Tech training in the Ainsworth area

Posted on 16. Jan, 2011 by Greg Mossfeldt in Courses

Friday, January 14th – Sunday, January 16th 2011

It was a bitter, icy Friday morning and as the clock neared 8:30 Greg Mossfeldt, Dave Elia and Mike Watson scrambled to pack Elias’ truck before succumbing to the cold wind. Once we defeated the game of Tetris that was organizing the equipment into the tightly packed truck bed, we clutched our coffees and hit the road. Dave drove the full 8 hours out to Ainsworth, making great time and arriving early enough in the evening to unpack our equipment and hit the local watering hole for dinner. We met up with James Dixon for a delicious seafood dinner, and soon retired to the room, where we discussed the dive plan for the following day. We were going to do a skills dive or two, where Dave and I would practice and hone our skills, followed by a dive to the wreck of the Anscomb Ferry. While we slept, Greg and Leigh-Ann McCuaig arrived after catching the last ferry across the lake.

We woke early the next morning, assembling our gear and making our way down to the dock we would dive from. James had recently constructed a ramp, which, once we attached it to the dock, would greatly ease our exit from the water. Leigh-Ann McCuaig assisted us in hauling gear, and provided greatly appreciated shore support for the dive team. Dave and I began the day by donning our gear and performing a diver rescue. We had 14 minutes to push our respective buddy 600ft, which we both completed with ample time to spare. Greg also taught us a lesson in awareness, by closing our isolator valves before the drill, and making us question our air consumption (or lack thereof!) We exited the water, and began discussing the plan for the skills dive. James briefed us on the location, explaining the topography of the site, location of points of interest and visibility. Greg McCuaig then briefed us on the protocol for gas-switching, which would be an important part of our decompression once we dove the Ferry. Dave and I were briefed and then did a dry run of an s-drill before donning our gear once again and preparing for the dive. On the first dive Mossfeldt would be supervising Dave and I, while Greg McCuaig filmed us. The film review is a very important part of the learning process, and an invaluable tool to better our skills.

The Skills dive involved several tasks, beginning with a valve drill. I struggled to maintain trim, but managed to finish the drill. Dave showed improvement however, successfully reaching his valves. With time, practice, and some yoga, we both will be able to complete this very important skill in the flawless manner that is expected. We then both deployed our SMB’s, which is also important when doing certain decompression stops. I completed a 45ft underwater breath hold swim, did an out of air simulation rescue with Dave, and ended the dive with a gas-switching stop at 20ft. We exited the water using the newly installed ramp and debriefed the dive. A short break to grab a warm drink and a bite to eat, and we were back on the dock using tanks to trans-fill our doubles. It was determined that we would have enough air to dive the Ferry, but not enough to perform another skills dive in addition to diving the wreck. Dave and I were briefed on the dive,

constructed our deco schedule and prepared to execute our first decompression dive.

We entered the water, descended to 70ft where we were greeted by a small sunken fishing boat, the ‘Vancouver’. We continued along a deployed cave line and followed it past a larger, twin outboard boat, the ‘Tillicum III.’ We swam for another few minutes and then, through the dark water, we made out the silhouette of the large Ferry. The car deck is where we began our exploration, and at a depth of just over 120ft the narcosis was more than apparent. We explored the ghostly ship along the outer perimeter, stopping for photo opportunities at a spotlight, a small crane arm, and finally doubling back to finish at the wheelhouse. We turned around at our planned time, followed our deco schedule successfully and switched our gas from air to 50% O2 at 70ft. Another photo op on our 20ft stop wrapped up our dive.

After exiting the water, we gathered up our gear, unloaded it into the hotel room and made haste packing the truck with our empty tanks. I fell victim to a remarkably unfortunate p-valve disaster and had to throw in a load of laundry if I intended to dive in comfort the following day! Dave and I then made our way to the home of a local, John, who owns a compressor and graciously allowed us to top off all of our tanks. Once back at the rooms, we debriefed with film of the two dives, discussed the plan for the following day, and quickly retired to our beds. I was ignorant to the fact that I was sleeping on a relatively uncomfortable futon, as I was so physically drained from the day that I fell asleep the moment I hit the sheets.

6:00 came early the next morning, and we planned to complete one dive to the wreck, before catching the 11:30 ferry and heading back home. We used the same deco schedule as the previous day, the only adjustment being an extension of our turn around time by a few minutes, as the swim back from the wreck to our first stop did not take as long as expected the day before. Before we embarked on the dive, Greg McCuaig experienced a failure of his rebreather computer. Demonstrating a practical lesson in why it’s very useful tech divers use the same gear configuration, McCuaig built himself an open circuit rig using some borrowed gear and was quickly ready to splash. Dave and I used this time to further practice our valve drills in the shallows, then surfaced to rejoin the rest of the team. We began the dive, descending quickly and making good time to the wreck. Preparing myself for the narcosis I had experienced a day earlier helped alleviate most of its affect, and we made good time exploring more of the wreck. Dave and I remained outside the wreck, while Mossfeldt, McCuaig and Dixon penetrated. Once we reunited, we made our way to the stern, where Dave and I, respecting our 130ft depth limit, waited for the rest of the team while they explored the propellers at a depth of 160ft. We returned to the bow, where James once again penetrated the wreck to get an inside view of a door on the car deck that proved impossible to open. Discovering that the door had been rusted shut at the hinges, he exited the wreck, where we all began the return back. Executing our deco schedule for the second time successfully, Dave and I were washed over with a feeling of pride and accomplishment when we finally broke the surface.

Dave and I packed up the truck, under much better weather conditions this time however, and after paying for our room, made our way to the ferry. Mossfeldt traveled with Dixon as far as Dixon’s home, where Dave and I met up with them, picked up Greg, and made our way back to the city. A brief stop in Black Diamond for a great pizza dinner, and we were back in Calgary to unload our gear and enjoy a well deserved rest.

The weekend was a fantastic learning opportunity, allowing 2 student divers to celebrate strengths, recognize shortcomings and execute a benchmark dive on our path to becoming certified tech divers. We learned the importance of buddy-awareness, dive planning, safety drills and working as a team, which is an integral part of successful diving. I look forward to further honing my skills with Dave, learning as much as I can from Mossfeldt, and diving as frequently as I can, as part of an excellent team of practitioners.

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