Archive for July, 2009

Breezy, Foggy, Murky

July 26, 2009

Sunday was going to be interesting.  The weatherman predicted afternoon madness with thunderstorms, possible hail, possible strong gusty winds, and maybe pennies from heaven (I lied about the last part).  Anyway, it was blowing 10-15 knots from the southeast as we made it through the Blynman Bridge cut.  Martha and Leigha and Veronica and I were going to be working on scuba skills in stand-up water at Niles Beach.  Linda and Myanna and Richard and Robert were going to be lobstering and exploring, respectively.

I did all the skills without any mitts and didn’t mind the 60 degree beach water at all.  At the end, Martha and Leigha bobbed around in just their wetsuits and no hoods.  We all swam back to the boat when they returned to pick us up.

The dive had been murky but calm behind Ten Pound Island.  They even caught lobsters.  But we agreed that the prospects weren’t great for a better place somewhere else so we called it “one and done.”

The afternoon catastrophes never happened at all.  Not even a shower.  Go figure.

Maybe things will settle down next week.

It Kept Getting Better

July 25, 2009

The rain and wind on last Thursday night blew over trees and knocked out power for lots of people on Cape Ann.  Then summer started to return – slowly.

By Saturday morning, we were foggy, but expected it to get clear in the afternoon.  We had a full charter with Bethany and four friends and Tim Maxwell.  We picked the rock pile near the Lobster Pool restaurant for the first dive.  I anchored in about 40 feet and the boat swung lazily on the hook because there was no wind.

Everyone was at least a rescue diver, so we didn’t have much to worry about.  The tide was dead low and just starting to come in by the end of the dive.  The surface was warm at 62 degrees and it was even warm at the bottom at 45 feet.  But it was murky from the runoff of the rain.  The visibility was 10 feet if you were lucky and up against the stones.  On the bottom, I felt like I was going through a door into a dark garage and it closed behind me.  The visibility was closed down in layers and the bottom was dark, darky darkness.  I brought the video camera up and just had a fun dive in warm water.

We moved to the rocky shore of Lanesville, near Tide Rock for the second dive.  Here it was a little clearer and the water was still warm.  Again, little wind to cool our brows.  It’s summer for sure.

The best part was the almost flat ramp when we returned to the marina.  Incoming tide made schlepping gear much easier.

Good day.

Pink is “In” This Season

July 22, 2009

Here are more shots that Kerry Hurd took on that same trip in July:

Do you think this starfish is regenerating from a single arm?

Do you think this starfish is regenerating from a single arm?

Pat's pink Force Fins go with the theme

Veronica's pink Force Fins go with the theme

We converged on this skate to video its escape

We converged on this skate to video its escape

Pink-ish Pix from Kerry Hurd

July 22, 2009

These shots are from the first dive on Saturday, July 12th:

This flounder looks pink.

This flounder looks pink.

So do these tubularian hydroids:

Flower-like stalks with pink "blooms"

Flower-like stalks with pink "blooms"

Chris, caught in the act

Chris, caught in the act

More Still Pictures from Kerry Hurd

July 22, 2009

These were taken on the second dive of the day on May 16th.

The nudibranchs look like they’re dancing.

The flounder was near the wreck of the USF New Hampshire.

Frame Grabs from Kerry Hurd’s Video

July 22, 2009

You’ve heard me carry on about decorator crabs.  Here are two that Kerry saw during his dive with us on May 16th:

They blend in with their surroundings, don’t they?

Pantone 75-1-4 C

July 19, 2009

Yep.  It was that kinda day: blue water, blue sky and blue horizon.  But none of the blues were the same as the others.

We had Deb Greenhalgh and Victoria from Rhode Island, Bill Low and Paul V. with Peter and Pat as crew.  The Captain was entertaining as always.  With the wind from the west southwest at 10-15, we could go pretty much anywhere we wanted.  Deb’s recommendation was the wreck of the U.S. Frigate New Hampshire.  OK by us.

The tide was high and we had to wait for the bridge to open so we could exit the Annisquam River.  There’s a new webcam you can view to see just what’s going on at the bridge: Blynman Bridge webcam.  I’m not certain that it would deter anyone to see a backup here, but it’s fun to watch it in realtime.

The wreck site is near Graves Island in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA.  It was clear today with underwater visibility about 15 feet.  But it was cold – 53 on the surface and 50 on the bottom.  Everyone got down fine and seemed to enjoy the dive.  There were ear issues but they were slowly accommodated and diving ensued.  Peter and Bill worked on skills for a while.  Deb and Victoria explored beneath the bouy marking the site.  Later, Paul joined Pete for a survey of the site because it was his first time there.

We looked for a second site with a little less exposure to the wind and waves.  Behind Kettle fit the bill.  This time Paul and I went down together.  Of course there were decorator crabs on every abandoned lobster trap.  They were yellow from the sponge covering their carapaces.  It was cold on the bottom at 30 feet and warmer in the shallows, but with less visibility up there.

As we powered back into the Annisquam, we saw Gauntlet, David Caldwell’s and Heather Knowles’ scuba charter boat, leaving the river with a passel of smiling divers on deck.  Everyone was enjoying the wonderful weather.

Lunch at the Gull Restaurant was in honor of Pat Walsh’s birthday.

Fun day.

Who’d ‘A Thunk It?

July 18, 2009

It was supposed to be rainy.  It was foggy instead.  No wind, though.  That made the task of deciding where to go hinge on which fog bank seemed thinnest.  With Al Hicks and Richard Brandolini on board, no one was hard to please.  Kathy Cardinale, Pete and Pat were crewing.  The Captain was holding court from the stern.  Just as we finished loading up, the breeze picked up from the northwest.  Southward, Ho!

