It was a 10

August 24, 2014

On a scale of 1 to 10 for the perfect day of diving, it doesn’t get any better than today. We had a happy crew of folks: Jacky K. and Andy from Worcester, plus Charley Gaylord and his son, Brendan, from Newburyport and New Orleans, respectively. Veronica, John M., Alex Shurer, and Pete were aboard to fill out the roster.  We were bound north to get away from the groundswell that plagued us yesterday – and to hope for better visibility.

The Restaurant at Folly Cove looked great for the first site.  The tide had just turned and it was still very full over the jumble of huge boulders at the south edge of their “front yard.”  Lots of people were enjoying their boiled lobster while we cavorted in front of them getting suited up.  It was getting HOT!  We dunked The Captain’s Tilley Endurable in the ocean to cool him off.

Veronica and I were focused on achieving our shot sheet’s instructions.  Fred had drawn the image he wanted us to capture of Veronica swimming into the frame in her vintage gear and exiting to the right and me not moving the camera.  Click on the image below to see the details of the storyboard, including the startled fish on the dotted line:

Screen Shot Directions

Screen Shot Directions

We descended the downline and met a yellow fin coming up.  I caught it and put it on the swim platform.  When we descended again, we saw Brendan combing the bottom in one fin.  We motioned him up and he got the message.  He had been struggling to get a lobster and had lost the fin to the egger that he had to release anyway.  No harm, no foul.

Veronica and I swam away from the dusty, churned up bottom line area and found some relatively clear water to do our shot.  Relatively is the operative word here, because everywhere was about 10 feet of vis.  But was the water ever warm.  64 degrees according to divers with the appropriate gauges.

We practiced staying level and swimming in a line that allowed me to capture her whole body before she disappeared in the gloom.  Eight takes later we surfaced to compare notes.  A second session produced additional footage for Director Cecil B. DeCalhoun to choose among.

The second site was across the cove on the deep point of the western edge.  We anchored and it caught quickly.  Hum.  I took the camera and went to see the lay of it.  Wouldn’t you know?  It was down a deep hole and completely unmovable by me.  I surfaced to ask Andy to take a look and see if he could re-position it.  Later I noticed a huge cloud of kicked up silt over the area and the anchor lying perfectly in a sandy patch.  He’d fixed it for sure.

While this was going on, Veronica reported she had been practicing her scuba skills in shallow water, absorbed in locating her vest’s waist strap, when a cunner advanced on her and started pecking at her mask’s face plate.  I expect it saw its own image there and was establishing whose territory this place really was.  Veronica was shrugging her shoulders and moving her head to get it to go away, but it stayed in place persistently.  Where was I with the camera?

When Andy and Jacki returned from their dive, Andy was dragging a Danforth anchor, chain, and lots of line.  He’d found another anchor in Folly Cove.  It was very near the middle of the cove, so we couldn’t figure why anyone would have lost it over a sandy bottom.

As we surfaced with only fumes left in our tanks, we saw other folks lounging in the water in bathing suits and partial wetsuits.  It was that warm.  Veronica “blessed” us as true Hampton Beachers for braving the ocean with so little on.  “In the name of Howie Carr, Dunkin Donuts and …”  was all I remember of it but there was much laughing and carrying on.

What a fun time.

What great people.


Lobster Enters Stage Right!

August 10, 2014

We had a host of characters on board today. Most of them were engaged in videoing a rebreather-wearing guy interacting with a vintage equipment wearing gal. The gal was Veronica and the guy, Pat, was from Victor Worst‘s group in Gales Ferry, CT.  Victor runs Aqua Sports Diving Center and has been a Dive Patrol Instructor Trainer for a long while.  We also had Bob, John M., Linda and Myanna as well as Charlie Gaylord on board.  The crew was Andy J. and Pete.

As we motored up to Folly Cove for the shoot, it couldn’t have been a nicer day.  Warm, sunny, clear, with just a hint of a breeze from the east/northeast.  I anchored in 28 feet at almost high tide, near the steepest part of the wall on the west side of the cove.  We geared up for the video sequences and Director Cecil B. deCalhoun gave us our swimming orders.  The two divers were to come upon each other from opposite sides of the screen, stop and examine each others rig, then shake hands and depart in the same direction they were originally travelling.  Yeah, right. The visibility was about 10 feet side-to-side and the water temperature was in the low 60s.   V and Pat made eight passes and I think we got some footage that will serve.

On Veronica’s second dive, she encountered the biggest lobster she’d ever seen and declared it was so big, she could have ridden it.

Lady Riding a Lobster

Lady Riding a Lobster

Folly Cove never disappoints us.  There’s always something neat to see.

