March 8th, 2005

Hi Mom,

   Glad things are good with you. Here is the rest of the semi interesting dive I started telling you about on the Prins Willem V last weekend...

     Though it was still near freezing, an Ice breaker had opened up a path down the Milwaukee river and out to
Ice In Harboropen water. We took advantage of this, booked a charter and loaded up the Len-der with our winter gear. As the boat left dock it was apparent that I would end up diving with someone I wasn't familiar with. Jane was there but didn't feel 100% so she opted to work as a crew member instead of diving and none of my other regular dive buddies showed up for the charter. Though I was set up to dive the Prins Willam V wreck, the charter at the last minute had been switched to dive the Milwaukee Carferry. No problem, I liked the Milwaukee better, even though with only a steel 85, at that depth my dive would be shorter. On the way, Jane started sorting out buddy teams, my first choice was to dive with Terry, one of the regular divers, but I found out he already had a partner. He obligingly said I could join him and his buddy if I wanted to. I accepted but also told Jane to let me know if, after everyone else was paired up, there was an extra single diver. If so, I would dive with who ever was left. It ended up working out that I would dive with a younger guy named Perry instead. I've seen him on the charter a couple of times in the past, although I've never gone diving with him before. I asked if he'd ever been on the Milwaukee Carferry before. Jerry (the boat captain) said Perry had been on it several times. No worries then, it should be a great dive. As the Len-der maneuvered through the ice it finally hit the open water past the break wall. Outside the break wall the rollers were pretty big. It would be a rough ride, but still fairly manageable. Jane started taking a poll. Being that the boat ride to the Milwaukee was quite a distance, and the waves were becoming a fairly decent size, did anyone want to change their mind and dive something closer? No one really had a strong opinion either way, so we switched back to diving the Prins Willam V, which was already in the vicinity. I assumed if Perry had been on the Milwaukee several times that he had probably been on the shallower Willie even more. While we were suiting up, we discussed our dive plan. I mentioned I knew the wreck pretty well inside and out and wherever he wanted to go and felt safe, I'd follow.

     After entering the water, with little trouble, we dropped down to the wreck. Perry swam pretty much right down to the bottom and into one of the wide-open cargo holds.  The Prins Willam V is a Dutch freighter that sank in 1954 after colliding with a towed barge. It is lying on its starboard side at roughly 90 feet. While inside its cavernous cargo hold, Perry stopped and then pointed to a blank wall. I took this to mean he wanted to go inside but wasn’t sure how to get Crew Quartersthere. Not knowing him that well, I took him to the rear crew quarters and started our penetration there. To enter this area you have to swim along the bottom and come up through a starboard door. This would be a good place to see how he handled his buoyancy and how he navigated the silt between the bottom and the door. If there was a problem, we could exit the room through a large port side door above us. He managed the entry easily with no problems. While inside, I motioned for him to enter a rear door taking him into the small upper rudder room. There is only room for one diver in that area, so I waited outside lighting up the doorway with my pair of 100 watt camera lights. He soon came out with no problems and wasn’t followed by a cloud of silt. He must be pretty good, because it is a bit difficult to maneuver in there with out silting.  After leaving that area I figured we could go into the engine room. There are several different entrances and exits to this area giving us plenty of ways to escape if need be. We swam through that space also with no problem.

     Leaving the Engine room and once again outside the wreck I figured we had time for one more penetration. Swimming toward the bow I pointed to the small door that would lead us to the chain locker. I asked OK? He answered OK! And I led the way inside. There is quite a bit of silt in the doorway but so far we had no trouble. I figured the room was fairly small and if worse came to worse, it wouldn’t take us long to feel our way out if need be. After swimming toward a hanging anchor chain, we moved up to an area of trapped air big enough to look at each other above the water and chat. I took a breath off of my regulator and said; "Don't breathe this air!" After taking his own breath, he answered, "Why not?" "This air is from the 1950s and has a lot of heavy metal in it from the rust.” (Breath from regulator) “You'll actually get a metallic taste in your mouth from just doing this.” (Breath from regulator) “Ready to go?” He acknowledged and we dropped down again. That was when our great dive unraveled. On the way in we somehow heavily silted up the entrance area!!! We had absolutely, no visibility! I took a long breath and said to myself, "OK, I know my way out of here, it shouldn’t be a problem, let's go." I swam in the direction of the hanging anchor chain, and found it fairly quickly even with all the muck around us. As I made a left turn and started swimming toward where a bulkhead divider should be, my brain started thinking about Chain Lockerour air supply. "Crap! This could be real bad. Don't start second guessing, you know where you are going." Bang! I bumped into something. It must be the bulkhead divider. I dropped down and continued. " OK, let’s see about a back up plan. If I can't find our way out right away and Perry runs out of air, I'll get him up to the air space. Bad air is better then no air. I'll keep looking till I run out and go up there too hoping we can stay alive long enough for someone in the boat to know something is wrong and come to get us. It was a feeble plan, but it was a plan. Then I bumped into something else. I dropped down and turned off my lights. "I should be able to see ambient light from the door by now." But the silt was so heavy I saw nothing but black. I turned the lights back on. "The door should be right here somewhere…" and out I came. The water never looked such a pretty blue. Silt billowed out of the door in all directions. Perry was right on my fins, following me into the clear lake. All this happened in a matter of about 2 minutes, though it seemed hours. We swam around the bow checked our air as if nothing happened and decided to go up. Once we were back aboard the Len-der I said to Perry "Boy, we sure silted up the chain locker." He answered, "No kidding, I could barely see your lights." No worries though. Did I learn something? Yes, always expect a lot of silt.

Well I should go back to work, breaks over…
See you soon.
Rick~~~