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Wreck Training on the Daryaw July 7, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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This dive, on July 20th, 2008, was strangely enough one of my favourites of the season. The mission was simply to hold my position inside the wreck of the Henry C. Daryaw, located at around 90′ below the surface of the St. Lawrence River near Brockville, and make sure that the wreck diving students didn’t go further into the wreck than they were supposed to, and to be there to assist in case of problems.

Simple enough, though we had 4 buddy teams come through twice each, giving each diver a chance to lead the penetration and lay their penetration line. I had done the same course the year before and this was only my third time inside the wreck. Later that same year, in September 2007, I’d qualified for my technical diving certification, and early in 2008 my Divemaster rating. This gave me the opportunity to assist with the dive, as we were required to stay under for so long that multiple tanks, gas switches and decompression were all required.

Brad was instructing with Dave assisting, and Andrew and I were the safety divers. Andrew, an AI but not quite finished his technical training and also using a high capacity single cylinder, pulled the duty to shuttle students from the buoy line to the door where they were to enter. As mentioned earlier, I got the role of blocker at the turn from the passageway leading astern on the starboard side of the wreck to an mechanical room amidships. It was there I was to remain for two hours. To shorten our decompression time, we dived Nitrox with 35% Oxygen.

Dave went it first, but he thought the door to the mechanical room was closer to the entrance than it was. I was following him, with Brad behind me. Unfortunately, Dave thought I’d gone too far and Brad thought (correctly) that I hadn’t gone far enough and I found myself being shoved from both directions. This resulted in a silt-out with near zero visibility. Dave finally figured it out and Brad got me to where he thought I should be, and there I was feeling pretty lonely in complete isolation without being able to see anything. I held on to my stage bottle for comfort knowing that I had enough air to last a long while and concentrated on controlling my breathing.

I remember getting that “what I am doing here?” feeling that I got the year before when I first went into the wreck. This time I had no penetration line and in the complete darkness I felt isolated and alone. Brad, who’s been in there a bunch of times, came over and I saw his hand well enough to see his OK sign. I gave him one back, but he had to reach out and feel my hand to know that. By that time, the silt had settled very slightly and some outlines became visible, and I started to be more comfortable.

After a while I could see Dave in his position, or at least his light, and several minutes later the first pair of divers came in. They had the hardest time because the wreck still had lots of silt stirred up. As their light approached, I pointed in the direction of their destination while shining my light on my hand. They got the message.

A couple of times I had to direct divers through the correct  door. Bruce in particular seemed really set on going through the next door down and I had to push him through the right one (which was the one on the left).  There was a long time between divers – I think we’d allowed too much in the planning of the dives, so a lot of the time was spent waiting around. The depth was around 85 feet (more on my feet, less on my head), so I started racking up deco time pretty fast in the second hour despite the Nitrox. After my doubles dropped to 800PSI, I clipped the AL80 that had been sitting at my feet the whole time onto my BC, and switched over,  taking it down to 500 PSI by the time I’d finished with it.

The deco stop was the longest I’d ever done at about an hour, based on my Apeks Quantum‘s calculations. Most of this was at 10 feet. We weren’t carrying any richer mixes with us so I couldn’t accelerate it. Dave and Brad, using Cochran dive computers which have pretty aggressive profiles, were done in about 20 minutes. And so I sat. Steve, our on-board Divemaster, came down to see how we were doing. He was there when Brad’s fin came off due to a broken strap or buckle or something and he went to fetch it. I then saw him swimming hard back toward the line in the current, but making little progress. I held out my had and pulled him back in (Steve swears I extended just one finger, which I may well have done, but I don’t remember that).

We hung off the buoy line while we off-gassed. Most of the time I had my eyes closed and lying on my back,because my AL80 stage bottles were near empty and getting buoyant. Three hours and 3 minutes after getting in the water, I was back on the boat. I’m looking forward to doing it again.

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Comments»

1. Steve Irwin - July 10, 2009

Well, maybe two fingers, then. But you did save my bacon…..I’ll give you that.

Looking forward to being on the teaching staff of this year’s course with you, Instructor Sullivan!

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2. deepstop - July 10, 2009

It will be great to have you along, instructor Irwin.

I like the “one-finger” version of the story. Keep telling it that way! It doesn’t matter if it didn’t happen exactly like that.

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3. Out to play at Big Bay Point « Chronicle of an older diver - July 10, 2009

[…] Point, equipped with a bit of enriched air left over from diving the 3 wrecks (Gaskin, Kinghorn and Daryaw) on our wreck diving course in the St. Lawrence River near […]

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