Danforth Day

August 9, 2014

There was anchor salvaging along with crab encounters and critters to be wrangled today. It was warm, sunny, almost cloud-free and hardly breezy in Folly Cove.  We had John Marren, Alan Hicks, Kevin and Linsley Mordasky, as well as Pete on board for a relaxing day of diving.

As John was entering the water, I scooted past him to get to the bottom first.  Kevin and Linsley had reported that there was an interesting crab hierarchy episode being played out on our downline’s mushroom anchor.  A crab had claimed it and was being challenged by a bigger one for ownership.  The original owner then ascended Linsley’s arm to escape and/or reconnoiter.   It scampered down again when it saw who owned the arm.  They were charmed by the closeness of the interaction, but I missed the chance to video it.

As I moved towards the west wall, I saw a shiny chain in the sand.  It was attached to a brand new Danforth anchor which looked like this, only newer and without the extra line:

Danforth Anchor and Chain

Danforth Anchor and Chain

I tried to move it, but it was too heavy to carry when I had the camera too.  I surfaced to see a small, green skiff with a young family on board.  I asked if they’d lost an anchor and they replied they hadn’t, but their friends had.  As the younger members continued snorkeling, the father swam with me to just over the thing.  He then dived down, grasped the end of the chain, and pulled it up – using only a mask and fins.  After dragging it into the boat, they all cheered and thanked me and continued snorkeling as I continued videoing.  Salvage Masters Are Us!

As the dive progressed, I began to notice LOTS of young lobsters in shallow depressions in the sand.  I decided to video them because five were in a line.  Passing over the biggest of the lot, I was pinched in the belly by one that leaped up to challenge me.  I felt the movement, but my suit was thick enough that it didn’t really register until I viewed what I’d shot.  It looked like an ant attacking the Graf Zeppelin.

Later, we moved to the east side of the cove and found colder water on the bottom.  In the mid 50s I’d guess.  Visibility wasn’t great, but the surface was warm enough for swimmers and I tried it out in just my swimming suit.  It’s getting there, but the ocean still seems much colder this year than it was last year.

The ride home was uneventful, but the climb up the super steep ramp was a trek.

Good day with friends.



Fun in the Shallows

August 3, 2014

We had Veronica’s nephew, Richard, on board today to try scuba. He’s 17. It was going to be breezing from the north and east, so I chose the shallow, stand-up water off Niles Beach for our dive site. We anchored in about 18 feet of water.

Niles Beach Art

Elaine Wing, Niles Beach, 1995. Oil on canvas. from the Cape Ann Museum’s collection


We also had Jacki K., Andy J., John M. and Pete along. They had all been fore-warned that this would be a day for Richard. His comfort and safety was the most important aspect of where and how we would be diving. Jacki and Andy rigged a float and flag and took off on their own.

Veronica, Richie, and I swam into the beach in our wetsuits, fins, and masks.  The weights and tanks were in the Zodiac that Richie and Veronica towed.  We later learned that the water was 61 degrees.  It was dead low tide.  The teenager took to the skills like he’d been doing them all his life.  No hesitation, no excuses.  He just did them.  He was even able to breathe from the regulator, underwater, and put on his mask and clear it while submerged.  That’s a skill in itself.  The cold water makes you want to inhale through your nose and that would be bad.

After about an hour and 1/2 or so, they swam back to the boat, in full scuba gear on the surface, with V and Richie holding hands.  I towed the inflatable.  The next skill would be to practice dropping the weight belt with Peter in charge.

After a little warm up, we proceeded to explain clearing the ears and descending a downline.  He got it right away.  With V’s assistance, we slowly submerged and cleared our ears while looking at each other.  On the sandy bottom, it was murky and about 5 feet of visibility.  I took his hand and we left the downline for a look-see.  He was pointing out skates and hermit crabs to me.  And I’m pretty sure he was having fun.

After a little while, I decided that his 800 psi must be running out so we returned to the downline and ascended slowly, looking up and with an arm overhead to avoid hitting the boat.  Success!

And then the sun broke through the mist and clouds.

To the sound of loud claps and hurrahs from the assembled crew, he climbed out of his tank and backpack, handed them up to Andy and clambered aboard with everything else still in place.   What a trooper!

With V’s sandwiches and Andy’s ponchkis , we were having a picnic as we toweled dry and got dressed.

Richie pulled the anchor and we were off, back to the marina, to contend with the crowds that were gathering for the weigh-in of the Bluefin Blowout tuna contest.  I think we had more fun than they did.

Still Cold on the Bottom

July 26, 2014

Easy, high tide ramp for loading gear for our trip today. It was John Marren, Peter and The Captain with me at the helm.

I chose Folly Cove because of the predicted 10-20 knots from the southwest that was forecast. It was hot and relatively calm in the cove and we were joined by 17 other boats at anchor by the time we were ready to leave.

