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Vintage Diving Stories?

Discussion in 'Vintage Equipment Diving' started by RickI, Nov 27, 2009.

  1. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    Saturday, September 11, 1965

    After working my eleven-year-old butt off all summer to pay for a used steel 72 and USD DA Aqua-Master, I finally realized a dream I'd had since watching the first episode of SEA HUNT back in 1958. Harold came by our house to pick me up and I loaded my tank, regulator and VOIT fins, mask and snorkel into the back of his pickup. As I climbed into the cab of the truck, he handed me a brand new weight belt with a pair of two pound weights already attached. I was so excited I could scarcely contain myself. My parents waved to us from the front porch as we drove away. They were a little nervous about me learning to dive but they trusted Harold and knew I was in good hands.

    We drove out to a spot on the Coal river that was alternately known as "The Rocks" or "Skinnydip" (I'll leave it to you to guess why) and carried our gear down to the river's edge to where three big, flat rocks sloped gently into the water. We sat on one of the rocks while Harold went over the basics of what we were about to do. He gave me the old "Breathe slowly and deeply at all times" and "Never hold your breath on compressed air" and "Always ascend slower than your slowest bubbles" that he had been drilling into my head for the past several days.

    When Harold decided I was ready for my first plunge into the river on SCUBA, he coated the inside of his wetsuit with talcum powder and pulled it on. I wore only a pair of blue jeans and a tee shirt. He showed me, for the umpteenth time, how to attach my regulator to the tank, turn the valve all the way on, then close it back one quarter turn. He then helped me strap the harness on and cinch it down tight so that my tank wouldn't flop around underwater. He helped me put on my weight belt and, while I was putting on my fins, mask and snorkel (rinsed the mask in the water, spit in it and rubbed it around, rinsed it again and put it on), he put on his own gear. We sat on the edge of the rock and slid into the water.

    I wasn't sure what to expect. I had been snorkeling for three years by that time, so I wasn't unacquainted with being underwater but I was sure that everything would somehow be very different because I was using SCUBA. To my surprise, it really wasn't very different at all. Breathing through my regulator required a bit more effort than breathing through a snorkel and I could keep breathing as we swam to the sandy bottom instead of having to hold my breath but that was about it. I remember feeling a bit disappointed that SCUBA diving really wasn't difficult at all but, at the same time, I was exhilarated beyond words.

    Visibility wasn't all that great (three or four feet) but I didn't care. The depth was about eight to ten feet in the center of the river and there was a sluggish current of about a half knot. Harold motioned upstream and we swam against the current, staying close to the bottom in case a fishing boat passed by overhead. Somewhere along the way, we met some largemouth and smallmouth bass and some huge catfish. Swimming over a submerged rock, I scared the bejabbers out of a large salamander that obviously had not expected our visit to his world.

    After about a half hour, Harold turned us around and we drifted lazily back to our starting point. Somehow, he knew precisely where we were and when we surfaced we were just a short distance upstream from the rocks. Our total time underwater was just short of an hour but that hour had passed by at warp speed. We climbed out of the water and got ready to leave. We stopped for hamburgers on the way home.

    For the next week I excitedly told my parents (and anyone else I could get to listen) over and over again about my dive.

    I only got to dive once more that year, again in the shallow waters of the Coal River. After that, I spent my Saturdays at Harold's kitchen table drinking root beer and going over the Navy dive tables and training manuals. I realize now why we had made those two shallow dives in the river. The science and head work of SCUBA, learning the gas laws, dive tables, physics, physiology and such, could be a daunting task to an eleven-year-old kid. Those two dives had been to show me that it was all worth it and to give me an incentive to learn everything I needed to know to stay alive underwater.

    Yeah. It was worth it.
     
  2. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    Here's one you guys might like.

    Back in the summer of 1969, when I was 15, I went with my parents to stay at my Uncle's camp on Smith Mountain Lake for a two week vacation. It turned into a family reunion with tons of relatives, several of whom brought their boats.

    My cousin, Steve, and I took my Uncle's boat to go fishing up a deep cove a couple of miles from the camp. Steve told me about a huge striped bass that lived in the cove and that he had been trying to catch it for the past two summers with no success. We fished all day that first day and caught some nice largemouth bass but the big striper was a no show. Same with the second day. On the third day, Steve managed to lure the big fish near the surface but he couldn't entice him to take his lure. I nearly fell out of the boat the first time I saw it. That fish was HUGE! I knew that stripers grow big, but this fish was beyond my expectations.

    We both tried our luck at catching the wily critter for the rest of the week but that monster just teased us. Out of desperation, I decided to do something that was not kosher.

