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Heather Knowles

October 14, 2017

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Finally the weather let up on us enough to get off the dock! Between our schedule, which was a mixture during the month of September of family commitments, weddings, classes and work travel, we finally got a break in the weather on a weekend we were actually scheduled for diving. The conditions were certainly not spectacular though with gray skies, rain and some sea left over from the day before. However, we felt confident we could make it to the Poling.

We began gathering in the dark–the certain sign that it is October and soon we’ll be switching to later departures. While I sometimes enjoy loading in the dark, as it feels like you’re really taking full advantage of the day, I also do like having some daylight. We lit up the back deck for loading and before too long, the sun was up, well, sort of. It was there, but we couldn’t see it. In fact, it was raining.

Loading Gauntlet in the dark is a sure sign it’s October.

We got off the dock and headed to the Poling since we thought the Romance would be terrible with the ground swell we had running. We cruised up to the wreck–it got a bit roll-y after the islands, but the wind was actually light and the seas weren’t rough other than the swell. When we arrived on the Poling, we grabbed our mooring which is on the stern end of the wreck. We sent in the first group, followed by the next and before long it was time for Scott, Tim and I to dive.

I had left the camera behind thinking it was not going to be good visibility. Reports put it around 10-15′ which was reasonable, but I was OK with the decision to leave it behind. We dropped in, headed down to the wreck and did a tour through the inside as usual. Then we headed down to the break where we popped into both the port and starboard oil holds. We closed the dive around 40 min after returning to the mooring down the starboard side along the bottom. The wreck is really crumbling fast. Each time I dive it, I feel that something has changed and it is in an accelerated state of decay. Soon you will be able to enter the next oil hold aft from within the adjacent hold!

We did a short deco and climbed back aboard. The rain was off an on, and it was muggy, but we had a good day. The forecast for Sunday looked pretty grim, and so we cancelled since we had folks from out of town to consider. The weather was ultimately better than expected, but the morning’s dense fog would have kept us dockside. I was happy to get one!

August 27, 2017

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Morning sunrise.

Despite having more ambitious plans for a long-haul trip to the Paul Palmer and the Pinthis, NE wind had something else in mind. Late August seems like early fall more and more so every year.

We decided to head out in the direction of the Pinthis and see how the conditions were… it was breezing up a bit with NE around 10 knots, but as we got out, the wind was light enough that we were able to keep going and make it to the Pinthis, where upon arrival, we ran into our old friends Chris and Amy, who were fishing over the wreck. We tied up the boats together and had a good catch up. It’s a small world for sure when you’re bumping into friends in the middle of the ocean. Anyway, conditions were OK with a very murky water column and ~20 feet on the bottom. We pulled our mooring since this was our last trip to the Pinthis this season. Fall certainly felt like it was in the air and we had a cool, crisp ride back with some choppy NE seas. However, it was a beautiful day to be on the water.

August 12-13, 2017

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With a really nice weather pattern upon us, we were set for some good dives over the weekend with a trip to the Nina T on Saturday and some exploration for a project we began working on in 2016 on Sunday.

On Saturday, our plan was the Nina T, which is a small, broken up eastern-rig fishing boat sunk near the Poling in 100 feet of water. This used to be completely intact in the late 90s to early 2000’s before it finally collapsed into a debris pile. It’s still an interesting dive with lots to explore poking through the debris. We loaded up in the rain, but winds were light and the sun was out before we knew it. It was turning into a real nice day despite the in-and-out sun.

Scott splashing in for a dive on the Nina T.

Anyway, we had to do a little mooring repair, as there was no mooring present when we arrived. But we were able to recover the old line and put a new buoy on it. So, on our dive, Scott and I did a little line work. Well, mostly Scott. I video’d him doing it. Lol. We haven’t had the GoPro in the water in awhile so I decided to take it for a spin and make sure it was working well. I got some decent video, but that’s really Dave’s department. Although I like watching video, I don’t particularly like shooting video. I prefer still photography, although I do wish a nice DSLR was available in the super small package of a GoPro set up. That sure would be nice. Anyway, visibility was very good around 20-25 feet with a moderate, annoying current. All in all it was a good dive.

Sunday we were working on our exploration project–more about that soon. Progress has been slow with a lot of bad weather for offshore, deep diving this season.

