Adventure Journal

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Cold Water Buoyancy Dive Number 127

Wednesday, November 28 - 2007
16:30 – 17:05
Dive Number 127
Start: 16:00
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +0C
Water Temp: +5C
Area: Welland Canal boat ramp – Welland, Ontario
Vehicle: Lada Niva
Weather: Overcast
Visibility: 9m
Divers: Wolf
Shore Crew / Tenders: Tori
Maximum Depth: 10m
Plan: Buoyancy Dive

On my last dive with a set of tech divers, I had a bit of a buoyancy issue. I ended up finding out that not only was I over-weighted, I had lost one of my 2kg weights which made me badly lopsided and would have undoubtedly added to my confusion and frustration during the dive. The thick drysuit underwear coveralls would have also changed my peak buoyancy ratio.

Apparently the divers I went with must have been quite disturbed by my buoyancy issues as the next day I got a letter from the manager of a local dive shop telling me how they felt I had "missed something in my training" and should throw my training experience out the window and go join them at their dive shop for proper experience – for a fee of course.

I decided to go for a dive specifically to check my buoyancy with this new drysuit configuration. I arrived at the boat dock at the Old Welland Canal around 16:00hrs and began to kit up. It was overcast out and fairly dark. I was hoping that I could complete this dive without loosing all my light.

I kitted up and entered the water with 13kg on me and headed out to around 10m.

I found a nice tree branch covered with kelp and trimmed myself out and started slowly swimming in an oval shape around the small kelp bed. I saw in the distance a shiny aluminum baseball bat standing upright in the silt, and created a kind of circuit for myself to swim around at different speeds. This would allow me to see when I'm trimmed if I kicked up any silt.

After a few dozen rounds in the spot without kicking up any silt or debris, I noticed I was starting to loose my light. I decided to stay down until I exhausted my 12L tank.

While using my small torch which I always carry on dives "just in case" I saw a hole in the mud. I shined the torch into the hole and saw a little nose retract.

This was a good time to test out my stationary buoyancy control. I trimmed up and hovered over the hole and moved the torch away to watch a little head of a mud-puppy (looks like a large salamander) stick his head out looking at the light moving away. As I brought the torch back to the hole, he retreated again.

My Suunto dive computer beeped indicating less than 50 bar, so I surfaced and heard the loud air horn of my shore crew, I gave the OK symbol and then headed for shore.

I really chilled and got cold as I removed all of my kit, then we headed to a local Tim Hortons coffee s hop to relax and fill out my logbook. I had very few issues this dive with my buoyancy. Hopefully a couple more dives and I will be as proficient with the drysuit as I was in my wetsuit.

I certainly didn't expect my buoyancy dive to become a night dive, but I always dive prepared. It was a great and relaxing dive.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Welland Canal Trainbridge Dive Number 126

Sunday, November 25 - 2007
10:15 – 11:25
Dive Number 126
Start: 12:00
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +4C
Water Temp: +6C
Area: Welland Canal Train Bridge – Welland, Ontario
Vehicle: Lada Niva
Weather: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 9m
Divers: Wolf, Jenn B.
Shore Crew / Tenders: Tori, Chuck
Maximum Depth: 11m
Plan: Train Bridge Dive

I arrived at the train bridge to find a set ot tech divers kitting up and getting ready to dive. I kitted up and used my steel 17L tank I had filled at Eric's house last night after work. Chuck R. was one of the tenders today and arrived shortly before I. Chuck and Tori were the dive tenders today. I was the 2nd diver in the water and waited in about 3m of water for the other divers to kit up and join us. Unfortunately I had some difficulty with my weights on the dive. This is one of the first few dives I've conducted with the cp200 DUI drysuit with full thermal underwear. This caused some buoyancy difficulties for me throughout the dive. I believe I was overweighted.

The divers I followed around missed a lot of the interesting things at this site including the various shopping carts, rototiller and other fun objects which have made their way to the bottom. One of the divers took a lot of photographs as he went along. We did see quite a few sunken bicycles as well as a few other objects which had been down there for a while such as road signs and old buckets.

Part of the weight issue was that I had my ankle weights on, this caused me to drag my fins on the bottom and kick up a bit of silt.

We ended up leaving the train bridge area and heading off towards the boat ramp which was quite a bit away from our entry point. Around 50 bar I decided it was time for me to surface, and headed back towards the entry dock.

En-route back I noticed several rocks flying into the water ahead of me. I popped my head out of the water and saw Chuck throwing them at me – I gave him the middle finger.

When the other divers surfaced we removed our equipment and went to the Rex Hotel in Welland to relax and talk for a while.

This was the first time I have experienced any real buoyancy issues. Normally I dive with a certified PADI Professional Divemaster who was also very surprised to hear of my problem as we dive together all time without incident.

