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When things don`t go as planned
ScottPadipro - 2/25/2008 4:47 PM
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Category: Personal
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When Things Don’t Go As Planned

The winds had finally calmed down enough for the seas to return to near flat conditions this past Sunday and give us the chance to get wet again. It had been nearly an entire month since we had the chance to get wet. We set up a dive with South Florida Diving Headquarters on their boat Safari Diver to dive the wreck of the Hydro Atlantic. The Hydro as it’s called, sits upright in 172 fsw with her main deck at 145 feet, the super structure reaches up to 115 feet so it can be a recreational dive for the very advanced diver but is considered by most to be a technical, decompression dive. The seas were 2 feet or less as we made our way out of the inlet, the sky’s had a slight overcast with some rain off in the distance. As we prepped our rebreathers for the dive the captain maneuvered the boat into position to drop the DM on the wreck and tie in. When he returned the report was of light current down to the tie in on the center stack at 115 feet with crappy visibility of only 20 to 30 feet. We’ve had some rain lately and that has turned the water murky green and severely limited the visibility. We had a total of 7 divers onboard, 5 on rebreathers doing decompression and 2 on open circuit doing a recreational dive. With the major difference in run times between the OC and CCR divers we let the OC guys splash first then the group of 3 divers on the Dive Rite Optima and finally me and Mempilot on our Megs. Our plan was to descend to the tie in point and then head aft to the skylight that leads to the engine room, descend through the skylight into the engine room and take a look around. We had planned on a max depth of 160 feet with a bottom time of 30 minutes which would commit us to another 32 minutes of decompression and a total run time from splash to surface of 62 minutes. The current was pretty light as we made our way down the line to the stack so the descent was easy considering all the equipment we were carrying and the visibility did suck, you couldn’t even see the wreck until you were nearly on it. As we headed aft we soon spotted the skylight and made our way down to it. We paused prior to entering to change our set point on the rebreather from .7 ppO2 used for our descent to our planned 1.2 ppO2 for the remainder of the dive. After making the switch and giving each other the Ok sign I headed in as Mempilot videoed the whole thing. I dropped in feet first through the skylight and once inside the engine room the ambient light faded quickly into complete darkness. I turned to watch Mempilot enter right behind me and descend into the darkness with only the beam of his light showing his location. With me in the lead we made a lap around the room checking out the engines, lockers and anything else we could find to look at. Some of the ducking running through the room has fallen down over the years and there is quite a bit of stuff hanging from the ceiling so you have to keep an eye on your position in relation to both or you could easily get hung up on something. We hit our max planned depth of 160 feet right above the huge engines as we slowly made our way around the room. The water temperature dropped fast as we descended below 150 feet and my computer was showing 63F at this depth so we didn’t stay long. Even though we were both wearing dry suits we weren’t wearing any heavy thermal protection under them so while neither of us felt cold at the time we could feel the cold and knew that staying to long in 63 degree water would lower our body temperature and make the long decompression stop at the 20 feet uncomfortably cold. After about 10 minutes of exploring every corner of the room and making mental notes of what I wanted to see on the next dive I ascended back up through the sky light and out onto the main deck as Mempilot stayed behind with the video camera to film our exit. We headed forward toward the wheel house and past a school of jacks along the way that would have thrilled any fisherman. I estimate they were between 15 to 20 pounds and being on rebreathers they weren’t the slightest bit afraid of us and allowed us to get within 3 to 4 feet of them before swimming out of our way. As we approached the wheel house I could tall the current was picking up a bit, I had to pull, kick and glide my way forward to make progress. Finally reaching the forward end of the ship I peered into the wheelhouse through the open door way and straight into school of grunts hiding in the darkness. I wanted to go inside but our time was running short, it would have been a tight squeeze through the door way with all the gear and I didn’t want to get inside and then have to squeeze back out again running the risk of overextending our planned bottom time of only 30 minutes. We turned the dive and let the current carry us back along the starboard side of the wreck aft to the center stack where we spotted the anchor line and several other divers already making their ascent. I had a quick 2 minute stop at 90 feet and then another 2 minute stop at 70 feet. Up to this point the dive had been very routine and no one had encountered any problems but this was about to change. The current had picked up considerably during our time on the wreck and as we worked our way shallower it got even stronger. By the time we had reached the 50 foot mark I began to notice that something wasn’t quite right with the anchor line, there seemed to be a lot of slack in it and no obvious up and down movement as if there were a boat attached to it on the surface bobbing in the water. It wasn’t until we actually left our 50 foot stop and headed up that I realized not only was the boat no longer attached to the line at the surface but between the now heavy current and 4 divers on the line trying to hold on to it the float ball had submerged and was sinking even further. As I tried to ascend up the line I was actually going deeper and had to quickly adjust my buoyancy to stop my decent. About that time 2 of the other divers on the line above us decided to leave the line and finish their deco drifting but by letting go of the line and lightning the load they allowed the ball to begin to ascend which started to pull those of us remaining on the line up toward the surface and past our stop depth. We all had to scramble back down until we were again at the proper depth and our computers stopped screaming at us. We found out later that the open circuit divers had surfaced first and two of the rebreather divers that were behind them had left the line to do a drift deco because of the heavy current. The boat captain had seen the lift bag marking the drifting divers location and asked the OC guys if there was anyone else on the line. The OC divers total run time was less the 30 minutes so they were already back on board the boat before most of us had even left the wreck and began our ascent so of course they didn’t see anyone on the line. Thinking that everyone had now left the line and was adrift the captain had untied the boat and started drifting along with the first group of divers and allowing the line to sink with the rest of us still on it. After several minutes on this up and down stuff, adjusting our buoyancy to keep from sinking only to have the ball rise and pull us up, then adjusting buoyancy to stop the ascent only to have the ball sink again, the 3 of us remaining on the line decided to abandon the line and just finish our decompression stops while drifting. This is a much easier way of completing your required decompression in a heavy current because it basically removes any problems created by the current as you are now moving along with it instead of fighting against it. The problem with this here in South Florida is the fishing boats. With calm seas and decent weather that day they were everywhere and very few of them have any idea what a lift bag floating on the surface means and most will steer over to it and try to pull it out of the water. Not a