August 4-6, 2017

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With a somewhat last minute addition to our schedule, we started our weekend on Friday with a trip to the Patriot with a group from Canada. They were keen to dive the Patriot, and with good reason. The Patriot has been outstanding this year with some great visibility and a seemingly increasing number of goosefish (monkfish) hanging out around the wreck. In addition, we had two more trips to Stellwagen planned with our regular line up of charters. When the tides are good, you gotta go! Anyway, despite these most appealing plans, the weather did not look too good. This seems to be the theme of this summer: we have good plans, the weather ruins them. Friday did not look good at all, not for anything, but especially not for Stellwagen with moderate south wind, followed by heavier SE wind later in the afternoon when we were planning to head out. Nevertheless, the group really wanted to hang in there and see how it shaped up. They were up for a bumpy ride, so we pressed on.

High seas and heavy wind made diving a little tricky, but we managed.

We loaded up around 11 am and got off the dock. This is much later than we ordinarily will run to Stellwagen, as it makes for a long day, but this was a special trip seeing this group was from Canada and it was a unique chance for them to get offshore to the sanctuary. Although the forecast had downgraded the wind and no longer predicted SE, by the time we were loaded the wind was up, and it was getting choppy out there. We pressed on with  relatively smooth ride out there, but it was clearly increasing. Another charter boat had left a mooring on the site since they were running back to back trips, but then got blown out. So we were hoping it was still there for us to use. Indeed it was, and although we had some reservations since the mooring was only rope and no chain, we went for it anyway. The wind progressively picked up and shifted SE after all. It started getting very sloppy out there. We were thinking of heading back inshore after one dive, but when the visibility reports and accounts of 4 goosefish started coming in, we decided to hang in. Tim and I suited up for a dive since we were staying. I had concerns about the line breaking out, but we decided to go anyway. CAD was also onsite, which added a little complexity to the dive ops, but we worked together to get everyone on the wreck.

Tim and I dropped down. Current was pretty light, which was good, because the seas were running 3-4′ anyway. Below the murky layer, the visibility opened up to a solid 25-30 feet, although it was a bit cloudy. I had decided not to take the camera and just enjoy dive poking around. Tim and I did several laps around the wreck and spotted 6 goosefish. We thought we were up to 7, but then we couldn’t remember if we had already seen that one. Yeah, there were that many. Anyway, I decided to take a looksie to see how the line was doing. It was frayed from chafing, but it had been ok. As I got closer, I spotted a limp piece of blue line. Yup, we had broken out and no longer had a line to the surface. We quickly readied a bag and reel and shot the bag to the surface, heading up. I figured that was the sign it was time to get going. When we surfaced, we were in some heavy seas where you can only spot the boat when riding up on a wave. Nevertheless, Gauntlet was there to scoop us out of the water and we beat it to head inshore. Fortunately, the wind was mostly on our tail coming back, so the ride wasn’t bad. We did some surfing though. The group still wanted to do a second dive and the only place we could get them in was the inside of Children’s Island, which was quite honestly a surgey mess, but every other dive site in our vicinity was blown out with SE wind around 20 knots and 3-5′ seas running. The group had a no-vis dive to remind them they were in New England, and we headed back to the dock, arriving around 7 pm. They were happy though, and had a good time!

Scott and Josh inside the crew’s quarters on the Poling.

Given the conditions and the added rain and fog for Saturday, we decided to cancel Saturday’s dives. The weather for Saturday was definitely lousy and most certainly we would not have gotten to Stellwagen. Even the Poling would have been a tough go. We hoped for better luck on Sunday, although it became very clear before long that the wind that was going to blow out the mess of fog and rain, was going to blown out damn near everything else too. We hung in there with a downgraded plan for at best another Patriot trip (instead of the further out Unidentified Trawler), but ultimately the 15-20 knots of West wind forced us to settle for a trip to the Poling.

There was an easterly swell, with chop out of the west on top making it progressively rougher out there throughout the morning. Fortunately there was a good mooring on the Poling that we put in, so we grabbed that and hoped for some decent visibility. The current was screaming both on the surface and on the wreck, which made the dives a bit more arduous considering the choppy sea conditions. However, vis was not terrible at about 20-25′–a bit cloudy, but not bad. Scott, Josh and I had a good tour of the inside and out. I was playing around with some different camera modes and all in all it wasn’t a bad dive. I was disappointed we got 1/3 Stellwagen trips, but I guess it was better than none!


July 22, 2017

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A goosefish hanging out on the Patriot.

