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Craptacular dives on a beautiful day

Discussion in 'Near Misses and Lessons Learned' started by stretchthepenn, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. stretchthepenn

    stretchthepenn Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Atlanta, GA
    259
    183
    43
    Scuba diving is something that I really like to do, and I’ve been doing it for a bit over twenty years by now. All the same, I only have about 240 dives to my credit over that time, and I still have a lot to learn. This is a story about my most recent learning experience.

    This past Sunday, I drove to the semi-local flooded quarry, about 20 miles up the interstate, for a splash. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. The sun shone in a cloudless sky, and the air temperature was unseasonably warm for mid-February, with the day’s high reaching the mid-60s. The water, in contrast, still held the winter chill; my dive computer registered 47 degrees.

    Any sensible person dives with a drysuit in those water temperatures, so I brought along my shell drysuit and a brand-new 400-gram jumpsuit to wear underneath it. I’d just purchased the 400-gram undergarment online from a guy in Alaska, and I was eager to try it out, to see if it would actually keep me warmer than the 200-gram jumpsuit that I’ve been wearing. Accordingly, I stuffed 6 lbs. of lead into my Hollis 75’s weight plate to compensate for the extra buoyancy.

    My dive buddy and I geared up and hit the water off the lake’s west dock. A quick buoyancy check revealed that I was waaaaaay floaty. Ten more pounds of lead seemed to do the trick, so into the weight plate it went, and we set off.

    Our plan was to surface-swim 20-30 yards out to the floating dock, follow its mooring lines down to the training platform suspended beneath at 100’, circle the platform once, ascend slowly while swimming on a compass course of 115 degrees, and find the sunken school bus at 60’. From there, we’d ascend and do our three-minute safety stop before surfacing.

    The first part of our plan, up to and through circling the 100’ training platform, worked pretty well. The rest…not so much. My buddy and I had a heck of a time maintaining our compass course, didn’t ascend enough, and overshot the bus. We did find a mangled, sunken bathtub at 80’, which was interesting…but it’s not what we were looking for. Then, after we found our way back to the bus, I started feeling unusually buoyant, so I vented the air out of my BCD and drysuit, to little effect.

    We ascended as slowly as possible, and I managed to keep my buoyancy under control, but barely, until my buddy and I got up to 20’ and started our three-minute safety stop. At that point, I started to drift higher and higher and higher… No matter what I did, I kept floating up. Once I hit 10’, The Float took over with a vengeance, and even hanging onto a submerged rope did no good; I popped to the surface like a cork.

    Dammit.

    My buddy and I took a long, extra-leisurely surface interval to offgas before gearing up for our next dive.

    This time, I topped off my tanks and added 4 lbs. of lead to my weight pockets so I wouldn’t have buoyancy problems, and my buddy and I made a new plan. This time our goal was to descend to the bus, follow a compass course of 0 degrees and follow the quarry’s bottom at about 70’ to 80’ until we encountered the quarry’s northeast wall, and then take a right turn and follow the wall at 40’, back around to our starting point. We’d followed this dive plan before with success, so we felt confident we could do it again. Of course, we were wrong. Everything went sideways.

    We dropped on the bus, got ourselves oriented, and then headed out. Problem was, no matter what we did, we kept finding ourselves pointing in the wrong direction. I’d orient myself on a course of 0 degrees, glance up and around at the murk surrounding me, look back at my compass, and find myself on a mystery course somewhere in the high 200s. Wash, rinse, repeat. And we couldn’t find the bottom, either. We knew the quarry bottomed out on that side at about 70’, maybe 80’, but no…the bottom Just Wasn’t There, so we kept going and going and going…until we both suddenly realized that we were at 102’, in pitch-black water, without the slightest idea where we actually were. That sucked.

    So we thumbed the dive and did a midwater free-ascent to 20’ for a three-minute safety stop. That’s when my stability problems really started to kick in.

