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Diving the Wexford with Red Devil Scuba

Posted by reddevilscuba on November 7, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

by Kristy Penney

From the moment we brought home our very own copy of The Great Lakes Diving Guide by Cris Kohl, my husband, John, and I have been researching ship wrecks we’d like to dive. We have our PADI Wreck Diver certification but are not technical divers and we don’t have dry suits. So we to pick our dream dives to fit within those constraints. In the Great Lakes, that still left us with many opportunities.

One of the wrecks described in the pages of our Kohl book quickly caught John’s eye: the steel steamer, Wexford. Resting under 80 feet of Lake Huron waters, the Wexford was one of eight freighters that were lost with all hands during the Great Storm of November 8-10, 1913. We had already explored the Regina, which sank during the same terrible storm, on two previous dive trips. The Regina lies upside-down, which makes it more difficult to get a sense of what she looked like in her glory days. The Wexford, however, rests perfectly upright. That fact may be what drew us to her.

With baited breath, we watched the dive trip schedules of our local dive shops. We even brought up the Wexford in conversation while we were in the shops. No luck. While everyone agreed the Wexford is a great wreck to dive, with so many interesting Lake Huron wrecks an easy boat ride from the U.S. side of Lake Huron, why travel to Canada? Still believing the Wexford would be well worth the trip, we turned to Google. That’s when we found the July 15th 2-tank dive trip to the Wexford with Red Devil Scuba. One or two phone calls later and we were booked.

July 15th arrived quickly, but due to our pre-dive anticipation, the drive from Livonia, Michigan to Grand Bend, Ontario seemed to take forever. At long last, we stood on the docks of the Grand Bend Municipal Marina. And we could not believe our good fortune! The day was sunny; storms were possible, but not here. Not now. The air temperature was reasonable – my 7mm wetsuit would be warm, but not insufferable. Most importantly, most happily, Lake Huron herself was calm. No waves. No wind. Our imaginations began to run wild with visions of unlimited visibility dancing in our heads. Soon we would see her. The Wexford. The wreck we had been waiting for.

But first things first. We needed to find RDS Owner Gary, the boat and the other divers. As this was our first dive with Red Devil Scuba, we didn’t know who we were looking for. No worries there. In general, divers are a friendly bunch and the divers on our trip were no exception. First we met Lauren, who was a Red Devil regular and she pointed us in the direction of Gary and our boat. There we also met Brian (the divemaster du jour), Stephanie and Adam. After a few minutes of gear loading and organizing, we were on our way.

The boat ride over the glassy surface of Lake Huron was as smooth as the lake itself. We took the time to get to know our fellow divers and trade stories about favorite dives. Gary and Brian filled us in on the previous day’s Wexford dives. In a word: amazing. Before we knew it, we were there. Time to gear up. One quick backwards roll and we were wet. John and I signaled that we were ok, then signaled each other to descend.

In no time at all, a dark shadow began to materialize out of the blue. The Wexford. We could see nearly all of her before we had even finished half of our descent. The line led us to her stern, where we began our initial wreck survey. Though the cold fresh waters of the Great Lakes tend to keep wrecks in good condition, the Wexford is not immune to the ravages of time. Her bow decks, teeming with aquatic life, are starting to collapse. Past divers have plundered her, removing plates and the like for their own personal treasure collection. But to us, she looked radiant with much left to explore. Our first dive seemed to end far too soon. During the surface interval, we all bantered excitedly. “Did you see…?” were the first words out of everyone’s lips. And we learned there was much we did not see.

A good diver learns something on every dive. Our lesson of the day, tracking bottom time, came during our surface interval discussions. We had always used the dive time (starting the moment our computers begin tracking our descent and ending the moment we reach the surface at the dive’s conclusion) as a substitute for bottom time. But there is a potentially serious flaw in that logic. If, heaven forbid, something were to go wrong and I needed to spend time in a decompression chamber, my bottom time would determine how long I needed to spend in the chamber. Including all of the ascent time and the time for my safety stop in my bottom time would result in extra, unnecessary time spent in the chamber.

