Archive for May, 2006

Star Tunicates and a Vibrating Lumpfish

May 29, 2006

The first dive site was off the beautiful stone house at Gully Point in Rockport, MA.  It is dive site 36 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann.  Its coordinates are 42 degrees 39.641 minutes North and 70 degrees 36.076 minutes West.  We could see that the red tide hadn't left yet.  Pete said the visibility was brown and murky for the first 15-17 feet and then the visibility cleared up below that to about 20 feet.   But it was much colder on the bottom – 42 degrees.  The tide was coming in, with high due at 1:44 PM.

We had friends Roz and John Fiandaca on board, as well as Laurent Dubois and John, the student.  Jacki Kronenberg joined us for the first dive in her new drysuit. 

Pat Walsh located one of the "Ten Most Wanted" species by the Salem Sound Coastwatch during her dive and Fred took its picture.  We decided it was a Star Tunicate (Botryllus schlosseri).

We saw lots of ocean kayakers exit from Rockport harbor and pass us on their way out to the ocean side of Straitsmouth Island.  Their boats looked like flower petals clustered in the little Gully Point cove as they rested and took a water break.

Our second site was just a little way away.  Straitsmouth Island's north side has a cove that is great for lobstering.  Since it was Don Dunsky's birthday, Pete wanted to get him a lobster.  Laurent obliged and found a big one and two soft ones at 42 degrees 39.778 minutes north and 70 degrees 35.392 minutes west.  I saw many clumps of Star Tunicate myself on this dive.  It is site 40 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann.

Pete and John Bulman, the student, found a lumpfish.  Pete went to gently place his hand under its belly to lift it up for John to see better.  Pete said it started vibrating very hard and very violently – he's never seen one do that before.  He left it alone after that.

Pete says, "As we were sailing down the cliff, I felt an abrupt tug on my fin.  Fearing the worst, with a brand new student, I turned to see him calmly pointing under a rock.  A quick look confirmed a claw the size of a dinner plate.  I reached in, felt under his belly, found no eggs, and we wrestled him out.  It had a 5.25" long carapace, a 1/4" too long for the dinner pot, but a wonderful specimen to watch walking across the bottom.  That night, John went home, logged onto the Division of Marine Fisheries web site, bought a lobster license and is ready for action next weekend.  Bingo!" 

Thanks to Pete, we had hot dogs in honor of Memorial Day.  Yum!

Pete adds, actually, the hot dogs came from Pat Walsh's freezer.  Her father often buys items on sale.  There typically is three or four dozen eggs, several pounds of bacon, and numerous packages of hot dogs in their freezer.  Thanks, John!

The Most Perfect Weather Yet

May 28, 2006

We saw the weather report, but couldn't believe it.  75 degrees in Gloucester?  WooHoo!  Elizabeth Calhoun and her husband, Mike, joined regulars Laurent, Jim and Trish, and student John for a trip south to the wreck of the USF New Hampshire for starters.  The water was mucky and visibility was horrible.  Nevertheless, Pete and John worked on skills while Pat and Fred and I went in to shoot and/or catch lobsters.  Pat got one.  My sleeve seal tore and I got a cold, wet arm out of it.

Pete, Charley and Fred Calhoun with old tank.jpg

The second dive was at Kettle Island's west edge.  This is dive site number 67 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann.  I wasn't going in and had just settled into that decision when Kathy Cardinale and Trish noticed a sea gull caught in a tree on the island.  I'd noticed the bird's body, but thought it was dead.  Trish, Kathy and I manned the inflatable with boat hook, gloves, scissors, and a mallet to break the limb and free the bird.  Trish was the lead on the rescue and cut through the branch holding the bird by its wing.  I carried the branch she broke/cut off the tree over to nearby rocks while avoiding the eggs in nests all around us.  They were army green with black spots and were sometimes three to a nest.  Our efforts were cheered by seeing the bird sitting calmly as we left it there.

We didn't see any blood on its twisted wing and hoped it was just stunned from hanging upside down for a while.  The trip back to the boat was quick and we were proud of ourselves.

