​​In the deep with Neptune & Salacia Diving

By Isabelle Bourgeault-Tassé

All is silence, shadow and light, under the water. The water weighs heavy on the heart, one’s breath taken away by the secrets of the ancient shipwrecks – those living museums of Kingston – moored in the depths of Lake Ontario.

“Diving in Kingston’s freshwaters is history; it is archaeology,” say Martine Roux and Guillaume Courcy.

The duo are the forces of nature behind Neptune & Salacia Diving, which offers scuba diving excursions in Kingston to adventurers of all skill levels. Aboard the Dorothy J, a PADI-authorized boat, Martine and Guillaume offer diving courses from beginner to professional level, as well as other specialties. They also offer private chartering and snorkelling tours.

It is from the love story of Neptune, Roman god of freshwater, and his wife Salacia, the female divinity of the sea, that Martine and Guillaume were inspired to name their venture, a tribute to a myth that echoes their own journey towards one another.

“Neptune fell in love with Salacia,” says Guillaume with a smile. “Salacia was scared, and she left. Neptune was very unhappy. He sent dolphins to find her, then he convinced Salacia to come back. Eventually they got married and lived happily ever after.”

“Our story is a bit cocasse, a bit quirky at first,” adds Martine. “In 2015, I was teaching a diving course in Ontario and had a car problem – I had to be towed to Kingston. I wrote on Facebook, “I’m stalled in Kingston.” And Guillaume, who was a diver I only knew from Facebook, said, “I’m in Kingston, I can show you around.”

At the water’s edge, Martine and Guillaume connected with each other. He, taken with her. She, uncertain. He, on the eve of a six-month deployment in Ukraine. She, in Montreal. It was decidedly complicated.

Time passed, and a few years later, a new encounter in Kingston. Followed by a third visit. And always, extraordinary dives in the sapphire and emerald depths of Lake Ontario.

“And since that day, we’ve been together,” Martine smiles.

It is their common passion for diving (“on est des mordus – we are obsessed!”) that brings Martine and Guillaume together as a couple, as divers, and as entrepreneurs. Neptune & Salacia Diving wishes to share this passion with Kingston and with all adventurers who are drawn to the depths of Lake Ontario.

If they are adventurous, Martine and Guillaume are also courageous. In 2020 (“in the middle of a pandemic!”), they came up with an exhilarating idea: buying the Dorothy J and bringing the mysteries of Lake Ontario to other adventurers. Neptune & Salacia Diving welcomes divers aboard the historic Dorothy J, a boat with a fascinating history – built in 1972 as a fishing boat, later used by Fisheries and Oceans Canada to conduct research, and finally as purveyor of leisure and diving.

“I recently learned that perhaps the name Dorothy J was that of the mother of the owner who ordered the boat,” Guillaume speculates. It’s out of the question to rename a boat, he explains, “There is a superstition – if you change the name of a boat, you have to make sure that you burn everything that bears the name of the old boat, and rename it, otherwise it will bring misfortune.”

Lake Ontario’s depths are no stranger to that misfortune – and it is that tragic history that today Neptune & Salacia Diving invites divers to discover.

“There are so many interesting things to see at the bottom of the lake!” Guillaume exclaims. “The geography of the lake in Kingston, coupled with the weather, means that many ships have sunk in these waters – there are so many wrecks, and even ship cemeteries.”

If the owners of Neptune & Salacia Diving are preoccupied with the mysteries of Lake Ontario, they are also committed to ensuring the sustainability of the waters here in Kingston and elsewhere, paying it forward through their participation in Diving Against Debris®, an initiative that encourages divers to pull debris from oceans, lakes, and other waterways.

“Each dive must be a cleaning dive,” says Martine. “The only people who see all the debris down in the water are the divers. It’s important to remove the debris, because microplastics pollute the water, here and around the world. It’s even dangerous for marine fauna! If you put together all micro-actions, it’s a big action for the planet.”

With Neptune & Salacia Diving, divers will be captivated by the depths of Lake Ontario, the romanticism of its stories, the beauty and brutality of its nature, delivering on the promise of an exciting experience for great adventurers. Martine and Guillaume are preparing an exciting summer program, including a snorkeling tour of the HMS Princess Charlotte, a War of 1812 shipwreck, or for certified divers, the exploration of ancient wrecks including the Eureka (1858-1883), George T. Davie (1898-1945), George A. March (1882-1917).

“Originally from Quebec, proud of our French-speaking roots, we decided to settle in Kingston because it’s one of the best places in Canada to dive,” underline Guillaume and Martine. “Below the water, there is no language barrier. Now, we define ourselves as Franco-Ontarians. The people here made us feel very welcome and we are here to stay for a very, very long time.”