With only 1 day to dive thanks to a round of NE wind that took out Sunday, we were determined to make the most of it with a trip to the Patriot on Saturday. So far this season, this wreck has delivered some great dives–nice visibility, dogfish, goosefish, pollack and the usual scuplin and other assorted typical Stellwagen marine life. No whales though. Yet. Anyway, we loaded up on Saturday morning under overcast skies and got underway a bit early. The winds were light, but it was a bit of a dreary kind of day without the sun to brighten things up. Nevertheless, it looked to be a good day of diving.

We arrived on the Patriot and quickly got to diving. The current was moving on the surface and I wondered if our early arrival was going to put us in a band of strong current. Nevertheless, Dave and Josh splashed and the rest of the group followed. When they returned, we got a good conditions report. Some current on the wreck, but not terrible. In addition, they spotted 4 goosefish. We got the run down on where to look, and then Scott and I suited up for our dive.

We splashed in and dropped down to the wreck, the visibility was a little diminished from the last time were there, but most likely it was due to the cloudy skies. It was still a solid 40 feet once our eyes adjusted. We spent most of the dive swimming around the wreck in the sand where there was plenty to see, including one of the four and largest goosefish. They are pretty neat. Anyway, about halfway through our dive the current completely dropped out and we had some very nice still water to enjoy. All in all it was an excellent dive, and we enjoyed some homemade M&M chocolate chip cookies thanks to Josh (well, Josh’s girlfriend) to pass the time on the ride back.

July 16, 2017

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On Sunday, our plan was to dive the wreck of the F/V North Star, which is a small wooden eastern rig fishing vessel that sank in 2003 after capsizing. The wreck has become a disperse debris field, but over the area of wreckage, a tremendous amount of the class Stellwagen marine life came to call this wreck home. We’ve been diving the wreck since 2012, shortly after it’s discovery by the NOAA staff. In that time, we placed a subsea mooring system at the site that facilitated access. Over time, we have also monitored the site to see how it was changing over time. For sure, the typical Stellwagen pattern of dynamic/live sand played out with the wreck becoming more sanded in at times or less at others. However, beginning last year, we noticed more fishing gear impacts from most likely scallop dredging. The stern section was dragged some distance and some of the other sections of wreckage seemed thinner. However, it was more or less the same site.

In July of this year we received a report that a sanctuary survey showed significant impact to the site. Large scallop vessels from outside this area have been concentrating on Stellwagen Bank given changes to management of other areas. The result is that these vessels have basically been hammering on the bank and the North Star suffered as a result. The side scan shows that the site has become more disperse and spotty, certainly the result of multiple gear contacts. Anyway, with a trip on the books for this weekend, we decided to investigate. We loaded up Sunday morning and headed out. It was a perfect summer day, unlike the day before that felt more fall like at times, and we had good conditions for diving.

Wolffish on the Heroic.

When we arrived on the North Star, we had trouble locating wreckage on the bottom and could not locate the mooring ball which rises up 10′ from the sea floor. We dropped the shot line on the location of the mooring on the GPS and sent 1 team in to investigate and decide whether or not we should dive the site. Dave and Tony splashed on the shot line and unfortunately, they were back within about 15 min. Not only was there no mooring system at all, but the wreck was more or less gone, with only a few crumpled pieces of wreckage observed. Certainly, there is nothing to dive for all intents and purposes. It was very disappointing to see a dive site the dive community enjoyed destroyed without any care by commercial fisherman. Some have said that if the position was available, they could avoid it. But the fact is, the position to this wreck is available and posted on the NOAA website. The issue is they don’t care because no regulations in the sanctuary require them to care.

Anyway, we cruised the short distance over to the Heroic, which is less than 1 mile away (at one point I had aspirations to scooter from the Heroic to the North Star). We dropped Dave and Tony back in and they tied into the mooring on the Heroic. Everyone got to diving. When they returned, they reported the wreck was in good shape for the most part, but the visibility was very murky/cloudy on the bottom, and there was a decent current. Nevertheless, Scott x 2 and I suited up for our dive. There was an annoying current on the way down, and a mild one on the bottom. Sometimes the slack windows just aren’t that slack. Visibility was murky, but we swam a few laps around the wreck, took a few photos, and Scott Z bagged up some scallops since there were tons around. We saw a few dogfish, a wolffish and unbeknownst to us, a baby seal was swimming around the boat. Fortunately we did not see Cisco, the great white shark hanging out in the area.

