Captain’s Log 6/1/2014

June 1st was another great day of diving on the Lake.  It was a great trip for two particular reasons.  First, I had a guy from Finland who had learned in the cold water of his homeland and had done a lot of diving in the Philippines and was very skeptical of diving in Chicago and Lake Michigan.  The second reason was I had on board a couple who have been diving with me for years.  If you have been diving with me at all and the discussion led to weather and Lake Michigan you have heard the story about how one day we put divers in the water in one-foot seas and 25 minutes later I was retrieving divers in 6-foot seas and it built to 8’s on the way home. Well, Deb was one of those divers and she said “what’s all this I read about sterning-in on wrecks?”. We’ll come back to that later.

So during the safety briefing I mentioned the possibility of doing two dives on the Mack and my Finland diver expressed a deep seated desire to do two different sites because he was just visiting and probably would not be back.  I explained to him that viz on near shore wrecks had not been as good as the Mack last week and that if we went shallow he might have bad viz.  In the end, democracy prevailed and the group decided to dive the Mack and the Wells.

As the Lake was flat we were tied into the stern mooring of the Mack in 50-minutes and by the way, we were sterned-in to the amazement and joy of Deb.  So Two Mission Accomplished!  As I was watching everyone get dressed I see a guy in a 7mm jumpsuit.  I asked him if he had a hooded vest to go along with his suit and said no.  Then I asked him where he was from….FLORIDA.  So I did the only thing I could do, I made sure that his zipper was all the way the up and said “see ya soon”.   30 minutes later Florida (Marc) is up and though very cold he had a great dive.  I fired up the motors and got the heater running so that our frozen Florida diver could thaw and I asked him about the dive.  Crystal clear 80-100 viz and the thermocline as 20′ so it was 54F to 42F in short order but at least their safety stop was in warmer water.  After all the divers got on board we headed to the Wells.  Along the way, there was no pineapple as Deb had brought her famous trail mix, which is simply the best.

At the Wells we again stern-in and the divers hit the grand dame of Chicago Shipwrecks.  40 minutes later they surface and I asked my Finnish diver what he thought.  Patrick says ” the dives were way better than he ever imagined”.  Mission One Accomplished!! A new convert to Great Lake Wreck Diving.  They had 40 foot of viz and 58F.

So this week I’m full on Sunday but I have 2-spots open on Saturday (6/7).  The following week I have
2-Spots open on Saturday (6/14) for a trip to the MSB & Tacoma.  Sunday (6/15) is Father’s Day and I generally don’t run a trip as it is hard to sell that day, but I’m thinking $30 OFF for dads and I have 5-spots open.

If you are interested give me a call or shoot me an email.

C’Ya on the Lake,

Cpt. Jim

PS:  Save the Date > Sept. 20th Burnham Harbor Clean-Up Dive

Great Memorial Day Weekend of Diving!

Wow!  I think summer is finally here.  We had three great days of diving.  The Lake was so flat that I sterned-in on every wreck every day.  Saturday we had a boat full of divers from CSM.  We departed Burnham a little after 0830 and we were tied into the bow mooring on the Mac in 50 minutes.  Surface water temp was reading 54F.  We had a couple of wetsuit divers and I was a little worried about how they would do as the Lake has been cooler than normal but everyone did fine.  Surprisingly there was no thermocline and around 80 feet of viz.  The only problem was I asked on of the divers to tie a new marker buoy on the stern of the Mack.  I explained that we he got down to the wreck that he should immediately head to the stern or “round-end” of the boat and tie in there.  We he got down to the deck and immediately tied in there so when the dive was over I had was of divers, Ed, who has been diving with WCD for many years in a two-hose regulator, (yes the Mike Nelson type) go down and relocate the new line to the stern.

Once we got everyone on board we headed to the Wells Burt.  After swapping out cylinders and munching on Girl Scout Cookies the divers punched out another dive.  Here the temp was good and there were alewives but the viz had dropped to around 20 feet.  Once we gathered up divers we headed back to Burnham, eating pineapple enjoying the sunshine.

Sunday was “Bike the Drive” so are normal 0800 meet was off the table.  Which was cool as I got to sleep in and spend some weekend time with my family (that’s a rarity in the summer for a boat captain).  Once LSD opened up we got our divers and loaded up.  So I’m going through the liability releases and I see “4 dives”.  I ask if those dives are after being certified and Michael says no, those are my certification dives.  Everyone else has lots of dives and they want to go to the Mac and I have a guy in a wetsuit who’s never dove outside of training, yikes.  Well the Lake is flat and yesterday it was in the mid 50’s so I’m thinking we’ll be okay on the Mac as I got a bunch of established divers watching him.  Well things went off without a hitch.  As the viz was reported down on the Wells the day before, the divers decided to do two dives on the Mac.  Everyone had a great time and can you imagine our new diver Michael having his first day of diving after being certified diving the Best Wreck in Chicago!

