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Boat Divers October 14, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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On Sunday (October 11th, 2009) 4 of us went out to dive some lesser known sites in Lake Simcoe. This is the first time, at least to my recollection, where I’ve been out diving on a private boat rather than one belonging to a charter operator.

Our problems started at the boat ramp, situated on the North shore of Kempenfelt Bay. The water level of the lake seemed lower than that for which the ramp was designed, so the back wheels of the van were in the water before the boat would float. The small dock near the ramp wasn’t out far enough into the water to be a suitable platform for embarkation, so the owner, Ken, moved it to a nearby public dock that was much more suitable and we met him there, unloading the gear down the hill.

While maneuvering near the dock, Ken decided to back up quickly. The inboard-outboard engine is quite powerful, and I had to throw the line I was holding in my hand back on to the boat. Unfortunately it slipped off, and fouled the prop, so Ken spent the next 45 minutes or so anchored 100′ away, finally donning his wet suit to dive down and free it.

The three passengers by that time were all dressed in dry suits and began loading equipment on board. As we were loading my doubles, we had them perched on the starboard  gunwhale while I tried to step into the boat. The constriction of the dry suit cramped my movement at exactly the wrong moment and I fell unceremoniously onto the floor of the boat without injury. Ken fortunately was able to keep the doubles steady long enough for me to scramble to my feet and help him with the heavy unit.

Michael loaded his next, and wearing the same type of dry suit as mine, did exactly the same thing, and was also unhurt. Rich, now wiser from the experience of his shipmates, was much more careful in the way he stepped down onto the boat.

The first site we wanted to visit was a long way off, and Ken didn’t inspire confidence by continually voicing his doubts about the amount of fuel he was carrying. His fuel gauge wasn’t all that reliable, it seems. We were also experiencing high winds, waves and cold temperatures to make the journey more interesting. When we were within 2 miles of the site, according the several GPS units we had with us, we found the waves were too much and with uncertain fuel and queasy stomachs we all heartily agreed with our captain that we should turn around.

The second site was in calmer water, being closer to the shore and somewhat sheltered from the wind, and by 3pm (almost 6 hours into the adventure) we managed to get wet, although we found nothing interesting on the bottom. It was desolate even by Lake Simcoe standards.

Once we made it back to the ramp, we unloaded on the large dock and spent about 1/2 an hour getting the boat onto the trailer. But as the wheels were off the concrete pad and onto the bottom the van couldn’t pull the trailer. Finally, pouring on the acceleration we managed to disable the trailer when it hit the ledge on the end of the pad (which we then measured as 5-6″ high).

This put us in another conundrum as to what to do, as the light was beginning to fade. We slid the boat off the trailer and into the water to moor it on the large dock, and then pulled the trailer up the hill, despite the fact the rear wheels on the left were now touching each other. We determined that the front axle had slipped backwards on the left hand side about 8-10″, so we loosened the u-bolt holding it in position and started whacking it with a 2×4 block of wood.

It made some encouraging movement, and by jacking up the back of the trailer and using the boat winch for additional persuasion, we finally moved it back into position. Not wanting to use the ramp again, Ken decided he would drive the boat into Barrie and use the public ramp there, which was much more friendly. I had to drive his van there, and the final insult (at least for me) that night was it took 10 minutes to get his boat key off his key ring. I was showing my impatience as it was now almost 7pm and I figured my wife would be on the phone to the lawyer to file the divorce papers by this time, but we made it the rest of the way without a problem and Mike volunteered to wait for Ken to arrive in the boat. I managed to get home by 8:30 with take-out food in hand and opened a bottle of wine to ease the pain of my long absence.

Rich and I were long gone by the time he made it in. He had indeed run out of gas on the way, and made the final leg using the small outboard motor, which also ran out of gas just as he was arriving. But the boat was loaded and that was that.

We all agreed that we’d learned a lot that day and are looking forward to trying again when the weather warms up next spring.

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