Men’s Breakfast Dives Into the Experiences of Local Mariner John Currie

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Photo: The scale model of the cross-section of Schooner Clipper City ca. 1854 was constructed by local carver Stan McClellan about 20 years ago. The model demonstrates the complex construction details of the mid-ship hull, keel, and deck and can be seen on display at the Parks Canada visitor center.
Submitted by the Men’s Breakfast

John Currie, who happens to be our M.C. for the Men’s Breakfast, got to introduce himself as guest speaker at our April 13th breakfast. John retired 20 years ago and moved to the Tobermory area where he soon got bored of retirement and went to work at Graham’s Marine which was located on the highway across from the golf course (now operated by Rod Anderson). Graham’s Marine owned two dive boats that were leased to the Diver’s Den. He obtained his Ministry of Transport Master’s Level certification and found himself crewing the dive boats as Graham purchased Diver’s Den along with two additional dive boats.

John outlined his duties which involved assisting experienced and novice divers and snorkelers with their gear. More experienced divers, called “Tech Divers” wouldn’t let him touch their gear (nor anyone else!). He also provided the passengers with some historical facts about the Tobermory area and about the wreck they were about to explore. 

The W.L. Wetmore, located at the northwest end of Russel Island, was and is a popular dive and snorkel destination as the 215 ft ship is in fairly shallow water and is particularly well-displayed including its boiler, propeller and anchor. The Wetmore wrecked in 1901 while pulling two other boats including the King which lies at the southwest tip of Russel Island. 

John provided us with an interesting marine history of this area including displaying several artifacts. Of particular interest was the scale model of the cross-section of Schooner Clipper City ca. 1854 constructed by local carver Stan McClellan about 20 years ago. The model demonstrates the complex construction details of the mid-ship hull, keel, and deck and can be seen on display at the Parks Canada visitor center.

The first marine chart of Tobermory and the Islands was of particular interest. Drawn by British naval officer William Fitzwilliam Owen (familiar names) it dates from 1815 when Tobermory was called Collins Harbour. Cove Island was originally named “Island of Coves”, which I find much more descriptive. Former naval officer David Wingfield mapped offshore islands Lucas and Yeo which happened to be two of the names of a British officer and Bayfield remapped the area using better equipment. 

The first chart didn’t have many depth soundings but these were supported by sailors’ log books referred to as ”Sailing Directions”. Navigation was principally undertaken using your speed multiplied by time to determine distance. Direction was based on “dead reckoning” using visible landmarks and navigation aids. Lights were installed at Cabot Head and Flowerpot Island in 1896 after the Cove Island Lighthouse which was constructed in 1855/56.

Some of John’s interesting experiences included performing a wedding for a couple from Sudbury, taking a mother and son to a location where a deceased son undertook his first dive, and steering the Parks Canada boat to support drone operations for filming. Over a four-year period between 2015 and 2019, John crewed for 453 divers, 50 snorkelers, and a total of 6,357 passengers. After a short hiatus due to Covid, he has returned to crewing for the Blue Heron company.

The next Men’s Breakfast on May 11 will feature our number one cook Lawrence Beagan who will leave the kitchen and provide a presentation on IT (information technology). Lawrence consulted in IT so bring your most perplexing computer/software questions and stories to share.

On June 8th, members of the Tobermory Legion Branch 290 will speak about the rich military history of the Bruce Peninsula. Shirley Johnstone (Branch Veterans’ Committee Chair) and Rob Davis will highlight some of the many veterans who left the peninsula in order to fight for Canada in two wars.

If you are planning to attend, it would be helpful if you let us know, by contacting Martin at hogarth@auracom.com