Fenton Twp. — At a small boat slip off North Long Lake Road, a group of teens from Saginaw Township are checking their SCUBA equipment.
They test their regulators and tanks and then test each others’ equipment just to be safe.
Equipment is serious when it comes to diving 30 feet into the cold Lake Fenton waters, and these Boy Scouts are taking it that way. Don’t feel bad for them though — some of the scouts testing day will take their skills to the Bahamas.
Kimberly Collingham is a trainer for The Dive Shop in Flint. She’s leading the group on Lake Fenton for what is called an “Open Waters” activity, which is both a final class component and test for being dive certified.
It’s a pass/fail test, and is part of the training. These scouts have already completed their classroom hours and pool training. She’ll also take groups with both kids and parents, grandparents even, and some training to be marine biologists.
“It’s local diving so it’s a place where we can grab our gear and go, being in Michigan,” she said. “We’re surrounded by the Great Lakes.”
Locally, water 35 feet down is approximately 55 degrees. These scouts will do a test, which lasts three hours with two dives of 20 to 25 minutes.
She’ll take divers to Silver Lake and Lake Fenton once a week, lately every day, on her pontoon which fits four people and their gear.
“You have great visibility,” said Tracy Rogan-Miller, 50, as she completed her test run and returned to shore. She was joking about Lake Fenton — she could only see about a foot in front of her face.
“I think it’s a great sport and there’s just so much to see, so much to do. Honestly, I rather enjoy the Great Lakes,” said Collingham. There are phenomenal chances to see underwater ship wrecks.
Kim Volz of Mundy Township is co-owner for The Dive Shop, and director of training. You can see by the sidebar how expensive it can be. But Volz pointed out, that the earth is three-quarters water.
“You guys who don’t dive only use a small portion of it, I get to use all of it,” he said. “There’s a whole lotta cool looking stuff under water.”
He compared SCUBA to diving inside an aquarium, versus just looking at it, or just watching a TV.
“Anyone who thought an aquarium is cool, should be a diver,” he said. Volz was inspired by a spirit of adventure from travel shows he watched in the ‘70s.
He said SCUBA affords the diver flexibility to go as “deep” as they want. When on trips, he’ll have divers stay near the boat, or disappear until it’s time to leave. Grandparents and grandchildren can learn and dive, side-by-side.
Aside from regular open water diving, he cave dives, and dives for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Department. His furthest dive was 275 feet down to a shipwreck in Lake Superior — which is 175 feet past the recreation limit.
What does it cost to get started?
For someone to buy lower-end equipment, they can expect to spend roughly $1,200 to $3,000. But to simply get started and take lessons, expect to spend about $300 for goggles, fins, snorkel, and wet suit boots. The good news is that all equipment can be rented for about $50 per day. A wetsuit of about 7 mils thick, and the above equipment is also handy in case you want to snorkel around in the cooler Great Lakes. It should be noted that there is specific equipment for the planned water temperature and depth of use. Equipment used in the Great Lakes is tougher and more expensive than equipment used in the Caribbean.
Here is the cost of some no-frills SCUBA equipment:
Regulator set-up: $350
This is the thing you actually breathe through. An additional mouthpiece is $200, which each diver has, in case you or your buddy has a problem with your equipment. You can lend, or borrow some air from your tank until back at the surface.
A buoyancy control vest (BC):
$350 to $700
A BC is what allows you to float, sink, or just hang out in the water where you are, using air in a plastic vest. “That way we’re like fish,” said Volz.
A gauge package: $200
This shows your depth, air supply and includes a timing device.
Some people need 30 to 40 pounds. This will keep you from rising quickly.
Air tank: $175 up to $300