Thursday, November 11, 2010

Diving In Charleston Harbour!

Our planned early start quite literally hit a snag today.  We get up and are ready to go, starting to lift the anchor at 0830, but sadly by 0840 we have given up trying to lift the anchor and I am getting out my dive gear! 

We are badly snagged on something very solid and there appears no other option than to explore the depths.  Our friends Mike and Karen from Chapter 2 come over and stand by to help in the dinghy and I head off down the chain into the surprisingly cold water and rushing current of Charleston Harbour.

It's not the diving I am used to and at about 15 feet I lose all visibility and am left groping my way along the chain in the pitch dark, knowing that at some point I will come upon some large and unknown object that is snagging our chain!  I proceed very slowly with one hand out in front and eventually find the chain disappear under a large concrete block, probably an old mooring.  I can see nothing, I know if I let go of the chain or block I will never find it again without returning to the surface some random distance downstream of our boat, possibly under another one, it's cold and the current is strong and it is all a bit scary!

I try to pull the chain loose and out from around the block but can get no slack into the chain as Matsu is pulling back hard on it, so I return to the surface for a think on how to proceed and to escape the gloom and cold. 

The first plan is to let out plenty of chain and then Linda motor forward to remove the tension while I try to release the chain.  Another scary descent and 5 minutes struggling to make headway and then I decide we should wait for another attempt when the tide changes as it will be much easier to do when all is working in the same direction.  I am also very glad of a warm shower and a jumper as I am starting to get very cold!

We then have a frustrating wait, sitting in the cockpit trying to keep amused.  Finally at around lunch time when the water slacks off I drop in for another attempt and a better look round, I want to find the anchor and buoy that, as one option is to detach the anchor from the chain and pull them up separately.  This time I retain some visibility and with no current the whole thing is a lot less scary than before, I successfully navigate the block and find the chain exiting on the other side, and follow this to buoy the anchor.  I then follow it back and start trying to shift the chain from underneath.

It is badly stuck, probably as a consequence of us trying hard to lift it this morning, after much sweat and (almost) tears I start to make some headway and eventually have both ends of the chain in my hand and the mid section trapped beneath the rock.  More tugging and eventually I free it, draping it over the mooring so that we can lift it up.  I return to the surface with 99% of the job done but heart in mouth that we won't get it snagged again, and we immediately start winching in.  All goes smoothly and we are soon free of the bottom and "ready" to leave - just the small matter of me wearing a wet suit, the boat covered in dive gear and odd ends of rope .

As Linda motors slowly down Charleston Harbour I get showered and changed, pack away the gear, and we are soon shipshape and heading out of the channel to sea, it’s 160 miles to Cumberland Island and I am exhausted already!

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