Watch out Vegas, here comes IVS & IAHD-Americas!

It’s that magical time of the year again, and we’re not talking Christmas here but the DEMA show! It’s the Diving Equipment and Manufacturers Association’s annual trade show, and it’s the biggest show in the world dedicated solely to scuba diving. I have been personally attending this show since 2000 and each year come away wiser, better trained, and enriched with even greater product knowledge and dive destination knowledge than I thought possible. This is good stuff!

This year I am wearing two hats at the show. First and foremost we are here representing the world’s oldest and largest adaptive scuba training organization, IAHD – the International Association for Handicapped Divers, and it’s American counterpart, IAHD-Americas. The DEMA show brings together under one roof thousands of instructors, dive center owners, and resort operators and is wonderful platform to spread the IAHD message to the masses. We’ve got a great booth location and hope to add a number of new instructors and dive centers to the growing IAHD family over the next four days. My second role here is to ‘press the flesh’, Indian Valley Scuba style. So many of our vendors and industry associates are here it is a social lovefest, reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and putting faces to the emails that we have grown to live with daily.

So in addition to me splitting my time between IAHD and IVS roles, the rest of Indian Valley Scuba’s presence this year includes Jim Cormier, Brian LaSpino, Mike Petrochko, Dave Hartman and Sue Douglass. We’ve got people to see, places to go, training to conduct, deals to make, all sorts of activities to make for a very busy week. Brian & Mike flew in Monday in order to spend all day Tuesday in training seminars from Oceanic & OMS. Dave H arrived then too. Meanwhile Jim C has spent the last three days driving across America in the IVS truck & demo trailer, getting us 2,500 miles of roadside advertising exposure and making a few new friends along the way. I flew in to meet up with Jim and relieved him for the last 4 hours of driving – yes, what a saint I am!

Jim & I arrived in Vegas, checked in, and parked the truck and trailer for the night in a well-lit portion of the hotel parking lot, once again choosing a position that gave us maximum impact on the visual of all those great graphics we have. Now keep in mind we parked alongside trucks and trailers from all sorts of manufacturers and a few other local dive centers, so we were just “part of the scenery”. And boy did the rig look good there under the lights!

Well we all know that IVS has made a huge effort over the years to establish brand identity and be known as a dynamic dive center with plenty to offer. And to many, that is good news, as our diving family has grown in leaps and bounds, more and more divers flock to us and join us on trips, for training and for gear purchases, all under one great red roof in the center of the scuba diving universe, Harleysville, PA. All these are things that make folks smile, well at least most of the folks! While we believe in running and growing our business on positive energy and karma, never speaking of others in a negative term, it appears that not everyone is of the same philosophy. I suppose there will always be “haters” out there no matter what you do or how you do it. Some of you remember when we enjoyed a nice “keying” incident last year thanks to a local diver who wasn’t crazy about us (but of course wasn’t smart enough to check out the security camera that caught it all on film!). Last night though, we saw that sort of hate crime ramped up just a bit. This morning we were greeted with two nice bullet holes through the windows of the truck – friggin’ amazing, but true. No other vehicle around us was involved, and there was no break in, just a wild west sort of message that said someone loves Indian Valley Scuba, in a ‘Deliverance’ sort of way! I am taking that as a sort of compliment about how well we have marketed ourselves, to know we have stirred such passion, negative as it is, in a nameless, faceless competitor.

So first thing Wednesday a.m. we pull the bullet-riddled truck up to the convention center to unload our display. First I need to work my way through the registration and get my posse signed in early to help set up the booth. But of course, there are rules that must be followed and you know how I am with that! The gatekeeper nazi’s are adamant about not allowing my guys in, so I switch to Plan B. Checking my resources, I have a bag of caramel taffies in my backpack, so I amble my way over to the registration counter, make some small talk with the ladies there who are already being hassled by some belligerent vendors, and in my most sensitive way, let them know I feel their pain and agree via eye contact and gestures that some of these guys are jerks. OK, ice is broken, I pull out my bag of taffies, get them all a little sugar rush, we laugh, and I tell them “I’m not sure what happened but our badges were not mailed to us”. Of course I had my fingers crossed as I said that, but it worked! “What are their names”, my taffy-chewing new friend asks, and before you know it, I have early admission badges in hand and get my team in the gate. Meanwhile, the jerk is still up there arguing……

But we’re not quite done. We pull the truck up to the designated location, and as I reach for to unlock the trailer, I am immediately approached by a representative from Teamsters Local 530, who asks the obvious “what are you doing?”. Of course, I can’t just let that one pass, it’s too easy! So some sarcastic banter back & forth, another teamster or two gather around, and I sense that I will need to make some sort of concession here in order to accomplish the mission. So I switch gears, change tone of voice, put on my best puppy dog non-profit face, and share what the IAHD is all about, helping others, making smiles, we don’t make any money here at the show, we’re not like the manufacturers, blah, blah, blah. One of the senior guys leans over and says “How about $63 for us to unload one cartload of stuff for you?”. “What if it doesn’t fit on one cart”, I ask. With a knowing wink he says “I think we’ll make it work”. Done! Minutes later four teamsters are unloading our stuff, piled it on a couple of carts, carried our banners in hand, and our booth is set up! Well spent $63 and now I have some new friends in low places.

Oh well, incident and union involvement aside, we move on and the show gets off to a great start. So much to see and so many appointments, the hours whiz by. Quite a few dive centers are looking to come on board as IAHD training centers to accommodate this growing adaptive scuba market, and we are starting to fill up our training calendar for the first part of 2011. Very cool to see! Meanwhile Brian, Jim & Mike have been going from one training seminar to the next, bringing more technical knowledge and skills to IVS to further enhance our service department’s resources. IVS diver and WRL racer Mark Hughes joined our team for the day, and IAHD’s Klaas Brower and Fred Seibert flew in from the Netherlands to help staff the booth and coordinate our activities on both sides of the Atlantic.

The day done, it’s time to start on the all-important social circuit, and our first stop is the DAN booth where they have a live band, Greg from ScubaRadio is the emcee, mermaids are there, and the free food is out! From there it’s the NAUI party, where I tease them with what it would be like if IVS was a NAUI center – that’s good enough for unlimited food and drinks for the team! After that Joe Weatherby and I have a dinner meeting with representative of the island of Barbados who wish to bring both the IAHD and the Wreck Racing League to their beautiful country. It’s a very positive and productive session all around and a lot of progress is made on both items. And while we are there, Joe gets an email from the French dive magazine Plongeur, who wants to sponsor a WRL event in France in 2011. How very cool eh?

Thursday kicks off well, with more training seminars and meetings to attend, vendors to visit and interested parties to share the IAHD message with. The men are still busy with their seminars so I am lonely in the booth, but I manage to suffer on. More good connections and Brian is talking to even more manufacturers and bringing in more lines to IVS. The afternoon wraps up on a special note, with Jim Cormier being honored and award his Platinum Pro 5,000 Award from SSI, recognizing his 5,000+ dives and his contribution to the dive industry with his training, continuing education, and activities such as the annual clean-up dives he organizes each year on the Campbellford River. After that teary-eyed moment, we head over to the Poseidon party and mingle with the silent ones, our friends from Sweden, and we get to meet some other shop owners who carry the Poseidon line.

Of course our visit to the affair is not without controversy, as it is the position of Poseidon, backed by several training agencies, that instructors should offer students the opportunity to learn to dive on a rebreather right from the start. Well let me think about that for a split second….Not a chance at IVS!! Holy smokes, how much task loading and difficulty do we want to add to someone who is just learning how to defog a mask and at the same time learning to monitor the partial pressure of oxygen in the loop? Not in my lifetime, I tell them, and of course that goes over like a lead balloon! Can you imagine when this newly certified diver goes on a trip someone and does not have their machine, and a friend says “hey look at that beautiful reef, let’s get a dive in”, to which the rebreather diver must respond “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how to dive open circuit”. Geeeshh……shaking my head here! Baby steps, baby steps……

Now on a local note, I need to ship some items I picked up at the show for Ms Bev, so I head out to the local UPS store. I get to talking to Dave, the owner, and turns our he’s a diver, so we talk about the local diving. He relates how one of the coolest dives in Lake Mead is an old B-29 bomber. Back when this was first re-discovered in 1999 (the Navy knew it was there since it sunk in 1944), it was a technical dive at 180 feet to the very top of the tail section, and the cockpit was sitting at 260 ft. Now, due to the 10 year drought, the lake level is down about 125 feet and the B-29’s tail sits at a nice recreational depth of 55 feet! So much for selling tech diving in Lake Mead!! These guys are in sad need of global warming and the polar caps melting to re-fill the lake!

More great show time followed, more folks interested in getting on board the IAHD train, and Brian wheeling & dealing with our vendors like there’s no tomorrow! “Mini Me” sure makes me proud! More time spent with my European friends working to bring the ISO standards to IAHD and work towards a 10 year plan of growth on our way to being the dominant adaptive scuba training agency globally. Big goals, but we support them, and time will tell how well that all pans out, but boy are they pumped about it! We end the day with a nice dinner at the steakhouse, head over to the Venetian for some live music, and call it a day.

Saturday now and the last day of the show. Still so many to see, so the sneakers are tied tight cause they’re gonna get a few miles on them today for sure! Like a man possessed I cover aisle after aisle, all 38 of them. The show floor is over a 1/4 mile from end to end and each aisle has about 40 booths so it is quite the task to cover them all. But there is flesh to press, and deals still to be made, so I have at it, and thankfully come out quite successful by the end of the day. We book a Galapagos trip, start the process for an Africa trip, swing some sweet deals on our Bonaire trip, firm up some IAHD training, and spend a bunch of money on new products. What a day!

Finally the magic hour comes and it’s time to break the booth down and load out. Unlike the load in, we’ll complete this without the help of any organized labor, so team IVS gets it in motion and less than 20 minutes later the entire booth is on two carts and heading towards the elevator. Meanwhile the Australians have been busy breaking their booth down, and loading everything we store for them in the truck. Once outside and loaded, we head over to the shooting range, er, I mean the other parking lot, hook up the trailer and load everything for the long ride home. So while Jim & I are looking at the long ride home, Brian and Mike still have a few hours to kill before they catch the red-eye flight home at 1:00 a.m. so what better way to spend your time than with some indoor skydiving? Jim & I figure it is better to pass and get on our way home, so we bid farewell for now and fire up the truckster.

So, as Jake & Elwood would say, it’s 2,380 miles to home (that’s 4,028 kilometers for our Canadian readers, Jim reminds me), we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses….hit it! And we’re off and running. Thirty-four hours of non-stop driving ahead of us, except for three special hours tomorrow evening when we stop someplace with cold beer and a big screen TV to cheer the Eagles on to victory over the Giants. Our ride home will take us past some great sights, the first being the Hoover Dam, but in the dark, it is not quite as dramatic. Ditto for the Grand Canyon, so let’s just focus on our driving. The elevation rises as we travel, and before you know it we are passing through the Arizona Divide at 7,300 ft of elevation. We stop for the first of many loads of fuel, and what an eye opener it is, as I step out of the truck in my thin Hawaiian shirt, perfect for Vegas, only to find it’s a tad more nippley here in the 34 degree air!! Smart move, packing all my clothes and my sweatshirt in the trailer….duh! It’s OK, I suffer through, we are fueled, and I finish my first four hour shift before turning the wheel over to Jim and lean back for a little power nap.

