Archive for June, 2008

Heidi’s Hideaway and The Castle

June 15, 2008

It’s raining; it’s pouring; it’s Father’s Day.  At least there was pas de vent.  That’s “no wind” to you non-French-speaking types.  We had two students who needed to get in the water anyway.  They were up for it and you know that Peter would go out anyway.  We decided to stay in the harbor to keep from having to make a long trip in the gloomy rain.  Our first stop was Heidi’s Hideaway, a site we named in honor of a friend and dive student from years gone by.  It’s right in front of Beauport, a museum and famous landmark in Gloucester.  Peter Kelsey and Richard Brandolini took off to explore and hunt for lobsters.  Mike Baker and Brenna Bounds were working with Laurent and me.  The Captain was in charge.

We really didn’t care whether it was drizzling or pouring.  We were getting wet anyway.  We picked up a mooring right in front of the museum that didn’t have a whip antenna on it, so we figured its owner wouldn’t be coming for it soon.  It was in 20 feet of water.  We did oral vest inflation both on the surface and on the bottom.  We did navigation.  We did low visibility diving.  We did critter hunting and investigation.  We did buddy team building.  We did weight belt buckle adjusting and rearranging when it slid around the body and settled under the tank.  All this in 53 degree water with about 5 feet of visibility.  Not too bad for a marginal day.

Because we still wanted to do another dive, we moved across the harbor to the castle overlooking Stage Fort Park.  Again we anchored in about 20 feet, but this time there was a gravelly bottom.  Peter had us doing doff and don exercises as a group.  Doffing is pretty easy.  It’s the donning that’ll get you every time.  Nevertheless, everyone got through it and we had a chance for a little fun at the end by just swimming around to investigate.  We saw a confused-looking skate, a moon snail, lots of empty clam shells, and a medium-sized bouquet of squid eggs.  That last one was a surprise to me.  I’d never seen them in New England before.

We returned to the marina and then back here to the condo to do more book stuff with the students.  There was pizza involved.  Good group.

I almost didn’t miss the soup.

A** Over Tea Kettle

June 14, 2008

We had a chock-a-block, fun-filled day at Graves Island today.  Only experienced one, tiny problem.  I’ll tell you about that later, in chronological order.  We saw The Gauntlet anchored over the main part of the Wreck of the New Hampshire.  They waved and we waved back and it felt like we were in scuba-diver-ville.

It was 75 degrees above water and 53 under it.  The sun and clouds were beautiful – not hot – just nice.  There was hardly a breeze.  We’ve gotten a new berth in the marina, so now we’re loading from the starboard side, instead of the port.  There was a great bunch with us today: Brian Harper, Bill Myers, Tom and Catie Childress, and Laurent Dubois.  The crew was Peter Donahue, The Captain and me.

We wanted calm water with great visibility for video and more experience for Catie, who’s the newest diver among us.  She, Peter and I were going to look for critters that Peter would capture (gently), pass over to Catie to hold (gently) and then have her show them to me and the video camera.  Brian and Bill were sight-seeing/lobster-chasing and Tom was practicing with his new weight harness and dry suit.  Laurent was on his own which typically includes lobster hunting and videoing and wreck site scavenging.  Both his and Peter’s favorite site is the USF New Hampshire.  We were going south.  That was for sure.

I anchored in about 30 feet of water in the area facing the south edge of the island.  We typically don’t get to anchor here because surge and passing boat traffic make this a wavy anchorage.  Today it was perfect.  We could descend with the downline, swim over to the sloping-up edge of the island and then turn left or right to search the crevasses and notches for stuff.  Right away Peter found a lobster that he positioned for Catie to pick up and hold still for the camera.  Then we found a new and, it seemed, untouched site for excavating.  There was a large pin standing tall above a hollowed out area and the pin moved when you grabbed it and shook it.  Catie was very good at that.

Then there followed a long period of time with scrabbling, sifting, swirling, and fanning the sand/silt in the new hole.  Catie and Peter excavated a square-head nail.  I shot video of tiny baby sculpins.  We ran out of air too fast.

Everyone back on the boat agreed that a second dive at this very spot would be fine.  So, back we went.  This time Peter caught a too-friendly flounder and handed it to Catie to hold for the camera.  It complied for a short time, but then, when it felt that Catie had relaxed her grip a tiny bit, it flicked its tail and took off.  Her eyes got very big as she felt it escape.  Later there was a very beautiful decorator crab with tendrils of sea weed on his carapace and, rather than strugging to escape, it sat in the palm of her hand and then started to walk up her arm.  Super place for critter hunting.

Now for the tea kettle part.  As I was getting out of my drysuit, I noticed Tom Childress at the swim platform, ready to hand his tank up to someone.  I was closest, so I leaned over to take it without bracing myself with one hand on the boat.  Then a passing boat’s wake hit us and I hardly felt myself move except that I was flying through the air, a** over tea kettle, into the ocean behind Tom.  My drysuit had been down around my waist, so the 53 degree water was pouring into it too quickly for my taste.  Pete heard my squeal and came to haul me out by my folds.  I was wet all the way down to my fleece socks. 

Oh, well.  It had been a perfect day. 

What’s a little salt water among friends?


Blisteringly Hot

June 8, 2008

We don’t get many 90+ degree days up here in Gloucester in June.  But, when we do, they are both a blessing and a curse.  It’s been so long in coming that we look forward to the heat, but the reality of getting into a dry suit when there’s not a breath of a breeze and the sun is high is hellish.  The Captain wore his DUI today without any fuzzies to keep him warm once he sank to the bottom at Kettle Island’s west side.  That’ll teach him.  He froze even though the water was 50 degrees at 30 feet.