Monday was Memorial Day and to remember the sacrifices of others, WCD offers 50% off to our veterans and active military divers.  This year we had 3 active military members on board for a trip to the Buccaneer and Tacoma.  We of course choose the Bucc as it is the only wreck in all the Great Lakes with military service.  On Friday the weather report was sketchy for Monday but our great weather held out and we had a boatful of divers enjoying the holiday.  A couple of weeks ago we were at the Bucc and one of the divers reported seeing a smallmouth bass.  I was skeptical as that is pretty far offshore for a bass, but sure enough one of the divers took pictures of our new resident smallie.  Now I never thought that a bass would make the Bucc its home but I’ve been proven wrong.  The dive went like this, 54F for the 1st 20 feet of particulate ladened water and  than a drop of temp to 41F and crystal clear water.  With such great viz, everyone had a great time even though the temp was on the low side.  My Tide bottle had disappeared so we tied on a new marker and headed to the Tacoma.  There we had no marker but I have the bow and stern marked on my gps so we simply got between the marks and dropped our divers on the wreck.  We set a new marker but they never last here or at the MSB.  Lots of fish and flat water.  Overall, a great way to cap the weekend and support our troops.

Hume & Buccaneer Trip

What a great day on the Lake!  This past Saturday was one of those days that was, just perfect, well almost.  We were scheduled dive the Thomas Hume and the weather during the week leading up to Saturday was circumspect at best.  The standard NOAA Marine Weather Report was calling for 2 – 4’s and that makes a 20-mile run unpleasant.  The trip leader was inquiring throughout the week about bailout options but by Friday I assured him that everything was going to be okay for Saturday no matter what the weather report he was reading said.

Sure enough on Saturday morning I woke up to sunshine, <10kt winds and a sore throat and a head cold.  That immediately put the idea of diving out of my head, so I left my tanks at home, grabbed the pineapple and headed to the boat.  When I got to Burnham the divers were unloading their equipment and we loaded up the R/V.  One hour later we were circling around the wreck site looking for a mooring line.  Unfortunately it was sitting on the bottom 147 feet below.  The Lake was as flat as I have ever seen her.  It was like molten glass, the only stir in the water was from the wake of the boat.

We dropped the anchor just off the bow of the Hume and got our divers ready.  Two by two they dropped off the stern into the 39F water.  The water was clear, gin clear and I was sad I wasn’t diving today but being 20 miles off shore one shouldn’t be foolish and diving with a cold is foolish.  I’ll just have to wait for the next time I head back to the Hume.

Well as the divers returned they all expounded on how great a dive the Hume is.  Viz = >120 Feet!  The divers could see from the tip of the bowsprit to the rudder and beyond.  I asked about temp at depth but everyone’s hands were so cold I don’t think they could access their computers.  After we got everybody aboard, I broke out the pineapple and hauled up the anchor, which is no fun by hand though it is a good workout.  We headed to the Buccaneer.  The mooring line was up and we tied up in short order.  Some of the divers swung out cylinders and punched out another great Lake Michigan Wreck Dive.  A burbot was spotted as was a small mouth bass, which I found incredible, as they are more of a shallow water creature.  Anyhow all the divers had a great time and we headed back into the harbor.

The water is cool but the viz is great this time of year.  If you want to visit the SS Wisconsin, another great shipwreck, let me know as I have spots available this coming Sunday May 18th.  We will be heading out of Northpoint.

