Diving the Minnedosa July 24-25, 2008

It’s been a busy summer and I haven’t had time to post anything recently. On July 24th, a group of us headed back up to Harbor Beach, MI (seems like my second home) to dive once again with Gary Venet on His awesome boat, the Sylvia Anne (http://www.rectecdivecharters.com/).

Our target wreck was the Minnedosa, the largest sailing ship built on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. She was about 250′ long with four masts. She never really sailed much, being so big that she required a large crew and lots of wind. Plus, lacking maneuverability in port, she had to travel with her own tug. So, it was usually easier (and quicker) just to tow her. In October 1905, she and another barge were in tow of the steamer Westmount. No one knows for sure what happened, but it is surmised that the Minnedosa began to founder and that her captain ordered the towline cut in order to save the other vessels. Today she lies in about 210′ of water in Lake Huron, east of Harbor Beach.

Our charter was to leave at 3 pm, but upon arrival, Gary informed us that we would have to cancel. Looking up at the flag standing straight out from the pole convinced us of the merit in that idea. Gary’s divemaster, Tom, asked if we would like to visit the Harbor Beach lighthouse, under renovation to turn it into a museum (although it is also still an active light station). We hopped onto his boat and he ran us out to the end of the breakwall for an up close and personal look at the light house. I can’t wait to see the interior after the renovation is complete.

By the time we got back from the lighthouse, the wind had died and we decided to give the Minnedosa a try. With little wind, the waves dropped pretty quickly and we were only mildly annoyed with the 2 foot rollers left on the lake. When we arrived at the site, we were treated to the site of an empty lake. No buoy. No mooring line. It seemed we weren’t meant to dive that day. But Gary and Tom rigged a new mooring line and dropped it on the wreck. Since everyone else was diving with cameras, my buddy and I volunteered to tie the new mooring in. We dropped in, followed the line to the bottom (just 10 feet off the starboard side of the wreck!) and secured the mooring to the ship. We spent the remainder of our bottom time exploring the stern section of the wreck. The wheel is still there, and quite impressive. There are a number of artifacts on the stern cabin roof for divers to enjoy (and leave in place). We dropped over the stern to check out the massive rudder and elegant curves of the transom and then it was time to head up.

Due to our late start and spending time rigging the new mooring, we didn’t get back to the dock until 8 pm. We quickly drove over to the motel to check in and then headed over to Hunter’s Bar for dinner (one of only 2 establishments open at that hour in a small town).

Friday morning, July 25 brought beautiful weather. Once again, just some small waves on the lake. We motored out to the wreck and lo and behold, the mooring was still there. This time Steve and I got to spend our entire 25 min. bottom time exploring the wreck. We started by checking out the yawl boat on the lake bottom near the stern of the Minne And worked our way all the way to the bow, where we saw the windlass, both anchors, a boiler for a donkey engine to run the windlass and various other smaller artifacts. We swam 250′ back to the stern and the ascent line, enjoying the sights as we went along.

The ride back to the dock was quick, at least it seemed that way to me. That may be because I had a wonderful nap the whole way back in!

It was another great couple days diving Lake Huron and we enjoyed every minute of it. Next week I’ll be in The 1000 Islands region diving the St. Lawrence River. I’ll try to post throughout the week, depending on how internet connections are up there.

Diving the Minnedosa July 24-25, 2008

Last Adv. Nitrox/Deco Course of the Summer!

The last Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course of the summer will begin August 23-24, 2008.

This initial weekend should cover the bulk of the academic study and several dives. Remaining meetings will be scheduled after completion of the weekend’s activities.

This course is the entry level technical course in the line-up of TDI courses. Graduates will be proficient divers capable of planning and executing simple staged decompression dives using nitrox and oxygen to optimize decompression obligation. This combination course consists of approximately 8 hours of classroom work, at least three skills dives and at least 3 “working” dives.

Prerequisites: Candidates for this course should have experience diving in the conditions in which the course is to be conducted (e.g. Great Lakes). They should have a fundamental grasp of buoyancy and trim, and be familiar with the gear they will be wearing for the course. An advanced certification from SDI or another recognized agency and basic nitrox certification is required. The majority of candidates for this class wear a backplate, wing and double cylinders, but a single large-volume tank fitted with two first stages is acceptable. For a full equipment list, please ask.

Course fee is $850 per person and includes all textbooks, handouts, cards (upon successful completion of course objectives), and the instructor’s time and expenses.

Please e-mail questions to rick@greatlakestechdiving.com.

Last Adv. Nitrox/Deco Course of the Summer!

Adv. Nitrox/Deco Course July 12-13, 2008

It was back to Gilboa Quarry this past weekend for the initial weekend of an Advanced Nitrox/Decompression Procedures course. I met up with Brian, Ryan and Wally Saturday morning at the quarry. The plan was to do a few hours of academic material followed by our first training dive. We got off to a slow start due to an unexpected downpour just as we were getting ready to begin. We began an informal classroom session in the office until the rain let up. Marshall Allan brought down his nice new 8′ X 10′ enclosed trailer for us to use as a “portable classroom.” We set up chairs and a whiteboard inside and got down to business.

Around noon we took a break for lunch and then reconvened to get ready for our dive. We looked over each other’s equipment and configurations and planned our dive. We entered on the deep side of the quarry, swam over to a shallow shelf at about 30′ to do some manifold drills and gas sharing. Then we dropped down to the 70′ platform to work on deco cylinder handling, gas switches and SMB deployment.

Sunday morning we again met at 9 to do 2 more dives and just a little more classroom work. The first dive was another skill dive with “simulated” deco stops during the ascent. Our last dive of the day was a deep dive, incurring a small deco obligation, with the emphasis on proper execution of the dive rather than more skill repetition.

Other than some rain Saturday morning, the weather was sunny and hot, making for a beautiful weekend. Brian, Ryan and Wally all did well, although everyone knows what to put extra work on. Marshall was kind enough (or cruel enough) to video tape several of the class dives and give the guys DVD’s to take home so they can critique themselves. Video is a very valuable teaching tool and I appreciate Marshall bringing his camera and even his DVD duplicator out to the quarry for us.

This course will finish up with dives in the 1000 Islands in a few weeks. The St. Lawrence is one of my favorite dive sites, so look for a report around mid-August.

Adv. Nitrox/Deco Course July 12-13, 2008