Archive for May, 2009

Friendly Faces

May 31, 2009

Dianne K. and Veronica were with us today.  It was Veronica’s first dive of the new season and her first crew day this year.  Dianne was visiting from N. Attleboro.  Pete was crew too.  I drove the boat while The Captain schmoozed.

We were experiencing the forecasted southwest winds as we left the dock.  It was an easy departure because the 15 knot breeze was pushing us.  We motored up the Annisquam and noticed the wonderful smell of lilacs blooming on the shore.  There were lots of rhododendron blossoms too – red, pink, white, and purple.  The tide was falling and we saw sand bars appearing under the yellow-green water.

We settled into Folly Cove with a stiff southwest breeze blowing off the shore.  There were lots of divers strewn over the rocky beach and several dive flags were already deployed along the eastern edge of the cove.  We seem to see more people diving that side this year than in previous seasons.

V, Pete, and Fred were in the water, while Dianne and I caught up on the news from her part of the world.  As long as I stayed hunkered down below the gunnel, out of the wind, the day was glorious.  If you stood up and got the full force of the breeze in your face, it was actually cold.

We anchored just off Calf Cove and the anchor set and held just fine today.  Pete checked it on his way and confirmed it was holding great.  We learned that the water here was 50 degrees, but the visibility was murky and debris-strewn again – maybe 10 feet.

Pete said he saw a pink flounder on one of the flat places along the wall and followed it down to the sand.   There he saw lots of sand dollars that had been upended by a line of lobster pots.  We all wondered how they manage to right themselve after a disaster like that.

We called it quits after one dive and, after returning to the marina, went to Morning Glory for lunch.  The Gull is just too expensive.

Good time.

Light and Variable

May 30, 2009

But the wind was predicted to be coming from the northwest, so we powered under the Blynman Bridge with about 2 feet to spare.   The tide was going out so it was an easy exit.

We had Alex and Candi and Jim C with us as well as Pete and Pat for crew.  I drove and The Captain picked the spots.  Since Candi is in a beginner scuba class,  we started at the beach at Kettle Island.  We’d tried to get into Brace Cove, but there were long swells coming in from the southeast after a week of rain.  We turned around and cut over to behind Kettle where it was nice and flat.

Candi and Pete worked on her skills while Alex practiced on his first dive of the season with his now healthy knee.  It had had problems at the end of last season, but they’ve all healed away and he said it felt great.  Pete later said the water was about 47 degrees with lots of debris floating around.  Visibility was about 10 feet.

Our second dive was over at Diver’s Leap, a spot near the Coolidge Reservation in Manchester-by-the-Sea.  Pat and I watched a lobster boat dismantling the fish weir that had been extended from Saddle Rock out into the travel lane into Kettle Cove.  It was good to see it getting taken down.  We like to dive that site and couldn’t while the weir was there.  Pete had to set and pull the anchor four times because it wasn’t grabbing.  Finally we let out lots of scope and he went in to set it by  hand.  Then it held fine.

Jim reported that visibility was about 8 feet with lots of junk floating around.   He saw a large lobster with eggs.  We were anchored in about 20 feet.  The water wasn’t any warmer here and the tide had turned.  The wind wasn’t making up its mind and we swung at both anchorages from pointing towards the mainland to aiming out to sea.

The second dive was a short one for everyone and we made it back and under the bridge with inches to spare.  We even got the gong salute from Lynn and Phil on her mother’s deck overlooking the river.

Another nice day with nice people.

USF NH and Kettle Island

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day was looking like the best of the three day weekend.  Predicted variable breezes, blue skies, and warmer temperature meant I was going to be barefoot in Crocs for the first time this season!  WooHoo!

We had Jacki K., Paul S., David Murphy, and Dennis P., a visitor from Ventura, California on board.  Pat and Pete were crew.  The Captain was planning his first dive after a week of allergies and/or a cold.

It was an easy trip down to the wreck of the USF New Hampshire.  There were few boats out and the sea was calm.  There are now two fish weirs deployed near our favorite sites.  One is at Coolidge Point (near Saddle Rock) and the other is on the west side of Egg Rock.  I’ve never seen two out and never this late in the season.

We had some tidal current coming around the corner of Graves Island but it wouldn’t be there long as the tide rose.  Everyone got into the water together, but I could see their bubbles split up at the bottom of the anchor line.  One set pointed off hard left and that continued until I lost them in the distance.  Time to deploy the inflatable for the first time this season.

It wasn’t an emergency or even a time to get worried.  I just felt the need to go see what was happening.  Rowing is good for the pecs.  Turns out the errant diver made it to the back of the boat before I did.  It’s very easy to get disoriented on the bottom of a sandy cove.  That’s what happened.

