Since you ask, yes I dived the Illinois just a couple of weeks ago:
I had arranged this dive ages ago. In fact, I remember getting a call from Anke Otto in May, while I was in France. Anke was keen to do a scooter dive. I remember checking my diary and saying yes!
I arrived in Weymouth and unloaded my gear onto Autumn Dream. There were a few familiar faces on the boat, Jez Kent, Michael Williams and Ian McDean. No sign of Anke though! The other divers on the boat that day were mostly KISS RB divers.
Anke arrived, and I helped her load her gear. When Autumn Dream slipped her moorings we started setting up our gear. Anke had a near empty 21m bottle, so we discussed what to do about it. Luckily, she had a fill whip, so went around "stealing" about 10bar from all the 50% bottles on the boat. By the time she'd finished, she had nearly full bottle, so we were in business!
On the way out we discussed the procedure with the trapeze. I don't like these things and prefer to use a DSMB. However, we decided to use the trapeze, since that seemed to be the way that everybody liked to do things. We use these things up in Liverpool Bay and they are reasonably sucessful, but I'd never used one with so many divers before.
We all manufactured our own "tag". Mine consisted of a line arrow with my name on it, tied to a small boltsnap. Jez, Michael and I joked that us cave divers must stick together!
When we got to the wreck, the trapeze was deployed and we kitted up whilst waiting for the slack. At this stage there was some confusion over who was to go in first. Originally, Anke and I elected to go last, giving the other divers a better slack window. We weren't too bothered about the slack, since with the scooters we would hardly notice any current on the wreck. Then, somebody suggested that we go first, scooter down to the wreck and tie in the shot. This last minute change of plan had us hurrying to get into our gear, only to find that somebody was already fully kitted, so we reverted to Plan A.
I should point out that this wasn't really a "team" dive. Anke and I were a team of course, but we were just guests on a dive arranged by somebody else.
Anyway, we were the last pair in and after our bubble checks, we descended the line and found the wreck at about 55m. We had planned a 20 min BT at 60m. We stayed along the top of the wreck (the Illinois is upright) and once at our target depth, sorted ourselves out, exchanged "okays" and hit the trigger!! wow!!
Everybody had attached strobes to the shotline. I don't think that this is necessary. If the layout of the wreck is such that you may not be able to find the shot, you should reel off. If that was the case, I would tie off, clip off the scooter and then go swimming with my reel. Anyway, on this occasion, vis was reasonably good (12m) and the wreck is easy to navigate so off we went.
Scootering adds a whole new dimension to diving. Everything seems to happen at a million miles an hour. As we scootered along the wreck, I adjusted my speed to match Anke and watched carefully for her light signals. I was mortified to discover later on that she was having some trouble with a backup regulator that had a tendancy to freeflow....and I hadn't noticed! It took her three attempts to get my attention and turn the dive around. I was having so much fun it let my enjoyment detract from my attention to my buddy. This wasn't a major problem but it did make me think hard about my situational awareness and buddy skills while scootering. I've had this happen to me before......I've been delayed with a stage or something while buddy goes scootering off into the distance. It's easy to do. Hit the trigger for 10 seconds and you will end up a fair distance from your buddy!
Anyway, we turned the dive. On stopping, I was suddenly aware of a fair bit of current on the wreck. I was on the rail and Anke was geting slowly swept across the wreck and behind some accomodation block(?) meaning I couldn't see her light for a few seconds. I stayed on the rail (this was our visual reference back to the shot line and I treat this like a line in a cave) and pointed my light towards where Anke was to show here where I was and which way was "home". She had just stopped for a few seconds to sort out her tow cord and quickly got out of visual contact due to the current. Within a few seconds she reappeared, I confirmed the "exit" direction with my light and we scootered back along the rail.
On reaching the shotline, we spent a few minutes mooching around and then thumbed the dive. On the way up we stowed our scooters, cradling them between our legs and were the last pair up so after removing our "tags" we deployed the trapeze and made our 21m switch.
Back at the trapeze, we found about 10 divers at 6m. After making our switch to our 100% bottles we both decided to get into a little mischeif! We unclipped our scooters and decided to "buzz" a few od them! This is a good way of passing the time but perhaps not such a good way of monitoring your buddy while at deco!
All in all this was a good dive. As with all my dives I learnt something (remember, you never stop learning). I learnt to be far more vigilant when scootering. This is much harder in the sea than in a cave. Light signals are much easier to see in a cave.
We had no drama, stress or problems. Regarding the trapeze, I would offer the following advice.....Don't touch it!!!! Use it as a visual reference only, but don't rely on it! Use the bottom timer on your wrist and your ears. What happened to Mark on his Illinois dive was unfortunate and I am surprised that Phil managed to get Tango caught up like that. If that had happened to me I think I would have bagged off there and then, but it's easy for me to say that after the fact.
Anyway, our Illinois dive was on 18/45 with 50% and 100%.
I came away from Weymouth and drove to Poole for two more days of offshore dives on Beowulf...Now that's another story..............