Archive for May, 2010

Smokey Haze

May 31, 2010

We could smell it by 9 AM.  Smoke from wildfires in Canada.  The horizon disappeared and the breakwater’s fog horn started sounding.  It was eerie.

We had planned to go to Cathedral Rocks, but decided to stay closer to home, just in case.  I wasn’t sure how bad the visibility was going to get.  The breeze was light and shifty, but we decided on Stone Garage for the first dive at least.

I anchored in about 25 feet, and could see the bottom.  The site features huge grooves and long runs between boulders.

We had LD, Jacki K. and Andy J. plus Kat Apse with Pat and Pete as crew.  The Captain made the music selections.  We also had the chance to hug former crew member, Kathy Richard Neenan, and her new husband, Joe, before we left the dock.

The dive site was great – clear water that was 57 degrees on the bottom.  We estimated that the visibility was about 25 feet.  The long kelp that grows on the pink rocks at this site hadn’t gotten very big yet.  There was a lumpfish with eggs that bit someone’s index finger when approached.  Jacki and Andy found an ocean pout.  I scared several flounder as I settled down for each video shot.

Our second site is just down the rocks to the next landmark – The Silo.  The tall structure on the bluff might be someone’s astronomy platform.  It’s been shingled recently and its roof looks new.  Just off the property, there are lots of smooth rocks that have been shaped by running water.  I think of the lip of a glacier that drops water onto a rock and wears it away in a siphon shape.  They didn’t have any growth on them and looked amazing that way.

Pete, Kat, and Laurent were chasing prey and caught some.  I was videoing and swimming along when I realized my hands were hot.  This is definitely not a feeling I usually have on a May 31st  dive.  When I returned to the boat and took off my mitts, I was able to hold The Captain’s hand to show him how warm the water was.  We decided it was Global Warming and we’re kinda glad for it.  Or else, it could be the warm breeze from the south-east that was pushing the incoming tide from a warmer direction.

We motored back into the harbor and even made a bridge opening from Hammond Castle.  Matt and the bridge tender held it for us.  Then we saw Phil and Lynn on her mom’s apartment balcony.  There was lots of banging on their ceremonial gong in everyone’s honor.  They live on the barge at the Cape Ann Marina just over the stern of our boat.  They are good people.

So, we ended the long weekend with a warm, wonderful, fun day.  It’s only gonna get better.

Let’s go.


May 30, 2010

Everyone agreed on it.  Groveling for “treasure” on the USF NH was the destination this morning.  Catie and Tom Childress had asked for it specifically and that was fine with LD and Pete.  Pat and I had no preference.  The Captain was just happy to be out and about.

As  I putt-putted into about 35 feet of water off Graves Island, we realized the other three dive boats on the site included Arnie Patiglio’s.  There was lots of waving and gesturing and OK signals to indicate we could nestle up to the rock beside them.  If fact, they were done and were graciously offering up the best anchoring site to us.  Everyone got into the water quickly.

I was just getting my kit in order when a sleek, yellow fishing boat with two guys in it sidled up to the stern of our boat and asked for help retrieving their anchor.  Since there was no one else available, I volunteered.  I soon met Allan and Mike who were super helpful getting me equipped to dive off the east shore of Graves for their buoyed-off, but firmly wedged anchor.

Thanks to work done by Pete and LD before we left the dock, my Fenzy’s automatic inflator was working perfectly and I was able to unwedge the anchor and carry it to the surface by opening the compressed air bottle in the vest.  Slick.  Although they offered to pay me and to give us striped bass fillets, I didn’t want to take anything for the effort expended.  Pat yelled, “…just pay it forward!”  What a great phrase for closure.

We made both dives at the same anchorage at Catie’s request.  She had found the top half of a spike with the US letters stamped in it.  The fever had overtaken her at that point.   LD and Pete were digging and pounding and I understand Catie was rolling boulders around to get at the best, untouched stuff.  They didn’t even hear us reset the anchor when it broke loose with the rising tide.

The day couldn’t have been lovelier; the people couldn’t have been nicer; the diving can only get better with warmer water.

Can’t wait.

Here We Go!

May 29, 2010

Now the fun really starts.  It’s warm, sunny and almost windless – a Memorial Day Weekend for the ages.  We drove around the cape, looking for good conditions and found that going north seemed best.

As we powered up the river we saw a sailboat, the Alceyon, stuck on the same sandbar that had risen up and grabbed our keel last weekend.  The man and woman on board seemed calm and secure, so we just waved and puttered on into the oncoming tide.  Not many boats on the river, but Mary Scalli was at her window after The Captain hailed her from several houses down river.

