The waves are starting to kick up as the Molly V approaches the mooring buoys marking the wreck site. Captain Jitka throttles back the engine and I clamber to the bow to tie us in. A mile behind us, I can see the towers of the Mackinac Bridge set against the steely sky and I wonder how many of the thousands of drivers who cross it between Michigan’s peninsulas know of the carnage just beneath the water’s surface.
The Mackinac Straits hold a half-dozen significant shipwrecks, like the Eber Ward, the Minneapolis and the Sandusky, but there is one I’ve dreamed of diving more than any other ever since I heard of it 10 years earlier – the Cedarville. And now it is 75 feet below us, a massive presence whose only evidence at the surface are the three widely-spaced buoys marking the bow, amidships and stern. Though the depth here isn’t extreme, conditions can be tricky; the narrow Straits funnel water from Lake Michigan into Huron and currents can make for dangerous diving. I double check my equipment – drysuit valves, regulators, weights – and snap shut the clasp on my Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000, spin the timing bezel to zero, then shuffle to the transom and plunge into the 45°F (7.2°C) water.
Everything about the Cedarville is superlative. At 600 feet long, it is the third longest wreck in the Great Lakes. The doomed ship’s final resting position is dramatic, twisted around its torn middle so that the bow is upside down, seemingly supported by its spindly radar mast, which is dug into the lakebed. Our dive boat is moored to the bowline and as I descend, the ship’s upturned hull comes into view mere feet below the surface, magnetically drawing me deeper. At 35 feet, I pass the top of the wreck until I am in its shadow and then, at 75 feet, my feet touch down on the lunar surface with a puff of silt.