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Brockville 2009, Lillie Parsons to John B. King September 30, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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As usual, the 4 technical divers on the boat sat out the dive on the Daryaw. September 7th 2009, Labour Day Monday, was a fine sunny day, and buoy leading down to the Daryaw was crowded with dive boats. Captain Lawrence deftly swung his craft around between two of these to back himself on the buoy much to  the delight of all who were watching. We checked our equipment and waited for the divers the return. One pair returned rather quickly due to a leaky mouthpiece which was quickly fixed so they could salvage some of their dive.

Once everyone was back on board we took our time getting down to the Lillie Parsons, and once in position the four of us, Brad, his Tec Deep Student Chris, Rich and I strode off the stern in a near simultaneous negative entry like the day before, quickly heading down to the shelf at 45′ or so for a fast bubble check. Before continuing, I spotted Rich’s deco reg hanging loose and went over to help him put it back under its bungee, but he waved me off and just clipped the second stage to something near the neck of the deco tank, and on we went.

The descent was fairly rapid, taking 2 1/2 minutes to go from 50′ to 175′. Once my eyes were adjusted to the light, the visibility was pretty good, and I made a point of looking far and wide to take in the full landscape, rather than letting the narcosis narrow my field of vision. I felt great (naturally) and really enjoyed looking around for things on the bottom, although I didn’t find much.

The four of us stayed together, with Brad leading, Chris very close to him, Rich behind him and me behind Rich. We had been concerned with Chris’ air consumption as his SAC check the day before showed an alarming rate of consumption, but we thought that might have been due to the current. So we planned the dive for 20 minutes bottom time, which we thought wouldn’t be enough time to make it all the way to the John B. King. Sure enough, when 20 minutes were almost up, Brad signalled Rich and I to ask if we wanted to continue to 25 minutes, and as I had 2000 psi remaining I was happy to comply.

Along the way, there’s a large anchor leaning up against the wall, which I always hold on to for a second or to, then letting go. I had been told about a second anchor which I’d not seen in the 3 previous dives, but not long afterward there it was. It was about 1/2 the size of the first one and away from the wall out in the river a bit. I then picked up some large china object which I hoped to examine a bit later. It was large enough that I had to a fair bit of air to my BC. I was also holding on to a metal ring about 3″ in diameter that I’d found, but it was so encrusted I couldn’t identify it.

Right on the 25 minute mark, we reached the King. By that time, we’d lost sight of Chris and Brad. I’d been looking for him, and caught a flash from his light briefly, but that was it. At least I knew we weren’t far behind. The bottom had become shallower by that time – around 155 to 160′, requiring me to dump a little air. Rich and I made our way up to 130 feet at which point there was a bit a traverse to do while exposed to the current. I could see Rich was having trouble holding on, which was probably because of the extra drag from his dry suit, and had to pull him onto a good handhold at one point. By this time I’d dropped the China object and the metal ring to concentrate on the dive.

To be continued…


Brockville 2009, Lillie Parsons Drift Dive September 25, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving.
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Drifting in the current underwater is one of the most fun and exciting things to do in the St. Lawrence (assuming you are wearing functioning Scuba gear, of course). The most common form that this dive takes is a quick trip round to a small bay on Sparrow Island, against which the Lille lies upside-down in about 50 feet of water. The customary procedure is to let go of the wreck, making your depth about 40′ and stay close to the wall where soon you will drift on to a rope, which on that day reached down to 54′, as measured by one of our party. I tried this one a little over 2 years ago, and it was a fun dive.

That same weekend, as the culmination of my technical diving course, we dropped over the wall on which the Lillie lies to a depth of 165′, where we drifted almost all the way to the wreck of the John B. King. I’ve done the same dive 3 times since, and made it all the way to the King on those occasions.

This time, we tried the middle route, drifting at around 100′ until the terrain rose under us, finally climbing with help from the current onto the downstream side of Stovin Island. The current was quick, the water warm, and equipped with our doubles partially emptied of their Nitrox 32 from the previous dive (mine were at 1800 PSI) we had plenty of gas on hand.

