Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Week-end

Sunday moning, we got up and got ready to head farther north. Aron of The Shekel had lined us up a last-minute scuba charter out of Alpena, Michigan and we weregoing to get some diving in, hence the scuba tanks in my aircraft's cargo compartment. We were going to load Aaron's gear in too and head up, but the weather forced us to resort to Plan B. We drove. So after a quick lunch at Aaron's place while his two darling girls sang us songs about Barney the dinosaur (and killing him with TNT and a 2x4...those kids are great!), we hit the highway for the great north.

Now these road trips that we take from time to time are always fun if only for the adventure of the open road. I like to drive and see places. But traveling with Aaron is more like The Call of the Mild, at least when he's driving. He never speeds, never passes on the double yellow line (and rarely even on the broken white ones), and won't even drive to the corner store without programing his GPS first then following it's instructions to the letter. (I am militantly anti-GPS in car, just FYI. I'm old and I love paper maps. (If it was good enough for Columbus...) Besides, the travel is half the fun, and getting off-track just means more travel and more new sights to see.

Finally we got to Alpena, A fair bit under our projected arrivial time because I drove the last part of the way. We got to a pretty decent little motel that Aaron found, The Dew Drop Inn. Now knowing how Aaron shops for motels from past trips ("It was the cheapest place I could find!"), I was expecting it to be right next to a paper mill or a rendering plant and have doors that look like they've been bashed in a time or two by the local police tactical units, but this one was actually quiet and clean and I didn't even smell curry when we walked into the office. It turned out to be a really nice place for the money. So after dinner at the John Lau Saloon, a local pub that was out of hamburgers(!) but sold 32oz beers(!!), we adjourned to our pretty decent little room and called it a night.

Monday morning came early, and we grabbed a kick but good breakfast at John Boy's Restaurant, where the waitress and customers at the counter were talking positively and even enthusiastically about "stand your ground" laws as we walked in. That told us right there that we were back up in God's Red-State America.

Then it was off to the boat dock, where the adventure really began.

First off, we got there and there was...nobody. No boat, no other divers, no captain. Just two guys going "WTF?" So Aaron calls the captain and I'm thinking that he actually woke the guy up. Then the captain is asking: "Who are you guys, again?" Not a good sign.
Next, he tells us that the weather is bad and he canceled the other divers last night but forgot to call us. However, he's still willing to take us out to the agreed-upon wreck if we want to go.

Dude, we're all the freaking way up here. We pretty much have to go now. So he promised to hurry up and get over to us, and forty-five minutes later, here comes a little 18-foot outboard piloted by this guy's twin in every way except thhe eye patch:

It's Captain Ron Mike!

"Well guys, it's pretty choppy out there," he says. "What do you think?"
We're thinking that he's the captain, so if he doesn't think it's safe, he won't take us out. We're game to try the dive based on his willingness to take us out, so we toss our gear onto the SS Minnow's little brother and head out onto Lake Huron.

We go out, and we get into the waves, and it's up and down, up snd down, with tons of spray and water splashing over us. A little farther out, we saw a 1000-foot lake freighter heading north, and he was actually taking spray and rollers completely over his bow, and he was empty and riding high out of the water! Yeah, maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.

Finally we get right to the wreck sight, and the boat is riding up and down six to eight foot waves, many of which now have whitecaps. Captain Ron Mike pronounces it unsafe to dive, saying "I should have listened to my instincts back at the dock." I look at my soaking wet dive partner and we exchange incredulous looks. But Captain Ron Mike just fires up the boat and says "I now a couple more wrecks that are better protected." And off we go again.

Some time later, we finally get to a bouy marked "Davidson" and Captain Ron Mike tells us that there's "wreckage all over the place" below us. We get geared up and go over the side, and drop down to find one small section of wood hull and not much else. We horse around there anyyway for a while, but then I start getting a sharp pressure in my forehead that feels like someone is shoving an ice pick through my skull. At first I'm thinking that something's twisted on my mask or my hood, so I spend some time removing my mask and reseating it, but when that didn't work, I had to surface to try to fix it. Once on top, it was actually worse, not better, so I swam back to the dive boat and took a breather on the ladder for a few minutes. When it still didn't go away, I climbed back aboad and reluctantly decided that I was done for the day. I was pissed beyond words to say the least, but a trifle concerened too, as I've never experienced this sort of pain before, and to get it suddenly on a dive is not good. So Aaron came back aboard too, and Captain Ron Mike took us ashore at a marina well south of the one that we departed from annd we all took a cab back to our car and his truck. (Apparently Captain Ron Mike didn't want to try to run his boat back through that chop either.) But at least Captain Ron Mike had brought beer with him, so we drank some of that and then hit the road back south. Holiday traffic was a mess on I-75 south, so we got off the highway and took county roads most of the way back down. The headache was still with me so I even let Aaron drive part of the way and he actually passed a couple of cars at one point. I was so proud of him!

We mae it back and finished the night with a nice dinner with Proud Hillbilly's daughter and Son-in-law, as they now live in this area. Good times, and worth doing just for the adventure even if the dive excursion did turn out to be a horrorshow. And there's always the next time.


  1. Um...did you get rid of the headache? That so doesn't sound good.

  2. DCS?

    What were your depth time profiles?

  3. Well, you did get to see some new places, so that beats a total washout!