Back in the water for our second dive, the excitement in our eyes had not dimmed. This time, we swam to the bow, descended through the open hold to the lowest deck and swam back toward the stern. When I reached the boilers, I took a passage to the left, on the starboard side, shining my light into every nook and cranny I could. On the other side of the boilers, John and I joined Brian, who was hunting artifacts. I looked on in amazement as Brian reached into what seemed to me a pile of muck and pulled out bits of china. There were remnants of a boot – just the heel and a bit of the sole remained. I couldn’t help but wonder if the boot had been in a poor sailor’s locker or on his foot when that terrible November storm struck. When I gazed upon a seemingly pristine piece of round porthole glass lying on the deck, I pondered what the last sailor who looked through that porthole had seen. Did he know his fate? Did he say a prayer for himself or the loved ones he would never see again? As I ascended out of the dark blue, I said a silent prayer for him and all the other souls the Great Storm had claimed that day.

The boat ride back to Grand Bend seemed much quicker than the ride out to the Wexford. Storms were coming. None of us minded. Every one of us was happy. At the docks, we unloaded our gear and said good-bye to our new friends. We had learned of other dives that Red Devil Scuba sponsors that would be easy for us to join. And, babysitter availability willing, we will.

When we crossed back into the U.S., the customs official asked us if we were bringing anything back with us. “No,” we replied. While that was physically true, we did bring back something from Canada that day: memories of a day of great diving with Red Devil Scuba and hope for more.

2012 Diving Down South & Locally

Posted by reddevilscuba on October 12, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

by Jamie Taylor

Recently, I travelled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for my most interesting dive trip so far, and had my very first ocean dive. When we bottomed at 60’ I screamed like a giddy school girl. I saw things that a lot of people haven’t seen which was quite breath taking. I made 6 dives and loved it so much I am not going to stop talking about it.

My most memorable dive was with Gary, Martin, Louie, Brain, Eion and Anna. We first planned to dive the Sun in Lake Erie but upon arriving there The Capitan decided it was too choppy so we headed to the St. Clair River on the boat. Gary viewed a wreck on his side scanner and said, “Hey a virgin wreck!” Martin and I jumped in and when I emptied the BCD I wasn’t going down, swearing a little no! swearing a lot and Martin trying to pull me down I realize no weights and headed back to the boat ``I forgot my weights`` after a few laughs and a poke `newbie’s`. Brian jammed my weights in my vest, Thanks for not jamming them up my (you know what). Finally got down landing right at the wreck. Explored it in wonder and thought "wow that was great!"  After surfacing Gary asked how was it? Your first wreck dive and from a boat to boot!"

Thank you Red Devil family! Let`s go diving!

2012 OW Training & Check Out Dives

Posted by reddevilscuba on October 12, 2012 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

 by Jamie Taylor

To begin with, when I signed up for scuba diving Gary was so helpful making sure that all my questions were answered. Showing me various types of equipment and explaining the do’s and don’ts. After bugging the him numerous times “when is the class gonna start?”, the word came we will be starting July 14th. This diver was so stoked I showed up for class gear in hand and ready to go. Well needless to say I was a week early, there was a little chuckle from Gary but all good. During my classroom and pool sessions, right off the bat I was thrilled and excited to learn the sport of scuba diving. My Instructors/teachers/mentors and friends Brian and Gary made me feel so comfortable and safe based on the tremendous knowledge and experience they have. Although there was only two of us at the start, but my classmate and dive buddy Conner was great, shivering his ass off in the pool. We were then joined by Walter and Al all these guys were a joy to spend so time with . I would dive with these guys any day.

On the Check out dive weekend in Tobermory, I met a few more divers in the Red Devil family and was given a warm welcome by all, which everybody was so helpful with tips and hints and making sure that I was all geared up and ready to go. We completed the skills required to become very well organized divers and well briefed on the dive site. It was a great pleasure to have Brian as an instructor very patient. On day two, since Conner and I were the first two to complete our skills, Gary took us on a little tour around the lighthouse dive site, mega cool I loved it. After surfacing completing CESA, Gary shook our hands and congratulated us. Gary said, “Well Done! You’re divers now.” To-date I have 16 logged dives and it’s rising, Oh Oh I have been bit by the diving bug.