We hit a bit of rain during the night but overall it is thankfully an uneventful first night of travel. When morning comes we are three states and 10 hours closer to home …only 25 hours to go…woo hoo! Off the list..Nevada, Arizona, now New Mexico, so we’re in Texas, and you can’t pass through Texas without getting your kicks on Route 66, and what better way than a stop at the famous Cadillac Ranch! Pretty odd, ten old Cadillacs buried nose down in a cow pasture, complete with cows. Oh well, good photo op, and a chance to stretch our legs. OK, that’s off the Bucket List, so back on the road!!

Rolling, rolling…..the miles click by, so the cows, rest areas, and beautiful views of America. We’ve noticed a small problem with the trailer, seems that the screws that our sign guy pulled out for the lettering are all backing out. We’ve lost almost two dozen so far, so it’s time to stop at the Tulsa Home Depot and get some screws, double sided tape and thread adhesive. Like a well-oiled NASCAR pit crew, Jim & I rework the sheetmetal and get Team IVS back in the race east. We make it to Miami where it’s time for a mandatory NFL stop – the Eagles are coming on! That’s Miami, Oklahoma, in case you were wondering about our routing. Slowed down by traffic and an accident (involving others, not us) we are short on our goal of making it to Joplin, Missouri for the game, but Miami will do in a pinch. First we have to exit the turnpike, which had paid a $9.75 toll for earlier. We show our receipt at the Miami toll booth, and they refund $1.75 to us since we did not finish our ride down the ‘pike’. Strange but true. We ask the attendant where we can catch the game and he recommends a casino aobut five miles down the road, so in that direction we head.

We pull into the High Winds Casino and they’ve got six wide screen TV’s in the lounge and every one has the game on – we like this place! …..OK, now as Paul Harvey would say….the rest of the story……

Jim and I order a beer and some appetizers while the game gets underway. Now mind you there are approx. 30 seats at the bar with about 5 occupied, and a dozen tables, with a group of 4 at one, and Jim & I at the other. So you get a sense that the place is dead. I ask the bartender if it is OK if I use my computer and she says “of course”. So I pull it out of my backpack, she plugs it into an outlet for me, and I start to update the blog. Meanwhile Jim takes a picture of me hard at work, we chuckle, and get on with our game watching, beer drinking, appetizer munching and blogging. We’re there for over an hour, from the kickoff until the 10 minute mark of the second quarter, when a blue shirted security guy walks up and says “Sir, there are no computers allowed in the casino”. I said “we’re in the bar, and all I am doing is blogging and reading email”. He says “they’re concerned about folks hacking into the casino security so no computers are allowed.” “OK,” I say with a laugh, “I must look like a real threat here!” Never the less, I close the laptop, shut it down, he says thanks, and we get back to enjoying our drinks and the game. Lo and behold, five minutes later he returns, this time he says “sir, you have to put the camera away.” Now the camera has been sitting here the entire hour, untouched, except for that photo Jim took of me an hour ago, but I say “Sure, no problem, but why?” He says they are concerned with people taking pictures in the casino, and I inquire about the cell phone cameras that, let’s say, every single person here has tonite?? He misses the point, Jim puts the camera back into the backpack, and again we return to our quiet evening. I chuckle to Jim and ask if they have nothing better to do than watch the two guys in the bar, and with that, I slowly, discretely, raise a single digit flagpole salute in the middle of our table, never raising my arm above my head, just a quiet symbol of defiance between Jim & I. And back to our game…..but no, there will be no peace tonight, as now there are two blue shirts at the table, and I am informed in an official sounding voice “Sir, since you flipped the bird at the security camera we will have ask you to to leave the casino immediately.” I just about fall out of my chair laughing, but no, they are not kidding. Jim chuckles, they bring our tab, we settle up and head out of this joint, wiser, partially fed, and clearly amused. Security risk abated, the blue shirts return to their rounds.

So we are missing our game, and that is not a good thing. We drive back up the road and figure there has to be a sports bar in this little hamlet of Miami, so up the main drag we go. And back down the main drag we come, nary a bar of any sort in site. We decide to check out another casino, which seems to be the main source of employment and entertainment in this town. This time it’s the Little Miami indian reservation casino, and we park in the tiny lot, barely squeezing the truck and trailer in. Enter the casino, and it is more of a bingo hall with slot machines, and lots of scary looking local ladies checking out the “new meat” that just walked in. Jim’s a little nervous, but I reassure him that it’ll be OK, I am here to protect his virtues, and we march through, right up to the girl who is dutifully pulling the balls for the bingo. “Where’s the bar”, I ask, and she says “we don’t have one”. I probably should have picked up on that when we walked past the self-serve soda fountain right in the middle of the slot machines. “OK, where can we get a beer and watch the game”, I ask. She rattles off another two or three casinos and I have to ask her if there are any bars with TV’s in town, that are NOT casino’s. “Oh yeah”, she says, “Boomers is a bar”. We ask where it is, she says right at the light, we ask for more detail since we just drove through that light and surely did not see any neon beer signs. “It’s right at the Best Western”, she tells us, and a guy sitting at a slot machine pipes in and confirms that yes it’s right there at the Best Western. OK, sounds simple enough, and we head out, fire up the truck and go back to the light. There’s a Hampton Inn, Microtel, Budget Inn, another local place or two, but no Best Western at all. We pull into the Love’s gas station and Jim jumps out and asks the clerk. “Boomers is right back at the light, turn at the ‘Snack Attack’ and you can’t miss it”. Yeah right, we go back out, once down, and once back, utterly amazed that we cannot locate a bar that everyone is telling us is right here. We stop once more, at the Microtel, and the clerk confirms the Snack Attack location. Shaking our heads, we go at it once more, and sure enough, under the HUGE gas sign, behind the BIG lottery sign, is a tiny, unlit sign that says ‘Snak Attack’. We pull in and there is NO Best Western sign, and NO lights in the bar or name over the door, in fact is shut down. Great local info for sure! We decide to try one more casino, this time the Buffalo Run casino, so we see the sign, roll the window down to confirm with a local, it’s just a half mile down this dark road. One and a half miles later we see the inflatable teepee-like building on the right housing the casino, and we head on in. First we need to park, and there in front of the parking lot is a metal structure with a pipe hanging to make sure we are not too high. Wait a minute, the parking lot is a big open field. So the height limit would be something like the sky?? Whatever, but we don’t fit, so we drive 10 feet to the right and around the height checker and park the truck in the big open field. Geeesh. Into the casino we go, yes they have a bar, yes they have TV’s with the game on, so far so good. OK, I’ll roll the dice here and ask I ask April our bartender if it is OK if I work on my laptop and she says “sure, why not?”. Whoa, I am thinking, but Jim, ever the tactful one, says “we were just thrown out another casino for that!”. Thanks Jim, I am thinking. April says “wait a minute, let me check.” So sure enough, here comes a red coated security supervisor, and he says “what’s up?”. I re-state the question, asking if it is OK if I use my laptop here, and he says “Sure, I don’t see a problem with that, but you can’t do it at the bar. You need to move to a table”, and he points to a table that is about, oh, 7 feet away from the bar. I acknowledge the code speak, April carries our drinks to the “table”, and we are good to go. So here I sit, blogging away! Amazing stories of Oklahoma casino experiences, but true!

Finally the game comes to a conclusion, with the Eagles playing with our hearts and souls but finally emerging with a ‘W’ for the night. We settle our tab for $9.00 (yes, one dollar per pint of beer, a little more cost effective than it was in Vegas). We head back out to continue our road adventure, and Jim takes over at the helm. Once again we drive around the height limiting gate, get back onto the highway, re-pay our $1.75 that we were refunded, and see the last bit of Oklahoma before passing into Missouri. 13 hours to go, almost like a Key Largo road trip now!

Thirty five hours into our trip, and sometime during the night we get a bad load of diesel and suddenly our mileage drops to 6 1/2 MPG, with the truck slowing to 40 mph up the hills, and pouring smoke like we’re running on coal….definately injector fouling taking place here! I stop at a truck stop, walk in with my best 18-wheeler swagger, grab some injector cleaner off the shelf, bitch about bad fuel with some of my new buds there, and beat it back outside before they figure out I’m about 10 wheels short of a real trucker here! I slip the truckster a healthy dose, and within 75 miles we are as good as new! Whew! All sorts of bad visions going through my head there, but all good now.

Driver swapping continues, and I’m half-asleep (not behind the wheel this time) when I feel the rumble strips under the tires. I jolt awake, look at Jim, and he is fading. Like an NFL trainer, I know what to do, and reach into the console, grab a double-shot of 5 Hour Energy Boost, pop the top, and feed it to Jim like Gatorade! He perks right up and gets back in the game, and I ask what happened….turns out he was trying to do a Canadian conversion on his last dose, and didn’t realize that 5 did not convert to 6.4 hours. Math problem solved, I slip back into my slumber, knowing I’m in good and alert hands now. I also set my alarm for 4 1/2 hours to make sure I am up to administer his next dose!! During the night we pass through Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio.

While I was shopping at the truck stop, I picked up something else for us, and I present Jim his gift as the sun starts to come up and the cab begins to warm a bit. We’ve been traveling about 40 hours now, after spending all of Saturday in the trade show, and our shirts and body parts are starting to reek a bit. So I had bought a couple of air fresheners, and Jim’s wearing his around his neck (Canadian Pine scent) while I have mine on (citrus, so you can tell us apart). We look like a couple of rap stars with our bling on, but at least we can start breathing through our noses again, as we roll through upper Virginia and finally, we’re in Pennsylvania and home!

IVS Invades the Great White North again – this time from both sides of the border!


Well it’s that time of year again, time for Team IVS to make our annual pilgrimage north of the border, to link up with our Canadian counterparts for a fun weekend diving the wrecks of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

It was a long week of preparation, with American & Canadian passport information needing to be filed with U.S. Customs, boat manifests prepared and double-checked, nitrox fills all around, gear checked and packed, spares packed, and the final logistics of transportation and lodging figured out.

The carpool headed north from IVS on Friday afternoon, with Csaba Lorinczy leading the parade in his motor home.  Accompanying him was daughter Niki, Donna Raleigh, Mike Noble, and John “I can’t seem to stop falling off boats” Scott.  John Glodowski and Chris Perry followed, Mike & Jamie Petrochko, along with Brent Watts, were not far behind, and finally Dave Valaika was slated to bring up the rear, as he was still busy loading the truck and trailer and making sure all the “I’s” were dotted and “T’s” were crossed on his manifest for the Dueling Drysuits Demo trailer, since our friend Eric from Whites Drysuits told us how difficult it was to cross the border with any sort of products that may be considered “for sale”.  More on this exercise later……….