Unlike every other time I’ve been on the Lillie, we dropped off the back of the boat just upstream of the wreck negatively buoyant, and mustered on the shelf right next to end of the mast. On all previous occasions, we drifted on the surface to the island, then submerged to swim upstream then over a ledge to the wreck. This method was a lot faster, although we saw even less of the wreck than we usually do.

The  only hitch was that we didn’t realise we were on the downstream side of the island, and we even moved to the south side into a small cove so we could wait in a sheltered spot for our boat, which was looking for us on the North side of the island. At one point we were discussing why the boat was taking so long, trying to estimate the time it would take to pick up the non-technical divers who had only gone as far as the rope. I head a boat that sounded just like ours, and someone remarked it was on the wrong side of the island. It was then I noticed that the late afternoon Sun was over the island, which meant we were facing upriver to the west.

Quickly we moved out of our little cove and into the inter-island channel, where we were soon spotted. As soon as I saw acknowledgment from the boat I stopped waving and gave a big OK sign, which they returned, and we were soon picked up and on our way for the Sunday Night pot luck dinner.

Total dive time was 24 minutes. Here’s the computer log. Lillie Drift 20090906

Brockville 2009, Muscallonge September 24, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Training.
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This wreck is right in front of the town of Brockville, not that far from shore. The line down from the buoy is at a very shallow angle, making for a long pull against the current, which wasn’t so bad at the beginning of the dive, on September 6th, 2009.

This time I had a student, Shannon, who was getting some dives in for her advanced open water course. The dive is reasonable simple, colour comparison, gauge comparison, optional tour and safety stop. We picked an area to do the drills in a reasonably current free area, and got through them quickly, after some confusion about the signals (asking for air left vs. depth). During this confusion I noticed Shannon with a big smile behind the regulator mouthpiece, and was unsure if she was amused by the confusion, confused by narcosis at 90′, or a bit of both. Eventually we got through everything and we all (including Rory, DM in training) had lots of air so we toured around the wreck for a while.

It’s really broken up, but has a fair amount of machinery to look at. During the dive, the current picked up dramatically and I was grateful for the line along the bottom that lead to the buoy line, otherwise we would have had an interesting struggle to catch it in a free ascent. It was definitely a dive that required good handholds in the exposed places.

The bottom time was short, only 20 minutes, but Shannon used very little air so I was pleased with her gas consumption and composure at depth. My own consumption was 1100 PSI but I was diving my doubles, so she did better than me.

Brockville 2009, Kinghorn September 18, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Training.
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Being about the 8th time I’ve had the pleasure of diving this wreck, there’s not much of a story to this dive. Shannon, my advanced open water student, did her Nitrox dive, and I’d already been through the knowledge review and the measurement of the contents of her tank. As she had a Nitrox compatible computer (my Apeks Quantum) I didn’t have to directly supervise the dive, so I went down separately but kept an eye on things from time to time while there.

Brad was still training Chris for the Tec Deep course, and he was doing drills and dropping and picking up stage bottles just like I’d done two years earlier. Not anticipating the need to do any decompression on the dive, I left my little bottle of deco gas on the deck near the bow and swam drifted to the stern along the port side, meeting up with Shannon and Rory along the way.

The light was fairly dim and I saw Brad and Chris head up after only a few minutes as they’d done what they’d set out to do. I went inside the wreck for a minute and the water was very clear, but as everyone was leaving I didn’t think it prudent to hang around. I hadn’t seen Rory and Shannon head up so I took a tour around the wreck alone to make sure everyone was gone and then headed up myself with only a safety stop to do. At 22 minutes this was about the shortest dive I’ve ever done on the Kinghorn, reaching a depth of 89 feet.

Brockville 2009, Ash Island Barge September 16, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks, Technical Diving, Training.
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I arrived in Brockville at noon on Saturday, September 6th, having left around 8:30 in the morning from home, only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks. Traffic was heavy but not insane, and the police were out in force for the long weekend. I set my cruise control at 119kph on Highway 401, which has a speed limit of 100kph, and as usual didn’t have any problems. I passed a radar trap at this speed, and the cruiser pulled out and followed me.  I pulled into a big gap between cars in the right lane, slowed down to the speed limit (which everyone else was going at that time) to make it easy for him to pull me over, but he went right by me.

