View Full Version : Rig Diving Safety
09-24-2003, 03:20 PM
Here are 3 risks I have run into so far.
1. Rig Boats. The rigs worth diving are typically manned rigs, and so they will have crew boats regularly come out to them when they have supplies. These rig boats engines could spell disaster for a diver unaware of such danger, especially on days when there is a thick surface murk.
2. Fisherman. Some fisherman will respect a dive flag, and some will not. I have surfaced from a dive to see another boat 10 feet from the corner pole I was fishing. Had I gotten caught in one of their lines, or worse yet, suffered a stab wound or equipment damage from the hook, it could have been disastrous. I would have liked to have surfaced before they started fishing.
3. Weather. I've gone diving on a rig where we had normal weather when we started, and 20 minutes later when the dive was done, the sky was black, the waves had jumped to 4 feet. and my fellow friends on the boat were wearing their life vests for fear of capsizing. My dive buddy didn't have enough energy to make it back to the boat against the heavy current, so he just gave up and went floating off to sea, waiting for us to pick him up.
In all these situations, it would have been great to have a method to contact the divers from the boat so they would know to surface. We've tried starting the engine, but that's not loud enough, especially if the rig is running.
Are there other ways to contact the diver in an emergency situation?
09-24-2003, 06:12 PM
Originally posted by LSUBigL
Are there other ways to contact the diver in an emergency situation?
Back in the dark ages when the nanny congress hadn't yet fully developed an M-80 over the side with a 3 oz weight taped to it worked wonders.
Unmistakeable signature and audible for a half mile or more.
4th hazard is bored roughnecks with damp welding rods.
09-24-2003, 09:21 PM
I think another big hazard is entanglement. There is all kinds of heavy duty crap under some oil rigs - cable, rope, fishing line and assorted metal rods and miscellaneous items. I try to look forward a few moves and think about possible problems to be encountered while fighting the fish. I also use this to scope out any handholds.
09-24-2003, 10:57 PM
Heres how I handle (or attempt to handle) the situations you presented:
1. ,2. Other Boats (work boats or fishing boats) :
For the most part, unless you are in a cluster of rigs, you can see work boats heading in your general direction before the dive as they are relatively slow moving and very large and can be seen at great distances coming at you if you choose to get in the water. Not saying it wont happen, but the area I dive in for 10 yrs now, that situation has not occured.
Fishing boats that pull up while you are down are a much more realistic problem. That is the responsibility of whoever is left topside to instruct and inform the other boats that you have divers in the water, would they not mind tying up at this time. I have been on both sides of this, asking others to not come near and me being asked to stay clear has never been a problem, guess I havent come across that @$$hole out there yet.
In regards to both situations however, I always have a certain routine that I try to adhere to. The area that I dive in , about 75% of the time you can see the surface from about 70 ft down. Look up and do a count as to how many boats are around the rig or just look up to make sure you are not coming up under your own boat and avoid a headache.
Also, 99% of the time a work boat will only be on the side of the platform that has the crane in order to lift equipment or personel. Notice which side the crane is on and keep a mental note of that in your mind and stay clear of that side of the rig near the surface (its not that difficult as most rigs are 4 sided and it is not difficult to lose your bearings unless the viz is very poor.
Another method, water conditions permitting, is surface inside the rig. This can be done when viz is poor but can be dangerous if the seas or not so friendly. No boat of any kind will venture in this area. This is a risky maneuver in rough seas as there are numerous hazards in this area besides boats that you need to watch out for. The best thing to do is to surface, get your bearings with your boat, go back below surface and not be subject to the waves and swim toward your boat underwater.
3. Unexpected Weather-- well brother, I dont know what to tell ya about that. Murphy's Law. It has happened to us all and will continue to happen, aint much you can do about it except stay in the boat, but what fun would that be.
I agree with Rockbottom, I think the worst problem is entaglement in all sorts of crap hanging off the rig underwater. Rope, cable, wire, tubing, nets, its all down there on occasion and can be a real menace.
09-25-2003, 08:32 AM
You're absolutely correct. That is another huge Rig Diving Hazard. I only put those 3 up there because they were situations which all warranted surfacing. I still don't have a good solution to the problem of "calling up divers." I've seen some Octos online at LeisurePro that apparently have an underwater horn that is effective, but I wonder if it can be heard over the noise of the rig.
What about a blinking light tied to a weight on a fishing line, with a horn as well? Something the guys on the boat could throw overboard and let it submerge to their depth while blinking and making a bunch of noise.
