Archive for June, 2006

Back in the Saddle Again

June 25, 2006

"Better than predicted," that's how I'd characterize today.  We were expecting more downpours and only got drizzle, drips, and mist and a little cooler air.  Makes you wet, but doesn't cause you to sweat inside your foul weather gear, like yesterday did.

We had only one customer, Joe.  He wanted to practice catching lobsters since he'd just recently got his license.  We'd already driven around looking for a good dive site and decided to go south again.  The trip started for Bemo Ledge, but conditions looked bumpy there.  We cut west and headed to Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Coolidge Point has Saddle Rock as its southwesternmost feature.  The rock is awash at high tide with deeper water right next to it.  We anchored at 42 degrees 34.292' north and 70 degrees 43.729' west, right at the base of the shear wall next to Saddle Rock.  The tide was still coming in.

Pete and Joe went lobstering while The Captain (temporarily in his Mares semi-dry suit until his dry suit seals are repaired) and I videoed invading species for the Salem Sound Coastwatch report.  Pat minded the boat because her ear wasn't clearing very well. 

I saw beds of compound sea squirt (Diplosoma listerianum), orange and red sheath tunicate (Botrylloides violaceus), and green fleece (Codium fragile ssp. tomentosoides).  We videoed them all.

I also saw a moon snail eating (or smothering?) a razor clam.  The bottom was at about 35 feet and we got cold after about 25 minutes.

Our second dive was on the deep wall at Kettle because we could look over to it from Saddle.  The dive site looked calm and, with high tide, we hoped the visibility would be as good as the 15 feet we had at our first site.

The anchoring was easy at 42 degrees 33.973' north and 70 degrees 43.423' west.  Pete and Joe took off again on a lobster hunt.  I wanted to finish off the tank I'd started, so I just dropped down the anchor line into 55 feet of water and hung out.  A very curious cunner cavorted in front of my video camera as though he thought I might feed him.  His reddish, coppery color was clear and bright.  So was his white chin.  Only his snaggle teeth looked dull, off-white.

I found more compound sea squirts and small patches of orange sheath tunicates.  It was a good dive and the drizzle only kicked in heavily once or twice while we waited for Pete and Joe to return. 

Because the weather forecast had been so specific, there was no one out and the ocean was extremely calm.  No waves from passing powerboats.  Just the way I like it.

We powered back to the harbor and Matt opened the bridge for just us.  Even though it is Gloucester's Fiesta weekend, masses of powerboats were not out.

We had fun.

A Foggy Kettle

June 24, 2006

The rain has started again.  It's supposed to go on for five days or so – again.  We'd called two customers to warn them about the trip being in the rain and they decided to take another day.  The four who showed up were OK with diving in the pouring rain.  Two – Martin and Katherine – were from Quebec and two – Larry and Al – were game to go wherever. 

We'd driven around the Cape to find the best dive site at the crack of dawn and chosen a trip south.  However, once we were under way and rounded the Dog Bar Breakwater, we found a fog bank obscuring Mother Ann Rock and beyond towards Brace Cove.  We couldn't see into it at all and decided to change course for Kettle Island, off Magnolia.

That was smart because the water between Kettle and Coolidge Point was f-l-a-t.  We anchored at about high tide – 10:45 AM.  Pete, Pat, The Captain and the four customers hit the water quickly because the mist and rain was cool, once you were dressed.  Pat had ear problems, but caught a lobster anyway.  The Captain's new seals on his DUI dry suit leaked terribly.  It's going back to the repair lady on Monday.

Pete said the visibility was about 30 feet.  He took the Canadian couple on a tour of the site. They watched crabs eating a cod head and caught several lobsters.  So did Larry and Al.

As we started back towards Gloucester Harbor to find our second dive site, the fog bank shifted and obscured our path.  Using our GPS and its track of previous trips home, Pat guided me in white-out conditions.  We decided none of the possible sites looked safe to dive with the fog bank coming and going as it was.  The divers were fine with that.  No one wanted to be lost in a fog bank and out of sight of the boat.

