Featured diver? Hmmm….. how do I start? At the beginning I suppose. I was born in 1960 on the shore of Lake Michigan in the town of Port Washington Wisconsin. I am lucky enough to reside in the same house I grew up in and Lake Michigan is my front yard……literally. About the time I learned to walk, I also learned how to swim. Being the youngest of five kids I was always trying to keep up, from the first sand bar to the second. Then out to the first big rock, then to the deeper ones. By the time I was five or six an inner tube was my boat and my dive gear was a mask. With that I was able to dive the submerged rocky areas in my area. I could dive much deeper then I was tall and had no fear of the water. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already engaged in free diving. I literally grew up in the lake.
The mid sixties were an interesting time. I vaguely remember watching Sea Hunt which by then was already in rerun. But when I think back to those days what I remember most was looking at National Geographic magazine and their photo spreads about salvaging Spanish Galleon’s down in Florida. By that young age I was already hooked into diving.
A few years later as a teenager I was hanging out at a Maritime museum that was located in Port Washington, down at the harbor. One of the curators was Butch Klopp who was a local diver. I think he could see just how bad my diving jones was and he sold me my first dive equipment. He made me promise that I would get certified for diving. This was 1977 and I did get certified Padi in October 1978. Back in those days I was working summers in the cornfields and driving the delivery truck. That’s how I financed my early diving purchases. I also read everything I could lay my hands on about diving. Had I applied myself to my schooling the way I did to diving I might have really gone places.
Anyway, that first year I made several dives. Mostly out of my father’s aluminum boat. No dive ladder yet. I just climbed back in. All of those dives were solo of course. Butch was kind enough to fill my tank for me, each time reminding me about certification. I dove the local wreck a few times. This was long before zebra mussels and anything that resembled visibility in Lake Michigan. Usually you could see about five feet. To this young guy, swimming along the ribs of a paddle wheel steamer was just too cool. There were a lot more fish back in those days too as I recall. Schools of perch and suckers used to hang around the wreck in the thousands.
Finally I got certified and gained a few dive buddies. I remember climbing over the iceburgs in winter to get in and being waist deep in slush. I dropped one of my fins when it was being handed down by my dive buddy. It disappeared under the ice and was gone for good. A Scubapro jet fin by the way. I was bummed, but thinking about it 35 years later it was probably a good thing. We were in ¼ inch wet suits. Time is kind and I don’t remember being cold. I’m sure I was though.
I kept diving and a couple years later my sister called and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. She was in the Navy, was stationed at Point Sur California and living in Monterey. She told me that a friend of hers was taking his thirty days leave and would I like to come out to California and go diving for a month. She didn’t have to ask me twice. There I experienced diving the kelp beds and did some abalone diving. It was still legal then. I also tried my hand at a little spear fishing and took pictures with my Nikonos II. I had to quit my job to do the trip, but it was a choice I’ll never regret. A few years later that same sister was stationed at Pearl Harbor and I got out there too.
Then in ’83 I got married the first time and was out of diving until 2001. I was out fishing on Lake Michigan and the water was so clear that I simply had to get back into diving. So, I went up to a dive shop and signed up for an open water class. I was really amazed in the new style of training or lack there of. What a change. It was more like a refresher! No matter. Once again, dive buddies were scarce so I joined a club to get more involved and maybe open more opportunities. About a year or two into that I bought my first double hose reg. I had used them back in my original certification class and I always thought they were cool. I already had a regulator though, my trusty Dacor Olympic 100, and a limited budget, so I never bought a double hose back in a day. My first one was a Dacor Diving Lung with dial “A” Breath. Well, you could dial that thing all you wanted and it still didn’t breath worth a ……Undaunted, I bought a DA Aqua Master. The hoses were falling off of it, but that’s okay. I didn’t rebuild that one right away. By then I had acquired a couple of Dacor Olympic 400 single hosers and I found a manual for them. That’s what I started with as far as rebuilding. I learned a lot from them. Then one thing led to another and I came across this website called Vintage Double hose where I could get parts for my DA. That was 2006. The vintage disease had caught and dug in deep.
Also in 2006 I became the President of the dive club I was in. It had problems and was losing membership. I did my best with that situation and made pretty good progress, but by the end of my term I could see the writing on the wall. This ship is going down and there was nothing that I could really do to fix it. There were some bad apples in the group poisoning the well so to speak. I couldn’t fix that, so I left. In January of 2008 I founded the Deep Six dive group. http://www.deepsixscuba.com
. That little club has done well. We actually go diving and make an honest effort to cater to divers from freshly certified to tech, vintage and modern.
The final chapter I guess would be that I was recruited by and joined the local dive rescue team. As of January 2010 I became a member of the Port Washington Fire Department. Here is a news story that covers our most recent call. I was in the zodiac that day and my job was rescue swimmer. Most exciting! http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/130608373.html
I look forward to many more years diving, vintage, modern and otherwise. It’s never boring and it keeps me in shape too!
That's me on the left