Still sensitive from the near fiasco of last year’s border intrusion, Csaba has studied for this years crossing, and knows exactly where we going, why we’re going, who is traveling with him, where they live, and all the other details that nearly tripped him up last year at the border.  Of course, just to keep you on your toes, the border agent threw a new question at our favorite Hungarian….”how do you know these people?” Yikes…just when you thought you had it figured out!  Never the less, he managed to muddle through the answers and get the first of Team IVS safely into the foreign land.

And to add to the stress of preparing for this little international journey, we needed to get some last minute temporary bodywork repairs completed on the IVS truckster so we could tow the trailer with us.  Why bodywork, you may ask?  Well, let me share the story with you……it starts back in March, with a troubled young girl named Britney, and a concert called her Circus Tour.  Seems that Dad taking daughter #2 Alex and one of her friends to Ms. Spears’ concert made daughter #3 Anna Rose feeling a wee bit left out.  So, the ever-resourceful Alex came up with a brilliant idea…..up and coming country/pop star Taylor Swift is putting a tour together, and Anna loves her music, so we should go see her and take Anna this time!  Brilliant!

So, the weekend before St. Lawrence, we head out to State College for Ms. Swift’s concert, and let me just say it was a fantastic show……different than Britney but even more entertaining!  Of course being that far from home we overnighted, and decided to head to Hershey Park for a day of play on the way home.  Every single roller coaster at least once, the best ones twice……but, wait, I digress…….

So, speaking as we were about Pennsylvania wildlife, one of the most beautiful animals we often see are whitetail deer.  From a distance they are fun to watch, and up close, they are even more beautiful.  But up real close, at say, 70 miles per hour, that beauty is truly a fleeting thing as the animal wraps itself around the front bumper of Dave’s truck….indeed we have passed the up close and beautiful stage.   Well tenderized venison, a somewhat modified Dodge pick-em-up truck, and two traumatized daughters – what a way to start the day!

So, we just added one more little thing to the list of “to do’s” for this week – get the fender cut off and put a headlight back in so we can drive!   OK, that got done, and the American crew gathered at IVS Friday morning to load up and start the journey north.  Of course Dave, never being one to let that many hands sit idle, had a short laundry list of fun projects to do before we headed out….what a card that guy is!  So, at 1:00, the gang finally headed out for their scheduled 10:00 departure.  Pretty close, in Dave time.  In fact, knowing where we were heading, it was probably the closest to being on time we’d be for the next three days.

So, back to international business and NAFTA – One of the last things we needed to do before pulling out was to inventory the Dueling Drysuits Demo Tour trailer, which was joining us this weekend for its first international visit.  We have a bunch of folks in the great white north that wanted to try drysuits, so what better way than for us to haul a trailer load of them in with us.  But, rumor has it, there will be a huge hassle at the border, and according to our friends at Whites Manufacturing, it could take two to three days to get across, and you might need the services of a registered import broker to expedite the process – they know this cause they cross the border a few times each year with the Whites factory demo trailer.

Well, you know I like a challenge, but just to cover my derrierre, I opted to have a complete and accurate inventory on the trailer when I crossed.  But I had goals….no broker, no delay at the border…….that whole import thing is well, ‘guidelines’, in my somewhat twisted eyes.  I rolled the dice and headed up a few hours after the rest of the gang, ready for my border challenge.

Well Csaba, and his crew, daughter Niki, John Scott, Mike Noble, Donna Raleigh, crossed the border with no problem, thanks to Csaba’s careful preparation.  John Glodowski and Chris Perry had a similar experience, so the odds were looking good for the Dave-ster and his cargo of potential contraband. 

But before I got to the border, I had 400 miles of threading my way through Labor Day Holiday Weekend police speed traps to look forward to.  Things are looking good, and I am just 25 short miles from the border, when I decide to pull off in the small hamlet of Watertown, NY for a fuel stop.  As I roll down Main Street looking for an open diesel-dispensing gas station, the night explodes in a fury of flashing red and white lights behind me.  Yikes, cheese it, the fuzz!  They must be onto someone…wait, no…they’re onto moi!  “What the heck…..” I drive a little further down the road, just wanting to make really sure it’s me they want, and yep, it’s me they want, so I pull over and jump out of the truck, only to be greeted by not one but two of Watertown’s finest.  Seems I was clocked at 51 mph (with the conversion rate, that’s 95 for our Canadian readers) in a 30 mph zone – geeeeez!  Hmmmm…..need to think fast here…….well, one thing leads to another, turns out they are just starting a public safety dive team here, so we get into talking tactics and training, yadda yadda, you know the drill….bottom line, it ends with slaps on the backs, handshakes, and a stern “Don’t do that again!” “Yes Sir”, I say….and I’m back on my way, this time with directions to the local diesel dealer, courtesy of my new friends.

So I fuel up, and head for my border “encounter”.  I wait my turn and then pull up to the guard shack, shut down the noisy diesel, and engage the suspicious border patroller in some lively banter, using my best Canadian inflection and plenty of “eh’s” at the end of my sentences.  His questions are intense….”Where are you going?”…”What are you going to do?”….”What’s in the truck?”….you get the point.  Of course, it is one guy, heading north for two days of diving, hauling $50,000 worth of Drysuits and 40 scuba tanks in the back of the truck…yep….that math works!  Well viola, it all comes together, and I am “in”….no issues at all with the entire truckload of scuba gear, all those tanks in the back, the Rebreathers, and the trailer full of gear….all for one diver!  This guy clearly needs a refresher in his training, but who am I to suggest that at this point!  Time to boogie onward!  Next stop, Caigers Resort.

So I’m in-country, but there is still one key ceremonial border-crossing task to complete….anyone recall Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves?   Yep, gotta go about marking yet another corner of the IVS universe!  That completed, it’s an easy roll to Caigers and my room for the night.  Csaba has nicely seeded my refrigerator with a couple of icy cold Coors Lights, so I am good for the night!

Saturday morning blossoms as a beautiful sunny day, and Team IVS is ready to do some diving.  Today we are diving purely Canadian wrecks, so we pedal up the road to Brockville, where Wayne has positioned two of his boats for the day.  OK…let me clarify…we are in Canada, and there are rules!  Wayne is only allowed to dock one boat at a time, so one needs to putter just offshore while one loads, and after the first one leaves, only then can the second boat toss a line onto the dock!    Geeeesh!    However, in any case, the folks at 1000 Island Pleasure Diving can’t figure out how to put our group of 25 divers on one boat, so once again we dive as two separate groups – come on Wayne! 

We head out, and our first stop is the wreck of the Daryaw, an inverted steel freighter, 219 ft long, and sunk in 1941 when it struck the shoals and punched a nice hole right through her steel plating.  The wreck is penetrable, but upside down, making it a little dis-orienting.  Depth is about 90 ft. and the current is ripping!  Second stop was the Lillie Parsons, an old wooden schooner, sunk carrying a cargo of coal which is still there tumbling out of the upside down hull.  Depth is 80 ft, and we hot-dropped in on this wreck from upstream, sailing along until we hit the anchor chain which runs from the point of Sparrow Island to the wreck.  A tour of the wreck, and then it’s a head-over-heels drift-tumbling down the wall until you get to a marker rope that lets you know you are approaching a cove.  Quick right turn into the cove, and then it’s a gentle swim in the protected area to get picked up by our dive boat.

Back to dock and we find the Canadian half of our party has disappeared.  Oh well, time to haul tanks, and then a run to Dive Tech for fills.  While the gas is being pumped, we motor on down the road and enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Rapid Valley Restaurant, famous for their buns & delicious poutine, a Canadian delicacy of French fries, smothered in gravy, and piled high with cheese curds (and absolutely not recommended by the American Heart Association!). OK, digestive system properly abused, we pick up our tanks, analyze gas, and head back to the boat for two more dives.  First stop the Muscallonge, an old tug that burned and sunk, sitting upright but fairly wrecked at 99 ft.  Lots of machinery, but not much boat left.  Last stop of the day was the Robert Gaskin, a 132 ft long sailing barque converted to a work barge, which holds the distinction of being one of the only ships on the St. Lawrence River that actually managed to torpedo itself to death.  Seems it was involved in a salvage operation, lifting another sunken ship using steam-filled steel salvage pontoons when one broke free underwater and shot right up through the Gaskin’s hull.  So it sank right there, on top of its work.  No problem, they managed to raise it, only to have it sink, again, same place.  OK, back to the drawing board, raise it again, get it under tow, move about 600 feet, and it sinks a third and final time, coming to rest upright at 70 ft of depth.

Finally we head back in, unload, and make one stop at Dive Tech to drop off our tanks for fills early in the morning.  Dan Humble, the owner, is still there waiting for us, and we know we’re in good hands with this group.  Now, back to Caigers, hoping against hope that there is some food waiting for us there. 

Alas, we arrive, and Mark, the owner & resort manager introduces us to his son, Tyler.  They break the bad news…the food is gone…but the beer is flowing, so OK, we’ll hang, and we spend the next few hours helping educate the young man in all the wrong areas – I hope he was taking notes!  We learned some new Canuck terms, like ‘cougar’ and ‘gilf’, but we’re probably safer not trying to explain them here.

So finally we call it a night, and as we’re heading off to hit the sack, a fellow pops out of one of the rooms and says, in a heavy European accent “hey, do you like to play poker?”  Well gosh, does this sound like something right out of a life lesson?  So Donna, Chris, and our new friend (and Donna-admirer) Christopher from Cleveland decide what the heck….how can this go wrong? Seems the two Ukrainian immigrants are here for the night on a fishing trip, and are looking for some entertainment, so they thought a card game might be fun.  They don’t play seriously, they tell us, so we agree, let’s play.  As we pull up some chairs, one of the guys pulls out an aluminum briefcase, pops it open, and there’s a casino-quality setup of chips, and brand new unopened decks of cards – yeah, they definitely don’t play seriously!  We ante up with a variety of US and Canadian currencies, distribute chips, and start to play.  Donna’s budding beau Christopher sits next to me, and he is truly a babe in the woods with regards to, well at a minimum, late night poker games.  The bidding is fast and furious and in multiple languages, so the excitement is high, and you really need to pay attention!  Never-the-less, we manage to get through an hour or more of Texas Hold’em, and finally only Chris, myself and one of the Ukrainians are still sitting on any chips.  Enough I say, time to re-visit the money, we argue, and finally the pot is divided, and we head off to bed, none the worse (and none the poorer) for the experience.

Finally it’s Sunday morning, and after a quick stop at confession (we won’t name names), we head over to Dive Tech to pick up our tanks from last night and head out for our “8:30 a.m.” trip. Of course, U.S. Customs doesn’t open til 10:00, so the scheduled timing of the trip is a tad optimistic.  John Glow is busy working the Dueling Drysuits Demo Tour, and he has quite a few of our northern friends diving in White’s Fusions that morning.

We load up and find out what some of the noisy activities we heard last night from around the dock were…it was the crew banging the propeller back into shape after the River Diver, our infamous one-engined cruiser from last year, managed to hit a submerged floating log on the way back in last night.  This vessel is truly not blessed!  Is that a bad sign?