My greatest diving experience in 2012

Posted by reddevilscuba on October 12, 2012 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

by Devin Gallagher


Unfortunately I wasn't able to get out much for diving this year, I was able to attend the Advanced Open water course in the summer of 2012. On a short note it’s never a dull moment with the Red Devil crew. We took the trip up to Tobermory for the weekend of diving, gathering of fellow divers and of course Gary’s big fires at the camp haha. It’s hard to say what dive I enjoyed the most on this trip because they each had their own experience. The one that stands out the most for me would be the deep dive/ wreck dive to the Niagara II this being my first time at this depth so I was curious to see if I would become narked or not, I’m pleased to say I could still count Gary’s fingers and do the simple math haha. This was the biggest wreck I've seen so far in my short time as a diver so I was in awe of the size as we swam alongside of it. Trying to enjoy its massiveness at the same time trying not to suck back all my air and cutting the experience short, which was pretty difficult when we swam down inside of the haul of the ship giving me that feeling that I was in a new world. It was a truly amazing experience I’ll never forget, the coolest part of the dive was when we swam through the wheelhouse where I had a chance to turn the wheel for a moment pretending I was the captain. I could have stayed there all day if I could.. before I knew it, I was at 600 psi bringing me back to reality that I am not a fish I am a human. So as me and my buddy started making are ascent to the surface, on are way up with everything running through my mind I knew id be back again to explore the rest of the wreck. I can’t wait for the future diving adventures and the more great memories, Big thanks to Gary, Aaron, Dave (for the ginger cookies!) to my dive buddy Dave “The cat man” and the rest of the RDS family.

Bonne Terre Mine

Posted by Jeremy VanRuymbeke on December 5, 2011 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Hello, my name is Jeremy VanRuymbeke and I am still fairly new (2nd yr) to the red devil family so luckily I drew the short straw to write a blog about a recent Red Devil dive trip five local divers took to a place called Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri. Its one of National Geographic’s top 10 adventures. About a hour south east of St. Louis. 11-12 hours total from Chatham. We managed to rent a mini van and packed all our gear and essentials excluding tanks as these are provided by the facility and as I explain later on, we were extremely happy we didn’t have to supply our own. Surprisingly 5 men and gear, there was still lots of room to be comfortable for the long trek. We left around 7 am I believe and with an hour back time change arrived just after dinner in time to get settled at the hotel and grab some supper. The drive down was entertaining if you are a farmer and like to crop tour because other then the billboard signs that was it. For me and Aaron this was just fine but for the guys in the back they had a nice DVD player to watch a few movies to make time pass. ( suggestion: Super Troopers make for some fun laughs) The town of Bonne Terre itself was just a regular little town with the essential stores and restaurants, nothing spectacular. We took it easy the first night in preparation for the 3 dives the following day.