Memorial Day Weekend

Well the month of May has come and gone and WCD finished off the month with a good set of dives on the Mack.
The weatherman had called for sunny skies and <1-foot seas and though he got the sea state right we had over-cast skies and 60’s for a temp. The day before we had >8’s and the near shore waters were murky.  I originally had planned a trip to the Bucc and then a second dive on the Holly but diving in pea soup is fun for no one.  I took a quick poll of the my 6 divers and decided to make two dives on the Mack so as to offer them the best viz available.  I just didn’t think it was right to charge them for a crappy dive.  I had planned a Memorial Day with a “Military Special” for all vets and active duty @ 50% off, but the weather was looking dicey so I moved the two I had signed up onto Saturday’s trip and we headed to the Mack.
In short order we were sterned-in on the Mack as the Lake was flat.  We had a 4-drysuit divers, 1-framer john wetsuiter and (1) 7mm jumpsuit diver.  So I ask the jumpsuiter where the rest of his suit is, I was assuming he had a hooded-vest or something and he says his friend in full farmer john wetsuit said he would be “fine”.  My thought . . . “some friend”!  So I fired up the starboard engine and turned the heat on, knowing full well that the guy in the jumpsuit is going to need some heat and helped everyone into the water with my wetsuit guys being last.
Water temp was 46F at the surface and there was no discernible themocline.  Viz outside the wreck +20′ and +40′ inside the Mack.  BTW, the jumpsuit descended about 10-feet and called the dive and yes, he did enjoy the heat once he was back on board.
This weekend I have space available both Saturday and Sunday.  The weatherman is calling for warmer air temps and flat seas all week so we should have some great diving for the first weekend of June, even for you wetsuiters.

Hume & Bucc = Great 1st Trip in May!

This past Sunday we had two great dives on two great wrecks.  The Chicago Scuba Meet-Up group had reserved the boat for Saturday for a Thomas Hume Trip.  Friday the waves off Chicago were near 6-feet so I called them and said its going to be a little bumpy out there Saturday, can you move your trip to Sunday?  My regular Sunday trip was short on passengers so when I got the okay that they were willing to move I slid them into Sunday’s slot.  This CSM group had been blown off 3 times last year and I really wanted to get them on the best dive in the Chicago area.

I kept an eye on the weather all day Saturday and I thought all was well.  That was until Sunday morning when I go to pull into Burnham Harbor and all the roads leading to the harbor were packed with cops.  I had forgotten about the CPD/St. Jude extravaganza!  The place was packed with thousands of cops but after explaining my situation they let me in, thank you CPD.  I immediately called the Michael Angelo the trip organizer and sent the group over to the new 31st Street Harbor.  Harbormaster Mark, who I met at Burnham a few years ago took care of the group and we hooked up there.  With the NE winds we had a 1-foot chop here in Chicago but 90 minutes later (half way across the Lake) we are in less than 1’s and we are over the Hume but alas there was no mooring.  Plan B, was to drop the hook and  every boat owner knows, anchoring sucks for many reasons.  I had hoped to drop the anchor on the port side of the wreck as it is wide-open.  Of course, she landed on the starboard side between 2 masts.  Well I sent the divers in and went about getting my dive gear organized as the Lake was flat,  I love to dive the Hume and of course “I had to inspect the anchor.”   After collecting four of my divers with the remaining two on the line at 10-feet. I splashed into the 39F water, my goal free the anchor, lift the mooring and check out the Hume.  At 70FT I could clearly see the outline of the wreck  still some 60-feet below me.  Viz +80FT.  Temp 30 something.  I went about moving the anchor.  Huffing and puffing at 147 I smoked through my air and had to blow off the idea of refloating the mooring.  I took a quick spin around the Hume and headed up to the surface, a little winded but with only a little deco obligation.

We gathered up the anchor, which made me want to buy one of those $700 windlass at Westmarine, because dragging 45 pounds of anchor and chain 150FT to the surface is no fun and then we headed to the Buccaneer.

This was my first trip to the Bucc this year and I was looking forward to checking her out.  On the way there the seas began to build and I knew that I would have to wait another day to see the old Bucc.  Of course as luck would have it there was no mooring but I had good numbers on the bow so I pulled up to the lee side of the wreck and dropped the hook.  As you can imagine I completely missed my intended target (the sand) and dropped the anchor on the foredeck.  We splashed three divers and I waited for their return as I talked with others about how great the dive on the Hume was.  I saw some great pictures that the guys had shot and once we got our divers and untangled ourselves from the Bucc we headed back to 31st Street in 1-2 footers.

All in all another great day on the Lake.

Another Great Dive Trip in April!!