At the end of our dive, we pulled the line and headed up. A snafu with the shot line while it was being retrieved required Scott and I to bounce back down and unfoul it, so I got to dive the Heroic twice! Once that was sorted, we wrapped it up and enjoyed a nice ride back in great summer conditions. It is a shame about the North Star, it was a fun dive.



July 8-9, 2017

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Despite some questionable weather for Saturday, we hung in there to see what the morning would bring. The weather wasn’t good on Friday and the wind looked to persist through Saturday. At best, I thought we’d get out to a local inshore wreck. Saturday morning rolled around though and the wind was very light, much lighter than predicted. The sea conditions were improving and things seemed good enough to head out for the Patriot and see how far we could get.

A school of pollack passes over the wreck of the Patriot.

We loaded up with a mix of regular and new customers and headed off to Stellwagen. Sea conditions weren’t bad, but they weren’t great either with some ENE swell making things uncomfortable at times. The wind stayed pretty light and we pressed on. We got out to the Patriot, dropped the shot and in no time we were tied in and diving. The visibility report was excellent with 30-40+ feet of visibility and little current. No whales, but lots of fish. Sounded great. Scott and I headed in for our dive, and despite Scott nearly scaring off all the fish with his bubbles from diving open circuit, I managed to snap a few good photos.

We wrapped up the dive and headed home before the afternoon storms moved in with some very strong squalls and thunderstorms. Sunday looked to be a really nice day with light wind for our trip to the Snetind. The last 2 trips to the Snetind have been with very low visibility on the wreck, so we had our fingers crossed for better conditions.

John and Tim at the bow of the Snetind.


We loaded up and enjoyed a pretty smooth ride out with just a little chop. We grabbed the mooring we put in when we arrived and were off to diving before too long. When the first divers returned, we were shocked to hear the visibility was 20-25 feet with ambient light. This was a pleasant surprise. Tim, John and I suited up and splashed. Conditions were great indeed. We had a nice swim to the bow and back. When we finished our deco, we climbed aboard (most of us doing it on the first try ;-)). We headed back enjoying fantastic weather and some fresh pineapple thanks to Mike. All in all, it was a great weekend of diving. Not perfect with weather, as has been the theme, but we got 2 good dives in.



July 2, 2017

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Looking back at the crumbled wreck of the Nina T.

The weather messed with our plans this weekend. A combination of wind, at times very dense fog and thunderstorms lead us to revise plans a few times. Our offshore plans for Sunday got scrapped and we settled for an inshore dive in some foggy, sloppy seas on Sunday with a trip to the Nina T. The Nina T is a small, now crumbled wood eastern rig dragger. It’s not far from the Poling and currently has a mooring, which made it a good alternative to the stuff we dive all the time.

We headed out Sunday morning with warm, clear weather, but by the time we reached Bakers and Misery islands, we were swallowed up by a large fog bank. The fog was quite dense and there was a decent sea running once we hit open water. We made it up to the Nina T and anchored up. Despite having the anchor light, fog horn and dive flags up, we still nearly had a very close call with a small center console boat that popped out of about 50 feet of visibility at full speed and came uncomfortably close to us before turning. Anyway, we got to diving and fortunately by midmorning, the fog bank pushed further offshore, clearing the inshore waters. Visibility on the Nina T was excellent with 30-40 feet of visibility. There was an annoying current running, but that probably helped the visibility. Tim and I had a nice time poking around the wreck. When we finished, we headed up and cruised back to Beverly enjoying  much improved weather.

June 24-25, 2017

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Scott at the stern of the Pinthis.

The weekend looked like a mixed bag of weather, but we had plans for the Pinthis on Sunday, and we were determined to get there. Saturday threatened to be a total blow out, but we hung in there to look at the morning conditions and decided to make a go of it with a quick run to the Poling. The morning broke with partly sunny skies, but quickly became overcast and windier. We loaded up and decided on the Poling since the conditions weren’t great, with around 15 kts of SSW wind, and ~3 foot sea running. Plus our last visit to the City of Salisbury, which is near the Romance, was a braille dive, so we opted for a different geographic area.

By the time we were passing Bakers and Misery Islands, we were hitting a fog bank. From there, it was rainy, foggy, windy and the seas were a bit sloppy. But we made it to the Poling, and grabbed a mooring. Conditions on the bottom were much better than topside with about 25-30 ft of visibility. It probably would have been better if the sun was out. There was some current, but nothing too terrible. When we finished up, we beat it. The fog became very dense and eventually we had to creep along with only 50 feet of visibility to work with. We got back to the dock without issue though and later that day the sun was out.