But in any case, eternal optimists that we are, we load up, chit chat with the crew for a while, and finally motor over to Boldt Island to present ourselves for re-entry into our homeland.  A big change this year – the customs guy actually gets up out of his chair and comes to visit the boat!  Must be part of Obama’s Health Care Reform, eh?  Woo hoo!!  So we hang out til Officer O’Keefe strolls down, and makes sure each of us have a matching passport that helps ensure the manifest is correct, and we get the big green “Welcome to America” light.  We begin the seven knot, one hour ride against the current towards the Vickery, so it’s a chance to rest, chat and goof off a bit more.  We finally approach the mooring, and this year, everyone, including John Scott, manages to stay on board until we tie up!  We opt for the downstream ball, avoiding the infamous Sherwood ball from last years visit.

So splash we go, and we head down to this intact wooden sailing wreck, 136 ft long, sitting in 120 ft of water.  My plan is to visit the top of the masts, which broke off, and are now hanging upside down at 160 ft of depth.  I am breathing 30% EAN in my back gas, but packing a 40 CF cylinder of air for the deeper portion of the dive.  I leave the wreck, and head down deeper into the channel, exploring the rigging, dead-eyes and hardware still hanging from the top of the masts in the current.  All good, and I am starting to accumulate a bit of a deco obligation, so I head back towards the wreck, explore a bit longer, and now, with almost a 40 minute deco obligation, I begin my ascent.  I make my 80, 70, 60, & 50 foot stops, and I am halfway through my 40 foot deco stop when I decide to give my trusty Cochran dive computer a little tap and check out some of the info on the alternate screen. Bad, bad idea, as the screen goes insane, indicating a new current depth of 534 feet, and a new total ascent time of 4 hours and 13 minutes, and growing. Even worse, because my PO2 is now completely off scale according to the computer, I cannot even see my current depth displayed, making the balance of this lonely deco much more of a challenge!  So, I do my best estimating of depth, trying to visually remember some of the depths I passed through on the way down, and double my deco times to be extra sure.  So, 70 minutes after jumping in, I am finally back on the surface.  Running through the DCS symptoms checklist, I have no funny feelings anywhere, no noticeable slurring (at least without the assistance of Coors Light), no stumbling (again, without assistance) and I am thinking OK, I think I am good. 

We re-cross the border and stop at Canadian Customs to re-enter the country (what a hassle), finally make it to our second location, the Kingshorn (or King Horn, depending on your source of info).  We splash, and on this second dive, I am like a true DIR diver, armed with only a minimalistic set of instruments – a pressure gauge and a wristwatch.  My double 100’s a bit light after the first dive and extended deco, so I strap on my partially depleted 40 CF bottle – heck this dive is only 92 ft deep, how much gas can I need?  It’s a nice 40 minute dive, and I top off my tissues with some fresh nitrogen.  OK, maybe it’s time to head up, since we don’t really know how deep we are, relying on the computers of other divers that I take a peek at while I swim by them (is this in the manual?).  So I make it back to the mooring line, and start to head up. that stage bottle getting a little difficult to breath?   Let me peek……uh oh…..some number in front of that ‘zero’ would be better, however, it is what it is.  Switch back to back gas, and think about how long I might want to take to ascend, keeping in mind my earlier dive experience this morning.  I am putzing along, breathing very slowly, maximizing the remaining gas I have, and think OK, there’s not too many witnesses, and there’s Niki, just above me…..her octo teasing me right there……OK..maybe just a little…..she’s not looking…who’ll know… I sneak the octo and am quietly sitting there, sipping away, noting that she has plenty of gas left, when suddenly there is Donna, camera in hand, immortalizing this moment – me, wearing three tanks, and buddy-breathing.  Nice!  Thanks Donna……within an hour that photo is on Facebook, and the comments come flying in! 

And, for those of you familiar with the Key Largo ‘Z’ Ball, we now have a northern version, tagged the ‘C’ Ball, in honor of our lost little solo diver Csaba, who managed to select the wrong ascent line (from a choice of two!) from the King Horn.  Not to worry, another little secret we’ll keep among ourselves……uh oh…wait….is this blog on the world wide web?  Oooooops!  Sorry Csaba!

Back on board, the River Diver seems to be sitting a little lower in the water than when we boarded this morning, and it has become apparent that we’re running the bilge pumps a whole lot more than usual, so we’re thinking maybe we want to check that out a bit!

Back at the dock, we open up some of the deck hatches and it looks like someone forgot to turn off the garden hose down there, as a veritable stream of water is jetting in from one of the mounting holes for the propeller shaft support struts.  Seems like the excessive vibration we enjoyed all morning from the bent prop also managed to work the strut mounts loose and open up a nice hole right through the bottom of the hull!  Our next wreck dive might be taking place in a few minutes, right here at the dock!

Well, in any case, it’s 4:30 p.m., and we load the tanks back in the truck [again] and head over to Dive Tech for refills.  Today, however, we opt for a run down the interstate to Wendy’s for lunch/dinner, so our culinary turn-around time is a tad better than yesterdays.  Back to Dive Tech, pick up tanks, and back to Caigers for our “2:30 p.m.” afternoon boat trip.

But wait….the adventure continues, as the River Diver is NOT going back out, seeing as how it is trying it’s hardest to sink right at the dock.  OK…crank up the cell phone, get a hold of Wayne, and he is still on the river, thinking he is working his last dive of the day.  Well so much for that plan Wayne, Team IVS is ready to dive, so he and the lovely Chantal agree to come back and get us.

So now it’s actually 8:00 p.m., and we are heading out for our afternoon dives.  Yep, truly we are on Canadian time here!  Of course U.S. Customs closed a few hours ago, so there is no going back to America now.  We opt to head up to the Ash Island Barge, and do a fairly disorganized drift dive down the river from upstream, with our end point being the barge.  Well, here is where all that pre-dive safety check stuff comes into play.  We’re sitting along a steep wall, in almost 300 ft of water.  I drop down, and am at 100 ft on the wall, in the dark, when I see a diver literally tumbling down the wall towards me.  I reach out, and the combination of my hand and his grip on the wall finally stops Chris from dropping into the abyss.  Seems his BC inflator hose is not attached, and I am sensing he is over-weighted, so that can make for a deadly combo, especially when you add in the fact that it is 9:30 at night and pitch black, not to mention a pretty high current being present too!  You get the picture.   Well we manage to get him hooked up, and back in control, breathing back to normal, and ready to start the drift dive.  We sail along for about 40 minutes, and finally come upon the barge at 97 ft.  That’s our signal to ascend so we work our way up the line and back on board.  Donna and Niki had splashed first a few minutes ahead of me, and I am wondering, why are they already on board, undressed, and almost dry?  Hmmmmm…..seems the girls had managed to enjoy a higher level of anxiety on this dark, fast dive, and ended up holding hands the entire time as they kicked themselves to the end to get out of the water as quickly as possible, managing to cover the 40 minute dive in only 15 minutes!   

Back on board, we hold a little meeting and talk about how we are going to better plan our next dive, which is even later at night, on an even blacker river.  Not only that, this is another wall drift dive, and there is no distinct target, like the barge, to mark the end of the dive.  Safety is pretty important and a good plan will help maximize that.  The girls, still terrified from their first dive, and just getting the feeling back in their hands from gripping each other so tightly, opt to sit this one out, so the rest of us plan our dive – 40 ft for 40 minutes, starting with a coordinated hot drop into the river.  We splash, descend, and enjoy our most relaxing and organized dive of the weekend, all popping back up right there at the boat.  Great way to end the weekend! 

Monday and the crew is moving even slower than usual.  The Canadians are gone, and half of the remaining team can’t muster another dive.  No comment!  We head over to Dive Tech, top off a few cylinders, hugs & high fives for the guys there, and then caravan back across the border.  “Where are you coming from”, asks the America border agent. I’m sorry, but I can’t resist….”Canada”, I offer.  “What were you doing?”…….duh…….”Diving”.  “Who were you diving with?”…I lean out the window, re-read the name on the side of the truck…..and answer respectfully “Indian Valley Scuba”.  A few more minutes of this intense grilling, until he is satisfied he has gathered enough facts, and finally we pass the test!  Back in America! 

J-Glow, John Scott, Chris Perry and I roll into Alexandra Bay and set up camp, and the Dueling Drysuits Demo trailer, along the river at the A-Bay dive park.  We chat with the locals, make a few new friends, and gear up for a dive along the Islander, and old side-wheeler that burned and sunk here in 1909.  IT sits right next to shore, with a max depth of 60 ft, and lots of structure still intact.  Good final dive of the trip, and we finally pack the gear for the last time.  Of course, this is the big Labor Day Bash weekend in A-Bay, so we park the truck in town, and stroll down to see the bands performing along the water, while enjoying lunch at a local eatery on the dock.  Some more laughs, some more stories shared, and finally, we call it a weekend and complete the journey home.


Technical Training Galore! It never stops at IVS! Puerto Rico, Canada, and Harleysville – working together to build the best divers ever!




This week finds all corners of the Indian Valley Scuba empire alive and kicking with Technical Training opportunities of all sorts.  We are at Dutch Springs this coming weekend, with plans to complete an entire array of technical courses, including Intro to Tech, Advanced Nitrox, Deco Procedures, and Rebreather Training, and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

For you ‘Ghostbuster’s fans out there, we had three of our light beams cross this week in Harleysville, and you know what that means!   Tony Cerezo, IVS-Puerto Rico, and Jim Cormier, IVS-Canada, found themselves at the Center of the Scuba Diving Universe, and spent the week working alongside Dave Valaika and the rest of the Harleysville staff, teaching the whole gamit of tech classes from TDI, IANTD, and RAID.  And, our PADI programs were hopping every night too, with National Geographic Open Water, Nitrox, Specialty Certifications, and Advanced Open Water classes every night of the week.  It is truly amazing to see and experience this international group working together to help build the best divers ever!  And the accents aren’t bad either!  Between Spanish, English, and even Canadian being spoken eh, you never knew how to respond!

Look for TEAM IVS at Dutch Springs this weekend, diving and laughing and grilling – just us, being, well, us!

IVS at Beneath the Sea

Every year at this time the dive community in the greater northeast U.S. gathers for a special three day event, the Beneath the Sea show and expo.  Seminars, training opportunities, destinations, dive manufacturers, and of course, everyone;s favorite dive shop, Indian Valley Scuba, is there for all to see.

This is our third year exhibiting at this consumer event, and our biggest yet, with three booths dedicated to bringing the IVS message to the masses.  As the audience continues to take notice, so do the manufacturers – so much in fact, that this year Cochran, Armor, Halcyon, Pterydactyl, and Bottom Crawlers all opted to not have their own booth, but to bring thier products and representatives to staff the IVS booth. 

And this year we had an even more special guest – the new Poseidon Rebreather!!  Indian Valley Scuba is honored to be the only stocking dealer of the Poseidon rebreather in the Northeast US! And, our Puerto Rico IVS location is also the Poseidon dstributor for the entire Carribean region!  Want to dive one?  Call us! 

