Activist Barge Environmental Debris Cleanup Effort a Complete Success!

NEWS RELEASE

CONTACT: info@gue-seattle.org
FOR RELEASE: Monday, June 15, 2015

Activist Barge Environmental Debris Cleanup Effort a Complete Success!

SEATTLE, WA – Two teams of GUE Seattle SCUBA divers entered the water today at 7:00 AM and located the debris field consisting of concrete blocks and steel cables. The five GUE Seattle divers attached mooring line and buoys so a commercial salvage operation could easily locate and remove the debris. At approximately 9:00 AM a commercial dive team from Global Diving & Salvage arrived on site and deployed surface-supplied divers into the water. After approximately three hours of work, the Global Diving & Salvage dive team had safely successfully removed all debris without causing any further damage to the dive park.

On Monday, May 19th, 2015, an environmental activist group moored a barge known as the Solar Pioneer in Alki Seacrest Park in protest of Shell’s Polar Pioneer arctic drilling rig housed at Seattle’s Harbor Island Terminal 5. In the process of mooring, the activist group dropped concrete blocks and thick steel mooring cables and inadvertently damaged a popular underwater park known as Alki Cove 2. As the barge rose and fell with the tides, the steel mooring cables swept the area underneath causing additional collateral damage to the marine environment as well as endangering recreational divers. Today, the Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) Seattle cleanup project was successfully completed and all concrete blocks and the steel mooring cables were recovered and properly disposed of.

We would like to sincerely thank Royal Dutch Shell, Foss Maritime, and John Sellers (the operator of the Solar Pioneer), for financially contributing to the cleanup effort and future restoration work; Laura James for her assistance in video documentation; and Global Diving & Salvage for their skillful work in removing the debris without causing any additional environmental damage.

-END-

GUE Seattle setting up

Hard Hat Diver

IMG_6867

Raising a block

GUE Seattle and Global Diving

GUE Seattle and Global Diving

Tech 2 with Richard Lundgren

The idea was hatched in the fall of 2013 at the end of a weekend diving the shipwrecks outside of Nanaimo.  Will and I had been batting around the idea of a tec 2 class for quite some time.  Both of us were also interested in taking the class from an instructor that we had not taken a class from previously.  During a completely unrelated conversation, Guy mentioned that Richard Lundgren was going to be here in the Tech2LundgrenTanksfall of 2014.  My ears perked up…..way up.  Not only is Richard one of the most accomplished divers and instructors in the world, but he practically wrote the Tec 2 program!  Who better to take the class from?!?!?!?!  A few email conversations back and forth over the next few weeks and the class was booked!

Fast forward to spring of 2014, we had done a few bottle rotations, and some ascent practice, but something was still missing……A THIRD TEAM MATE!  We reached out to all of the local T1 divers, nothing.  We reached out to folks some other T1 divers we know from outside of the area, still nothing!  Now we were starting to sweat since Richard charges per class and not per diver.  If we couldn’t find a third it was going to be the most expensive GUE class of all time!  May passed and we were starting to panic!  Tech2LundgrenTanks2Finally in early June, I saw on Facebook that Teresa Luther was coming to town for a few days of diving.  I emailed Will “She’s T1 and C2, right” certainly more than qualified, definitely more qualified than Will and I.  We made a plan to recruit her.  Will had met and dove with Teresa previously, but I hadn’t.  I made a few discreet suggestions and, what do you know, she and I ended up diving together at the Wednesday Tweak dive.  Then to the Matador for dive 3.  Will showed up and we had already recruited Maggie to help us.  We put on the full court press.  We could tell she was interested but she had to check with her husband.  We got the email the next morning, Teresa was IN! and our team was complete.

More training, Will and I continued to dive together as much as possible and Teresa came up for a long weekend in July so we could dive together as a team.  We started planning logistics. Flights and accommodations were booked, we figured out driving plans and booked ferries, and then there was diving gas, a whole lot of diving gas!!!!!  Helium is expensive in Canada, especially compared to buying it in bulk and mixing at home.  I started doing the math…….doubles, bottom stages, deco bottles……..holy crap, we need 1500 CF OF HELIUM!!!!  We decided to fill all of our tanks here and take them with us.  Of course we had nowhere near enough tanks, so we begged borrowed and stole from whomever we could think of and I began filling a full month ahead of time, and filling and more filling.  Will and I spent the better part of a Saturday analyzing and adjusting mixes until all of our gas was ready and accounted for.

