By Jill Smith. (Next AquaCat scuba trip NEW YEAR 2019/2020!)
May 10 1980
Two Cuban fishing vessels were discovered poaching in Bahamian waters.
The Bahama’s HMBS Flamingo attempted to make arrests, but were attacked by the Cubans in retaliation. As a result, 4 Bahamian Defence Force Marines were killed: Austin Smith, Fenrick Sturrup, David Tucker, and Edward Williams.
A 90-foot Coast Guard Cutter was decommissioned, and it was decided that it would be towed to San Salvador to be sunk as an artifical reef and scuba diving site. It never made it, however.
Due to a series of mishaps, the vessel accidentally sunk in the Exuma Cays en-route to its intended destination. The Bahamian government agreed to name this wreck in honour of one of the brave marines that died 15 years prior in the Cuban attack of 1980, and so it became the Austin Smith Wreck, and a popular scuba diving site.
The Austin Smith came to rest in an upright position in approximately 60 feet of water, on top of a coral bed in the Exuma Cays, Bahamas. For 20 years the wreck remained whole and in good condition, until Hurricane Matthew (a category 5 storm) swept through the area between September 28, and October 6, 2016. The power of this storm broke the Austin Smith into 2 pieces, however, the wreck still supports the flourishing local marine life, and remains a favourite dive site for divers. Reef sharks frequent the area and can almost always be seen swimming around the wreck.
Just the Facts
Location: Bahamas (Exuma Cays) - the Caribbean Sea
Visibility: Average-10 m//33 ft Max-30 m/100 ft
Depth: 50-60 feet in area
Weather: Average Water Temp: 83.5F - Average Air Temp: 81F Weather conditions in area: http:weather.com/weather/tenday/l/Nassau+The+Bahamas+BFXX0005
Water temps can be as low as 75F in the winter, and as high as 88F in the summer Exposure suits: Recommended even in summer to prevent injury on wreck due to scrapes, cuts, and stings due to firecoral (or jellyfish if diving at night) Diver skill level: Suitable for beginners, but loved by all skill levels
Current: Very little, but may vary with weather conditions
The little critters found on and around the wreck (reef is right there):
Equipment: Normal Recreational Scuba Gear, safety gear (SMB), knife for possible disentanglement
Optional: Photography gear an asset - this is a beautiful wreck!
Environmental Factors: As always, maintain good buoyancy and don’t touch!
Wildlife: Reef sharks, moray eels, barracuda, parrotfish, angelfish, grouper, and don’t forget the small crabs and shrimps hiding in little places!
Medical and Emergency
The DAN Dive Accident Insurance Plans are recognized worldwide and can be confirmed 24 hours a day through the DAN Emergency Hotline (+1-919-684-9111). The DAN plans provide secondary coverage of up to $500,000 and pay 100% of eligible expenses.
Bahamas Hyperbaric Center Ltd
The Bahamas Hyperbaric chamber facility/clinic is on the grounds of the Lyford Cay Hospital in Nassau. This facility also extends free educational programs to Bahamas Dive Operators, and regularly provide training/coordination of air and sea evacuations and patient transfers from site of injury.
SSS NETWORK / Nassau
Bahamas Hyperbaric Center, Ltd. P.O.Box CB-10981 Nassau, Bahamas
Phone/Fax: Tel: (242) 362 – 5765
Normal Clinic Hours are: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (U.S. Eastern Time, – 5 GMT), 7 Days a Week
Bahamas 24 Hour Emergency Lines: (242) 362 5765
Bahamas 24 Hour Emergency Mobile: (242) 422 2434
Lyford Cay Hospital:
Lyford Cay Hospital Emergency: (242) 362 40251
We love visiting Tobermory, Ontario! It is one of our favourite places to scuba dive, due to the incredibly clear water; visibility is fantastic! But there is even more to Tobermory than just scuba diving.
Top 9 things to do in Tobermory Ontario
1. Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Naturally, this is a favourite, and one of the activities Tobermory is most famous for. Fathom Five is Canada's First National Marine Park, boasting clear, clean water, submerged geological formations (cliffs, caves, overhangs), and over 20 historic shipwrecks for scuba divers and snorkelers to explore.
Adventure Sports Newmarket Inc. and our dive club, “Tank Jockeys” meet-to-dive in Tobermory several times throughout the spring/summer season - no need to explore this beautiful area on your own; join us for the laughter and love of scuba here! Practice your underwater photography in the clear waters around the shipwrecks, and join us for some debriefing and fun afterwards!
