Friday, June 28, 2013

CCR Trimix Class! (June 20-23, 2013)

June 20-23, 2013


Titan/rEvo CCR Trimix Class

Instructor - Ron Benson
After completing the Titan Air Dilluent Deco Diver certification last year, I have been focused on diving the CCR and gaining experience.  Over the past year we were able to make multiple trips to cave country in Florida to get lots of bottom time and experience on our rebreathers.  Being an Open Circuit Technical Diver, my desire obviously was to have the CCR for my deep technical dives.  This spring I was talking with my instructor Ron Benson (Silent Explorers) about continuing my education with the Trimix certification for my CCR.  I was fortunate enough that there were a few others in the local area that were also looking for training so Ron started planning a class for us.

Everyone's schedule started to align and Ron planned the class for June 20th through June 23.  The plan was to start the training at Gilboa Quarry for class room and skills dives.  Then we would move into Lake Huron for the open water shipwreck dives.  Since the season had already started, finding a charter boat could have been a problem.  However, I was able to get Bruno's Dive Shop charter boat, The Great Lakes Diver, scheduled for the weekend of diving out of Harbor Beach.  Normally The Great Lakes Diver operates out of Port Sanilac, MI and does the wrecks in the Sanilac Shores Preserve.

June 20th, 2013
The first day of class was held at Gilboa Quarry.  The class met at the quarry at 8am.  The theme of today was discussion of theories and tuneup/configuration dives.  Ron spent much of the day discussing the current information and new theories of diving Trimix with a closed circuit rebreather.  Ron provided many useful life experiences as well as new and emerging documentation for planning and executing deep Trimix dives safely.

Our dive for the day was on the deep side of Gilboa.  We each reviewed each others gear configurations and made appropriate adjustments and then splashed.  This dive was a tune up dive and skills review dive.  Overall the dive went great.  We spend a good amount of time deep at Giloba and spent time practicing our CCR deco stops!  :-)

In the evening we continued the classroom training and discussions back at the hotel.  I think we ended things for the day around 9:00 or 10:00pm.  What a long day of intense training!

June 21st, 2013
We met at Gilboa bright at early (7:00 AM!).  Since at the end of the day we had to travel to Harbor Beach for the weekend of shipwreck diving, we had plenty to get done! 

The first dive of the day was a continuation of the skills work Ron worked with us on the day before.  Today we continued our practice of bailouts, semi closed rebreather operation, open circuit rebreather operation, and a host of other skills.  We jumped in from the deep side dock and swam over to the Sikorsky helicopter to perform all of the skills.  Im sure the Trout, Catfish, and other aquatic animals were laughing at us as we work to gain proficiency with the skills.  With Ron's watchful eye, were were able to get things down and by the end of the practice had a good grasp of the skills.

Our second dive was again back on the deep side of Gilboa.  The main goal of this dive was what I would consider a little skills task loading.  At the end of the dive, Ron had each student simulate a complete rebreather bailout.  Then the request came to blow a lift bag from the bottom of the quarry (125').  At this point we each had to ascend under the lift back while on open circuit bailout.  This skill requires that the diver manage not only the reel, but also buoyancy control through management of the wing, drysuit, and CCR (of which you aren't breathing from).  This skill practice always leaves the diver feeling like a 3rd and 4th hand would really come in handy!

After the dive, it was time to get gear ready for the weekend of Harbor Beach dives.  This included blending and mixing gasses in the parking lot to be ready for tomorrows dives.  It was then a 4+ hour drive up to Harbor Beach!

June 22nd, 2013
Shipwreck - Dunderburg
Saturdays Dive's were planned for the Dunderburg.  The Dunderburg sits in about 155 feet of water in the Thumb Area preserve.  The Great Lakes Diver charter boat left out of Harbor Beach Marina.

The plan for the day was to do two dives on the Dunderburg.  The afternoon weather looked a little questionable as there was a fairly large storm moving across the state.  So, we met at the dock at 8am and promptly left the marina at 9am.  The goal was to get in both planned dives in the morning/early afternoon before any weather moved into the area.  It is a relatively quick ride out to the Dunderburg and everyone suited up as the boat left the harbor.

