Rainy Weekend Diving

weather.pngApparently the rainy season has arrived in the Pacific Northwest. This past weekend was forecast to be wet, windy, and cold, and boy did the weather deliver. Several inches of rain, downed power-lines, accidents on the roads, and power outages galore signified the start of the oft-lamented northwest winter. 

A wet, windy Western Washington weekend

Thankfully, I had decided to do what any sane diver would, and spend the majority of the weekend outdoors, diving. Makes sense, either way you're going to be wet, might as well make the most of it! It so happens that the weekend dives had several objectives which made them somewhat more interesting as well.

Search, Recovery and Nitrox

Earlier in the week a diver had posted in the local dive club forum about a very expensive camera he lost at a dive site nearby. Apparently he had been in the process of an emergency ascent with another diver, and the camera fell to the bottom just as he reached the surface. Low on air, and out of time, he couldn't go back to look for it, so marked the spot he thought the camera might have landed and left. He offered a tody finders free for a recovery of the camera, and so Casey and I decided to go out and give it a shot. We were looking for something different to do this past weekend, and not only was this a deeper dive requiring Nitrox, it was also a dive on Bainbridge Island, where neither of us had been before. Win win win. 

photoNorrander reef is on the east side of Bainbride island north of Blakely harbor and is a great site for marine life. Multiple octopi, good visibility, and several pseudo reef formations that attract plentiful fish life make it a fun and interesting dive site. The site entry is easy as well, and a boy scout recently built a set of stairs to the beach. What service! To get to Bainbridge island we woke up nice and early and took the 7:55am ferry from Seattle. the trip is only 35 minutes long, so not much more than a bus ride, though we had to arrive at the ferry terminal a good 30 minutes early to get a spot on the boat. By this point the weather was starting to pick up, and it was lovely and cold and rainy as we set off to the island. When we arrived we drove to the dive site, parked the car and did a quick reconnaissance of the entry and site conditions. Some swell and surge, but nothing too bad, and besides the wind and rain it seemed pretty straight forward. 

photo 5We got set up in our gear and set off into the water. We had decided to use Enriched Air Nitrox (EAN) 30% for the two dives we had planned, as this would allow our dive time to be limited by air consumption rather than decompression limits when diving at the 80ft depths that the camera was theorized to lie in. This would allow us a maximum of 36 minutes at 80ft, but since we were using our dive computers and would spend some time at shallower depths, our final dive time became about 45 minutes per dive when all was said and done. Unfortunately we were not able to find the camera despite scouring the site for any sign of a large non-natural item. We suspect that the current pushed the camera outside our expected search radius and therefore beyond our search area. Here's hoping it is recovered by another intrepid dive team. The day was capped off by a visit to the amazing Madison Diner on Bainbridge island. I was amazed to hear that it was shipped there in pieces from New Jersey!

Sunday Self-Reliance

A couple weeks ago I decided to take the PADI self-reliant course. It's a course marketed to teaching staff who are generally surrounded by inexperienced divers and need to rely on themselves for safety, photographers whose buddies might swim off as they're taking a photo leaving them alone, and future tec divers as it gives a good grounding in some of the basics. As I'm pretty much all of these demographics, I thought the course would be useful for me. Sunday was the checkout dive day for two of the three required open water dives. Casey joined us because he clearly hadn't had enough diving this weekend, and we went up to Edmonds Underwater Park for our two dives. 

 The self-reliant courses goes over the essential principles of self-reliant diving, how to perform self-rescue, and the equipment needed to be self-reliant. Basically if you own the right gear and you are a Rescue Diver already you're essentially a self-reliant diver. In my case the key learning I wasn't yet familiar with is the concept of the Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate, which is a measure of the amount of air a diver breathes at rest at the surface. Thus, the Sunday dives were an opportunity for me to measure this. I would maintain a constant depth (10m/33ft) and measure my air usage in PSI over three five minute periods. It is then possible to calculate the amount of air in cubic feet that I would breathe at the surface. This allows me to simply multiply this by the atmospheric pressure at depth and I can determine my air consumption at that depth, and therefore deduce the amount of time I have at depth before I run out of air. Interesting stuff. The day was long, but interesting, and we were able to log a 66 minute and a 60 minute dive. Yay for breaking the hour mark!


  • Two dives on EANx30
  • Two dives greater than 80ft
  • Two dives greater than 60 minutes
  • 2/3 dives required for Self-Reliant diver cert. 

All up, a pretty productive weekend! Even if it was a bit wet.