So I then rowed over to the point of the island to watch another set of bubbles that were apart.  Again, there was no trouble, but I was happy to take his  camera when he surfaced so that his swim back to the boat would be easier.  The water was 32 feet deep and about 46 degrees.  Visibility was OK, but not great.

There was treasure to admire and, would  you believe hot dogs with Grey Poupon mustard from Chef Pete?  It’s Memorial Day after all.

The second dive was at a calm spot behind Kettle Island.  I anchored in 25 feet of water.  Peter took Dennis, David, and Jacki for a tour.  Paul and Fred went videoing.  We later saw Paul’s rock steady shot of a big, white tunicate and a crab side-stepping quickly into and out of the frame.  He also captured a shot of periwinkles on every frond of a field of kelp.  There were many more than one per frond like there typically are on eel grass.  Maybe this was a periwinkle nursery.

The other divers saw a lumpfish, sculpin, flounders, and skates.  I wish I’d gotten to take the lumpfish’s picture.  I think they look interesting.

There were more hotdogs on the way home.  I was stuffed!

Good fun.

Pscarlet Psolus-es

May 24, 2009

We had better weather today.  Patchy fog and predicted wind from the south and southwest pointed us north.  The videographers wanted Folly Cove for at least one of the dives.  So be it.

The tide was rising to a high at about noon.  This was going to make the bottom colder and clearer than the top.  The Captain decided on the deep end of Folly’s wall.  I anchored in about 40 feet.  Sure enough, it was 46 on the bottom and 50 on the surface and in the shallows.

We had Jacki K., Andy from Worcester, Vincent and Paul S. of the Frogs, Jim Castelli, and Bill Low on board.  Pat and Pete were crew while I pointed the boat.  Everyone was in quickly, so I decided to go too.  I wore my little steel tank that weighs more than my steel 70.  That, plus my Fenzy, caused me to be heavier than I usually am when I’m videoing.  There was some dragging along the bottom at 40 feet.  Visibility down there was about 15 feet.

The Captain had asked for a shot with the wall on the right, the sand and sand dollars filling the frame to midpoint, and a diver entering and leaving the scene.  Right-o!

Meanwhile, Paul had found a large, red, cooperative scarlet psolus.  It’s fun to watch them feeding by sucking their tentacles, one by one.

There was chili to help us warm up between dives, because the second one was just across the cove, beside the house that used to have a rooster.  It crowed all day long and we marveled that the neighbors put up with it.  I guess the new owners aren’t into farm animals, because we haven’t heard him in several years.

I got in again and found it to be better visibility on the bottom.  On the surface it was about 10 feet.  I saw mussels clustered on a rocky surface with barnacles interspersed.  Their white wafting tentacles were easy to spot.  No decorator crabs at all up here.  I wonder why.

Paul reported more psolus (psoluses? psolusi?) were hiding out at 40 feet on this side of the cove too.  There were skates and flounder and tiny seastars on transparent ribbons of kelp.  You could see their little, white, sucker feet through the khaki-colored kelp frond.

Thanks to Andy for the Polish donuts (say PONCH-kee).  I got the last one.

Good day.  Nice people.

Horseshoe Crabs at Davis Neck

May 23, 2009

How long has it been?  10 years at least – maybe more – since anyone on the boat had seen horseshoe crabs on the hoof.  But that’s what Pete, Catie Childress and Paul S. did today at Davis Neck.

The weather was not great.  The breeze was 10-15 mph from the northeast (our worst direction), and there wasn’t much sun.  I wore a fleece top and my down vest as well as my fleece gloves.  And wool socks in my Crocs.

We stopped short of Plum Cove after powering up the Annisquam because there were rollers coming in from Essex Bay on our port bow.  I figured we’d be able to anchor in calm water if I pulled as far into the lee of Davis Nieck as I could.  It was the southwest side of the peninsula that borders Hodgkins Cove.

Pete, Catie, and Paul were together to try videoing critters.  Steve Gates was practicing with his new DUI drysuit.  Tom Childress was practicing with his new regulator.  Although the tide was rising, the water was only about 20 feet deep.  Visibility was marginal at 10 feet and the water was 46 degrees.

Kathy Cardinale joined us as crew and made the day memorable with her contribution of legal sandwiches.  She even docked the boat.  Pete made chicken noodle soup for everyone and it tasted as good as it felt to hold on to.  Pat Walsh was also crewing as was I.  The Captain is getting over a cold and directed traffic.

The group decided it wasn’t worth making a second dive, so we bagged it and headed for home.  Too bad the conditions weren’t nicer, but that sometimes happens, as we all know.

