Scuba Diving the Great Lakes with Northern Michigan Dive Center in Cheboygan, Michigan

Levi must have been a fish in a previous life.  He feels right at home submerged in water, any body of water really.  He loves being in water so much, he made a career of it, undergoing a series of courses to earn Scuba Instructor status.

I, on the other hand, was most likely a cat.  My love for water stretches to lounging  in front of a pool or sandy beach and keeping hydrated. After a little (OK…OK…a lot of) encouragement from Levi and some patient instructors, I became a certified Open Water Diver.

Prepping our gear for a night dive. This would be our first wreck dive.

When we found out about a summer work camping job in Mackinaw City, Michigan at Mackinaw Mill Creek Camping, we jumped on the opportunity.  This was a new corner of the country to explore and one surrounded by water!  By the time we journeyed to the upper region of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, almost a year passed since our last dive, in Lake Tahoe, and we were itching to slap on some neoprene.

There are a number of scuba diving shops in Michigan, but only a couple within a half hour drive from Mackinaw City.  A few co-workers told us about one particular shop in Cheboygan, Northern Michigan Dive Center, that we had to visit.  We did and are glad that we didn’t pass up this chance encounter with a great dive community.

U.S. Route 23 led us straight to Northern Michigan Dive Center from our work camping job in Mackinaw City.

We first visited Northern Michigan Dive Center at the beginning of July (2016).  Keith, an instructor and Joe’s (the owner) right-hand man, was rushing around the shop getting a group ready for a class.  However, he took the time to introduce himself, give us a bit of background on services and products offered at the shop, and answer any of our questions.  We told him about our diving backgrounds, and he invited us to attend the shop’s Wednesday Evening Dives.  The majority were shore dives; only a handful were boat dives.

We participated  in a total of five out of the dozen or so dives offered that summer.  They included a couple of drift dives in the Cheboygan River, a shore dive overlooking the Mackinac Bridge in Lake Huron,  a night dive to view a sunken tugboat, and a close encounter with sturgeons in Black Lake.  There were quite a few firsts for both Levi and me. River dives and wreck dives were both new experiences.  Diving at night was a first for me. Surprisingly, the water was not the anticipated bone-chilling temperatures we thought we’d be plunging into.  Instead, on average, water temps were at a refreshing high 60’s – low 70’s (Fahrenheit).

Suiting up for a dive in Lake Huron, overlooking Mackinac Bridge.

For me, still wet behind the ears, figuratively and literally, each dive was another opportunity to practice basic skills in new environments and build my confidence as a diver.  Each dive was an introduction to another aspect of the water world: battling the river current upstream, being contentious about weight in freshwater as opposed to saltwater,  increasing awareness of my surroundings with boat traffic, and knowing when to end a dive when the visibility and conditions were less than favorable.  Come to think of it, I suppose these are skills any diver, regardless of their experience, can improve upon.

There were easily 10 people at each excursion, many regulars of the shop and others completing introductory courses.  Aside from the many fish and forgotten treasures we discovered, the community of divers was a priceless find!  The participants we dove with were there for one main reason: enjoy the art of diving.  Everyone looked out for one another and offered a bit of advice and entertaining stories!

The humble abode that is Northern Michigan Dive Center- Sometimes they pose a scuba diver mannequin outside to greet customers.

We have our own diving gear including suits and tanks so we just needed our tanks filled before dives; however, owning your own gear and equipment does not make or break your participation. Northern Michigan Dive Center rents snorkeling and scuba diving essentials!  They even rent kayaks!

Northern Michigan Dive Center has everything the wannabe and want-to-advance scuba diver have in mind.  A series of hierarchical PADI courses are taught by certified instructors.    If scuba diving isn’t your thing, snorkeling classes are also available.  Even more enticing, if you are looking to escape the winter blues, the Northern Michigan Dive Center organizes an annual trip to the tropics for an entire week each winter!  Their website details these classes and excursions!

An array of equipment and maintenance/repair services are also readily available. Aside from filling our tanks for Wednesday dives, we ended up having all three of our cylinders visually inspected and one in particular was due for a hydrostatic test.  We splurged on some warm gloves, some gear cleaner, and dive shop decals.  My favorite purchase was the shop’s “Dive Snot.”  It’s essentially their version of defog and wet suite lubricant!  It works like a charm!

The shop’s fan…perhaps they could start a scuba diving brand to sell at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Northern Michigan Dive Center holds a special place in our heart, and we will be sure to visit on our next trip up the Michigan Mitt.  If you are in the area, we HIGHLY RECOMMEND a visit of your own! You will not be disappointed in the least, especially if diving the Great Lakes is on your bucket list!

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As always…safe travels and happy trails!

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