And then it was time to go.  So much had gone into getting ready for this class, that it was hard to believe that it was actually here.  I picked up Teresa from the airport on Friday afternoon.   Will came over and we loaded the truck and had a small sendoff BBQ.  We hit the road at 5am Saturday morning, were in Canada by 8am and at the ferry by 9am.  Then came the first hiccup in our carefully laid plans.  We had all heard about declaring scuba cylinders on the BC ferries, I had even done it before, but on many other occasions we had not and no one ever seemed to notice.  Tech2LundgrenInstructionSo we decided not to.  We drove on the ferry without issue and settled into some seats on the upper deck.  A ferry worker walked by and I heard over his radio something about a red truck and scuba tanks…….uh oh, that can’t be good.  I approached the ferry worker and was instructed to go immediately back down to the vehicle deck.  Definitely not good, but I was still thinking, they would just make us fill out the paperwork and we would be on our way.  Not the case.  I was told that I would need to back my vehicle off the ferry!!!!!  Some of the comments that came out of my mouth would mostly likely make a Hell’s Angel blush.  I argued, unsuccessfully.  In total shame and humiliation we loaded back in my truck and backed off the ferry and then watched it depart without us.  Many thanks to my teammates for ensuring I didn’t miss out on our Tec 2 for going to jail for assaulting a ferry worker. 45 minutes later after paperwork, waiting, paperwork, more waiting, a few more comments unbecoming of a gentleman and they put us on another ferry.  This crossing went without incident and after an hour drive we arrived at Guy’s home, our home base for the next week.  We unloaded tanks at Guy’s and then set off to relax for the 2nd half of the day.  It would be our last relaxing moments for the next six days.  We met up with Jo Hjelm for dinner and then it was off to bed with visions of bottom stages dancing in our heads.

Tech2LundgrenOuchThe next three days were a whirlwind of lecture, and in water skills and drills. Richard was fantastic!!!  It felt more like going out and diving with your buddy who knows more than you than it felt like taking a class.  On top of that Richard’s examples of real world experiences are truly awe inspiring.  It was all “while diving on the Mars…..” and “we were recovering a 2000 year old altar in Sardinia and…….”.  If I even get to do 5% of the amazing things Richard has done in his lifetime I will feel truly lucky.  The best part about those three days was that Richard made it fun.  We never felt pressured or rushed.  We were really enjoying ourselves.  With the exception of the enormous fat lip I had from hitting my face on a deco bottle, everything was going swimmingly.

Tech2LundgrenInstruction2Day 4 was our first experience dive.  Tech2LundgrenGutsAndGlory150’ for 40 minutes.  Everything went fairly well and only one person ran out of gas during the bottom phase of the dive J.  Then one of our deco gasses failedduring the ascent…..It sure does seem like a lot of things fail in these classes….weird.  Day 5 and experience dive 2.  This time we were going to 200’ on an amazing wall dive.  This was a first for all of us!  This time no one ran out of gas on the bottom portion of the dive, but more deco gas failures during the ascent continued.  I also managed to get my face stung by a Lion’s Mane jellyfish and then while driving back to Guy’s I got stung on the arm by a wasp.  Seriously WTF did I do to piss of Mother Nature on this day?!?!?!

Day 6 and our last experience dive, this time to 250’.  The boat showed up to pick us up at the dock and it was not the captain we were expecting.  Turns out the regular captain was sick and this guy was the substitute.  It didn’t really seem like an issue as we were supposed to be diving the same wall as the day before.  We motored out to the site and after confirming our dive plans we splashed and headed for where we thought the wall was supposed to be and….. no wall, only a gently sloping bottom at 70’…..and then it dawned on us.  Tech2LundgrenUnderwaterThis guy dropped us at the WRONG SITE!!!!  We look at Richard who has realized the same thing and he points us down slope.  At the time I thought this is going to be the lamest T2 experience dive and the biggest waste of helium EVER!  Fortunately after a couple minutes of swimming we did find the wall, and to 250’ we went.  Due to the amount of time we spent shallower we were only there for a few minutes before my bottom stage started to get hard to breathe.  I signaled to my team and stowed my light so I could switch to back gas.  I went to unclip my primary reg and…..the bolt snap is stuck!  Crap!  The stage was getting really hard to breath and my heart rate had gone up a notch.  I continued to struggle with the freakin bolt snap as the stage got really, really hard to breath.  Next thing I knew Richard is in my face and I can hear his helium altered voice saying “Necklace, Necklace!!!”.  Oh yeah, there are two ways to access my back gas…DUH!  I switched to my necklace and finally with a fresh gas source I settled down and managed to unclip my long hose.   I switched to my primary reg, stowed the bottom stage and we were back in business.  The rest of the dive was uneventful until we had ANOTHER pesky deco gas failure.  We adjusted our deco accordingly and finished out the dive.  As we got back on the boat we all looked at Richard.  He just smiled and started giving high fives.  We passed!  We went back to Guy’s and did our final debrief, and just like that the class was over.

