Diving the Minnedosa July 24-25, 2008

It’s been a busy summer and I haven’t had time to post anything recently. On July 24th, a group of us headed back up to Harbor Beach, MI (seems like my second home) to dive once again with Gary Venet on His awesome boat, the Sylvia Anne (http://www.rectecdivecharters.com/).

Our target wreck was the Minnedosa, the largest sailing ship built on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. She was about 250′ long with four masts. She never really sailed much, being so big that she required a large crew and lots of wind. Plus, lacking maneuverability in port, she had to travel with her own tug. So, it was usually easier (and quicker) just to tow her. In October 1905, she and another barge were in tow of the steamer Westmount. No one knows for sure what happened, but it is surmised that the Minnedosa began to founder and that her captain ordered the towline cut in order to save the other vessels. Today she lies in about 210′ of water in Lake Huron, east of Harbor Beach.

Our charter was to leave at 3 pm, but upon arrival, Gary informed us that we would have to cancel. Looking up at the flag standing straight out from the pole convinced us of the merit in that idea. Gary’s divemaster, Tom, asked if we would like to visit the Harbor Beach lighthouse, under renovation to turn it into a museum (although it is also still an active light station). We hopped onto his boat and he ran us out to the end of the breakwall for an up close and personal look at the light house. I can’t wait to see the interior after the renovation is complete.

By the time we got back from the lighthouse, the wind had died and we decided to give the Minnedosa a try. With little wind, the waves dropped pretty quickly and we were only mildly annoyed with the 2 foot rollers left on the lake. When we arrived at the site, we were treated to the site of an empty lake. No buoy. No mooring line. It seemed we weren’t meant to dive that day. But Gary and Tom rigged a new mooring line and dropped it on the wreck. Since everyone else was diving with cameras, my buddy and I volunteered to tie the new mooring in. We dropped in, followed the line to the bottom (just 10 feet off the starboard side of the wreck!) and secured the mooring to the ship. We spent the remainder of our bottom time exploring the stern section of the wreck. The wheel is still there, and quite impressive. There are a number of artifacts on the stern cabin roof for divers to enjoy (and leave in place). We dropped over the stern to check out the massive rudder and elegant curves of the transom and then it was time to head up.

Due to our late start and spending time rigging the new mooring, we didn’t get back to the dock until 8 pm. We quickly drove over to the motel to check in and then headed over to Hunter’s Bar for dinner (one of only 2 establishments open at that hour in a small town).

Friday morning, July 25 brought beautiful weather. Once again, just some small waves on the lake. We motored out to the wreck and lo and behold, the mooring was still there. This time Steve and I got to spend our entire 25 min. bottom time exploring the wreck. We started by checking out the yawl boat on the lake bottom near the stern of the Minne And worked our way all the way to the bow, where we saw the windlass, both anchors, a boiler for a donkey engine to run the windlass and various other smaller artifacts. We swam 250′ back to the stern and the ascent line, enjoying the sights as we went along.

The ride back to the dock was quick, at least it seemed that way to me. That may be because I had a wonderful nap the whole way back in!

It was another great couple days diving Lake Huron and we enjoyed every minute of it. Next week I’ll be in The 1000 Islands region diving the St. Lawrence River. I’ll try to post throughout the week, depending on how internet connections are up there.