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My lake diving experiences in 2013 --- an online diary

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Posted 02-26-2013 at 04:15 AM by oldflounder
Updated 04-18-2013 at 11:25 AM by oldflounder

[please note - Double click on the title to see the whole blog]

4/14

Again no diving - apparently I have a touch of bronchitis. Hope it goes away soon. Getting the itch to get back in real bad. Ice-Out was declared yesterday, April 17. I guess I'm done at Center Harbor until next winter.

4/7

Bad chest cold/congestion...no diving this weekend.

3/30

Back to Center Harbor --- Ice season is almost over. I probably have a few more weekends before the boats start up again. This area is too busy to dive during the summer. The ice has backed off quite a bit more. It is now Ĺ way out to the red channel marker.
I went over and checked out the drydock railway again. I removed the bottom guidelines I had previously set in front of the main dock. Some person fishing today had already snagged it even though it was sitting on the silt bottom. Next week will probably my last dive here before the ice is totally gone. After that I will probably be going back to the ocean for awhile.
I dove the wetsuit again but this time I really presoaked everything in warm water. Gloves, boot, hoods and lots poured inside the suit. It does make a huge difference. I hardly felt the cold water going in. I was in most of an hour and never got cold but did start to get a leg cramp that is the first sign that I had better be heading for shore soon.

3/23

Today itís back to Center Harbor with a buddy this time. Itís my first dive certified for ice and itís good to have a buddy who is ice and cave certified and who doesnít mind the ice water. It was an overcast windy day for the most part but the sun did poke through occasionally. We explored around the edge of the ice shelf looking for underwater landmarks and spent some time looking over the end sections of the drydock railway structure.
I tried out the new wetsuit I purchased the previous week. I had a 7/5 before and it is ok in the ice for a little while but I bought a 7mm this time. I went in dry the first time to see how much of a shock I can expect. It was pretty harsh around the feet, legs,chest at first but did warm up quickly and I spent a good 45 minutes in the water. Next time I will presoak it. I went in with 20# but was overweighted about 4# at least with the steel 100. The ice has backed off noticeably since last week.

3/18

This started out as a beautiful day when I left home. It was a nice drive up to the Lake. Today I was doing day 2 of my ice dive training at Glendale on the Lady of the Lake. As the day went on it got windier and colder with a wind chill eventually of probably 5-10*. This is great drysuit weather because you donít overheat gearing up and once in the water it feels warmish.
The air was 24, water was 33 at surface and 35 at bottom of 30í. Viz was 20í +. The water was relatively clean with some particulate stirred up by the dive activity. No one had any freeflow issues today but there was one stuck inflator valve a few minutes into the dive of one of the teams.
This was my first time diving this boat. Iíll have to go back in the summer to explore it more.
After the dive, while removing the drysuit I tore out the zipper for the second time and canít fix it this time so my drysuit season is over for this year. Itís back to the wetsuit!

3/10/2013

When I got outside this morning it was 30* and sunny. When I got to Center Harbor around noontime it was in the upper 30's. It was a beautiful day to be outside. The days are starting to turn spring-like. Most bobhouses have been removed because of the poor quality of the ice at the access ramps. There is still a good coating of ice away from shore. In fact there was a good coating of skim ice (1/2" thick) almost right up against the Mount and well in toward the boat ramp. It was thicker and more extensive than the skim ice I encountered that other time. This tells me that the lake is still creating ice, and not loosing it, as the days are getting warmer.

Water temp was between 32 and 33*. Viz was about 20' with some light particulate suspended througout the water column. I was in for over 1/2 hour practicing with that manila hemp rope again. It didn't kink up so much this time. I was in for awhile and realized I had forgotten to put a dive flag in the water. I had to get out and retrieve it from the truck. It was good to warm up a little. I wonder if that rule applies when ice diving and there are no boats out and about---probably. I stayed pretty much under the skim ice [with a tight hold on my rope] knowing that I could punch a hole in it if I had to [I had experimented in several places when I first entered.] I laid out 100' of white line along the bottom from the triple post toward the stern of The Mount. I already have a 100' line extending out toward the red channel marker. Next time there I hope to connect the 2 lines so that I have a 100'-sided triangle to practice ice diving inside of. My hope is to do training here with others in the future and use a 75' tether so that we stay inside that "safety area". From inside here there is open water to the N and W. Ice diving is never safe but with a little planning I think you can make it a little less dangerous.

3/2/2013

It was snowing when I left home but I put my trust in the forecast for Center Harbor that said just occasional flurries. Once I got above Concord there were patches of blue sky that held out until mid-afternoon. Most of the huts at Center Harbor are gone; the ramp is looking pretty poor. I was in for at least 1/2 hour just playing around and experimenting with 1/2" manila hemp rope as a tie off. Forget it - It's heavy and sinks well but it kinks up too much. Also it might be a little harder to cut through in an entanglement situation. I got a roll of it dirt cheap a while back and have been wanting to try it out. Oh well - I guess I have to invest in the good stuff.