On Saturday we had 26 members of Team IVS in the booth, spreading the message, sharing the joy, and inviting others to get on board the IVS train.  From training to travel to great gear deals, there was something for everyone at the IVS booths.  This year we released our sixteen page training catalog to a very receptive audience, along with the IVS “sign up / show up” guarantee.  This is our exclusive commitment to program scheduling, where we truly stand behind our word by ensuring that even if only one student signs up for a class, we will run that class!  Crazy? Maybe.  Committed? Yes!!

After the show closed on Saturday evening, our own Frank Gabriel took us out to dinner at a fantabulous Portuguese restaurant right in downtown Newark.  What a treat to see a table of two dozen members of the IVS family laughing, joking, & eating to our hearts content!   And after that dinner, half of us caravaned over to Frank & Isabel’s home where we were treated to dessert, after-dinner libations, and a chance to play in Frank’s ultimate toy room – his garage!  “Drivemaster” Dave West lead us back to our hotel, OK, tried to lead us back, but finally we all made it back to catch a few zzz’s before sunrise.

Sunday morning kicked off to an even stronger start, and the crowd never thinned out.  We were honored to have six of the eight IVS locations represented at the show over the weekend, and were amazed at the number of old friends visiting and new friends made over the two and a half days!  As always, our fresh hot Philadelphia soft pretzels were a hit, and we gave over a thousand of them away during the show!  In addition to our regulars, we especially want to thank Joe Garvin for his continued support, working hard to spread the word about Indian Valley Scuba to so many – it’s great to know we have such a warm place in his heart!

Look for an even bigger presence at next year’s BTS show – we already put our reservations in for four booths!  

IVS-North heads….well, South!

Posted by Eric Kerr & that Canadian guy, Jim Cormier

If it’s a day ending in “y” then it must be a day for diving somewhere in the Indian Valley Scuba universe, and today was no exception!  The face of IVS-North, our very own James Cormier, with sidekick Eric Kerr, lead a group of 16 divers down for a week of unlimited diving at his favorite Roatan hangout, Fantasy Island Resort.  Started at 0330 this morning at the hotel, and enjoyed an eventful check in at the airport. We boarded Skyservice for the non-stop flight down Roatan and the Aircraft Captain was an old pilot buddy I flew with twenty years ago. Had a chat with him about our old military days.  Landed in Roatan at 1010 and an uneventful customs entry and off to the resort. We were put in my favorite section close to the dive shack and the boats but our room had a single Queen-size bed. OOOOOPPPSS!!!. We are good friends but not that good. I used my connections and had that changed tootsie sweet for sure.

I smooth talked them into letting Eric and I dive on the first day and again no problem. Eric had an IVS 4/3 suit on with 10 lbs of weight for the dive. SO I asked are you sure your good with your weight. Oh Ya! Off we go on the skiff to out on the reef wall instead of going off from the Gazebo close to shore. Nice back roll entry and I start down and at about 15 feet I look back and here is Eric trying like hell to get down. Definitely underweighted so I gave him 3 lbs of mine which put me just under the edge but had to get back to the Gazebo which was about 400 or 500 yards. Of course we can’t, or more realistically won’t do that on the surface. We are divers, professionals well trained at IVS.  So we just decided to hide the fact and stay down. Count one for IVS team eh! That ended up being the first dive of twenty minutes. Fortunately no was around anyway.
After got another 10 lbs of weight we started the second dive off the Gazebo and went in to the lagoon. In 20 minutes we were out the tide had started moving in and brining in fresh water which helped the vis jump to about 75 to 100 feet. We saw several squid and a couple of nice big Green Morays. I showed Eric the wreck of the Prince Albert that sits in the laggon off the resort and the aircraft wreck that sits in there where the Sgt Majors are busy guarding there eggs right now. This was a nice 40 minutes. We got out, logged the dives and waited an hour and a half to do another dive.
Next dive we went back out further around the reef on Newmans wall which is on the resort side of Fantasy Island. The vis was fantastic.At least 100 feet or better with all the fresh water being brought in by the current. When I say current, I mean you would not even notice it. Not like those rippers we had on Vancouver Island after drinking that expensive Canadian Coors Light. Lots of marine life here to see. Schools of fish and healthy corals. All of Roatan is classed as a Marine Park. Eric was enjoying this dive alot more but starting to get chilled towards the end. Just did the diving and getting the poor guy used to being in the water again after so long. Hopefully he can stick with all the dives I have planned.
Day 1 – Big day Saturday to get Eric through his DM stuff.  Some good one on one so he should be primed for the classroom when he gets back. Planning on at least thirty dives for this week. He is going to be taking lots of pic’s with his new camera so we will try to send any good ones back as soon as we can.  The internet is snail slow here, so these reports are painful to send!  Eric is really enjoying the ease of diving down here for sure and is going to start working on for next year.

Second dive was on Valley of The Kings dive site. I was in first again and went off on my own towards the wall to wait for everyone. I ended up staying there by myself and grabbing some great shots of some Jaw Fish and several other species that just seem to want to pose for pic’s. Without all the noise of the other divers they were quite placid that I could within a couple of inches of some of them. Just wish I did not have the 2 second shutter lag on my camera. No problem, that why they made those large memory sticks.  Just take tons of shots and delete them later. After 45 minutes all the fish scattered and I could hear the sound of all the bubbles. I looked up and all the divers were right above me.  All done for that site.

Dive 3 had us out diving “Mr. Bud” an old shrimp trawler that was purposly sunk for divers. It is always a fun dive with safe penatration points all over. There is a great wall just past the wreck. Sometimes you can find a sea horse close buy. Eric was finally well enough to do this one with me. Sending a pic of the two of us on the wreck. Found a rare tube coral species that is only found apparently on the meso american reef here. I have only seen three of them on all the diving I have done here. Got some pics and sending one on to you.

Eric and I are having a great time can’t wait to model those new t-shirts for Beneath the Sea!Day 3 –  Jim and I are on our second full day here and the sun is shining much brighter and warmer than the one reflecting off the snow there. It was 86 today and water is 80 much warmer then the melted snow water there in Harleysville ( sorry can’t help myself). Another 4 dives today with some pictures (coming w/email). We have met people from France, Italy and of course some Canadians. One of the nice things here is that you can dive as much as you want and whenever you want. Today, for example, three boat dives with Free Nitrox and on our way back the captain dropped us of on top of a wreck called Prince Albert and we spent some time there then hit the air plane and followed the reef back to the gazebo. They have six large dive boats and a small skiff that they will run you out to reefs and let you work your way back. This is an ideal place for family’s that have both divers and none divers, the beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and there are even thing for kids to do. The monkeys are cute and love sugar packets and the Pina Colada’s. Even with the airfare to Toronto the trip is about $1600 and that also includes all your meals, alcohol (though of course we don’t drink much) and priceless views. I do have one complaint so far…….. I have not found a mermaid yet. I will not give up though. I did meet Saffron though, who is Indian Valley Scuba’s coordinator at the headquarters of The Public Safety Divers Association. Small world!
 Now with that all said we started at 9am and were first in and last out. We headed East along the wall and saw Nudibranc
h, parrot fish, lobster, schools of fish, rare tube sponge, juvinile File Fish and a Sea Horse. There was more but I don’t want to bore everyone. There was a quite comical moment when a larger woman dropped down on top of Jim and got his head stuck between her legs, I mean thighs and of course I missed that picture.
For the last dive, there was only four of us and we went out to a reef called The Missing Link, v
isibility was about 100ft and the marine life was phenominal. On our way back we were dropped off in the lagoon on the wreck of the Prince Albert. Two guys from Calgary joined us, I gave the briefing and I lead them to the wreck and the plane and then to the gazebo just as any future Dive Master would and even had to help a trouble diver. Jim was supervising me and said I did very well. Another tick towards my DM cert. Well another day is done but our goal tomorrow will be 3 Nitrox and 2 air dives it is really hard but we will do it for IVS. Well our work is done for another day, its hard but we do it for the good of IVS. Oh yeah Bev I miss our multi-weekly visits.,

Day 4 – Started by getting up and making our long 30 yard walk from our room to the dive boat to drop our gear on our way to breakfast. After breaky, back to the room for a quick change and out on the boat for our next exciting adventure. Eric is doing his Divemaster stuff and with 20 people on the boat in the mornings, he is getting the chance to see a lot of different diving styles. Mostly right and wrong ways to put gear together, enter/exit the water, buoyancy and weighting problems etc. With one on one training with an instructor on the boat, Eric will be well be prepared.

We hit “Gold Chain Reef” in 3 foot waves. This reef is known for its reef which appears like thousands of stags horns thrown over the side of the boat littering the bottom. It if quite spectacular. Small marine life is abundant and several schools of fish. Swimming along we saw a couple of green morays and a rare species of yellow tube worm. It is only by itself and about 2 – 3 inches tall. Looks like a yellow mushroom with a hole down the middle of it. %% minutes later we are back on the boat for the 5 minute ride back to get some more gas in the tanks.

Quick stop for more tanks and back out at 11:00 with 6 less people as it seems to be the norm. Another 15 minute trip out to a site further down the island to Pirates Point. The wall here starts at about 35′ and the fan corals a re fairly healthy along with all the marine species. In the four years I have been coming to Roatan, I have definitely noticed the marine life getting healthier in the last 3 years since has been declared a Marine Park. Much of the same on this dive as the rest.

Eric and I had 1500 lbs. left in the tanks so on the way back I had the Captain drop us off on Coco View Wall by the lagoon. We dropped in and went down to 60 feet for the swim along the wall towards the lagoon. There are some spectacular overhangs along the wall and when you are under them you roll onto your back and look up. With the sun shining straight down it is absolutely breath taking. Usually by the end of the week there are several more people going in with me on this dive and all of them are usually thrilled after the dive. After about 15 minutes you stay at or slightly above 60 feet when you come to a large sandy area. This will lead you to the back of the Prince Albert. This is the 160″ Ship Wreck in the lagoon. It is perfect for doing Wreck training and penetration diving as it is well prepared. There is one hold up the front to avoid as it has some ragged metal inside but the rest is fine. You swim along the top of the wreck to the bow and  just about 20 yards of the left (port) is the Plane Wreck. The bow and the plane sit at 40 feet. The plane is at the bottom edge of Newman’s Wall which is on our side of the Fantasy Island Resort. Usually as you approach the plane you can see Sergeant Majors guarding their nests of eggs. They will make a threatening attempt at scaring you away but nothing comes of it. You will see round patches all over which will be in various stages. It is an interesting site to see the progression every day. From the plane you follow a cable line along the wall which takes you back to the Gazebo. I normally go up the wall to around 20 feet to do a long safety shop and get rid of more of that nasty nitrogen load before lunch. You arrive at the Gazebo and usually it is around a 40 minute dive just before lunch. Drop your tank there, walk back along the beach to the boats, drop your gear, get changed, go for lunch, back to get changed and gear up for the next trip out at  14:30.

