Since this was another unseasonably warm and sunny day, for a February, there was no reason not to go diving. Todays dive area was back in the Saint Joseph river flowing between the shores of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor Michigan.
Under clear blue skies we launched from the Benton Harbor DNR docks and proceeded toward the wreck site doing a little extra side scanning on the way. We were really wanting to see if there was additional wreckage way from the main body and if there were additional wreckage out in the middle of the river.
Last weeks river conditions were a good bit better for exploration than today. The visibility was zero at the surface and varied between 12″ to 18″ on the bottom once your eyes adapted to the low light. The current was very swift and much more of a problem than two weeks ago when we were shore diving.
When the first diver back attempted to get back on board, the additional drag caused us to drag the anchor until it snagged in the wreckage. It was extremely helpful to have had a person topside at this time. Though no one took “goody bags” there were treasures to be found in the way of bottles and jars and a few made their way on board.
Additional scanning was performed on the way back to the docks and a few places of interest were noted for future possible dives.
Several of today’s divers: Ted Tomaszewski, Kevin Ailes and Robb Lyczynski.
Viver view toward Morrison Channel
doing a little extra scanning
After dive discussion
Glassware and bottles
This was Mack’s first wreck dive of February and the second for Kevin Ailes. With no ice and no one local ready to dive, Kevin was happy to came down to check out this shallow water wreck site.
The last time Mack dove this site was over 30 years ago and had been interested in seeing the changes over that period of time. Mack said that, back in the day, the water entry points were all natural with shallow slopes and the two ships were on top of each other. The bottom ship was a wooden steam ship and the top one was an old fishing tug that had the superstructure cut away. Thirty years ago the feature point of the wreckage was the tugs’ diesel engine with all its associated components. My how time changes everything!
The shore line has been dug out and filled in concrete blocks, making it very steep. It appears that a clam shell bucket was used during this time and a most of the wreckage removed.
What was left consists of junk iron and wood with lots of snag and puncture hazards. There was also a significant current as you moved away from the shoreline into the main body of the river.
Air temperature was 27°F, wind speed was 11 mph and wind chill factor temp was ~11° F. Water about 34/35°F. It did not take long for your gear to freeze up on the surface. Still it was a good dive. 🙂
This was a great weekend for classroom work if you were not able to get out diving. Several Muddies attended the following PADI & DAN speciality classes at Wolfs’ Marine in Benton Harbor. (Primary Instructor: Dave Tonneman – Benthic Adventures & Tracy David Scott Click)
The three classes were:
1) DAN Basic Life Support: CPR and First Aid
2) DAN Emergency Oxygen for Scuba Diving Injuries
3) PADI Enriched Air /Nitrox
Great classes, excellent instructors and a tremendous learning experience.
Some times the best visibility you have in a lake or river is when you have it covered in ice. The water is not agitated by wind, boaters, fishermen, water skiing and wave action. So in an effort to capitalize on the possibility of this occurring, Kevin Ailes and company ventured out to video the remains of a shallow wreck in Saugatuck.
Kevin said: Unfortunately today was not as desired as the visibility was only 5 feet. Still it was a good time and gave us a chance to practice self extraction. Thank you Tyler Knapp for line tending. Looked like we had a flyover by Mack as we were diving.
Diving The Rockaway – South Haven, Michigan
The marine forecast had been calling for lake conditions that would have been less than comfortable the whole weekend so an alternate site, Lake 16, was chosen for a Sunday afternoon dive. Checking conditions just before loading the gear though showed that Lake Michigan would cooperate with yet another nice dive this season.
Bob S., Kirk W., and Jim K. headed out of South Haven for a dive on the Rockaway that was lost in 1891.
Descending down on the wreck, the visibility was in the 15′-20′ range and the water temp was approx 60f. While she is mostly rubble now, the anchor chain, windlass, and keel box were easily found. Some pieces are just out of sight from the main portion so when visiting those areas, running a line would be a good idea. And with a maximum depth of 60′-65′, there is plenty of time to explore the remains.
On surfacing, the conditions were found to have changed a bit with the waves picking up a little and a light rain but it didn’t dampen the feeling that this was another really good dive.
