Smelling the Roses

August 11, 2013

I had to dig out my anorak this morning because it was 59 degrees for our drive around.  The crispness of the day started with coffee and a corn muffin at Magnolia’s Grey Beach.

We had Dennis, Bob, Pete’s students and Jim Castelli with us today.  The predicted southwest wind didn’t materialize.  It was from the northwest, so I aimed for the flagpole at the Atlantis Oceanside Inn for the first dive.  Pete set the anchor in 26 feet and we started to notice the long, slow swells from the southeast.  Nothing too bad, but it would make the water surge-y.

The Captain videoed Dennis and Bob as they surveyed the lobster scene:

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They were successful and I could hear them commenting on their surface swim back to the boat about the too-big one that had surprised them by scooting away so quickly.  Pete said the water temperature was a good five degrees warmer than it had been yesterday at Folly.

For the second dive, we aimed west and I could smell the roses from the land as we anchored at Stone Garage.  Here is where Pete and the students made their last training dive and they performed their weight belt ditch exercise to remind them how good it feels to drop the weight.  There are now three new Dive Patrol scuba divers in the world.  Congratulations to Andre, Anna, and Laurie!

Visibility was so-so and there was surge again, according to Jim.  But I relished the roses’ fragrance until the wind shifted (surprise) to the southwest.  Now it was crisp and cool because it was from the ocean, not the land.

We drove home into the sun and coolness.  There were shimmering spots on the ocean surface where the ripples caught the sun and reflected it – a sure sign of a low sun in the west.

The Corner

August 10, 2013

I think we turned it today.  The water in Folly Cove was COLD – in the low 60s on the bottom.  It’s like I rounded an August weekend’s corner and Floop!, we’re on the slippery slope to fall.

We had a full boat with beginners from Pauline at Diver Jim‘s in Belmont.  Pete is their instructor.  We also had Alex F. and his crew, some of whom were new divers. The west wall at Folly seemed the best place for this mixed bag of scubas.  Everyone eventually got to the bottom of the downline and had a mask that sealed and a weight belt that fit.

I went off with my camera to film whatever would stand still long enough for me to focus on it.  In this case, it was another juvenile black sea bass.  This one wasn’t as cooperative and photo-savy as the one LD shot last weekend.  It was skittish and not sure whether it should pose or flee.

On the second dive, I found Alex, Will and Bob deciding that Will would guide them on this trip:

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Here Alex is urging Will (his future son-in-law) to lead the way.  Will is the one with the angel white fins.

We felt the visibility was very good at about  15-20 feet.  The air was certainly warm enough in the low 80s sheltered from the northwesterly breeze.  It was much colder than that out on Essex Bay on our way home.

I docked the boat in a “reverse wind” with a little  help from my friends.

The ramp was flat for the homeward schlep of gear.

It’s too early for it to be fall.  Right?

Home of The Big MaMoo

August 4, 2013

We had Linda Giles and Myanna plus Alex Shure with us today.  We wanted beauty, calm and warm water, with no surge or floating red sea weed to obscure the hiding places of prey.  Of course.  No problem.

Given the wind, we probably could have dived anywhere on the cape, but, after driving around to look, we decided Stone Garage and the Back Shore would offer the best conditions.

The first site was between Brace Cove and stoney Grapevine Road beach.  We call it Stone Garage because we can see a former boat house (or rum-runners’ landing) carved out of the sold granite from the ocean.  I anchor in about 25 feet of water right in front of it.

The reports were of good (but not great) visibility and warm enough water.  The Captain and Alex were video-ing and macro photographing, respectively.  Linda and Myanna found dinner, as did Pete.  I watched the wind swing from northwest to southwest, as predicted by www.wunderground.com  There wasn’t as much huge kelp at this place as there has been in the past.

For the second site, I moved us around the point to the flagpole in front of the Atlantis Oceanfront Inn.   See the flagpole in this picture?

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Well, I anchored just about where this picture was taken from, in about 25 feet of water.