In the morning we arrived at the mine at about 7am. Lots of signs to find the mine itself but if there wasn’t you would never know it was there. Surrounded by houses in a normal looking neighbourhood this place looked nothing like I was expecting, a small parking lot some little buildings and a trailer like building as the main office. My original thought was where’s the mine? We took our safety briefing, video and signed those ever so popular “sign your life away” waivers and we were on our way. We were instructed to suit up once we got down to the mine so we gathered our gear and made our way to this little shed. ( no bigger then 10 x 25 feet) in the middle of the parking lot. They opened the door and in we walked. A 20 foot ramp down to a set of doors and then like walking down to the bat cave a set of stairs that went 125 feet down. No big deal when your adrenaline is pumping and you are carrying all this gear you don’t realize you will have to do this to get out as well. ( no tanks….woo). When we got to the bottom we followed a trail through the mine which was light up somewhat so you knew what you were stepping on . By the way, no one was busting my chops about my dive bag with wheels then. Lol The sheer size of this place was breathtaking, a massive cavern with walking paths everywhere for tours. We arrived farther in the mine where the water was and the sight was just incredible, as far as you could see was this big cavern and pillars cut out to support the roof which was at least 70 feet from the water surface.(Billion gallon lake) Even if you wouldn’t dive here just to walk down and see this was worth the drive, like being in another world and the fact we hadn’t even got in the water yet just made all five of us jumping inside. The setup was perfect as there was a huge deck platform with benches to gear up and a tank filling section where all you had to do was grab a tank and go. As for 4 of us we were new to this place so the guide again gave us a dive briefing and checked every single persons gear before they entered the water.. A very tight run operation. In the water we go and do a few skills in the water to prove our skill set. As we noticed later on Red devil was represented very nicely compared to some other people there. GARY would have been ……okay lets be honest somewhat proud! The dives were guided by one diver in the front leading the way and another in the back . No lights were allowed for the first dive but there was plenty of surface lighting that it wasn’t needed on the earlier trails. The visibility was incredible about 100+ feet and no silt so no pressure on anyone to not silt up a dive. The dives never got deeper then 60 feet so a great place even if you are new to diving. If you can get past the fact you are still diving in a mine. Overhead environment was minimal on the first few dives but the later dives they got farther and ohh so much cooler. Water temp was a constant 59 degrees but for us tuff Canadians just another day at the beach. As for sights it was unbelievable. When the mine closed back in the early sixties. The miners just laid there shovels and tools down and made there way out. Eventually water filled in and that’s exactly how it looked. Shovels still leaning against the wall and drills still in the wall. Lead carts left with rubble in them. Tools scattered on the floor. Now we only did 5 of the 20 something trails and if the first 5 are any indication then the next trip is defiantly on my list. Lots of neat things to see and the dives lasted about 45 -55 min depending on air consumption but even if you are a air hog you surface swim back to the platform and snorkel you way back right over top the other divers so you really don’t miss out on anything. The first day we did 3 dives and followed it up with 2 more on Sunday before we made the trip back home. On the drive home since leaving around noon we decided to drive part of the way home and find a hotel then do the rest in the morning. I defiantly suggest this as after 2 days of diving and doing dives that morning it makes for a tired crew. Cost for the trip was roughly 500$ excluding food. (and equip. rental if needed) Well worth the money and the long drive. I cant wait for next year to do it again and try some of the other trails. Hopefully we can get 2 vans full of divers as this was an incredible fun road trip to do some diving. Great for the winter months when our water is frozen. This trip would allow open water cert. but advanced would defiantly be helpful as the dives do get dark on the later trails. Thanks to Aaron and Red devil for organizing this trip and looking forward to dragging gary down there next year. Cheers!

1 more off the "bucket list" plus a nice surprise

Posted by Aaron Breimer on August 8, 2011 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

With my "real" job being agriculture based, there are certain times of the year that things get a bit busy so it is always nice when I get a chance to experience some underwater nirvana.

This was exactly the case on July 24th - wheat harvest had been in full swing for over a week and it was close to wrapping up. Gary had planned for a charter on Lake Erie for the 24th and with the inital plan to visit the "Little Wissihickon" I was one of the first to sign up. As the date got closer, Gary started to waffle on diving the "Little Wissihickon" and suggested instead to dive the "Willis". The idea of diving this wreck definitely caught my attention as it has been on my bucket list of must dives for the last 3 years. The Willis sank in 1874 (I think) and was less then year old when it sank (due to a collision). This was sure to be a beautiful wooden sailing ship to dive.

A few weeks prior, a buoy had been installed on this wreck and with the exact GPS numbers we headed out 20 miles from Erieau. Upon arriving at the numbers, it was apparent that the buoy no longer existed. However, Gary was able to locate what he felt was a pretty good target using his depth finder and had me gear up to ensure it was and to set up a down line for the rest of the group. I did a quick back roll into the water and began swimming down into Lake Erie not sure what to expect. At 50' I started to slow my descent incase Gary was off on the numbers and I did a face plant into the lake bottom. I should have known better then to doubt him ... at 60' I ran into the port railing and 3 "dead-eyes". I assure you - having never dove this wreck before, and doing a free descent ... it was uber cool to come across that part of the wreck that way.

