Lake Huron Trip Report

This weekend (June 7-8, 2008), I had the pleasure of diving with Capt. Gary Venet aboard the Sylvia Anne. I was working with a couple of Trimix Diver students. The target wrecks for the weekend were the Daniel J. Morrell (bow) and the Governor Smith. We were diving Lake Huron, off the tip of Michigan’s “thumb.” Our departure port was Harbor Beach, MI.

It was a wild weekend weather-wise and I didn’t really think we’d get to dive much. We arrived Friday evening. Just after dinner, strong storms rolled through and I wasn’t sure things would calm down by Saturday morning, especially since the Morrell is 26 miles from Harbor Beach. However, Saturday morning brought nice weather and gentle winds. We made it all the way to the wreck site and enjoyed waves of 2 feet or less. The Morrell is a classic Great Lakes steel freighter, about 600 ft. long. In November 1966, she broke in half and sank. The stern half of the vessel, still under power, continued steaming on until it sank some 5 miles from the bow section. The bow section is upright and intact (except for being only half a ship) in about 200′. The main deck is in about 160′. Visibility was good and we enjoyed exploring the shipwreck and visiting the wheelhouse and forward cabin areas.

Saturday night brought more storms. Sunday morning was pretty breezy and I turned my cell phone on early anticipating a call from Gary cancelling the dive. But once again, the weather gods smiled on us and about 8 am, the wind dropped. We headed out to dive the Governor Smith, a 240 foot-long wooden steamer that sank due to a collision with the Uranus in 1906. She lies at a depth of about 180′. Again, we were treated to waves of about 2 feet, which subsided throughout the morning to calm conditions. The wreck is nearly intact with many artifacts strewn about the deck and out into a large debris field around the wreck. The bow is impressive with anchors still in place. At the point of impact, you can see one of Uranus’ anchors which broke loose and was left inside the Smith. We all enjoyed the dive and the nice ride back to the harbor.

While we were diving, a thick fog had developed. The trip back was like riding through a bag of cotton. When Gary slowed the boat to a crawl, we wondered what was up. Then, we began to make out rocks dead ahead. We were about 50 feet from the breakwall of Harbor Beach Marina! Gary expertly guided us into the entrance to the marina and back to the dock.

It was a wonderful weekend and we got very lucky. Not only did we get to dive both days, but we got to the wrecks we had targeted. I’m looking forward to returning in 2 weeks to do more diving from Harbor Beach.

One thought on “Lake Huron Trip Report

  1. Extended Range and Trimix Class Report You sure did pick a couple of great wrecks for me to do my Trimix checkout dives on. The bow of the Morrell was an exceptional dive for me. It was great to see the wreck that I had read and heard so much about. The relief at the stem from the keel at the lake bottom to the steering boom was amazing. It’s hard to imagine the intensity of the storm that caused those huge anchors to bang against the side of the ship before she went down. There was so much to see that I could dive that same wreck a few more times and still not view everything. I’m sure glad that we covered almost all of the skills at Gilboa, so that I could enjoy the wreck even more. It’s good to know that I would be prepared for any surprises that could occur. With the unpredictable weather we were experiencing, I was glad that we were with Rec & Tec Dive Charters. When the thick fog rolled in and Capt. Gary Venet used his horn as a fog horn for the boat he saw only on his radar, it was great to see how a first-rate charter is run. The second dive on the Governor Smith wooden freighter was simply incredible. It’s hard to visualize that a ship that huge was made out of wood. What a contrast it was to the steel freighter Morrell. It’s relatively intact considering that it’s been on the bottom for almost a century. The abundance of unique artifacts all over the place, made me want to extend my bottom time – but we stayed on schedule. This is another wreck dive that I could do over again, and still not see it all. It was a pleasure taking the Trimix class with you. Your organizational skills are utilized superbly during the classes. Your planning was evident when we used the cottage at Gilboa for a very comfortable base of operations for the classroom and the skills dives. We sure covered a lot of material. The multimedia presentation was very well done. I feel fortunate to have been taught by someone that has been diving so long and knows all the details. I learned a great deal about gas mixes and cutting safe and accurate deco tables. Because of all the training, preparation, and the skills that I learned, the checkout dives were particularly fun and relaxing. Due to all of your contacts in the dive industry, I also met a lot of other fun, interesting, and proficient tech divers, and I’m looking forward to diving with you in the future.

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