Adventure Sports Newmarket Inc. and our dive club, “Tank Jockeys” meet for diving together in Tobermory several times throughout the spring/summer season - no need to explore this beauty on your own, join us for the laughter and love of scuba here!
Underwater photography in the clear waters around the shipwrecks. Afterwards, you will often find the Adventure Sports Newmarket gang enjoying some BBQ, or strolling the town of Tobermory with ice-cream in hand! Mmmmmmm!!!
Jody and I love to incorporate a mini-family vacation on our dive excursions up to beautiful Tobermory. A very kid-friendly town, complete with Sweet shop heaven, makes our son a very happy boy, and it's popular with dogs too - we often call it dog-town! Pooches are often welcome on patios and even served fresh water! They WUFF it!
Divers must register and purchase diving permits for the Fathom Five Marine Park. An annual tag will run roughly $20, and allows you to dive the park all year long. A daily wristband is about $5.
The Parks Canada Visitor Centre is in town, and should be one of your first stops in preparation for your awesome shipwreck adventure! You're going to love it!
- All divers must be trained and certified
- Waters here are very cold and diver’s should take necessary precautions
-Divers must register with the Fathom Five National Marine Park.
How to get to the Visitor's Centre - and buy your scuba diving pass - they do check:
Travelling north on Highway 6 into Tobermory
Fathom Five National Marine Park
P.O. Box 189 Tobermory, Ontario Canada N0H 2R0
Email: bruce-fathomfive @pc.gc.ca
2. Take a Hike!
No really, take a hike; The 894 km Bruce Trail starts in Tobermory and this region is reputed to have the most gorgeous views of the entire trail. Hiking from Halfway Log Dump to Cave Point on the Bruce Trail is challenging, but the Niagara Escarpment will reward you with some of the most breath-taking views Ontario has to offer!
How to Get There:
Halfway Log Dump trailhead can be accessed by taking Hwy 6 about 3K south of Cyprus Lake Campground to Emmett Lake Rd (dirt road, 8K long). Follow the blue trail blazes from the parking lot until just before the boulder beach where you will turn left onto the Bruce Trail.
Bicycles, motorized vehicles, and horses are not allowed except along road sections of the Trail and in those few areas where explicit permission is posted. This applies to both the main Trail (marked with white blazes) and Side Trails (blue blazes).
There are three compelling reasons for this:
1) Respecting landowner wishes
More than half the Bruce Trail is on private land with the permission of the landowner. This permission is for pedestrian use only. Any other use could cause the landowner to require removal of the Trail from his or her land.
The Trail has many bends, twists and steep hills. Sharing it with bicycles, vehicles or horses can be dangerous. Our priority is the safety of hikers so that they don't have to worry about what is coming around the next bend.
3) Ecological protection
Bicycles, vehicles, and horses can damage the Trail which has been created and maintained for pedestrian use. These uses can also have negative ecological effects on the soil, plants and animals along the Trail.
3. Visit the Grotto
The grotto is a beautiful Georgian Bay Cave where you can really appreciate the majesty of nature and its power. It's hard to "Fathom"!
Squeeze around the rocks and climb over boulders to be rewarded with stunningly clear turquoise water in the caves; what an amazing feeling! Make sure you bring your camera for this; photo enthusiasts will have the time of their lives here, and return home with amazing photos to share!
4. Visit the Sweet Shop
Yummo! I don't care if it's immature; it's one of my FAVOURITES! I LOVE visiting this place - it makes me feel like a little kid again!
The Sweet Shop has a large selection of ice creams, sherbets and frozen yogurts to fit any taste.
The candy counter has a wide choice of treats everything from hand made fudges and brittles to bubblegum and jawbreakers. They also have a selection of bulk candies to choose from to keep your sweet tooth happy.
And they sport a pet-friendly patio too! Grab a coffee and relax with your pooch - Last Doggy treats are served for furry customers who don't want to feel left out, and water out on the patio offers a nice cool refreshment for a dog feeling a bit peckish.
5. Singing Sands Beach
Singing Sands is a beautiful beach on the Bruce Peninsula. There is a large sandy beach area, and the water is shallow with a sandy bottom for yards and yards! Great for families with small children - or not!
This water will be a little bit (a heck of a lot) warmer than Georgian Bay where we dive. Good fun!
