Beyond His Depth
Steve showed up at the dive shop in Saint Ignace early in the morning, looking for a chance to board a dive charter to one of the wrecks in the Straits of Mackinac, so they rented all of the necessary gear to him and sent him to the dock with the boat captain. When the captain asked if he could join our charter, my friends and I decided we could make it work. He had been a diver in the Navy, so he was no novice. So he said. He would buddy with one two-man dive team for the deep wreck, then join the other dive team for the shallower wrecks we would see after lunch. At least he was certified for deep diving, or the shop would never have rented the gear to him. How bad could it be?
Our first dive was to the Cedarville, a 588 foot wreck lying at 106 feet, upside-down at a 45 degree angle with the rail of the ship 25 feet from the bottom. When our new partner had trouble descending, I waited at the rail while my buddy, Pete, kicked toward the cabin just below us. It was clear that Steve was having trouble breathing when he finally joined me. I checked his tank gauge to find that he was nearly out of air. I wrapped his arm around the rail and kicked off to get Pete. Steve was having even more trouble breathing when we returned, and his eyes were large with fear. 80 feet deep, and he was out of air.
I shared my octopus (spare) regulator with Steve, and we made a slow ascent to our first decompression stop. The remaining air in his tank had expanded enough that it registered on his gauge, so he dropped my regulator, took his own into his mouth, and shot to the surface. We surfaced ten minutes later. Fortunately, Steve did not suffer from an embolism, a high risk occurrence in rapid ascents.
The second dive of the day occurred without incident, but after the dive we learned that it had been several years since Steve’s last dive. As for the first dive, the whole reason for our 10-hour trip, Pete and I chalked it up to experience.
out of cold water
warm sunlight before next dive
gulls circle the boat
Image source: Straits of Mackinac Shipwreck Preserve