Warm up was chicken noodle soup with a "hidden surprise" of a cherry tomato.  Good eats.

Finagling the Fog

May 27, 2006

It was foggy south, so we decided to go up the Annisquam River to the north.  The weather was hot as we put-putted up the river, but as we passed Wheeler's Point, the airless day turned cool.  There was a slight breeze off the ocean in front of us and it was pushing a fog bank into the mouth of the river.  It was thick fog, not just streamers.  We picked up a mooring near the Annisquam Lighthouse to wait it out.  Kathy Cardinale predicted 20 minutes – I thought more like two hours but didn't say anything.

A newbie, John, was with Pete.  They decided to get him suited up and to test his weights while we waited for the fog to lift.  The incoming current from the tide, our nearness to the channel, and the coming and going of the fog made us decide not to try to dive.  No one wanted to get lost or run over and they were cool with waiting it out.

After about 20 minutes, the shore became visibile, so Kathy was right.  Then it closed  up again, even thicker than before.  We decided to motor back down the river and go into the harbor hoping for a retreating fog bank down there.

As we made our way down the river again, everyone found a comfortable spot to lounge and enjoy the sun.  Sure enough, as we powered through the Blynman Cut on a very high tide at 11:30 AM, we found a little better visibility, but a gentle breeze from the south was blowing the fog into our faces again. 

We decided to try our luck over at the Moonie's Castle in about 20' of water.  Jessie and Jarrod were quickly into their gear.  Jarrod's friend, Mike, was buddied up with Laurent.  Pete and John were working on John's basics.  He did great.  They stayed near the boat because we weren't sure what the fog bank was going to do.  It proceeded to clear out almost completely.

Jarrod got two lobsters and declared the water to be "warm."  Laurent described the visibility as "ugly."  Jessie tried out her new camera.

Everyone was up for a second dive, so we went over the Wreck of the Storer, near Freshwater Cove.  This time the water was only 45 degrees, but it was clearer.  The breeze kept the fog away and the sun baked us.  It'd gone from cold to hot without any warm in between.  So much for Spring in Gloucester.

Noodle soup was a hit, but so was the cold Diet Coke.

Fisherman’s Canyon and The Restaurant at Folly Cove

May 21, 2006

We traveled north again to avoid the west wind.  It was lots warmer than yesterday and the wind was considerably calmer.  We decided Fisherman's Canyon, near Cathedral Rocks in Rockport, would be a good anchorage.  We were right.  It's located at 42 degrees 40.760 minutes North and 70 degrees 37.288 minutes West. It's number 19 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann.

Pete describes the bottom as flattening out to a 10 degree down slope at about 40 feet.  He and Jim Castelli descended through 6-8 feet of brownish ocean that was 50 degrees into clearer water at 50 feet that was only 44 degrees.  There were a fair number of lobsters roaming about, including one egg-bearing female.  Wonder how long they hold onto their eggs.

They came across a male lumpfish, bright pink, guarding his nest diligently.  They also saw a Northern Red Anemone in about 30 feet.  That's the animal on the cover of Andy Martinez' book, "Marine Life of the North Atlantic."

Chris saw clumps of Didemnum sp., one of the Top 10 Most Wanted of the Salem Sound Coastwatch folk.  She even saw a decorator crab covered with the stuff.  Because they are cute and easy to work with, she shot video of it moving about:–LgA

She also saw some Orange Sheath Tunicate smothering a small shell.

We powered back around Halibut Point to the Restaurant at Folly Cove for the second dive.

Pete said the brown muddy layer was deeper here, extending from the surface down 16-17 feet.  Again the surface water was warm.  He went to 40 feet where there was about 20 feet of visibility.  He saw dark, winter flounder and skates and freed a dark green sculpin from a ghost trap.  The bottom was littered with ghost traps and all of their tops were open and bent so that you don't have to lift them if you're a fish.  He felt lobster can walk through a dorway that was closed but not locked, but a fish can't.