    The next time we loaded the boat for fishing, I put my SCUBA gear in the boat. Along with my gear was a brand new Healthways spear gun my parents had given me for my birthday the previous March. A half hour later, we were floating in the cove and once more trying our luck with rod and reel.

    The day wore on and we were having our usual luck. Our stringers filled up with bass, crappie and sunfish but that big striper stayed just out of reach. About an hour before sundown, I told Steve that I'd had about enough of that smart a$$ fish and I was going in after him. I put on my gear and, gun in hand, back rolled over the side.

    I found the striper hovering about ten feet under the boat and went after him. He moved slowly away as I approached, staying just out of spear range. We descended, the fish leading me down to about fifty feet where he went into a sunken forest of dead, algae-covered trees. We played tag among the trees for a good ten minutes before I finally got close enough for a shot. I pulled the trigger and missed by several inches. I reloaded the gun and closed in for another try.

    The striper moved into a dense thicket and hovered there. He must have thought he was safe in there because he didn't move as I closed in for my second attack. My next shot hit him dead in the gills. He tried to escape but the line attached to the spear got caught in the thicket and he was anchored securely to the spot. He thrashed around for a couple more minutes then died. I untangled my line and swam toward the surface with the fish trailing behind me on the end of the line.

    As I neared the surface, I saw that there was another boat floating next to Steve's. I stuck my head out of the water to tell Steve that I'd got the b*****d and I saw that the other boat belonged to the county sheriff. The deputy on board had pulled alongside Steve to check his fishing license and was doing just that when I surfaced. Hoping he hadn't seen me, I started to slip quietly back underwater. No such luck. He called to me and asked me what I was doing. I stammered something about retrieving a snagged lure, all the while holding my speargun as low as possible and praying that he couldn't see it from where he was.

    The deputy asked me where my dive flag was and I said I'd forgotten it. He then told me to get out of the water and not to go back in until I had my flag. I tried to stall him by swimming around to the other side of Steve's boat. I was hoping he would trust me to get out of the water and leave.

    Huh-uh. He stayed right there, his eyes glued on me. I think he suspected me of being up to no good and wanted to catch me in the act. Reluctantly, I let go of my speargun and climbed into the boat. He watched us as Steve started the motor and waited as we slowly motored out of the cove.

    By the time we got back to my uncle's camp, it was getting too late to go back for my speargun. I would have to wait until morning.

    Early the next morning, Steve and I headed back to the cove. I tossed out my flag with its float. Because of the depth, I tied its anchor line to the boat instead of an anchor weight. I threw on my gear and dropped overboard. The bottom was 60 to 70 feet under the boat and I was very conscious of the fact that my tank was not full. As I searched among the waterlogged tree trunks, I kept tapping the end of my J valve rod to make sure it was up and the reserve was turned on.

    The visibility in Smith Mountain Lake was limited even on a good day and at that depth it was dark and cold. I searched frantically for my gun until I suddenly found myself unable to get another breath from my tank. I pulled the reserve rod and, cussing that meddling deputy, went back to the boat.

    We went back to the camp and I spent the rest of the day staring out over the lake, mourning the loss of my birthday present.
     
  3. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    C'mon, guys! I'm sure that you old geezers out there have some interesting stories to tell. Don't leave me here all alone! Share your stories and experiences with the newbies so they'll learn what real diving is about!
     
  4. deepwater

    deepwater Solo Diver

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: San Antonio
    257
    1
    0
    I'm not much for tellin sea stories, you should be able to tell by my few posts and long membership, it seems the real vintage piece of equipment around here is me. I'm not much for those pay as you go programs that will make you a genious for the right fee. I started my career in a MK5 mod1. Jake was a good and reliable piece of equipment in his day, but we were all happy as hell when the MK 12 ssds showed up. Bout the only thing older then that was the crap I had to dive with during my 3 years at Sea World.

    deepwater
     
  5. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    Okay, so this only happened yesterday, but it was with vintage equipment (twin steel 72s and my Aqua-Master).

    I drove over to Huntington to dive the Ohio River with an old friend. I took my twin 72s and my horsecollar BC. He was also diving twins but they were AL80s. The water was in the low 60s and the new wetsuit, boots and gloves my wife got me for my birthday came in handy.

    After ninety minutes cruising the bottom of the river, we surfaced for the swim back to the boat. That's when the trouble started.

    This was only the third time I'd been in the water with my twins and I am still trying to master the art. I usually don't use a BC but I had my horsecollar on, so I decided to use it. I hit the inflator button to make the swim easier. The BC inflated and everything was perfect until a boat passed by fifty yards away. The wake hit me and flipped me onto my back. I tried to right my self but the tanks were trying to pull me down and the BC was trying to keep me floating face up. I flailed my arms and legs in a futile attempt to right myself. I yelled at my buddy but he couldn't help me. He was laughing too hard.