    As I mentioned earlier, I was trying out my new 400-gram undergarment, so I’d loaded myself up real-good-like with 20 lbs. of lead. It turns out that I’d done a piss-poor job of organizing it. I’d put most of the lead into my weight-plate instead of distributing the max amount of lead that I could up front, into my ditchable weight pockets. Thus, I was back-heavy, which threw my trim all out of whack, and during my safety stop, all my pretenses at maintaining stability went straight to hell. If I even started to relax, I turned turtle.

    So anyway… Last Sunday’s dives were objectively terrible. I had poor buoyancy control, did a lousy job of navigating, got task-loaded and lost track of what was going on, and didn’t have my gear sorted out. I’ve still got lots to learn, and these are all problems that I need to solve, especially if I’m going to continue my training and take technical diving courses. I’m feeling kinda humbled and, frankly, kinda beat-down about the whole situation. But I’m going back again, and I’m gonna practice, practice, practice until I get it right.
     
    Lorenzoid, tridacna, Schwob and 3 others like this.
  2. divad

    divad ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Sponsor

    8,303
    2,297
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    I hate when that happens.
     
  3. Steve_C

    Steve_C Great White Rest in Peace

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    4,270
    2,915
    113
    Been there. Done that. You probably learned more on those dives than in many courses.
     
    txgoose, PatW and divad like this.
  4. Dizzi Lizzi

    Dizzi Lizzi ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: California
    1,065
    1,010
    113

    Wow. I'd be frustrated too, as well as determined to get it right just like you. I understand the buoyancy issue but do you know why you (both) were getting lost? Metal confusing your compass??

    Edit* Thanks for posting
     
  5. Steve_C

    Steve_C Great White Rest in Peace

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    4,270
    2,915
    113
    Low viz, distracted, and navigating without visual landmarks. My favorite recipie for getting lost.
     
    Dizzi Lizzi likes this.
  6. pjhansman

    pjhansman Manta Ray

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Ontario, Canada
    847
    511
    93
    But were you warm? :)
     
    txgoose, FinnMom and Schwob like this.
  7. northernone

    northernone Great White Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Currently: Cozumel, from Canada
    3,792
    3,407
    113
    Mission successful!
     
  8. T.C.

    T.C. Photographer

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Ft. Hood, TX
    1,894
    975
    113
    No reference marks?
    Close ranks. One diver navigates by staring at the compass. The other diver helps by controlling depth, and looking around for the visual cues and destinations.

    A suggestion; next time you have new equipment, spend the time at the end of the first dive messing with the weights and trim while you have a near empty tank. Especially when you're at a quarry and your buddy can watch from shore.
     
    shoredivr likes this.
  9. Dizzi Lizzi

    Dizzi Lizzi ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: California
    1,065
    1,010
    113
    Ok, I've never been in a low vis situation. Are you saying that you can get disorientated/turned around just by glancing away from the compass if you don't have another visual reference mark? I get that being task loaded will add to that.

    Well, on second thought I suppose night dives count as low vis...might be why I don't like them too much, unless I'm hanging on the anchor line...
     
  10. Steve_C

    Steve_C Great White Rest in Peace

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Raleigh, NC USA
    4,270
    2,915
    113
    Heck you can get lost looking at your compass. In the local quarry where even if the viz is 10-15 ft and you do a transit across a deep area at 20 ft you can have zero horizontal visual clues. Even watching a compass it is very easy to drift off your heading by a noticable amount and miss things like buses etc after 50 yds. Then if you start doing natural navigation without looking at your compass you can be in trouble

    Was doing my nav class in low viz. After a no landmark transit I came to a raised road bed. Convinced I was on the east side I turned right. But I was on the west side. By the time I realized my error I was 180 degrees and 50 plus yards from my goal. As noted at the start I learned a lot of things on that cluster of a dive.
    -Don't enter the water thinking of all you have to do. -relax and not be in a hurry
    -Stop and get oriented at the bottom before taking off -relax and not be in a hurry
    -Use natural and compass both -relax and not be in a hurry
    -Compasses do not lie unless you are near metal -relax and not be in a hurry
    etc etc
    oh and -relax and not be in a hurry
     
    ScubaWithTurk and Dizzi Lizzi like this.

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