Chris saw another decorator crab covered with Didemnum and a scarlet psolusActually, it was a crevasse with many specimens, each about the size of a dime.

Laurent Dubois and Jim's friend, Trisha, were also with us.

Everyone agreed that Pete's chili hit the spot.

Let's hope next weekend is warmer because it's going to be Memorial Day.  We need some HEAT!

Our First Trip North of the Season

May 20, 2006

It finally stopped raining, but now we have a Red Tide bloom.  The shellfish beds from Salisbury to Boston are closed to fishermen because of it.  We had a South wind with predicitions of it turning westerly 10-20.  After a morning drive-around, we decided Folly Cove looked good.

The customers were Paul the Nurse and Alice, Laurent, and Bill Low.  Pat Walsh was sitting at St. Elizabeth’s with her dad who had his hip replaced last Tuesday.  Pete anchors us near the Lobster Pool restaurant on the North side of Folly Cove, 42 degrees 41.290 minutes North and 70 degrees 38.4 degrees West.  The water is about 44 degrees, the air is about 60 degrees, and the visibility underwater is about 10-15 feet.

Laurent catches his first lobster of the season.  Pete gets a few too.  Alice’s camera won’t turn on.  Neither will my video camera.  It’s got its lens cover still on INSIDE the underwater housing.  Sheesh!  I make a dive without it to see if I can find any Non Native Marine species.  I found two kinds – Botrylloides violaceus and Styela clava.  They are the orange sheath tunicate and club tunicate, respectively.  I saw both the orange and the red variant of the former.  Now I get to log my first entries with the Salem Sound Coastwatch people.

For the second dive, we moved down the coast to a sheltered anchorage outside the north edge of the rocky sea wall of Hodgkins Cove.  It was shallow and warmer out of the wind.  It was at 42 degrees 40.241 minutes north and 70 degrees 40.128 minutes west. 

Cal fixed the video camera for me and I shot another stand of orange sheath tunicates on the sea wall’s rocky edge.  I also saw the outline of a skate in the sand on my way back to the boat.  He was completely covered and wouldn’t have been visible at all, except that his edge was still higher than the surrounding sea floor.  It was like looking at the chalk outline of a murder victim in an old crime movie.  He didn’t move as I swam over him.

Pete brought up a scallop covered with limpets.  It sat on the swim platform for a couple of minutes and as I came up to it from my dive, I could look directly into the partly opened shell.  I saw the ring of its blue eyes.  One of Pete’s instructors at Outward Bound had been Euell Gibbons, he of the “Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop” fame.  How appropriate.

With Pete’s OK, I dropped the scallop back into the ocean and and watched it drift down trailing a stream of bubbles.  It swirled and made a large circle as it descended into the green.

Ramen noodles soup with extra tomatoes was the warming up medium this time.  Pete’s getting creative.

Good fun.

Still Raining

May 14, 2006

It's not supposed to get sunny again until a week from next Tuesday (according to The Weather Channel).  Felt cold and raw with the air temp at 50 degrees and the water just a little bit warmer.  Off to Niles during a very full incoming tide.

Andrew and John finished their skills refresher session in the driving rain.  Doffing tanks on the surface and at the bottom and then putting them back on again were the tasks for today.

Chris took a camera in to try to find the non-native oysters mentioned during the seminar yesterday, even though the visibility was about 1 foot.   There were several isolated specimens below the mooring at Niles where we tied up.  We'll see if some frame grabs from the video are validated by Barbara as being the correct specimen.

Chris saw:

  • a BIG moon snail with a mantle extended front to back
  • several candidates for the non-native oyster
  • a big scallop (maybe)
  • several teeny, tiny flounders
  • a clam the size of a fist, sitting on the surface of the rocky sand

Chicken noodle soup served as hand warmer and belly warmer combined.  Standing in the cabin, slurping soup, you could see your breath if you exhaled strongly.  We steamed up the windows with chicken broth breath. 

We are back in our regular slip at the Cape Ann Marina and all geared up for the season.

So far, so good.