The lake was extremely calm in the morning so hooking into the mooring line was not a problem.  The Dunderburg has mooring lines on both the bow and the stern.  At the time I was unsure of which direction the shipwreck lay, so I just tied into the most convenient mooring line (it happened to be the stern).

The plan for the dive was about a 20 minute bottom time which gave a total runtime of about an hour in the water.  The class dove as a team of 4 divers.  Adam and Jacques were a buddy team and Ron and I were a buddy team.  In order to make the entry and exit easier, four lines were dropped over the side of the boat that held the teams bail out and emergency deco gas.  Once everyone splashed, we quickly donned the bottles hanging under the boat and headed down to the shipwreck.

Dunderburg Figurehead
(Image from

Since I had previously dove the Dunderburg on open circuit, I ended up leading the dive team around the wreck.  From the stern of the wreck, we proceeded along the starboard side to see the damage from the collision that sunk the Dunderburg.  At this point we continued forward the the beautiful anchors still stowed on the bow and the impressive windlass on the bow.  The team then inspected the bowsprit and the figurehead that is a premier attraction for the shipwreck.

The team then turned the dive and headed down the port side of the wreck back to the stern of the wreck.  We ascended and completed all of our deco obligations without incident.

After over an hour of surface interval, the plan for dive 2 was to stick around the stern and do a little more in-depth look at the shipwreck.  The team again splashed, donned bottles hanging under the boat and headed down to the wreck.  Once the team verified "all OK", I headed into the wreck through one of the hatch openings on the deck.  As always the swim through the wreck was incredible.  Its amazing looking at the craftsmanship that was put into these old schooners.  They are truly a work of art!  All to soon, our planned bottom time was reached and we made our ascent back to the surface.

June 23rd, 2013
Shipwreck - Charles A. King
For a final dive of the class, we planned a dive on the Charles A. King.   This shipwreck was found in 2008.  It is a two masted schooner that measured 104' in length by 30' in width.  The King sits upright on the bottom in 215 feet of water.

The dive team again assembled at the Harbor Beach docks at 8:00am.  The weather again looked questionable for the afternoon, so we planned a quick exit of the harbor for 8:30.  In talking with Gary Venet of Rec and Tec dive charters, the King had not yet been dove this year.  We were fortunate enough that there was still a mooring line on the wreck when we got on location.  Once again, the weather gods were smiling on us as Lake Huron was completely flat.

After the two dives yesterday on the boat, everyone was in their groove and prepared for their dive quickly.  We soon found ourselves on the wreck at about 200 feet down.  It had been two years since I had dove the Charles King and she was just as beautiful as I had remembered her.  Once the team settled in we headed down the port side of the ship.  The mooring line was tied into the wreck just forward of the still standing forward mast on the bow.  I was happy to see that the artifacts that were found on and around the ship were still proudly displayed along the port side decking just forward of the stern.  For divers who have the opportunity to dive the wreck one artifact to check out is a delicate pink candy dish cover.  Its is such an amazing sight to see at 200+ feet down and that it has survived over all these years!

We continued to the stern and dropped under the stern transom.  Here, you can still make out the painted stars that adorned the ship as it sailed the great lakes back in its day.  Here is where you will reach the max depth of 215 feet.

After exploring the stern, we then traveled up the starboard side of the shipwreck back to the bow.  The bow is very intact on this shipwreck and is an amazing sight to see.  I enjoy swimming out past the bow and looking back at the wreck.  This perspective gives you a great view of the overall size and magnitude of the wooden schooner.

All too soon we reached out planned bottom time and had to head back to the surface (with many stops along they way to reminisce on what we saw and rid our bodies of the dissolved Nitrogen and Helium we had built up). 

What a great week of training and Great Lakes Diving!  The Closed Circuit Rebreather is an amazing machine.  The technology (although not new) provides the diver with many more opportunities and emergency plans in the event of an issue.  A Closed Circuit Rebreather may not be for everyone, but for me, it is a great tool to have for the many types of dives that I enjoy.

Thanks to Ron Benson and Bruno's Dive Shop for making this class happen!

Dive Safe!