Sunday, April 13, 2014

Let the Schlepping Begin

With the long winter over (I think its over.)I’m looking forward to the dive season opening up. The schlepping begins well before the season though. What this schlepping you say?  I looked it up in the dive dictionary:

Schlepping (sch-lep-ing) : the logistics of the  coordination, handling, loading , unloading and movement of copious heavy dive gear, repeatedly.

So when you help load the tanks, gear bags and other equipment into the dive van or trailer your helping to schlep the gear. Schlepping is an integral to diving and is actually part of the Dive Master training.  Ask Tater as he has completed his dive master certification.  We can’t dive if the gear doesn’t get there.

There’s a lot of background to schlepping that most people never see. Start with filling the tanks. It looks like you just hook up the tank to the fill whip and open the valve. What you don’t see is the filler’s quick inspection to the tanks. It is important to make sure that no damage that result in an explosive situation has occurred since the last fill. All of our tanks get the mandatory annual inspection every February.  After the tanks are filled, we stage the tanks for loading. Most of the summer, I load them directly in the trailer after filling.  

When we load the van and trailer a lot of thought goes into where the weight is placed in the vehicles.  In the van we try to keep the combined weight of passengers, gear on trailer tongue weight below the recommended tire load rating for the tires on the van. On my list to do this spring is to take the van and trailer to Kenosha Tire to have the tires inspected, much like you have you regulator and gear inspected. They may determine that new tires will be in order.  The same weight issues are considered in loading the trailer. We try to balance the heaviest weight over the axle.  We also pay attention to the distribution of weight from the front of the trailer to the rear. Too much weight towards the front of the trailer causes excessive tongue weight thus putting excessive weight on the rear of the van and exceeds the load rating on the rear tires.  Too much weight towards the rear of the trailer causes the tongue to lift the back of the van and the trailer will sway back and forth. This shifts the weight of the cargo from one trailer tire to the next. When most of the weight is shifted to one tire it exceeds the recommended load and the tire overheats and blows out.  In addition to balancing the loads, inspection of the van, trailer and tires is a regular ongoing activity. I even check the temperature of the tires at every pit stop with a PYROMETER while on the road.  However, even with the balancing of the load and constant inspecting, occasionally you can still blow out a tire.

 Last summer on our way to recover the famous Ghost Anchor of Butternut Lake we blew a trailer tire by Appleton. (We blamed the blow out on the Ghost Witch of Butternut Lake. Legend states that she placed a curse on anyone attempting to get the Ghost Anchor out of the lake. Later that day she threw a deer at the trailer. That’s another story though.)  We had been diligent on balancing the load and checking the vehicles and tires but still had a blowout. On the trip the tire temperature’s had been running between 105 to 110 degrees. The same temps that we ran all the way to Ohio and back a few weeks earlier.  As we were weighted just less than the Ohio trip we determined that the blown tire must have picked up a nail or other road debris and began to lose pressure.  This made the sidewall of the tire to bulge and flex caused the tire temperature to increase rapidly exploding the tire. The tire blew with such force that it took the fender right off the trailer. As the driver, I was happy that the load in the trailer was evenly balance as it made keeping control of the vehicles and getting off the road much safer. A few years ago I anticipated (as any good schelpper would) that this could happen thus the tool box and spare tire that I had welded to the front of the trailer. We were back on the highway in about 20 minutes. Just before we got back on the road I checked the tire temps on the van and trailer. It was about 20 minutes after the blow out and they were about 100 degrees. The blown out tire was still registering well over 180 degrees. I wonder what it was when it blew.

In the next few weeks I will be picking up the trailer from storage. It’s been in a heated warehouse during this nasty winter. Before the season starts I hope to finally complete the interior and install some lighting.  If I don’t get the interior finished and lights installed you can still be assured the inspections will get done and all safety issues addressed.  It’s just part of the schlepp.


Sunday, April 6, 2014


Get a little stressed out when I hear reports about global climate change, massive oil spills or ground water contamination. The stress, in large part, comes from a sense of my inability to do anything to combat these threats to our planet.  I get caught up in the notion of my smallness in comparison to the problem. What all concerned citizens of Earth need to remember, though, is that every journey starts with a single step. This year, my single step will start with working to combat the invasion and establishment of Eurasian Water Milfoil (EWM) in Lake Lulu.

 EWM is a non-native plant that is quickly becoming a problem for our lakes.  It forms thick mats of vegetation on the lake that can become tangled in boat propellers and oars.  In addition, such thick plant cover makes fishing and swimming less than enjoyable.  The invasive plants also grow so dense that larger fish cannot penetrate them to lay their eggs. Left unchecked, the EWM over takes the plants native to the lake, removing an important food source for wildlife and aquatic birds.

Anyone who fishes by boat or owns or rents lake property has heard of the campaigns to get people to inspect their boats carefully before and after launching them to avoid transporting the invasive plants from one lake to another, but this has met with small success.  In 2009, Jerry Ziegler of the Nature Conservancy and Tim Gerber, a Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, started working on stopping the spread of EWM in Lake Lulu in Walworth county.  They arranged outings with Biology students during which participants dive down with snorkels or scuba and carefully remove the invading plants.  Support crew help to bring the plucked plants into the boat and keep an eye out for any loose pieces of the plants that could replant themselves. The bad thing is, that the EWM is not that easy to eradicate.  It grows back.  Tim then got the idea to spread bio degradable mats of mesh woven with native plants such as pond weed on the lake bottom where the EWM was removed. This is a very promising weapon in this battle.

I became interested in this after I read an article about it in the Milwaukee Journal- Sentinel.  I e-mailed Tim and asked if I could join his mission with a group of divers from my shop.  He told me they would be very appreciative of the help, so we made a plan to meet at the lake on June 14 for weed picking and whatever else he needs us to do! (He’d like a little recon, perhaps with photos of an area at a depth of 40ft.)
I already have several volunteers and I hope to have a strong showing from Manta Divers.  Mike and I have decided that we will provide tanks for the group, as well as bring our portable gas grill. Our divemaster, Tater has offered to bring his gas grill, too.  Participants need only bring their gear and whatever they want to eat (cook on our grill) and drink that day.

Hopefully, we will all end the day with a feeling of accomplishment for the good we have done for the environment, in addition to the knowledge that we needn't sit back and do nothing.  We are all capable of taking that first step toward a healthier environment. 

For a video on the topic, click here