Archive for May, 2007

Dramatic Cliff at Rafe’s Chasm

May 31, 2007

Thanks to Pat Walsh, we have pictures of the 40 foot tall bluffs along the shoreline at Rafe’s Chasm in Gloucester, MA.  We dived this site last weekend on Sunday, May 27th.

Off Shore at Rafe’s Chasm, Gloucester, MA

This one shows the fence separating private land from the public park (west side) of the opening:

Rafe’s Chasm

By Popular Demand

May 28, 2007

Back to the USF New Hampshire.

We only had Laurent Dubois, Paul Savageau, Pat, Pete, Me and The Captain on board today.  The place with the most votes won.  Pete, Pat, and Laurent were hot for more digging at the wreck site.  Paul, The Captain, and I were videoing and didn’t much care where we went as long as we could get some time practicing with our cameras.

The morning started very cloudy and had little spits of rain.  But it was warm, high 70’s I guess.  The tide was also totally in at 10 AM, so the bridge had to be raised for us to go south.  Luckily, the annual Memorial Day parade had already passed over it to the WWII monument for the festivities.  The bridge tender and his helper, Matt, had us motor right down to the bridge and then opened it quickly for us and reshut it right away.   Good guys!

The wind was calm at Graves Island.  Anchoring was a little tricky because we wanted to be right over the main part of the wreckage to minimize any long swim in what we already knew would be very murky, green water.

As we descended, I lost sight of the surface and didn’t see the bottom until I was almost on it.  This in only 25 feet of water.  Plus, it was COLD.  45 degrees on the bottom.  It was about 50 degrees on the surface and there was a thermocline at the interface.

I got some good shots of nudibranchs and The Captain focused on the ship’s ribs.  Paul worked to get some moon snail and drift pin shots.

Laurent got a very nice sized lobster.

Pete got a shell casing with date, caliber, and manufacturer imprints on it.

I wore my Mares “semi-dry” suit because both of my DUI dry suits were out of action.  Therefore I got a chance to make my first bathing suit only swim of the season.  The water was cold enough to take your breath away and leave you with only the urgent need to GET OUT.

We made both dives there and had hot dogs, chips, soda, and brownies to celebrate a wonderful Memorial Day with friends.

Sunny Sunday

May 27, 2007

It wasn’t supposed to be this nice today.

The clouds came and went, leaving only sun.

We went south because the wind was supposed to be from the east at 10-20 knots. The back side (southwest corner) of Kettle Island would be protected in that case.

We anchored at the deep wall edge of the island.  The tide was just past high and the wind was coming over the oceanside of the island, making it a southeast kinda thing.  The anchor slid into 60 feet of water, so we urged everyone to make for the island before descending.  There was no current.

Larry and Al, Jacki and Anna, Laurent, Pete, Pat, The Captain and I were on board.  The lobsterers caught one each.  The videoer (me) caught three different decorator crabs in various garb, on one sunken/abandoned lobster cage, right next to the anchor at about 35 feet.  The visibility was putrid until I hit the sand, then it clearer out to about 15 feet all around.  Others stated the temperature down there was 50 degrees.

We loaded up for the second site and Pete picked Rafe’s Chasm, on the way back into the harbor.  I anchored in about 20 feet of water, but the depth sounder varied as we swung, so I knew it would be very bouldery down there.  It was.  Good lobster habitat, but no legal ones available for our divers today.  Pete said the visibility was much better at this site – 15 feet.

Pete’s chili made the chills go quickly.  Lots of sun again.

Good people – good day.

Perfect, Just Perfect (except the Visibility)

May 26, 2007

Oh, what a bee-yoo-tee-full morning!  It was already 80 degrees at 8:15 AM as we drove through town to get The Captain new sunglasses in anticipation of a very sunny day.  

We had Paul Savageau, Patrick Scalli, Joe Finkhouse, and Laurent Dubois today and planned to go back to the USF New Hampshire to look for more treasure.  Pat had to do family stuff and couldn’t be with us, but Kathy Cardinale was crew in her place.  Pete and I rounded out the headcount.

The trip was uneventful through the Blynman Cut and over to Brown’s for fuel.  We saw fish broaching in a school between Brown’s finger docks and the huge commercial dock across the way near the Coast Guard’s cutter. 

Then we powered down the shore southwest to the wreck site.  We anchored just about over the biggest piece of wreckage, avoiding a fisherman who had anchored in our traditional site behind Graves Island.  He left when I hoisted our big dive flag, probably deciding that we would scare the fish.

Everyone hurried to get into the water because the fever to collect copper had infected them.   It was about 50 degrees on the surface and 45-48 on the bottom.  Visibility was only 5 feet, though.  This was a surprise because we’d had almost no wind for two days.

The divers all came back with something from the site.  Laurent found a door latch and several square-headed nails that were shaped in a curlicue to hold the copper sheathing to the wooden hull. 

