Dive Primer on How to
Welcome aboard!Wreck diving offers some of the most rewarding diving a person can do. Each wreck is unique; each tells its own story. Wreck divers often find themselves becoming historians; after all, knowing about the wreck you are diving on provides a lot of interest in the wreck itself. Artifacts can be found, recovered, cleaned up, and proudly displayed either by you or donated to an appropriate museum. Wreck diving in Hatteras also means underwater photography; both video and still. Visibility in these warm clear waters is typically between 70-100+ feet. Shipwrecks attract a large variety of marine life; we have seen everything from spotted moray eels to 12 foot rays glide by. Macro photography is especially popular as the wreck sites are home to thousands of small creatures too.
Pre-planningBefore diving in the Hatteras area, a diver would be well advised to do the following:
What the diver must bringBring your own equipment to include: mask, fins, snorkel, reg & gauges, weights & belt, timer/dive computer/tables, surface signaling devices, tanks for two dives and your own food and drinks. Loaner gear is available from Dive Hatteras but arrangements must be made before we leave the dock. Hatteras waters are generally tropical (mid to upper 70ís), however, bring a wetsuit for protection from coral, hydroids, and sharp wreckage.
Have the right equipment and know how to use it. If itís been awhile since youíve used dive tables or your dive computer, refresh yourself. If you just bought a new regulator, try it out in the quarry or pool. Check the VIP and the hydro dates on your tanks. Dive shops will not fill tanks that are not in compliance with regulations. Air refills are available from Dive Hatteras, Nitrox is available as well.
General KnowledgeA diver should be capable of sustaining periods of exertion under water. The biggest difference in Hatteras diving (as opposed to quarries or the islands) is current and wave conditions.
A diver should be comfortable aboard boats and should plan on taking precautions against sea sickness. Talk to experienced divers about various remedies - there are plenty around. Put some thought into what you bring aboard to eat; food high in proteins and carbohydrates is preferable to replace and rebuild the energy you will expend throughout the day. Bring plenty of non-alcoholic fluids - dehydration can happen quickly in the hot sun.
We do two dives a day: the first being the deeper. Deep dives can range from 90í - 165í with 105í being the average. Dives will be no deeper that what the group, as a consensus, agrees upon - the captain and crew making the final decision (based on water, weather, and diver ability factors). Dives deeper than this range will be undertaken only with highly experienced groups known to be capable of this level of diving.
Refunds are granted at the discretion of the captain and in the case of prohibitive weather, sea conditions, or boat inoperability. Plan to show up at the dock to get the official word on cancellations. If your charter goes out, even though you did not, your money will not be refunded.
Boat Set-upOur Boat is set up to make your diving as easy as possible. As soon as you board in the morning, assemble your BC and regulator on your tank. Secure your tanks snugly in the tank racks using the bungees provided. Your fist dive set up goes on the dressing bench, the second dive tanks in the racks on the sides of the deck. Because space is limited and the other divers really do not want to trip over your gear all day, stow your dive bag and any personal articles out of the way.
When we arrive at the wreck site, it may take a few minutes to locate the wreck and set the anchor. If itís hot and sunny, hold off donning your wetsuit because youíll quickly get over-heated. When the captain and crew indicate that we are hooked in, put on your wetsuit get your other gear together. Sit on the dressing bench in front of your gear and put your fins on then slip into your tank and BCD rig - did you make sure the air was on first?
The boat has a walk through door in the transom so when ready you just stand up and shuffle to the back and step out onto the platform. The crew will check your tank to ensure the air is turned on before you jump in and if the current is running will pull up the descent line to hand it to you if needed. All you have to do is make sure your BC is deflated, hold onto the descent line and jump in off the side of the platform.
The DivingThe cardinal rule in wreck diving, especially in water where there are currents: DESCEND USING THE ANCHOR LINE - ASCEND USING THE ANCHOR LINE. This is the most important rule for a diver to follow. Currents in Hatteras are unpredictable; often the surface current is different from the bottom current. Use the anchor line to guide you to the wreck - a diver can burn a lot of air and time trying to swim against even a mild current or get completely swept away.