After securring the down line and returning for my dive buddy, I got to explore this wreck fully including several block and tackles, more dead eyes, a bow sprit and some additional machinery on deck. During my safety stop, I was thinking what a great dive this had been and what would the second dive have in store to top this one.

The reason I wasn't sure what the second dive would be like was all I knew for sure, was we were going to a different wreck. In Gary's warped sense of adventure he had insisted on keeping the second destination a secret. No matter how much begging, pleading, or trickery I attempted - he refused to let me in on the secret (btw - I will get even for the torture I went through trying to figure it out).

We left the Willis and headed to the second site. When we finally got there, Gary fessed up ... we were going to dive the "F A Meyer". A massive wooden steamer that is mostly intact. I had never even heard of this wreck and it had been at least 10 years since Gary had dove it last.

No buoy on this wreck either so it was Brian "Fester" Marchand's turn to go wreck hunting and secure the down line. After his 3rd plunge, he was successful and while I extended my surface interval, Gary and Brian did a dive as well as Paul Steele and Dennis O'Neil.

Finally it was my turn (and my buddy - Mike Jack) to go check out this wreck. Gary was right - it was huge, and everything about it was huge. The boilers, the deck, the length, the planks on the deck ... simply massive. Even with my extended surface interval, I didn't have near enough time to fully explore this Lake Erie gem and while doing my safety stop I was kicking myself for a) not having nitrox in my tank and b) realizing that there must be a lot more wrecks in Lake Erie that I haven't even heard of that I am going to have to research more of.

Thanks to Captain Gary for a great Sunday of diving and I can't wait for the next mystery boat ride (although, I'd prefer if he'd let me in on the destination).

That was one HUGE shipwreck!!!

Posted by Aaron Breimer on March 11, 2011 at 7:27 AM Comments comments (0)

It took me 4 years but I finally got to check off the USS Oriskany off my bucket list of "Must Dive, Dive Sites"

For those not familiar with this particular dive site - here is a brief overview. The USS Oriskany was an United States Air Craft carrier that was launched in 1947 and after seeing service in both Korean and Vietnam was eventually retired until 2006 was it was sunk as an artificial reef south of Pensacola, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. As far as I know, this is 1 of 2 aircraft carriers within scuba limits with the other being being the Saratoga which was sunk at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific as part of a nuclear weapons test in 1946. With a career that long and with enough berths to house 2200 officers and sailors, thousands upon thousands of members of the US Navy served aboard the "Mighty O". Arguably the most famous of the service members was Lieutenant Commander John McCain ... yep that guy that would later run for President of the United States. In fact it was the Oriskany that John McCain flew off when he was shot down and became a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War.

I haven't been able to peg down the exact dimensions of the wreck (there is conflicting sources of information) but it was roughly 900' long, almost 140' (not including all the radio and radar masts) tall and nearly 150' wide. To give you an idea - the famous Great Lakes shipwreck, "Edmund Fitzgerald" was 730' long 75' wide and 75' tall. Yep, this was one HUGE ship and is now one HUGE shipwreck. Due to its tremendous size, when it was decided to turn it into an artificial reef, a spot had to be found that would allow it to be sunk deep enough to not be a hazard to navigation in the worst case scenario that it sunk on its side (its not an exact science to get a ship to sink exactly like you want) because the wreck is actually wider then it is tall. The site selected is in 210' of water which put the flight deck in 135' of water but unfortunately Hurricane Gustav caused the wreck to sink an additional 10' into the sand. Putting the flight deck in 145'-150'.

In the winter of 2007, Gary and I were in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to complete our instructor course and as a graduation present we drove to Pensacola with the idea of diving the largest artificial reef in the world. Mother Nature decided not to co-operate and with hurricane force winds, our charter got scrapped. Being away for over 2 weeks had exhausted our vacation time so we had to accept that we wouldn't get to do this dive. However, every since I have been thinking about what that dive would be like and finally I stepped up to the plate to make sure I got this dive in.