With that, the forecast looked much better for Sunday’s trip to the Pinthis, so I went ahead and bought food. Sunday, everyone gathered bright and early, well except one who needed a little more sleepy time. We waited a bit out of the kindness of our hearts and left almost on time with the full complement of divers. We had a nice ride down to Scituate, and a quick tie in. There was some current running, but the seas were glass. We got all the divers in and when Dave returned, we got the visibility report – crappy on the way down but 30+ feet on the bottom. That was good news.

Scott and I suited up and splashed. We had a nice tour around and through the wreck. The stern is really breaking up now and the wreck is more deteriorated since last year not surprisingly. It is still a great dive though. When our dive was finished, we headed up for a short deco, put a new zinc on the prop shaft and climbed aboard. We had a nice lunch on the ride back. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful weather and great diving.


June 10-11, 2017

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Gauntlet cruising out to the dive site loaded up with divers and gear.

After what seemed at times to be downright awful weather over the past week, I didn’t know what to expect for the weekend. Huge seas early in the week gave way to a heavy, persistent swell that had us guessing right until Saturday morning as to what it was going to do. I watched the wind blow from every direction on Friday. One thing was for sure, visibility was not going to be good this weekend. Nevertheless, I set up the camera in a delusional belief that I might actually use it.

We revised our offshore diving plans on Friday and decided to stick inshore since we didn’t really know what to expect. The forecast was hardly lining up with the conditions and it seemed grim either way. We decided to buzz out to the Holmes since we had a mooring on the wreck last we were there and it’s close in case the wind came up early. Saturday morning was beautiful, and the seas calmed down to a gentle swell, although the wind was predicted to return before too long. The mooring on the Holmes is all but gone–we found it barely reaching the surface, weighted down by growth. But we were able to locate it and tie off. Visibility on the wreck was murky, about 10 feet. Certainly it was not as bad as I was expecting, but the camera did not enter the water. The mooring is hopelessly fouled on the wreck and needs to be removed, so we have some work to do next time we’re there.

Sunday was looking to be a great day with hot summer-like weather; however, another bout with wind overnight and a forecast calling for heavier wind the afternoon led us to scrap the Pinthis and stay local. We decided on the City of Salisbury. The seas were a little choppy off Marblehead, but it laid down nicely as we got down to Graves Light. Unfortunately, our mooring was gone, so we made ready to put a new one in. The first team splashed to get us tied in, and the rest of the groups followed. Dave, Tim and Dominique were back rather quickly though after tying in. Visibility was 1-3 feet, most agreeing 3 feet was too generous an estimate. Very disappointing, but not surprising given the conditions we’ve had over the past week. We wrapped it up and headed back.

The weather has been a challenge for sure, but we’ll keep at it and hope to catch a break soon with some decent visibility! My camera is getting tired of going for boat rides!

June 3-4, 2017

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Scott at the break end of the Poling where a large piece of wreckage has broken off.

A nice weather pattern set up for the weekend with what appeared to be tranquil weather before a storm moved in on Sunday night. On Saturday we were diving the Poling and on Sunday we had another trip to the Snetind.

Saturday turned out to be quite a bit windier than predicted and as result, it was a little choppy out there, although nothing too terrible. With the wind and tide running against each other we managed to be sitting beam-to, which made things annoying. There wasn’t too much current though. I got a few photos on the Poling, which were a challenge. Although I’d give the visibility 10-15′, it was murky and the camera didn’t like it. There has been still more collapse at the break end with more deck sagging and a piece of the bulkhead peeling off. I hate to say it, but I think the Poling is really going. In another year or two there will be some dramatic changes.

Sunday’s weather was perfect with glass-like seas and warm sun. It almost felt like summer. Unfortunately, visibility has been quite disappointing with only about 10′ of visibility on the Snetind. If we got that clear springtime visibility while the water was still cold, well, I missed it because it’s been nothing but murky water all along. Even when it has been “good” it isn’t really that good. Hopefully we’ll get a surprise burst of good vis soon!


May 20-21, 2017

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A round of nice, although cool, weather arrived in time for the weekend allowing for not one, but two day of diving. This has been a rare occurrence so far this year, as a rough winter continued into a rough spring. It’s hard to believe official summer is only about 1 month away. While the weather certainly was not “shorts weather” the conditions were good enough for a trip to the Poling on Saturday and the Snetind on Sunday.

