Sligo

Bow of the SligoNorbert with the Sligo's Wheel INorbert with the Sligo's Wheel IINorbert on the Sligo INorbert Between Two Beams on the SligoNorbert on the Sligo II

The Wreckage of the SligoNorbert over the Stern of the SligoOver the Stern Wreckage of the SligoOver the Sligo's Stern WreckageDivers Over the Forward Wreckage of the SligoBetween Two Posts on the Sligo

Underwater Photographer On the SligoDivers at the Sligo's BowNorbert and the Sligo's Wheel IILight and Lines on the SligoLights on the SligoCurves of the Gunwhale on the Sligo

Diver and WreckageRailings on the Sligo IRailings on the Sligo IIAmidships on the SligoBeacon on the Sligo's BowPortside on the Sligo

Sligo, a set on Flickr.

Tom Wilson has written up a short but informative story about the Sligo that I won’t plagiarize here!

As the photos show, the Sligo is a fun little wreck to dive on, with a lovely intact wheel sitting all by its lonesome about 10 feet from the flattened stern wreckage. The wheel is at a good 30 degree angle from the lake bed facing away from the wreck, so photographing it well means not having the wreck in the background.

We dove the Sligo on a beautiful warm Sunday afternoon. It was a real treat to have such a nice little dive so close to home. And it was neat having the Toronto skyline as our backdrop during the surface interval.

Eric Cooper‘s speedy Aquaholic made for a short ride out to the wreck site.

Arabia

Sailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit ISailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IISailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IIISailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IVSailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit VStarboard Rails on Arabia II
Starboard Rails on Arabia IBetween the Bowsprit & ChainsDeadeyes on ArabiaStarboard Railing, ArabiaOver the Starboard Rails on Arabia IOver the Starboard Rails on Arabia II
Over the Starboard Rails on Arabia IIIOn Arabia's Bow IOn Arabia's Bow IIOver the Wreckage of ArabiaLooking Astern on Arabia's Starboard Rails ILooking Astern on Arabia's Starboard Rails II
Arabia's Wheel IrEvo Diver, Stern of ArabiaSweeping View of Arabia's DeckView of Arabia's Stern WreckageArabia's Stern WrekageNorbert on Arabia's Wheel

Arabia, a set on Flickr.

The wreck of the Arabia in Five Fathom Marine National Park in the waters of Georgian Bay, Lake Huron is one of my favourite dives.

She is a 131-foot long schooner wreck, built in 1853 and sank in 1884 after striking Echo Island. Arabia was discovered in 1971 and has the dubious distinction of being a “widow maker” among Tobermory’s dive sites. Sitting perfectly upright in about 106 feet of water, Arabia’s two most distinct features are her bowsprit, which still points proudly skyward, and her wheel which sits on the starboard side of her stern next to her commemorative plaque.

Arabia’s reputation as a dangerous dive is due not so much to her inherent danger as it is an unfortunate result of her fame, which tempts divers who lack the necessary skills to dive safely on her. There are deeper wrecks in Tobermory’s waters: the beautiful Forest City, for instance, sits in 150 feet of water. There are darker and siltier sites such as the wreck of King, which sits in 90 feet of water and often in poor visibility. Both the Forest City and the King can be disorienting since they lie on an angle against the shoals where they wrecked.

Yet, it is Arabia that gets the bad rap because more divers are tempted by her than by any other wreck in Tobermory. Cold water diving demands respect – respect for proper training and proper equipment. Cold water diving also demands humility from divers and tends to punish the complacent, or at least to rap them on the knuckles. If you’d like to experience Arabia, be prepared. Take progressively advanced training with an experienced instructor. Be prepared to pay your instructors for their time: cheap and fast shouldn’t be part of your dive training program.

Related post: Closing out the Season: Tobermory

Northwind

Exiting NorthwindNorbert on Bow of NorthwindStern room_NorthwindNorbert belowdecks under skylight_NorthwindNorbert near stern_NorthwindNorbert_portrait_2_Northwind
Norbert exiting amidships compartment_NorthwindNorbert exploring belowdecks_NorthwindNorbert_portrait_NorthwindSkylights_NorthwindNorbert somewhere amidships_NorthwindNorbert at railing toward stern_Northwind
Collapsed funnel_NorthwindNorbert behind portside porthole_NorthwindNorbert behind porthole with Liquivision X1_NorthwindNorbert exits forward compartment starboard side_NorthwindNorbert exiting room on starboard side forward_NorthwindRoom in Forward Compartment_Northwind
Norbert retracing his exit_NorthwindNorbert at the Bow of NorthwindBrock admiring the anchor on the Northwind

Northwind, a set on Flickr.

The wreck of Northwind sits in about 115 feet of water in the North Channel of Lake Huron, near Manitoulin Island. She is about 299 feet long, with quite a few options for penetration for the properly trained and experienced. She sank in July 1926, but information on her sinking is hard to come by. It’s also hard to come by information on what kind of cargo she transported or what her routes were.

Northwind has a few distinctive features:

  1. The surprising lack of zebra mussels means her wooden superstructure can still be seen, as is evident from my photos.
  2. Some of the hinges on her doors still swing, which is also surprising.
  3. Her stern is buried deep in the clay-like mud, making her seem like she’s being sucked into the bottom of the lake.

