Monday, June 2, 2008

Canada - And I'm Advanced Nitrox Certified!!!!

Just got back from an awesome 4 days in Canada. I passed my Advanced Nitrox Course which was a big personal accomplishment, and had a great time hanging out with Jose, Fernando, Charlie, Howard and Rich (I feel the need to go and do something very girly this week though as I have been one of the guys all weekend). The diving in Canada was FANTASTIC!!
Jose, Fernando and I drove up Friday in my little Honda. She did very well with all of our gear. We talked for a solid 6 hours and Jose and Fernando educated me on Spanish music (The Classics - Julio Iglesias and some Meringue). We'd listen once and then I'd get a translation, pretty cool. I learned that Meringue starts with a story (generally of the unrequited love variety), you are left hanging as to the outcome and then they end with an instrumental section where the dancing is meant to get crazy. We listened to one song about a sailor who had a night of a passion with some woman he'd met in a bar, he promised to return to her port and she waited outside of the bar for him. Allie would have loved this Spanish lesson. They tried very hard to get me speaking more Spanish. We met Charlie, Rich and Howard in a restaurant 1/2 an hour South of the border, and followed them to our hotel in Canada.
Our dive boat was owned and operated by Captain Tom (who enjoyed making fun of me, in a nice way - not sure how many girls dive in the St Lawrence) but was really helpful - he would help me stand in Jeff's double 120's - OK, OK the seat was low, and grabbed my manifold and helped drag me on to the boat as I struggled up the ladder iron man style :

The St Lawrence looked very peaceful on the surface but not so in/ under it's calm facade:
The training dives were very tough both mentally and physically. Here is an extract from my log book on dives 3 - which I think was my favorite:
"JB KING" June 1 2008, St Lawrence River, Advanced Nitrox Dive #3
'33 lives were lost when this 140' wooden drill barge was struck by lightening and exploded on June 26, 1930' Depth 90' - 100' temp 48F
I was a little apprehensive about this dive. We had to jump into the water two at a time and swim like hell against the current to a little bay where we did our bubble check and share air drills. We descended from the bay into about 20' of water and traversed northwards against an extremely strong current over a bed of rocks with very few places to get a hand hold. There was one point where I started to loose ground against the current. I'd managed to get to a small crevice in the rocks but it was very slippery and I just couldn't get a hold on anything. I was trying to work out how I was going to make it back to the shore when I felt Fernando come up behind me and start pushing my knee forward (this was a very timely rescue let me tell you). Charlie also notice my plight and popped back up to show us a shortcut off to the right around a rock avoiding that last 5' of flat and cutting right onto the first shelf. We then descended over a series of drops and ledges. The current was still head on and at one point I got pinned to one of the ledges. I saw the group descending in front of me and as their lights almost faded into the distance I managed to pull myself over the ledge and descended as fast as I could to join them (phew - near miss #2). Then my primary flashlight failed, its OK I reasoned - two back-ups here. Back up #2 - no joy - BUGGER! My little back up #3 came to the rescue. From here on in the dive became more familiar/ fun. The wreck was really cool, the current subsided to fun manageable levels. We found ourselves on a big wooden skeleton of a ship, wooden beams cast eerie shadows under the beams of the divers flash lights. 18 mins of bottom time and we followed Charlie to a slow ascent. Bit of a clusterfuck (technical diving term) trying to shoot a lift bag (in my defense, my fingers were very cold and not really functioning). Jose and I also did a buddy breathing drill on deco gas.
The last dive was also cool. Highlights were: a no mask swim against a current of 3-4 knots while sharing air with Fernando (1/2 the time I was pulling along the chain, the other 1/2 he was dragging me along the anchor chain by my manifold) and a 15 min drift in a ripping current along the rock wall of the river. Charlie gave me a 'GOOD JOB' for my no mask swim and hovering skills - which in view of my performance last summer, were very treasured words of praise.
In short I had a great time this weekend. I was really put to the test. I'm now exhausted!!!! and aching everywhere - good kind of tired though:) Charlie (pictured center below with Howard to the right and Rich to the left) was an awesome teacher and I learned a lot.
Jose and Fernando were also excellent driving companions and dive buddies. These guys are two of perhaps 5 people that I would trust to buddy breath with, or lead me on a no mask swim, Hans, Jeff, Allie and Michele or others but J & F are unrivaled in the field coming to my rescue!!

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