Saturday brought more wind than expected and it was a bit sloppy with NNE wind, which lead us to opt for the mooring we recently installed on the Poling vs trying to get on the Nina T. Although the wind was blustery, conditions were otherwise decent with not much current and decent visibility. Sunday’s weather was markedly better with lighter wind, although cool enough that I wore some extra layers to keep warm topside. We had a nice ride out to the wreck and got a mooring installed, which will hopefully allow for several trips there before it’s broken or obstructed by gill netters. If you haven’t had the chance, check out our year-end newsletter for an article about the Snetind!

John looking good in his new drysuit.

Dave strikes a pose.

Other than that, there’s been various drysuit modeling going on as everyone receives their new drysuits from DUI. While a few of us are still waiting on our suits (including me), Dave and John are looking good in their new DUI FLX Extreme. After many years, we decided to part ways with the trusty CF200 for a lighter, more flexible drysuit.









April 29-30, 2017

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Finally, after a very long stretch of bad weather and not having a dive scheduled on the few nice days we did experience on the weekends, we got off the dock for not one, but two charters! The weather leading up to the weekend was far from good and so we decided to keep it simple for our first trip of the year with a dive on the Herbert on Saturday, followed by what ended up being the Poling on Sunday due to blustery north wind. All in all, it was a great weekend of diving.

Scott and TIm exploring around the engine and boilers on the wreck of the Herbert.

Saturday we loaded up and headed to the Herbert. Conditions were better than predicted with light winds and no fog, which had been in the marine forecast. Part of the reason for selecting the Herbert was that it’s a short ride for us, and there was a reasonable chance there would be a mooring there. Indeed, we were right. When we arrived the mooring (albeit rather crusty and slimy) was present. We picked up, tied off and got to diving.

Dave and Josh headed in first and the rest of the divers following as is usually the case. When Dave returned, we were shocked to hear the visibility was pretty good at about 10-15’ with some ambient light—this is very good for the Herbert. Scott, Tim and I suited up and splashed. We dropped down to the wreck, got situated and then did the usual tour of the wreck beginning with the stern, followed by poking around the bow, with a visit to the clam dredge last. The water is still pretty chilly at 39-40 degrees, so when we were beginning to feel the chill, we wrapped it up and headed up. There was a decent current running in the water column, which is less common on this wreck.

We surfaced and enjoyed a nice ride back. The sun even came out a bit, with warm temperatures to go with it. However, we knew it wouldn’t last, as Sunday was to bring markedly different weather. With blustery north wind coming, it was going to be cold again. We decided to make a go of it (with an early AM weather check to be sure) and aim for the Poling. Sunday rolled around and in the early morning it looked nice with light NW wind. However by the time we were leaving the house there was around 20 knots of north wind. Hmm.

Dave wearing his new DUI FLX drysuit. Nice!

We gathered at the boat, loaded up, got rebreather checks done with students and headed to Gloucester. It was a fairly smooth ride, but for sure, it was choppy up at the Poling. For sure, we wouldn’t have been able to make it to the City of Salisbury. Scott and I were diving first with Vitaliy so we suited up to get ready. We were tied into the sole mooring on the wreck. We splashed in and kicked hard back to the boat—the current was running hard and the seas were a bit bumpy. Immediately I knew something was not right though. The lines were pulling sideways and the granny line was bowed out. I swam back over the ladder and shouted out. At the same time, Dave realized we had broken out of the wreck and we were drifting. So, we dragged ourselves out of the water, back aboard while the crew got a new mooring shot line dropped in for us to tie in. Never fun when that happens!

With the new line in, we dropped back in. I decided to leave the camera behind since it looked pretty murky from when I first jumped in. We dropped down, Scott moved the line over the stern and chained it in. In a few minutes, we shot the bag and continued our dive. Visibility was OK on the wreck, maybe 10-15’—not terrible, but not great for photos so I didn’t feel too bad about leaving it behind. We did a tour through the inside and a lap around the wreck before heading up. The water temperature was about the same as the day before at 39-40 F. The current was screaming from about 30 feet up and it was definitely some effort to get out of the water. The next groups of divers had to splash holding a line and be pulled over to the downline.
When the next groups were done diving, we pulled the lines and headed home. We left a new mooring, this one with chain, which will hopefully hold up better. Overall, a great weekend getting back at it, although we sure did have to work for it Sunday.