I am starting to enjoy the cold water dives with the drysuit as I do keep relatively comfortable during the length of the dive in the frigid +6C water.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Cold Water Dive - Dain City, Ontario Number 125

Sunday, November 18 - 2007
12:04 – 13:06
Dive Number 125
Start: 12:00
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +2C
Water Temp: +4C
Area: East Main Street Bridge, Welland, Ontario
Vehicle: Gold Chevy Cobolt AYTK-941
Weather: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 9m
Divers: Wolf, Chuck
Shore Crew / Tenders: Tori
Maximum Depth: 11m
Plan: Cold Water Dive Exploration

As this large country descends from a few short moments of summer into it's normal state of being a bleak, baron place almost completely devoid of life – the people who reside here continue to suffer. Today was certainly no different.

As autumn starts departs and the long months of unrelenting cold and hardship befall upon us, those who must endure this often attempt to continue their normal lives and day to day activities. Adventuring is one of those activities.

The outside temperature today was a frigid 2 Celsius outside. The water temperature was 4 degrees Celsius. After replacing the right hand seal in my drysuit, We left our house at around 10:30hrs and made the trek to Dain City Ontario just outside of Welland, Ontairo where we had surveyed a spot to dive under a steel bridge which ran over the old Welland Canal at Forks Road. We parked the car just off Forks Road and deployed the road cones we recently purchased to give us some working space and add an element of safety to kitting up around traffic. We also put together the large propane tank with the heater attached to it so that we may keep warm after the dive.

I had some difficulty doning my DUI CP200 drysuit with the military-issue long underwear and insulated work coveralls on. After fighting for a while I managed to get myself into the suit. I waited for Chuck to finish kitting up and we proceeded to the waters edge.

I was surprised that with the drysuit I could not feel the cold. As a barefoot adventurer I rarely wear shoes. I don't' even wear shoes or socks with the drysuit. As I got my Interspiro Aga mask placed properly on my head, and checked the hood seal to ensure a proper fit, I realised that I was unable to put on my fins. I waited for Chuck to complete his final pre-dive inspections and then flipped over face down in the water with one foot up in the air so he could attach each fin properly. After the attaching of each fin I received a pat on the bottom so I knew he had completed the fin attachment.

We headed into the depths to find this section of the canal had an unusual layout. It had a very shallow shelf which extended out a few meters then dropped down like a set of steps. At one point we noticed the "step" was held up by what appeared to be a large pile of wood strapped together with more wood. We have seen these kind of items before, but not in this exact mannor.

As we went along we saw very little debris in this area compared to the other areas of the canal we have explored. We did find a test-tube spinner unit with a couple of test-tubes still inside it, and a bicycle, but no shopping trolleys or anything unusual. I saw a large crayfish who was reddish brown in body and had blue claws. He was very docile – I assumed it was due to the cold temperature of the water. As we continued the dive we saw several sets of large wooden piles grouped together all over the bottom. Evidence of a previous bridge in this location perhaps. We also came across several more of the large wooden sprockets several meters in diameter.

The dive progressed very quickly and I was very surprised that I was not at all uncomfortable or cold in this frigid water with the drysuit.

We found a line reaching to the surface which was attached to a large international orange marker buoy. I tugged hard on the buoy to hope to catch our shore crew's attention with it. Right after we found a nice road cone which I grabbed and we carried with us for the rest of the dive.

Crossing the channel again we found almost no debris fields, bicycles, shopping trolleys or other objects we normally found. The bottom had some unusual prints on it which looked like mouse tracks! We saw several large bass and even a good sized pike! The fish seemed very much more slower and more docile in the cold water than their usual skiddish demeanors.

We exited the water separately and made our way back to the car and doffed our equipment and tried to warm up as best we could, then packed up our gear and left the site just after 13:30hrs. Oddly when I was removing my drysuit, I ripped both wrist seals right out of their sockets, ring and all. It did not damage the rings, however I do question whether it was the cold acting on the suit, or I somehow installed the wrist seals incorrectly.

After the dive we went to a local coffee shop called Tim Hortons and found another team of divers there, some of which Tori and I knew from one of the scuba shops in Hamilton. We talked with them for a while and ended up assisting them in planning their next dive which would be at the East Main Street Bridge.

After leaving the Tim Hortons coffee shop we briefly met up with the other dive team at the East Main Street bridge to show them around and give them a little information about the site.

En-route home we discovered the slimy, encrusted road cone had a very peculiar odor to it which caused quite a bit of discomfort to us. I thought of taking the road cone to the local car pressure wash and blowing it clean.

Arriving at the pressure wash operation we spent quite a bit on trying to get the road cone clean, but it still was encrusted in aquatic algae and zebra mussels. We brought the cone home and left it outisde for the time being.

It was a great and exciting dive, however Chuck feels the water is too cold for him to explore in a wet suit and this may be his last dive of the season.