Tech2LundgrenSurfaceWill had to head back to Seattle immediately, but Teresa and I stayed on and were joined by a bunch of GUE-Seattle divers for a weekend of fun wreck diving in Comox and Nanaimo.  Richard gave a presentation about the Mars project on Friday evening at one of the dive shops in Victoria, and I continue to be awed by the number of adventures he has had and the stories that go with them.

The class was a great success and a lot of fun!  All of the work building up to and during the class was totally worth it.  I had two amazing team mates in Will and Teresa that made it even better, and we couldn’t have asked for a better instructor.  Also, a huge thanks goes out to Guy Shockey who hosted our class for the whole week, put Richard up so we didn’t have to get him a hotel room, filled our nitrox and deco gasses, and all together just made the logistics super easy!  Further thanks to Jo Hjelm for the great pictures and to all of those in Seattle that helped us with gear and training!

Edmonds Diving Invasion

 

By: Jeremy Freestone

10653744_10152691958118698_1287966476226907275_n

Quite a day. Wrapped up the PADI Divemaster course this morning with the final two dives of an open water class we audited. Many memories following a bunch of scuba hatchlings from first underwater breath to certification. 5/7 passed the class and congrats to them! They even received a little dark side GUE influence for free. 

While the class and staff decided to go do drinks and celebrate, we opted for a third dive in the neighborhood of two hours. Dropped down and hit the boatyard. Saw at least 7 boat wrecks filled with lings and cabbies. Then swam through the slinky. A grey whale wiped the slinky out two years ago when it came frolicking in the park. Nice to see it is back up with plenty of life back already. We headed over to the Drydock and swam through the bottom middle section. This is a pretty fun profile to run at the delion dock. The enhancements kept blasting us with structure and sights all the way to the cathedrals. Penetrated the first cathedral which has a sizable room. A cabin cruiser nearby that Dave Stucki penetrated a couple of months ago had caved in. Only took two years for this cruiser to fall apart. We followed the pontoon and triumph end to end and then Maggie and I took a look inside. The bottom had about 3 inches of fluffy white bacterial growth. Nasty. Headed over to Tubehenge when Maggie called the dive due to cold. I promptly turned west away from the beach for the next 5 minutes in a maneuver I refer to as “searching for the torpedo”. Maggie was able to persuade me that a closer way to shore was to head east so we finished up the dive 15 minutes or so later.

Fantastic dive!!! More structure than you can possibly take in.

GUE divers on the beach after their dive.

GUE divers on the beach after their dive.

Jan and Larry were already out, her green chile pork stew hot and waiting. My goodness that stew was delicious and I don’t think there was a drop left. Thanks Jan, well done!! We had beers and brats, laughed and called it a day.

Click the link for a video of the day by Jeremy Freestone     http://vimeo.com/104892775

Exploration on a Sunny Day

Alex and Koos dropping the shot line.

The normally confusing network of one-way streets downtown had been closed haphazardly. A throng of people who woke up early to run a marathon replaced the normal light weekend traffic, which made it hard to get to the marina on time.

“What a silly thing to do, running a Marathon” I thought to myself as I pulled into the marina. Strapping a couple hundred pounds of equipment to my back in order to explore what was – statistically speaking – most likely to be a tree is a much better use of my time and money.

I drove around the small marina and observed the early morning activity. 7:30 is an early morning for me, but not for rowers. In fact, after I stepped out of my car and into the cool summer air, it became quickly apparent that they were on their way in after their workout. Their morning was over. Turns out Saturday morning is the time to find dedicated (and possibly slightly crazy) people out and about, hard at work at their favorite activities – be it rowing, running, or diving. Sensible folks, like boaters and sun worshippers were largely nowhere to be seen.

Unfortunately my dive team’s cheerful faces were notably absent. I walked down to the other side of the marina and was met only by another large group of tall, athletic rowers polka-dotted by the occasional slight coxswain.

Maybe I was in the wrong place?

I opened up my email on my phone and read a message from Koos for the second time:

“Northlake Marina.”

“Perfect” I thought. I’m good on that front.

The email continued:

“Right by Kenmore Air.”

Still safe.

And finally: “In Kenmore.”

Well, shoot.

I was at the north end of Lake Union, feet planted firmly in Seattle. Divers take note: there are two Northlake Marinas, both are next to a Kenmore Air terminal. I tapped out a short text to Koos, who, after declining my slightly over-dramatic text to “Go on… without me…” offered to pick me up at Magnuson. So it was my lucky day. Thankful, I raced over, geared up, and boarded Koos’ unusually well-equipped little vessel.

