Canada-1000 Islands-August 22-28, 2015
Channel Islands Dive Adventures 1000 Islands Canadian wreck adventure
WOW, what a fun trip it was in a beautiful area of Canada. They don’t use the word golden there to describe their yards because everywhere you look it is GREEN. Everywhere you look there is river, islands, trees and more green. Not much in the way of wild life except for smaller birds and a few small squirrels but that was about it. I seen dogs and don’t remember even seeing any cats.
This trip was a long time in the making and when trying out a new trip like this it sure helps to have fun easy going people and that for sure was our group. We had 7 divers and 3 non-divers and my friends Ernest Yale & Geneviève Déry who were our Canadian hosts along with a couple of other new Canadian friends Jeff and Michel Castonguay and wife Marysa.
You might ask-where is the Brockville area that we stayed in most all of our trip? Brockville is about 2 hours west of Montreal, 2 hours east of Toronto and across the St. Lawrence river from the eastern part of New York, just about where it says Canada-United States on the map in the pictures. It is a smaller town of about 22,000. They have lots of history with beautiful old buildings and houses from the early 1900’s.
You would think diving where we were it would be cold (most everyone does) but the St. Lawrence River warms up in the summer and for everyone who refused to believe me when I said the water temp would be in the low to mid 70’s and NO thermocline I wasn’t wrong. In fact it can get up to about 76 degrees depending on how cold the winter before had been. I used a 3 mm suit with a 3/2 hooded vest and with my new awesome warm water back plate and AL 80 (which I don’t care for) I only needed 4 lbs. of weight.
The whole area around Brockville to the west and east is known for all the wrecks that lie in the St. Lawrence River, sort of like Wreck Alley in San Diego but on a much larger scale and with most of the ships sinking because something happened. They do have a few wrecks that have been sunk intentionally but not many. The one thing that actually has helped the area is the invasion of the Zebra mussels. That are not native and probably arrived there from a ship but now with all there filtering action they have actually cleaned the water up so the vis can get as good as 50′ or better but that wasn’t the case on this trip. We had 15′ ft. on a couple of dives and as good as maybe 25′ but the week before they had about twice. We did have some rain that could make the vis change but not much so there wasn’t really a good reason why it was so much less on our trip.
Our 1st day we dived off the boat “Knot a River Queen” and I am sure everyone will tell you it wasn’t a River Queen. It wouldn’t even be allowed in California but it was stable and got us to the dive sites and back safely. We did the Gaskin, Daryaw and the Lillie Parsons. Ernest and I did a long drift after looking at the Lille Parsons and everyone else did a shorter drift. Ernest always gave me the royal tour so I could see as much as possible.
The 2nd day we dived off the “Emily C” and it was a converted small house boat and we thought we really moved up a few notches from the first boat. For food they took care of our lunches but by the end of the trip I don’t think anyone wanted to see another hamburger, hotdog or chicken burger. The dives the 2nd day were the Vickery, Keystorm and the America in the US so we had to go through customs at Boldt Castle. The Keystorm would have been outstanding had the vis been good enough to see anything. Ernest gave me the tour but it felt like I was being towed around in the dark. The America had much better vis and I really like that dive. It was upside down
with LOTS of machinery to see and holes to explore. The depth of about 60’ also made it a really good nitrox dive with a long bottom time. It was close to a large shipping channel and to get to it you had to follow a series of chains and rope quite a ways till you found it but it was well worth the effort.
This trip was just so much fun and we did a lot. On Tuesday again we did 3 dives off the Emily C and they were the Ash Island barge & drift (start of our bottle collecting), the Kinghorn and the Grendier Island drift. Ernest told me let’s do an extra-long drift and get dropped off further ahead of everyone else because we had HP 120’s and could do a longer drift dive. He also was telling me how the round bottom bottles are some of the best ones to find so in the 3rd minute of our dive I was lucky enough to find a perfectly clean round bottom bottle from the late 1800’s at about 95′. Ernest said after that I became a bottle manic! We did find other bottles but not many to keep from this site. Grendier Island was another fun drift for bottles and everyone came up with some keepers.
On Wednesday we did 3 dives off the Helen C which was another pontoon style boat but it had a ladder that came up through the floor in front with secret hatch which was way cool for getting back on to the boat. Our Captain was Vince and he was a history buff on the whole area. We learned so much from Vince that next time we go back I need to ask for him to be our captain. We did our 1st dive on the Muscallonge and then had a stop at Refugee Island. The city of Brockville has quite a few islands that are set up for day use and camping and Refugee Island was one of them. Afterwards we did a drift on the Northwall through the narrows with a current of about 1.5-2 knots. For lunch we went to Sparrow Island and again had hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken kabobs and did some exploring where we found the anchor of the Lille Parsons wreck. Our last dive was in the channel looking for bottles. I did this dive with Gen and we had a great time muck diving finding more cool bottles.
After we got back to Caigers we showed off our bottles we found and had a potluck complete with a fire outside next to the river and a free music concert with Joe Kalohi and Mike Reinboth playing their ukulele’s while Gen waved branches around them to keep the mosquito away from them.
We stayed at Caigers Sport Resort along the St. Lawrence River about 30 minutes west of Brockville and about 5 minutes east of Rockport. They mainly cater to divers and fisherman at Caigers and on a scale of 1-10 I would have to give it a 6. It was a bit old and not so clean but we were staying right on the river, the staff was extremely helpful, the food was good and we were able to have a group fire right outside our rooms. The views were awesome and the boat picked us up right at the resort for 2 days of our diving with our tanks getting their nitrox fills on the premise. Will we stay there again, maybe because it was very convenient and worked out well for what we wanted to do. We probably would stay there only 4 days and move closer to the Lock 21 area where we could explore and dive more sites in that area.
Two other days we boarded the boats in Brockville, one day at a private house/dock and the other at a park. The first day there was myself and 2 others in the car-we got lost and had no directions to the boat at the private house. We stopped asked a couple and then stopped again talking to divers that said “we know Ernest and will call him to come get you”. Ernest seems to know everyone!
Our last day of diving we drove east about 1 hour to the marina where we boarded the Lil Diver owned by Ron McDonald a well-known man who found some of the wrecks. The boat was very nice and we did a dive on the Eastcliffe Hall (an excellent wreck) and did a bottle drift in the river. The bottle drift was very successful as I came across an old dump site that now was under 25′ ft. of water before they flooded the area in the late 50’s. Found lots of cool bottles, an egg cup, blue bottle and wire insulator. All this fun along with a 1.5-2 knot current, things just couldn’t be any better.
Afterwards we drove about another 20 minutes east to the Lock 21 park. What a beautiful park and all that GREEN GRASS, something not ordinary for us SoCal people. Here Michel and his wife Maryse put on a huge BBQ for us complete with about 40 lbs. of pork ribs. Maybe they don’t know but not all of us Americans eat like Ernest. We all ate good and had a wonderful time. After our big meal I did what seemed like a triathlon dive with Michel and Jeff to see the old lighthouse base, road with 20 something boat dock mounts and then the Lock 21-all under about 25′-30′ of water. It was very interesting and a must do again and another reason to spend more time in the area exploring. The area is full of history under the water and something very unique that it all requires CIDA to return again soon.
After saying our goodbyes to our Canadian friends it was time to get back to Caigers for Friday where we would all go different directions to see things and get packed for our trip home. My wife Tessie & I traveled back to Montreal where we spent the next few days visiting with our friends Ernest and Gen.
What an awesome and fun trip this was and very much worthy of another visit or two or three back!
By Ken Kollwitz