KJNDiver, in response to your comment: "For the most part, unless you are in a cluster of rigs, you can see work boats heading in your general direction"
I dive Main Pass Rigs mostly and there are work boats all over the place. Even if the dive boat is tied up to a corner that is not blocking the Rig Boat, a diver could surface where the rig boat is. Also, there is almost always a thick surface murk, and this makes it impossible to see the surface. It looks like you are looking at a cloudy sky when you look up from below the murk. Typically the Vis in the murk is a foot or two. the safest thing to do is to ascend right next to a corner pole, but to keep in mind that there are some "bumper poles" that only run 5 or 6 feet into the water, and you can hit your head on them if you're not watching where you ascend. I call them bumper poles because I assume they are there to suffer the damage of any collision, protecting the structurally important corner pole.
Do any of you guys hunt the bottom murk? I've tried to go down there for a bit to let my eyes adjust but I can't see my hand in front of my face! I know that Fontova talks about the "Long Grass" in his book, and that's where Stan smoked that big ass shark, but do any of y'all regularly hunt down there?
09-25-2003, 12:24 PM
LSUbigL, Cable is by far the biggest problem to me when diving the rigs. Getting even a 20lb grouper untagled out of that is extremely dangerous. I carry at least one pair of cable cutters and a couple of knives. Sometimes it's easier to grab the fish by the gills, cut the head cable and go from there.
We like to hunt above the murk for the most part. Sometimes we go in it for snapper. Two of the big sharks I shot came from 60ft of dirty water with only a 15ft semi-clean layer in the middle. The last and biggest one (491#) came from 230ft of clean water at MP 311.
To alert a diver that is down I usually bang on my stainless ladder with something metal, the sound travels very well.
I also started using a "tank banger" after diving open water in the Keys.
Always come up inside or right on the side of a major leg with one hand on your head if dirty. I've heard of someone dying from bumping their head at 5ft from the surface, getting disoriented swimming down, panicing and embolizing. Bummer.
09-25-2003, 12:52 PM
My buddy and I like to freedive and I discovered a new safety issue to be concerned with. Of course when freediving you have to stay real oriented in relationships to the cross members and legs, because you ascend fast, which I am usually very conscious of. On our last trip my buddy dived on some jacks inside the rig. He didnít spear one, but their curiosity caused them to following him part of the way up. I waited until he was about 15 feet from the surface and had a good eye contact. His dive was short and he looked good with no problems so I dove.
We usually take turns so that the other one is there in case of SWB and since we were going fairly deep, I was certain he was there for me, so I pushed it a little deeper than usual. Plus conditions were just perfect for a deep dive.
On the ascent I looked for him and he was nowhere to be found. Turns out he let himself wander in the last 15 feet of his ascent and hit his head hard on a cross member at the surface. He had gone back to the boat because of the pain he was in.
I felt bad for two reasons. One I didnít like the fact I had pushed my limits when he wasnít there, and two I should have been at the surface for him when he hit his head.
09-25-2003, 01:27 PM
I had a nice schoolie AJ about thirty-five pounds made a quick move that ran him between my legs and then head for a twenty foot long pretzel of a stainless steel rod entangled on the leg of the rig. Kicking with one leg I was lucky enough to keep him away from the entanglement even though he then swam past my face,knocking my mask off and the reg out of my mouth. I eventually got the pleasure of impaling his skull with the blade of my knife and ending the fight in a cloud of blood. I love that sh*t. Being on the edge with less than total control.
09-25-2003, 01:33 PM
Don, we lost a buddy to a fifty pound cuda while freediving a surface murk at the rigs before. I'm getting into the open water freediving with the tuna, wahoo and makos but am sort of paranoid about freediving structure like that. Some guys started wearing helmets after that accident. This particular rig had strange overhangs off of each leg and if you didn't know that they were there you'd assume that you had cleared any structure.
09-25-2003, 01:37 PM
ROCK, don't you ever work?! HA! I'm sure you've heard the stories of Art and Carl getting tangled face to face, losing fins, arms pinned to their sides, etc. by two small AJs. I burned a tank laughing at them while the AJs beat them up all the way to the surface. Over.
09-25-2003, 01:52 PM
Wet Spot, thanks for the tips. Where do you carry the cable cutters? BCD pocket? I've been ascending the same way you are talking about, except I extend my arm out above my head, and sometimes outside the rig so i don't have to go over/under the crossmembers at the surface.
Don, I freedove a rig the last time I was there, and I use the term "freedive" lightly because I never cracked 15 feet and I was pretty scared the entire time. The current was ripping and I just kept envisioning myself getting pinned in some poles and drowning. I think I'll stick with SCUBA for a while.
Rock Bottom, I've worried about the cable entanglement. I always remember that story from Helldivers about the guy who got the cable wrapped around his neck and choked to death. I've had fish change direction on me fast, and I could see how that can happen. I still wonder if something is wrong with me since I wanted to spearfish after reading Helldivers Rodeo. People with any sense would stay away from it. Here's to being an idiot!!
