We pushed off from the shoreline, emptied our BCs and dropped to the riverbed, where a plaque thoughtfully provides information about the vessel. The further we swam from shore, the more the current picked up.
When the Connie was in our sights we lifted off the bottom, riding the current on the port side. We whizzed past the deck planks and the timber structure of the hull along with a fleeting fish or two and, all too fast, reached the stern.
A large group of walleye were hanging out in the sandy shallows, and as I watched them swim against the current, a grumpy-faced pike darted out of nowhere. It lunged in for the kill, the walleye scattering quickly – too quickly.
I looked at my buddies and had to snicker into my regulator – better luck finding lunch elsewhere, Mr Pike.
Gear and prop on the Conestoga wreck.
After this Blue Planet sideshow, I returned my attention to the rear of the Conestoga, where the massive four-bladed propeller was a sight for sore eyes.
It was far the most interesting part of the ship, so I indulged in some photo opps while my buddies poked around.
Along the starboard side of the wreck we found a long metal chain placed to help divers pull themselves against the current and explore the boat a second and third time. Hand over hand, I turned my mask into the flow and inched my way upriver – a slow, gruelling process.
Back at the bow we went for round two, this time dropping inside the Connie.
The inner hull offered protection from the current and made it much easier to photograph and move around.
I spotted huge chain-links and a large windlass in the hull but, making our way through the zebra mussel-clogged shallows, I also got to see the massive boilers, winches, engine, deck fittings and other miscellaneous artefacts.
Exploring the wreck of the Robert Gaskin.
The 1863-vintage Robert Gaskin was to be the last stop on our Brockville diving adventure. After repeated sinkings and salvages, her final fate came in 1889.
We joined a local boat charter this time, because the wreck lies slightly out of reach for shore-divers.
After multiple dives in the area, we had our scuba routine down to a tee, and it didn’t take us long to prep for the dive.
We stepped into the water and made sure to grab the anchorline. Down it we went, battling strong surface current that lessened at depth.
Touching down at 18m, we got our first look at the wooden barge. Resting on a firm bottom, the wreck was about 35m long and the hull far more intact than the Rothesay’s had been.
We drifted over the deck, and could see the picturesque wooden railing and large timbers making up the framework.
I love diving shipwrecks, but the Gaskin was an eerie sight against the ghostly green freshwater backdrop. Towards the stern its condition seemed to deteriorate substantially, and I was surprised how few fish could be seen.
The previous two wrecks had been fish magnets – tails and scales had seemed to flutter everywhere.
Back at the bow, by far the most spectacular part of this wreck, we checked out a large hole in the hull and a rusty anchor.
Unlike on the other shallow shipwrecks, our time on the Gaskin had passed far more quickly than we had hoped. Before I knew it, it was time to ascend.