Nevertheless, we had fun and enjoyed seeing our friends again to kick off the season.

Decorator Crab City and Wreck of the USF NH

May 16, 2009

We were going to try some staged shots today with videographer Kerry Hurd and his wife, Linda. Surge on the south side of Cape Ann was better than a northeast wind and fog on the north side. Lucky for us, Kerry is very mellow about everything and looking for decorator crabs, lumpfish and nudibranchs behind Kettle Island was fine with him.

I’m a huge fan of decorator crabs as readers of these trip reports already know. As Kerry’s buddy and co-videographer, I was able to find even more  of them than I expected. I lost count at six.  The first one was all in yellow on an abandoned lobster pot that was also totally frosted in a yellow invading species of tunicate.  It was hiding under a loop of rope and wasn’t immediately visible as we searched.  Then it moved.  Gotcha!

Later we found a large one on a swaying frond of kelp.  It let itself be photographed as I held the kelp still.  As the water surged around us, it lost its grip on the sea weed and fell into my palm.  It seemed completely unperturbed and climbed back onto its perch in the next surge.  That’s one reason I like them so much.  They don’t appear to be freaked out by being handled.  No scrabbling to get away.  No cringing.  They just sit there gazing back at you.  It makes me feel that they aren’t too horribly bothered by our interruption of their daily routines.

After I surfaced, Kerry kept on keepin’ on in about 20 feet of water right off the bow of Easy Diver.  He later reported finding two different kinds of nudibranchs as well as more decorator crabs.  No lumpfish yet, however.

While we were underwater, the crew and Linda were feeding gulls.  The shards of Cheez-Its were visible in the scuppers as we climbed onboard.  Pete had cooked chili and we ate the rest of the pizelles with it.  I’d also brought bluets (blueberries) to share with Pat because they’re “legal” on our “eating better” diets.  Scratch those Wavy Lays, folks.  We’re going healthy here.

For the second dive, Kerry wanted to try to find a spike and Peter wasn’t about to say “No!” to that.  The wreck of the USF New Hampshire is his favorite site.  Scouring the bottom for treasure and banging away in his special place in about 12 feet of water make the whole day shine in his eyes.  I got down again to shoot a huge hermit crab in a moon snail’s shell and a baby moon snail on the move, the latter per The Captain’s direction.  It was really too surgey to get good video, but the practice was important too.

Just for the record, the water temperature was 46 degrees at 39 feet as well as at 12 feet.  Visibility varied from 15-20 feet behind Kettle to about 10-15 feet in the more exposed Graves Island site.

As we packed up and powered back north, we could see an advancing fog bank taking over the eastern side of the harbor.  By the time we were passing Old House Cove, it had obscured 10 Pound Island.  We scooted under the Blynman Bridge as the fog closed in behind us.  We looked back into the harbor from the clear, west side of the bridge and the fog looked like a gray wall.  That would not have been to navigate through even though we have GPS.

It was good to get tied up and dried off.

Nice people.  Nice day.

No Diving Due to High Winds on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2009

May 10, 2009

We didn’t go out today.

On Again and Off Again Sun with Clouds and a Smattering of Rain

May 9, 2009

That’s springtime in New England. We had droplets that didn’t amount to much as we drove around looking for a good site. South looked smooth, but sludgy from a week’s worth of rainy days and southish winds.  The drive over the top of the island brought us to Folly Cove and a very clear appearance to the water.  North it was, for our first trip of the season up the Annisquam River.

We had David Murphy who wanted to practice with his new Atlan dry suit from Ted Barnes’ Freedom Diving.  Also aboard for their first trips of the season were Jacki K. and Richard Brandolini.  Peter and Pat were crewing, The Captain was videoing, and I drove the boat.  No one else seemed to be out.  It was lovely to have no bouncing from passing boat wakes.

I anchored us in next to the A.R./E.R. graffiti on the west wall.  It was about 20 feet deep.  The divers reported that there were skates and quohaugs and the visibility was good at 15 feet, but the water was only 43 degrees.   We could see bodies on the bottom from the deck and knew that the visibility was good from that viewpoint.  The tide was coming in, so it was going to be cold on the bottom for sure.  Everyone was diving with a dry suit for comfort.  The air was about 60 degrees.

Our second dive was off the Lobster Pool restaurant on the east side of the cove.  There are lots of jumbled boulders and the water is a little deeper at 35 feet.  I was David’s buddy this time and we toured the site to find critters to video.  I was surprised to find not a single decorator crab when there had been so many last weekend at Kettle Island.  There were certainly enough ghost traps for them to colonize here.