This past Sunday, Windy City Diving ran its second charter of the 2013 dive season and the viz was +80FT!
Earlier in the week the weather report was calling for sunny skies and flat seas but by Saturday night the sunny skies disappeared but the flat seas remained.  We quickly loaded up six divers from Elmer’s, Myron and one of our new dive masters Dan and head to the Mack.  55 minutes after pulling out of Burnham we sterned in on the stern mooring and splashed in our divers.  I sent Dan to the Mack’s bow with a new marker, so now there are two temporary markers on the Mack.
Shortly after Dan set the bow marker, a private boat out of Belmont Harbor pulled up and hooked up.  Water temp was 42F and viz was +80FT.
After we collected our divers we headed to the Wells Burt.  My intention was to set a marker and get the divers in the water but last year’s was up so we again sterned in sent the divers diving.  Water temp was 44F and viz was again +80FT.
The wind began to pick up and just as I was contemplating moving the mooring to the bow the divers began surfacing. The Wells is such a pretty wreck when the viz is good and everyone had a great dive.
Next stop, the Wings of Wind.  Again the thought process was to set a new marker, but last year’s marker was slightly damaged but up.  Butch and Myron jumped in and I threw them a new “painter” for the marker which they tied in and then they went for a dive.  I couldn’t get anyone else to join them but when they surfaced and said the viz was the best of the day (meaning close to 100 FEET) there were 6 sad faces aboard the Aquatica.
It was time to call it a day so we headed in to Burnham just as the fog/low cloud cover began to settle in over Chicago.  All in all another great day on the Lake.
We are sorting things out for this weekend but the weather is looking iffy for Saturday so we may try to combine two groups into one.
If you are interested in diving the Hume on Sunday give me a call or shoot me an email as that is our planned destination.  Capt. Jim

2013 Dive Season Opens

Well it is official, the 2013 Diving Season is OPEN!  This past Tuesday, Windy City Diving ran its first charter of the 2013 dive season and the viz was awesome!
I had a couple in from South Africa who were doing Route 66 (L.A. to Chicago) and they wanted to complete their experience with a Great Lakes’ Wreck Dive.  I explained to them that it would cold, so before they left South Africa they got checked out in drysuits.
We pushed back the start time to 1000 to let the air temp warm-up and we got the additional benefit of a blue sky.  The trip out to the Mack was our standard 55 minutes.  When we got to the Mack only the stern buoy was up but the painter was missing an eye.  I had Capt. Hank, who was staying with the boat so that I could lead the dive, spin the the boat around and I quickly tied in a bowline.  At that point in time we had <1-footers from the north and a light wind from the NW, so I had Hank shut down the motors and I tied us in on the stern.
We got dressed and splashed into the 39F water.  As soon as I cleared the surface I could see the deck of the Mack waiting for us 60 feet below.  On the descent I could clearly see over 100ft in every direction.
There was not much in fish-life but the viz was amazing.  Once we reached the starboard rail, I led them down to the rudder and then up along the port rail. As we headed to the bow, I stopped off at the little access holes and shined my light on sinks and such.  At the bow, I had them swim off the wreck 30ft so that they could see her majestically sitting on the bottom.  I was amazed at how much erosion had occurred at the bow.  When we got back to the stern, we had a little time left and I led them through the engine room and up out of the boiler room, by then they were chilled and it was time to head to the surface.  Great Dive!
The viz this time of year can be spectacular but to really enjoy it you really need to be dressed appropriately with a good drysuit and the proper undergarments.

I have space available Saturday the 27th if you want to experience some of the best Lake diving there is.

C’ya on the Lake,

Captain Jim

Mack X 2

This past Sunday we ran a charter to the Mack for 2-dives and everyone had a great time.

I met my boat load of divers around 0800.  Our plan was to wait until 0830 to depart as I wanted to get a cooler full of hot water for the divers.  We waited but the harbor staff did not arrive as advertised, so to avoid the predicted afternoon showers, I motored over to the yacht club to access their bathrooms.  We picked up 5 gallons of warm water and the divers got rid of some morning coffee.

We departed Burnham at 0850.  The wind and waves were running out of the northeast  and had a nice ride to the Mack in 1 – 2 foot seas. We were tied into the bow mooring on the Mack by 0950.  Along the way we saw only one other boat.  The plan was to punch out 2 dives here as independent scuba instructor Duane Johnson was teaching a wreck class.  The Mack is perfect for teaching so running 2 dives here is no problem.
Our group of divers included  a husband and wife team from Washington state and one diver originally from Brazil and now residing in Saudia Arabia.  None of the three had dove the Great Lakes before but as the Washington couple dove the northwest and they were in drysuits I was not worried.  On the otherhand, Maria from Brazil, though an advanced open water diver, had never been in cool water and she was in a wetsuit. This had me wondering.  The water was a ‘balmy’ 47F and I knew that the warm water we brought would be an asset.  The expressions I got from everyone as I put their gloves in the warm water was funny, but this old ice diving trick works and everyone really appreciated it for dive two.

Viz ran around 30 feet.  Water temp was 47 F top to bottom and Maria punched out two 25-minute dives on the Mack.  On the way home I got a call from my wife telling me how hard it was raining in the western suburbs but we only had a little rain and a great lightening show.  Rather than single bolts of lightening we were watching  4 -5 bolts at a time and we saw the Hancock, Trump and Sears buildings get hit, pretty cool.