John jumped in with just his dive skin and boots and clambered out quickly.  I knew it was going to be cold, but I didn’t expect my face to feel so numb.  Diving wet isn’t all that bad if you keep swimming.  Stopping for a video moment leads to chilly shivers when the critters won’t cooperate.

The water was murky and yellowish on the top with visibility of only about 5 feet.  Deeper, the visibility improved to 10-15 feet, but the cold water made staying there a problem.  I made two dives with my little bomb of a tank and saw curious flounder, two skates, and two hermit crabs – one dragging the other by the claw.  Was he inviting her to dinner…or to be dinner?  Maybe she wanted his shell and he just wanted to hold hands.

Hermit Crab Cartoon


The fun of Folly Cove is observing the little animals that live there as well as the big ones.  The flounder were circling me and the camera, seeming to say, “When are you going to dig a hole?”  They expect to get something to eat from divers.  I found several tracing the track our plow anchor made as we settled in at the start of the day.  They were lined up along the track like cows at a feeding trough.  There must have been little worms or small sea snails on that buffet table.

The day was fun and the diving was better than being home and doing chores, that’s for sure.

A Lot of Laughs

July 20, 2014

It’s never dull when we have Linda Giles and Myanna on board.  Andy and his wife, Ann, got to meet them as well as Liz (The Captain’s oldest daughter) and her husband, Mike.  Veronica was crewing as well as feeding everyone.  Pete was regaling us with tales of Linda’s Easy Diver trips of the past 32 years.  Fred brought her gift of the framed first trip’s log page to prove it.

We had a little breeze from the northeast, so decided to head south.  There’s a big fish weir on the corner of Kettle Island where we normally anchor, so we started at Diver’s Leap in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  It’s a big bluff of granite holding a funky, many glass windowed mansion overlooking the gap between Kettle Island and Magnolia Harbor.  The water was cold, but not as freezing as yesterday.  The weather was cloudy, but more humid and there were tiny glimpses of sun.  There were almost no other boats out.

I videoed a crab munching on a slab of something who didn’t mind the attention at all.  There was also a small moon jelly that was tumbling along on the bottom’s surge.

White moon jellyfish

White moon jellyfish

For the second dive, I moved us to Saddle Rock at the corner of the Coolidge Reservation.  It turned out to be deeper and darker as a result.  Veronica was game to try another series of passes by my video camera, wearing the double-hose regulator, a backpack, Cressi full foot fins, and her little bomb of a tank.  I think we got at least one good sequence from our dive.

She said she wasn’t cold, but I think it was because of all the swimming she had to do to accommodate the director, Cecil B. DeCalhoun’s, directions to me, the videographer.  “Have her make two passes over your right shoulder – don’t move the camera to follow her.  Then have her return and swim towards you and go over your right shoulder – don’t move the camera to follow her.  And don’t forget not to move the camera.”  Got it, sir.  Got it.

We sailed through a low tide Blynman Cut bridge on our way home and had to struggle up a steep ramp to the parking lot.  But, thanks to Andy’s Polish donuts, Veronica’s spinach sandwiches, Myanna’s Oreo’s, and Liz’ grapes, I was up for it.

Good fun with great people.


All Around the Cape

July 19, 2014

Today was coolish, cloudy-ish, and calm-ish.  We decided to go to Thacher Island for the first dive with Linsley and Kevin Mordasky, Linda and Kerry Hurd, and Pete.  On the way, we saw lots of folks in every kind of human-powered watercraft participating in the around Cape Ann race called the Blackburn Challenge.  It’s featured on the GoodMorningGloucester blog.

Here’s a picture of the island by another contributor to GMG, Manny Simoes:

Grey day at the Dead Light at Thacher Island.

Grey day at the Dead Light at Thacher Island.

We anchored in front of the lighthouse on the left – the dead light.  The water was murky and cold with lots of particulate matter in the way of my video camera.  Kevin had 57 on the surface 54 on the bottom and 45 on the sand at the bottom’s bottom.  Diving wet wasn’t the best way to go today.

For the second site, we moved north to the shadow of protection afforded by Gap Cove in Rockport.  Kevin was smart and changed into his drysuit for this session.  Again it was dark on the bottom because the sun wasn’t out.  Maybe it was a little warmer because I didn’t go as deep, but no country for videographers.

We still had fun circumnavigating the island with good people.

Adventures in Vintage Scuba Land Plus a Sha-a-ahk!

July 14, 2014

Where should I start? How about with the wind? It was whipping out of the southwest at 16-20 knots. We and about 10 other boats headed for shelter in Folly Cove on the north side of the island. I anchored near the east side in a bouldery field to be sure the plow anchor didn’t drag. Andy did a great job of setting it underwater to be double-sure we could go diving and expect to see the boat upon surfacing.