09-25-2003, 02:18 PM
Like I said, I love being on the edge if only for that brief flash. I am way past 18 years old and no longer like jumping from high places, but the thrill of SCUBA is awsome. I was a fisherman for the first 36 years of my life, but now I can get in the boat without bringing any fishing rods, just dive gear and do not miss it. We spend our surface interval running from one rig to the next.
Back to the safety issue, always pay attention to where you are in both time and space before you pull the trigger. Maintain calm and make a good shot. No rushing. A misplaced shot will get you in trouble fast. My motto is "Better safe than stupid!"
09-25-2003, 03:57 PM
I still enjoy fishing, because I can't dive very often due to living in Texas. But i know what you're saying. There's no thrill like diving. I love it.
I wish I were a better shot, but I have a feeling that's only going to come with practice. I'm hoping to lay waste to some mangroves this weekend. They are great target practice. Fast little bastards!
09-25-2003, 05:06 PM
Where do you freedive for pelagic? I have been dying to go to a floating rig all summer, but things just havenít worked out. We can freedive rocks here, but the only way to get the fish close enough is with hours of chumming.
My buddy usually likes to dive outside of the rigs. He likes to do the look straight ahead thing the purist deep freedivers do on ascents. Fortunately he was wearing a 4mm hood, or he could have been in real trouble.
We have found some pretty good fish including black fins and wahooís out away from the rig. I personally like to play the hide and seek game in the rig. I love hiding myself on the other side of leg or support and surprising the fish when I come around it. They usually freeze in shock when they see how close I am.
Does the Hell Divers Tournament have a freedive division? We are interested in doing meet next year.
Big L, Most of the rigs around here have that overhand on all four legs and then one or two whole sides. I get under them all the time, either from the outside or from starting inside and going through the rig to the outside, which by the way is great method for shooting schooling fish like grey snapper that like to curve around the outside of the legs. For safety I always do two things. Swim away from the rig before surfacing and lookup on the ascent.
Itís still scary though to think that all you have to do is get disoriented one time and split your head open. The helmet idea sounds good.
09-25-2003, 09:57 PM
Don, We have about a two square mile chum slick every winter at the "midnight lumps" where all of the recreational fisherman anchor and chum for tuna. You can look over the side of the boat and see wahoo, tuna and big makos swim right by on a good day. The deep water floaters and the rip can produce well too.
Yes we do have a freediving division for our rodeo. The categories are tuna, wahoo, dolphin and misc. It's really nice because you can do all of the scuba and free diving to fill up a day and not have to leave a ten square mile area.
I'll post more about the tournament when it gets closer, we would really like to attract as many divers as we can. It's usually the first full weekend in June and starts on a Thursday ending on Sunday with a big party, etc. This will be our 42nd year I think...
09-29-2003, 12:06 PM
Stan...the countdown has begun for the lumps! Sometimes there is an extremely good early run in Oct for the YF and I am getting my shit ready just in case. I'll be sure to let you know if anything is going down.
As far as rig hazards I will vote for entanglements as the #1. Especially those damn long liner mono-balls. Some of those things have collected enough of that shit to where they are the size of a house.
09-30-2003, 09:04 AM
I guess I have been lucky or its not as bad of a problem in south Texas, because out of the 30+ rigs I have dived, I have only seen a little mono line and never a big ball of it. It might also be that I usually take long runs to get to rigs that are not fished as much. I think your water by the mouth of the Mississippi is richer and supports more fish so maybe they are fished more than where I dive.
The floating rigs are our opportunity to get YF and Wahoo. I am dying to go so bad, I think I will take the next good day off from work, if I can find someone to go with me.
09-30-2003, 11:04 AM
Im not talking about regular fishing line Don. Im referring to long line gear from commercial boats. 2 of the horseshoe rigs we frequent have these balls in them. That crap is as hrd to cut as cable.
We also do the floaters but during the winter we have the option of hitting the lump (much closer) and even closer rigs. If you dive the floater remember you arent going to dive close to them usually. The best hunting is well off them.
09-30-2003, 02:05 PM
Donmoore, I'm in Houston. If you're ever in need of people, give me a holler.
Rigdvr, What kind of suit do you need to dive in the winter? I have a 3mm wetsuit. Do you need a 5 or 7?
Is the diving any good at the rigs in the winter, or is it only at the lump?
10-03-2003, 10:58 AM
I wore a 3 mil 2 piece picasso last winter b/c its all I had. Got cold after 5-6 hrs in the water. This year I have a Omer 5 mil.
There is great wahoo hunting at the deep rigs but the tuna seem to stay at the lump. As for scuba that time of year I dont know...snapper season is closed, cobia are gone for the most part, and I get bluewater on the brain!
10-13-2003, 06:41 PM
Sweet...I'll probalby pick up a 5 or 7mm for the winter. Is buying one from Leisure Pro safe, or should I get it from a dive shop?
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