Education, Enjoyment and Exploration…

Archive for October, 2009

Day on the River – 10/20/09

Jerry showing the two river diving essentials, a shovel and a dry bag!What a beautiful morning! We’ve just recently had a “chilly” spell here in North Florida lately, Jerry and I had talked on the phone yesterday and we were both thinking it might not be a good river diving day, but no worries. The sky was blue, not much wind and the air was a comfortable 70 degrees. As usual, we met at CEE to get fills, had our usual joshing session before heading down to the boat ramp and I managed to talk Jerry into showing the world what the essentials of river diving are! As you can see from the picture, everyone had a cheery kind of autumn glow going on and it just seemed to be one of those awesome dive days. As we pulled out of the shop and headed off, little did we know that the adventures ahead of us that day would be interesting to say the least…..

The hope of things unexplored...Last week on our Rock Bluff outing, Jerry and I had espied a beautiful little potential lead, so our mission today was to go have a look see. We have some knotted line, but mainly we just want to see if it “goes”! We unload the canoe and my bud suddenly realizes that he’s spaced a dive computer, no big deal we have extras so we continue on packing the boat. I have a moment of “I know I’m forgetting something”, but it passes so we hop in and start heading up the river. As we paddle up the Suwannee, there’s a little cove that looks interesting so we head over to check it out, but we can’t see a boil so we continue on upstream on our adventure. Sooner rather than later, we arrive at the hole we’d seen the previous week so we anchor the canoe, get geared up and head over. I’d stuck my head in it last week and while tight, it looked like we could get in there, and it was such a pretty location. I try and take a photo of the entrance, but as you can see we stirred it up a little too much while donning tanks, but hopefully it’ll give you some idea of what it looked like. I tie off a primary and start wiggling down into the hole. Darn, I make it through the first restriction, but then it corkscrews down to the right and looks impassable. I push back out to let the more experienced guy make the call and tell him my thoughts. He grins, says “I’ll be back” and drops into the hole, I try to see what’s going on, but of course there are twigs, branches and all kinds of sediment pouring out of it, so I just surface and wait. Jerry pops back up and echoes my concerns; we “might” be able to make it through the second restriction upon closer inspection, but neither of us feel that there’s a place to turn around if we can’t, so we decide to bail on it and head elsewhere. There’s a moment of disappointment, but what the hell, “you don’t know, if you don’t go”….

A bit of a wiggle....We decide to head to Rock Bluff again since its close by and we still have plenty of gas and I don’t think either of us will ever get bored of that high flow hellhole! Sure enough, there’s a good boil on the surface and I volunteer to go first and do “shovel duty” and run the line etc. We exchange a brief dive plan and down we go. It’s funny there, you don’t really notice the flow until you drop down under the overhang and all of a sudden, there’s fire hose strength water hitting you in the face and if you’re really lucky it’ll have shells and rocks in it. I knuckle down and start shoveling, I suck in a piece of shell, but cough it out and it’s gone. Finally, I’ve cleared enough of a hole and head in, there’s a neat trick to this entrance and soon enough I’m inside and out of the flow. I pull out a reel and go to tie off, when suddenly my reg starts free flowing like crazy, I cuss, switch regs and start shutting the offender down and then the other one starts to flow like some kind of crazy thing, so I just deal, letting gas blow out of my mouth and finally I get the other one cleaned out and back in my mouth. Ah, a moment of relief as I can actually get a real breath now, so I start shutting the other one down to get it cleaned out. Success! Finally I get all the crap out of there, give Jerry the okay, turn the tank back on and go to grab the reel again, but suddenly there’s an audible pop and my gauge starts to bubble like crazy from the spindle. AARRGGGHHH! I scream my frustrations through the reg, turn around, indicate to Jerry that I’m done and does he want to go on? He politely declines and we both turn to head out, we’re up in no time and I’m seriously pissed off, but it’s not that big of a deal until, if you can believe it, we realize that my spare sidemount reg is in my van and Jerry’s o-ring kit is in his truck. After we realize this, the day kind of takes a funny turn and we both start chuckling like some goofy idiots, I mean we kind of went diving…

Just a little leakWe decided to take a picture of the offending gauge and as you can see, it was really putting out a lot of gas! After a while of the usual storytelling, we take off the suits, reload the gear and start paddling back down the Suwannee. We run into a couple of fishermen who bemoan the lack of mullet, so we tell them to head up into the inlet as we’d just seen a ton. They thank us and we continue on and even though it’s been an interesting sort of day, it’s just good to be out on the water having a good time. We load the canoe up, go grab some burgers and over lunch start making plans for next week, which of course include having an extra reg, computers and an o-ring kit….

