November 26, 2020

Night Dive

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I’m excited, are you excited? No.

Last night Kyle and I went for our first night dive with our certification instructor, Steve.

We showed up early to Lake Avalon to get comfortable in the water (and figuring out how to move in a 7 mm wetsuit). I have never worn a suit that thick in my life. Due to the style of the top portion, this meant I was actually wearing 14 mm of neoprene on the top half of my body. That is some extra buoyancy, let me tell you.

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Gear, thanks to Nick at Great Lakes Divers.

 

Kyle and I tooled around Lake Avalon during the day, just to get our gear figured out, our weights figured out. I’m still figuring the weights out.

Kyle carried our dive flag as we swam. We saw rows and rows of zebra mussels along the bottom, an invasive species that the Great Lakes struggle with.

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Kyle tolerating a photo at Lake Avalon while we unloaded.

Also, fun event: got totally buzzed by a speedboat and wakeboarder. I think my eyes got even bigger when we heard the noise, and we ducked down even lower in the shallow waters.

 

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Adjusting the tank and the BCD

The water was 68 degrees (Fahrenheit), so while it might be chilly to dive in just your bathing suit (or your birthday suit), in 14 mm of neoprene, I was dandy. I left off diving with a hood or the gloves because the whole freshwater, cold-water scuba felt like a completely new experience.

The last time I dove was at St. Mary’s, in a brackish river, with visibility of zero. Seriously, couldn’t even see our own glow-in-the-dark gauges pressed to our masks. We did not wear wetsuits, but nor could we see, hear, or feel (gloves) anything. It was a terrifying experience. Even Andy thought it was scary, so that’s saying something.

Before that my experience was in Honduras, on the island of Utila. We stayed three weeks and dove with an awesome laid-back shop called Gunter’s Ecomarine, which had come recommended by friends, Brian and Tara, who had spent their time in Honduras diving with them the previous year.

That water was warm and clear, and well, salty. No wetsuits. I had no buoyancy issues, no visibility issues. It was lovely. The water was full of sounds of parrotfish beaks tapping against the coral.

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NOT the sort of guy endemic to the Great Lakes. Parrotfish, courtesy of wikipedia.

There are no parrotfish in Lake Avalon, but there are lots of zebra mussels, and a white bass that totally eyeballed me as I swam past him.

Before sunset, we headed back to shore, meeting up with Steve and another diver. By twilight, we were all in the water with both our primary and back-up lights tested.

And we dove a shipwreck.

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We are here.

Well, it is technically a boat wreck. The wreck is a speedboat from maybe the 80’s, sunk in the lake, covered in algae. Interestingly, the bumper stickers that were on the interior of the boat were not covered in the algae, but in excellent condition. One had a cartoon heart with legs and eyes on it, and another one had an arrow pointing to “AZ”. Lots of fish called that boat home.

 

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Shore crew! Tami and Liz

During the dive, we saw mudpuppies and crawfish, neither of which were visible during our daytime dive in the lake.

But that’s one of the reasons to dive at night: different critters.

 

The Debrief

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Success!

Staying up late is hard.

I am acclimatizing to the later bedtimes and later wake-up times, because this far north, the sun doesn’t set until after 9 pm. A night dive must take place at night, so therefore, nothing is even doing until 9:30 pm.

 

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We ended our night, back at home after setting up all the gear to dry, with Coors Lites, potato chips, and sour cream dip for me and Kyle, and Tami and Liz (who were our shore buddies, testing out film equipment and lights).

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But sitting around the dining room table, drinking light beer and eating potato chips dipped in sour cream made me really feel like I was back in the Midwest.

Welcome home.

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