We had Catie and Tom Childress, along with LD today.  Pat and Pete were crew; The Captain was feeling “hail” and hearty, and I drove the boat.  We decided to anchor in about 15 feet in Folly Cove for Catie’s first dive of the season.  The water was 55 degrees and it was very clear – at least 20 feet of vis.  Pete and Catie and LD went exploring and videoing, while Tom tried out his new fuzzy undergarment with his drysuit.

I saw lots of razor clam siphons open in the sand, but they closed up as soon as I settled nearby.  There were hundreds of sand dollars and hermit crabs cruising the bottom.  As the tide rose, I drifted into Calf Cove on Folly’s west side.  It’s beautiful, calm, and bright in there.

For the second dive, we went around the corner to Lanesville Shores, a.k.a. N*ked Man Beach.  There are usually sun bathers on the rocks near Tide Rock and the cemetery.  They are usually men.  That’s how we named the site.  It was 37 feet to the bottom, but Pete and Catie made it out to the mud at 60 feet.  The report was that it was very clear but freezing there.

LD saw a long ocean pout and a skate, but no other critters.

I started down the anchor line, but couldn’t completely clear my right ear.  At about 20 feet, I turned right and headed up into the shallower water.  Under a rocky ledge, I videoed fish with white chins.  Each one glowed in the shadows.  They scattered on my every exhale, but regrouped and advanced on the camera in between breaths.  Fun.

We ended early for a cookout at Pete’s, with the a rain shower for company.  It didn’t spoil the food or the fun.  Then the sun came out.

Tomorrow’s supposed to be even warmer.


Like Being in a Bus Station Full of Flounders

May 23, 2010

That’s how Peter described their dive on the USF NH today.

He says:

“We jumped into 25 foot visibilty water.  We could see 25 feet, which meant I could see the wreck from the surface.  We were tied up on the buoy with Richard Brandolini on his first dive of the year and LD.  It was an every man for himself sorta dive (some of you might call it solo diving), but Richard and I occasionally bumped into each other and we could hear LD diggin’ and poundin’ and as long as the noise didn’t stop, we knew he was OK.  If fact, his efforts of diggin’ produced two bullets, a couple of small cinch nails, and rusty knees on his dry suit.

Richard and I sailed down the front of the rock, assiduously dodging flounders as they ricocheted hither and yon, to and fro.  It seemed like a million of ‘um, but I stopped counting at 15 and that was 1/2 way through the first dive.  We spotted a hugely fat (pregnant?) sea raven on the bottom, a myriad of short lobsters (perhaps they’re coming in?), several eggers (did they carry these eggs all winter?), and two baseball-sized hermit crabs.  Stay tuned for the answers to these questions coming in a future blog.

We never moved the boat, and I was clueless, but LD had us tied to the buoy on the wreck so it was a very easy unanchoring process.

As we sailed under the Blynman bridge, after having been told by the bridge to do so, we went by a lobster boat, pulling pots in the river – sheesh!

I think we covered it all.”

Only Us

May 22, 2010

We drove around the cape, looking for good conditions.  It was a surprise to see no one at Cathedral Rocks and no one at Folly Cove at 9 AM on a warm, almost windless, May 22nd morning.  There was a small class at Back Beach, but scuba divers weren’t evident on Cape Ann this morning.

As we drove up the Annisquam River, we didn’t pass many boats.  Everyone must be sleeping late.  We anchored in about 35 feet off the north side of the rocks at the Lobster Pool restaurant at Folly Cove.  The water was flat calm.  We were shielded from the freshening southeasterly breeze.  We had Veronica, Pat Walsh, Peter Donahue, and LD aboard along with The Captain and me.

We were all going to be doing video, so the conditions were perfect.  It was 48 degrees on the bottom with about 20 feet of visibility.  I saw a horseshoe crab and a northern red anemone, along with several magnificently festooned decorator crabs.  Here’s a frame from the video LD shot of the critter:

Peter Checks His Air while Videoing the Horseshoe Crab

Pete found a scarlet psolus and filmed it feeding by sucking food off its limbs, one by one.  Veronica and I wrangled a decorator crab in an abandoned trap.  She described seeing a bluish fish with teeth (bluefish?) and I saw a striped bass.  There was lots going on down there.

The ride home was enlivened when we ran aground on the sand bank underneath the A. Piatt Andrew bridge.  This location had been made famous by Lynn Colletti years ago when we “nudged” the sand.  This time it was Pat Walsh’s turn.  We were able to power our way off with everyone standing in the bow and Pete gunning the engine.  Pete suggested calling it Pat’s Place, I think.  Or maybe it will be Walshie’s Bar.  We’ll think of something appropriate.