This past February I drove to Pensacola and had arranged to be in town for 4 days and crossed my fingers I would get my chance. Success came on Friday, February 18th. The sky was clear, just a slight onshore wind and thanks to the co-operation between 2 different charter captains we had enough people to make a trip possible. The charter boat was a small "6-pack" catamaran and the slight onshore wind had created some pretty decent size rollers on the Gulf. The 90 minute boat ride was in one word - rough. Diving off a small boat is always nice since the number of divers is limited but when the wreck site is 22 miles into a huge body of water like the Gulf of Mexico even a slight breeze can cause some pretty decent sized "flat rollers". That said, there was no sea sickness, just a few wobbly legs.

When we reached the wreck site, we got our briefing on how to maximize our bottom time and what to expect. It was at this point that I noticed the water was a lot "greener" then I was used to when I am diving in the "tropics". Apparently this is caused by the large algae blooms compliments of the Mississippi river flowing into the Gulf although occasionally blue water will move in from the deeper parts of the Gulf during the summer. We were also told that the water temperature was going to be in the high 50's - to be fair, I had already knew that and had my drysuit with me plus the added depth were the reason I drove so I had all of my own gear including a 25% nitrox mix in my tanks.

It didn't take long for me to gear up and hop into the water with my camera and make my way towards the down line. With my dive buddies following we began our dive. We quickly dropped down the line although we slowed when we came across a bunch of jelly fish that were slowly moving across the down line and we didn't really feel like getting stung. Once we started to descend again, it wasn't long before we saw the outline of a VERY big shipwreck. Due to the depth and the fact my dive buddies weren't trained in some of the higher levels of diving our dive plan called for us to stay around the "island" of the ship which is 150' long itself. The top of the wreck is in 75-80' of water and as soon as we all gave the OK, we dropped to 128' to checkout the command bridge and get a good view of the flight deck. It was at this point that I discovered that although my camera housing is rated to 180', the shutter release spring, apparently isn't so I had some challenges getting my camera to work at this depth. To get my camera working, we ascended back to 115' - 120' range and explored the navigation bridge as well as the flight control bridge (I was also a little narc'd at this point and remember giggling to myself about the level of confusion that would exist if a crew member was ordered to the "Bridge").

To maximize our bottom time, we slowly worked our way up the island and explored the upper parts of the structure. All too soon, we had maxed out our allowable bottom time and were on our way back to the surface. It was at this time that I realized I didn't have enough lead on to comfortably hold my safety stop and had to resort to the death grip on the down line to hold myself in place. I had assumed my fully loaded double tanks, plus a stage would be more then enough to offset the added buoyancy from the salt water - that would be a no to that assumption. Once we were back on the charter, I went about setting up my gear with an additional 10 lbs of lead since I knew I was a little lite to begin with plus I would be using up some of my gas which would make me even more buoyant.

During our service interval, I got to talk to my dive buddies who were a husband and wife from Pennsylvania and I found out that the husband had been in the navy as an electronic warfare specialist so he had actually flown off aircraft carriers (although not the Oriskany) so it was very interesting to learn more about his experiences. We had a surface interval of roughly 90 minutes and by that time, I was itching to get back for a second dive.

This dive maxed out to 121' where I was able to get a picture of the top of the command bridge and the navigation bridge. After our exploration from the first dive, we had decided on a penetration plan and we had a blast working our way through the various rooms and hallways that made up this part of the wreck and I remember thinking how cool it was that I was swimming through an area that John McCain might have walked through only hours before he would be shot down and become a prisoner of war. Once again, the dive was all too short and we had to begin our ascent ... this time the extra lead allowed for a very comfortable safety stop which I extended since my dive buddies had managed to put their dive computers into decompression. They weren't overly familiar with their computers and 2 deep dives right to the limits of the allowable bottom time had caused their brand of computers to penalize them with a 10 minute decompression stop.