    I finally emptied the horsecollar and settled back to the bottom. I then rolled over and finished the swim back to the boat. Underwater.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2010
  6. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    Over this Memorial Day weekend, I got to thinking about the people who have been influential in my life and who are no longer with us. There is my father, of course, and Harold; the uncle who gave me my first full time job; friends, and relatives who gave me help and support as a kid growing up.

    And Joe the Walrus.

    Of course, that was not his real name. "Joe the Walrus" was a nickname bestowed upon him because he looked, well, like a walrus! He was a kind and generous man whose passions were diving and beer. He loved to teach people how to dive and maintained a continual relationship with his students, organizing dive trips and events to keep his ever-growing family of divers interested and together as a diving community.

    As I was remembering him today, I thought of an incident that emphasized both his commitment to diving and his generosity.

    There was this teen-age kid that kept hanging around Joe's shop, drooling over the equipment and looking at the photos on the bulletin board. Day after day, the kid would show up and just stand around. He stared in awe at us divers that visited the shop as if we were some kind of celebrities or something. He listened to us talk about our latest dives and hung on every word we said.

    One day, Fuzz asked him why he didn't sign up for a class, if he was so interested in SCUBA. The kid looked embarrassed and just looked away. That's when I took a close look at the kid for the first time. His clothes were old and a bit shabby and I realized that he had worn the same faded jeans and flannel shirt every time that I'd seen him. I started to say something to him but he was already headed out the door.

    Joe was over in one corner, playing chess with Dave, and had seen the whole thing. He didn't say anything but there was this strange look in his eyes.

    The kid stayed away for a few days and we thought we'd seen the last of him. This saddened us because we'd grown to like the kid. But I guess the lure of Joe's shop was too strong and he reappeared one afternoon. I wasn't there that day, but I was told about what happened when I next went to the shop.

    Joe helped the kid pick out a pair of full foot fins, a mask and a snorkel that suited him. The kid protested that he didn't have the money to buy them but Joe threatened to hang him up by his short hairs and flog him if he didn't take them. I was told that the kid had tears in his eyes when he left the shop with his new toys.

    After that, Joe would invite the kid to go on local trips with his divers and we all took turns teaching him how to skin dive with FMS. At the shop, either Joe or Dave would go over the book work of diving and the mechanics of SCUBA equipment. The day finally came when, to the kid's immense surprise, Joe strapped a steel 72 on his back and stuffed a regulator in his mouth. The kid hadn't been aware of it, but Joe had been giving him a personal, one-on-one SCUBA training course.

    The kid took to SCUBA like a duck to water. Two weekends of diving at Summersville Lake and he was cruising around with us like an old salt. When Joe gave the kid his temporary C-card, you would have thought it was made of gold rather than cardboard.

    Not wanting it to be a situation where the kid got his C-card but couldn't use it because of finances, we all pitched in to put together a set of gear for him. Nothing fancy, just some basic, economy-priced stuff. Joe's contribution was free air fills whenever he went out with us.

    The kid graduated from high school and found a good job in North Carolina. I never saw him again, but he kept in touch with Joe, telling of his life and his underwater adventures. Joe would show us every letter the kid sent him. He seemed pleased that the kid was doing well and had started a family of his own.

    During Joe's final years, a battle with cancer drained him financially and his widow was left with unpaid medical expenses. They had mortgaged their home to pay some of the bills before Joe died. Those of us who had known him gave what we could to help but it just wasn't enough. The house that Joe had shared with his wife for over fifty years was about to be foreclosed. Joe and his wife never had any children and his widow had no family to help her.

    When a lawyer showed up at Mrs. Joe's house, she was expecting to receive an eviction notice from the bank. Instead, he handed her the mortgage, marked as paid in full.

    The messenger refused to say who had paid the mortgage, but I have a pretty good idea.
     
  7. JamesBon92007

    JamesBon92007 Great White

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Southern California...too far from the ocean
    3,077
    1,203
    113
    Is there a Pulitzer Prize for for forum posts? Be sure and tell us the title of your book when it's published.
     
  8. Paladin

    Paladin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: West Virginia
    2,338
    508
    113
    ???What book???
     
  9. JamesBon92007

    JamesBon92007 Great White

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Southern California...too far from the ocean
    3,077
    1,203
    113
    The book you need to write all your stories in.
     
  10. Texfrazer

    Texfrazer Barracuda

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Knoxville, TN
    349
    13
    18
    You can sign me up for an advanced copy. Actually, I'll take one for myself and 3 more for my former dive buddies.

    :)
     

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