A trip to the 1000 islands or St. Lawrence Seaway area of Ontario Canada (Long Post)

Off To Canada

I just got back from a trip to the 1000 islands or St. Lawrence Seaway area of Ontario, Canada, diving with one of my favorite shops: Seaview Scuba in Quaker Hill, Connecticut. This is a trip I’ve made, almost on an annual basis, and some years twice for the last 10 years or so.

The Crew

With Sharon Lord Teel (Owner of Seaview Scuba), Jackie McCaffery, Adolph Weidanz, Julie Thibeault, Nicole Proulx, Mokash Sharma, Steve Uden, and Tim DeBell.
For me, this area is from West of Prescott to Ivy Lee in the West. There is diving out of Kingston, Ontario, it is just that I haven’t made it there yet. Another area to the East, that I have had a chance to dive once, was the Mille Roches Power house (More on this in another post). A good description of the Eastern Dives is given in this link: http://www.magma.ca/~rgwood/sites.html#Mille%20Roches.

Who we Dive with

When I go to Canada I use two different operations. The first is 1000 Islands Pleasure divers owned by Wayne Green, based out of the docks in Ivy Lee, Ontario (just off the 1000 Islands Parkway) and the second is Underwhere? Dive Charters owned by Tom Scott, based in Brockville, Ontario. Both of these folks are real quality folk. For diving East, like for the Miles Roche, I used Andy Bennis’s Bottom Time Diving operation, but I don’t know if he is still chartering.

It works out great for me, as Wayne dives to the West and the US side, while Tom is centered around Brockville.

Shore Dives

Not to mention there are 3 shore dives: The Rothesay, just outside (west) of Prescott on Hwy 2, the Conestoga which is located in Cardinal down by the beach and of course Centeen Park in downtown Brockville. I haven’t done the Conestoga, but I have dove the other 2.

The Rothesay is nothing special, except that it is a wreck, in ~30 FFW* and there is very little current. It is perfect for new wreck divers. You walk down a fairly straight set of stairs (~20 or so) from the parking lot. From the beach you can see the milk jug (if it has been replaced, sometimes it comes up missing). Even though it isn’t very deep I usually drop down about there and follow the line out to the wreck. Then just swim around checking out this flattened wreck. You can still see the forms of the paddle wheels.


Centeen Park  is awesome – the town and SOS have done a wonderful job in creating the park. They have placed a few changing tables near the entry point. There is even a bathroom that was clean, to change in a couple hundred feet to the West. There are two concrete steps with metal handrails for entry into the water. Shortly after entry the water drops off to an eventual depth of 30-35 feet. The place has at least 14 statues – these aren’t cheesy homemade chunks of wire, but professionally done statues of people, fish (Sturgeon, etc.), a couple of turtles, a mermaid and various other items. It seems they are out to install some new ones in the spring each year. There is a voluntary $10 CAD donation requested and you get a small token for your BC to show you supported the park. They are available at the LDS like Dive Tech, in Mallorytown.

So where did I dive and stay this time? West of Brockville, Ontario and the Capricorn Motel Royale.

The Capricorn is a quaint little hotel in Ivy Lee and is my go to place when I am diving West. The owners Rob & Karen were awesome and made us feel very welcome.

Graphs courtesy of Divemate  (Future gear review) and my Shearwater  Perdix AI (also a future gear review). The number of dives is on this computer, as I just got another Perdix AI the numbers in future dives may not be consistent.

Also click on the links to get a full bio of the various wrecks.

The Wrecks

Kinghorn  44° 22′ 36.3″ N, 75° 55′ 50.3976″ W, as a night dive.
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault & Leane Marie

This was a lot of fun, it was the first time I’ve dove with Julie and only the second with Leane. I’ve known Leane for years, but never had our schedules matched. She works with Wayne at 1000 Island Pleasure Diving. This one had a small amount of current , so like on most of these wrecks you pull yourself down the line. I recommend to my students and dive buddies to not even use your legs,  just pull down. Saves energy and reduces air consumption. We dropped down to the block and the wreck was about 50 feet ahead and slightly to the right, as we came over the top of the wreck the current picked up a bit. Reaching the first hold/entry point, we dropped inside. We then progressed to the bow, stopping to see all the neat dishes/bottles etc. people have placed around the pot-bellied stove. We exited just aft of the windlass. It’s pretty cool. Then we used the current to cruise down the deck.  Once we got back to the rope we headed up to our safety stop. After the stop we got back on the boat had a good time talking about the dive as we headed back to the pier.

Henry C. Daryaw   44° 31′ 33.96″ N, 75° 45′ 45.2988″ W
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault and Jackie McCaffery

 

 

 

 

 

Henry S Daryaw from Save Ontario Shipwrecks

I really, really like this wreck!
From Ship Wreck World  :
The Henry C. Daryaw was a 220 ft. long steel freighter that sank in 1941 when she ran upon a shoal between American and Canadian Channels. The navigator did not see the shoal in a deep fog and Daryaw ran into it striking her bow. The Daryaw flipped upside down while sinking and landed right next to the channel wall with the deepest part at 90 FFW.

 

The line now runs to a block just aft of the ship on the left. Because the Daryaw is upside down people sometimes get confused with which side of the ship is which, so my references are as you see the ship when you drop on her. This wreck has some of the strongest current of the Western dives and as you pull down to the wreck watch your regulator. It is a long way, primarily because of the current pushing the line downstream.
Once down on the block we can see the first entry point to under the wreck. This entry is to the engine room area and is the start of a more advanced portion of the dive. You can see the air scoops that brought fresh air into the engine room. I’ll write about more in another post as I didn’t enter here this time.

