She may not be the prettiest, but there is a good chance the Sweepstakes is one of the most dived upon wrecks in Ontario. Resting in only 15 feet of water it is the ultimate entry-level wreck, making it perfect for dive students or those newly certified. Being so shallow you get lengthy bottom time to explore, the only problem being the limited amount TO explore.
The “Sweeps” is an old ship, built in 1867 and sunk in 1885 just half a stones throw away from the City of Grand Rapids which actually protrudes considerably from the water in Big Tub Harbor.
Starting from the stern the deck is as bare as a ballroom floor (with a few boards missing) aside from the entrances to the hold until you reach the bow area where the sizeable windlass emerges as the wreck’s dominant feature.
With the reduction of the water level in Lake Huron the Sweepstakes at times breaks the surface, so while diving under ice in Feb. 2001 there was not much room to roam when swimming above the deck.
Realizing the entrances to the hold are large and inviting, the Fathom Five National Marine Park officials have opted for safety and put up fencing to prevent penetration – think of it as diving’s version of safe sex. It also reduces the damage caused by exhaled bubbles which can be considerable when you take into account the volume of divers this wreck sees.
To ensure this resource is around for years to come divers have been reinforcing the sides for decades in an attempt to keep the hull together. Let’s have a standing ovation for that kinda thoughtfulness!!!