December 23, 2016

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For our final dive of 2016, Dave and I decided to sneak out for a quick shore dive before the 48 hours of Christmas begins with family activities and continuous eating. It was shaping up to be beautiful day, windy, but for a shore dive off Marblehead it was perfect. The sun was out, the wind direction put us in the lee and it was otherwise quiet along Marblehead’s Front Street. We were diving in the area between Fort Sewall and the Barnacle. I like this site because the entry doesn’t get much easier and there is little sand along the beach, so the mess is minimal. In addition, I had a set of loaner prototype back-mounted counter lungs (BMCLs) for the Hollis Prism 2 and needed to get in the water for a test dive. An easy shore dive seemed like a better plan than just jumping off a boat into a deeper dive.

Heather getting ready to demo test dive the new Hollis Prism 2 back-mounted counter lungs!

We arrived, got the gear set up and before long we were ready to splash. We were quite the spectacle with many locals out on a morning walk stopping to ask us what we were up to. A few cars stopped as well. Everyone thought it was cool and a few were very interested in the rebreather. Anyway, we headed for the water and got in easily, as the tide was on it’s way out. This is definitely a site to hit around high tide given the water is shallow. However at high tide, the beach vanishes, so it’s best to time your dive a little before or a little after high tide. Anyway, we dropped down and headed out past the rock shoals into deeper water (about 30 feet).

The BMCLs took a little getting used to and I needed to spend a few minutes adjusting the loop volume to get it comfortable. Once we started getting a little deeper, I was more comfortable and eventually got in the groove. The WOB seem quite good and didn’t seem to be too sensitive to body position like some other BMCL units. We continued swimming along and passed through a large debris field of china. There are lots of Ironstone china shards off the Barnacle. Most likely they were tossed into the water from the restaurant, but some likely came from ships. The china was all quite old and mainly came from England.

Dave’s SPG hose was leaking badly (it appeared to be a defective new hose that was seeping gas from the rubber part of the hose) so we had to turn as his gas had been depleting (he was diving a single tank rig for ease). We made our way back to the beach and called it a dive. We got out of the water, chatted with more people who were walking along the road, and packed up our gear. We drove down the road a short ways and nabbed a perfect parking spot at the Landing and enjoyed a big breakfast at the Driftwood. All in all it was a beautiful day to be outside and a nice final dive of the year.

Overall, I liked the Hollis Prism 2 BMCLs and I’m interested to learn more and see some of the performance data. I’d also like to get a few more dives in on them if I can before we need to pass off the set to the next person in line. Most likely, we’ll purchase a set to make available as a demo to any local P2 divers interested in trying them.

Thank you to all our dive community friends—we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Onwards to 2017!

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December 11, 2016

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After weeks of stormy and windy weather, a starkly cold, but otherwise good weekend of weather finally arrived. It was still too windy for diving on Saturday, and extremely cold too, but both winds and temperatures looked to moderate on Sunday, allowing for a quick sneak dive before gale force winds returned with rain and snow behind it. We gathered at the boat and begin pulling things out for a boat ride. It’s been about a month since our last trip so if felt good to be back on the boat for an ocean dive. Everyone arrived and we got loaded up. It is “trash bag season” so we broke out a new set of trash bags to cover over all the gear to keep it clean and dry on the ride out. Our plan was the City of Salisbury and the wind had dropped out enough that we felt we could make the run down to Graves. We got off the dock a little before 9 am and headed out into the cold, clear air and smoky ocean.

We had a good ride out to the wreck; the seas were mostly calm except for some slight chop. Overall, conditions were good and I was hoping with the prior NW wind, we might have good visibility too. We arrived at the City of Salisbury and our mooring was still intact, which was great because no one was keen to do line work. We picked up the mooring, dropped the lines in and got to diving. Dave, John and Tony headed in first, and the next divers followed. The deck was a little slushy, but nothing was freezing up and thanks to the light wind, it wasn’t too bad out there.

When Dave and the others returned, we got a rather grim visibility report. I suspected it wasn’t going to be good since it looked awfully pea-colored green on the surface, but sometimes it can look that way but then clear up on the bottom in this area. No. The visibility was a dark 5-7 feet. Ugh. Well, at least I didn’t feel badly about not setting up the camera with that report. Scott, Tim and I got suited up and ready for our dive. I finally broke out my new DUI XM450 undergarment. I was looking forward to a nice warm, new undergarment, but I hate breaking in a new undergarment especially a bulky one. However, this undergarment is infinitely better than the old 400G Thinsulate, so I am sure after a few dives it will be all good. I stuffed myself into my suit and got suited.