Rain? What Rain?

May 13, 2006

It poured today.

The Captain, Chris and Pat took off to attend a seminar training recreational scuba divers on how to monitor Marine Introduced Species, also known as Hitchhikers. We're going to be looking for the "10 Most Wanted" from the boat this season and logging our finds with the Salem Sound Coastwatch folks.  We're also going to video customers and crew as we do it.

Andrew and John are leaving for their biannual Australia trip on Friday and wanted to brush up on skills.  Jim C. just wanted to dive.

All the fishing charter boats cancelled so we were the only ones who needed the Blynman Bridge open. He was so accommodating that we didn't even need to slow down as we approached – the bridge was already open – both ways.

We motored over to Niles and picked up the mooring right off the beach. There was about 8 feet of visibility and the water was 52.25 degrees F.

After completing their skills flawlessly, Andrew and John saw many round oysters. Some were 4" across and covered with barnacles. Jim wore The Capt's boots and they fit.

Some short lobsters were strolling about. They must have thought it was night because of how murky it was.

We saw:

  • a small sea perch
  • a 4" spider crab – with 8" legs – that makes him 20" across
  • the usual assortment of sand, mud, grass, bottles, and trash

At the end of the dive, the Zodiac inflatable had 2" of water in it from the rain.

We cooked up the two cans of corn chowder that had been rattlin' around the kitchen. It went down well.

Until tomorrow…


Early Spring Diving

May 7, 2006

Just two customers, Jim Castelli and Laurent Dubois, and a light northerly wind meant we could try Paddock Rock.  It's 42 degrees 33.626' North and 70 degrees 44.605' West – Number 73 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann.  The GPS worked perfectly and announced we were arriving at the target just as we could tell the bottom was rising from 80 feet to 24 by reading the new fathometer.  Pat Walsh and Peter used the mooring that was in place and made quick work of tying up.

Peter made a quick anchor check dive and returned with the first lobster "keeper" of the season.  I took the gray camera and housing for video.  Cal didn't hose his suit in, but I did.  Was I ever glad.  We got to 79 feet and the water was 47 degrees.  It was murky and yellowish in the first 10 feet but cleared up considerably after that.  Everyone descended into the cut on the southwest corner of the rock and landed on the sandy bottom with a thunk.  Our suits were compressing and it took shots of air into our suits or vests to keep us from being too heavy.

I shot footage of a sea cucumber with its gills out, a cod lying lengthwise in a crack, a scarlet psolus (Psolus fabricii), and a tiny decorator crab.

The second dive was back to the wreck of the USF New Hampshire (Number 71 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann) for Laurent.  He was hooked on wrecking and wanted to try for a spike.  No such luck.

Pete cooked vegetable chicken noodle soup and we scooted for home.

Great weekend.

Connecticut Folks + Some Old Timers

May 6, 2006

For our first, real charter of the season, we were happy to welcome Kevin and Linsley Mordasky, Pat and Karen Hatcher, Bill Low and Laurent Dubois.  The two couples travel a long way to be with us and we are lucky they put up with our shenanigans.  Pat Walsh's suit leaked at the cuff so she didn't finish her dive at our first site – Kettle Island's Northwest corner.  It is dive site 67 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann

The second site was Graves Island, 42 degrees 34.272' North and 70 degrees 44.781' West, at the wreck of the USF New Hampshire.  It is dive site number 71 in The Diver's Guide to Cape Ann   Laurent found a big piece of copper sheathing from the wreck right under the anchored boat.

Pat and Laurent looking over the nails and wrinkled copper from Paul Revere's metal rolling shop.  It sheathed the USF New Hampshire to protect it from shipworms, teredo navalis.

The dive site is near a large black stripe on the island and a little hole that has worn clear through the rock.  The photos below show the eye of the grumpus and the black stripe near his neck.



Pete cooked chili and we got warm just by holding the cups of it.  What had started off as a warmish, 70 degree day deteriorated as the sun disappeared behind some cold clouds.

A fun time with nice people.