Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dive 192 - Return to the Wexford

A friend and fellow diver, Dave, offered to take us on his boat on Sunday to go dive the Wexford.

As the Wexford is my favorite wreck, and I hadn't been to it in years, how could I refuse?

So I picked up James at 0620 on Sunday (The 0 stands for oh my gosh its early) and we drove to Grand Bend, Ontario to meet David, His dive buddy Michele and his cousin. The start was most auspicious, traffic was light I was one of two cars at the Canadian border that morning and we made it to Grand Bend in great time by 8:30 and the weather promised to be most cooperative - sunny and with waves of only 2-4 feet.

View from the Grand Bend Marina
We were early so we had time to have breakfast at the Back'n Time Classic Diner which was awesome.  A Great Canadian breakfast of two eggs, ample slices of some of the best pea-meal (back) bacon ever, home fries and toast along with bottomless cups of coffee set us in a great mood for the day and put an end to any chance of being hungry.  If you visit Grand Bend, you must go there for breakfast.

One of the current challenges in diving the Wexford is that charters from the US won't go to it anymore as you now have to dock the boat at a Canadian port first and clear customs, go back to the dive site and then go home which is a hassle, so an offer to go was pretty awesome.

Dave's boat is however more of a super speedboat than a dedicated dive boat, which was to have some consequences later.

The Boat - Can you tell what's missing by looking at this picture?

So we loaded some gear on the boat and changed into our drysuits as Dave got the boat in the water at the dock.  We then loaded our doubles be carefully hopping from the dock onto the boat and placed them in the back.

With 4 divers and Dave's cousin to act as the boat tender it was kinda crowded with tanks and gear.  Dave had us depart Grand Bend in style  with all of us standing in the front of the boat to counter the weight of the tanks in the back we made it to the wreck site in 6 minutes going about 60 mph!

We then tied into the wreck buoy on the stern of the Wexford and prepared to dive. Maneuvering in the boat to prepare to dive and get the doubles on was a bit difficult.  The set of doubles weigh about 135 pounds and having to get the gear on, stand on a seat and then step up to the side of the boat took some coordination.  James and I then did backwards rolls off the side to get in the water.  Dave and Michele, both in singles, got geared up after us and went in off the stern. The dive then began at 11:45 am.

James and I then kicked over to the down line to the wreck and at 10 feet did a modified valve drill to make sure we could reach our valves and a modified S-drill to make sure our longhoses weren't obstructed, and then we descended to the Wexford.

The S.S. Wexford prior to the Great Storm of 1913

 The Wexford, which sank in the great Storm of 1913 and wasn't discovered until 2000 is one of the finest wrecks at recreational depths in the Great Lakes.  The only ship discovered that sank from the storm of 1913 that lies upright, she's a delight to visit.  The visibility was decent even with some interesting current moving particulate around and many small lake perch swam around her zebra mussel encrusted hull.

An entry into the cargo holds, seen from above on the descent to the wreck

James above the entry to the cargo hold

Intact porthole on the Wexford seen from the inside of the ship, staring out into Lake Huron

Into the cargo hold

A School of Lake Perch

Above another cargo hold

In the second hold

Leaving the wreck of the Wexford

An excellent dive indeed, but a new task loomed ahead.....getting back on the boat.

The answer to the question posed below the picture of what's missing from Dave's boat above is: a ladder!

Getting back on was to prove to be more than half the fun.

We each took turns getting up, with James going first. Holding onto the bar pictured at the stern, we passed up our cameras and removed our fins and handed them up.

Then with one foot on an engine, a hand on the bar and another hand on the cleat to the right, we had to pull ourselves up and then scramble up the rear deck before we fell back into the water.

Did I mention we did this with about 135 pounds of unwieldy tanks strapped to our backs with the waves rocking the boat up and down and lifting the stern up and out of the water and then threatening to roll us back in?

Darn good thing I had been doing some pushups recently, or Dave would have had to tow me back to Grand Bend.

Then once up on the platform at the stern, the tanks squished us onto the back, making it difficult to crawl off the swim platform, we then had to turn sideways and pull ourselves up so we could get into the boat itself. With a great deal of exertion, we made it.

In this case, getting back was truly more than half the fun.

We then headed back to Grand Bend at a rocking 60mph with a bit more wave action for some bumps on the way (on occasion, both feet left the deck of the boat) and then we drove home tired and with aching muscles but happy after a visit to the finest recreational level wreck in the Great Lakes.

The Dive Details
Dive time: 44 minutes
Max Depth: 79 feet
Average depth: 55 feet
Water Temperature: 66
Gas mix: Nitrox 32
Gas used: 1800 psi

Any time you can dive the Wexford it is a great dive.

But, next time I do it from Dave's boat, we're either all chipping in and buying him a ladder or I'm doing it in a single with an H Valve.


Murphy's Law said...

Why for you have to go to Canada to dive this wreck now?

Aaron said...

The Wexford is in the Canadian side of the Lake and the new Canadian border regulations require any boat leaving the US and entering Canadian waters has to dock and clear Canadian customs. its now less of a hassle to drive the boat across the Port huron/Sarnia crossing and then go to the boat dock in Grand Bend.

Rumor is this new rule is the result of a pissing match between US and Canadian border authorities. The US apparently started requiring this of Canadian boats to have to dock and clear in the US whenever they entered the US side so the Canadians then made all US boats do it on their side.

Dumb and wasteful all around.