The Magnuson boat launch was deserted this time of the morning, which made for quick loading.

With Koos’ sure hand at the helm, the little boat skimmed out to the dive site. It was sunny and getting warmer, a real jewel of a Seattle day. A quick glance at the laptop in the cockpit indicated Koos had marked two targets of interest, not just the one I expected. Koos explained that he was hoping to side-scan a new object he had recently identified – this particular part of the lake was “noisy” and had quite a bit of slope, which made identifying targets difficult.

After the first pass, the target was identified as roughly ovoid and about 30 feet long, 10 feet high, and 10 feet wide. A small consumer-grade side-scan sonar allows us the ability to get a somewhat distorted image from the bottom of the lake. From what we could tell, this target was roughly the shape of a boat and the mood on the bridge was hopeful.

Koos swung the boat around for a second pass. Neither Alex, Adrian, nor I was able to discern details from the second grainy side-scan image, but Koos was happy to show us up.

“I see a long, skinny, object here. It looks like a fallen mast!” Koos said, optimistically gesturing at the small yellow object presented on the boat’s computer screen.

bigassrocksonar

Sonar Image

“Or it could be a tree.” Alex responded, slightly cynically, as Adrian stifled a laugh. Although I was slightly more inclined to believe Alex’s interpretation, I also don’t want to extinguish Koos’ sense of boy-like excitement about the whole process.

“Let’s dive this one!” Koos said. “It’s bigger than the other target, and if it’s nothing, we’ll just come right up and do the other one.”

Not being the kind of people to turn down a dive, both Alex and I quickly agreed. Alex took station at the back of the boat with the shot-line and buoy, while Koos and Adrian manned the helm and the GPS respectively. I took the rocking-chair position and snapped a couple pictures while relaxing on top of a set of doubles. Koos’ boat is well equipped, but with three technical divers on board, deck space was at a little bit of a premium.

Koos positioned us over the target, and Alex dropped the shot line. A quick pass with the side-scan indicated we had a straight line to the target, it was time to gear up. With doubles on, Alex and I rolled into the water. Koos strapped his rebreather on and followed shortly afterwards. We swam to the buoy, performed a surface check and decided we were all systems go. So off we went.

A 170 foot descent takes a minute or two. It’s just busy enough to keep you from thinking too much, but not quite busy enough to stop you from thinking at all. What could the target be? A burned out ferry from before the 520 bridge was installed, sunk for the insurance? 1970’s-era sailboat? Maybe even a piece of construction equipment that fell overboard and was never recovered? My mind raced with possibilities.

The visibility in the lake is not the best for touring a wreck, but one thing that it excels at is the dramatic reveal. At about 160 feet, out of the nuclear-green haze, something began to come into focus. It was big and much darker than is usual for the bottom of Lake Washington. I needed to descend another five feet before I could tell what it was.
Our morning’s most exciting target?

It was a rock.

A very large rock.

Almost simultaneously, I heard a helium-enhanced voice from either side. Sounding more than just a little like Donald Duck, Alex and Koos both shouted: “It’s an effing rock!” The thumbs came out and the dive was over. After a brief bail-out deco, we’re back on the surface, where Adrian was patiently waiting for us with the boat. We climb aboard, stay in our gear, and head out to the next site.

Strike one unknown target.

Our next destination was much smaller, but we made a pass and quickly dropped the buoy again. Another round of back rolls into the water and second set of pre-dive checks and we were off. This time, I was not quite as optimistic, maybe because Koos seemed less excited about this target.

We hit the bottom and we might as well have been on the moon – the only feature was the crater made by the lead weight at the bottom of our shot line. The familiar grey silt surface of the lake stretched out as far as the eye can see, which admittedly, isn’t far in the lake. So we began our search.

Five minutes passed, and we had seen nothing.

Ten minutes went by, then fifteen. It was starting to remind me of my search for the Koos’ boat early this morning, except there aren’t even any rowers here, just silt and divers.
Once our dive time hit twenty-five minutes and we called it, defeated. Although the target was probably just a tree, this means we would have to dive this site again. Such is exploration diving in the lake. Deco passed uneventfully and we clambered back onto the boat.

bigassrockdeco

Dive Profile

So we have two more dives under our belts: a sixteen minute dive to successfully locate a target, and a seventy minute dive where we found nothing but silt. Obviously, this will bring great honor to our families, and glory to our names.

It was just another good day on the lake.