The ice shelf is backing away from the docks area. The viz was about 20' with very little particulate. Air was in the mid-30's. I set a couple of those 14" long orange tie out stakes you buy in the hardware stores, into the muck/silt. They are each 75' from the end of the dock. One is on a line to the red channel marker. The other is on a line to the stern of The Mount. There are car tires near each one so later I will put them inside the tires to use as reference markers. Eventually I hope to have some kind of markers underwater to know where I am in different areas. Maybe I'll make up a little map.

2/23/2013

I have wondered in the past what would happen if I wore the latex hood of my drysuit directly over my ears without any fabric underneath. Would the latex get sucked into the ear canal due to the pressure as you went deeper or what other consequences would there be involving the eardrum. I got my questions partially answered yesterday.

I wear a Viking with an attached latex hood. Usually I wear the skull cap they send with the suit or I use a neoprene drysuit bibless hood under the latex to prevent any additional ear equalization issues caused by the latex directly on the ear.

Yesterday I knew I would be staying shallow so I tried putting the neoprene on top of the latex. I never got any deeper than 25' so I didn't get to test the pressure issue at depth, but I never felt any abnormal squeeze at 25'.

Just for the record, the air was mid 30's, overcast, occasional spits of snow, water was 33*, viz was 15 - 20' and the ice depth at Clark's Point was a little more than 12".

Anyway the big lesson I took away from this dive relating to the latex hood issue was that my ears were saturated with water in all the way to the eardrum. There was no pain but I was noticeably hard of hearing. I have had swimmer's ear several times and I often get "water-in the-ears" but I have never had my ears both saturated before. I think the latex hood may have, in some way, "packed-in" the water into the ear canal.

Next time I try this I think I'll try using some cottonballs over the ears to give a bigger air space between the latex and ear canal.

By the way, the reason I like putting the neoprene hood on top of the latex is that I fear tearing the latex because I have to pull on it so much to get it adjusted over the other.

2/16/2013

This weekend I went to Center Harbor on Saturday instead of Sunday because strong winds are forecast for the latter day and my little Clam shelter doesn't do well in wind. I have to tie all the corners down tight or it'll blow away when I'm gone. I didn't get there until 2 because I was waiting for the day to warm up. Down my way we had 2" overnight, though CtrHrbr didn't get any.

The day was overcast for the most part, except for the sun popping out for a brief time.
The air was 36* and calm. The water was 33* up near the ice shelf. The viz wasn't very good for this time of year - maybe 12-15'. There was a lot of silt and course particulate throughout the water column. In the past I have noticed a current in the open water around the docks. Maybe this has stirred it up for some reason.

I laid out a green string/yarn baseline from the triple dock post to the small nest of boulders near the rear of The Mount. It runs along the bottom pretty much under the edge of the ice shelf, maybe a little under it in places. I'll be removing that when the ice goes away.


I had another great day without any freeflows, even though I tried to force some by shooting a little air into my bc and drysuit at times. And I tried breathing out of the regs while on the surface to see what would happen. The topside air temps must have a lot to do with it because I seem to have my freeflows when it gets down to around 20*. I am also more conscious of the temperature of the tank and air inside and am keeping them inside before going diving.

I spent a lot of time just treasure-seeking under the docks but didn't find anything special.

I think it is going to be an early ice out again this year unless we get a big stretch of cold weather, which is not in the long range forecast.

2/10/2013

Sunday started out cold but turned into a beautiful afternoon. It was 8* when I got up but it must have been close to 25* at noon. A brisk breeze made it feel cooler. I went back to Center Harbor. Luckily I found a parking spot near the ramp before the crowd got there. This was the Sunday of the ice fishing derby so many were out to fish, cross country ski, skate, take photos and otherwise enjoy the beautiful day. And of course I was there to enjoy my winter sport - ice water diving.

Due to the snow earlier in the weekend, there was a nice coating on the week's previous glare ice so there were many sleds zipping back and forth across the bay. No trucks on the ice this weekend because a couple vehicles had gone through in the area days prior. The shore access was closed and ribboned off.

At the dive site itself there was less ice around the docks than last week. At least I didn't have to break through the skim ice to get around. The water was 33* and viz was nice at 20'+. I didn't get in much of a dive as I had another freeflow due to user error. I got the scuba unit on at the dockside. Then I went down the boat ramp into the propeller pit to get acclimated and do my gear check. I noticed I had failed to hook up my drysuit hose. In the process of trying to insert it against the pressure of the charged hose it squirted out air a couple times. Then on the third attempt it froze open as I was plugging it in. I couldn't reach my valve to shut it off so it was dry in about a minute. I noticed that even though my main tank had run dry, the first stage never turned into a block of ice as it had several times before. Again, I think , as I have previously posted, that the trick is to leave the tanks and regs indoors days prior to the dive so they are not already at a frigid temperature when you enter the water.