Ilya was taking his first dives with a new DiveRite dry suit, Alan Hicks was diving wet, John M. was snorkeling, Veronica and I were working on a project of The Captain’s (more on that later), Andy was crew along with Pete, and Bob B. was visiting on Dive Patrol stuff.  There was no rush to get dressed because we were going to do both dives in this place, due to the conditions.

We had received a vintage double-hosed regulator as a gift and Alan brought a pair of full foot Cressi fins for the project to video Veronica wearing as much of it as we could manage.  She had on only her wetsuit, a backpack holding her “little bomb” of a tank, the new (old) regulator and the Cressi fins plus her weightbelt and mask.  She certainly looked the part.  I recorded her tentatively descending the down line while inhaling from a constantly flowing mouthpiece.  Her only instructions?  Just don’t take it out of your mouth.

Here’s her take on the day:

We surfaced and excitedly exchanged perceptions about the experience.  Later, after viewing the video, The Captain gave me instructions about how to improve the images I captured next time.  Wha-a-a?  Look like this is going to be an ongoing endeavor.

Then Andy surfaced with news that he had seen a shark in the little cove, in about 15 feet of water.  He noticed that the fish suddenly scooted and then a shark appeared.  It wasn’t a dogfish, he was sure.  Cooooool!

Maybe it was a juvenile sand tiger like the one that was caught in Gloucester Harbor earlier in the week.  See the GoodMorningGloucester blog entry here:

Maybe we’ll see this next week




Yellow, Fuzzy Warmth or Clear But Freezin’

July 12, 2014

We had three guys for their first dive of the season – Bob, Al and Will. We went north to the restaurant at Folly Cove. I anchored facing the Lobster Pool’s yard and picnic benches with a little breeze keeping us steady. Today, we were helped by John M. and Pete.

As I gathered myself for a descent, I noticed how golden the first few feet were. Maybe pollen or some sea weedy stuff had been blown to this part of the cove. The deeper I went, the clearer and colder it got. By the time I hit the bottom at about 40 feet, it was seeping icily into my boots, mitts, and hood. I later learned it was 45 degrees down here. The tide was full and I saw many places with a thermocline’s wivery, oily traces.

My 2500 pounds was used up quickly, it seemed. The little bomb of a tank is perfect for shallower places, but goes fast on deeper dives.

We moved over to the other side of the cove for the second dive and, thanks to Bob and John, there were refreshing snacks.

Watermelon from Bob

Watermelon from Bob

This dive was over rocks with lots of Irish Moss covering them.  I had a hard time getting the camera to stay put for any swim by shots.  I checked the anchor and found it dragging on the sand, so I reset it by burying it up to its shoulders and straightening its chain.  This made it easier for Will to pull when we were done.

As we waited for Al and Will to finish their tour, I noticed more than 20 boats had chosen this cove for their Saturday afternoon picnic.  The wind was cool and refreshing.  The water was still cold, but not as as clear  here.

Oh, well.   We got wet.   We had fun.  We snarfed down pieces of Al’s “In-Vince-able” sandwich from Big Y and John’s orange slices.

Good times with great people.

Ponczki Paradise

June 29, 2014

What a bee-yoo-tee-full day! 75 degrees and almost no wind with bright sunshine and calm water.

It was made even better by the generous Pole, Andy J., from Worcester.  He arrived with bags of Polish donuts, called ponczki:



These proved an excellent source of merriment when Jacki K. sucked out the filling of hers and tossed the empty donut overboard, very surreptitiously, to avoid insulting Andy’s gift, expecting it to sink quickly.  Instead, it floated off the stern as a seagull magnet.  Of course, that got everyone’s attention and her antics had us all laughing as we heard about her devious plan.

We were anchored in the middle of Folly Cove, having moved away from the western wall when our anchor started dragging.  Veronica Atlantis had leaped into the fray to pull it while I powered up to move away from the granite danger.  She had just finished her first dive and was stripping off her gear on  her way to jump into action on the bow.  What a trooper!

We re-set the anchor in the middle of the cove and I made a dive on the rocky outcropping that’s out there in about 30 feet.  The water was cold – in the low 50’s on the bottom with an incoming tide.  It was swimmable on the surface as the nearby boatfull of teenagers was demonstrating.

The group was joined today by Sandy Miller who found a huge jellyfish at the end of her second dive.  Of course, Peter said it was really a ponczki that had filled with water and expanded.  Then there were many more ponczki puns and ponczki parables and ponczki pronouncements.  Hilarity ensued.

Andy reported he’d seen a horseshoe crab. Veronica and Sandy saw large flounders.  Veronica also saw striped bass, and Jacki and Sandy found a 30 pound weight belt, but couldn’t lift it.  So they left it for another day.

We had fun, laughed a lot, and congratulated ourselves and each other for having chosen to dive on such a beautiful day – today.