The weather over the weekend was most definitely a mixed bag. With windy conditions out of the SE on Thursday and through Friday late evening, I knew our plans on Saturday were likely to be impacted. At one point, I was not even sure we’d get out given the conditions persisting through the morning on Saturday. At any rate, we decided to see what the morning would bring and just make an effort to get out wherever we could; knowing that our primary plan was a no-go for certain. With that, we gathered at the dock and decided to try and make a quick trip the wreck of the Herbert since it was the closest wreck, offers some protection in SW wind and has a mooring.
We got off the dock and headed out. It was sloppy with some chop on top of swell. The wind was out of the SW, finally having shifted from the unpleasant SE. We got on the wreck of the Herbert, grabbed the mooring and got right to diving. I was skeptical about the visibility, but we’d just have to wait and see what the first divers said. When Dave returned he said the bottom conditions weren’t too bad with about 10 feet of visibility. Considering I was expecting Braille, this was good news. Scott, Tim and I suited up and decided to bring cameras. Tim had his GoPro and I had my DSLR rig. If nothing else, it would be good practice using off camera video lighting with stills.
We suited up and splashed. The surface visibility was terrible, but once we passed through the thermocline it cleared up a bit. Dropping down it got dark, as it typically does on the Herbert. We spent a few moments setting up the camera and then headed aft to the engine and boilers. There was some surge on the bottom so it was a little annoying trying to stay put for photos but we got a few cool shots before heading forward to the bow area. When our bottom time was up, we ascended, did a short deco and then headed back to Beverly. It was a bummer to be unable to do our offshore trip, but it was still a good dive considering the conditions we had to work with.
As is sometimes the case in New England, the next day brought completely different weather conditions, this time, near perfect conditions. Where Saturday was humid, muggy, windy and overcast, Sunday was cool, dry, and sunny with light wind out of the NW. The sea conditions were also quite good. With that, we were off to the wreck of the Patriot in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. It was a gorgeous day for it and everyone was looking forward to the dive.
We got on the wreck site, dropped the shot line and Dave, Tim and Jessica went in first to tie in. Although they claimed this tie-in occurred in 3 min, our clock said 4 minutes—either way it was quite fast. While we were waiting for the signal, we noticed whales around us at some distance, including one whale that was clearly in a playful mood and getting closer to our anchored positions. Before too long, we were being circled by a playful humpback whale that was very interested in us divers. The first groups of divers returned in awe of the conditions. Although visibility wasn’t stellar (15-20’), the marine life was spectacular with schools of dogfish, Pollack, hake, sculpin, various assorted fish and sand lance. A few divers had gotten lucky and even spotted the whale diving down to the wreck. With that, we could not wait to splash!
Scott, Feng and I suited up. First, we had a little line work to do as we were sharing the wreck with the Daybreaker, but we were the primary boat tied in and planned to depart before them. We dropped down to the wreck and Scott tied in a new line and removed ours so that we could swap out of the boats without anyone needing to drop off while divers were ascending and descending. Then we went off exploring the wreck, although we were far more interested in the marine life. We headed out into the sand and waited, looking around, marveling at the tremendous number of dogfish schooling around us. Something significant must have changed with the fishery, because we have hardly seen dogfish in years and now they were overwhelming in number.
At any rate, we waited, just sitting tight. The current was starting to pick up and I was getting a little chilled from not swimming much, but we waited. Then suddenly out of the murky, green water appeared the humpback whale, giving us a pass!! I was ready with the camera and fired off 4 shots. It was incredible. It couldn’t have been more than 10-15 feet away from us. So cool. We saw the whale two more times, but this was the only time I was able to get the photo.
After 40 min on the bottom, it was time to get going so we headed up, and did a short deco. When we surfaced, everyone was chattering away about their dive and how exciting it was. Almost everyone got to see “something” down there in terms of the whale passing by. If not, they most definitely saw it on the surface swimming around the area. It really was a spectacular dive. With that, everyone gathered up their lines and we headed home. It was a great way to finish a weekend that got off to a rough start!
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