We made a second dive on the same site to maximize the treasure-taking potential.

It was a quick return to the marina and Pete’s soup helped make our cold hands warm up. 

A fun time was had by all.

Hardly Worth the Effort to Get Suited Up

May 20, 2007

Pete, Pat, The Captain, Laurent Dubois and I hosted John Baldwin of Provincetown on a harbor trip, despite the rain/fog/drizzle/cold.  Pete was the only diver at Seal Rock off Stage Fort Park.  We “held his coat.”

He returned to report very murky conditions, 5 feet of visibility, and a water temperature of about 48 degrees.  Lots of little lobsters were walking around, but none were big enough to be legal.

We saw the Bay State Council fundraiser folk diving in Half Moon Cove as we drove back to the marina.

The hot soup made a good hand-warmer for the trip.

Not worth getting wetter underwater.

Evidence of the Effort

May 14, 2007

Here’s what Pat’s stash from Saturday, May 12,  looks like:

Pat Walsh's Copper Collection

Beginner’s luck for Mike Lane:

Mike Lane's Copper Pin and Ring

Laurent Dubois found his first spike and part of an ammunition belt’s buckle:

Laurent Dubois found a spike 

The spike goes nicely with this sheet of the original size of copper sheathing made by the metal-rulling machine in Paul Revere’s foundry in Sharon, Mass.  It was nailed to the bottom of the wreck:

Original sheet of copper from USF New Hampshire

All the above photos are by Pat Walsh.

Maybe our luck is partly due to the early part of the season.   The winter’s storms uncovered items that were buried and no one’s been diving on the wreck yet.

Just us.

Sunnier Sunday and Copper Mania

May 13, 2007

Although the day was clearer and the sun warmer today, the visibility was still about 15 feet and the water temperature was about 40 degrees.  We headed back to the Wreck of the USF New Hampshire as a rash of spike fever has infected the entire boat. 

We were joined today by Jerry Comeau, Adam Champion and his fiance, Sara, and Mike Lane, as well as Laurent, Pete, Pat, Me and The Captain. 

 As soon as the anchor hits the bottom, divers are flying over the gunnels in search of spikes, pins, nails, and copper sheathing from the wreck.  Today, beginners luck abounded.  Laurent Dubois found his first spike, Mike Lane found a pin with its associated ring, numerous pieces of sheathing and some incredibly smelly piece of rusted steel something-or-other, covered in barnacles and burned wood.  We were able to convince him that this souvenier was best left on the bottom.

Everyone welcomed the hot chili served on the boat between dives.  And most divers did one dive and were done, but those of us infected sucked down a second tank.

It was even better than yesterday, but not as good as it will be later this month.

Sunny Saturday

May 12, 2007

It was a little warmer outside today than it was last weekend.  In between, there were several days in the 80’s inland.  Today is in the high 50’s with a brisk ENE wind at 15-20 knots.  Our customers were Steve Gates and Joe Finkhouse.  Crew was Pete, Pat, and me, with The Captain in charge, as always.  We were also joined by Laurent Dubois. 

The wind dictated our cruising direction – to the south west.  The best spot looked to be behind Graves Island.  We anchored twice, moving once because the wind/tide set us up to take the waves broadside if we were anchored over the wreck site of the USF NH.  Up close to the island, and out of most of the wind, the hazy sun made sitting on the foredeck almost pleasant.  Hot chili helped too.

We made both dives at this site.  Pat, Pete, Laurent, and Steve all found copper.  Pat’s cache was the biggest and the shiniest.   I rowed out to help her haul it back to the boat.  She didn’t really need the assistance, but I felt useful going over to help out.  I also took Steve’s movie camera aboard the inflatable to make his swim to the boat easier.  He didn’t really need the help either, but I needed the practice.

The divers said the visibility was about 10 feet, but the water was very cold.  Pat saw lots of little jellies and Steve saw a very big fluke that he originally took to be a halibut because it was so thick.  It scooted away before he could video it.

Joe was practicing with his new dry suit and adjusting his weight to accommodate it.  The depth of 20 feet was a good place for him to experiment.

Pat and I witnessed a black backed gull harassing a Canada Goose on the island.  The gull hovered over what must have been the goose’s nest and made dive bomber raids to get her to move off it.  She retaliated with her long neck and beak.  Sometimes she flew up to peck the gull and sometimes she didn’t.  We hope the gull got tired and left, but I’m afraid he and his cronies will outlast her.  It felt like we were watching The Nature Channel.

The tide was out, so we were able to coast under the Blynman Bridge on our way back in without them having to lift it for us.  We waved to the Cape Ann Divers’ big boat on their way out for their afternoon charter as we passed them on our way in.

Good fun.


