For our divers, readiness for a winter water emergency includes not only having the gear and skills, but also simply being acclimated to the season. We all need to be dressed properly and then be ready to function underwater. We used Sunday, January 9, 2011, as a training day of all sorts: cold water, drysuit, sinker collection, fundraiser prep, surface support, and compressor operation recertification.
We had a good crew turnout (8 divers, 5 surface support personnel), and everyone one of us had to deal with the cold weather and significant wind chill factor. The Fisherman's Flea Market rolls around next month, so we'd planned on doing some serious sinker collecting in Manasquan Inlet. Each team was armed with a sinker tube, but the 40 degree water and poor vis (3-4 feet) limited our bottom times and ability to locate the "Mother Lode" that Chief Nesley had hoped for. We still managed to haul in about 50 pounds of lead and lures. Asst. Chief Melo and Tom Trafer, both divers, stayed topside to brief and supervise our first aiders. Max, Sarah, and Todd got their first exposures to assisting divers into their drysuits and completing cold water gear-up. In this season especially, having surface support on the wall is also greatly appreciated when it comes to hauling tubes and gear out at the exit point.
After we packed it in at the dive site and cleaned gear, Chief Nesley then ran all the divers through recertification for compressor operations. Our air compressor is serviced and its gas tested twice a year, so we have great confidence in its performance. In line with this, our divers are also checked out twice a year in its proper operation. With the right training in safety and taking advantage of our compressor's cascade system, it is never a problem for us to fill tanks or wait to get tanks filled.
It was a productive day with a lot of training. We got to train a few more surface support personnel, who mostly enjoyed themselves, despite the cold. We'd like to thank Max, Sarah, and Todd for their active participation. It gives us peace of mind as search and rescue divers knowing that someone has our backs. Only their hands got wet, but our surface support personnel and first aiders are vital to the safety and function of our team.