Singing Sands facts:
How to get there:
1. From Tobermory, turn south-east onto Highway 6.
2. Turn right onto Dorcas Bay Road.
3. Turn right onto the Singing Sands driveway.
6. Visit the Flowerpots
Flowerpot Island is named after its shoreline rock pillars, narrow at the bottom, and wide at the top. You can view these million year old flowerpots on an enjoyable Flowerpot Island boat tour from Tobermory provided by Blue Heron cruises and Bruce Anchor cruises.
This is a conservation area, and you should note that you may NOT leave any garbage here. Bathrooms are "modern" outhouses with wood shavings for "flushing", lol!
There are various boats departing all day long with additonal shuttles that take you directly onto the 6.5-km-long island to explore. Features on the island include well marked trails, assessable shorelines, campsites (must be booked ahead of time), outhouses, and picnic shelter areas. The island is also well know for being part of the Fathom Five National Marine Park that highlights sunken ships during a glass bottom boat cruise.
Flowerpot Island features some of the best places for swimming in the Fathom Five National Marine Park; the water is crystal clear, and extremely "refreshing" (brrrrr)!
We had a wonderful afternoon walking the trails here, stopping for a swim, and enjoying the glass bottom boat ride to and from the island. Lovely day!
7. Little Cove Adventures
7111 Highway 6
Tobermory, ON, N0H 2R0
Add a challenging activity to your visit to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula!
You can enjoy climbing on either the High or Low Ropes Course, both providing thrill and excitement on various challenges. You will be facing different obstacles traversing between trees or poles. The Ropes Courses require balance, planning, problem solving, and communication. You can improve these essential skills while having fun with your friends and families.
The programs are open for public and start three times a day. Reservation is recommended.
Equipment and Safety
There is no experience needed. Our highly trained guides provide orientation, support and safety for all participants. We supply all of the necessary equipment including helmets and harnesses. Closed-toe and closed-heel shoes are mandatory (available for rent). You can bring gloves for your own comfort.
All participants must complete a Waiver and a Healty & Safety Form.
We are definitely looking forward to spending a morning on the ropes this summer!
8. Eat the White fish!
The white fish in Tobermory is reputed to be amazingly delicious; a must try!
Mmmmmm, melts in your mouth!
White fish Reviews:
1. Shipwreck Lee's - Route 6, Tobermory, Ontario N0H 2R0
Review Trip advisor: "Typical Great Lakes whitefish and fries, very good. Always a stop when we visit the harbor at Tobermory."
2. Crow's Nest Pub - 5 Bay St, Tobermory, Ontario N0H 2R0
Review Trip advisor: "I am not a big fish eater, in fact I eat it grudgingly only a couple of times through the year. But this bustling little pub had the most awesome whitefish that I have ever had. And the best fries in the world - they are to die for. Who knew such a simple meal as fish and chips could taste so good!
My kids also said that they had the best chicken fingers that they had ever tasted.
Worth a trip back to this wonderful little port!"
3. The Fish and Chip Place - 24 Bay Street S. Tobermory, ON N0H 2R0
Review Virtual Tourist: "We chose this restaurant for its great location overlooking the Tobermory Harbour and for its inexpensive menu of fish and chips. They serve fresh local whitefish in a basket with chips or wrapped in a tortilla as a fish taco. Both of these options were delicious. You can even takeaway your dinner and sit across the street at the public picnic tables with an even better view of the harbour."
4. Grandview Inn Dining Room - 15 Earl St, Tobermory, Ontario N0H 2R0
Review Trip Advisor: "Based on reviews we decided to try this restaurant and were pleasantly surprised with the different options for preparing the whitefish dinners. I had the blackened and it was just right with the cajun spices coming thru nicely. My wife had prepared Mediterranean style and she really liked it. We were there before the actual summer season, so there were only 5 other tables occupied and only one server, but he kept everything moving and was attentive to all of us. Althoug more pricey than some of the other locales in town, definitely worth a try."
9. Bring your canine fur-baby!
Yes, your pup is welcome in dog-town (Tobermory), provided you keep your furry friend leashed, and clean up after him/her. Be courteous to others so that Toby will always welcome our beloved dogs! We have listed accommodations below with an * , if they allow your pet.
We have booked at Bruce's Anchor Motel, and at Wireless Bay Cottages many times. Our puppy has enjoyed the hospitality at Wireless Bay a great deal. No matter where you choose to stay, you are bound to find the owners and staff to be very helpful and friendly.
Here is a list of commonly used accommodations when we visit Tobermory (* pet friendly):
Rooms and Cottages
Bruce's Anchor Motel
The Blue Heron Company
Wireless Bay Cottages*