Trip Report: St. Lawrence River with Blue Foot Diving

EDIT: This blog post is about a month after the trip. I finally got around to posting a trip report so it’s missing a bunch of details.

I decided to head up to the St. Lawrence River for a long weekend of “warm” fresh water diving with a group of friends.    For those who aren’t in the know, diving in the St Lawrence River is often called the “Caribbean of the North.”  The warm top layer of water from Lake Ontario feeds into the St Lawrence River Seaway, combined with the currents makes for very little to no thermocline up in the river.  This is especially apparent in late August and early September where the river is close to 69-72f degrees.  We averaged about 70f water temperatures this weekend.

Although the water is very warm we all opted to wear drysuits due to the air temperatures which were around 40-45f in the early morning.  Lewis was the only one diving wet because his drysuit is still being repaired. Having said that, a 7mm full wetsuit in 70-72f is fantastic but it’s certainly nice to have the extra redundant buoyancy of a drysuit with rebreathers and bailout bottles.

Additionally, due to the infiltration of zebra and quagga mussels in the St Lawrence the visibility is often very good compared to most freshwater.  We averaged about 30-40ft of visibility on this trip but I’ve had closer to 50ft+ before on other trips.

We planned for 4 days of diving on the America-side of the river with Blue Foot Diving run by Andrew Driver.  Myself, Lewis, Matt, Lea, Tom and his son Ben were on the boat.  This would be my second time diving on from the US side. I’ve always ventured over to the Canadian side for diving.

Day 1 of Diving on the Keystorm and America

For our first day we dove a couple old familiar wrecks, the Keystorm and the America.

Sure enough, right before I was ready to splash I had a cell fail in my rEvo.  It looks like it had become current limited since the mV were reading something stupid low (6mV) in air. I maintain that rebreathers do very strange things when you don’t use them for two weeks. They don’t like to be dry!

Two nights prior to the trip I spent hours trying to track down why my unit would not hold a solid positive and negative.  I had the entire thing apart suspecting another pinhole leak in the counterlungs but that turned out not to be the case.   It ended up being the tiny o-ring on the DSV handle and a bad schrader valve from one of the hoses on my gas block

I had plenty of old but “good” backup cells that I had rotated out of the unit due to age so I swapped one in and re-calibrated and I was good to go.  Coincidentally the cell that failed was due to be replaced anyway as it was the oldest cell in my unit and dated 9/2016.

The last time I dove both of these wrecks was in 2011 so I was not on my rebreather at the time.    It was nice to spend a lot more time on the Keystorm and America although we kept our runtimes around 60 minutes since Capt. Andrew was running afternoon charters.  Honestly 60 minutes is more than enough; you can only go around the wreck so many times.

I forgot how much I enjoyed the wreck of the America.  I must have misremembered it.  For a turtled barge it sounds very uninteresting but there is plenty to explore if you go underneath and inside.  The Keystorm I have dove a lot more than the America. It’s a good easy shakedown dive although I don’t really like wrecks lying on their sides as much.

In any case, the first day was great. We had visibility of approximately 30ft-40ft and water temperatures of 68-71f on both wrecks.

Day 2 of Diving on the A.E. Vickery

For our second day of diving we dove the A.E. Vickery and a drift dive, admiring the underwater topography and looking for old bottles.  The Vickery can be a cool dive.  We dropped off the wall down and followed the mast to about 145-150ft.  Water temps were 68-70f according to my Shearwater.  Visibility on A.E. Vickery was probably 35ft-40ft.  The current can rip there which often makes for better visibility but unfortunately creates a snowstorm of backscatter for trying to take pictures or video.

Day 3 of Diving on the Roy A. Jodrey

For our third day of diving we managed to schedule something a little different. Since Tom and Ben were on single tanks and aren’t morning people they jumped on Andrew’s afternoon charter.  Myself, Lewis, Matt, Lea managed to get a dive in on the Joy A. Rodrey.

I wasn’t originally planning on this being a “technical” trip since I knew we had divers on single tanks and because Matt and Lea still only have ~45-50 hours on their shiny new JJ CCRs but we all had the right diluent.  It would have been a shame to be so close to the Jodrey and not get to dive on her.  I dove her twice a couple years ago and have been wanting to get back up here to dive her for a while..

I ended up borrowing an AL80 of 18/45 since I didn’t bring any deep bailout bottles with trimix on this trip.  Me and Lewis dove together and both of us carried two AL80s. 18/45 for deep bailout and 50% for deco gas. Matt/Lea had 21/35 in the deep bailouts and carried additional O2 for deco gases.   We kept our runtime pretty short at approximately 80 minutes since this was everyone else’s first dive on the Jodrey besides myself.

Fantastic dive on Roy A. Jodrey this morning. About 30ft of visibility but not much ambient light due to overcast. 70f degrees on the bottom and a runtime of 80 minutes. Current was not too bad.

Roy A. Jodrey was built in Colingwood, Ontario. The construction of this 640 ft self unloader was completed in September 1965. When she began her career hauling bulk cargoes for Algoma, Jodrey was one of the largest lakers ever built on the the Great Lakes. Today, she would be considered small to medium size as compared to the largest self unloaders that are 1,000 ft long.

On Nov 1974, in her 9th year of operations, she ran aground near Pullman’s shoal in the St. Lawrence river. Realizing that the damage was extensive, the captain attempted to beach her at the dock of Coast Guard station, however, the damage was too big for the ship to stay afloat and she slid right into the channel. Less than 4 hrs passed from the encounter with the shoal and her settling on the bottom some 230 ft away.

Day 4 of Diving on A.E. Vickery and Drift Dive

For our last day of diving we decided to re-visit the A.E. Vickery and do another drift diving looking for bottles.  I took the camera but really couldn’t manage any descent shots due to backscatter with my video lights.

We all managed to find a few descent bottles on the drift dive.

Blue Foot Diving

I want to thank Blue Foot Diving / Capt. Andrew Driver for hosting our group for 4 days of diving on Labor Day weekend. We had a fantastic trip. Andrew is a fantastic captain and his briefings are excellent. His boat is well-equipped and is a great platform for rebreather / technical / recreational divers. We’ll be back next year for sure!


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