Sunday, September 27, 2009

Its a small current he says..... (or - Is that Prescott we just passed...?)

Sunday dives this season have been all about exploration and discovering new things for me. This week the 6 of us, including one of our newer members (Dave), decided to travel to Brockville. Funny thing about Brockville, when you enter the "historic part" the gas prices jump 5 cents a litre. Apart from that, this cool little town has some great dive sites and upon Jim's advice we took a chance on the Gaskin.
This was supposed to be a shore dive with a small surface swim, minimal current in a river and one of the best around for stuff to see. Now those of you who know folks from the Rock know that they like to understate things a wee bit. Lemme tell you it's not a small current when even the fish lose the fight against it!
Right off the bat, if you're a newbie diver just looking for a place to dive from shore this is not the place. On paper it's a 300m surface swim in calm water to a couple of marker buoys that line the bow and stern. The wreck sits in 70+ feet of water even with the water table that looks to be 2 feet lower right now. You can travel down the lines from the buoys that are anchored to huge cement blocks. The swim out took us around 15 min and right near the buoy the current started to really pick up. Folks who like to dive without a snorkel have to do it all on your back and its a slow boat to china despite the eddy current that can help for part of the way. It sounds pretty easy. It is not.
When we got to the site there was a charter boat doing a wreck penetration course from Brockville's Adventure Diving there. ( I recommend this as a boat charter really) As we swam towards the boat we grabbed on to their water lines and headed towards the buoys. Right at that point the current really started to take off. Holding on to the line was a challenge and going down the line meant really holding on! Normally, I don't do that, but today it was no choice, hold on or disappear down river. The greatest sin I committed though was I needed at times to touch the wreck (very carefully not to disturb the coral) to keep myself in line with the wreck or hold on or be spilled over. It is a challenging dive to say the least. We did however have a newer diver who handled the situation masterfully despite her 10 total dives previous.
Drift and or current dives are challenging and as long as you have had training or decent practice in simple areas it can be loads of fun. However, there is still a surprise how strong the water can be. We did know it was going to be a challenge, just from the surface swim alone. We kept close to the wreck and bottom to control the effect of the current, but swimming on the lower west side of the hull was near impossible. Jim and Kevin, both on double tanks swam underwater back to shore and mitigated most of the surface current swim back.
All that said this is a fantastic dive, and the boat is in great shape. Tons of Bass and Perch all over the hull both inside and out. I did get a chuckle watching them fight the current and seemingly go no where. The boat must have been cleaned free of mussels due to the current becuase it was full of sponge coral in advanced stages of growth. For a diver on a single 80 cft tank we managed to squeak out 33 min with saftey stop. the wreck sports a decent swim through though it's also rated for penetration as well for those qualified. There is a massive anchor in front of the bow, along with a sign up top for divers, and a sign on the buoy rock near the anchor down in the sand. Lots to see and one of the highlights is a decently intact stern.
A great dive but it's not a little bit of current....Oh out for the tankers that like to drive past the marker buoys to the south. The sound of the props can be felt from shore, imagine it over your head. Thoom, Thoom, Thoom! Its safe but still un-nerving.
the deck, Stacie, the gang at the shore in the background is both a boat at the mooring and a tanker about to motor past,
Inside the hull, near the bow, Kevin with the required float and flag for this dive,
Stacie at the anchor plaque, and kevin showing his new divers hands free cell phone just add water.

As always - "dive with a knife!" sung to the tune of Star Trek fight music.

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