Posts Tagged ‘CDT Fourcault’

CDT Fourcault promo

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
CDT Fourcault

A while back, I spent some time on the CDT Fourcault diving shipwrecks of the North Sea. The trip was a blast, and I met some really wonderful divers. There were groups from Belgium, UK, USA, and Italy (actually only one diver from Italy). All were fine divers, and many great sea stories were told over the dinner table.

Since that time some of us have kept in touch, and exchanged photos and videos of the trip, and other dive events. The latest was a promotional video made for the vessel CDT Fourcault. There are clips from our trip, and even a shots of me.

Boarding the dive boat Cdt. Fourcault style!

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009
Look Ma, no ladder!

Here’s a little video clip showing the diver boarding procedures used in the North Sea aboard the Cdt. Fourcault.

Ascent is not up the anchor line, but on a drifting “shot line”. At the top is a large (4 ft) ball. Attached to the ball is a tag line. Once you hit the surface, you hold onto the tag line waiting to be picked up. The RIB picks up one diver at a time and bring them back to the mother ship. Attached to the back of the RIB is a foam raft (boogie board). The diver climbs aboard the raft, and the RIB heads back , diver in tow. In 8 ft seas, this is quite an experience.

Once alongside the diver rolls off the raft, and drifts over to a cage/platform that is lifted up onto the main deck. No ladder!

North Sea Expedition 2009

Sunday, July 12th, 2009
An Exceptional Dive Platform

Last week, a few friends and I had the opportunity to join the North Sea Expedition 2009. This was an all CCR trip to visit some untouched wrecks. The trip was coordinated by a group of Belgium divers who were gracious enough to invite groups from the UK, and the USA. The dive platform was the Cdt. Fourcault, a 150 ft converted military vessel. The owner/captain, Pim, lives aboard with his lovely wife Angel. They hosted the entire group in their “home”.

At the beginning of the week Pim made a comment that the highlight of the week is not the diving, but the people. His words could not have been more accurate. I’m not down playing the diving, but it was overshadowed by the people we met. First, the Belgium dive group did a fantastic job of putting this trip together! I can not say enough about how smoothly and professionally this was carried out! Not only did they plan and coordinate the diving, but also supplies (tanks, weights, sorb …), transportation, and even dinner plans in town. Second, Pim and Angel were two of the best hosts anyone could ask for. Can you imagine having over 20 people staying in your house? Meeting, diving, and spending time with them was one of the trips highlights! They also had a great crew assembled for the trip. They all kept the ship and dive operations running smoothly, and safely all week. In addition they were fun and interesting people to meet and work with.

Group Dive Brief

In addition to our hosts, many other great divers were aboard for this trip. We spent long hours laughing and talking about trips, techniques, and gear: what works, what doesn’t. Just a great group to spend time with.

Now lets talk about the diving.

Dive operations were very different from here in the Northeast US. We have some areas around inlets and sounds (Block Island and Rode Island for example) where dive operations must be scheduled around the slack tides. In the North Sea, all dive operations seem to revolve around the tides. There is a dive window of around 2 hours. At the start of this window the current is dropping down to a manageable range. During the dive the current eventually stops completely, and reverses. The trick is to get back on the line before the current picks up and becomes unmanageable.

Drift to the shot

To operate in these conditions, divers use some different techniques than we use here. The ship does not anchor into the wreck. Prior to dive operations, shot lines are dropped on the wreck. Theses use large weights, and grapnels to drop quickly to the bottom, and hook the wreck. Next the dive vessel is positioned up current of the shot line. If possible, the vessel will anchor in this position. However, based on wind and current, this may not be possible. Divers then jump in and drift to the buoy on top of the shot, then descend to the wreck. The first divers secure the line into the wreck. Each diver attaches a marker to the line, and removes it when they head back up. The last diver unclips the line, and the entire group drifts with the shot line.

Giant stride!

A few techniques that are specific to the Cdt. Fourcault: Jumping into the water involves a 12-15 ft drop from the main deck. Now that’s a Giant stride! Any time divers are in the water, one of the three RIB is standing by to assist. At the end of the dive, the RIB can bring the diver back from the shot line. If conditions are right, the diver can simply drift back in the current. Once alongside the diver swims into a platform that is lifted up onto the main deck. No ladder!

Look Ma, no ladder!

This combination of techniques allows for operations in much heavier seas than we would normal consider locally. Since the sea conditions on the North Sea are normally rougher than we experience here, this is a necessity. The US divers were subjected to a trial by fire on the first dive. Jumping into 8 ft seas and swimming to a buoy barely visible between swells. Once there we descended to the wreck into a strong current. On the wreck we enjoyed searching about for artifacts, as well as seeing an abundance fish life different from our own. During the ascent, we hung on the line like flags in the wind. After the shot line was unclipped we then drifted along like plankton. Back on the surface, we bobbed about in the swells until, the RIB picked us up, one at a time. Attached to the back of the RIB is a foam raft (boogie board). The diver climbs aboard the raft, and the RIB heads back to the mother ship, diver in tow. In 8 ft seas, this is quite an experience.

Riding the Boogie Board

The Dives:

Again, I must say thanks to the Belgium dive team for their work in lining up a number of great dives. Many of the wrecks had not been dived before, and we all accepted that they may or may not be worth the effort. For the most part the risk was worth the reward. Conditions on the bottom varied from 10 ft to over 30 ft of visibility. One advantage of the strong tidal current, there is no thermocline. The water was 60 deg F from top to bottom.

Some of the wrecks were intact or nearly so. Others were debris fields in the sand. One wreck was completely engulfed in a sand bar, leaving only the bow, and small tips of debris visible. Others stood up prominently, providing large areas with easy penetration. Here inside the wrecks many artifacts were recovered. Portholes, plates, bottles, spoons, placards, even a telegraph, were all brought into the daylight for the first time in many years.

I’ll try to add more details on individual wrecks, but this post is long enough. Let me end by saying, it was a great trip! Good dives, good friends, good Belgium beer.

Click the image to see all the slides.
Video: How to board a boat Cdt. Fourcault style!