Our departure was scheduled from Caiger’s resort at 2:30, with a plan to dive the Keystorm and the America. While we were waiting, we found out that our boat had hit a deadhead and bent one of its props. It meant that we didn’t leave until 4:30 and had to change our plan as the trip to US Customs and Immigration, the dives, and the trip home in the slow boat would have taken 5 hours.

So we decided to dive a fairly recently discovered wreck near the Thousand Islands Bridge called the Ash Island Barge. The dive started upriver on the shore of Ash Island followed by a drift along the bottom of the river to wreck. Brad was continuing training Chris for his technical diving certification and I followed along to help out.  Brad led, then I followed behind Chris, noticing that he was a bit uncomfortable at the beginning of the dive and his body position was too head-high to be optimum.

He quickly settled down, though, and we enjoyed the drift dive along the bottom. The recreational divers were above us at about 90′ and even though they descended before us we quickly caught up with them in the faster current further away from the wall. The bottom of the river was white with Periwinkle shells which brightened up the scene considerably.

Once we hit the wreck, Brad put Chris through some drills, including a no-mask swim, and at the 22 minute mark we headed up, stopping to let Brad advise two of our recreational divers that their dive was over due to low air. Their rather unusual dive plan called for the diver with the higher capacity tank to share air with the other diver so they could maximize their dive time. In retrospect they agreed that this wasn’t the best idea, and in any case should have waited until the latter diver had more than 300 PSI remaining.

Chris was tasked with simulated deco, using the common practice of diving Nitrox on an air decompression schedule. Diving “real air” myself, I had some deco obligation which I hastened using EAN71 deco mix. Rich was missing when we got back on the boat, and we finally noticed his SMB on the other side of the channel. He’d drifted over there after losing sight of the other divers and missing the wreck.

Here’s the log from my Shearwater Pursuit for this dive. Maximum depth was 121′, and the water temperature a balmy 21C (70F), and highlight of highlight, I found a Thousand Island baseball cap in good condition on the bottom during the drift. All it has was some very small zebra mussels attached, evidence that it hadn’t been there for very long.

Ash Island Barge 20090905

Deepstop Blog – 1 year on September 15, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Miscellany.
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When I started this blog a year ago it was mainly to find out first hand what blogging was all about. Since then, it’s become a bit of an obsession, which is necessary I think to be able to continuously write new posts day after day. I haven’t done too badly in that category, with 317 posts in 367 days.

While I have little expectation of becoming a celebrity blogger or being so wildly popular that I can retire on the advertising income, it is satisfying to see that in a year I regularly see more than 1,500 page views per month and have accumulated almost 15,000 total visits since inception. I was particularly pleased with the attention given my serendipitous encounter with the underwater memorial for Maureen Matous, which touched the lives of her friends and family.

The blog started out with my first dive, and progressed through my log book on each dive or dive trip that I’ve done in my three decades of off and on diving. That work is now complete, and what remains is future dives and editorializing, which is the most effort. It’s a bit early to start the story of my life, maybe I’ll do that in a decade or so.

Another thing I’ve been playing with is making posts far into the future. These may show up after I’m no longer here. WordPress didn’t seem to mind me scheduling a post for the year 2055, although who knows if the WordPress.com will exist or resemble its current form well enough to accommodate it.

Each of us leaves a mark on the earth – some more than others. Should mankind and our technologies survive and prosper over the coming centuries, the record I’ve left here may serve as that for me, and will perhaps be a lasting contribution. I like that.

The last stop September 12, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving.
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From the standard 15′ safety stop the change in ambient pressure is almost 1.5:1, or the same as from 100 feet to 58 feet, so it makes sense to make the slowest part of the ascent near the surface.

But usually what I see is divers going up the line slowly and carefully, but once their 3 minute stop is complete (or the 10′ stop for staged decompression dives), they’re usually at the surface in a matter of seconds. If I’m diving with them, it usually works out well for me as I don’t have to wait to get on the ladder and back into the boat, but I wish they’d be a bit more conservative.

On deco dives, I can tell by the Gradient Factor display on my computer that this is the part of the diver where I come closest to the maximum allowable supersaturation of Nitrogen. Going slowly increases the safety margin, I think.