Happily, the big fellas hang out here.  Linda and Myanna found a “too big to take” male with a “harem” of similarly sized females under the same boulder.  I videoed one who was just chillin’ and his crusher claw was bigger than my hand.

Unhappily, the water was much colder here although the visibility was much better (over 30 feet).

We didn’t stay as long, but I was thrilled to see two more juvenile black sea bass.  Just like yesterday’s report from LD explained, these were posturing and posing in either a threat or a display mode.  Who knows?

I got three Oreo cookies for the ride home.

Who could ask for more?

Flirty Fish

August 3, 2013

We had old-timers LD and Jim Castelli today along with a first-timer, Alex Tsiantos.  The wind was from the west, southwest and the following sea was unruly as we crossed over the top to the inner point at Folly Cove.  We immediately saw a life jacket floating just where I wanted to anchor.  So we pulled in further to be next to the wall and out of the way of any errant lightening that was in the threatening dark skies to the east.

I was quickly into my gear and plunged before the equipment machinations began.  Alex was new enough to be swayed by the combined recommendations of The Captain, Pete, Jim and LD.  I was almost done when LD appeared with the biggest horseshoe crab either of us had ever seen.  It was as big as 1/2 a basketball.  The shell was pristine and the legs never stopped churning as he placed it on the sand.  I videoed it only by pulling myself along the sand and kicking as fast as I could.  It was effectively escaping all the while.  When I stopped, it ultimately stopped too.  Then it progressed at a more stately speed into the green distance.

The second dive was with a steel 72 and my dry suit’s weight belt, so I wore my Andros horsecollar vest to add a little air if I got deep enough to need it.  I didn’t.  I did find what the life vest was attached to, though.  It was a small mushroom anchor in a tight hole.  I guess a boater hadn’t been able to lift it and tied it off to come back later with a diver or snorkel gear.  I moved it out of its hole an placed it on a large flat boulder.  I hope the boater finds it easy to retrieve now.

LD found a very flirty black sea bass.  He said it came over to examine him several times and flared out its pectoral and dorsal fins.  Here’s a frame grab from the video he shot:

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The rocky point had a cloud of cunner grazing on seaweed.  They were definitely “gathering in groups.”  I got an extended shot of Alex and Jim as they swam by and then slowly surfaced.  Bubbles galore.

Then, we crossed the cove to anchor off the home where the rooster used to live.  It would crow all day and we heard it often when we were diving the cove from shore.  It’s been gone for many years.

Alex and I dived over boulders and many crevices with notches and grooves.  He seemed very comfortable with only 19 pounds of lead on his belt.

As we surfaced, I noticed that the down line had become caught in a notch, so I went back down to free it.

We agreed that the weather turned out much better than we had expected as the sun came and went behind clouds on the way in.

Sunshine Sandwich

July 28, 2013

It was drizzling and foggy as we drove around Cape Ann, looking for a good place to take people today.  We settled on going south because the wind was already starting up from the north.  Not a lot, mind you, but enough to make diving on the north side of the island bouncy.

So, even though it was becoming just overcast, we weren’t expecting much.  We had Linda and Kerry Hurd plus their friend, Cindy, as well as Linda Giles and Myanna on board.  Kerry and I just wanted clear enough water to do some video.  Linda and Myanna wanted dinner.  We found warm, clear-ish water at Saddle Rock off Coolidge Point in Manchester-by-the-Sea.

I saw a lobster charge my camera that I’d set down for a shot.  There were lots of crabs eating the floating scraps of sea weed.  It was really warm water.

The second dive was on the deep southwestern edge of Kettle Island.  It was deeper here and the water was colder.  Here’s a shot of Linda and Myanna descending the anchor line:

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They found more critters here as well.

Kerry was able to shoot a swim through that had sunlight filtering through behind it.  We’ll have to wait to see how that comes out.

On the ride home, everyone (including gulls) benefited from snacks.  I got an Oreo cookie, The Captain got two, and there were veggies with dip, courtesy of Cindy.