Back on the boat, breaking gear down and a 90 minute boat ride back to Pensacola brought my amazing dive trip to an end. A 17 hour drive back to Ontario got me home just before another winter storm struck ... Mother Nature co-operated much more then in 2007. My pictures are posted on my facebook page (or follow this link: - I apologize for them being on the dark side and if you didn't know better, you'd think they were taken in the Great Lakes.

Gilboa Roadtrip - recap

Posted by Aaron Breimer on October 29, 2010 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

October 24th saw 9 local divers travel to Gilboa, Ohio to explore the numerous sites that have been set up for divers at the old limestone quarry.

We left Chatham at 8 am and with a short wait at the border but by 11 am we were at the quarry and getting geared up. This site is extremely diver friendly with lots of gear tables and easy entry (and exit) docks.

Our first dive lasted just over 30 mins and included a swim through an old school bus, a gulf stream business jet, helicopter and lots of time with many very friendly fish. Conditions included 30-40' of visibility, 62 degree water (above the thermocline), and above water temperature of close to 20 degrees celcius.

The group then took a 1 hour surface interval before getting back into the water an exploring the sites a bit more and practicing some skills. After another 30 mins u/w, the dive was over and we started to pack up for the ride home

Gilboa is about 15 mins west of Findlay, Ohio (which is on I-75) so we decided to stop at a restaurant called "Max & Erma's" for a bite to eat as well as to fill out log books. I had been here before and made sure everyone got to experience the best part of this restaurant - the fresh baked cookies as a desert. If you haven't tried it yet - I assure you there is nothing better then fresh baked chocolate chip decompression cookies that are still warm.

Great trip, great times, great people ... looking forward to next year and another round of decompression cookies.

My Lake Erie Diving (via New York State) Adventure

Posted by Aaron Breimer on August 23, 2010 at 6:39 PM Comments comments (1)

Hey Folks,


I just wanted to let everyone know about my awesome time diving Lake Erie from the New York State side.


On August 20th I left with a bunch of my friends for Westfield, New York which is on the south shore of Lake Erie (draw a line across from Long Pointe on the Ontario side and it is just to the east of that). I had heard some rumblings of the diving on that side of the lake but not as much as some of the other better known locations and a lot of the divers on the other side of the border still seemed more interested in diving in their local quarries then from this area so I wasn't sure what exactly to expect.


It took me about 4.5 hours to get their from Chatham (and return trip was a bit quicker because the border was easier to cross), so it is about the same distance as it is to Tobermory. I arrived around 7 pm and after checking into a local motel that had a deal on for divers (clean but older motel), I headed down to the marina (about 1 km away) and found the boat captain just about to head out for the night. The captain's name was Jim Herbert and his boat was the Southwind, while his charter company is Osprey Charters. Jim was kind enough to give me a tour of the dive boat and I was impressed - twin 735 HP diesel engines, roomy back deck for tanks and dive gear, completely enclosed cabin area with padded benches and tables as well as a microwave and a very roomy head (bathroom for you landlubbers), I could tell I was going to enjoy the next 2 days of diving ... well at least the transportation to and from the dive sites.


Saturday morning came quick and the boat left promptly at 8 am with 10 divers on it (we could have easily had 15 on it and it is actually inspected by the coast guard to hold up to 30 divers). Our first dive was to be the Dean Richmond. As soon as we left the harbour, Jim poured the power to those twin diesels and we were on our way (this boat MOVES). The Dean Richmond was a wooden steamer just over 200' long that turned turtle when it sank (it is sitting upside down for those that are nautically challenged). We descended on the bow (front end) mooring line and for the first 60' the visibility was about 20-25' ... not great but about what I expected for Lake Erie. The water felt like a bathtub and was a balmy 77 degrees all the way to 63', at which point I encountered the mother of all thermoclines. I consider myself an experienced Great Lakes wreck diver so when that thermocline dropped 36 degrees in the space of about 3 feet I was shocked. Yes math wizards - water temp went from 77 degrees to 41 in the space of 3 feet. I had to catch my breath when that happened but I also did a double take - the vis had gone from 20' to well over 75' (I am sure it was closer to 100' but this is Lake Erie and I don't want you to call me a liar). The wreck sits on a silty bottom in 110 feet of water, almost completely intact and with that kind of vis - it was impressive to see. My dive buddy and I did a tour around the wreck and got to see the one prop that is still attached to the drive shaft on the starboard side (right hand side if you were on the ship while it was afloat and you were at the stern/back looking forward). There are also numerous hatches that we stuck our heads and dive lights in but we hadn't planned on doing any wreck penetration so that was the extent of our exploration. Our 20 min bottom time disappeared extremely quickly and we had to head for the surface. At 64' we encountered that monster thermocline in reverse which made our 3 minute safety stop feel like a dip in a hot tub.


