but could not make it fast. After a couple of minutes he handed it to and tied off his penetration line on the same post. I managed to get the beacon attached loosely to the first post. It uses a Velcro loop, and seeing which side has hooks and which side has eyes in the darkness wasn’t all that easy.

Ken then entered and I let him past, and we all followed Steve’s lead through the same path we’d taken during wreck training. However, I was the only one of us who’d been into the wreck since then, spending two hours inside it last summer as a safety diver, and saw that Steve had swum past the door leading to our intended destination and entered two doors further down. I don’t know what’s in there – Steve said there wasn’t much, but by that time I was trying to signal to the guys to turn around and leave. As we’d missed our planned destination, I thought it was reasonable to abort the penetration.

Once I saw they were following, I led the team in the other direction, then waited at the door for everyone to exit safely before going out myself. From there, we made our way under the ship to the bow by pulling ourselves along the bottom and various lines that were placed there, and after observing a small school of large fish near the bow, ascended over the ship and drifted in the current along the hull back to the screws. I realized that we’d done this a bit early in the dive as I still had about 2/3rds of my air left, and started to go back amidships to look around some more, but both Steve and Ken were low on air so we headed back up the line for our safety stop.

The total dive time including the stop was 38 minutes with a maximum depth of 90 feet. We were able to do this thanks to the extra capacity of EAN32 in our tanks.  It was a nice sunny day but the water temperature of course was unchanged at 56F (13C) so most of us were in dry suits. I was back on the boat at 11:03. Matt “Sharpeye” Lepp, who was diving with Andrew, had found the small black plastic cap from Steve’s regulator near the bow and returned it to him on the boat. Steve also mentioned he lost a double-ended clip somewhere on the dive.

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