Everything put together for the next dive out to “Valley of The Kings”. This site is right near “Gold Chain Reef”. It is a reef which looks like a whole bunch of leaf lettuce. It is really cool when you reach the west end of the reef as it turns into “Gold chain Reef” with all the “Stag Horn Corals”. Not much different to see on this reef. This is close to News Wall so after this dive we got them to drop 4 of us on the wall for the swim back to the lagoon and the Gazebo. Newman’s wall has some nice swim through if you get dropped far enough along the wall away from the lagoon. It is a nice 40 minute dive. You can swim along the wall at around 40 feet until you see the bottom start to rise sharply in front of you and there is to large pinnacles to your right. Follow this up to 25′ where you will find the anchor chain for the channel marker. You can stay along the wall back to the Gazebo or head 030 at 25′ which will take over to the wheelhouse of the Prince Albert. You do the same as the last dive. Up to the bow, plane and back to the Gazebo. A nice end to the day of diving with 5 easy dives under you belt.

Dinner starts at 18:30 – 2100 so lots of time for a shower or get suited up for a twilight dive at 18:00. The dive shop closes at 17:00 but a guy stays to fill tanks and look after divers. He will run you out in the Skiff and drop you right over the wreck or on the walls if you like. So that’s what we did. We had 3 other people join us for a dive on Newman’s Wall then over to the wreck. Did not see to much exciting on this dive. It was a little too early. Probably should have waited another half hour. Oh well still counts as a dive.

Sitting in the bar we met a couple of guys from Calgary Alberta who were on another boat. Had some good chat time with them then went to dinner. Food was again, great! Hit the racks at around 2230.

Day 5 – Eric woke with a bit of a Migraine this morning. Must be from talking to the two guys from Alberta. We persevered and joined the crowd of 20 and went diving anyway out to “Mary’s Place”. This is a popular dive site often listed in the dive magazines. It is about 20 minutes down the island to the reef. The top starts at around 20 feet then you go down along the wall and enter the swim through at about 80 feet and swim along ascending to about 50 feet. Here you turn left and enter another swim through which rises up to about 35′. At this point, I like to come around on to the top of the reef where you see all the bubbles coming up through the coral which likes you are swimming a champagne glass. It is spectacular for pictures. Saw a Golden Moray swimming along with a Coney doing some hunting. Nice to observe the symbiotic relationship between the two.  Always a neat dive, and we’re back on the boat for the 20 minute trip back. We seem to be always a little late getting back so we tanked up quick for the trip at 11:00 but is now closer 11:30.

Hit the water at 11:50 at “Inside Outside”. This reef is around 40 feet and the mooring point is attached to an old tractor. You can usually find the odd Green Moray swimming around on this reef. As it was, shortly into the dive I found a moray swimming towards me along the wall. Got a couple of nice pic’s before it got away. As the site is only 5 minutes away, we made it a 55 minute dive and then back for lunch. No drop on this dive into the lagoon. Back at the dock for 1300 so get down for lunch and get ready for the next dive.

Well after another great lunch, back at the boat for the 14:30 departure out to “Peters Point”. This was 5 minutes past “Mary’s Place”. I have done this one as a drift dive before where we swim West along the reef at least 3 or 4 mooring points and the boat just follows along and picks divers up as their air runs out. It is quite nice as the reef wall is a nice slope to it so you go whatever depth you want along the wall. There are some Barrel corals here that are taller than 8′. You could put a man inside one.

 Day 6 – Well here we go again. A rather rough looking day today. We decided to skip the first dive as Eric is still fighting his migraine. Just as well, it turns out there are at least 9 foot waves today. I talked to the Divemaster Derry when they came back and it was terrible getting people back on the boat. Even the “Divemasters” as Eric refers to them as the “Frumpkins” as they don’t say too much when you say hey or anything. We decided to go out on the second dive at 11:00.  We put our gear on the boat and got everything ready to go. A lot of people bailed on the rest of the dives so there were only 7 of us. The DM was making people put their fins o and walking from the front to back of the boat in 9 foot seas. I told them they were just asking for trouble. We went out to “Gold Chain Reef” and I talked the DM into just doing a drop and we would have everyone follow us back to the west channel into the lagoon on the west side and get picked up where it was calm. He liked the idea and so we did the dive and had great time as we were more relaxed knowing e did not have to worry about how rough it was going to be getting back on the boat. Derry really liked this dive and felt it was more relaxing for him also. We got back to the dock and as it turned out we were told that the one of the two guys we met from Calgary. The ones wife had fallen on the boat and broke her femur walking to the back of the boat with her fins on. We  almost had the same thing on our boat.

We went for lunch and got back for the afternoon dive. We went out to “Valley of the Kings”. Eric and I looked at the conditions and decided we would just swim along the wall east back to “Newman’s Wall” and back to the gazebo. The rest were going to do the reef and get back on the boat. Found after they wished they had gone with Eric and I. It took us a nice leisurely 35 minutes to get to the corner of “Newman’s Wall” and as we were coming around the corner, a beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray was coming straight towards us. This was a really nice dive and we stretched it out to over an hour by swimming across to the wreck then over to “Cocoview Wall” were we spent about 10 minutes then made our way back to the wreck a towards the Gazebo.

After we dropped our tanks at the Gazebo and walked back to the room we had a nice talk about the ray. We were really excited. We have seen Southern Stingrays in the lagoon but this was a first for me. Had a lot f fun in the bar again trying to get some writing done but again the internet was painfully slow.

 Day 7  – We started out same as always but today is the last day of diving. Today I make dive 4800. The plan was for the second dive was #4800. As always I like to write stuff on the bottom of the scuba tanks for fun so I picked my Nitrox tank to write “Jim’s dive #4800” and when I turned the tank to start writing on it, I noticed I had my wife’s tank which she had done her #100th dive with. How ironic is that! I gave that one to Eric and took another one. We took pictures for the occasion. Did our regular routine on the dives at 11:00 and dropped off to give us both 22 and 19 dives each.  The rest of the day spent drying the gear and having a few drinks to end the week.

Day 8 – Up early for a 0730 departure from the hotel. Pretty uneventful with this charter, as hoped for. We got to the airport, cleared customs, paid our $34.00 departure tax and sat for 2 hours waiting to leave. Boarded the airplane a half hour late and arrived unscathed 4 hours later in Toronto at 1630.  All in all a pretty good trip, and we’re already planning next trip down for the 2nd week in Feb 2010 if anyone wants to join us. Sure can’t beat the price.

                                                        Eric and that Canadian guy 



Dyslexia hits Dutch – 47 on top, 74 below!


It was our next to last trip of the season to local watering hole Dutch Springs this weekend, and the weather certainly made it clear to us why this is the next to last trip of the season for us – it was 47 degrees this morning!!  And windy!  My hands are so cold I can’t even type this!

In spite of that, we had a great turnout, spent more time in the water than the cold air, and kept the soup and hot chocolate pots going all day on the grill!

When are we going back to Key Largo???? 



IVS North cleans up – literally!

Team IVS, Canadian version, spent last weekend doing another major Project Aware cleanup on the Trent River in Trenton, Ontario.  Nine intrepid souls showed up and managed to haul 737 lbs of trash & garbage out of the river, in less than one hour of diving!   The bootie included a couple of bicycles, a shopping cart, some tires, hundreds of bottles and cans, and lots of smaller things.  Needless to say, the river bottom looks a lot better, and the fish were thankful!   It was a great day, with the air and water temp in the low 70’s.  Some of the crew included IVS-North MSDT James Cormier, assisted by his lovely bride Peg, and Patrick Muldoon with his kids Patrick Jr and Beatrice.  Muldoon is an 8th grade teacher and has asked Jim to come give a Project Aware presentation at his school and to schedule another cleanup day as an environmental project for his class – way cool, eh?  Check the IVS website for the cleanup photos!

IVS takes over Canada! The Great White North will never be the same, eh?


If it’s Labor Day it must be time for IVS to visit the St. Lawrence Seaway!  And visit we did, with a contingent of eleven Americans and nine Canadians converging on Caigers Resort in Mallorytown, Ontario for a four day dive-a-thon.  James Dahlberg, Sherwood Probeck, Csaba Lorinczy, Sue Douglass, Donna Raleigh, John Glowdowski, and I, as well as John Scott, who was traveling under a one-day pass from his lovely bride, Theresa, enjoyed motoring up in a convoy Thursday evening.  We stopped off at Bingham’s Diner and enjoyed a great meal, even buying up a few loaves of the fresh baked banana-nut bread to enjoy between dives later in the weekend.  A hundred miles later, Csaba was our driver and designated speaker with a heavy Hungarian accent as we passed through the Canadian border patrol station, and let’s just say we should have rehearsed a little bit before letting him lead us into Canada.  Maybe the first hint was on the way up, when he said “We are going to Canada?”.  When asked by the border agent where we were going, he drew a blank on the resort name and town.  When asked where everyone was from, a second blank.  Hmmm…not off to a good start.  He did finally get it figured out and we passed the test, being allowed into Canada, in spite of the fact that we were carrying weapons (dive knives) after Csaba assured them that they were “very little knives”.  Note to self:  team briefing before the next border crossing!  We finally arrived late that night at the resort and were greeted by some of the friendliest resort staff we have ever encountered.  The folks at Caigers are unbelievably accommodating, and we are thrilled already with our lodging choice.  And to top it off, they have some fine imported beer on tap at the bar, Coors Light!!  I’m in heaven!

Friday started off with us getting our tanks filled first thing in the morning at Divetech, in Mallorytown.  Owner Dan Humble and his staff turned out to be a tremendous asset on this trip!  This is a technical dive center in the middle of Ontario province, on a country road, fantastic service, great inventory, with no water in sight – an amazing resemblance to Indian Valley Scuba.  Multiple compressors, over 200 bank bottles for gas storage, two Haskel pumps to top off oxygen to 3,000 psi – these guys are VERY serious about filling scuba tanks with everything from air to trimix to argon.  We really feel at home here with this group.   Before we knew it our 20 tanks were filled with Nitrox, analyzed, and loaded back on the truck for the 20-minute ride back to the resort.  Sweet!

While we were hard at work, John Scott was on the phone for his 11th? 12th? 13th? call to his wife, and got the green light to stay and do the afternoon dives too, rather than just the morning!  Way to go John!

Back at Caigers, we loaded the boat with our tanks and gear, and then reviewed the manifest which had been electronically forwarded to U.S. Customs.  This is an amazing complicated and absolutely BS-laden process designed, I hope, to protect our borders from those invading scuba divers, but alas it really seems to simply provide a job to a lazy civil service employee, specially selected from a special genetic pool to ensure they have zero personality, zero incentive and zero motivation to get things done in any fashion other than slower-than-molasses.  Once we ensure the manifest is correct, we fire up the engines and head over to the US Border Patrol station located on the dock at Boldt Castle Island.  Our captain goes to the window, they bring up our manifest on the computer, print out the obligatory multiple copies, and then, with their official GSA-issue little black pen, they make the official checkmark on multiple official copies of the manifest as each diver stands before the agent and holds up their passport to match the face and name with the divers listed on the manifest.  Amazingly, each of us looks like the diver listed on the manifest so we are allowed to re-board our boat and head out to dive on a wreck which happens to lay on the US side of the bottom of this riverway.  Friggin amazing, but sadly, true.  And, it gets even better!

