I just got back this evening from 3 days diving Lake Huron near Presque Isle, MI. Presque Isle is about 30 miles north of Alpena, MI (15 miles south of Rogers City). Some more information is on my website here. The photo at left is a model of the Cornelia B. Windiate on display at the NOAA Thunder Bay Marine Museum in Alpena, MI.
We chartered with Greg Such (www.shipwreckadventures.com) to take us out to such famed and beautiful wrecks as the SS Florida, Cornelia B. Windiate and the Kyle Spangler. This area is known for fickle weather patterns and Greg did a great job of watching the forecasts and picking good weather windows. We didn’t miss a single day of diving. He runs a nice boat and was great helping us gear up and get in the water (although he’ll back off and leave you alone if you prefer).
Anyhow, I was a day late joining the group. On day one, they dove the Windiate. More about that later. On day two (my first day), we met at the boat launch a 7 am to get out before the wind came up. We dove the Kyle Spangler. The Spangler is a beautiful wooden schooner upright and intact on the bottom in about 165′. Both masts are standing, complete with crosstrees (kind of a crow’s nest). Look here for more info on the Spangler. Be sure to click on the link at the bottom of that page to see some awesome photos of the Spangler.
The next day found us once again at the boat launch at 7 am. The weather was sunny, blue skies and no wind. We made the early trip out to the SS Florida and were rewarded with just about flat seas. I’ve been on the Florida a number of times, but it was my buddy Steve’s first time. We dropped the 175′ to her deck and I gave him the whirl-wind tour. We dropped into the hold amidships and swam forward past barrels of flour, some floating up against the overhead. We saw blue enamel pots and pans, hand carts and cans and cans of something. Popping out of the hold near the bow, we eyed the forward capstan cover with the engraving still quite legible. Check out the anchors and time to start working our way to the stern. Down the deck past fallen masts. Huge collision holed on the starboard side. Look inside the aft cabin that looks like a storage area or workshop. Keg of nails on the deck. Brass lantern laying on the deck. Time is fleeting. We drop to the bottom at 195′ to see a bell. Over to the exposed engine to check out the gauge panel and it’s time to get to the upline and ascend. Man, what a dive. We need about 3 more dives to go back and investigate the Florida in more detail.
Today, our last day. Our hope was to return to the Florida. However, the wind was picking up, so we did the Windiate instead. Not a bad consolation prize. The viz was a little disappointing on the way down. But when Steve and I hit the top of the forward mast at 90′, we could clearly see the entire wreck below us. We could see the other buddy team, Marshall and Renee, swimming around the wheel at the stern. We dropped to the deck some 70 feet below the top of the mast. We swim around the bow, with anchors still there. Heading to the stern, we check out the sail hoops and booms still attached to the masts. There are even some small brass grommets (from the sails?) lying at the base of one of the masts. We swim around the wheel at the stern and drop to the bottom (about 180′). The yawl boat is on the bottom on the starboard side. Time to head forward to the line. We swim forward and I marvel at the hatch covers still in place. She surely must have settled slowly to have remained this intact. Before we know it, it’s time to head up.
The lake was still behaving herself and the ride back in was pleasant. One on shore however, the wind came up and within 30 minutes, it blowing hard.
The trip, of course, was too short. We had a great time, great dives, and great friendship. The best epitaph for a trip like this is “Just wait until next year!!!”