David and I saw a dead cormorant in one of the lobster pots that was freshly baited.  We also saw two sluggish skates, one of which let me hold it by the tail for a moment.  There were some small white anemones open on the rocky edge of the steep part of the wall.  I also marveled at a line of sea urchins consuming the sea weed on a boulder in military formation.  Shoulder to shoulder (if they had had any shoulders), they were marching up the flat surface, eating any blade of weed in their way.  I remembered the term urchin barren when I saw the smooth, clean granite they left behind them.

Our trip home was fueled by vegetarian chili, thanks to Pete the Cook.  Pat brought pizzelles (sp?), a flat, Italian cookie.

A good time.

Five Frogs A-Diving

May 3, 2009

The day wasn’t expected to be very good, but there were five members of the Northshore Frogmen who were eager to see the wreck of the USF New Hampshire. We awoke to a very calm morning, with clouds from the overnight rain sailing away to the east. We concluded that it was not going to be too bad at Graves Island.

Pat and Pete were crew while The Captain schmoozed and I drove the boat. Todd, Ryan, Marcus, Laura, and Paul were suiting up as we left the protection of the Annisquam River via the Blynman bridge. It sure made for a quick entry as we anchored over the remnants of the sister ship to the Old Ironsides.

Some people were going to be treasure hunting as they groveled on the bottom in 20 feet of water for copper items made in Paul Revere’s foundry.  Others were going to be videoing anything that looked interesting.  However, there were some glitches as dry suits developed leaks and wearers cut the dive short as a result.  No big deal, but disappointing nevertheless.

Visibility was reported as marginal at less than 10 feet and the water temperature was 43 degrees.  The sun kept trying to come out, but clouds were winning.

Everyone had some successes if they were treasure hunting.  I can’t imagine what Ryan’s wife will say when she sees the hunk of shipwreck he brought back.  There were sheathing nails and sheathing in abundance, along with other copper items.  Peter reported showing his glory hole to them and starting to dig himself only to turn around and see clouds of debris swirling as everyone got into the act.

We motored over to Kettle Island’s west side for the second dive in the hopes that it would be clearer there.  It was.  Again, there were countless decorator crabs to be seen as well as huge hermit crabs.  The crew amused themselves by feeding gulls and videoing their antics on the fantail of the boat.    There were shards of Cheezits and Club crackers on the gunwale and gulls were frantic to get their share.   By the end of the box, the boldest of them were snatching the food right out of Pete’s or Pat’s hand. What a feeding frenzy.

We were back at the dock by 1:45 PM and met son Rick and daughter-in-law Martha for a pool-based dive training effort prior to their cruise to Bermuda on June 5th.  And then it was dinner at The Gull for the family.

A good weekend, despite the predictions.

First Trip of the 2009 Charter Season

May 2, 2009

It was an easy time. We had Linsley and Kevin Mordasky from Stafford Springs, CT. They’re very laid back folk and were up for anything we thought would be diveable.  We’d driven around Cape Ann with our morning tea/coffee and found that everywhere looked good.  The wind was calm and the sun was starting to break through the morning drizzle clouds.  Of course it was only about 55 degrees out and the water was due to be in the low 40s.  But, no matter.  We were happy to be going back to regular diving on weekends.

The crew was Pat and Pete.  I manned the lines and The Captain waxed mellow on the stern, leaning against the inflatable.

We picked a place that was out of the path of the ocean swells that were breaking all along the south facing coast.  It’s behind Kettle Island off Magnolia beach.  The site is about 20 feet deep, although Peter said he got to 30 feet at the anchor.  As predicted, the water was 43 degrees cold.  Visibility was about 10-15 feet.  It was good on the surface and on the bottom, but cloudy and murky in between.  It was also dead low tide.  The sun was coming and going while we swung at anchor so it was about 60 degrees onboard.

I went in with a newly repaired neck seal on my Atlan drysuit.  I’d Aquasealed it last night and, low and behold, the seal held after putting it over my head.  Now I had no dribbles down the front when I submerged.

On the bottom, I saw decorator crabs  on every abandoned lobster pot and lots living in the swaying brown sea weed.  They’re one of my favorite critters because no two are alike.  Imagine a skinny little guy in a day glo lime disco suit ogling a big, busty babe trailing tulle tendrils from her Martha Graham-esque outfit and that’s what one encounter resembled.

Kevin, and Linsley saw lots of big hermit crabs and a flounder being consumed by snails.  Their dive was up against the boulders of the island where they said the water was already 46 degrees.  We were all wearing ice masks and it certainly helps keep you warm in the early spring.

Since Linsley’s suit leaked, we decided it would be a one dive day and headed home for lunch at Morning Glory. 

Fish and chips.  Yum.