We’ve had great conditions and become a bit spoiled at Lock 23 all summer so were dumbfounded to find the water level as low as it was last night. Computers resting right on the road hovered at a reading just below 9 feet! I’d never even noticed – busy in the yard and then chatting with divers but not actually walking down to the entry area itself….
I should have been expecting it though- last week, divers had been commenting on the quick rise in weed height (normal for this time of year) – and yesterday as we were pulling out of our driveway, I was going to comment (but did not) on the fact that there seemed to be a lot of weeds sticking out of the water… today the ducks are enjoying feeding at the surface.
So – how did this affect the dive?
The current was up. Way up, especially at the upstream Tin Plate Power House site.
The visibility was down, worsened by divers trying to keep their position. Photography was out of the question.
The weeds were incredibly high – right to the surface in all areas from about 8 feet.
How to Manage a Dive in these Conditions
High Current with Low Viz
First and foremost, stick close to fellow divers, be it a buddy or a group. As soon as low viz becomes obvious, shift into safety mode: Keep your light on constantly and use it to signal for diver whereabouts. Use noisemakers or tap your tank regularly. Don’t let yourself get behind – the only diver you may see is the one directly in front of you. Stop frequently as a group to get your bearings and ensure that you’re together.
Use extreme caution when ascending for any reason. Remember that the walls and foundation tops of the Tin Plate, Hydroelectric Plant, and Locks are all now at that 9-foot level, meaning that you are that much closer to the surface every time you go over. Boats above have no concept of the situation below.
Be extra cautious on your entry swim out when you do not have a marker up: move slowly and deliberately through the weeds at least 5-6 feet down and lower if you can- you break through them into the open at about 3 minutes. Boats don’t like to get their engines caught in the weeds, but seadoo drivers don’t think about it.
Be extra EXTRA cautious on your exit swim once you hit 10 feet (yesterday it was 9 feet), normally at the stump at the end of the ferry dock road. You’re in surface-reaching weeds very soon after and will find yourself swimming most of the way at 6 feet or shallower.
Weeds Reaching the Surface
Should you put your marker up for your final exit swim? Dragging a marker through surface weeds is a really tough slog and it’s very difficult to maintain your position. You could choose to use no marker and swim low… but swimming low through weeds is not easy and you’d find yourself changing depth and getting too close to the surface more often than you’d think.
This would be the best time to do something we don’t usually recommend: have every diver put up their marker and swim in on their backs as a group on the surface. You can look around easily, and a pack of markers is much more obvious to boaters. Don’t worry about a reel or rope unless it helps you keep a better grip.
Weeds or no weeds, it’s always best (critical, in fact) to have your markers up for the final swim because, certainly for a large group of divers such as on our Wednesday nights, we rely on those markers to let us know which groups are on their way in and where they are currently located.
Every dive can’t be a perfect one. But the rotten ones make the best stories!