We creeped back along the shoreline and the rain started again.  Pete kept an eye out for the shoreline and the buoys marking the harbor.

The Gloucester Fiesta is in full swing, but I think they're having a scaled back celebration because of the weather.  The Canadian couple did fine and we guided them on land to Back Beach, via Cape Ann Divers so they could get air fills and still make a second dive. 

Back Beach looked still and calm with several classes in waist deep water.  We reminded them to use their float and flag and agreed to see them tomorrow at 9:30 AM.

Not a very fun way to start the weekend.


June 18, 2006

It's HOT!  It's Sunday – Father's Day.

Upper 80s in the air, 55 degrees in the water.  I think the red tide is responsible for helping to heat up the surface water.

We had Joe Finkhouse, Laurent Dubois, Jim Castelli and Trish, as well as Phil Osley, NAUI 1875, from The Sunken Ship on Nantucket.  He's becoming an Instructor Trainer and wanted to get some dives in too.  He looks just as he did 30 years ago when he was in our movie, "The Wall."  It'll be great to have him generating NAUI Instructors on Nantucket.  They won't have to travel to the mainland in order to get certified.

We made our first dive off Bass Rocks on the Back Shore.  The bottom was sandy.  Pete said it looked like The Plains of Abraham.   He saw several summer flounders and one winter flounder perfectly outlined in the sand.

The divers had to swim a fair piece to get to any rocks with lobsters.  Nevertheless, they had success.  The Captain and Phil Osley videoed a large boulder's wall of Didemnum sp. and it was wafting in the surge on its lower edge.  It wasn't attached at all there.  The breeze picked up to the point that we decided our second dive should be on flatter water.

We motored up to Thacher Island again in the hopes of seeing seals.  We were lucky again.  Three big ones were basking on the rocks at the very northeastern point of the island.  We even saw a pup that never moved from the rock it was on.  The bottom here has lots of big rocks and deep notches.  Lots of Didemnum sp. and even a variant that looks greenish next to the creamy version of the tunicate.

Pete caught a bagful of lobsters and so did Laurent.  The rest of us were sightseeing and hoping the seals would visit us underwater.  They didn't.  They stayed close to the pup and popped up between the boat and the shore often. 

Both Pete and Laurent saw ocean pouts.  In case you don't know what that is, it has a big head and an eel-like tail.  No snaggly teeth, just UGLY. 

Ocean Pout

I buddied with Phil Osley for the first time in 30 years.  He was an attentive partner for the dive.  He even found a small mushroom anchor that we will use for our downline or for deploying a dive flag.  We'll call it the Phil Osley Memorial Mushroom Anchor for a while, at least.

No soup.  Too HOT!

Sun, Glorious Sun

June 18, 2006

O.K.  It's Saturday.  We FINALLY got a weekend with decent weather.  No wind to speak of was predicted and temps in the 80s.  Our trip around the cape showed practically everywhere was diveable, so we picked the easy way.  South through the Blynman Cut bridge and then north up along the east side of Cape Ann.  Long slow rollers were landing at Bemo Ledge and along Salt Island, so we continued to Thacher Island.  It was a good choice.

The tide was low at about 10:30 AM, so when we anchored between the boat ramp and the Dead Light, we saw a little bit of current from the incoming water.  It was in opposition to the little bit of breeze so the boat split the difference and lay perpendicular to the island.  Laurent Dubois, Al and Larry joined Kathy Cardinale (crew), Pete, Pat, The Captain, and I.

There was still a reddish-brown haze from the Red Tide in the first 15 feet of ocean.  Below that, the incoming tide had the water in the high 40s.  On top, it was in the low 50s. 

Kathy saw seals from the bow as we anchored, but they were far off on the northeast tip of the island.  What a surprise to have them visit Al and Larry underwater for a quick buzz-by.  Laurent saw one too, but it was on the surface.

Pete saw lumpfish and so did Laurent.  He was surprised to see one perched on its tail, but not attached to a rock.  We'd never seen that either.

