With inshore commercial diving, every job is a bit different, and it’s very probable that you can do two or three different things on the same day. One job that tends to crop up regularly in the Okanagan is boat recovery. I’ve been on several boat recovery jobs, and not one has the same as the last. now that I’m a student again, life doesn’t give me much time to dive anymore, but I’m lucky enough to find summer employment and some on call work during the rest of the year with Inland Divers, a dive company I’ve been with now for almost three years! Inland Divers is the quintessential inshore commercial diving company, well equipped and professional, and capable of multiple tasks. A few weeks ago, we got a call to find and recover a Malibu from Okanagan Lake, and here’s how it went down (literally and figuratively).
The weather had been getting steadily worse for a about a week, with some spectacular winds that were turning the lake into a convincing imitation of the ocean. For the family in question, this lead to their Malibu sinking after apparently slipping its anchor. We arrived on Saturday for a search dive, which we did as a shore entry dive as the lake was too rough for our boat. I was the diver, and after about a 75 m surface swim, I dropped down to begin my search based on the description of the sinking by the owners. The bottom was on a sharp angle, the substrate was broken stone, and vis was good for the season and the conditions. The boat wasn’t where they said it was, but this isn’t unusual in these sorts of jobs. Following the shelf back towards their dock, the boat materialized about 25 m later. It was intact, still attached to the anchor buoy (with buoy), but upside down with the bow facing upslope towards shore. The stern was at 22 m in depth, and the whole thing was a bit precarious balance wise. I attached a line to it, and returned to the surface.
On Monday the wind had died down to a whisper, so we launched with a full suite of surface supply gear, the camera equipment for the KM27 hats, and the side scanning sonar. We met the barge from Shoreline in location, and went over the plan. The crew I was with are all experienced inshore and offshore divers. Tim was diver one, I was on standby, Bobby was assisting on the crane barge, and Chilly was in charge. We’d scan the boat with the sonar, then jump Tim to attach the lines to it, and the crane would bring up the boat. Then we’d pump it out, then tow it to the boat launch where the customer would meet us. Plan in place and everyone briefed, it was time for execution. We dressed in, the barge deployed the crane, and it was go time.
Everything went more or less according to the plan, with the only hiccup being when the boat decided it wanted to become buoyant when it got near the surface and ignore our rigging plan. Tim found and reinspected the boat before detaching our marker line and the anchor line. He then attached the bow line to allow the crane to lift the boat so he could attach lines to the stern to roll it over and allow a safe ascent with minimal stress to the hull. We then moved Tim out and away from the boat (but keeping it in visual range) while the crane did the work. When it got close enough to see it, we deployed the absorbent boom around it to contain what little leaking fuel there was, then brought in our diver and set up the pumps. It took about awhile to pump out all the water, and to ensure that the boat appeared safe to tow. After moving the anchor block and buoy back, it was time to go, and we headed back up the lake, Malibu in tow. It was a solid morning of work, and morale was high. After a quick after action review with the boss back in the shop, the day ended.
This is a good example of the kind of jobs that come up as an inshore commercial diver. The keys to our success were communications between us, the barge, and the diver, having all the equipment to deal with potential issues, maintaining safety awareness, and experience.