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Further Adventures at Big Bay Point July 13, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Training.
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I was the first of my group to arrive at the lake on Saturday. There was one car already there, and noticing the tanks inside it, I walked out to the end of the dock to see if I could spot the divers. It looked like they (I hope it was 2 people and not just one) were out by the boat that lies east of the training area at a depth of 30’. At first I saw bubbles, then a diver and then a fin as if he was free diving or trying to overcome a weight deficiency. The water was almost dead calm an crystal clear by Lake Simcoe standards. In any case, they didn’t need any help so I went back to the car to prepare my gear.

Soon afterwards, people started arriving, including my student, Alex, with whom I’d done the deep and search & recovery adventure dives a week earlier. Today we were going to do a Nitrox dive and peak performance buoyancy dive. He’d already used Nitrox on his S&R dive, so this wasn’t anything new, but to get an advanced card 5 dives are required and they can’t be combined. As he was mainly doing the advanced course to allow him to accompany his father on deeper dives on their trips to warmer parts of the world, I decided to take him on deep dive #2 from the deep diver specialty course to give him some more deep experience.

The first thing we did was measure his Nitrox tank, which came in at exactly 30%, so the maximum depth of about 90’ in the area we were diving was well within limits. He set his computer for Nitrox as we’d done the week before. While getting ready, another diver – Neil – showed up who was also doing his advanced who still needed to do his deep dive. He said he’d tried once before but ran low on air and had to turn around. “Walk-ins” at the lake happen all too frequently, and my main concern is having the paperwork done back at the shop, so I asked him a couple of questions about his previous dive to make sure it was recent and done with an instructor I’d trust to have done the requisite documents.

Unlike the week before, I was using single tanks and a wet suit. The water down deep is quite cold at under 10C (50F) which I would normally consider too cold for my 1-piece 6.5mm suit, but reasoning that we’d be at that temperature for less than 10 minutes I decided to give it a try. We swam out to the float which sits at a depth of 30 feet, and descended with reference but not touching it, then followed the line with Alex leading and me at the back. Given Neil’s description of his previous deep dive, I wanted to keep a close eye on him. Alex had already proven to be reasonable on his air and having good trim and movement through the water. He did, however, follow the wrong line and I had to turn him to the correct one. This was understandable as the line going deep was thin and hard to see, while the other line was recently laid and quite obvious.

I could see immediately why Neil’s air consumption was so high. He swam in a head-high position, using rapid short kicks with his knees quite bent and also using his arms for propulsion. On the way down I signaled to him to try to relax and slow down which he did, but I still knew that the time at depth would be short. Once down there we went through the show of colours to Neil (red and orange are supposed to disappear early but like the previous week they were still quite easy to see at 90 feet) and examination of compressed objects (like the Perrier bottle we took with us) for Alex. Alex was also supposed to do a navigation swim (out 20 kicks then back on a reciprocal course) at depth but I decided to work our way back up as Neil was already getting through his air.

Once this was done, we ascended up the line. Both Alex’ and Neil’s buoyancy skills were good and they managed to hold their safety stop without grabbing the line, even though the current was pushing us away a bit. After that we returned to the dock and we were done. I asked Neil if he wanted to join us on the second dive but he showed me a cut that was starting to look a bit ugly after being in the water so long and begged off.

The second dive, peak performance buoyancy was good. Alex’ buoyancy skills were already pretty good, although his knowledge of breath control was limited and I took the opportunity to give him lots of hovering exercises, first at 40 feet then later at 20 feet where it is more difficult. I also showed him the frog kick, which is  useful at that location because of the silt on the bottom. It turned out that he’s not all that comfortable frog-kicking and didn’t do it much. I didn’t press the issue because it’s not on the dive requirements. A little deeper down there’s a bicycle mounted on two poles. This turned out to be great for the “buoyancy game” where obstacles need to be navigated. The first time Alex tried it he came in to high and caught his tank on the pedal gear, churning up silt and making no progress. He finally managed to force himself under it although I thought he might topple the whole apparatus at one point. One his second try it was much better but still the silt cloud was thick after he was done.

Instead of ascending at the buoy we went slowly up the line to do some more exercises, ending up a few feet from the dock for our exit. While the wet suit was more than adequate for our short excursions below the thermocline, the warmth of the shallow water was certainly welcom.

Meanwhile Marty was teaching a rescue class and Matt was conducting a dry suit specialty course, then an open water student showed up needing to do dives 3 and 4, and another came along wanting to do dives 1 and 2. They asked me if I could stay to help with them, and also to come the next day and help, but as I was going away to Brockville the following weekend for the wreck course, I told them I had done all I could for the weekend, and I had to leave it to the other instructors to work things out.

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