So that was my dive for the day. I did spend another 1/2 hour just playing in the shallows, breathing off my pony tank to see if it would freeflow and seeing how long it would take for my hands and body to start getting chilled [they didn't this time]. It may have been a short dive but it was another day of lesson learned and a great day to be out of the house, driving around the state.

Lesson learned --- at these water temps, do not attempt to hook up drysuit hose underwater, esp. if you are at depth. If you haven't needed it yet, leave it as is. Use the bc for buoyancy control and inflate manually/orally. You will lose your air in less than a minute if it freeflows and your buddy better be very close to shut it off. Again I think it should be mandatory to have a pony when under the ice. There are just too many things that can go wrong.

2/3/2013

I think I am starting to get a handle on ice diving. Today I had no freeflows, no equipment malfunctions and no leaks in the drysuit and I was in the water for at least 45 minutes. The only issue I had was that my left hand got a little chilled at times.

Because of the upcoming ice fishing derby next weekend, I think the circulators were left off just like last year. There was 3/8" skim ice right up against the boat ramp and very close to the Mount. Before I got the scuba unit, etc. on, I went in and broke a bunch of it loose so that I could manuever easier.

I was testing out my idea of using 2 circuits. I think it worked very well. Another change was to leave all the gear indoors the nights before. In the past I have always left all my gear in an outside shed at home. If the air overnight was 5* below 0 then the tank and air inside was at 5* below 0 the next day when I went diving.

When I went in I waited until I was underwater to breath off the Air2 on one of the circuits. I just swam around a little to get acclimated and get my breathing normalized. Then I switched to my primary reg on the 2nd circuit. It worked out very well. I even tried surfacing several times to force a freeflow but it never happened. And I tried shooting a lot of air into the inflator on the surface without triggering a freeflow. I think keeping the gear warm beforehand had a lot to do with it.

The air was 25, water was 35, viz was 20' plus. Sky was overcast with no breeze. I got there about 12:30 and was in the water from 1:30 to 2 more or less.

Next weekend my Club and Central Divers is going to have an ice dive demonstration on Sunday at the ice fishing derby. I'll be there acting as a tender maybe but I can't dive because I'm not certified. Maybe next year, though I don't think I can afford to take the class this year with the economy and all. Oh well.............

1/30/2013 Ice Dive Class Prep

I am not ice dive certified yet, but I do dive up against the ice shelf. I ventured a couple feet under it last year and looked up to the underside to see what it felt like. That's the only time I've done it. Next time I do it it'll be with a rope secured to me and a big post under the dock. Am I stupid? Probably. But the more experience I get in the ice water, the more I think the current training process is lacking. I don't see a lot of people around here preparing for the classes. The way that I understand the local dive shops do the training is this: You show up at the shop on Thursday and/or Friday for the requisite classroom training. That's fine - no problems there. Then on a weekend soon following you do 2 dives each day to get the practice in the water. That's also fine - no problem there either.

The problems that I see are that there are no organized preps before this week. Are the candidates familiar with the drysuit they may have just rented? Are they using the same regs they used last summer? Have they tested them in 34* water prior to the class to see if they freeflow and what that does to the rest of the scuba unit gear. Do they really know that a freeflow out of 2 or 3 orifices can suck the tank dry in 2 or 3 minutes. And that you are unable to shut off the tank valve because it is encased in ice. And when you shoot a squirt of air into your bc to get buoyant at 25' it may also freeze open and your bladder starts to inflate fast. They say all you do is unplug the hose. Well sorry to say it but the connection is probably encased in ice also and won't come off. Will they have time to get back to the hole. And if they grab their buddies reg, his will probably start freeflowing also. And this might occur down on the Lady of the Lake. Even if there is an instructor with them what is he going to do?

These are just nightmare scenarios I can dream up, but they are all based on experiences I have had the past couple winters swimming up against the ice shelf which have gotten me thinking - what if? Luckily I have had all these experiences in the shallows where I just had to stand up and walk out. They were all learning experiences. I was going to take the ice dive training last year but the ice sucked and the classes were cancelled. I was going to just sign up and take the class when the time came with no prior prep. These dives I have done since have been a real eye-opener.

The point of this blog is to try and get this point across. If you are taking the ice dive training in March, or whenever, get out there beforehand and test your gear, your thermal protection, weighting, force a couple freeflows [it isn't hard to do].