Although it clouded up considerably for the ride home, and I wore my wetsuit just in case it started to rain, the skies stayed rain-free.

And – I docked the boat in a reverse wind for the first time with no muscle power from anyone else.  Woo Hoo!

Good day with fun people.  Can’t wait to do it all over again next weekend.

Picture Perfect Day

July 27, 2013

Mike Wankum (WCVB’s weatherman) was right.  It was much cooler, dryer and brighter than we’d been seeing last week.  The rain did,  however, leave its calling cards – surge and sucky visibility.  But the water was WARM.  What a trade-off.

We had LD and Charley Gaylord as well as Pete, The Captain and me on board.  We drove north, over the top, and headed to Gully Cove in Rockport.  There were other divers getting ready on land as we anchored in about 30 feet.  There were at least two groups of 15 kayakers coming and going by our stern on their way from Rockport Harbor to the outer eastern edge of Straitsmouth Island and back.

I saw many medium sized cunner with white chins.  They were curious about my camera and its mechanical sounds I think.  Here’s a frame grab of me as I placed the camera for a swim-over shot:

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You wouldn’t be happy to see all the floating sea weed and kelp shards  if I had turned the camera around.

We made the second dive on the other side of the rocky point, nearer to Old Garden Beach.  It was only 5-10 feet of visibility here, but I was able to swim up into the shallows to get out of the surge.

It was a comfortable and cool voyage with lots of sun for company.  Now, if the water were only clearer, it would have been an underwater picture perfect day too.

Crystalline Eye

July 21, 2013

The hot weather finally left.  Today was crisp and clear and warm and lightly cloudy.  Above water in the low 80s.  In the 60s on the surface, but in the 50s below the thermocline at 15 feet.

We had Charley and Brenden G., Jim Castelli, Alan Hicks, and John M. aboard for a trip north.  First stop was the Lobster Pool restaurant’s “back yard” at Folly Cove.  Boulders, rusted iron chain and square-ish pieces of quarried granite litter the bottom here.  It must have been a busy loading dock for the nearby quarries.

I found a flounder on a rocky perch that was roughly parallel to my line of sight.  It didn’t mind a bubbly intrusion and let me peer closer and closer.  At last, I was as close to it as this picture I got from the internet:

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The whole eye was iridescent and shimmery.  And, of course, un-blinking.

The dive was over too quick and we were off to Lanesville Shores for the second plunge.  Here I saw lots of little cunner, several skates, and more flounder.  Maybe they’re gathering in groups to make more flounder.  Maybe it’s their Comic-Con.  Or they’re all on vacation in beautiful Cape Ann water.

We enjoyed flat, calm seas with only an occasional rolling episode from passing Sunday Drivers.

I could eat the north end of a south-bound duck.  Where’s Veronica and all the legal treats?  Read all about it here.

Hot Both Above and On Top of the Water

July 14, 2013

We had a full boat for a trip to somewhere cooler than the Cape Ann Marina where I had doused myself four times with the hose before we even left the dock.  Al Ferzoco, his daughter, Candace, her fiance, Will, and their friend Bob were on board as well as Laura Gallagher and Jennifer Entwhistle.  Everyone was eager to get wet.

I picked the north-facing side of Thacher Island for the potential of clear water and no current because Will and Candace were beginner scubas.  The breeze had picked up a little and it was pleasant at the Dead Light site.  Here’s what the island looks like as you approach from the south (picture from the internet):

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It was even calmer than this photo shows today.  It was quiet once everyone was under, but the silence was broken as Candace surfaced to report she’d lost her fin on the ascent.  Luckily Laura and Jennifer were nearby and heard the cry.  Laura turned to survey the surface and saw the fin drifting gently towards Nova Scotia.  We agreed her timing was perfect because they were just ready to descend to look for it.

The reports from below were of yucky conditions – 5 feet of visibility with clouds of sea weeds swirling in the turn of the tide.  The surface was warm enough to swim comfortably.