There was lots of "pancake batter" tunicate everywhere.  I found a decorator crab with the beginnings of it all over its body.  I think he was planning on blending into the background with his cream-colored duds.

The second dive was at the tip of Gully Cove next to the opening for Straitsmouth Island.  I anchored us right over a wreck site for an unknown boat, but it's been there for many years.  I swam up into the notches in the land and saw walls full of the tunicate we've been reporting to Salem Sound Coastwatch as Didemnum sp.  I saw tendrils of new buds hanging in the swaying tide and videoed them for Barbara Warren's review.  Lots of lobsters.

Pete said he saw lots of soft lobsters among the legal ones.  He witnessed some eating their soft brethren.

The trip concluded by a circumnavigation of the whole Cape and a retun to the marina by the Annisquam River. 

No soup.  It's too HOT!

This Old House Cove

June 11, 2006

We called off the charter but the people showed up anyway.  Rain and wind were predicted, but only the wind happened.  It was blowing 15-20 knots from the WNW.  We tried to make it over to Bemo Ledge, but the waves were increasing as we rounded Dog Bar breakwater.  Cathy and Bill Myers, Jim Castelli and a new guy, Richard, were OK with diving someplace closer.  We chose the site of the old Coast Guard station – Old House Cove – just inside the harbor's western edge.

Pete said, "We sailed down to 30' with visibility about 15'."  The tide was just cresting high.

Jim said the water temp was 48 degrees.  Richard and Pete saw about 8-10 small lobsters and caught a few good sized ones.  Pat said she saw a small lobster that had just shed its shell.  She touched it to confirm that it was still soft.  The amazing image that she wished she'd videoed was that of the lobster EATING its own discarded shell.

Fred said he'd videoed kelp holdfasts, but Pete noted there was less kelp present this year than he'd seen in last year's dives to the same spot.

No soup.  One and done.

Guess What! It’s Raining and Bumpy!

June 10, 2006

It's been raining and blowing since Wednesday.  Sometimes it's been pouring, others it's only been a shower.  We called everyone to say the charter was iffy.  They could pick another day or come up and take their chances with the weather.

We had some good guys from Connecticut (Linsley, Kevin, Pat and Karen) who were up for a tentative trip north, up the Annisquam.  It was drizzling, foggy, and breezy from the north west by the time we got there.  No calm anchorage.  No chance of  good visibility.  We didn't even anchor.  Just powered back down the river sipping hot soup and congratulating ourselves on making a prudent decision.  If it's not fun, don't do it!

Keep your fingers crossed (and your umbrella handy) for tomorrow.

It Rained Some More (and Blew Too)

June 4, 2006

We canceled the Saturday trip amid a downpour.

Sunday was a little clearer, but it was drizzling and blowing 20 to 30 knots from the North.  All the big Yankee Fleet boats were still at their docks.  We decided to just go into the harbor for one dive.  The tide was going out.  We tried the emerging rocks at Stage Fort Park, but decided it looked better across at Niles.  We parked at the rocks off the west side of the beach – Niles Beach Rocks.

Joe Finkhouse, Laurent Dubois, Jim Castelli, John Bulman, Peter Donahue, Pat Walsh, The Captain and I were aboard.  John and Peter went for his final dive before being certified as a NAUI Scuba Diver.  Joe tried out his new steel tanks and his new mask.  Laurent and Jim, Pat and I stayed dry-ish by not diving.  We opened the big box covering the engine and proped it that way with a 10 lb weight.  The heat from it permeated the cabin area and steamed up the windows.

Peter said they went through skills again and John did great with his new equipment.  He'd gone ahead and bought the whole shebang, having had so much fun with us to date in rental gear.  They saw:

  • lots a little lobsters under kelp fronds,
  • many big spider crabs (a three inch wide body and eight inch wide legs),
  • several skates,
  • a maroon sea raven and
  • a grubby (1 inch long)

John caught his first legal lobster all on his own. 

Pete cooked us a warm up lunch.  Why do they call it chili when it's hot?  It was good and hit the spot.