First Dive on the King

Yesterday was my first dive on the Charles A. King
, a two masted schooner, 140′ x 30′ sitting upright in 215 feet of water. The wreck lies on the bottom of Lake Huron off the town of Harbor Beach, MI.

The story of the King’s recent discovery starts about 3 years ago. I was diving from the Sylvia Anne, an awesome charter boat operated by Capt. Gary Venet (www.rectecdivecharters.com). He spotted a large, odd-looking ship in the distance. As it turned out, it was the Lake Guardian,an EPA research vessel heading down to Lake Erie to take water samples for a water quality survey. As they headed south on Lake Huron, they were testing their side scan sonar. Gary got into a conversation with them on the radio and when they found out he operated a wreck diving charter, they told him they had some hits on the side scan and wondered if he wanted the coordinates.

In the intervening years, I often asked Gary what he did with those numbers. He always politely answered, “Oh, we haven’t had a chance to get out there yet.” In reality though, he had investigated and one of the hits turned out to be a nearly intact schooner, upright on the bottom in just over 200′ of water. He and his partners fully investigated the wreck and eventually identified her as the Charles A. King, named for a prominent businessman and former mayor of Toledo, OH.

2010 is the first year that Gary is offering public charters to the King. I jumped at the chance to dive a recently discovered wreck for the first time. I headed up to Harbor Beach Saturday evening with Marshall Allan. Another of our dive buddies, Dale Musser, had already checked in to the motel, as had a trimix student of mine, Andy Morrison (the world-renowned photographer).

Sunday morning dawned clear and bright with not a hint of breeze. At the marina, the flags hung limp on the flag pole. We wasted no time loading the boat and getting out to the wreck. Andy I were in no particular hurry, so we let everyone else get in the water and we went in last.

Dropping down the mooring line, we encountered the top of the foremast at about 130′. From there it was another 70′ down to the deck, which is at about 195′. The forward part of the wreck is the most intact. The anchors are still on the bow, as is the windlass. The King was a canal schooner, so her bowspirit was made to fold back on her deck to fit through the locks. As she sits today, the bowspirit is indeed folded back. Gary and his buddy Tom Mehringer theorize that it folded back when she hit the bottom of Lake Huron stern first.

Moving towards the stern, we find deadeyes, lots of steel wire rigging, the capstan and other artifacts. I agree with Tom and Gary; it does appear she hit the lake bottom stern first. There is moderate damage at the stern with the cabin gone and the transom spring. The ship’s wheel is still there and easily recognizable despite it’s coating of zebra mussels. The ship’s stove is on the bottom next to ship. Be sure to have a close look at the drawing above by Robert McGreevy (www.mcgreevy.com).

Andy and I work our way back to the bow and the ascent line. After almost an hour of ascent time we board the boat. The wind was still calm and we had a nice boat ride back to the harbor.

I’m really excited to have a “new” wreck to dive and we couldn’t have had a better first dive on her than the one we had yesterday.