After halting at what seemed like an infinite number of stop lights through several small southern towns in SC, we turned from the trusted secondary road onto whatever kind of road is under "secondary" and rounded the curvy corners down to the boat landing at Lake Keowee. Three divers at the dock, we made two more and there were 5 others who would arrive in short order for the first outing of the NC & SC divebuddy group. Off The Wall Diving arrived and we loaded the boat for our two tank outing to the cove where the Oconee Nuclear plant sends it’s cooling water back into the lake, a destination known as "Hot Hole", an optimistic term for March at the very least. It was an amazing day for mid-March, sun was out, thermometer was playing with 84 degrees and I broke a sweat gearing up in my 5mm suit and debated about the hood. Soon I was glad I opted for the hood, gloves and the extra two millimeters over my normal 3mm choice. Brandon had done a good briefing on the process, "swim over to the outlet, drop down to the current from the pipe by following the bubbles and ride the flow out into the lake, once your face goes numb head southeast and you’ll hit the flow from the lake and ride it back to the starting point and while you’re down there watch out for nerf balls." I admit to hearing the nerf ball comment but dismissed it as a joke gone bad and proceeded into the upper 60’s water. With vis about 5-6 feet we swam over to the outlet dropped down about 20 plus feet into the current and the ride began......not sure how far or how fast but the "numb" arrived soon and we headed southeast and followed the current around to our starting point....or at least reasonably close as my navigation skills are still improving. Ride number 2 & 3 we similar but we dropped a little lower saw and felt the spillway wall on those rides and improved our return accuracy as well. Then Ride number four, we dropped to about 40 feet and there it was, the bottom, rocks, a few anchors, and scattered all around were inch diameter nerf balls.....like a Toys-R-Us grave yard......Thus a reminder that as abstract as parts of a dive briefing may sound it may literally come to be.
Perhaps I should add that the Oconee Nuclear plant sends small nerf balls through the pipes to clean them and then has a system for catching them before they get into the lake, but like many systems it occasionally doesn’t work exactly right and so the lake bed around the outflow pipes is covered in small nerf balls that escaped the system.
Great Job by www.OffTheWallDiving.com and Brandon and thanks to the other Divebuddy divers who made the day a fun one in the cool March lake water at Keowee. Keep watching for the next outing. Pastor -G-