About Boat/Wreck Dives

The Great Days

There may truly be no finer way to spend a calm summer's day than out on Lake Michigan diving on an old shipwreck. Some days that lake surface will be flat as a pancake, the surface looking like a mirror. The sun's shining down, the air is nice and warm, no current to speak of, you're geared up and ready to splash in. You do your giant stride off the stern, or you do a back-roll off the side, pop up, give the OK sign to the ever-vigilant tender, and then sink down into that cool blue-green water, make your way to the mooring line, and start sinking down, enveloped in that beautiful mist. You pass through several thermoclines, each getting a little cooler as you drop, but no matter, because you've got your gonzo super-duper drysuit on with the polar vortex-proof undergarments, and a big old thick Otter Bay hood, and dry gloves with great liners. And really warm socks too. Somewhere around ninety feet, the mist clears, and stretched out before you in all it's glory is an old wreck of a schooner from 1868. Yes, it's a fine day to be a wreck diver in Wisconsin.
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The Other Days

And then there's the days when the skipper says "yea, let's go!", even though it seems like the wind is pretty feisty, and the waves are really looking more like three footers instead of the one foot or less forecast, and it's really kind of cold and rainy and you got your undergarments wet while getting geared up. And the boat is just cork-screwing like crazy as they try to tie into the mooring line. You get ready to splash, and your mask just won't sit right. You splash in and immediately start fighting a current. You pop up and give an OK sign to the tender, who's leaning over and peering down at you with a look of real concern. Then you notice that he's looking a bit green and might be getting ready to chum, so you drop down real quick and head towards the bow. The current is wearing you down, but you make it to the mooring line and latch onto it for dear life, and the waves are bouncing you all around. You start to drop hand under hand down the line but at 20' you can still feel the waves and you're thinking that the safety stop is going to be a lot of fun. You pass through the thermoclines and that wet spot on your undergarments is starting to feel like a patch of ice. At ninety feet, nothing clears up. At one hundred and twenty feet you realize you've just about landed on the deck even though you really can't see it all that well. So viz probably isn't going to be all that great today, and you congratulate yourself on being shrewd enough to leave the camera back on the boat. And then your buddy shoots a burbot at you and it hits you square in the mask, which completely floods. But hey! You're wreck diving! Can't be all bad!
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The Happy Medium

Of course the reality lays somewhere between the two extremes, probably closer to the good than the bad. You'll never experience the warmth, clarity, and abundance of marine life of the Caribbean in the Great Lakes. But if you choose to dive shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, you'll experience some of the most amazing diving around. From an historical perspective, it's pretty satisfying to dive on a wrecked sailing ship from the 1800s and be able to pick out the features of the ship's construction. If you research the history of the ship and it's demise, the dive can be even more rewarding. We're fortunate to have several preservation societies in the Great Lakes region that work towards establishing marine reserves, and placing state moorings on wrecks to prevent boats from dropping anchors on them in order to hook in. We've got wrecks to dive on from the 1800s through the late 1900s, all at varying depths and levels of difficulty. In southeast Wisconsin, we're fortunate to have a number of dive charter operations at our service. Visit our links page (Links|By Topics) to get links to their home pages. Some charters tend to focus more on technical diving, and some focus on recreational diving. Lake Michigan offers wrecks in both classes. We don't endorse any particular charter, and we encourage you to research them thoroughly and ask around before using them. Ask them questions about the wrecks they visit, let them know your certification level, ask them about their safety equipment, ask them whatever you need to in order to gain a confidence level before you go out with them. Get the right charter that matches your skill level and your dive objectives and you can have yourself a wonderful time.
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