It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Emerald Sink

A boy and his rope
On Sunday, we headed to Emerald Sink, which was a lot closer to Tallahassee than I remembered.  We met Meredith there, who wasn't sure she'd be able to dive, because she was getting over a cold, but in the end she did join us for the dive.  After two very cold days, it was starting to warm up.  In fact, it was a little uncomfortable getting geared up, but mostly because it was so humid.  Ugh, I hate the east coast!  Diving at Emerald has changed a bit since we last went there; you used to have to get a reservation, and jump through some hoops to prove your worthiness to dive there, and then go to Wakulla to checkin and get the key.  Now there is none of that; you just show up and pay at the iron ranger.  It took a little bit of driving around to find the entrance, but otherwise it was a pretty easy experience.

We moved our bottles and scooters to the water, where there's a nice civilized set of stairs to get in.  Apparently the way you do things at Emerald (or at least the way Kevin does it) is you bring a weighted rope with some loops about 20 and 70 feet down it, which you tie to the stairs and drop into the water, and this becomes a down line where you can drop deco bottles.  And if you are smart enough to put some loops near the surface, it's also a convenient place to stash your bottles before you get in the water.  Kevin is really into his rope.  I think it's the main reason he likes going to Emerald.

An interesting thing happened to my rebreather before I got in the water.  My rebreather was mostly set up the previous night, but I still needed to calibrate it in the morning.  When I did that, one of the sensors was calibrating slowly, and it ended up off.  Not horrendously far off, but off.  Since it was calibrating slowly, I calibrated again, and this time it was within the margin of error.  I didn't give it too much thought.  Then when I got geared up and was going through the checks, and I did a dil flush, that same sensor wouldn't drop.  I should have thought to try this after the calibration thing, but I didn't.  This was pretty annoying because it meant I had to get out of my gear and deal with it.  I popped the head off and found that that sensor had a big drop of water on it.  I dried it out and then all was well.  This happened to Rob earlier in the trip too, and we decided it was because of how we were laying them down in the back of the truck; it allowed condensation to drip into the middle sensor.  At home, the RBs live standing up in the back of the van or standing up on the garage floor.

Anyhoo, the one and only time I've been here before, we went upstream to the black abyss.  Downstream is deeper (18/45 territory), and we didn't have appropriate gas to even poke our heads downstream on that previous visit.  This time we came prepared.  So the plan was to go downstream and then play around in the upstream shallows while we were on deco.  Meredith led, followed by Kevin, me, then Rob.  The visibility in the basin was very good.  It was very good the last time we were there, too, but I get the impression that this is not typical.  After dropping our bottles at various places in the basin, we got going into the cave.  The viz was not great, but it was decent (I'd guess 40 feet) in the cave.  There is a T just a couple minutes after entering the overhead.  The plan was to go left for the main part of the dive, and then briefly check out the other side on the way out.  For the first 10 minutes or so, the cave was pretty brown, but eventually the walls get whiter, and it reminded me of Indian.  But without the great viz :)  It's a great scooter dive, with big but not huge passages.  It didn't get as deep as I expected as quickly as I expected.  It took a while before we were consistently deeper than 160', and it wasn't until it got a bit deeper that we hit the white walls.  This is definitely the nice part of the dive.

Unfortunately, before you know it (and before Rob wanted to), Meredith signaled to turn.  We headed back out, making excellent time back to the first T, and then we headed to the right.  Very shortly after that T was another T, where we went left.  We went in just a minute or two and found very tannic water.  At the very top of the tunnel, there was clear (and cold) water.  It was kind of surreal, because we were scootering through the clear water and when we looked down, it seemed like the bottom was just below us, but it was just the start of the tannic water.  The clear water layer at the top quickly became smaller and smaller, and we turned before the entire tunnel became tannic.  Back to the last T, we considered going the other way at that T, but the water got tannic like 30 feet from the T, so we didn't really even start up that tunnel.  Instead, we headed out.

We slowly ascended to 70', where we did some bottle exchanges and hung out for a bit.  After our 60' stop, we headed over to the upstream section.  Deco'ing in the upstream section seems like a good way to pass the time, and I guess it was, but if you take a strict interpretation of your deco schedule (which I generally don't), it's not ideal.  I think the real problem was that we set out to do the circuit, and at least where you pass Cheryl Sink and Split Sink, you come up fairly shallow (shallower than you'd want for a 30' stop).  It's also a bit dirty to drag 4 people with scooters through some of the spots right by those sinks.  In hindsight, it would have been better to just go one way or the other at the T and putter around in there without the goal of making it around the circuit.  Right probably would have been better, since I believe it stays deeper longer.  Anyway, we did eventually make it around the circuit, though we had to stop and wait out deco in some spots.

Ahhh, to-go cups
When we got back out to the Basin, we went to 20' and hung out.  Rob and I negotiated deco; I wanted to do 15 minutes, he wanted to do none, so I think we settled on 8 minutes :P  Kevin and Meredith did way more deco than us.  We got all of our gear out of the water before they showed up, which left us free to help them get their gear out of the water while they changed.  Since it was new year's day, the usual oyster places that we go to between Tallahassee and High Springs were both closed, boohoo.  But Meredith came up with an alternative seafood place to try, which was fine.  And they had to-go cups -- take that, Ted!  It started to rain really hard while we were at lunch, which I guess was predictable considering the insane humidity earlier in the day.

We headed back to Matt and Leah's place in Newberry, where we were officially staying (though this was the first night that I actually made it there).

No comments: