The complete Diver's Handbooks guide to Dive Boats for Shipwreck Diving




   Capt. Dan Berg's Wreck Valley Collection   


By Capt. Dan Berg

Dive boats vary drastically in size, style and design, depending on what type of conditions they were designed for. For our purposes, they will fall into two main categories: commercial and private. When dealing with commercial charter boats, divers should have to check only to see that the Captain is licensed and that the vessel is certified for the number of customers on board. Divers can usually just relax and wait for the Captain to anchor up to the wreck and then enjoy the dive. Private boats, however, need a little more discussion. First, the boat, hopefully a good sea worthy craft, needs to be prepared for diving. Of course, a dive flag is necessary, but so is a grapple hook, granny line, current line, oxygen, medical kit, sturdy ladder, radio, depth recorder, loran C, radar, and compass, as well as the knowledge and seamanship to use them. As with wreck diving, duplication is the key to a safe and enjoyable day. Many boats choose to have two lorans, radios, and depth recorders. Private boats may also have davits to hoist in heavy artifacts and tank racks or bungie systems to prevent damage due to tanks rolling in a heavy sea. Since this book is not about seamanship, rescue or metal shop, let's assume that the boat is properly fitted and the operator experienced. For new boat owners, I recommend a course given by the US Power Squadron or Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Finding the wreck is the next problem. In Bermuda, Florida or other clear water locations, many wrecks are located with the aid of triangulating land ranges. After aligning these ranges, the skipper looks for uncharacteristic straight lines on the otherwise barren sand or coral bottom, which indicate a wreck is underneath. In the northeast, most wrecks are located with a loran C. Loran, an acronym for Long Range Aid to Navigation, triangulates land based radio transmission broad cast from approximate right angles and interpolates this information into two lines of numbers. A loran location is usually exact to within 50 feet, which means that each time you return to the exact number where the wreck is, you are within 50 feet of the exact spot. Loran numbers for known shipwrecks are available in a number of shipwreck books as well as on nautical charts. Boaters should realize that the loran number taken on one boat may be slightly different from the reading observed on their boat. This is why it is very important to keep your own list of loran numbers. When you are doing an initial search for a wreck and have approximate numbers place a marker buoy over the numbers you have then do a series of slow grids over the area. The whole time keep an eye on the depth recorder, watching for the wreck profile. You can also watch for depth changes because it's common for larger wrecks to have wash out around them. If the depth drops quickly, it could be a wash out. Grids can be of circular shape, figure eight or straight line. Once the wreck is located, another marker buoy can be tossed over and the exact loran number should be noted.

To anchor with a grapple hook, simply approach the marker buoy from down-current and toss the hook after the wreck appears on the recorder. The hook should grab in one or two throws, and divers can then descend to tie in the hook. The grapple should be tied into the wreck to prevent it from breaking free. Some divers use a separate line, while others just wrap the grapple hooks chain around some solid wreckage. Be very careful when working with an anchor. Any surge, wave or current can quickly pull the hook upward. Always stay up-current from the grapple when setting or pulling it. Never get between or under the anchor line to work on the anchor. Whoever sets the hook should also make sure that the line cannot chafe on any overhead wreckage. Before sending divers into the water, the boat operator should be certain to raise a dive flag, put a current line with a float off the stern and if there is any current present, he may setup a granny line. Granny lines are used by divers to assist themselves up to the anchor line in current situations. The granny line should be attached to the anchor with a shackle and weighted so it drops to about 20 feet. The line should also be attached to the dive boat's stern, so it is within easy grasp after a diver does his entry. The granny line works well especially when divers are entering the water using a giant stride entry. This is because the diver has better control over where he is going to land. Sometimes divers using entries such as the back roll will get caught in the floating granny line and have to adopt other techniques. In these cases, divers can be pulled forward by someone on the boat with a short line. There should also always be a capable person left in charge of the boat. Never leave the boat unattended while you go diving. Whoever is left topside should be instructed not to allow any other boats to anchor on top of the divers in the water. He should also know how to operate the vessel, use the loran, have the correct loran coordinates for the wreck and know how to use the radio and the proper emergency channels. Let me stress the importance of this with a little story. Of course, as always I had to learn the hard way. Kevin Travell, a dive buddy of mine, and I were diving a small tug boat, the Fran S. It was a night dive, and Kevin had brought our friend Phil to sit on the boat. Phil had never been on my boat before and had absolutely no experience in power boating at all. Kevin and I anchored, then descended, leaving Phil in the middle of the ocean on a dark full moon evening. After catching about six lobsters, Kevin and I checked our air and bottom time. We headed for the bow, and I started to untie the grapple anchor that secured the dive boat to the wreck. Kevin tapped me on the shoulder; he was tangled in some monofilament line. I quickly hooked the grapple back into the wreck and cut the fishing line off Kevin's first stage. When we turned around, the grapple was gone. We came up on an up line, did a safety stop and surfaced to find we were alone, floating in the middle of the ocean in complete darkness. As we rose to the top of a wave, we spotted the boat. Phil was sleeping in the stern while listening to a Sony Walkman. Even if he had heard our whistle, he would not have been able to bring the boat back to us or even use the radio to call for help. I had never taken the time to show him how. Fortunately, everything worked out fine, I took off my tanks and left them with Kevin who was still holding his position with the up line. After what seemed like an eternity I reached the boat and navigated back. We were very lucky, If the current was stronger or if the waves a little bigger, who knows what could have happened.


The Shipwreck Diving E-Book  Instant Downloadable E-Book 

Shipwreck Diving, by Capt. Dan Berg is a complete how to book about the sport of wreck diving. This book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs.


Shipwreck Diving ebook
The complete diver's guide to mastering the skills of shipwreck diving.

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6 MB instant download, printable  PDF file

Shipwreck Diving is a complete how to ebook about the sport of wreck diving. This downloadable PDF e-book is packed with information and heavily illustrated with over 80 sensational color photographs. Daniel Berg, a noted wreck diver, instructor and author of ten shipwrecks related books, describes all the basics of wreck diving. Topics include everything from equipment modifications, communication, and wreck penetration to artifact preservation. Dan also tells how to navigate on a wreck and be able to return to the anchor line after the dive. Why some divers find more artifacts and explains how to catch lobsters. Shipwreck Diving also covers such diverse topics as shipwreck research, photography, spear fishing and how to use an underwater metal detector. This exciting book tells all the tricks of the trade that until now have only been learned through years of experience. Shipwreck divers of all caliber will find Shipwreck Diving informative, rewarding and entertaining

Check out Capt. Dan's other shipwreck and Diving eBooks



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