Some of the rest of us, Laurent Dubois and I, were working with two students, Brenna Bounds and Mike Baker, on the little beach on Kettle Island.  Diane Kelleher was helping out as crew on the boat and snorkeling alongside us as we taught the beginners the first few things they needed to know in order to scuba dive.  It was hot, but bearable because I was wearing my drysuit without hood or gloves.  Laurent was doing all the scuba skills as demonstration.  He helped a lot.

The rest of the customers along with Peter Donahue were with The Captain and the boat in deeper water.  Peter Kelsey, Richard Brandolini, and Joe Finkhouse were sight-seeing and practicing with their drysuits, respectively.  There were many comments about the warm water and the beautiful colors of the underwater boulders and fish there.

For the second dive, we went to Divers’ Leap and anchored in 21 feet.  The students did a great job of using the downline to descend and clear their ears for the first time.  As we swam around under the boat, Mike and I saw an eel pout, a big, red sea raven with gold flecks in its eyes, several lobsters, a moon snail, lots of sand dollars, and ricochet flounders who took off like a shot as we swam over them.  There was plenty to keep the students interested and absorbed in their new environment.

As the Divers’ Leap episode ended, Peter Donahue went back for more sea weed to dry and bring to a friend who uses it for tea.  Yuk.  I had inadvertently thrown away the pile he was drying in his lobster bag overnight from yesterday.  I thought it was forgotten insulation for lobsters going to his friends.  Oops. 

Now we’re going to have to go back to work tomorrow and endure 95+ temperatures in the city instead of on the cool ocean. 

A blisteringly hot day with good people and fun friends.

What more could you ask for?

Misty, Moisty, and Then Gorgeous

June 7, 2008

They were predicting wonderous warmth today, but this morning seemed anything but warm.  It was misty and foggy as we sat drinking our Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee at Magnolia Beach.  We couldn’t even see Kettle Island from the little parking lot.  And it was cold – 58 degrees. 

We took a drive up to Folly Cove to see if the fog extended across the whole island.  It didn’t.  Folly was going to be perfect.

The sun broke through the wisps of fog as we loaded Kevin and Linsley Mordasky, Karen and Pat Hatcher, and Laurent Dubois.  Kathy Cardinale and Pat Walsh were aboard as crew, as were Peter Donahue,  The Captain and I.  The Cape Ann Marina is being retooled now that the Yankee Fleet has gone and we saw the owner, Andy Dominic, using the workboat and towing a hunk of metal out of the way of the new docks being put in place.

The first dive site was on the west side of Folly Cove, just off Calf Cove.  Everyone suited up quickly because there was no breeze yet and it was getting hot.  I sank to the bottom and found The Captain at the anchor, filming the friendly flounder who arrive when you stir up the bottom.  I learned later that it was 53 degrees at about 25 feet.  The visibility was about 15 feet and the tide was coming in.

Everyone did great and we were happy to have such a calm, pleasant place to dive.  We motored across the cove to the wall near the Lobster Pool restaurant.  Here was deeper water and it was down to 50 degrees at 50 feet, according to Pete.  Laurent filmed a lobster molting while Peter and I looked for a northern red anemone that had held the same place for two seasons.  It was gone this year.  The visibility was super at 35 feet – about 20 feet.  The colder water was clearer.

I saw one tiny anemone standing tall and proud on the top of a triangular boulder.  It was the only one around.  Laurent videoed one that was closed but had a little baby next to it that was open.  There are certainly fewer than we’ve seen in previous years.  There were lots of sea peaches and a tiny sea raven and some bigger flounder.  The edge of the wall had several abandoned, crushed ghost lobster traps.  Linsley saw lots of baby cunner and two medium-sized nudibranchs in the spaces between the blocks of the wall.

I surfaced to find the boat directly overhead.  It had swung at anchor and it was an easy swim to get back.  Hot chicken noodle soup tasted great.

The wind was non-existant in Folly Cove except for a few cat’s paws of breeze.  There was more as we got close to the marina, but Kathy was up for docking the boat.  She succeeded to the applause of all aboard.

Great day.  Nice people.  Super weather. 

What could be more fun?


Lump Land

June 1, 2008

One of my favorite critters is the lumpfish.  Today we visited Lumpfish Land.

There were Larry Finer, Laurent Dubois and Bill Low on board as well as Pete, The Captain and me.  We were sweating at the dock in 80 degree sun, but as we exited the Blynman Bridge, the temperature dropped twenty degrees when we encountered the WSW wind.  What a relief!

The best place seemed to be behind Kettle Island, out of the swells from the southeast.  I anchored in about 30 feet.  As we suited up, I told everyone I was interested in videoing any lumpfish they found and to keep their eyes peeled for them.  Well, they sure found plenty.  At least three, maybe six.  I got to video one that was mostly grey except for pinkish, red fins and pale pink cheeks.  He was guarding an egg mass, but wasn’t stuck onto a rock with his belly’s sucker.  He could move if he wanted to.

Laurent got video of one in 55 feet, in a ghost lobster trap, sharing digs with an eel pout.  It was 41 degrees from about 30 feet down to his 55 feet.  The visibility was great down there – 20 feet or so.  It was much worse in the shallows – about 10 feet.

We made both dives at this place because we saw skates, flounder, lumpfish, eel pouts and lobsters.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and got warmed up by two batches of Pete’s soup.

The tide was going out and we were able to squeak under the bridge on the way home without them having to raise it.  I made Pete drive, because it was going to be close.  I get too stressed to drive if it’s a close call.  We made it, of course. 

Nice people. 

Great weekend.