Rock Bluff – 10/13/2009

Jerry launching his canoe.It’s finally cooled off a little bit and after a beautiful paddle up the Suwannee, Jerry and I finally pull up to the spring. We can see the boil at Shotgun like a crazy thing and I wonder how hard it’ll be blowing out down below. Throwing the tanks in the water and getting dressed, we josh back and forth about the usual stuff, letting the cave bubble away silently behind us.

Finally we’ve said all there is to say and it’s time to go adjust some attitudes, so we grin, drop down and Jerry grabs the shovel and starts getting the worst of the rocks out of the way. I’m staying back just a bit, whack, obviously not far enough as a good size chunk of rock tags me so I decide to retreat a foot or so. My buddy slithers in like he’s done dozens of dives here, which of course he has and I grit my teeth and head into the tiny slit. My reg starts gushing so I wrap my lips around it trying to get a handhold and I’m wedged, finally! I take a moment to try and get my breathing under control and continue to push in. I wedge a fin up in the ceiling behind me, my elbow edges in, I get some leverage and sweet, I pop up and out of the flow. I look over and Jerry’s grinning at me having tied off the primary, but I need a second to recover, holy smokes I’m getting old! Finally we head off, I decide to switch regs, wham, and a free flow just starts kicking. Angrily I flash my buddy, take the offending reg apart, clean it out and hesitantly take a breath, cool we’re off….

Getting ready to paddle to the cave.Rock Bluff is a beautiful cave varying from gorgeous domes to wicked restrictions with two spring tunnels converging approximately 40 feet from the entrance. The North route, the bigger and siltier of the two, will be the second part of our dive today but first we’re off to explore the South route which is definitely the tighter of the two.

I drop into the steady rhythm of breathing and start to enjoy the small sidemount cave. Jerry’s doing the beautiful kick up in front of me and even though there’s silt, it’s acting relatively benign. I’m keeping a good eye on features and line positioning as we head in, since it seems like it’d be good knowledge to have on the exit! While things are small, it’s not uncomfortable by any means and the groove starts to find a nice rhythym. We turn a corner and finally I’m confronted by the first major restriction. Jerry negotiates it nicely, so while thinking to myself “oh, how bad could it be”, I flip onto my side and start wiggling. Luckily, it’s not too silty and after a couple of contortions, I pop through. Jerry glances at me, I give him the hang loose sign, he grins through the reg and we continue on.

Due to my antics at the entrance I hit turn pressure a tad prematurely, reluctantly flash Jerry and we flip around. The ride out is uneventful, although having the flow behind me while wiggling back through the restrictions, made me understand the whole cork in the champagne bottle thing.

The backup dive vehicles :-)We hit the primary reel, wait for a moment for the silt to go by, recalculate gas and confirm our line to the North route. This is almost a different cave, billowing silt piles instead of tight rock squeezes, but still gorgeous to behold. We head up and down, following the twisting tunnel through the confines of the rock and life is good, another kickass day of diving. All too soon, Jerry gives me the turnaround and we slowly work our way back through the puffy clouds of nebulous silt that flutter everywhere. My hand idly traces the line in case we lose vis, but it’s all good as I look down, see rock, look up and see our reel.

Finally I head back to the entrance with Jerry behind me and scoot out through the small entrance hole in a cloud of sand and shells. As we pop out of the fissure crack I’m laughing through my reg as I head up to the daylight and yes, another day has been exemplified by a great cave dive. I start babbling away at Jerry and don’t even notice the elderly gentleman and his wife behind us on their boat. He asks “y’all were in that cave?” We reply “yes sir” and he just shakes his head……