Opening Day 2012


Well the 2012 Windy City Diving dive season is officially underway! This past Sunday we ran two charters to the Mack and everyone had a great time.

After getting skunked the previous weekend I was really hoping to get out on the Lake.  On Thursday I was coming back from Michigan and saw that the near shore waters where muddy, very disheartening. Then as the weekend approached the weather forecast was looking somewhat iffy.  I had a group of divers planning on diving the near shore wrecks of the Wells Burt and Wings of Wind on Saturday.  On Friday the weather forecast predicted 3-footers, which are doable but it also called for rain and cooler temps which did not sound like fun and combining that fact with what I expected to be bad viz I canceled Saturday’s dive on Friday.  It turned out to be a very good call as the waves developed to 5-feet.

Sunday was the day!  Before leaving home I checked the buoy and she was reading 1.3 feet.  Good!  The forecast called for 2-4’s but based on the wind vectors I was thinking more 2’s than 4’s.  As I was driving in the sun was coming up and the sky was red! I questioned myself as I remembered my sea scout warning:  “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morning sailors take warning.”  Once at the harbor I immediately checked the NOAA realtime data again and it still seemed all was good.

We loaded up the boat and I tell everyone that the first part of the ride will be bumpy but once we clear the crib line we should be good.  As we pulled out of Burnham and the divers saw the 3 foot confused seas and muddy waters they began to question my call.  I assured them all was fine.  After passing Dever crib the wind direction changed and seas began to settle.  10-minutes from the Mack I told Myron from EWS to suit up as I did not expect to find a buoy on the wreck and that he would need to deploy a “temporary marker”. To everyones’ surprise as we pulled up on the Mack, there was the bow marker buoy!  John from IID went to the bow and tied us in.  (That’s right all you dive store owners, you can share the boat with another store and everyone can still get along with one another.)

Anyhow, we punched out 2-dives here as the viz was “rail-to-rail” and 3-burbot were spotted on the wreck. In between dives we munched on WCD pineapple and mangoes.  The afternoon dives were very similar.  The wild thing was as we were getting ready to depart Burnham, I got a call from another boater telling me he was in 4 & 5 footers at 95th Street, a mere 9 miles to the south.

Beating the Heat . . . Mid-Week

Boy it has been hot!  On my last two charters I have gone through a case of water on each trip.  Wednesday we had a two-tank dive scheduled and then we were going to hang out for the fireworks.  I had planned to hit the Mack, but I had 5 wetsuit divers and for two of them it was their first dives after getting certified the week before so we decided to stay shallow and visit the Wells Burt and Wings of Wind.  The Lake was nice.  The SW winds even though running at 10 kts gave us less than 1-foot seas for our 45 minute run to the Wells.  The divers had a great time at both sites.  Viz was close to 40-feet and the temp was running 74 at the surface and 58 at depth.  Plenty of fish (schools of minnows) and crawfish.  After leaving the Wings we slowly cruised over to inside the breakwall to watch the fireworks.  Excellent Show!

Thursday I met my divers at 7AM.  We had a mixed group of tec divers (2 w/ doubles and 1-rebreather) and more recreational divers (singles with stages).  We were headed to the Hume.  The weather report called for 1 -2 footers and SW winds.  As we pulled out of the harbor and headed east we got into 1’s  but I never saw anything more than that.  90 minutes after pulling out of Burnham, Bob & Mike were throwing a marker buoy over the side and getting suited up.  The plan was to have them set a temporary mooring and then redeploy the old mooring which has sunk over the winter.

Heads up for everyone, when you measure your line, measure it TWICE.  I had measured the buoy at 155′ (it was actually 145) and that just doesn’t work in 147 feet of water.  Mike had measured out 150 feet of mooring line and that just cleared the surface of the water, probably 137-FT (just enough to clear the surface but not so easy to tie into.  In any event with some help from my customers we were able to tie the R/V in.

While Bob & Mike worked on sorting out the old mooring line, I got our 6-divers in the water.  Due to the staggering of the divers I was never able to shift the R/V over to the newer but older mooring line so there are currently two lines on site and my marker buoy floated away toward St. Joe.  Anyhow the seas never developed and actually the 1-footers layed down.  The day was great except for the flies, which were biting and biting and biting.  Oh by the way, 20 miles off-shore:  surface temp 75F, 1st themo @ 20FT 63F, 2nd thermo @ 40Ft 46F and viz near 100-FEET.  We know this because Bob & Mike could make out the wreck and they were well past the tips of the masts as they followed down my floating away marker buoy.