First Open Water Dives of 2014

Something magical has happened this week.  Something we here in Michigan, nay, the entire northern half of the United States, have waited months for.  I think...it's possible...that spring is finally here!  However, Mother Nature sure did make us work for it!  Before the sun started shining and the temperature warmed up, it snowed.  Again.  No accumulation.  But still, it snowed.  In April.  In Michigan.  Alas, that is the beauty of Michigan weather for you.

Last weekend, the quarry looked like this.  Not enough ice to ice dive (which was totally fine by me - I've had enough ice diving for a while), but too much ice for open water diving:

 WSQ on 3/29/14  Photo Courtesy of Rich Synowiec

WSQ on 3/29/14 Photo Courtesy of Rich Synowiec

But this weekend, the quarry looked like this.  Glorious, beautiful, open water!

 WSQ on 4/5/14

WSQ on 4/5/14

Granted, the water level is up.  Way up, which isn't really an issue.

This weekend was the first weekend of open water diving for 2014.  I forgot what it was like to dive WITHOUT a line tied around your waist, without someone on the other end almost constantly tugging on you.  My buoyancy this weekend...nearly spot on.  It was glorious.  Truly amazing.  And we had pretty good weather to boot!  A little chilly (mid-40s), and windy, but it was sunny.  If you could manage to find a spot out of the wind, and squinted your eyes, you could almost trick yourself into thinking it was summer.  Almost.

The dive this weekend had a mission: raise a platform.  White Star Quarry is used extensively for training and open water check-out dives (the first dives that a new diver will do outside of a pool and determine if they become certified or not).  As such, platforms are kind of essential.  The quarry bottom is silty and too much agitation anywhere near the bottom will kick it up and the silt won't settle out for days.  This is where platforms come in - they provide a good place for classes to sit and perform essential skills - mask clears, regulator retrievals, out of air drills - without stirring up the bottom.  Well, stirring it up too much.  In the winter, they sit on the bottom of the quarry.  In the spring/summer/early fall, they are suspended from the surface by four large buoys.  So, this weekend, we had to get one of the platforms up off the bottom and attached to the buoys on the surface.  This involves a semi-complicated maneuver of lifting one side with liftbags (essentially, bags filled with air), attaching that side to the buoys and then repeating the process on the other side.

Since the water is still cold (my computer read 41 degrees), we only did one dive.  But that one dive was awesome and totally worth the hour and 15 minute drive down.  Aside from the diving, we got to hang out with some great friends and spend sometime outside, which really, is also a crucial part of diving.