It has been awhile since we ran. Between travel, bad weather and more travel, it has been a few months! However, as we draw closer to the close of the year, with a few charters remaining on the 2018 schedule, we seemed to have an opportunity to run. Our schedule for the weekend called for the Romance on Saturday and the Holmes on Sunday. The wind was going to be moderate both days with very cold temperatures below freezing both days. Our plan was to take it day by day. With the wind conditions heading into Saturday, we decided that the Poling would be most appropriate.
With the arrival of Saturday, the wind was still up and the temps were low – like mid teems with the wind chill. Eeek. It was crisp, clear and COLD. Nevertheless we pressed on and the group gathered at the dock, excited to dive although perhaps a little daunted by the conditions. But we cranked up the heat and covered the gear with trash bags and everyone settled in nicely in the warm cabin for a smooth ride. We cruised up to the Poling – picking up some spray and ice along the way. When we arrived on site, we spotted a single mooring and got tied off. We readied the first divers to splash. The back deck was slushy and there was a fair bit of ice on the rails and cabin. It was very cold.
We got the teams of divers in and soon enough Dave and Scott Z returned from their dives. The conditions were pretty good with about 20 feet of visibility, but some strong current running on the wreck. With that, I started suiting up with Brad K and Matt S. I took my usual approach to winter boat diving–my hood and dry gloves were in the cabin. I got into my suit, donned my hood and a thin pair of gloves to cover my hands until I was ready for dry gloves. We headed out, I got the accessories stowed in pockets and started getting into my gear. As I started suiting up, I quickly realized how much of my stuff was frozen. I had a few minor free flows trying to get my gas on with the first stage DIN capture, but I sorted that. When I got into my CCR I decided NOT to begin my prebreathe until I was much closer to being ready to splash for fear of causing my mushroom valves to freeze. My mask with water in it to rinse out de-fog had already frozen. Not good. I realized quickly that my wing inflator (inlet and vent) was frozen. My DSV was frozen shut. I began to think that I might need to call the dive. Dave microwaved some water and poured it over my power inflator and DSV. We got things going but when I breathed from my BOV it began to freeflow. We got that stopped. Again, I questioned whether I should go. I got my bailout on and began pre-breathing with my CO2 sensor on. All was good. But stuff was again freezing up. I told them team I was going to evaluate at the surface–if everything wasn’t working perfectly after hitting the 45F water, I was calling it. I splashed and everything thawed. My mask was still a little icy but I guess I was going to have to live with that. I did decide to keep my ADV shut off and manually add diluent. But everything else was good. That said, I wasn’t completely at ease.
We dropped down to the wreck, got situated and headed aft. The visibility was actually kind of murky, I’d give it 15-20′ maybe. We dropped into the wreck, which was also murky, and did a tour. It was Matt’s first time in the wreck so he was excited to check it out. We did a tour and then exited the wreck, lapped the stern and headed to the break. The wreck seemed so small compared to the massive wrecks of Truk Lagoon we had just been diving a week earlier. By then, the dive was getting on and we decided to head up. It was cold, but all was good–gear was good and it was a nice swim. We ascended in a little bit of current, but nothing major. We did a short hang and headed up, and out of the water. We quickly got out of our gear as it was immediately freezing on us (I didn’t want to wear my drysuit home). We scrambled inside, cranked the heat and headed back to Beverly.
Upon arrival in Beverly, it became clear running again in similar conditions (perhaps slightly better on Sunday, but only slightly) to a deeper wreck would be unwise. The boat was covered in ice–cabin, rails and forward deck–and the dock lines were likely to be frozen to the dock once we managed to wrap them around the cleats again. Our gear was icy and I knew my CCR would immediately freeze with any moisture remaining in it. We decided to cancel and it was the right call–it was windy overnight and in the high teens in the morning with wind chill. It was a good day to sleep in. All in all though, Saturday was a good day of (almost) winter diving!
We have 1 weekend left in the 2018 schedule and it is hard to say if we’ll get out with the long range weather. If this is our last dive report for 2018, let us close by saying thank you to all who joined us for dives this year! You all are a big part of what makes Gauntlet so fun. See you in 2019!