Some personal rules for Technical Diving September 11, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Technical Diving.
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Everyone’s view of this is different, and mine changes and evolves, but this is my incomplete list so far. Some are I think too obvious to mention, and others too close to home, and those are left out. Here goes. This is what I’ve learned so far, and I’m sure some of it is wrong (see point #1).

  • Stay humble
  • Keep gear as simple as possible, but no simpler.
  • Check over the gear carefully and completely before every deco dive
  • Control your breathing
  • Memorize a basic worst case deco schedule.
  • Develop of good understanding of decompression theory so you can make the best of a bad situation when you can’t deco like you’ve planned.
  • Keep everything tidy at all times, especially when moving from one phase of the dive to another.
  • Take your time, especially at depth
  • Think about what could go wrong, and what to do about it, don’t deviate from the dive plan unless you either have no choice or have a backup plan to handle the situation.
  • Know your gasses and their MODs. I use the rich right rule. Even if I have only 1 gas, if I’m carrying EAN50 it will be on my left. EAN80 on my right. People look at me funny when I put the single tank on the same side as my reel. I can live with that.
  • Know exactly how your computer works in every respect
  • Dive any new equipment shallow before you dive it deep, especially computers.
  • If I only carry one deco gas it’s going to be EAN50. Good balance between deep MOD and decompression time.
  • No non-trivial dive is perfect. Write anything that goes wrong or you do wrong in your log book. Be honest with yourself.

Brockville Dive Weekend September 8, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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After a very rainy summer that never really got started, we finally have some good weather to show for ourselves, and what better time than our annual excursion to Brockville, Ontario to dive the shipwrecks in St. Lawrence River. Shipwrecks abound here, and there is one called the Keystorm almost directly in front of our motel. Unfortunately it is on the US side and since shortly after the September 11th, 2001 attacks we now have to motor all the way to US customs and immigration at Boldt Castle then back to the wreck, with a similar journey to pass through Canadian customs on the way back, wasting time, money and fuel. This year, the Canadians have started attending returning boats in person instead of allowing radio calls further adding to the hassles.

Other things are different this year. The crowd has been slowly changing and some of the people who used to come regularly aren’t here. I’m also an instructor now, so I’m learning to balance my fun dives with instruction.

The weather promised to be beautiful (and since I’m now back while finishing this post, I can say that it was the best Labour Day Weekend weather I’ve seen in years.

Shearwater Research Desktop V0.9.3 September 3, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Equipment, Technical Diving.
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I’ve got my hands on a beta version of the Shearwater Research Desktop. They sent a copy to my dive shop after we bought 5 units just at the point where Shearwater was having issues with their logging software suppliers, having promised to write their own and provide it to us. The first copy I received contained source code, and then the next day I got a binary version with an installer that is considerably more useful.

Installation was simple. No questions were asked and it just appeared in my programs menu (I’m running Windows XP). After launch, I set it to receive logs from my Shearwater Pursuit and it loaded 14 logs in a couple of minutes. After that, I could provide some annotation (about a dozen items) and view graphs of depth vs. time, O2,  N2 and He absorption, water temperature and deco stops.

So far it’s pretty cool. The graphs are coloured, and you can point to any spot on the graph and see the values, and can turn each item on and off individually. I wish though, that the text describing each item was coloured the same as the graph, so I wouldn’t have to either point to the line or turn the item off and on again to identify which one it is.

I found the N2 and O2 absorption a little confusing. While I’ve not set my computer to anything higher than a 50% O2 mix, I’ve seen the O2 absorption exactly double the N2. It is listed in ATA so I would expect that the partial pressure would be shown, and with EAN50 the PPO2 can’t exceed the PPN2.

The other thing I’ve noticed while diving and am reminded by the logging program is that often the Pursuit will finish the deco at a 20′ or even 30′ stop. I find that a bit strange and have mentioned it in the Rebreather World Forum to see if Shearwater has a explanation for it. It might take a while as I hear the Shearwater folks are in the Caymans.

The other enhancement I’m looking for is the ability to print logs. It isn’t there right now so there’s screen viewing only. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.