We decided to move across the channel to the mouth of Loblolly Cove.  I pulled into the lee of the south edge for a calm anchorage and away from the stream of boat traffic that passes in front of the cove.  We were in about 30 feet of water.  I sat on the swim platform and felt warm currents intermingle with the colder ones as the tide swirled by.  The breeze died as billowing white clouds built overhead.

It didn’t actually rain at all, but there was a fresh cohort of little powerboats skittering towards home at the thought of lightening and rain.  To us, it was a welcome respite from the heat and sun.

Some hunters returned with dinner.  In addition to their successful catch, Will and Pete got up close and personal with a big, but agile, lobster.  They also reported lots of pollack.

The ride home along the back shore was easy because there was no chop to contend with.

The ramp was even flat.  WooHoo.

Better Than Expected

July 13, 2013

The day started overcast with sprinkles in N. Attleboro and on Route 93 as our folks trekked north for the day.  We had LD, Mike and Diane Neas as well as Pete with The Captain and me.  There was a little chop and some chill in the air as we turned the corner into Folly Cove for a calm first site.  Diane and Mike are our daughter and son-in-law, so we didn’t want them to be too uncomfortable as we dived.

Just to keep everyone amused, LD brought one of two sea robins he saw back to the boat for everyone to admire.  I believe it looked something like this one I found on the internet:

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LD especially likes the look of this fish and its bony “legs” that protrude from its pectoral fins.

Pete found the dead low tide water temperature to be 66 degrees.  No wonder I was so very comfortable in my wetsuit.  The incoming tide rolled seaweed, silt, debris and other stuff into my path and I thought it was from the hunters, roiling up the bottom.  Nope.  They assured me it was just the tide doing its thing.  Visibility varied from OK in the shallows to downright messy on the bottom.  I saw a fat flounder, resting on a rocky ledge.  There were many too small lobsters grubbing around in the weeds.

For our second place, I chose Lanesville Shores.  I anchored in about 25 feet of water and it turned out to be a magnificent, boulder-strewn stretch of shoreline.  I think I saw more fish here than were in Folly.  They were everywhere – shining their sides to the surface, pinging in and out of my line of sight, and generally being very photogenic.  So I set up my camera under a particularly attractive overhang and managed to get some to come right up to my mask for a look.

LD had lots of luck here, including two encounters with denizens who were too big to take.  He was kind enough to send the kids home with dinner.  They had brought fruit salad on ice and I munched on it all afternoon.

Great fun.

Rockport’s East-Facing Coast

July 7, 2013

Sunday, July 7th was not as hot as it had been earlier in the weekend.  Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t comfortable, but it was bearable.  I’d even covered the Sun Shower to keep it from overheating the water I depend on to cool off.

We had JK, Andy J., Sandy Miller, Linda Giles and Myanna on board with Pete, The Captain and me.  Everyone was fine with our first stop at Fisherman’s Canyon in Rockport.  This area has beautiful underwater geography and looked clear enough to be fun for everyone – hunters and sightsee-ers alike.

Although I didn’t personally witness it, there was an episode of a tank slipping out of someone’s hands and dropping out of sight followed by some emphatic words by the buddy of the tank wearer.  “Why didn’t you take out the weights?” was in there somewhere too, I understand.  First dive of the season syndrome was cited.

The second dive was close by – just north of  Granite Pier in “Smiling Fish Cove.”  The water was 35 feet deep and cold-ish on the bottom.  Some folk poked even further north towards the Yankee Clipper Inn.  Here’s a picture from our anchorage on a day we wouldn’t have been diving here:

Yankee Clipper Inn from the Ocean

Yankee Clipper Inn from the Ocean

We were glad to see that Linda and Myanna hadn’t forgotten their Oreo cookies.  They always share.

We were also happy to have Andy J.’s “ponchkees” (at least that’s how they sound to me).  They’re a light, plum jam-filled, Polish bakery item that he brings with him all the way from Worcester.

Great day with fun people.