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Wreck training on the Gaskin, ’09 July 20, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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The Gaskin is an old shipwreck sitting not far from the shore off Brockville at around 60-70 feet. It can be accessed as a shore dive if you bring lots of air, but I’ve always gone there from a boat. On this occasion I was going into the wrecks to lead the students through, with some help from Dave, an assistant instructor who’d been doing this for years. Just like in the movies where the green lieutenant goes into battle with the experienced sergeant, I followed all his advice.

Going down to the wrecks in the St. Lawrence is always impressive. The dive usually starts with a (hopefully) minor struggle to grab the line from the buoy to the wreck while fighting the current, then pulling yourself down hand over hand where the only thing in sight other than the turbid water is the line disappearing down into the haze. It’s best not to look behind you as the current can take your mask off when it gets strong. Eventually, the bottom, then the basket holding the line or the wreck itself appears from the gloom.

The Gaskin is around 130′ long and has an easy entrance from the stern and another in the port bow. We use these as entrances each taking one student through each, tying off their penetration lines on the outside and at various points within. Most of the good upright attachment points are along the centreline, so they had to manage keeping lines clear of each other on the same post. The reason it makes a good first wreck to practice penetration is that the deck is very broken up, so getting out isn’t much more difficult than going straight up.

Dave thought I was too laissez-faire with the direction. At this stage he wanted me to point to exactly where the student was going to attach the line, and indeed that worked much better. It’s confusing enough to be in that environment in the first place and learning a new skill, so removing the need to make that kind of decision not only makes for better practice but speeds things up a lot.

On Saturday, July 20, 2009, each student got to do the wreck twice, once from each end. The second time after I led the student out, Dave silted the inside of the wreck to reduce the visibility to zero in some spots and just really bad in others. I kept a couple of fingers on the divers’ shoulder while they reeled in the line so I would know they were OK but couldn’t really see them. I don’t think they realized that if you looked up, you could usually see the light from one of the many exits in the deck.

We had to remind everyone to remain horizontal throughout the penetration and to scull with their fins to avoid silting, but for the most part the lines were kept taut and the attachments were done properly. The instructors’ dives were all around 1 hour and 40 minutes, but with the 40% nitrox mix and by hanging out on the upper part of the wreck while we were waiting, we managed to last through the dive without required decompression.

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1. Solo Dive at Big Bay Point « Chronicle of an older diver - July 25, 2009

[…] out more line from my reel – about 4 frog-kicks worth. This sculling kick is taught in the wreck course and soon becomes habit, as it is both a comfortable means of propulsion and avoids stirring the […]

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2. The Wreck Diving Course, part II « Chronicle of an older diver - July 31, 2009

[…] off shore from the small town of Rockport which is a little bit upriver from Brockville. After the Gaskin, this wreck increases the difficulty level because its deeper (at 95 feet), more enclosed (although […]

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