Arrived at Horizon Divers in the morning at 8am to check-in for Northern Light dive and grab my rental tanks. I was pleasantly surprised to see my friend Doug at dive shop; He was completing his open circuit trimix class with Dan at Horizon Divers. Since I was unfamiliar with this wreck I would be tagging along with his group while they did their class. As such it was a shorter runtime.
We planned a 25 minute or so bottom time with a total runtime of around 65 minutes due some gas constraints of open circuit divers 🙂
There is no mooring installed on the Northern Light, it is a hot drop onto the wreck in current and then you complete your deco obligations while drifting. Definitely a little different than the moored or shot lined wrecks here in New England. I have done some drift deco so that doesn’t bother me but it was actually my first time hot dropping onto a wreck without a reference, mooring or shot line.
Capt. Jame of the Pisces absolutely nailed the drop and we drifted into the wreck perfectly. As you’re drifting you will start to encounter fish which let you know that you’re getting close to the wreck. This is your first hint there might be a wreck there otherwise it’s a 180′ dive to a sandy bottom. Once you spot the fish simply follow them down to the wreck.
The wreck finally appeared at about 90-100′ with the massive rudder sticking up at 145′ The Northern Light is split in half with the stern sitting turtled with the rudder sticking up. I guess there was one lone reef shark on the wreck that Dan saw before he got spooked but apparently you can usually spot reef and/or bullsharks on the wreck.
We did a small penetration loop led by Dan on the wreck swimming underneath the stern while entering the wreck on one side, passing one of the boilers (coal still inside) and finally exiting out a crack in the side of the wreck. It was very neat still seeing portholes intact with glass in them. I’m thinking they would not last very long in New England. The inside of the wreck is very cavernous with ambient light shining through the cracks in a lot of places.
We then spent a bit more time exploring parts of the wreck before it was time for Dan’s trimix students to shoot their bags and complete our drifting deco. Everything went according to plan, a couple guys were diving Suuntos so they had a slighter longer runtimes to please their computers.
Max depth: 183ft My total runtime was around 71 minutes. Visibility was 50-60ft or so and water temperatures were 69-72f. I wore a 7mm and was fine but if I were planning a longer runtime then a drysuit wouldn’t have actually been a bad idea.
I shot a video using my Snake River Prototyping tray with 4 video lights. Unfortunately since I was the last one in the group there is lots of backscatter and silt. I am going to try adding longer arms to my GoPro to get better positioning to eliminate some of the backscatter in future.
Once we got back to the dock my girlfriend met me for the 1:30pm afternoon charter aboard the Cheeca View. It was planned as a double dip on the Duane We found a third experienced buddy who would ascend with my girlfriend when they hit their NDLs and I would simply continue doing my dive. They were on AL80s with nitrox but it was still only about a ~35 minute bottom time for them. They had no problem with me doing a longer runtime on my rebreather.
The ride out to the Duane was fine but the wind starting picking up more making conditions slightly sporty. We tied in the mooring on the smoke stack. Conditions below were nice with maybe 50-70ft visibility. Water was around 71f. I spent a bunch of time exploring mid ship and the stern. There was too much current for me at bow so I only got about 80% forward before deciding that I didn’t really want to fight current while pulling myself along the hull. I dont have too much of an issue doing that while on open circuit but I’m paranoid about overworking and getting a CO2 hit on my rebreather.
Not too much to report on the bottom. Large schools of horse-eye jacks on the wreck, a lone nurse shark and lots of barracuda. I saw a couple medium sized lionfish but I had no spear. There was another shark off in the distance that was either a reef or a bullshark but unfortunately I couldn’t really tell because of the distance. My GoPro battery died about 20 minutes into the dive so I didn’t get too much video footage.
My max depth was 120ft with a total runtime of 90 minutes. I spent about 60 minutes on the bottom until I started to feel chilled with about 20-25 minutes in deco with another 5 minute hang for extra posterity.
The highlight of the dive that I apparently didn’t see was a pod of 6-7 dolphins that circled me for about minute or two on my 20ft deco stop while I was blindly staring at my computer. Apparently everyone on the boat saw this and assumed that I must have been paying attention and been in on the action. Sadly this wasn’t the case. I was hooked into a jon line on the mooring at 20ft since the current was ripping and I didn’t feel like holding on for 20 minutes at 20ft.
All in all, it was a great day of diving. Horizon Divers run a nice dive shop and the two charter boats I went on were very professionally run and well-organized. Next time I’m down here I hope to dive with them again.
I’m scheduled to go out with Rainbow Reef Diver Center tomorrow for some additional dives. I believe we are scheduled for the Duane again and then Molasses Reef. I’ve already been advised that I’m limited to strictly recreational NDLs as they don’t allow deco diving from their charters. Unfortunately there were some miscommunication issues regarding the rental of CCR cylinders and bailout bottles from Rainbow Reef. Horizon Divers was extremely nice about it and let me keep the cylinders that I rented from them for another day of rental. I’ll write more about the miscommunication in the next blog post when I do a trip report for Rainbow Reef Divers.
One last thing, the Cooper hoses on my rEvo worked great. I really like them and I did seem to notice a difference in work of breathing but that may have also been attributed to me installing straight p-port connectors instead of the 90 degree p-port connectors that I have been using for the last year. They definitely need weights. Without any weights on them they are very floaty but manageable.