Monday, July 30, 2012

Diving the PBY- wondering whats next

Where do I even begin? ........ Lets see its been forever since my last post and the only one to blame for this is yours truly. I have been extremely busy with work. I still work out of town and have to commute back and forth every day. And so between the long drives and long weeks I have been stretched to find an hour or two of personal time to sit down and put one of my many ideas into words on here. My diving has also been lacking. I use to do at least 10-12 dives a month but that has gone down to 3-6 due to the craziness of life and our busy schedule.

But there is one thing that has kept me from writing about all the things I have been doing. I have fealt less and less original. Not like it should really matter because Im just me and nobody important. But the more I have gotten involved in social media and started to see what content is out there in the world of diving, I have started to feel like no matter what I do or talk about some one has been there before, blogged about it before or youtube'd it to death. I have written a handfull of long blogs about things I have done. All the technical training I have completed. Wreck diving in San Diego. Challenging myself to push deeper. Controlling narcossis. ETC ETC ETC but every time I go back and read it. It sounds like a dozen other blogs I have read and I put it on the shelf.

Ok enough whining and self loathing.


When it comes to diving I have set pretty tall goals for myself. This has become more than just a hobby. Its not just something I do for fun in my spare time. It has become my whole life. It is what I am planning my long term future around. Unless I am diving a shallow dive with April and helping her to continue getting comfortable under water, every dive I do is a training dive for the next step. And the next step for me right now is pushing my deep diving skills on air. I know there are a bunch of people that want to comment about what they feel is unsafe, or try and push their training beliefs off on me, but its all just a personal opinion. My goals are to be able to push myself and dive deep wrecks and explore new sites down to around 220' on air. To some of you this may be a walk in the park. For others you have probablly already laughed and called me an idiot. Either way it is what I am striving for right now. I am going to move on and take tri mix in the near future. But right now I want to become as comfortable and efficient as I can diving on air and dealing with the problems that come along with it. I just feel that in order to become a complete and well rounded diver, this is an area I need to master. So this is what I am doing every time I dive. Pushing the limits of my narcossis, practicing skills at depth, overcoming my fears, testing myself over and over. Its the most challenging, demanding, and rewarding adventure I have ever undertaken.

There are so many different things to see deep in Lake Mead. Real airplane wrecks, contsruction sites from building the dam, whole fort settlements lost under the lake. But you just need the training and the right group of divers to see them. One of these sites has been gnawing at me for quite some time.

On october 24, 1949 a navy PBY catalina flying boat crashed in Lake Mead killing four of the five men on board. The plane had been bought from the navy by an L.A. based firm for testing. Shortly after taking off from Boulder City munincipal aiport, the pilot was attempting a test landing in the boulder basin just a mile or so off boulder beach. The landing gear was still down causing the plane to flip over and burst into flames. One man, the only to be wearing his seat belt, managed to free himself from the wreckage and swim free just before it sunk below the surface. The plane broke into two large pieces and now lays on the bottom upside down in the silt. The depth of the plane depends on the current lake elevation, which changes dramatically from season to season, the plane currently lies in 181' of water with the lake elevation being 1115 feet.

Last sunday this was our dive destination. We have been patiently waiting for the lake levels to come down. In fact they have dropped over 25 feet in the last four months. Finally making it the right depth for us newly emerging technical divers in the desert dog tribe to use our training and enjoy a deep historic dive. Sunday morning we all showed up to the dock around 6:30 am. We were all about as excited as we had ever been about a dive. Spirits were high. We loaded up the boat with about 10 sets of doubles, multiple air stage tanks, 50% nitrox, 100% oxygen tanks, and enough bagged gear to fill a small bus. There is just a certain feeling that I get every time I am loading up gear on a dive boat. Bad A$$. The ride to the well known GPS coordinates of the wreck was a short one. Maybe 20 minutes from the harbor. A mooring had been set up here a long time ago by other divers. We fished the tail to the mooring, hooked up the boat and killed the motor. Everyone began shuffling around the busy front section of the boat getting all their reg's on, wings, lights, fins, etc. When everyone had set their rigs up we sat down inside the cab and went over the plan. The plan for this dive was going to be planned with lots of extra safety in it. We had dropped a depth gauge to verify the depth. It came back as 181'. Using our deco planner 3 software we all agreed we would use a 200' profile. For deco mix we would add only 50% mix. Although we would be carrying and using 100% at the last 20' stop. The extra depth and lack of mix in the planning software just ensured we would have more deco time than we actually needed. With 25 minutes planned on the bottom. It gave us a 1 hour 44 minute total dive. 37 minutes of this spent at the last 20' stop.