Follow these procedures when making your descent: A weighted decent line descends 40 feet from the stern into the water and about 15 feet deep, is attached to another line called a ďgranny.Ē The granny line connects the descent line to the anchor line. As soon as you jump off the back of the boat, immediately grab the weighted descent line. Descend the weighted line to the granny line and pull yourself a few feet forward along the granny line. This is a perfect place to check your gear (if needed) because you are below the surface wave action. From there pull yourself to the anchor line. Watch out for the heavy weight where the granny meets the anchor line! Once at the anchor line, pull yourself down until you reach the wreck. Follow the anchor line all the way to the wreck- even though you can see the wreck below you - stay on the anchor line until you reach the wreck! Take note of where the anchor is attached: next to the boilers, at the bow, or whatever is memorable to you. When exploring the wreck it is usually better to head up current at the beginning of a dive.
Leave enough air supply for your trip back to the anchor line and back to the boat. Plan on doing a safety hang on the granny line, even if you have followed your computer/dive tables. There will be a regulator hanging in the water at at the stern, 20 feet deep. This regulator is connected to a tank on board and is used for out-of-air emergencies. Plan your dive so that you have plenty of air; this air supply is for emergencies only and it is first come, first serve.
The captain or crew reserves the right to ban you from further diving if you exhibit irresponsible behavior that places yourself or other divers at risk.
If you can not locate the anchor line at the end of your dive, do not run up a large decompression obligation and run out of air supply searching for it, you will have to do a free water ascent. Remember, the boat is situated against the current. As you are ascending, swim into the current, trying to stay over the wreck. By the time you reach the surface, you should be near the boat and not too far downstream. Also, as you are ascending, look around for the anchor line; you may be able to swim to it where you can finish your safety hang. Alternatively, use your wreck reel to tie off to the wreck and ascend the reel line, but with a current you may need a lot of line.
If there is a strong current, you will probably be carried downstream from the boat. When you surface, inflate your BC, and DONíT PANIC. Either yell out, blow your whistle, use your diver alert horn to try and alert the crew. The boat has a tag line floating on the surface and running up to 300 feet off the stern. SWIM to it, grab it, and pull yourself back to the boat. If you are unable to do this, we will come and get you. It might take some time if there are divers still on the wreck. Stay on the surface, inflate a lift bag /ďsafety sausageĒ keep a mask on your face and and an air supply in your mouth and wait. Donít get yourself in this position - go down the anchor line, come back up the anchor line.
Boarding the boat
Wait your turn to board the boat on the tag line or underwater on the granny line. If there are surface waves, observe how the waves are coming in; oftentimes, there will be a lull between sets of waves. You may hand up cameras or other gear, but leave your fins on and keep a reg or snorkel in your mouth and the mask on your face. Choose your moment and swim to the ladder. Pull yourself up quickly: do not stop and rest on the ladder or the wave action may toss you about or even off the ladder into the sea.
After you come up the ladder, we will help you back to the dressing bench and getting you out of your gear if needed. Get your equipment ready for the second dive by switching tanks, then stow your gear to leave room for others. Relax, eat and drink something. Donít forget to write down your bottom time and the start of your surface interval (yes even if you have a computer it is still a good thing to know).
If youíre having any problems, notify us immediately.
Thatís all there is to it!The captain and crew take pride in offering you safe, fun diving. Weíve been diving the Outer Banks of North Carolina for many years, enjoy it immensely and know you will too. If you have any questions, please call. We look forward to seeing you aboard with us in the future.
Capt. Dave & Ann Sommers
This is open ocean wreck diving - take an advanced class or a shipwreck/ocean diving class if your skills arenít quite there yet.
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Copyright © 2003 Last modified: October 07, 2012