GUE Recreational Trimix in Seattle with Koos Du Preez

November 2013


It was a dark and stormy night in the winter of 2013 at a Wednesday Tweak dive when Mike, Jay and I decided it might be fun to ease our way into technical diving and start with Recreational Trimix (ok, maybe it wasn’t stormy, but being February it was definitely dark!). Our first challenge… doubles!!! Not only did none of us own them, we hadn’t even dove them before. So we set out on a mission to acquire our first sets of doubles as well as an additional regulator and a doubles wing. By March each of us had acquired a set of HP 100’s along with the wing and reg… and so our journey began. Spring was spent trying to balance our trim in doubles and learning the beloved valve drill. By summer, we faced our second challenge in that the three of us had never dove together as a team… oops! Sure we’d been at the beach for the tweaks, but hadn’t been in the water working as a team. Add deco bottles and continued struggles to hit our valves, and we realized quickly we had a long ways to go. Throughout the summer & early fall we continued to leverage the Tweak dives to focus on getting in sync as a team and practice basic requirements. Our Seattle GUE community was instrumental in helping sharpen our skills – a huge thank you to Koos Du Preez, Kees Beemster Leverenz, Kathryn Arant, Alex Adolfi and Dave Mercer who all were a tremendous help in setting expectations on what we would experience in the class.

As we calmed our nerves for Day 1 of class, Koos reminded us this was a fun (I think all GUE instructors are taught to say that) and no surprise class (…unless we did something silly) where we would demonstrate skills we’d already mastered, learn more about decompression, refine more skills and learn some new ones, but most of all have fun! I can honestly say that is exactly what happened in this class. By Day 2, we practiced the gas switch protocol, demonstrated more skills and then we were introduced to the intricacies of valve failures. Pretty fun troubleshooting… that is unless the tanks you’re borrowing are tanks with valves that have clearly not been lubed in quite some time!

We had a few struggles with the team formation while managing failures and with our accents. In hind sight I think just about anyone could say that about any GUE class they have taken. To work through this Mike, Jay and I met early Sunday morning and walked through on land over and over unit it finally clicked both on land and in the water – PHEW! As for our ascents, thankfully we had a week and a half to settle out our ascent w/SMB, gas switch and simulated deco stops before heading up to Nanaimo for our experience dives. The extra time between dive 6 and 7 was invaluable.

After all of our practicing it was finally time for our ROADTRIP! Dive 7 and 8 were from the Sea Dragon Charter boats out of Nanaimo and on the wrecks of the HMCS Saskatchewan and HMCS Cape Breton. We passed time at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal running various dive plans through deco planner, getting snacks and eventually stumbled across some very attractive tuques that we could not resist (hence our final team pic). On the boat, Koos greeted us with enthusiasm and began his charming way of getting us pumped for our first true Rec3 dives of our GUE careers. With 21/35 in our doubles and our deco bottle strapped on we splashed in off the back of the boat. As we began our descent, the nerves calmed and the months of training and preparation kicked in. Our bottom time flew by in what seemed like the blink of an eye, followed by an uneventful deco (we had come to learn that an uneventful deco, is a good deco) and just like that we were back on the boat. Experience dive 1 – check!!!! Dive 2 was much the same as dive 1 and with that we had completed the class. I have to admit I was so focused on our team, bottom time and depth that the details of the wrecks are somewhat of a blur! I guess that means we will just have to plan another wreck diving weekend in Nanaimo – Darn!

All told GUE Rec3 was a blast! We learned a ton both in the class and under the water and I personally feel I’m becoming a stronger, more secure and safer diver. Thank you again to our instructor Koos for continuing to pass your knowledge and skills into our community and to Kees for taking time during our class to shoot video, mentor each of us and help us work through our challenges. I’d also like to thank both Mike and Jay for being such great buddies.
All of you ROCK!!!

Saturday afternoon on the MT6

I awoke to the sound of my phone buzzing – a text from Kathryn. It was Saturday morning, and we were planning on meeting up for a trip to one of my favorite wrecks. Bleary-eyed and fearing the worst, I checked my phone. Last minute messages almost always mean the dive is canceled. Fortunately, she was just worried about the heavy rain coming down outside – did I still want to go diving? Of course, neither of us wanted to cancel the dive just because of some rain, so I headed to the garage to get my gear together. An hour or so later, I was happy to see my cheerful friend already in her bright-red drysuit.Kathryn and Kees at Cove 1

Once I got out of my car, it quickly became apparent why Kathryn had wasted no time in getting into her suit. The rain was pretty impressive, and a reasonably sized stream was running down the side of the road. A decidedly better prepared group of open-water students stood untouched by the rain under their ez-up tent. I envied them as I rushed to get my suit on.