Everyone transferreed the profile on to their wrist slates and moved back on to the front deck. We had planned on sticking to our usual pairs. Chad and I were one team. Bill, and Steve would be the second team. Dubby was having some gear problems and second thoughts and did the right thing and called the dive for himself. With it being well over 100 deg F we waited till the last second to throw on our drysuits. Chad and I were first off the boat. Then Steve. Bill is usually last due to the extra time needed to set up his Inspiration CCR and going through all the checklists. Chad and I went through a couple basic hand signals. We made sure we were both comfortable and checked with the other two divers. Everyone was good to go and Bill gave the thumbs down. Chad and I dropped to 20 ' and did a complete bubble and gear check of each other. We both gave each other the ok and another thumbs down. We bled our wings and headed down. This has always been one of my favorite parts of diving. Its such a rush to drop down through the water when there is no bottom in sight. We had both agreed that we wanted to get to the bottom as fast as we could. I kept my computer in front of me watching the depth as we dropped. I always like to see at what depth I start to feel the first ring of narcossis. It was right at 130' as Chads bubbles blew past my mask that I felt that first hit and things started to sharpen. It was getting dark and cold and I loved every second of it. we slowed our descent just a bit. I began to see the dull shade of brown silt in the far reaches of our lights. Then there was the bottom of the mooring. And if being deep and narc'd wasnt creepy enough. At the base of the mooring is a head stone memorial for a diver who died diving this wreck a few years ago. It was a sobering reminder of what is at risk. I gathered my thoughts and slowed my breathing and focused on what we had came to see.

From the mooring base there is two lines running out to the two seperate pieces of the wreck site. We headed off down the line towards the tail section first. A short swim of maybe 70 feet and the wreck began to take shape out of the darkness. Chad and I hovered over the wreck. We glided across to the end of the tail and turned back along its side. The size of this wreck was suprising to me. For some reason I had pictured it being smaller but it was huge before me now. I checked my watch and was at the 10 minute mark. I gave my partner the signal and we headed down the line back towards the mooring. As we reached the base again we checked our air pressure. We had already determined what our minimun turn pressure would be. We both were not even close to our first third so we made our way to the front section of the plane. Steve had decided he had enough for one day and started his ascent up the line. So the three of us made our way to the second section of the wreck. Right away Bill had guided me over to the cockpit which had been ripped open from the bottom. I inverted my position and lowered my head down into the tight area trying to get a better look at the gauges and controls. Not wanting to touch the wreck I could only make out the numbers on the airspeed indictator which were stuck at 180. This was my first taste of a "real" wreck. We have found many small boats that have sank in the lake but this was the real deal. And I have dove large naval ships foundered for artificial reefs. But this was different. It was mangled. It had gone down violently. It was breathtaking. After quite a while floating above the cockpit I decided to make my way up and along the underside of the wing. I checked my watch again. I was already at 20 minutes. I was bummed. I had just got there and had to head back. I had not even begun to see this plane. Chad and I both gave the signal to make our turn. We swam back along the cave line leading to the mooring. Everyone was accounted for and we started our slow ascent up the line.

I have been doing almost all deco dives in the last four months but none of my hangs have been as fun as this one. With three open pages on our slate. Chad, Bill, and I must have played 100 tic tac toe games, Quite a few games of hangman, and even a round of pictionary bewteen only Chad and I. And since I need to keep this pg-13 I cant divulge the topics or subjects of our underwater shenanigans.

What an awesome dive. I had the best time. I can not even begin to describe the feeling this dive gave me. It felt like all the work and mental preperation I had been doing was paying off. This dive went off with absolutley no problems. All I can say is I owe alot of thanks to my good buddy Bill and my dive Buddy Chad. These two guys have took me under their wing and shown me everything. Bill has taken so much time to make sure I know my stuff and my capabilites. I feel extremely fortunate for these opportunities. I wouldnt be doingvwhat I am without these friends of mine.

So whats next? Well all I know is I want to, and need to do this dive about a 100 more times. I dont think something like this could ever get old. But I am going to continue pushing my diving. I have some more gear I need to get in the mean time but there is so much more I am going to see right here in Lake Mead. I hope to get my GoPro figured out soon and be able to share these dives with you. I promise to write about our dives more as I have time and when they are worth writing about. I hope people continue to read and enjoy these blogs. I know Im not an expert or anything special but this is what I love and this is what I am.

Happy Safe Diving to Ya


No comments:

Post a Comment