Once we have been cleared to transit from Canada into the US to tie our boat to a mooring in the middle of this river that just happens to be on the US side of the invisible dotted line that runs down the middle of the river, we can do the dive.  However, when we are done, and start to head back across that dotted line again into Canadian waters, we must stop, and the captain needs to call the Canadian Customs from a “designated phone” and let them know they brought us back into the country.  So if dive #2 is on a Canadian wreck, we need to travel to a dock where one of those “designated phones” are located, make the call, then head back out to the dive site and do what we came to do.  And of course, the borders have been kept safe for all!   

OK, I feel better now…let’s talk about diving!    

Back to Friday – our boat is loaded, manifest checked, customs paperwork is reviewed, and we are ready to head out.  Our crew for the day is Captain and owner of Thousand Island Pleasure Diving, Wayne Green, assisted by his young and wonderful captain-in-training, Chantal.  This team was perfect and sync’d with the IVS gang within moments.  This was going to be a good day.  So we motored out, and stopped at US Customs,   processed through quickly, and headed out to the wreck of the Keystorm.  This steel canal boat, measuring 250 feet long and 42 ft wide was built in 1910, and was less than two years old when she ran aground on a foggy night at Scow Island Shoals, and sank with no loss of life.  She sits nearly upright in 118 ft of water, and her tall intact profile and easy penetration makes this a great dive for all advanced and technical dives alike.  The wreck provides lots of opportunities for penetration with minimal entanglement issues.  Our second location was also in US waters, and was the America, a former drilling barge that flipped over and sunk in 1932 while it was drilling and blasting the rocky shoals to widen the shipping channel.  As it blasted the rock one of the four legs that were extended down to stabilize the barge was kicked out, and the barge capsized and ended up settling up inverted on the bottom at 78 ft.  This wreck sits right in the shipping channel so the entry is on the shoals at 30 ft and then follow a permanent guide line about 100 yards to the wreck site.  A good wreck for fish, with lots of walleye, perch, and large sheepshead.

Back to the dock, we make the required call to Customs, and disembark to unload tanks and grab some lunch.  A quick run over to Divetech, filling 20-plus tanks, and back to Caigers.  For lunch we stop in and meet Darlene at the Mallorytown Diner, a Canadian version of a greasy spoon sort of diner, suffering from some identity confusion about whether it is a diner or a pizza parlor.  Let’s just say we enjoyed Darlene a lot more than the food.  After lunch we re-board the boat and head out at 6:30 for our scheduled 1:30 afternoon dive , this time to dive on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence, negating the need to involve U.S. Customs and all that goes along with it.  Felix Gryn has arrived and  opts to join us on our night dives.  Our selected dive site was the Kingshorn, a wooden sailing barge that sunk in 1897 while being towed as part of a convoy of seven barges loaded with grain.  Only three of the barges actually made it to port, with the others lost somewhere in the dark abyss of the main channel which is in excess of 300 ft deep in places.  Some of you may recall this divesite as the the last known invasion of Canada, which was accomplished last year and ended up wht the IVS crew being summarily arrested and detained in Canadian Customs until they realized we were but harmless and misinformed scuba divers from America.  Well this year, instead of the half hour internment and rush of excitement, we opted for the far more conventional and waaaaay more slow process of actually informing the other country that we were coming in for a visit.  Next time, go back to Plan A!  Anyhows, this wooded wreck offers a fairly intact hull, sitting in about 90-120 ft of water, upright and easily penetratable.  We dropped in at 6:55, enjoying the dive at twilight, and ending as a night dive.  We hung out on the boat for a short surface interval (thank goodness for dive computers and Nitrox), then revisited the wreck for a true night dive, going in at 9:00 in the evening.  Another good hour-long dive, with Donna and her buddy John G giving us a nice unplanned macrame performance in tieing yourself up while trying to practice using a reel at night for penetration.   No harm, no foul and everyone came out of the wreck wiser for the exercise.  

Back at the resort, Mark the owner and his fine staff take care of us at the bar, keeping the libations flowing well into the evening.  You can imagine that the Indian Valley Scuba gang brings just a little more energy, excitement and late-night laughter to a resort that normally caters to a more mundane crowd of early-morning fishermen and their families.  Finally it’s off to bed, get some well-deserved rest, and be ready for the a.m.

John S managed to rack up a few more hours of international cell phone charges, but it resulted in him getting his pass extended to the morning dive trip.

Saturday morning we start off with another tank-filling run to Divetech, hauling and humping another 22 steel tanks and doubles in for filling and reloading them into the IVS truckster.  Back at Caigers, we repeat the boat loading process, and this time we board a different boat than we had yesterday.  Different in many ways, perhaps the most important one being that although both boats were equipped with two inboard engines, only yesterday’s boat actually had both engines operating!  Broken boats seem to be an IVS tradition, so what the heck, we load up and begin to prepare to slowly head out to visit our friends at US Customs to seek permisssion to come home to dive for the morning.  Except, a quick review of the manifest shows that we had missed the 24-hour advance window to notify U.S. Customs that John Scott had gotten permission to visit America again, so it was hold the boat, bacak to the computer, re-send a revised manifest and make some sort of official phone call, and finally, finally we are ready to depart.  Except now, with that circus behind us, we tell John in no uncertain terms that he owes us the afternoon dive, so he might as well recharge his cell phone battery now in preparation of the call(s) he’ll have to make to his wife. 

OK, the mooring lines are untied, and we start to motor out towards the border.  Our boat was joined by a another vessel, this one loaded a bunch of Canadians, led by IVS-North instructor Jim Cormier.  The group included Jim, his lovely wife Peg, and kids Sarah and Matthew, along with Earl ‘the hugger’ McLean, Brian Post, Steve Mueller, John Beck, Brian McPherson, and Steve’s lovely counterpart, Brenda.  Needless to say, our progress was much slower so we waved goodbye to our northern neighbors as they quickly pulled away from our boat.  Customs today was far less simple than yesterday, being Saturday of Labor Day weekend, and also by virtue of the fact that it was approaching noon by the time we arrived. Progress is amazingly slow, and the experience is the same as yesterday, only slower.  No welcome home hugs for us from the Customs agent, boo hoo.

Once we clear customs, we begin to head upstream to the Vickery.  The boat is making about 6 knots, and the current is running about 5 knots, so you can do the math here.   You can almost here the Gilligan’s Island theme song “three hour tour” as we plod slowly towards the dive site.  Thank goodness it is a beautiful day and the scenery along the river is phenomenal, so there is plenty to look at and enjoy.  Our captain for the day, Rick, has something to say about everything we see on both sides of the river, but unfortunately, most of it is wrong or has no ending.  Interesting to spend your entire life working on this river and being so clueless about what you look at each day.  It’s a little past one now, and we have the dive site mooring in sight now.  We are excited and start to slip into wetsuits and re-check the gear.  Putt-putt-putt, we’re almost there, when suddenly with a look of shock and amazement in his eyes, John “first in the water, whether we’re at the dive site or not” Scott falls off the back of the dive boat into the river!  Well we immediately roll into our man-overboard drill, and question whether we want to tell the captain since it has taken so long to get this close to the dive site, and to go back for John would mean we would have to retrace a good chunk of our route.  Well after a quick vote and a rock/paper/scissors tie-breaker, we decide to turn around and get John.  We pull his sorry butt back on board, and he knows the incident is blog-worthy material already.

With all divers now re-accounted for on-board we finally make it to the mooring and tie into the wreck.  Our selection for this dive is the Vickery, a 136 ft long schooner that struck the shoals and sunk in 1889.  She lies on a sloping rocky bottom from 65 to 120 feet in depth.  Off the stern the two masts invite divers to travel down to a little over 150 ft to see the crows nest and rigging that lie near the extreme end of them.  The current is smoking here, so careful use of wreck reels and using the wreckage to shield yourself is key to a safe dive experience.  The rudder is a dramatic site at the stern, rising almost 15 ft vertically.  Very nice dive overall, and it was finally time to head back to our boat.  Well, time for most of us to go back to our boat, as Sherwood “Inspector Gadget’ Probeck opted for mooring line #2, heading off to make new friends on another boat, and helping take a little of the blog pressure off John Scott for his earlier escapade. This makes Sherwood 0-for-2 on making it back to the boat he jumped off of.  We are confident we can improve that this weekend!

Once roll is taken, Captain Rick suggests a dive site that is even further upstream from where we are, and we unilaterally tell him he is out of his freakin’ mind if he is thinking about plodding any further against the current in the S.S. Minnow.  That being said, he says he has another site for us, and we turn the boat downstream and make some decent headway down the river.  We cruise along for a while, and I think perhaps it might be wise to see what ideas are rolling around in our captain’s head with regards to dive #2.  So I head up to the bridge and we talk about the site, and what is there, and why we might enjoy it.  Then I ask what country the site is located in, and he says “Canada”.  “Wait one cotton-picking minute here, you mean we have to go back to shore and tie up while we are making that call from that “designated phone” and requesting entry back into Canada??  I don’t think so.  Stop the boat!”  “Where are we now?”  “America?”  “Yes”. “Good.  We are going to drift dive the wall right along the island that we are passing, right now.”  “Well we never dove here” he says.  “Well you are about to”, I say.  So we gear up, jump in, and drop down for a pretty cool drift dive along Deer Island, which is owned by some secret society that Captain Rick couldn’t remember much about.  Nice dive, lots of big fish, good wall structure, and nearly an hour later we drift into a quiet bay and get picked up for the short ride home to Canada.  Mutiny over.

Once back at the dock I sit down for a little pow-wow with Wayne and we work out a plan to salvage this day for us.  Unload the boat, get the tanks filled, and let’s head about 20 kilometers east and jump on his other boat in the town of Brockville.  Sounds like a plan!  We unload the gear, hump a kazillion tanks into the truck, stop by our new buddies at Divetech for gas, and, choices being limited, visit the Mallorytown Diner for a bit more of Darlene and the fun we enjoyed yesterday. Finally it is 7:30 and we are pulling away from the Brockville dock with Wayne at the helm.  Our first stop for this afternoon’s dive (yes we are still working on our 1:30 trip) is the wreck of the Muscallonge, in it’s day the largest tugboat to work the river, which suffered an explosion and sunk in 1936, settling upright but badly damaged on the bottom in 99 ft of water.  It’s always an extra thrill to do your night dive on a new site, in strong current.  This is an adventure trip for sure.  The dive was enjoyable but the damage to the wreck made it more of a ‘Sanford & Son’ junkpile than a shipwreck, taking a little out of the experience.  Back on board (all of us, including Sherwood!) decide to keep the adrenalin flowing, and we motored over to another brand new site for our second night dive of the afternoon, dropping in at 9:30 p.m. on the wreck of the Robert Gaskin.  This 136 ft long triple masted barque actually sunk not once but three times while working on a salvage project to re-float a train-carrying ferry that had sunk in the channel. They say three times is a charm, and that proved to be the case here, as on the third attempt to raise the ferry one of the pontoons they had attached to the sunken vessel and were filling with high-pressure steam to float actually broke loose and rocketed to the surface, striking the Gaston, making this perhaps the only Canadian ship in history to torpedo itself.  The damage from this event was too great and they left the wreck on the bottom, but coincidently did manage to re-float the train ferry.  This wreck sits upright in 55 to 70 ft of water, with more good penetrations thoughout. Another great first visit on a night dive, with current and penetration!  What were those guidelines again?

