I got back late last night from the St. Lawrence dive trip, and all I can say is wow.
The trip started with a couple of hiccups, but ended up being an awesome trip. I’m ready for next year’s trip up there.
It took me forever to get out of town on Friday, so much so that I missed the carpool and had to drive up there myself. Not a big deal, I’m always up for a long drive, alone.
I got up there, checked into the hotel room, and then went to find the rest of the people in the dive party for dinner and a few drinks. There were 9 that went up, in total.
I went into the downtown area of Brockville, and found Matt & Justin, who happened to be my dive buddies for this trip. When I found them, the first thing said was, “No beer. Can’t buy beer in Ottowa after 9PM on Fridays and after 6PM on Saturdays.”
We ended up going to a little pub called the Phoenix. Ironic. If ever you are in Brockville and desire a beer, skip the Phoenix.
Well from there, we all went back to our rooms to get a night’s sleep before the dives on Saturday.
We all met in the lobby for the free breakfast, then went to join those that went out for a paid breakfast at Buds on the Bay. This was a neat place, open nearly all day and night, that sells breakfast lunch and dinner. Service was a little slow,s o make sure you have time, if you go there.
Finally, time to dive came around. We piled into our vehicles and drove to the dive shop/dock to meet the boat, In Decent Seas. After we all lugged our gear to the ship, and listened to the safety briefing, we were underway to US Customs and Immigration. It turns out that we were leaving the Canadian side, and needed to clear US Customs in order to dive the ship wrecks that were in the water on the US side of the St. Lawrence.
The first ship were were to dive was the Keystorm. It took us forever to arrive, but when we got there, the boat captain tied us off to the mooring midship, and we were off. With my ear hurting like another infection was looming, I was going to start the dive a bit cautious until I knew I could equalize. We got all ready to go, and then off we went, two by two, until my group went, and we were a dive buddy team of three.
We did a giant stride entry off the side of the boat, and then grabbed the drift rope tied to the boat. The St. Lawrence has a 2-5 knot per hour current, all the time, so if you don’t hang onto something while in the water, then you are going for a ride, which in this case can be especially dangerous. On our way to and from the dives, we were greeted with 200 – 400 foot ocean shipping vessels.
So when we did our giant stride, we grabbed onto the rope, and pulled/swam our way to the front of the boat, then down the mooring line, where our buddy team assembled. From there, we did the final OK down, and we started our decent. I wasn’t fully comfortable with the first dive, so I went a little slow, and wasted way too much air on the way down. We got down to the wreck midship, and went to the deeper side first, which is the screw was. The screw was at 110 feet deep. Once we got down that way, we look at the screw, then started back up the ship. The Keystorm lays on her side at the bottom of the river, and the cargo ports are all open, one could swim in if they wanted to. We did not. On the way back up the ship, I decided that I didn’t have enough air to go up to the top of the ship, which is in 20 feet of water, and check that out, then make it back down to the 60 feet to the mooring line, to come up to our boat. I signaled to my dive buddies, that they should continue on the dive, and that I’d be going up. For those reading that will say that it’s not good to dive alone and such, I do this all the time. I was on the mooring line, and had to do the 15 foot safety stop, then get to the boat.
I went up the line, did the safety stop, then got to the top of the mooring line, where the boat should be to pick us up, but the boat was missing. I looked around, then reached for my safety sausage, to get that inflated. That was when I noticed the boat was around 150 feet from me, and they were telling me to let go of the mooring line.
I let go, and started to drift down the St Lawrence River. They came up to me, and tossed me a rope bag, which I was supposed to use to pull myself to the boat. One tug and the rope became untied from the boat, and I was drifting again. They circled around and tossed me a life ring. I caught that, and they pulled me to the boat, I used the ladder and was in the boat. They said the waves and wind had broken their mooring line, and they were just going to have to pluck us each out the way they had done me.
Everyone came up and went through the same thing I had done to get aboard. While we were down, the seas had gone from relatively calm to 6 foot waves and such. Not a fun time.
Instead of calling off the second dive of the day, the captain changed us to a different ship wreck. The second wreck was the Kinghorn. She laid basically in 90 feet of water from stern to bow. She was upright, and had a stove, table that was set (obviously the work of some divers with a sense of humor). We moored onto that line, and went down. We went around the ship, then we decided that we’d look at the inside of the ship. I did something I said I’d never do, I entered the ship. I swam around inside it a bit, then came back out. We all went to the mooring line, then came up. The day was so taxing that we were all ready to get off the boat for the day.
We all ended up meeting at Buds on the Bay for dinner and a couple of drinks, then we were off to the hotel for another night’s sleep.
We all woke up on Sunday and checked out of the motel, then off to the next dive location, right in Brockville. We loaded then boarded the boat, then were off to the first dive site, the Henry C. Daryaw. She was a ship that was built in 1919 and lays in around 90 feet of water, upside down. After a short boat ride, we got ready, and decended into the water to begin our dive. This ship was awesome. We went down the line, which was tied to the screw, then went around the ship, which was upside down. We reached the cargo holds, and went up in a little, but only like 4-5 feet. We swam around the ship, to the end, then just came back down the same side, as to avoid the current in the water. At one point, I was swimming and my regulator was pulled from my mouth, that sucked. It was kind of like a slow motion thing, I was swimming along, and then my regulator wasn’t in my mouth, no way to breath. I had the good fortune that it stayed right in front of me, so I grabbed it and put it back in my mouth, then continued the dive. I was very glad of my training then, I stayed calm, and just reached out, grabbed the reg and put it back in my mouth, then continued the dive.
We all met at the screw, then went up the line to the boat. That dive was awesome!
We motored over to our last dive of the weekend, the Lillie Parsons. She was a wreck that was upside down in 70 feet of water. She was launched on September 14, 1868. She sunk on August 5, 1877 while carrying coal.
This was coolest entry and exit to a dive I’ve had in my 135ish dives. The boat dropped us off in the water around 150 feet from a small island, and we drifted to the island. From there, we went left around the island, until we got to an anchor which was attached to a chain. The links in the chain were probably around 5 inches around, and decended the wall to the 70 foot depth that the Lillie Parsons was at. I liken the dive to an underwater rock climb. We went down the chain, followed the ship around, then repeated around again. There were 4 foot big walleye and a bunch of other fish down at this wreck site. That was awesome to see.
After we were done diving, we did what’s called a drift dive. We basically let go, and let the water carry us downstream. We just floated, no need to kick with the fins, just roll with the current. We acended to around 40 feet, and watched for a rope on the wall, basically the underwater side of the island. Once we found that, we caught our selves, brought ourselves to the 15 foot safety stop for 3 minutes, then continued into the bay area to the boat. What an awesome dive.
I’m ready for next year’s trip, already.