Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Labor Day Weekend Adventures

Murphy's Law came to town for the Labor Day weekend and we decided to get a dive in.

I found a charter that had openings in Alpena, about four hours away from the house. The plan was to drive up Sunday late afternoon, get a hotel, be at the dock at 07:30 and then go dive the Nordmeer, a 470 foot long German Freighter that sank in 1966. I have the hotel booked, the charter booked, the tanks filled, the car loaded and ready to go.

So ML arrives at the house and then we load his gear and we drive on up to Alpena.

ML of course doesn't like the course the GPS selects so he changes it a fair bit and off we go. ML is then further peeved when I refuse to pass in no passing zones and to exceed the speed limit in excess of 20 mph over, so he takes over driving about half way, and its a bit like "Hey! Look! Squirrel!" every few minutes or so, and my car reached 100 mph on multiple occasions and for sustained periods. But we arrive safely regardless.

So we check in at the hotel and it meets ML's stringent standards, which you can read upon at his weekend adventure post.

We then go to The John Lau Saloon which was inexplicably out of burgers so we had some very good Fish n' Chips as an alternate. We also had some decent Michigan-made brews to go with it which were nice and refreshing after the long drive.

ML then fixates on a Moose Head mounted on the wall and wonders where the rest of it is.   He asks our waitress and she doesn't know either.

It will remain yet another unsolved Moosetery.

We head back to the hotel, watch Master and Commander on the TV for a good dose of both action and nautical content, and called it a night.

The waves in the movie were a portent of what we would face the next day.

We arrive at the dock located in Rockport, about 7 miles north of Alpena on time and there is no boat to be seen.

 I call up the Captain and I'm reasonably sure he forgot to call me to cancel the dive as he explains he cancelled it as the others who were booked on it were too new and inexperienced as divers to go out in the conditions that were being forecast.

I say we're here and willing to go and leave it up to him to decide if we should go. He's asking us, I basically say he's the captain and its up to him.

He then says to hang on until 8 and he'll be there.

He arrives in a quite small 18-foot boat and decides we will give it a try.

So we're in this real small boat, with a total of 4 seats, two of which face aft and off into the waves we go.

Now the waves are getting to be 6-8 footers and we're having an interesting time. ML and I are in the seat facing backwards so we get fun views of the stern rolling up and crashing down with the waves. It gets real interesting on some big waves where the sky simply and completely disappears for a moment and all we see is water.

Luckily, I'm already in my drysuit or I'd be soaked before I even get in the water.

We then reach the Nordmeer site, the wind and waves have picked up even more and it's beyond the margins of safety for diving, so no diving the Nordmeer for us. So we head towards Thunder Island where its supposed to be calmer, and it is, but not by much.

So we gear up to dive the wreck of the James Davidson. It's a freighter that sank in 1883. It's in about 35 feet of water. So we make it off the boat, swim over to the down-line, get to the bottom:

Murphy's Law near the Davidson
There's really not much to this wreck but the remains of the hull. Rather disappointing after a four hour trip and the anticipation of the Nordmeer.

Remains of the James Davidson

Before I can shoot a compass bearing back to the up-line however, ML is taking off.

He's zipping away not in a straight and level line, but moving like a diving ping-pong ball, or a hyperactive squirrel looking for nuts: to and fro, up and down, back and forth and forth and forth. So, I'm trying to shoot a compass bearing, photo the wreck, keep track of where the heck we're going, and keep him in sight and he's moving like a bat out of hell with malfunctioning sonar.

And then poof, he was gone.

Communication with your dive buddy is rather key, and my diving companion doesn't quite get it.

Lovable as he is, he's an ADHD diver.

So I start a circle search to find him and hey, there's no ML down here, anywhere.

I then do my best to backtrack to the up-line, after following him on his very random wandering this is not easy as there's a complete lack of reference points on the bottom and good luck holding a compass course. So I do my best guess and while I don't find the up-line, I surface close enough to the boat to be able to swim to it. I don't see ML in the water or on board which gets me worried. I signal the captain that I'm ok and then give the signal for "Where's the other diver?" The captain points and sure enough ML is hanging on to the ladder at the back of the boat.

I swim over to the boat and ML lets us know his head is hurting so I tell him to get back on the boat. We get him back on board, then I board and that's it for diving for the day. We then have to head to Alpena rather than back to Rockport as the waves are even worse that way.

Here's a clip from the voyage back:

That was quite mild compared to what we had going out and around Thunder Island itself, and you can see the boat's a bit small for conditions. Ah well, it was a good try.

So after getting our butts kicked by the waves, we reach Alpena, have a beer and then haul our gear into a cab for the hop back to Rockport.

We got our gear in the car, said goodbye to the captain and went on our way.

Now, as you may or may not know, ML and traffic jams really just do not mix.

Patience with traffic is not one of his virtues.  We get stuck on I-75 in a jam and then spend quite a while doing some squirrel-like navigation to avoid it on back county roads.  First west, then east, then south then east, then south then west then south again. Crazy and random navigation in action but it works.  Yes, I then acquiesce to his constant demands that I pass quite a few cars on single lane roads and speed like a demon, which was rather fun, but it would get complicated as he constantly adjusted the route as we went, with him making some very last minute turning decisions.  I even overtake a souped-up classic Ford Mustang that ML takes a few photos of and sends them to Keads as we pass.

All good though, as we arrive home safe and sound.

Then we have a nice dinner out at Taormina's Pizzeria with Proud Hillbilly's daughter and Son-in-law and their baby, and it's nice to meet them.  Then home to walk the dog, tuck the kids in a prep them for school for their first day.

Quite the adventurous weekend indeed.


ProudHillbilly said...

"Patience with traffic is not one of his virtues."

No kidding!

Murphy's Law said...

It's ok guy. You couldn't even keep up with a one-legged swimmer. I understand the frustration.

And there was nothing random about my navigation. I knew where we were going the whole time. A couple of times I wasn't sure where we were, but I knew where we were going and why. Trust the Master.

And five-yard penalty for the bad moose pun.