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Ontario Diver's Log - TOBERMORY

Regarded as the #1 dive site in Ontario by many, Tobermory is the site of Fathom Five National Park and quite a number of shipwrecks. Tobermory is at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, and ships had to weather the cape in order to reach ports in Georgian Bay. Not all of them made it.

Fathom Five National Park requires that divers register before diving in the park; this costs $8. Divers found without a registration tag can be fined. There are some other rules they enforce; they give you a list when you register (most of them are commonsense things like using a dive flag, being certified, not diving in the inner harbour with all the boat traffic, etc.). The registration office is downtown, next to the Sweet Shop, so you can go get an ice cream cone after registering. Having at least one ice cream cone per visit is definitely a necessary part of the Tobermory experience, according to many veteran divers.

W.L. Wetmore
A large wooden wreck, in shallow water, so the ice has gotten to it. The deck and the hull ribs lay a bit askew to each other, and the boiler is shallow enough to sit on with your head out of the water. This is a popular dive with students, and at 20' you can spend a long time on it and see everything you want to see.

Near the Wetmore, but a lot deeper. The queen of Tobermory shipwrecks, this three-masted barque foundered in 1884 and settled upright in almost 110' of water. The wreck is still in very good condition. Decompression limits never let you spend as much time down here as you like, so one never seems to get bored of the deeper wrecks like one can with the shallow ones. Unfortunately, the combination of the popularity of this wreck and the unforgivingness of the depth has added up to a number of fatalities at this site over the years, mostly of people who lacked the experience to be diving this deep.

Forest City
If the Arabia is Tobermory's queen, this is the king. This freighter steamed into the side of Bear's Rump Island in 1905, subsequently sinking with its bow in about 70' and the stern in exactly 154' (I've checked). This is just a bit north of the deepest spot in Georgian Bay, which bottoms out a bit past 500'.

Bad Neighbour Rock
Towards the north side of the Park, there's a bouy that marks a spot that's only 8' deep. Next to it, there's a 300' sounding. Between the two, there's an excellent wall dive. Nearby, there's an interesting canyon that my buddy and I found; its top is at 30' and bottom at 70', and it's only 6' wide so we had to swim through in line astern.

Caroline Rose
Originally a sister ship to the Bluenose, and allegedly one of the three ships depicted on the Canadian $100 bill, this vessel fell into disrepute later in life, becoming a floating restaurant for awhile before sinking to the bottom of Owen Sound harbour. A group of divers volunteered to clear the vessel from the harbour, and deliberately sunk it in a bay just outside the Park boundary on the east side, since permission to add the wreck to the park was not forthcoming. This location was unfortunately too exposed, and wave action during the first winters' storms broke the wreck apart. Now you can see what these ships are made of, I suppose, although a lot of people think the salvors should have announced a site west of the park and then "accidentally" lost the ship in a sheltered spot within the park while passing through. As of August 1995, the port side and some internals and debris are the main remaining features, and the port side is showing signs of coming down Real Soon Now.

This is one of the shallowest wrecks in the Park, located at the foot of Big Tub Harbour. You can see it quite well on snorkel. Called the "Sweeps" by most regulars. There are restricted diving hours on this site (the registration office will give you details) so that the glass-bottom boats can visit the site too.

A popular wreck for student divers, because it's shallow and located in a sheltered cove. Unfortunately, it's rather broken up, and it's wrecks like this that earn expressions like "2x4 diving" from Kingston fans, who point out that they have more intact wrecks to go see, and fewer sites where an assortment of scrap lumber is called a wreck and eagerly dived upon.

The Tugs
There are three tugs sunk on the east side of Little Tub Harbour. These can be good new-diver checkout dives, or night-dive sites. On some summer Saturday evenings, you almost need to elbow people aside to get a look at the Alice G, the most popular of the tugs.

The Caves
A much less challenging dive than the name would suggest, this is a spot where a grotto in the shoreline cliffs, open to the air above, is connected by two short passages to Georgian Bay. Not too much experience is required to happily bop about for awhile and swim in and out a bunch of times. Rumour has it that on at least one occasion, divers arrived by water and found skinnydipping hikers in the grotto. For those more technically inclined, especially those who have visited the grotto a time or too too many, one can alternately take a northerly compass bearing and go as deep as one wants, not that there's a whole lot to see besides nice big rocks and nice big numbers on one's depth gauge.

Flowerpot Island
The dock at this island is a possible stopping point for lunch on days when you don't want to eat afloat due to weather, or can be visited on some of the touristy boat tours. Some divers have allegedly taken their gear along on a tourist trip that allowed stopovers, done a dive, and then headed back to town on the next tour. Offshore, there are lots of crayfish, some undercuts and interesting rock formations, and a fairly steep dropoff going well past 200', according to people I know who would know about such things. I'll take their word for it.

Hay Bay
We were staying at Land's End campground, just west of Tobermory, and went for a night dive off its beach. Lots of weed in the bay, fairly warm for the Tobermory area, and at least one really big fish that we woke up. This dive is famed within the club as the one on which a certain young fellow learned that while there are ladies present, a gentleman should not compensate for his lack of pockets by sticking a Cylume(tm) down the front of one's Speedos(tm).

Tobermory Charter Operators & Accomodations

Since it seems to be a frequently asked question in rec.scuba, here are some names and phone numbers of people who do business with divers up in Toby. Nothing here constitutes any sort of endorsement, and the notes are just my attempt at being helpful to fellow divers.

There are three main dive shops in Tobermory:

G&S Watersports
The largest (and to the best of my knowledge oldest) diveshop in Tobermory. They operate a number of boats, and usually have a sign up announcing boats that are going out. 519-596-2200.

Diver's Den
The other diveshop "downtown", they specialize a bit more in the technical side of diving, with nitrox fills, caving equipment, and boat trips to some of the more challenging sites. 800-563-3483 / 519-596-2363.

Big Tub Harbour Resort
A combination motel, campground, and diving operation. Located around the other side of Big Tub, past the ferry docks. Hosts for my first-ever Tobermory trip, an ice-diving weekend in February 1989. 519-596-2219.

For accomodation, there's Big Tub, there are various campgrounds, including Tobermory Village Campground at 519-596-2689, and Land's End, for which I don't have the number (the numbers I do have came from a copy of the OUC Index). There are also various motels.

Other Tobermory Pages


Last modified 2004-11-17 by Anthony DeBoer.