Great Dives

Dear Great Lakes Divers

We had three great charters this past weekend and we are looking forward to great summer of diving on the Lake.  Quick update, I have 2 spots available this Sunday at 0800 and 1 spot open for our first Wednesday Night Fireworks Dive of the Season.

Also we need the Buccaneer Project is in need of funds to pay for the tow.  We are at the point where once we have the money together for the tow this boat is going down, so send me your tax deductible donations asap. I hope to sink her this month!

As toward this past weekend:  Saturday we were greeted to overcast skies, light winds, and a weather report that could best be described as all wet. I hoped for good conditions but I packed my gortex and expected to be soaking wet at some point. The Underwater Archeological Society of Chicago (UASC) had chartered the R/V Aquatica for a survey dive on one of our often overlooked near shore wrecks, the Flora M. Hill. Kimm Stabelfeldt describes the steamer Flora Hill as a 130′ by 26′ lighthouse tender that was converted to a cargo ship. She was loaded with brass beds and automobile running lights and got trapped in the ice off Chicago Harbor. The hull finally gave way and she sank. The part of the story is that her crew of 28 walked over the ice to a nearby water crib where they were later rescued. We left Burnham around 0830 to flat seas and overcast skies. A short time later we pulled up to my numbers, threw a marker buoy and sent divemaster Mike T over the side with a mooring buoy. A short time later the mooring was set on the boiler and I nosed the R/V up to mooring and simply walked to the bow to tie us in. The neat thing was that I got the numbers to the wreck last year when we passed nearby with the 1197 sidescan running, I noted the wreck, moved the cursor on the unit to the wreck and marked the site. We never even passed directly over the wreck and were able get a gps number that was within a few feet of the wreck. You got to love technology, I wonder when there will be an I-Phone App for that! Anyhow our divers sorted out their tasks and punched out two dives on the Hill collecting data and video. Hopefully in the near future we will have a nice slate to show divers before the dive the Hill. All the divers commented that they enjoyed the wreck and found it very intriguing. The wreck does have a lot of artifacts to look at but it is more of a debris field as sometime after her sinking the Corp of Engineers dynamited the wreck as she posed a hazard to navigation. Oh, it did rain quite hard that day, but I stayed nice and dry in my cabin as it rained while the divers where diving. I also caught grief as I had forgotten to the in-between dives Windy City Fruit that day, so I broke out the Oreos and Chex Mix for the divers. By the way, whoever said that my daughter was going to eat all my fruit (watermelon) was correct. When I got home there was none to be found. Great Dives and a Great Day for Diving on the Lake. And kudos to divemaster Mike T. who donated all his tips to the sinking of the Buccaneer.

Sunday, the weather predictions were bad. Small craft advisory, talk of thunderstorms and seas developing to 4 -6 feet. Early Sunday morning I checked a couple of weather sites and decided that even though the southern buoy was at 3.6 feet, we could dive but that it might get bumpy if we went too far off shore. I left Burnham at 0650 and headed to Wilmette Harbor to pick up our divers. I had a beautiful ride up Chicago’s lakefront. The Lake was nice I had a 7kt breeze from the northeast and 1 – 2 foot rollers from the north and sunny skies. A little over an hour after pulling out of Burnham I was pulling into Wilmette Harbor. Now this harbor is tight but the R/V slipped past a long line of sailboats and backed into a slip without a hitch. I discussed with Myron the weather issues and that I thought that the St. Mary might be bad call (too far off shore) and that the viz at the Wells Burt might be iffy, so the boat full of divers from Elmer’s Water Sports decided to hit the Mack for two dives. The nice thing about coming out of Wilmette is that the Mack is less than 30 minutes away rather than +1-hour ride from Burnham. So in no time we are tied into the bow mooring on the Mack and our divers are hitting the 60F water. While the divers were down the wind shifted from NW, to N, to NE, to East. There were clouds to the North and clouds to the South but we were sitting in a Blue Hole of sunny skies, very nice. After dive one we were eating WCD pineapple (I didn’t forget the fruit this day) when a small boat with two guys started circling us. I knew one of the guys as a diver who has been on my boat before, so I grabbed my vhf handheld and waited for them to hail me. I waited and waited and no call, just circling. At that point I realized that he probably didn’t have a radio and I waved him over to us, as all our divers when up and in the boat. Sure enough they didn’t have a vhf radio. Now small private boats are not required to have a radio but when you are +8-miles offshore where cellphones don’t work too well and there is a small craft advisory, the weather guys are calling for +4 foot seas and you are in a small open bow boat, you got to wonder what they were thinking. Now everything worked out, the weather never turned bad and they were lucky. But Mike B. if you are going to go diving with your friend buy him a radio, I just checked the Westmarine website and they got a cheap handheld for $60, you could spend more. The thing is that the Coast Guard can track and find you up to 25 miles away if you have a vhf radio but not if you have a cellphone. Anyhow, as the Lake was nice we let them tie into us and we all went diving on the Mack. Another great day and great set of dives. Water temp at depth: 53F, viz: 35ft and lots of Perch! Props to divemaster Andrew for donating his tips to the Buccaneer Project!

After dropping off the divers from Elmers I fueled up the R/V ($3.40/gal vs. $4.11 @ Burnham) and I ate my lunch in the shadow of the Bahai Temple as I waited for my divers from Big Kahuna Scuba. A short time later the divers began showing up. We loaded up the R/V and headed to the Mack for our 2nd charter of the day. Now for 3 of these guys this was their first Lake Michigan wreck dives and they were headed to the best dive in the area, how cool was that. When we arrived at the Mack the small boat guys from earlier in the day were gone and we tied into the mooring with a little work. The divers suited up and hit the Mack. While they were diving the wind would die down and then pick up and shift directions and all around us the sky was cloudy. It was raining to the north and the south but we were sunny and dry, in a blue hole. The divers had a great dive, conditions just as before 53F and 30-35Ft of viz, lots of “silvery fish” and they really enjoyed the wreck. The divers decided that they wanted to see another wreck so we headed into shore and dove the Wells Burt. Water temp was 60F top to bottom and viz was plus 20FT and lots of big crawfish were spotted. Of course here I got rained on as we had left our blue hole. After picking up the divers who all had a great dive, it was a short 10-minute run back to Wilmette. As the weather reports were bad, I quickly unloaded the divers, fired up the radar and headed back to Burnham. A little rain along the way but everything went well and when I pulled into Burnham the rain had stopped. An excellent day on the Lake.

If you are wanting to dive the big lake the time is at hand.  Give Windy City Diving a call to schedule your next Great Lake Adventure.

C’ya on the Lake,
Capt. Jim
Windy City Diving
TX:  630.209.2445
FX:  630.783.1406