Monday, December 5, 2011

Max's Wreck

Thanksgiving weekend was a tease with weather.  The forecast looked great in the early part of the week and I was making phone calls trying to possible setup an overnight offshore trip.  Unfortunately, due to people traveling around for the holiday and the weather forecast going from great to awful to good, an offshore trip was not in the cards.  The weather did turn around and we planned to go diving on Saturday with a max depth of 165 feet.

Leaving the Inlet
 Saturday morning we left the dock around 8 am aboard the "Big Mac" and decided to set out for Max's Wreck.  For more info about Max's Wreck checkout the story about its identification (Here).  The seas greeted us with calm 2-3' swell and less then 10 knots of wind.  After a rather uneventful ride out to the wreck we made a few passes and checked out the direction of the drift.  I few minutes later we were given the signal to drop the hook and hooked in to the wreck.
After a few of the other guys had suited up and jumped in, I decided it was time to go diving.  Being my first time on the wreck I had integrated my friend & local dive shop owner Gene Peterson of Atlantic Divers for information about the wreck.  I geared up, pre-breathed my rebreather and jumped over the side.   As I dropped down the anchor line the excitement was building.  I get excited about new wrecks and what goodies they want to reveal.

Catching on Zzzz's on the way out aboard the Big Mac

The wreck came in to view around 130' and I yet to notice any thermocline, which is typical for this time of year.  Although mid 50s is rather warm for this late in the fall.  Reaching the bottom we were tied in forward of the engine on the starboard side.  Heading towards the stern I reached the engine and found a few lobsters hidden in a few hole but my access was blocked due to a scallop dredge being hung up on the wreck.  Giving up on the blocked lobster I continued towards the stern following the prop shaft and stern side of the ship.   The prop stands up about 8' off the bottom still connected to the prop shaft.  Swimming around the stern I headed towards the bow following the port gunwale and prop shaft, stopping to search around the boiler and engine.  I managed to find a small brass oilier in forward of the engine among the other debris. 

Oilier (Semi Cleaned)
Forward of the engine, the port side of the wreck is sanded over and then is broken down in the bow.  As I made my way up to the bow section I found a lobster and grab it up.  While struggling with the lobster Mark Nix appeared and was trying to communicate something to me but I guess I was to dense to understand.  He gave up trying to communicate and gave me the follow him sign.  We took a bee line to the stern passing the engine along the starboard side and crossing the wreck aft of the boiler.  As we reached the end of the wreck, Mark pointed to an object under the prop.  I looked at it for a second wondering then it clicked and I then yelled through my way BOV, "No Fing Way!!!".  I looked back at Mark and say it looks like a bell.  Still taken back I looked at it again and take my pry bar and gave it a whack.  To my disappointment a cloud of black dust appeared, telling me it was steel.  Just to be sure I gave it another whack and again black dust.  Mark and I exchanged looks agreeing it was not a bell.

Giving up on the bell look a like I head back toward the anchor line seeing if I could locate any more artifacts.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a circular hard edge, which caught my attention since the wreck was known to have grinding stones.  Swimming over to the object my excitement built as I realized it was a grinding stone.  I deflated some of the air from my BC and planted myself in the sand next to the grinding stone.  As a got a good grip on the edge a gave it a pull and it didn't move.  My hopes of recovering the stone on this dive began to diminish.  Looking at my computer I was about 45 minutes in to my dive, the rebreather was functioning fine, I was warm and plenty of bailout.  Fanning the bottom the sand began dislodging rapidly and prying on the stone it started to break lose.    After about 10 minutes I was able to pull the grinding stone free of the bottom and then humped it to a higher part of the wreck.  There I rigged the stone with a choker leash and liftbag.  Inflating the bag with some air I decided to wait because I didn't want to use up my bailout since I was diving the following day.

Looking at my computer I had accumulated 65 minutes of bottom time and it was time to ascend.  During a deco, I planned my next dive in my head and was excited to cook up something for lunch.  When I surfaced the grill was going and brats were being cooked.  I whipped out my lobster and tossed it on the grill.

Grinding Stone Recovered
After a 2.5 hour surface interval and full tummy it was time to go back in the water.  I had filled a spent AL40 from one of the OC divers to use as my inflation bottle.  Gearing up I decided I was going to shot the artifact up and then go explore the bow section of the wreck.  Reaching the bottom I pulled my reel attached to my liftbag, filled it with air and it was off to the surface.  I swam over to the anchor line to clip off my reel while I explored but decided I had a good first dive and just searched around the engine for another 10 minutes, pulling out nothing but china shards (none of which was intact).

All in all it was a great day, with great friends.  Lets hope the weather stay nice and we can keep diving.  If not the cave diving trips are about to begin :)
Sun setting over the ocean

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