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Minor Struggles on the Forest City August 18, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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On August 15th, 2009, the first dive of our trip to Tobermory’s Fathom Five National Park was on the wreck of the Forest City. Our boat, the “Mamie”, from G+S Watersports isn’t the ideal dive platform, with high transoms all around, but is large and fortunately it has grips up above to help make the big step onto the platform at the stern.

The technical divers were in first. I think I was the second of my group of three. Entry was without incident, but I had trouble clipping off my deco bottle at the surface. We had discussed staging them on the wreck near the descent line, so I just carried it down with me. It was then I noticed that it took a lot of air to get neutral. Dropping faster and faster, I had my dry suit full enough to start blowing air out of the neck seal and was furiously pumping more into my BC without much effect. I had no weights other than my steel tanks.

I realised before I gently touched down on the rocks that one of my dump valves was stuck open. It must have only been slightly so because I was positively buoyant on entry. I clipped the deco bottle to my BC.  When Rich and Andrew looked back to check whether I was ready to swim over to the wreck I signalled to Andrew to come over and take a look – demonstrating the leaking valve by operating the low pressure inflator button. Once he figured out what I was asking for he quickly got it unjammed and we continued the dive. If I hadn’t had help readily available my other options would have been to use the backup bladder on my BC or discard the deco bottle (or climb back up the line hand over hand!).

On the way down, I stopped to leave my camera at 130′. The very back of the wreck is at 150′ and we’d decided to go there. I keep my camera in my left pocket, on top of my spare mask. With the thick gloves required in the 6C (42F) water of the Georgian Bay depths I found it a difficult maneuver. All this had to be done by feel as the pockets are well to the side. On we went down to the rudder. Comparing notes on the surface it’s obvious enough that we’re somewhat narced at that depth, not remember everything in clear detail. Each year I notice a little more, and the picture of wreck becomes clearer.

We only spent a couple of minutes there, with my depth gauge reaching 151′. On the way back up I wanted to take a look in a hatchway in the middle of the deck that I’d seen the year before at around 135′. It is surrounded by the machinery of the boat including a boiler. Forgetting about the weight of the stage bottle, I stuck my head in the hatch and the weight of the stage  had me almost doing a somersault. Using my arms I pushed myself out again, struggled to get  horizontal, and continued on feeling a bit sheepish at this clumsy maneouvre.

I then went over to the starboard side to retrieve my camera and noticed a mask lying nearby. A moment later I recognised it as my spare, and hoping nobody else had noticed stuffed it in my pocket along with the camera.

The rest of the dive  went off just fine. We toured to wreck a bit but Rich’s hands were cold in his dry gloves as the air wasn’t flowing, so after 25 minutes we called it a dive, and headed up the line. My computer, set to GF 30/90, had given me a 40′ stop, but with switching to my EAN50 on the way up each stop cleared by the time I got there. Andrew, who had not brought deco mix because of a rigging problem, had his computer set for its last stop at 20′.

I’ve learned from playing with desktop decompression software that 20′ stops on air can last a long time. They can be a really good idea with accelerated decompression on EAN50 and above, but  with air there is too much Nitrogen to allow the body to decompress in any reasonable amount of time. The conditions at the time were really calm so a 10′ stop would not have been difficult. In the end, after Rich had cleared, he gave his deco gas over to Andrew so he could finish up quickly and we all returned to the boat. I climbed out with the deco bottle still attached rather than mess around with it in the water.

Call it a shakedown dive if you will. All the rest of the dives that weekend were better, but that one was a little awkward. The one thing I really like about it was the performance of my Shearwater Pursuit. It was solid the whole dive and showed once again to be perfect for my current diving needs.

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1. Almost Perfect Dive on the Arabia « Chronicle of an older diver - August 24, 2009

[…] trackback The second dive of our visit to Tobermory on August 15th, 2009 was better than the previous dive of the same day on the Forest City. The three technical divers, Rich, Andrew and me entered the water first and quickly descended to […]

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2. Bottom Time on the Niagara II « Chronicle of an older diver - August 26, 2009

[…] Tobermory, Wreck Diving trackback The Niagara II is my #3 favourite wreck in Tobermory, after the Forest City and the Arabia. Having done my #1 and #2 the day before, as well as the Tugs, the final trip of the […]

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