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Camping/Freediving Tobermory, Canada

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flyboy748

Well-Known Member
Sep 18, 2003
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Following is the story of Doug Sitter and me (both members of Freedive Toronto) and our weekend of freediving in beautiful, albiet cold, Tobermory along with Doug's friends John and Steve. The condensed version will be available shortly! ;)

Doug and I arrived at Cyprus Lake campground in Tobermory around 9 pm Friday and while setting up camp, Steve and Kelly were talking excitedly about the adult black bear they had seen just before we arrived! It's nice to see the bears making a comeback on the Bruce penninsula.

John arrived and after sitting around the fire for a few hours we decided to go for a midnight hike to the shore. The stream out of Cyprus lake was rushing more than I'd seen before, and in the moonlight you could see the mist hanging on the water of the lake. All 5 of us arrived on the shore around 12:30, to find the water an absolute sheet of glass. It was so clear and smooth that you could see fish swimming around several feet below the surface. With the surface that smooth, I almost stepped onto a rock that appeared to be dry, but was actually 12-14 inches under water! There were more fish than I'd ever seen in Tobermory before. Literally hundreds of fish along the shoreline of Indian Head Cove appearing to hover above the rocky bottom in the perfectly translucent water.

We headed for the Grotto after deciding that it would be fun to go into the cave at night. Doug and I remembered pulling several candles in glass bowls out of the bottom of the cave last time we were diving there and as I had a lighter, we thought that if we could still find them it would be fun to light the candles and put them up on the ledges of the cave. We climbed down through the Chimney Rock passage into the grotto, me leading the way and helping the others down the initial vertical portion. We reached the cave without incident, and proceeded to search for the candles. We couldn't find any but Doug said that he remembered exactly where there were more of them on the bottom of the cave... under 19 feet of 4 degree celcius water. He said that if he used my waterproof flashlight (his was back at camp) he thought he could find them... in the dark... inside a cave... without a mask... or a wetsuit... I analyzed the situation as accurately as I could, and promptly told him he was insane. He was determined however, and after I promised him legendary status and his own freediving planet in the afterlife, his mind was made up. He changed into some shorts, prepared a fleece sweater to substitute as a towel upon his undoubted triumphant exit from the water and took my light. He stepped into the water, and much to my surprise, did not start screaming like a 12 year old schoolgirl, but remarked rather calmly (not to my surprise) that the water was indeed cold. After stepping off the ledge, he began to tread water and prepare for his dive. We floodlit the water's surface the best we could with our lights, then he dove. First one, then another strong stroke down, then suddenly he turned about halfway to the bottom and in one mighty stroke upwards came blasting out of the surface of the water. Now I've never seen a missile launched from a submarine, but let's say it can't be much more spectacular! He gasped and started stuttering something about lights and the shore. Of course with his jaw and vocal cords mostly frozen, speaking was difficult. Understanding him was even more difficult. I was simply trying to make sure it was a clean recovery by shining my light into his eyes and looking for any LMC symptoms. I'm sorry to say that fine motor control was not one of the things possesed by Doug upon surfacing. :rcard

From his viewpoint, he dove and made for the bottom. At around 10 feet he opened his eyes and realized that he couldn't really see anything. Suddenly the vision of swimming up under one of the underwater ledges made it through the hypothermic haze, and he decided against searching around the bottom for the candles. At that point he aborted the dive and upon surfacing, was met by 4 beams of light in the eyes. He couldn't see the shore! In fact he couldn't see much of anything. He attempted to say "shine the lights on the shore!" but all that managed to come out was a very garbled "uuuuulights uhuhuhuuuuuushore." We couldn't figure out what he meant, so we continued shining our lights as helpfully as we could right in his eyes. He eventually made it to shore and although we thought we'd have to drag him out of the cave and back to camp, he made a complete recovery. After awhile even his speech lost that hypothermic slur.

On Saturday morning we headed for Indian Head Cove and the grotto. Steve and John decided to leave their scuba equipment at the campsite and try out freediving rather than haul their stuff over a kilometer to the shore. We arrived at the shore under brilliant sunshine and barely a ripple on the water. We suited up and jumped in. The vis was more than 50 feet, in fact in 50 feet of water you could still see the bottom clearly! From 60 feet below looking up, the surface was perfectly clear.

