01 March 2015

First Navigation Dive in Extremely Poor Visibility

Finn and Jerry were at my apartment at 7:30 am, despite warning me by text that they might be 5 minutes late. We loaded the truck and headed for Birch State Park. We got there a bit before 8:00 am and had to wait for the gate to open, then spent some time going over the use of the compass in the parking lot, but ended up waiting a few minutes for the gate to the beach to open at 9:00 am.

The surf was up, but not outrageously so. I got out pretty handily, as did everyone else, but poor Jerry allowed himself to be pulled back into the surf to fin up and got beaten up in doing so. He may have inflated his BCD before he was finned up. Luis said the Lifeguards were trying to tell us something as we were getting out, which really demonstrates their ignorance of diving. I'm busy when I go through the surf and I'm not interested in talking to anyone. I want to get out as quickly and safely as possible and that does not involve having a conversation with a Lifeguard.

We all managed to get to the swim buoy and descended there. Visibility was terrible. I saw Luis and Jerry on the bottom, but Finn was missing and then suddenly appeared behind me. As usual, he had trouble getting down. He had gone from 16 to 14 pounds, and was still heavy in my estimation, but unconsciously holds his breath before descending. Once he swims down, he is usually fine, but it is difficult for him to get down.

We had discussed the 3 skills needed for the dive while in the parking lot, so I immediately handed Jerry the end of the tape measure and indicated he should swim South. He headed off to the Southeast, but since there was no current, that was fine. Finn followed along a moment or two later and Luis trailed them both. Unfortunately, Jerry was a little timid and did not pull out the full 100 ft of the line. As he and Finn came back I showed them that only 67 ft of line had been pulled out and sent them out a second time to pull out the full 100 feet of line while counting their kick cycles. This time, they did it right.

Next was the out back. I indicated to Finn that he should monitor the bearing while Jerry would count 15 kick cycles. Finn took off before I could get Jerry up to speed and I had to move quickly to stop him. I limited the kick cycles to only 15 because visibility was terrible: less than 3 feet. They left and Luis, again, trailed them. They were gone for about ten minutes, which was too long for a 15 kick cycle swim, so I surfaced to see where they might be, only to find Luis at the surface while they held his flag on the bottom and only about 10 feet from me.

I knew that the square pattern would be a problem in this limited visibility, so I called the dive. Luis and I descended to Finn and Jerry and then we all headed back to the beach. Finn wanted to come up in 7 ft of water, so we did. The impediment had definitely risen to the level of a hazard and I was happy to reel in the flag line get it under control at the surface.

Water temperature was 73 degrees; dive time was 26 minutes; consumption was 31.69 psi/minute at an average depth of 16 feet; SAC rate was 21.34 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

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