As you pull forward on the provided line up slightly over a hill and then down again, there are one or two entries (depending how you count them) which I’ll write about on another post, as I didn’t enter here, either. Another 20 feet or so and we pulled ourselves to under the upside hull near a fallen crossbeam. For this dive (well, all of them actually), I had brought my 21 watt HID Lightmonkey. I really like that it is focusable. I put it in spot focus to light the bottom of the hold for my buddies. We then head aft to the ladder and entryway to the aft section. We didn’t penetrate, but just looked around.

There are four areas left that I really want to do a penetration dive – But that requires that I have a really experienced buddy to work with me on them.

Lillie Parsons  44° 33′ 19.9188″ N, 75° 43′ 7.32″ W
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault and Jackie McCaffery

This upside-down schooner was carrying a load of coal when it hit and sunk next to Sparrow Island. This is a drift dive. The entry is either a ‘hot drop’, dropping to 40 feet ASAP and staying at that depth and try not to get caught in the southward running current. If you go deeper then you’ll miss the wreck completely, plus it gets faster and darker deeper and nothing to see. The current here is stronger than at the Daryaw, someone said that they now knew what it felt to be flushed down a toilet. And you’ll run down the channel side (North) of the wreck. If you need to grab a rock to slow down, make sure it is well embedded, as the lose rocks are coal and are pretty light.

The stern is facing the East, so you see the rudder as you start the run. Lots of interesting places to stick your head in. There is at least one penetration spot that I know of, although I did not enter the wreck this time. One caveat, this wreck is going to slide down into the 170 foot+ depth of the channel, if you are in it when it goes you’ll be dead. So know what you are doing. I do not advocate wreck penetration for anyone but myself. So if you do decide to go into wrecks and something bad happens, tough – you made your own choice.

Once you reach the bow, take a right and catch the chain that runs along the wreck between it and the island. Please use the chain, if you pull on the wreck you will contribute to the wreck sliding off the shelf and destroying it. You’ll notice as you pull into the current that the topside of the boat has come free. When I started diving the wreck, that was still attached

After you have your fill of pulling up and cruising down, you can start at the stern and doing a keel race. Depending on the current you float free at about 30-40 feet for the short drift for 4 – 6 minutes then coming up to about 20 feet for another 3 – 4 minutes you should see a rope coming down the side of the rocks. Grab it, do your safety stop and then head into a little lagoon. I like playing with the St. Lawrence gobies.

For the longer drift, head down to about 70 feet. Sorry, I get too bored with seeing gray rocks that I just don’t do the longer drift.

Keystorm
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault and Jackie McCaffery

Dive Tech’s Keystorm
Wrecks & Reefs

 

Keystorm from Save Ontario Shipwrecks

This is one of the three best wreck dives that I have done in these waters. What can I say? I love this wreck. It has something for everyone from novice wreck diver to advanced Tech Diver. We started at the bow with a depth of about 25 FFW, skipping around the forward wheel house and headed to the holds. We checked out all three holds. They are huge, and you can spend at least 10 minutes exploring these areas.

After exploring the last hold, we came out and headed to under the starboard side of the ship. It is pretty cool to swim under the ship and realize how much weight is above you. We worked our way up to the forward wheel house. It is an interesting place that looks like a kid’s jungle gym, with rusting bars, windows and doorways. Keep an eye out for really sharp lifeline posts. We also played around near the chain locker and the huge winch in the bow. A nice safety stop, and then back on the boat for Deco cookies, bottled water, and to rehash of the dive with my buddies. No real hurry to swap tanks as we have an hour surface interval anyway and the weather was nice.

America
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault and Jackie McCaffery

I’ve said this before, but this is also one of my favorite dives. I would be hard pressed to choose between the Daryaw, Keystorm, and the America. This wreck is a max of 78 FFW (at least on that day). Important:  This wreck is in the middle of the channel off Singer Island, so if an issue arises, going to the surface directly is not the best option. The trip down the lines, although, with little current, seems to take a couple of hours , 😂 but in reality, it’s only 3 minutes to the block and another 2 minutes to the wreck. The wreck is pretty much a square upside down, so all the good things to see are underneath. The line takes you the Southwest corner at the top. Then you drop down along the west side and then hang a right to follow it to the East. There a lot of broken pipes, cables, installed equipment like winches and things. For experienced divers there plenty of places to visit, such as the engine room at ~100 FFW.

Ash Island barge   44.358117 -75.996717
Dive buddies were Julie Thibeault and Jackie McCaffery
This wreck is usually done as a drift dive, with the divers dropped upstream and they float down at about 40-50 feet until you see the rocks. Along the way you’ll find golf balls and glass bottles. Of the 4 times I’ve done this dive I’ve either not seen the barge or just waited until the boat tied up and then dropped down to the barge. It isn’t anything special – nothing to climb into much, but not a lot of current. At the stern you have a field of periwinkles, itty bitty shells. So, if you see me down there playing with them, I am not Narc’d, but am doing it on purpose. The bow is about 90 FFW or so and the stern is at 118 FFW.

Kinghorn   44° 22′ 36.3″ N, 75° 55′ 50.3976″ W
Dive buddy was Jackie McCaffery

See the night dive above, not much different except it was daylight.

We chose the two dives above because we had an 8 hour drive ahead and the rest of the group wanted to get a hop on the cross border trip. It took us about 10 minutes off the dock to arrive at the Ash Island barge, a one-hour surface interval then we dove the Kinghorn and was back at the pier by 10:30.

All and all, it was a great time and I really enjoyed the crew that went up.

 

* FFW feet of fresh water

4 comments

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