May 6, 2007

Sunday was sunny but brisk.  The wind had moved to northeast and stayed 20-25 knots.  It was all hands on deck to launch the trip into the teeth of the breeze.  Laurent and his wife, Cat, joined us.  Pat, Pete and I were crew with The Captain in charge.  The charter was devoted to testing the water skills of a new NAUI instructor crossover candidate, Dick Leverone,  of York, ME.  Dick was a student of Fred’s about 35 years ago at the Wakefield YMCA.  He took the basic scuba course there with a group of Explorer Scouts. 

We were bundled up with foul weather gear, gloves, and hoods lashed down tight against the wind.  Since its direction had shifted to the northeast, we were able to hunker down behind the rocks at the western end of Niles Beach.

The beach was full of students and dive flags.  There were obviously many instructors taking many students in for their open water certification dives.  Since the DUI guys were still dog-daying it at Stage Fort Park, it was probably the only site available to the general diving public today. 

Dick was very comfortable with the water skills and did a bail out as well.   Laurent Dubois helped The Captain in the water as an extra set of hands and eyes for Dick’s bail out and doffs and dons and reported it was 45 degrees in there.   Back to the condo for paperwork and orals.   Here’s his graduation picture:

Richard Leverone and NAUI Staff

Ted Barnes joined us for a final phase of his NAUI Instructor certification course and provided goodies from The Gloucester House for lunch.   

Here’s his graduation picture:

Ted Barnes and NAUI Staff

Frickin’ Freezin’

May 6, 2007

Oh, well.  It’s only Cinco de Mayo (May 5th for those north of the border), 50 degrees in the air and the water’s still 45 degrees up here on the north shore of Boston.  The problem was really with the wind — 25-30 knots.   It was blowing out of the northwest, so we decided on The Wreck of the New Hampshire for the first charter trip of the season.  Northwest wind comes out of the cove in front of the house with seven chimneys.  That is relatively comfortable for anchoring right over the wreck site at the edge of Graves Island in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  Clouds scudded across the sun periodically and reminded us that spring was just a promise, so far.

We had Kevin and Linsley Mordasky, Pat and Karen Hatcher, and their friend Julius with us.  Pete, Pat, and I rounded out the crew with The Captain in charge.  Chicken soup was bubbling in the big silver pot even before everyone suited up for the dive.  Pete was slavering for a chance to see what the winter’s storms had uncovered on the site.  He wasn’t to be disappointed.  He managed to drain two aluminum 80’s on the site while the customers were still getting ready for and making their first foray. 

Here’s his take on it:

“I was sailing up a crevasse that I’ve had success digging up spikes in before.  I was only armed with a soft piece of aluminum when at the top of the rock, about 10 feet deep, I spotted the edge of a spike.  Hammering the burnt wood around the spike started to loosen it, but my  aluminum was too soft to be of help.  I shot around the corner to where I knew there were pieces of steel left over from the wreckage and lo and behold I found a crowbar I lost there five years ago – the spike didn’t stand a chance.  Two quick blows, a gently pry with the crowbar, and the prize was mine.  I shot to the surface and signaled the boat with the cry of a successful spike hunter – MANGO!

I couldn’t get a fresh tank fast enough because there was another spike six inches from the one I’d just brought up.  I brought in a five pound sledge and a screw hammer and started chiseling burnt wood away from the spike.  It took several twists and turns and went straight down, so I banged and hammered and sucked down air and eventually the spike started to move.  A quick glance at my gauge revealed I had less than 200 pounds and I was breathing heavily from all the exertion.  I calmly continued my assault on the spike realizing each breath could be my last.   Suddenly, the spike broke free and I raced to the surface in jubilation bellowing MANGO!!!!! at yet another successful spike recovery.”

Here’s the evidence:

Pete and two spikes

He said the water was incredibly clear, at least 80 feet, but I think it was more like 20.  He saw a couple of short lobsters, like in the 3 to 4 oz. range, but they’re in and more are on the way.  The kelps are starting to grow as are most of the sea weeks, but they’re very small right now.

The clouds had covered the sky by the time we were ready for the second site.  I saw that Diver’s Leap looked relatively calm so we anchored under the bluff with the modern, glass house on it.  Julius, Kevin and Linsley jumped in for more fun while I ladeled myself a second cup of chicken noodles.  The customers said visibility wasn’t outstanding but was OK.  Maybe 10 feet.

Back to the marina with teeth chattering.

Our second trip was for Ted Barnes, a NAUI instructor candidate, and owner of Freedom Diving in Gloucester, MA.  He needed to do some more water work and bail out.  I picked the corner of Gloucester Harbor up by Stage Fort Park.  The DUI Dog Days were going on so there were lots of scuba flags in the water by the three big rocks.  It made us feel right at home.  No other boats were nearby or came through while we were anchored there.  AND THEN THE SUN CAME OUT!!  The temperature climbed by at least 10 degrees.  Everyone had more chicken soup in honor of Ted’s excellent adventure.

Back to the marina with diminishing winds and blazing sun.

Spring in New England.