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Great Lakes Scuba Diving?
Old 11-20-2015, 06:47 AM   #1
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Great Lakes Scuba Diving?

Does anyone living around the Great Lakes scuba dive in them? More specifically Lake Michigan and the southern half of the lake. I've been seeing some Groupons for scuba lessons and always wanted to do it. I have a friend with a good sized boat and I've seen several videos showing the cool shipwrecks around Lake Michigan which have been making me want to finally take the plunge. Is it worth it to utilize the area around the Great Lakes for underwater expeditions or would it be better to shelve the plan until I make arrangements to go somewhere more... tropical?
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Old 11-20-2015, 07:04 AM   #2
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The problem with the great lakes is they are COLD. You have to wear either a drysuit or a very thick wetsuit. I did my open water certification in Lake Huron and the wetsuit was not fun at all.

For scuba certification in this neck of the woods, normally it's mainly done in the pool, and then you go to the lake for your open water portion which I think is 3 dives. I would suggest it's worth doing, you'll experience the lake diving in the open water certification dives (rent the wetsuit for this, don't buy). If you like the lake diving you can continue doing it, if not, you're certified for future trips to the south where the diving is actually warm.
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Old 11-20-2015, 07:11 AM   #3
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I learned how to dive in a pool, then went to a fresh water lake. I have been on numerous dives since then, but not in the last 15 years or so. I have dove in lake Superior, the gulf, the pacific, the keys, went on night dives, dam dives, etc. I have dove in clear places and places you could not see 12" in front of your mask. I rode the Molokai express from Portlock on one dive outside of Hanauma bay.

Learn how to dive close to home, in a setting that is safe and not just meant to get your money. You can get the basics here, then do the open water portion of the certification in a tropical place.

When I was younger, I wanted to dive to spear fish. It is a real blast just seeing them, but spearing a large one is even more exciting.

Make no mistake, diving can be very dangerous, especially on the shipwrecks. They are mostly deep dives. Deep dives (over 33') have their own problems as you cannot egress to the surface quickly, even in open water, unless you have only been then for a few minutes. That is the bends. Even a quick 20' ascent to the surface without exhaling can be dangerous. That is an embolism. Stay out of caves unless you REALLY know what you are doing.

It is safe when done right, much like parachuting.
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Old 11-20-2015, 07:58 AM   #4
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Does anyone living around the Great Lakes scuba dive in them? More specifically Lake Michigan and the southern half of the lake. I've been seeing some Groupons for scuba lessons and always wanted to do it. I have a friend with a good sized boat and I've seen several videos showing the cool shipwrecks around Lake Michigan which have been making me want to finally take the plunge. Is it worth it to utilize the area around the Great Lakes for underwater expeditions or would it be better to shelve the plan until I make arrangements to go somewhere more... tropical?
Agree with Senator that learning is easier with pool + Caribbean. Diving since '87 and it is the focus of our retirement plans/dreams.

We've dove with quite a few people over the years who were Great Lakes divers. It is completely different than what we do. As Spudd said, dry suits, or VERY heavy neoprene is required; this requires more weight to maintain neutral buoyancy and, hence, better diving skills. A number of the wrecks (not all) are deep enough to require advanced technical diving that is well beyond the levels of certification that I possess. (Some of the folks we've met do their own gas mixes, which is way beyond what we are interested in doing!)

I'd probably do the tropical route to see if you and your ears/sinuses are comfortable. Second phase would be to do some well-explored tropical wrecks, again to see if you have any issues in the confined places while on regulator. Only after that would I invest the time and money to get the additional training, mastery, and gear for cold water wreck diving.

Of course, it is all moot for me--DW wears two layers and a hood in 79 degree water; no way are we doing the great lakes. (to be fair to her, She is shooting photos and not moving much on 3-5 dives a day, which doesn't help....)
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Old 11-20-2015, 08:25 AM   #5
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Learn how to dive close to home, in a setting that is safe and not just meant to get your money. You can get the basics here, then do the open water portion of the certification in a tropical place.
I have over 500 dives, about 200 off of the coast of Massachusetts (cold water, low visibility, strong seas) the other 300 in the Caribbean. I would guess over 150 of them would be classified as solo dives (true solo, or same day same ocean dives). Diving in the cold is VERY different to diving in the tropics.

My comment on this is to do your open water dives in the location where your worst expected dives will be. If you do take open water dives in a tropical place, make sure your first dives in the cold lake are with experienced divers that KNOW this is your first time in the cold. You do not want to take all the classes and get certified in the relative ease of the tropics and then think Lake Michigan is the same thing. It is not!
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Old 11-20-2015, 09:11 AM   #6
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I learned to dive in the Chicago area in the 70s. I dove on wrecks on the south side near Calumet Park (Material Services barge), off downtown on some old tug, and in Evanston (old wooden wreck about 200 yards off shore). I also did a number of wrecks in Door County. You need to be ready for cold and lousy visibility in the Chicago area of the lake. Door County can have excellent visibility. I also did some ice diving in a quarry near Rockford -- that was interesting. Here are my brother and I getting ready for a shore dive in Door County. Like the antique gear?
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Old 11-20-2015, 06:26 PM   #7
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Some great points to ponder this winter! Certainly still interested but perhaps I'll need to identify some good dive sites in shallower water before I opt to take the classes.
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Old 11-20-2015, 06:55 PM   #8
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Some great points to ponder this winter! Certainly still interested but perhaps I'll need to identify some good dive sites in shallower water before I opt to take the classes.
Like the others have said, even mid Summer ake Michigan is still very cold at depth and visibility isn't great at the southern end. Visibility is much better up around Mackinac Island, but even colder! Read up on thermoclines and metalimnions, it's alarming his much colder Lake Michigan is even 12 feet down...
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Old 11-20-2015, 07:15 PM   #9
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A friend of mine was stationed at Sault Ste. Marie in the Coast Guard many years ago and was a diver. He said that it was so cold that it really didn't make much difference in temperature from summer to winter once you got down a few feet. Now, that's cold!
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