Our next dive was to be the Indiana which was a schooner that was transporting limestone when it sank upright in about 90' of water. After a 1 hour surface interval we descended down the mooring line and once again hit that 36 degree drop in temperature, and once again vis opened up to 75' (this time it was actually 75'). We made 2 circuits of the wreck and saw the upper deck still loaded with the limestone cargo, a partial mast, a lower deck that had numerous items of interest including many large pullys, ladders and what appeared upon close inspection to be barrels of some sort. After 22 mins of bottom time we once again surfaced and after all divers were back aboard the Southwind we headed for shore for an extended surface interval.


That extended surface interval was definitely needed as Captain Jim had something special for the afternoon. Our first dive was to be the Boland which was a 250'+ steel freighter sitting on its starboard side in 125' of water you want to try to maximize your bottom time. We descended along the stern mooring line, encountered the daddy of all thermoclines again (after 3 dives, I was liking my drysuit) and at 105' came across a beautiful prop that is still attached to the wreck and made for some amazing photo opportunities. We the dropped off to the port side which is exposed and with 100' of vis (honestly - I kid you not ... 100' of horizontal vis) I was in wreck diving nirvana. Side railings still in place, portholes visible, cargo hatches open, zebra mussel encrusted stairs, hallways just begging to be explored, and a little narcosis due to the depth and before I new it my 13 min turn around point was there and my buddy had to get my attention that it was time to turn the dive (I only made it about half way down the wreck and could just start to make out the bow which looked OOHHH SOOOO inviting). After this dive I was stoked - I've done some amazing dives in the Great Lakes but this one was easily in the top 5 if not top 3 of the wrecks that I have dove (Wexford and Northwind are still ahead but Arabia might have some competition now).


Another 1 hour surface interval and it was time to do our last dive of the day ... the barge "Betty Hedger". Located in 110' of water (yep, below that thermocline again) this barge was hauling "sulfur" (looked like regular stone/gravel to me but there were no zebra mussels growing on the cargo which I was told is because it was sulfur). The sides of the barge have collapsed so we finally had a wreck that wasn't completely intact but the large 12"x12" beams are still in place which makes for great photo's of your dive buddy as he navigates them. I'll admit - I my mind was still swimming from the Boland so although I enjoyed this wreck, I was already planning a return visit to the Boland).


On the way back to shore, Captain Jim pulled me to the side and asked if I would be interested in a return trip to the Boland the next morning ... my answer, "Is water wet? Of course"!!! He suggested that Sunday we would do the Whelan and Boland. Apparently the Whelan puts the Boland to same (this I had to see). So I readily agreed to this plan.


However, my luck finally ran out ... the wind picked up from the North during the night and by the morning we had 6' white caps on the lake and we decided to stay tied to the dock. But, my appetite is definitely up for another helping of some of the best wreck diving that I have done in while (ok - I have been lucky this year and also dove the Northwind and am hoping to dive the wexford too). To find this gem of a dive location in Lake Erie suprised me but I can't wait to go back. 

Tell Us About Your Dive!

Posted by reddevilscuba on June 28, 2010 at 9:03 PM Comments comments (4)

We'd love to here from you about recent diving experiences.  If you have any tips for other divers out there, this would be a good place for it.  You don't have to be an expert diver to help out, even info on where to park, where to hop in, what to avoid, what to bring, and where to go for lunch or a cold one after etc makes the experience easier and more fun for others. Cheers and happy summer!