Doug and I headed for the long entrance to the cave because we wanted to get a picture of a freediver sillouetted against the blue backdrop of the the water from inside the passageway. I did a quick breatheup and dove. I swam halfway through the passage and stopped and waited for Doug. Because I was only about 10 feet or less below the surface there, I was quite bouyant, so I put an hand against the rock above to steady myself for the picture. Doug headed for the entrance, and I snapped a couple of pictures. Due to the fact that it was the first dive of the day, I was already feeling a bit low on air, so I headed into the cave... or so I thought. That passage into the grotto is mostly about 8-10 feet underwater, and is only about 3-4 feet high inside. That's plenty of room for a freediver, or even a scubadiver for sure. Also, heading outside from the cave is easy because you have the light to swim towards, however swimming inwards it's alot harder to see. There are also several side passages that lead back to the bay, but they are so narrow (like 14-18 inches high) that of course I've never tried them. Well as I headed along I kicked the ceiling and lost some momentum causing me to float up even more. Then I realized that the way ahead although wide enough to fit through wasn't wide enough to use my fins, but I could see ahead into what I thought was the cave. I grabbed the rocks and gave a couple pulls to get through the small spot and drifted out into... not the cave! I suddenly realized that now I was in the big passage out to the bay not the cave. I was equidistant from the cave and the bay, so I headed towards the light. I surfaced fine in the bay, and suddenly realized what I'd done wrong. In my stop and turn after the pictures I had headed in the wrong direction, something that I didn't imagine possible let alone likely! I had come through a passageway that I didn't even know existed and ended up in the bay not the cave. Suddenly I realized that Doug had been following me and that I had barely fit through that passageway... and If I had barely fit I wondered with horror if he would fit I quickly dove through the front entrance to the cave. I surfaced inside the cave to see Steve and John (they had walked in the land entrance) but no Doug. I headed for the other passageway (my intended entrance the first time) and there was Doug, much to my relief slowly making his way along probably a minute later, in great freediver style... no hurry, lots of air left. He hadn't even seen me head in the wrong direction. I told Doug what I'd done, and I'm going to be pretty careful heading into the cave in the future! Good thing there arn't passageways leading to nowhere...

After that we did some diving inside the cave. Doug recovered the candles the he had failed to retreive the night before ;-) and put them on a ledge where we can find them next time. Steve decided he wanted to try swimming out of the main entrance, about 5 feet down and about 15 feet across. I dove first and waited in the middle, and about 10-15 seconds later Steve dove, with Doug right beside him. He made it just fine, flashing me an ok and a smile as he went past! We all regrouped in the bay and headed slowly for a mooring bouy that was nearby, making lots of dives to inspect the rocky bottom thirty feet below or the occasional fish. We arrived at the bouy, and the line dissapeared into the blue below. Doug said he thought the bottom was around 60-70 feet there and headed down to check it out. I can't remember exactly how deep it was, about 60-65 though. You could see the bottom almost immediatly after leaving the surface. As I hadn't been deeper than 50 feet since my squeeze in Morisson's quarry a month or so ago, I decided to take it really slow, and pack to near max for every dive at first. We had fun doing some pulldowns on the mooring line and some CB dives as well. Steve and John left after a bit to explore some more of the rocky shoreline.

The rest of the story to follow in the next post...
 

flyboy748

Well-Known Member
Sep 18, 2003
415
58
118
In the afternoon we decided to go in search of the anchor in Big Tub harbour in Tobermory. The anchor is a big one, stuck in the rocky slope around 65 feet or so. Steve and John buddied up on scuba, and Doug and I freediving. The scubies were gonna find the anchor and we'd follow their bubbles and buzz them now and then. John seemed to be missing a strap for one of his fins, but he was going diving anyway! He jumped into the water and made for the bottom finning away like a trooper with his one remaining fin. Apparently diving with one fin took a alot of concentration because either he was having bouyancy issues on one of my passes, or he had given up, dumped his BC and was walking along the bottom! Well not exactly walking, but close enough ;-) I had a great time buzzing them occasionally, but Doug would calmly drop down to 65 feet, and then proceed to assist the scuba divers with directions to the anchor or give a hand with equipment ect. Then slowly make his way to the surface awhile later. He really makes it look too easy...

We never found the anchor, but after the Steve and John had headed in, we set the float and line up in 70 feet of water. I was super relaxed and felt like I could stay under forever. Doug dove, I met him on the way up, then I prepared and dove. I felt great. I was just starting to really sink around 50 feet when I saw something big moving out of the corner of my eye near the limit of my vision! I grabbed the line and spun around to get a better look and as I was turning I saw something 5-6 feet long dissapear from sight... Well I'm not used to seeing things the same size as me in the water I dive in, so I bailed. Headed for the surface and met Doug who wondered why I'd turned so early. "A HUUUUUGE fish!!!" I said, "5-6 feet long!" "That could only be a sturgeon in this lake" replied Doug matter-of-factly. I figured he must be right, but still.... seeing something that big... On my next dive I went really slowly. When I passed 30 feet on the way down Doug dove. He passed me before the bottom going really fast, touched the bottom and headed for the surface. If only I'd known it was a race!! When I turned at the bottom, again I thought I saw something move out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned, there was a log about 5-6 feet long sticking out of the wall about 40 feet away. When I turned my head the curved lenses in my sphera mask made it appear to move a bit. I headed for the surface and told Doug that I wasn't so sure now about my "fish story." However now in afterthought I bet I did see a 8-9 foot fish... ;-) That's a better story than the log anyway right??

