Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Our Wreck Diving week-end

As we've done in years' past, Aaron and I got together for some diving and shooting, this time joined on the diving by Amy, a fellow amputee diver from Minnesota.

We went up Friday night and camped it. This could have gone a bit better, but we had some jughead on a nearby site who used his car's headlights to set up his campsite but left them on so long that his battery ran down. Of course he could not and would not wait until morning to get a jump start because he wanted some cigarettes from the store in town. So he found some other jughead with a broken set of jumper cables and they dorked around with it for about an hour before finally getting him running.

Then he got his cigarettes and just sat there all alone in his campsite, drinking beer and smoking. Hell, the fool could have done that at home.

Saturday morning, we headed out to Lake Huron and met up with Captain Gary Venet of Rec and Tec Dive Charters. We stowed our gear aboard his 36-foot boat, the Sylvia Anne, and off we went.

The first dive of the day was on the North Star. It's a 300-foot wooden ship that sank in 90 feet of water following a collision with her sister ship, The Northern Queen, in 1908. We did this one a year ago, but thanks to my then-new dive foot that still had a few bugs in it, that dive was a wash. This time however, it went good. We dropped down on the wreck in ninety feet and checked out the engine and a bit of the hull.

Here's Aaron and me. (I'm the more handsome fellow who only needs one air tank.)

Now I should add that Aaron and I have distinctly different styles and attitudes. I'm aggressive and he's very cautious. He takes safety to the utmost (and for the record, he's right to do so) while I subscribe to the motto: "Who dares, wins." Granted this has gotten me in trouble more than once, but then what's life without a bit of calculated chance to make it interesting? Together we often drive each other nuts. But that's what friends are for.

Our next dive of the day was the tug Mary Alice B., which was sunk--some say deliberately--in 1975.
Here's a shot of the ship's wheel in the pilot house. We were each able to get in there and turn the wheel. Other than the infestation of zebra mussels all over it, this tug looks as if it could be floated and put back into service. It's totally intact and upright in ninety feet.

I also ducked down into the engine room via the open hatch and swam back out through the open skylight, again somewhat irking Aaron. Sorry dude, but I did manage to resist entering the open and inviting hull of the Regina, right?

And on Sunday, we went back to the Regina, a 250-foot steel freighter that was one of eight ships sent to the bottom during the massive storm of November, 1913. She was only discovered in 1986, lying upside down on the bottom in about 75 feet of water.

The last time we dove this, we dropped in on the stern and played around it's massive rudder and propeller. This time, we went down on the bow, landing almost right on her massive port-side anchor, which is still in place. We saw some of the raised lettering of her name, and some very inviting openings in the hull, which I abstained from out of deference to Aaron as I know that he has a thing about just wandering into enclosed spaces. Granted, I was on a single tank with no spare air, had no entry line with me, and my air was running low, so he was right, but it was still damned tempting. I must be getting old. A few years ago I'd have been so in there.

I still ducked inside just a bit though. After all, this is a famous ship, chock full of history, and when adventure beckons, I gotta be me.

Here's Aaron holding an old glass bottle that we found on the wreck. Since it's a preserve, we had to leave it there.

And yes Aaron, I DO kick up a ton of silt. But I'm working on that. And I did surface with just under a thousand pounds of air though, so there was a bit more margin to play with than you gave me credit for in your version of this story.

Finally, we finished up on the wreck of the Eliza Strong. This was originally a 205-foot steamer which burned while under tow with a cargo of white pine in 1904. It was cast adrift and sank in 25-30 feet of water right off of Lexington, Michigan, so close that she was twice dynamited to keep her from being a hazard to other ships. Now it's just 145 feet of decking, spars and other bits and pieces, but lots of fun to just play around.

Here's me and Amy on this one. She's the one with the bright yellow spare air bottle.

The shallow depth of this wreck gives divers lots of bottom time and makes for a refreshing change from the cold temperatures on the other, deeper wrecks. And as a plus, this one's chock full of bass! We had a ball on this one and it was a great wreck to end the trip with.

Now maybe by next time, Aaron and I can work on our pre-dive planning a bit better. He's quite good at diving with other divers, whereas I've always been a solo diver before these trips. He knows a ton of really cool hand signals that I'm sure come in quite handy when communicating with his regular dive partners, but alas, I do not know these signals, so his using them with me is like him trying to play charades with the dog. I just smile and wave back and make the "OK" sign and watch to see what he does next. I was also slow to grasp the concept that one must always stay very close to a "dive buddy"...apparently merely being on the same wreck is not close enough. But I'm working on it.

Oh--and in the "credit where credit is due" department, I have to say that my diving foot, the Rampro Activankle, finally worked well, in marked contrast from previous dives and casual swims. It was tweaked a number of times before getting to this point, but this time I was actually able to swim with the fin extended at a proper swim angle (thus allowing me to allegedly swim away from Aaron, even though he has two feet and should never have been able to let me outdistance him on the Regina) yet I could also lock it into a proper 90-degree angle for walking and was able to do so and exit the water via the boat ladder without assistance for the first time. Fantastic!


  1. Anonymous6:46 PM

    Great blog............Great photo's and great COURAGE... I went to get certified in the Cayman's, and on my last 50 foot dive i freaked out, got claustrophobic, and feared sharks like no tomorrow.

    Kudo's to you and your friends Superman (taking Nickie's words). Job well done.

  2. Love diving.. It's been years but remember the beauty of the ocean floor and the springs in Florida.. And the feeling of weightless, floating, isolation and complete envelopment by the universe.. I miss it.. :)

  3. Sounds like the new swimming leg is definitely working out great! :) So glad you had fun diving!!

  4. Anonymous12:48 PM

    Great pictures and story. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Cool, sounds like you all had a wonderful time with your buddies.
    Ahhh...the dive hand signals. I could only get, Up, Down and OK. Oh and "Share Air"...that's a good one. Always funny to use it just to watch the other diver panic even if you don't need any. :-)
    Other than that, forget it. You might as well be flipping me off because I am not getting them.

    Hey, You should get one of those underwater writing boards...this way you can tell him all KINDS of stuff.

    I like how you have presented the information in full detail. Keep up the great work and please stop by my headlights site sometime. Keep it up..

  7. These photos are AWESOME! And congrats on the non-assisted water exit!!