After a short dive planning session, we got ourselves and our gear down to the water. It didn’t take us long to get under, and Kathryn found the line straight away. We passed through a thin layer of poor visibility near the surface, and I was thrilled to see that visibility at depth was spectacular. We were lucky enough to have ambient light down to about 140′, which was a particularly good sign for vis on the wreck. About ten minutes after we had left the surface we arrived at the barge and secured our scooters. We were greeted, as usual, by a couple yelloweye rockfish that were about one and a half times their normal size, nestled between the half-collaped wooden timbers of the wreck.

The wreck forms an artificial reef that goes relatively undisturbed by boat traffic as well as divers due to it’s depth. It is encrusted with life, and everything tends to be quite a bit larger than I’m used to seeing in shallower water. Though it’s typical to see groups of rock fish, cabezon, and anemones decorating the barge, this dive we were lucky enough to spot a couple patches of yellow cloud sponge that have begun to grow. Although they’re nothing like the spectacular conical formations in British Columbia, they do seem to be getting a good base going. With a little luck and a lot of time, they might be a serious attraction.

At 25 minutes run time, we had found our way back to the line that leads back to shore. Originally we had planned to get to the wreck a little sooner, and thus spend a little more time at depth. Our average depth came out much shallower than we expected, and so on the way up we decided to shorten our deco a bit to compensate. Our decompression stops and gas switches went uneventfully, and we opted to enjoy a leisurely scooter down to Cove 2 instead of sitting looking at the sand for our 20′ stop on oxygen. In the spectacular visibility, it was a great way to end the dive.

Lake Washington Target LW250

By: Steven Ratcliffe

It’s reasonable to state that our dive community feels that all dives are great, but very few dives merit discussion beyond those who shared in any particular dive. However, this past weekend, one dive made it to the “diving highlights” and is worth recounting.

LW250 Bathymetry (By: Koos du Preez)

LW250 Bathymetry (By: Koos du Preez)

As is well known, Koos, Ben Griner, and others have made a project of scanning Lake Washington for any and all targets. There is now a publicly available list online of unknown targets (www.gue-seattle.org/maps) and one by one these sonar findings are being investigated. The dive under discussion is one such dive, Target LW250 located at about 170 foot depth. Not much else was known other than GPS coordinates (47.670139, -122.220337) and rough bathymetry data and some side scan sonar imagery.

The day started overcast, but calm, when the four of us intrepid divers, Dylan Kretchmer, Serge Sountsov , Koos, and I boarded Koos’s four pack to go exploring on the lake. Finding the site using modern sonar equipment was fast and uncomplicated and within a few minutes the shot line was down and appeared on target according to sonar downscan. Visibility was unknown as the previous weekend it was down to about seven feet, but at least the surface temperature is still comfy from the summer. Our dive plan was for 170ft for twenty minutes with thirty minutes of deco on 50%.

LW250 Side Scan Image (By: Ben Griner)

LW250 Side Scan Image (By: Ben Griner)

The pre-dive check went without a problem and my Dive Team 1 (meaning Dylan) was down the line. The surface temperature was 68 degrees but as we went down, someone turned the cold switch on at forty feet and the thermocline dropped the temp to about 46 very quickly. Putting the brakes on at about 155 ft we found the bottom without utilizing the time honored lawn dart technique, and were pleasantly surprised with visibility in the 10-12ft range. Now all we had to do was find the target as the shot was in mud on the bottom. Just as I started to pull off my reel, we (meaning Dylan) found the target a few feet away, and off we went to find the prize adjacent to the shot line.

We found a well-preserved wooden sailboat in good condition and it was a pleasure exploring it. As is true with most fish stories and dive stories, this was the most spectacular boat even found. It had a hole in the deck with treasures of very old bottles, ledgers of misplaced bank funds, police ID badges, a revolver, and an attaché case chained to the railing…..actually it had none of that, but it was as exciting as if it did. Just to be there on this boat that no one had ever seen was thrilling. The boat actually had a Washington state registration number and the last year sticker on the side was 1983. We (meaning Dylan) took about twenty minutes of great video with his GoPro allowing me to practice my off axis lighting skills with my laser light. I’m absolutely sure that without that laser, the mission would have been a failure.

LW250 Bow (By: Dylan Kretchmer)

LW250 Bow (By: Dylan Kretchmer)

What we did find was a wooden sailboat of about 20-25ft in length with some intact glass on the small windows, a very large boulder in the middle of the small aft deck, a low wheel house with some deteriorating canvas and a small stove, no motor, and the mystery of the possibility of having been scuttled. It would just be someone’s luck to have their scuttled boat discovered after all the years of enjoying the insurance money. With that in mind, we’re now forming an LLC and hiring out on a consulting basis for similar boats. We all expect to be able to quit our day job in about four more months. We’ll let everyone know how this is going by Christmas.