Thanks to Veronica for the “legal” spinach sandwiches and all the goodies for after the dive.

The boat is now blue side down in the slip at the Marina.

It was a fun day.

USF NH & Egg Rock

May 16, 2010

The day dawned clear, bright and less windy.  Phil on the barge near our slip wanted to know what we were going to do today to provide entertainment.  He’d seen everybody scampering over the docks yesterday and wanted more.

The Captain’s knee was better, but still not 100%, so Pete and Veronica were in charge today.  It was good to see the trees shaking less violently than they did yesterday.

We had Laurent Dubois, Bill Low, Jacki K and Andy, and a newbie – Steve.  They were up for chewing through the wreck of the USF New Hampshire for the first dive.  The reports were that the visibility was poor and, of course, the water was cold.  It was 45 degrees on the sand.  Laurent found pieces and parts of another spike.  Everyone else was site-seeing and getting back into the groove of diving after a long winter.

There are fish weirs at Kettle Island, Coolidge Point, and off Egg Rock.  It’s easy to see them with their surface floats.  We try to avoid them to be sure there are no entanglement issues with the customers.

The vote was for the northeast side of Egg Rock for the second dive.  Pete reported that he anchored in 37 feet of water, near the wreckage.  He dropped through murky water until he entered a zone of over 20 feet of visibility on the bottom.  He managed to measure a too-big lobster, but also caught a legal one.  He saw another eel pout, curled up under a rock.

Lots of help docking this time.  The locals are super-quick to come to our aid when there’s a “reverse wind” pushing against us as we try to return to the slip.

Nice people.  Good day.

Slip-sliding Sideways

May 15, 2010

That’s what the wind did to the boat, both leaving and coming back to the marina’s dock.

It was bright and sunny, but toooo windy.

Since The Captain’s knee is still swollen and stiff, Pete and Pat took Laurent Dubois and Al Hicks to Old House Cove.  I hear there were golf balls to be found.  Al worked on his Divemaster water skills with Pete.  The vis was OK at 25 feet.  Water temp is 50 on the surface.

Tomorrow is forecasted to be better.

Rain and Then Wind

May 9, 2010

No diving due to:

1.  Too much rain on Saturday and then

2.  Too much wind on Sunday.



May 2, 2010

That’s what the sea’s surface resembled today.  No wind at all.  And no boat traffic to speak of.  We had the place to ourselves.  The place was the back side of Kettle Island with the anchor set in about 25 feet.  The visibility on the bottom was 30 feet or so.  Marvelous clarity to go with the ~80 degrees of top side warmth.

Today we had Bill Low, with Peter and Pat Walsh as crew.  The Captain is nursing his new knee and taking it slow.  I drove the boat and worked on getting some video shots for this year’s movie.

Because I was lugging the camera, I wanted to be sure I wasn’t too heavy.  Yesterday had ended with me bouncing along the sand.   Too much lead.  Today I used my tropical weight belt, my Fenzy, and felt a little light until I got to about 30 feet.  That’s where I found the abandoned lobster trap where the decorator crabs had taken up housekeeping.  I staged a set up with a big, frilly brown one and it turned out great.  Rock steady camera and the motion of the crab doesn’t seem frantic.  He’s curious, you can tell.

Peter found skates, flounder and an ocean pout curled under a big rock at about 40 feet.  No keeper lobsters yet.

Bill made both dives at Kettle and we pronounced it a spectacular Sunday.

Can’t wait for more.


May 1, 2010

That’s what Peter called the tiny fish fry that were huddled behind wreckage at our dive site this morning.  We were going out for the first time this season with Steve Gates, Jacki K., Andy from Worcester, Pat and Patty.  The weather was way above great for the first of May – warm enough to be helping people get dressed while wearing a tee shirt.  This is certainly one of the best starts we’ve ever had, weather-wise.

The water was cold, the air was warm, and the visibility was about 20 feet at 20 feet.  I wore my Atlan drysuit and the heavy weight belt because the suit had dried so thoroughly over the winter.  It was a struggle to get to the bottom of the down line, but the extra lead helped.  Once there, I was able to get comfortable and explore the area for any new treasures that the winter had uncovered.

I saw lots of nudibranchs and their white spirals of eggs.  There were tiny flounders about the size of a deck of cards.  You only noticed them when they scooted out from underneath you as you settled on the sand.

Pat and Peter found copper treasure from the USF NH and shared the dig site to be sure they were able to come back for more.

There were some leaks and some cold hands and some shivering, so we decided to limit it to one dive today.

There’ll be time for more all season long.