We hugged the coast as we cleared the Blynman Bridge.  The fog was thinning as we passed Norman’s Woe rock.  As we neared Kettle Island, the sun broke through.  Huzzah!

We anchored in the lee of the west end of the island.  It was 53 on the surface and 50 at 50 feet.  The bottom was bouldery and had little patches of white sandy shells.  The tide was going out, so visibility wasn’t that great.  15 feet on the surface and 15-20 feet on the bottom. 

I saw striped bass in the shallows.  Not big ones, schoolies.  There were also too many decorator crabs to count.  I videoed one that felt like it was resting in my gentle grip – not struggling to get free at all.  They all looked fantastic in their get-ups of sea weed and tunicate.  One even had an infinitesimal olive snail in its camoflage.

Richard found some big lobsters that were fun to video.  His small light made their features appear and then disappear in their lairs.  It looked eerie.

The sea was very calm and the breeze died.  It got hot and muggy.  Even though the ocean was cold, it felt good to descend from the summery steam above.  By popular demand, we spent both dives at the same spot.

We enjoyed Kathy’s gift of turkey sandwiches with ice chips or Sprite for lunch.  Lucky us.

The weathermen were wrong.

Thank goodness.


July 12, 2009

The day started cloudy with dribbles of last night’s rain.  But it was forecasted to improve considerably.  We had a great group scheduled to go out and we headed  north as the southerly breezes built while we were loading up.  There were Linsley and Kevin Mordasky from Stafford Springs, CT and Linda and Kerry Hurd from New Hampshire along with Bill Low from Middleton aboard.  We also had Veronica and Peter as crew.  The Captain kept us under control at all times.  I drove the boat and picked the first spot.

Sometimes we call it Lanesville Shores.  Other times we call it N*ked Man Beach, because of the folk we can see on the rocks.  Of course we never look.  Much.

I anchored in 25 feet but watched the depth drop to 32 as we swung around.  I knew the bottom was full of boulders and had little kelp, so us videographers would have good-to-great visibility as the tide turned.  It was dead low as we dropped the hook.  There was a brownish layer at the thermocline and, as I dropped through it, I thought I needed to clear the inside of my mask from the defog I’d used.  No, that wasn’t it at all.  It was just a very thick thermocline with schleeren (sp?) that made everything seem to be out of focus.  Below it was 30 feet of visibility and 53 degrees.  Above it was 5-10 feet of visibility and 56 degrees.  It was very green on top too.

Kerry and I worked on getting rock steady shots and everyone else was exploring.  Pete caught a yellow sea raven and put it in a bucket for release later in a filming experiment.  Kerry videoed hydroids and his lights caused the whole rock wall to turn vivid pink.  It was beyond pink, all the way into fuchsia.

There were no boats out at all and we didn’t get rocked too badly with passing wakes.  The breeze had died or never made it up to the top of the island at all.  Anyway, the sea was oily flat and smooth as glass.  It got HOT!

Thanks to Linda Hurd who kept up with our diving equipment needs and wants.  She delivered ice packs and cameras and cold drinks and replaced each in its turn.  It was great to have her help.  Thanks to Veronica for bringing the legal snacks which I snarfed up unashamedly.

Pete chose the second site.  He wanted to return to the rocky jumble of boulders next to the Lobster Pool Restaurant.  That was an easy choice.  I anchored in about 40 feet of water on a mucky sand bottom, and we dragged until we hooked on something.  The breeze turned us around and we pointed into the cove.

Again, it was clear on the bottom and Kerry and I went looking for the five year old northern red anemone.  He found it (or its cousin) on the flat surface of one of the boulders at the corner of the pile.  I’d looked on every rock face and couldn’t find it even though that’s where it had been the previous day.  Who knew they could walk around?

The yellow sea raven had its moment in the sun and posed very quietly for my camera before swimming jauntily away.

Everyone had smiles on their faces as Linda Hurd took this picture:

Divers on a Perfecto Day

Divers on a Perfecto Day

From the left, Bill Low, Linsley Mordasky, Kevin Mordasky, Fred Calhoun, and Kerry Hurd.

It was a great day of diving and being with friends.

Getting Better

July 11, 2009

The weatherman said it would be blowing from the south today.  But, the sun was supposed to be shining and that would be a pleasant change from all the rain we’ve been having.  Visibility was not going to be great for the same reason.

We had a full boat with Tom Childress, his daughter Catie, and his two friends Paul and Wanda from New York.  Also aboard were Tim Maxwell and Richard Brandolini.  The Captain was in charge with Pete and Pat as crew.  I drove the boat.  Because Paul and Wanda were newbees, I chose A.R.E.R. (the rock graffiti inside Folly Cove) as the site.  It’s just beside Calf Cove and the bottom was about 15 feet there.  It was in the mid 50s on the bottom as the tide advanced.

The tide was low and just starting to come in.  Pete and Pat helped Paul and Wanda while Tim and Catie went on a photo expedition.  I’m hoping for some examples of their work to post.  Pete and I went in to film a quahog returning itself under the sand after being exposed.  A big one (the size of your fist) took about five minutes to submerge.  A little one (the size of an orange) took less than a minute.

The second dive was across the cove at the rocky pier next to the Lobster Pool restaurant.  We anchored in 45 feet and the stiff breeze kept us well situated next to the boulders.  It was in the upper 50s on the surface, but still in the low 50s on the bottom. 

There were lots of ghost traps and their lines on the bottom.  I found the northern red anomone at his usual place right on the corner in about 35 feet of water. 

The flags were all snappin’ as we returned to the marina.  Docking was a piece of cake in the southerly breeze.

We had a good time and enjoyed the sun.