LW250 Bow (By: Dylan Kretchmer)

LW250 Bow (By: Dylan Kretchmer)

At exactly twenty minutes of bottom time, we headed back up the line to finish with an uneventful deco obligation. That fifteen minutes at 20 feet was a long time with the need to get to the surface to get our story straight so that no one would know we were exaggerating the find before Koos picked us up. But now that we’ve made our find, the only thing that remains is for us (meaning Dylan) to put music to the video. And that has been a source of discussion. He likes heavy metal and rap while, on the other hand, I prefer some oldies, a classic or two, and I have more than a little country in me. So the public version may be put to a tune with Sarah Brightman accompanying Metallica doing a number about an old wooden boat in the Deep South. Stay tuned.

The real excitement was the unknown and the true exploration and discovery associated with our ship of gold and mystery. I’ve never had such a fun time doing that sort of diving and I hate to admit it, but it was more fun than watching fish or even holding one’s breath while snorkeling. So maybe there is something to this GUE notion of exploration even if it’s not at a 300 ft depth. It’s the thrill of discovery and the stories that emanate from the dives that will endure. What a great time. Thanks, Koos, Dylan, and Serge. I have all this right…..don’t I??

LW250 Survey Gallery (2013-09-21)
[print_gllr id=1090]

My day with Jarrod, or how I was right all along . . .

I fell in love with GUE diving eight years ago, and what seduced me was that what I saw people doing made diving more FUN, and I wanted to have fun with my diving. It took an extraordinary amount of work, because I’m not talented and the bar that was set was high, but I kept at it, and the harder I worked, the more fun I had. I’ve spent most of the last eight years trying to tell people that . . . and hearing from others that GUE diving isn’t ABOUT having fun. That it’s regimented and inflexible and miserably focused on drills and black dry suits.

Well, today I got to spend a day, on, off and in the water, with the man whose vision founded the organization. Jarrod Jablonski came out to visit GUE Seattle and glad-hand folks, and give a talk on the Mars exploration project. But most of all, for us, he DOVE with us . . . and I was lucky enough, on our second dive today off the Bandito charter boats, to land Jarrod as my dive buddy, in a team of two.

The site was Milepost 8, which is a drift dive in the Tacoma Narrows. Currents can be pretty strong there, but the dive was planned to go with them and enjoy them. I was, as you might imagine, INCREDIBLY nervous about diving with Mr. GUE himself; I was sure I had to be absolutely perfect. The first three minutes were miserable, until I turned around and saw Jarrod peering under a rock, stabilizing himself with a couple of fingers, and I thought, “Well, maybe not PERFECT.” We went on to drift some nice structure with a lot of colorful sponges, and then, trying to avoid the current’s desire to push us up into very shallow water, we ended up flying over an almost featureless bottom composed of uniform, round rocks. Except for the occasional starfish or heavily camouflaged sculpin, it was rather monotonous . . .

Until I looked at Jarrod, and found him doing barrel rolls without a scooter. I followed suit, and then tried the handspring maneuver Richard Jack did on his Agate Pass drift dive, and discovered you need enough current to push your feet on over when you do that, or you end up feet up and floundering, and looking stupid and trying to shrug your gear back into place without anyone noticing. Jarrod tactfully inspected a single kelp stalk while I shook myself back into order, and then swam over and presented his spread arms, fists clenched. I high-fived him, and then had an inspiration, and grabbed his left hand with my right, and did an elegant dancing spin, coming back to our original position, at which point I found my hands grasped, and myself bent backwards over a strong leading arm, as though we were tangoing and doing a graceful, deep dip. By this time, I was laughing hysterically, and Jarrod was grinning ear to ear.

We abandoned the dance and went back to flying, and the next thing I knew, Jarrod had removed his fins and had them on his hands and was swimming with them. (I have some video of this which, if I figure out how to process video, I will post.) Then he was upside-down and blowing bubble rings in 15 feet of water . . .

I can’t remember when I have laughed so hard during a dive. This is what we go underwater for . . . for the pure joy of being free in three dimensions, to pursue a diligent and detailed critter hunt if the circumstances warrant it; to gather scientific data if that’s the purpose of the dive; to document historical wrecks and answer questions that have lain unsolved for centuries . . . and sometimes, just to dance.

Our weekend with Jarrod Jablonski

Some time last year, Jarrod and Koos du Preez, President of GUE-Seattle, had a conversation about having Jarrod come out for a weekend, just to show his support for what we are doing.  One thing led to another, and in the end, we had about twenty-four hours jam-packed with activities, before Jarrod had to fly off to another rainy city . . . London.