Some of the lessons I have learned are these:

Don't breath out of the regs until you are underwater. Enter and hang out under the edge of the hole and get acclimated. Not inside the hole on the surface.

Keep the tank and regs warm as long as possible - don't leave them out in the car the night before - keep them in the house.

Have 2 circuits - one to the bc/primary reg and one to the drysuit/octo. I sling a pony 13 on my right side that's hooked up to my Air2 and bc inflator. I have it handy where I can shut the tank off fast if I have a freeflow or stuck inflator. I breath out of the Air2 when I enter and then switch to my necklaced reg once I'm acclimated.

Avoid using the auto inflator - whenever possible inflate manually. Use your drysuit for buoyancy for this reason. Inflate bc on the surface for flotation only. The inflator is an easy way to trigger a freeflow, esp. when it freezes open.

The octo is not for your buddy, it's for you if the other circuit fails. Two of you sucking off 1 tank will most likely cause a freeflow. Both divers should have redundant air I think. It should be mandatory when ice diving. IMHO.

If the air is below freezing when you get out of the water, all your gear is going to freeze up into a ball of ice. Zippers won't open and clips won't unclip. Have available a warm shelter to get into or hot water to pour on buckles.

Leave your glove liners on as long as possible when you're stripping off the gear. Otherwise within a couple minutes your hands are useless and you'll need help getting the gear off. Have a bucket of warm water available to dip your hands in.

That's enough for now. I have shut off the comments for a reason. I consider this to be sort of a personal diary open to the public to view. If you want to flame me, start your own blog. Or email/PM me and we'll discuss it.

1/26/2013

Today the air is 15 and windy. I don't dive below low 20's. It was a beautiful day otherwise so I drove around the Lake taking pictures. As I was driving through Moultonboro I saw that the Lakes Region Ice Racing Club was having a meet on Lee's Pond and got some nice pictures.

1/19/2013

Went to the Nubble last weekend. Today I'm at Center Harbor Town Docks with a buddy from the Maine dive club. [Air is 28. Water is 34. Calm day, cloudy but pleasant.] He's from Sanford so he had a long ride also. It takes me 1 hour 15 minutes to get here. About the same for him. He's never been here before and is here to test out some gear for ice water diving. He's trying out a set of doubles he recently acquired. I'm trying out my experimental 2 circuit system.
I am slinging a 13 cuft pony on my right side with a long hose to the Air2 and bcd. The steel 72 is supplying the drysuit and primary. I have given up on the full face mask. I can't reach my nose inside it so I can't pop my ears. My right ear is still a little sore from when I was here in early December. I was laying out a guideline in 20' of water. I was hovering at 15' and startng to feel pressure. Just then my spare mask popped off it's holder and dropped 5more feet to the bottom. Like a dummy I reached down and grabbed it. I didn't rip the eardrum but I think I stretched it pretty good.

Anyway today we were both in the water getting acclimated at the end of the ramp when I noticed he had a line of bubbles coming off a connection where his octo met the first stage. I signalled him to surface and told him the problem. Just about then his inflator stuck open as he put a little air in it. And then his reg started to flow. He tried to unplug his inflator hose and I tried to shut off his air but the valves were all encased in ice. So we had to call another dive with only a few minutes in the water and over 3 hours of travel time each.

I did find out that my experiment might work. I had kept the pony underwater and breathed off the Air2 when I first went in. I switched to the other circuit a short time later. No freeflow!!! Maybe this does work.

Lesson learned --- Doubles shouldn't be relied upon as 2 circuits when in ice water diving conditions.


1/1/2013

New Years' Day I went to the OBK site to practice ice water diving. I need to get my gear and clothing in order for the upcoming months that I plan to spend ice water diving in the Lakes Region. Not ice diving - I'm not certified yet. The air was 22 and the water was 35. There was 4-6" of relatively new snow on the ground. The wind was blowing the chop against the shore which was rimmed by a 3' swath of ice. I rigged up my propane heater in the porta potty and spent about 1/2 hour getting the gear together and on. I was using my Scubapro full face mask and steel 72. I wasn't using my Clam ice fishing shelter today because I had my wife's car.

I entered next to the dock and was in chest deep water putting on my ffm. I pushed on the drysuit inflate valve and nothing happened. I thought that was a little strange. I tried to breath through the ambient air valve only, so as not to activate the reg. I ducked down a couple feet and started breathing through the reg. Right away the freeflows started in the Air2 and my octo. I walked over to waist deep water to unplug the inflator and the drysuit connections but it was already too late. They were frozen solid in a thin coat of ice. I took off the bc to shut off the air but the tank valve was also encased in ice. There was nothing to do but call the dive and listen to the air gushing out. The tank went from 3300 to 0 in less than 2 minutes.

Lesson learned --- don't have everything on 1 circuit.
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