If you haven’t visited the Rockaway lately because you thought there wasn’t much to see, do it again but slow down and appreciate it for what it is. You may even be able to visit for a bit with some of the locals that have taken up residence in the wreck.
In South West Michigan, least ways in our area, ice thickness on local lakes has not been to the depths that ice divers associate with being thick enough for groups of divers to make a hole big enough to have an ice dive. For this type of group activity having a minimum of 5 inches of clear ice is desired but having 8 inches or so is better if your using snowmobiles to haul gear and provide emergency transport if necessary. But for ice fishing 4 inches of ice is considered safe.
With that said, it is not unusual for individuals, when making holes to fish or waiting around for the fish to bite, to occasionally drop items that seem to gravitate to the only opening in the ice on the entire lake. Items like cell phones.
So far this January, Kevin Ailes (Mud Club Member & Wreck Researcher) has been very busy attempting to recover such items with the majority of searches ending with success.
Three Mile Lake – Paw Paw
The last dive of 2016 and the first dive of January 1, 2017.
Held at Hidden Valley Pond in Niles, Michigan.
Divers in the water:
Kevin Ailes, Joshua Snyder, Larry Steelman, Ken Riemer, Don McAlhany.
Mary Beth Thar, Lucy Riemer, Jim Scholz
Bob Sweeney and Kevin Ailes were undergoing extreme symptoms of diver withdrawal and needed to get wet quick. Of all the places around they traveled Gull Lake in Ross Town ship. The only place open was the Prairie View boat launch on the north side. They ended up with about 30 minutes down time even with them inadvertently going their separate ways once underwater.
The max depth obtained was 48′, air temperature was a warm 55° F, water temperature about 38°F and underwater visibility about 8 feet . It was a good thing they had compasses with them as the fog settled in making surface visibility rather sketchy.
It was a Fun work up dive before Bob’s News Years Day dive at Gilboa.
Jim Scholz and I were out checking dive sites for the New Years Midnight Dive. Hidden Valley Pond is freezing over but has only ~ 2″ of ice so far. The St. Joseph river at the Marmont street launch is not frozen over except there are small bergs flowing by and its ice along the shore line out ~10 feet. Current does require a tending line though. Hidden Valley Pond – still needs thicker ice for New Years Diving Marmont street boat launch – shoreline ice out ~10 feet. Current is strong enough that you need a line and tender. — with Jim Scholz.
Today’s dive was in Niles but the current below the dam was very fast, the water high and visibility VERY low. So we went above the dam to the Bond street kayak launch where the visibility looked good UNTIL you went in and disturbed the soft muck then visibility sort of sucked. In the areas where you were shallow and the sun was out, the visibility was several feet. Pretty slim picking due to the heavy silt layer and resultant zero viz. We did manage to have a couple of take homes items. Water temperature was almost wet suit at~ 42-44F°. In the water today was Jim Schulz, Karen Mann, and Mack.
Saturday, November 26-2016, “TURKEY DIVE” was held at 12:00 (High Noon) in the Saint Joseph river, Benton Harbor at Fisherman’s Park. (next to the new Whirlpool Complex). It was a great dive with 7 divers and several people on shore support. Bob S ran into Mack underwater and partnered up with him for most of the 30+ minute dive time. Bob was able to provide an extra video light for Macks GoPro. Still from the video what is usually found underwater in that area. It was chilly in the water if you were in for awhile. Visibility at the bottom was 4 to 6 ft if you were below 12 feet, in shallower water the visibility dropped to 2-3 feet but there was a lot more light from above. The water temperature was between 42 & 44 F. Thanks to Karen Mann for bring over and setting up her Hospitality Tent. It was great to have a warm wind break and hot drinks after the diving.
This dive was made in the old ship canal where it meets the Paw Paw River and at the location of the old railroad bridge crossing now long gone. Visibility in the shallows was maybe 3 feet until you touched the mucky bottom or got deeper than 3 feet. A light was not a lot of help when going deeper. Lots of concrete, old pilings, wooden wall, tree limbs and misc stuff. Plenty of fishing line but surprisingly few bottles and cans. Lots of metal parts, timbers and odd pieces on the shore line slope. There is a little current when out of the canal section but not enough to clear the muck plume. Water temp ~52F.