Diving on the wreck of Northwind poses a few challenges:

  1. She’s in dark waters, so without a powerful light, you won’t see much and won’t be seen.
  2. Visibility tends to be poor, so it’s easy to get disoriented; be sure to orient yourself to your upline before you swim off exploring, or you’ll have to do a free ascent off a surface marker buoy.
  3. Getting there: right now, the only charter boat available to take you to the wreck site is through Tobermory Aquasports. Captain Steve Tiernan is well familiar with the wreck topside and underwater, so you couldn’t be in better hands. Because of the distance, trips to the Northwind happen only when there are enough divers to offset the cost of getting there from Tobermory.

Related:

For my trip report of my second excursion to Northwind, see Trip Report: Northwind.

Vlada Dekina re-posted her Wreck Diving Magazine story about the Northwind on her blog, Wrecks And Reef.

Dufferin Wall

Norbert on the Dufferin Wall at 150'Decompressing at 20' on the Dufferin WallGreig, the lone rebreather diverNorbert decompressing at 30' off Lady DufferinRob and Norbert decompressing off the Dufferin WallNorbert
Paul, Norbert, and RobPaul, Norbert, and RobPaul and Greig on the Dufferin Wall at 140'Off to the next deco stop

Dufferin Wall, a set on Flickr.

The Dufferin Wall is named for the wreckage of the Lady Dufferin. Wrecked in 1886, the Lady Dufferin now lays scattered in a few sections on the shoals at the entrance to Georgian Bay, starting in about 40 feet of crystal clear water all the way down past 250 feet.

What I love about this site is the always spectacularly clear waters, especially at the shallows. It’s also a great site for training scuba divers of all levels: the rocky bottom that’s impossible to silt up, the gradual depths, and the drop-off at 95 feet to more than 300 feet.

The Dufferin Wall is a geological dive featuring rock formations. Not much fish life to be seen, except for the occasional freshwater goby and the abundant zebra mussels. Every now and then, I’ve seen freshwater sponges, but those are rare.

Victoria Day 2011, Tobermory

Between the Bowsprit & ChainsNorbert on Arabia's WheelArabia's Stern WrekageView of Arabia's Stern WreckageSweeping View of Arabia's DeckrEvo Diver, Stern of Arabia
Arabia's Wheel ILooking Astern on Arabia's Starboard Rails IILooking Astern on Arabia's Starboard Rails IOver the Wreckage of ArabiaOn Arabia's Bow IIOn Arabia's Bow I
Over the Starboard Rails on Arabia IIIOver the Starboard Rails on Arabia IIOver the Starboard Rails on Arabia IStarboard Rails on Arabia IIStarboard Rails on Arabia IStarboard Railing, Arabia
Deadeyes on ArabiaSailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit VSailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IVSailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IIISailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit IISailing Over Arabia's Bowsprit I

Victoria Day 2011, Tobermory, a set on Flickr.

AquaSub Scuba Diving Centre’s annual season opener. Always good.

Bahamas 2009

Greg the KillerPirate's LadySwirling SharksMore Swirling SharksShark BellyShark Merry Go-Round
Norbert and the SharksDiver with SharkShark with DiverCaribbean Reef SharkSilhouette of Shark and DiversHere Comes Brucey!
Norbert_01Norbert_002Norbert_004Norbert_003Norbert_004Andrea Blowing Bubble Rings
Freediving for Conch

Bahamas 2009, a set on Flickr.

Lots of sharks and other great reef diving, courtesy of Blackbeard’s Cruises.

The 411 on Diving Tobermory

Tobermory ranks high on my list of favourite places to dive.

Map of TobermoryDive Shop

Owned and operated by Steve and Krista Tiernan, Tobermory Aquasports is my favourite place to get air fills. Steve and Krista also have great taste in t-shirts, so stay and check those out while you’re there. Steve is also my favourite charter and captain; if you’ve ever seen him dock his boat Teak Isle at the the marina in Tobermory, you’ll understand why. The man can coax his boat to turn on a dime and inch into position with barely any room to manoevre.

Tobermory Aquasports is on the west side of Highway 6. When you see the Stedman’s store on your right as you’re driving north on Highway 6, SLOW DOWN because you’ll be turning left onto Steve and Krista’s property in a few yards.

Accomodations

I love Adventure the Bruce for its tiled floors, since it’s easy on my allergies to mold and other unseen things. They also have beautiful grounds with patio sets just outside your room, some of which are near ponds, and where you can relax after a day’s diving goodness and tuck into their yummy pizzas. For a small fee, you can also use their BBQ and outdoor jacuzzi, if you still haven’t had enough of water. Adventure the Bruce is on the east side of Highway 6, just before the sideroad (which is across from the RBC building) that takes you to the Parks Canada office, where you’ll need to stop in for a tag to dive Fathom Five Marine National Park.

A close second for me is Bruce Anchor Motel, at the end of Highway 6, also on the east side. The rooms are nice and clean, but the drawback for me is that there’s carpeting. Otherwise, it’s a great spot with a beach volleyball pit and BBQ as well.

Good Eats

If you’re into deep fried, Tobermory’s the place for you. For a healthy and tasty variation on the Heart Attack Special, I love A Mermaid’s Secret on the west side of Highway 6, just south of the Legion Hall, at the entrance to downtown Tobermory. They have smoothies, gourmet panini sandwiches, Kicking Horse coffee, and loose leaf tea that’s brewed just for you in your own teapot. Their Heart Attack Special is a large selection of decadent desserts.

Sunday afternoons just before we head home, many people like to stop by Little Tub Bakery, just north of Tobermory Aquasports. Little Tub Bakery has fantastic bread that they make good ol’ fashioned sandwiches with, as well as pizza, but in reality, most people just want to get their paws on the butter tarts. Two summers ago, a black bear broke into the bakery and was discovered sitting comfortably on one of the fridges, tucking into…what else? Butter tarts.

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