Michigan

Torch Lake

After our first Charlevoix dives, we spent that afternoon putting the finishing touches on the barn roof. Three straight days of long drives, hard work, early mornings, and boats dives. We were just plain wore out! We swore up and down we’d go to bed early Friday night. Ten o’clock may be early for some but it wasn’t early enough. Saturday morning came too quickly.

We intended to dive all day Saturday. We’d start the morning at Charlevoix and do a couple dives with NorthWest SCUBA. You saw last week how those turned out! Next on our list was Torch Lake.

Torch is a huge lake. It’s Michigan’s biggest inland lake. It’s also unworldly beautiful. Just coming back from the Bahamas, we can safely say it looks like the Caribbean - when you’re on the surface. That’s an important distinction because when you get in and start swimming towards the middle, the water gets pretty milky. Past 20 feet or so and you can’t see a whole lot. At 300 feet max depth, this beauty is cold. She also rarely freezes across the entire surface because of her size. Absolutely amazing.

Due to the viz considerations, we stayed pretty shallow and played around. We had planned to swim out to the drop off and kick around along the wall. It’s basically a shallow ring around a very deep hole.That didn’t really work out so we just had some fun. Boat traffic was of minimal concern. As a matter of fact, most of the traffic we saw was people pulling their boats out for the season. Which is common up there the week or two after Labor Day.

The water was spectacular. It was like diving in a chilly swimming pool. After we got out, some ducks came and poked their heads in our flippers and walked on our dry suits. Once they figured out we had no food, they waddled down to the beach and hopped in. Special thanks to Jonathan Butler for suggesting we check this one out!  

Sadly, this was our last dive of the trip. We wanted to dive West Traverse Bay again but the boat traffic was heavy and there were some questions as to our map of the area and where the wreck we wanted to see was located. So we went on a tour and stopped by Chrystal Lake, Bear Lake, and the Coast Guard station in Manistee right on Lake Michigan. We thought we’d check out access points at Chrystal and Bear then decide which to dive on Sunday. We liked Bear Lake a bit better as it was closer to home and had easy access near the boat ramp. We later realized there was no way we’d have time to pack everything, dive, and actually be home at a decent hour on Sunday. So with heavy hearts, we decided to nix the dive and hit those lakes next time.

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We caught the sunset on the pier in Manistee that evening. Beautiful beach area there with a playground. Fisherman were everywhere trying to catch Walleye and whatever else might bite. It was a perfect end to an amazing week of work and diving. Until next time, Michigan!

The Keuka

Al Capone. A floating Prohibition speakeasy complete with dance floor. A quiet getaway on Charlevoix that kept its secrets during a time when secrets had to be kept. “The Keuka” has a reputation and a story that precedes it.

Our second day of diving with Towboat US took us out to her final resting place. She’s a good size wooden boat supposedly owned by Al Capone resting in 50 feet or so of freshwater. The back end is the only portion of the boat not still intact. Somebody wanted one of the props, so they dynamited them both off after Prohibition ended and Al Capone was behind bars. T

What a fantastic dive site! The wooden boat is largely intact with tons of huge bass and walleye calling it home. Bluegill and crappie are all over this thing and local fisherman take advantage. There are several large openings in the deck where a properly trained diver can drop in and scope out the innards. The bow of the ship holds some interesting mechanical relics, along with a lot of crappie. Visibility usually runs between 20 and 100 feet depending on what time of year you visit. The best viz can be had during the annual ice dive. The locals drive their vehicles out on the ice and cut an access hole. How cool is that?

If you get a chance, add this dive to your list. Captain John will take you to “The Elizabeth” and “The Keuka” in the same trip. “The Keuka” is good for multiple dives. You could really spend a lot of time on this one. We were very happy with the two dives we got to spend at this site and of course, we are suckers for a great story.

 

The Elizabeth

We spent the day after our night dive in West Traverse Bay tearing off the second half of the barn roof and slapping on shingles. It rained and alternated between hot enough to sweat and cold enough to shiver. Thankfully, my lovely aunt kept us well fed and hydrated. That evening was spent with friends of my aunt and uncle and we were treated to a delicious home cooked feast complete with Michigan sweet corn. We talked and laughed and stayed up way too late, especially considering the dive schedule for the next day.

We had to be up at Lake Charlevoix by 9am. That meant a 545am wake up so we could make the drive. With much hesitation and with the warm sheets calling to us, we managed to get out of bed and on the road towards our first Michigan boat dives.

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Our spirits came up with the sun and by the time we arrived, we were ready to dive. Our captain and crew were John and his his son John. Great guys with a little place up there called NorthWest SCUBA. John’s craft is the Towboat US which he also charters to do groups throughout the year. They can run six divers at a time and we cannot recommend these guys enough. They were extremely helpful getting gear on and off the boats, helping us get gear donned, and of course were very knowledgeable about the lake.

We were greeted on the dock and Captain John showed us his credentials. As we got everything situated and headed out onto the lake, the grogginess had disappeared. The sun was up and skies were clear. An absolutely gorgeous day.

Our first stop was actually in Round Lake which connects to Charlevoix. The first wreck sits in 60 feet of water. Exactly 60 feet if you lay on the bottom. Ask how we know! “The Elizabeth” is a small tug whose owner scuttled it back in the 1960’s for the insurance money. The company got wise to the scheme and off to jail he went. Now she is a nice little attraction for divers and a regular hangout for our fish friends. Check it out!