After diving the anchor on Saturday afternoon, we headed over to the Grandview for dinner. It was fabulous as always, and even more fabulous was the watching the sun set over the beautiful waters of Georgian Bay. Afterwards we headed over to the dock in the harbour by the wrecks of the tugs. The sun continued to set as we suited up for yet another dive. after tying glowsticks onto our weightbelts, Doug and I headed after John and Steve who were on scuba. We managed to get John's fin fixed with a spare strap and about 50 feet of electrical tape... I think he's still wearing it actually... We're looking into getting it surgically removed.

The water was perfectly flat and we could hear people talking and music softly playing from the other side of the harbour. We got into the water in the growing darkness and started following the scuba divers. They were around 45 feet or so at first, but then after awhile they moved in a little closer to shore at around 30 feet or so. Doug would dive behind them and sneak up on them and just show up about a foot away... I'd see their lights spin around quickly to identify this momentarily unidentified and rather scary looking aquatic creature. Those minima masks really are kinda freaky at night I guess! Then he'd stay there for awhile, just hovering nearby moving slowly along the bottom before allowing himself to float back to the surface. After a few dives I was feeling really relaxed. I'd drop down to the bottom for awhile, feeling great, no desire to breathe for awhile. That feeling is the only real reason I practice static!

The next morning we took a long time having breakfast then had to say goodbye to Steve and Kelly who had to leave, and also to John who had to get back home as well. After they left, Doug and I just sat around the fire and ate. After that we ate some more, then we had lunch. You have to understand, Doug was short of time, so I decided to pick up the groceries for Doug, John and myself. First of all, I thought that John would be with us for the whole time, so I brought enough for all three of us... for about 10 days or so. Of course we didn't want to see any of that food go to waste, so Doug and I suffered through quite an ordeal on Sunday trying not to waste a thing. We still had in the cooler: 1kg of dry pasta, 1 can of sauce, 1/2 lb. of bacon, 3 giant sausages, 1/2 lb of cheese, 6 eggs, 1/2 lb. choclate, 1 bag of marshmellows, 1 box of graham wafers, 8 packets of hot choclate, 4 packets of instant oatmeal and about 20 granola bars. So as you can see, we had our work cut out for us!

After we recovered, and packed up camp we headed for Little Cove to see if we could find the wreck of the Niagara II. I knew from my maps (which I had convieniently left at home) roughly where it was, and Doug had an even better idea because he'd dived it before on scuba. Upon arrival at the Cove, we looked out where we thought it was, and since the water was so still, we could actually see the bouy about 800-900m from the foot of the cove. We suited up and walked along the shore as far as we could, then took our sandals off and started swimming. I was pushing my float and flag, and Doug was swimming alongside. On the way out we saw some really big carp moving slowly along the bottom, but they headed into deeper water as soon as I left the surface. 19 minutes after leaving shore we arrived at the stern bouy of the wreck. Doug dove to make sure we were at the right place, and looking at the wreck from about 30 feet, he estimated the deck to be about 50 feet or so. I dove and stopped around 35 feet or so. What a beautiful wreck!! Totally pristine condition right down to the big Canadian flag hanging from the stern. For those of you who arn't familiar with that wreck, it's a steel hulled freighter that was scuttled in '98 or '99 as a dive site. Really worth the time if you ever get a chance to dive it. Anyway Doug touched down on the deck and his D3 gave us a depth of 55 feet to the bouy attachment. We were starting to get a bit cool by that time, so we headed for the bow bouy. I dove to about 50 feet or so just to look, but Doug headed for the ship, and touched the deck at 75 feet. I was too freaked out by the wreck to actually go all the way down... hanging on the line at 35 feet at the stern the ship looked so complete that you almost expected a hatch to open and someone to step on deck!

All of this glorious diving was conductucted in 4-5C water (38-42F)... not exactly ideal as far as temperatures go, but a fantastic weekend for sure! I just checked on the Environment Canada page, and the water temps in Georgian Bay are now above 10C/50F and rising, so come to Toronto and give me a call! Soon enough it'll be borderline balmy...

Aaron
 
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Kars

Well-Known Member
Oct 24, 2003
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Very nice story Aaron! Thanks!

I whish there were some pictures to make it even more imageing!

Love and peace,
Kars.
 

flyboy748

Well-Known Member
Sep 18, 2003
415
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Thank you Kars! There are a few pictures, however on film not digital. I'll try to get some scanned and posted as soon as I can.

Aaron
 
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