Thankfully all of our dives this afternoon were in Canadian waters, so no calls to Customs were required as we returned to the dock.  Unload gear, hump tanks, and head back to the resort for some more laughs and brewskies at the bar.  John S boogies for home now, leaving at 11:00 p.m and due home in time for his wife to leave for work at 5:00 a.m. – way to cut it close John.  It’ll probably be a long time before he is allowed out to play with us again!  Meanwhile, Dave West and Ray Graff had arrived this evening, and joined in the beers, merriment and story sharing.  We ended the evening with Csaba and Ray enjoying some fine Cuban cigars (available in Canada) on Caigers waterfront patio while the stars treated us to a nice show.

Now it’s Sunday and we kick off the morning with our daily exercise, humping 20-some tanks and doubles for gas fills at Divetech.  Down to the boat, load gear on the S.S. Minnow again, and head out to meander upstream to a couple of locations on the Canadian side – enough of the customs nonsense.  Our first site is a drift wall dive along Eagle Point and highly rated by Captain Rick.  It was a pretty cool dive, and I hit depths to 160 feet along the wall, which dropped down that distance again to the bottom.  Lots of fish, some really dramatic rock structures, and a pretty nice current to kick along with.  For our second dive we opted to forego the planned second drift location and instead visited the Kingshorn, to actually see it in the daylight hours.  A nice dive for everyone, and thanks to the location, a quick ride back to the resort for us.

After unloading the gear and packing the trucks for the tank fill run and transfer to the Brockville boat, we decided to try a new location for lunch, and headed west to Rockport to dine at the Boathouse Tavern.  Great food and more chances to enjoy local Canadian fare such as poutine, which is french fries with brown gravy and cheese curd on top – yummy!  Lunch was a blast as every gathering with this gang has been, and we wrapped it up and hustled over to Divetech to get our tanks filled once again.  The guys there work like we do at Indian Valley Scuba, with the scheduled 5:00 closing time coming and going with no one even thinking about quiting as there were still plenty of customers in the shop and many tanks to fill.  Finally we finished ours, and headed into Brockville again to load the boat.  This was the closest we were yet to actually making an afternoon dive in any part of the day that resembled the afternoon as most of us know it.  We loaded up and headed out to the wreck of the Daryaw, a 220 ft long steel freighter that ran aground in the fog in 1941, turning turtle and wedging itself in a deep crack in the shoal.  The top of the wreck, actually the keel of the ship, lies at 55 ft deep, while the superstructure is about 90 ft below the surface.  The current was ripping along this wreck from bow to stern, so a firm grip on the downline and the tag line running along the wreck was a necessity.  Just prior to entering the water, Dave W managed to tear his dry suit neck seal right down the front.  Well, try as he may to use this as an excuse to call the dive, those of you who know me know that you need to have bones sticking out to be allowed to call off a dive, and we made no exceptions in this case.  Even Sherwood, who has had an endless supply of tools and spare parts in his kit for us all weekend, doesn’t have a new neck seal to remedy the situation.  So Dave sucked it up, and we went in and enjoyed a great dive exploring this wreck and making some exploratory excursions into the interior.  His suit did not flood completely until we were on the ascent line, so kudos to him for managing his trim in the water and keeping his neck down the entire dive.  And a good chance for everyone to see that flooding your dry suit on a dive is not life threatening in spite of the yarns that some instructors like to spin.  Bottom line, very cool wreck, very disorientating as it sits completely upside down.  In addition to the dry suit damage, Dave W and Ray also were suffering a little light envy, as Csaba, Donna & Sue were all styling and showing off their brand-new canister light systems.  What a difference a great light makes for deep, dark wreck dives like these!  All in all, a very nice dive on a very nice wreck, and well worth the drive to Brockville. 

Since we were well versed in the art of visiting and exploring brand new wrecks in the dark and swiftly-moving waters, we figured we were ready for our final Brockville dive, opting to visit the Lillie Parsons, a 130 ft long inverted wooden two-masted schooner which met it’s demise during a blinding squall in 1877, hitting wall along the edge of the channel head on and sinking immediately.  Her cargo of 500 tons of hard coal is very evident all around the wreck, with the material that they were not able to salvage still dropping out of the hold.  The neatest part about the wreck is the entry to the dive site.  Due to the currents here, which were without a doubt the strongest we encountered all weekend, you actually drop in at a point about 300 ft in front of the island that the vessel wrecked on.  Once in, we dropped down immediately and kicked a little to the left to ensure we made it to the right side of the island as the current separated around the land mass.  We hit the wreck in about 20 seconds so you can imagine the speed of the current.  Once on the wreck we made sure everyone was OK, then proceeded to explore the wreck around the perimeter with some very minor visits underneath it to check out the cargo hold.  The masts heading down into the dark abyss were calling our names, but we opted for caution (whoa, did I say that?) and chose to not head down to see what may be at the end of them.  Once we were done playing around the wreck, we re-positioned ourselves between the wreck and the rocky shoal wall, finding a crack to ascend up from our 60 ft depth to the 30 ft range, and we literally sailed head over teacup along the wall, bumping into fish, scaring the large crayfish, and just having a laugh on this ride, as we kept out eyes open for a rope that marked the turn into a sheltered bay where our boat was waiting for us.  Here it comes, grab it, hold on for your dear life, and slide on up to the 15 ft mark for our safety stop.  Cool!!  Once done, we kicked around corner into the bay, and swam to our boat.  What a ride!!! 

Finally, it’s Monday and time to head back to the land of opportunity, America.  We say our goodbyes to our new friends at the resort, run out for a final tank fill at Divetech, and start to head across the border.  ‘Start’ is the operative word here, because the process for a truckload of Americans to return home was, in a nutshell, ridiculous.  First we have about six border agents directing traffic into the clearly marked lanes to pass through customs, as if we could not figure that out on our own.  Then we inch up to the front, and finally we are next in the queue for the agent.  Large, clear signs indicate that you should advance when the lane clears, so we wait.  The car in front of us appears to have answered the customs agents’ questions incorrectly, and are being directed to the body cavity search area.  Since the lane is clear, we begin to pull up, only to see the agent throw up here hands to tell us to stop.  Realizing that we have advanced about 24 inches closer to our homeland, she throws up her hands again in obvious disgust at our failure to read her mind.  So she signals us to advance a little bit more forward, but not quite to the booth.  I feel like we are in “tweener land” between two countries, and had war broken out, it would be a crap shoot as to which way to run.  She takes care of her business with the occupants of the car that did not pass the test, and turns her attention to us.  We have been studying and practicing furiously, and are hoping that she is grading on a curve today.  Mickey’s girlfriend is Minnie, it was the Yankees who won the world series in 1952,  Grover Cleveland was the 14th president of the US….what else might they ask to authenticate our citizenship?  Oh no, while we were waiting in tweener land, they switched agents in the booth, and we are not prepared for the new male border guard.  I pull up, careful to stop at exactly the prescribed line at the booth.  “Passports please” he says, and I hand them over. Csaba has already been briefed to feign sleeping, while Donna, if questioned, will be our token deaf/mute.  Sounds like we have the bases covered!  I hand over the passports, and he asks if I can shut off the truck so he can hear my answers.  Geeesh…ready for the interrogation!  Sure, I say, and I shut it off…then to add a bit of levity, I ask “so, do you have jumper cables?”.  “You must be kidding”, he says, without a change in expression or tone.  Hmmm, I am thinking, maybe I should compliment him on how well the scar is healing, from where they REMOVED HIS PERSONALITY!!  OK, I think, maybe he would not appreciate that joke since it was so close to the truth, and I refrain.  “Where were you”, he asks, and I tell him.  “What were you doing?”  “Scuba diving”.  “What are you carrying?”  “Duh, dive gear!”. Truly working with a rocket scientist here, I refrain from offering more info than he can process.  When he asks if we are bringing in any alcohol and tobacco, I almost say “No, Ray & Dave have that in their car behind us”, but again, I refrain.  We are finally allowed to resume our place as resident taxpayers, and pass through the golden gates into America.  I pull over to the side after going through to wait for Ray & Dave, and you would have thought I was slipping into my suicide vest as the border guys dropped what they were doing and started gesticulating wildly for me to move further away from the customs station.  I am thinking they really need to get a life there.  

We head over to Alexandria Bay, NY for a nice little shore dive right next to River Hospital.  Things could not be more perfect as we snag two parking spots right on the water, gear up, brief and head down under the water.  We expore the wreckage of the former townfront, visit the Stonehenge of the St. Lawrence with neatly arranged chairs, tables, glasses, plates and beverage bottles all at 70 feet.  Slipping along the shore we pass under the floating bar, see more former pilings and piers, and end up with a nice exploration on the wreck of the former wooden passenger ship Islander.  This was a sidewheel steamer, 125 ft long and displacing 118 gross tons, which operated as a mail boat and passenger steamer between Clayton and A-bay from 1871 until she burned and sank at the dock in 1909.  It sits in 15 to 60 ft of water, with minimal current, making it a nice easy shore dive and training site for local shops.  A nice 60 minute tour and we are ready to slip out of the gear for the 13th and last time this weekend. 

It’s time to start for the 5 hour ride home, but first, hey, let’s get something to eat here.  I recommend Cavalliaro’s where we enjoyed a fine meal last summer.  We agree, and we pull into the lot and park.  They have tables outside, so we figure how perfect is that, we can eat and watch the gear in the truck at the same time.  Well, it’s 3:30, and they don’t open until 5.  “Sit down and have a drink with us” is what the gang on the porch says, so hey, who are we to argue!  There is some minor rumbling from the gang, thinking why do we have to wait 90 minutes to eat and still have this long ride home.  Well, we put those concerns to rest within the first two minutes as the girls on the porch, Cindy, Shirly and Joanne, along with Tara the owner, pulled up extra chairs to their table and ordered libations to share with us.  What a perfect fit, us and them, as we shared stories, told jokes and basically laughed our butts off for the next three hours.  They don’t serve dinner on the porch, we are told, and haven’t since they opened in 1962.  “Sounds like a guideline to me”, I say, and yes, you can guess it, the IVS gang enjoyed the first-ever meal served on the porch!  Our new friends were an absolute hoot, and it ended up being a most wonderful way to end a great trip.  Cindy shared some of her observations with us, pointing out that perhaps I was not very good at advertising and should keep my mouth shut!  Dave West enjoyed a prime rib that took probably two cows to make, and the rest of us enjoyed the finest food of the weekend.  After dinner, desserts and more drinks, along with additional doses of laughter.  Our bellies were full and hurting from all the laughter by the time we shared hugs and goodbyes with everyone there.

Four hours and 22 minutes later, we are safe & sound back in Harleysville, and planning for next years trip already!