Things began with Friday night, where somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 people came to hear JJ talk about the discovery and exploration of the Mars wreck in Sweden.  This is an amazing find and a fascinating project, and Jarrod has some great stories to tell (like standing up the King of Sweden).  Details of the wreck exploration were interesting, too — for example, the fact that they will probably take the whole project to CCR to avoid the oxygenation of the water which is causing accelerated decomposition of the wreck.

We were also fortunate to have the Mt. Vernon high school ROV team, which has been working with GUE-Seattle on the Lake Washington wreck explorations, bring their entire ROV setup to the talk.  Judging from the press of people around the table, there was a LOT of interest in their project!

The heart of GUE, though, is diving . . . and Saturday, Jarrod dove with us.  Koos had arranged to charter BOTH of the Bandito boats, and had devised a clever switch, so that Jarrod spent time on each, and everyone got to meet and talk to him — including the boat crew!  (George’s comment at the end of the day:  “Wow, that guys knows a LOT.”)  We did Zee’s Reef, with really unusually good visibility there, and the usual feast of wolf eels and octopuses, as well as moss-headed warbonnets and several other cool finds.

Even JJ can need a buddy's help now and again . . .
Even JJ can need a buddy’s help now and again . . .

The second dive was a drift at Milepost 8, which is always fun.  The current was pretty strong for this one, and all the teams made it down near or under the bridge.  Great Pacific Northwest diving to share with the man whose vision made our group possible!

Mr. GUE
Mr. GUE

And a jam-packed couple of days ended with a great dinner at McCormick & Schmitt’s.  It was fun to see people in dress clothes (or t-shirts, depending . . . ) and the food was amazing for a banquet event.

Jarrod left town very impressed and pleased with what is happening in Seattle.  Per Koos, his comment was, “You have something very special here.”  Yes, we do — great people, great diving, and great leadership!

Jarrod dives with GUE Seatle

Jarrod dives with GUE Seatle

Off the Beaten Path

A review of Possession Point Fingers, Deception Pass, and Skyline Wall.

How do you spend you weekends? Well, many GUE Seattle members are out diving. During this late summer dive season, we have had some stellar days for jumping in Puget Sound in sites that are only a short drive from the city. We train all year with OOA long hose deploys and gas management calculations to utilize these skills at some awesome dive sites.

Possession Point Fingers is located at the south end of Whidbey Island. The first treat of this site, is taking the ferry across the Sound. Early on a Sunday morning, a six-pack of GUE divers made the trek to this site. I had no idea when I renewed my Discover Pass that I would have so many opportunities to use the pass for my dives.

1229547_10151860954333698_808671751_o _KAT9190

Once we arrived at Possession Point Park, we hiked down the hill to set up our gear, then jumped into the green water. There was a surprise dogfish sighting and 3 GPO’s, even a female on eggs. We will have to return soon to see if the babies have hatched. Take caution on your ascent up the slope for deco, as the surface current can move you a bit away from your desired exit. Thanks for the practice with ascents in Fundies, we kept our team together and safely reached the surface.

_KAT9202 _KAT9273

 

Deception Pass, at the north end of Whidbey Island, is not a dive for the faint-hearted. Looking over the bridge at the constantly roaring currents and whirlpools provides a preview of the power of water. We were brave enough to jump into this chaos for an underwater tour. Because of the exreme currents, there is an abundance of nutrients for the marine life to grow in excess. Sea urchins are the size of basketballs and the barnacles are busy capturing their snacks. Our day began with Jeremy preparing rancheros huervos with homemade hatch chili salsa and Starbucks coffee. After our dive briefing, we were ready for our adventure. We started our dive a bit early, so spent a short amount of time clinging to the wall in our best Spiderman positions. Soon the currents quieted for us to swim leisurely back to the beach. Definitely, a dive to repeat, but on a slightly different time schedule to be sure we enter the water AFTER the raging current passes. For my dive, I was teamed with a guest from the Netherlands. Because of our GUE training, we had no problems communicating among the chaos to complete our dive as planned.

DSC_2106 DSC_2112

Skyline Wall sits on the southwestern edge of Anacortes, just south of the ferry that is sailing toward the San Juan Islands. It presents a carpet of sea cucumbers, sea urchins and sea anemones to provide a shelter for even more invertebrates and fish. We warmed up with a surface swim out to the kelp that grows off the wall. After our descent we were welcomed with a rainbow of color. There were junvenile wolf eels hiding in their dens and even a small one swimming around looking for lunch. When I return to this site, I will consider bringing along a scooter for even more fun. The scooter skills taught in a GUE DPV class will prepare you for more adventures in Puget Sound.

DSC_2120-2

_KAT9578 _KAT9587-3

We hope you can join us for more fun dives in Puget Sound. Check our GUE Seattle website events page and Facebook page for the lastest dive schedule.