John splashes in on the City of Salisbury on a cold December day!

We splashed in and started down. I’m still getting over a cold, so I was unsure if I could equalize, but things were clearing and I made it all the way down to the bottom. The visibility was crummy. Dave had run a line out, so we had a reel to follow, which was nice. This wreck definitely requires a reel to navigate, especially so on a day with low visibility. Our plan was to swim out to the end of the reel and pull it. We did exactly that. I can’t say too much about the dive other than I squinted through murky visibility and saw the wreck! It was cold (water temp 45F), but I was pretty comfortable in my new undergarment. I also got the DUI 11 mm hood, which is also quite warm. Anyway, after about 30 minutes we were ready to go, so we headed up and called it a dive.

We climbed back aboard, got some of what remained of the coffee and enjoyed a relaxing ride back to the marina. We unloaded, sprung the boat back out in the slip and headed home. It felt good to get a dive in! One weekend of charters left in 2016—hope we get it in!


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November 5, 2016

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The weather dial spun and landed on “yes” for diving on Saturday. After a few weeks of blow outs, and a bad weather/wind week leading up to the weekend, I wasn’t too sure if we’d be getting out even this weekend. So the story goes in October and November. The wind that roared through on Friday relaxed enough for us to make a trip to the Poling on Saturday. The forecast for Sunday was much less certain though.

Saturday rolled around and the weather was suitable—relatively light 10-15 knots out of the NW. We decided the Poling would be the best option given the overall conditions. We loaded up at our later departure time and got underway once everyone was aboard. We had a good ride up to the Poling and our pick of the moorings. We grabbed the stern mooring, and settled in. Dave and Tony headed in first, followed by the others. It was chilly out there and I found myself bundling up and ducking in the cabin to stay warm in between rounds of divers.

When Dave returned, we got the usual visibility and conditions report—murky 10-15 feet. Most others agreed so this seemed to be the consensus report. I decided, based on this information, to leave the camera behind. Scott and I suited up and splashed. We dropped down to the wreck, passing others along the way. When we reached the wreck I was indeed glad I hadn’t brought the camera. It was murky.  We swam out to the break and popped into the starboard hold. Divers from another boat were also on site, so it got crowded down there all of the sudden.

We swam back towards the stern end along the port side along the bottom. I spotted a squid hanging out, which is rare to see during the day. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one on the Poling. We popped into the wreck for a swim through before making another pass down the starboard side and then heading up. We did a short deco and climbed back aboard. The wind was starting to pick up, indicating increasingly poor prospects for Sunday. We headed back to Beverly, parked the boat in its winter slip at the marina. Indeed, Sunday was blown out with 20-30 knots of north wind coming through.  All in all, I am grateful any time we get out in the fall/winter months, so one dive was better than none!

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October 15, 2016

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A classic October forecast loomed all week suggesting the weekend would be either a partial blow out or a complete blow out. However, as the week went on, it wasn’t clear which day that would be. As of Friday, when Dave was out doing shore dives for a class, the wind was up and the visibility was down, like way down—Niles was the only accessible shore site and the visibility was 2 feet at best. Not promising.

The wind dropped out, and the seas started inching down from 4 feet or so, but it still didn’t look good. The tropical storm out in the Atlantic was throwing swell at us and winds were still ENE. We hemmed and hawed, and considered cancelling, but the wind and seas were coming down and the forecast looked improved for Saturday. So we decided to go. We also decided to check the forecast at 4:30 am to be sure. We did and it looked go, so we were going.

We gathered at the dock with the sun slowly rising. It was cool, a little breezy (gulp) and otherwise shaping up to be a nice day. The fishing boats were heading out, so I thought maybe the weather was going to be just fine. Before too long others were arriving and we were loaded and off the dock. Our destination was the Holmes, the closest deeper wreck with a mooring. We headed out into Salem sound and it was OK, but we could see there was surge. By the time we cleared Marblehead, the seas were growing with a heavy ground swell and wind chop on top of it. It was not that nice out there.

Back at the dock unloading after our dive on the Holmes. Despite the crummy conditions, everyone was all smiles!

Back at the dock unloading after our dive on the Holmes. Despite the crummy conditions, everyone was all smiles!

We got on the Holmes and grabbed the mooring. Dave and the first group of divers got suited and headed in. It was really quite nasty out there. The swell was unpleasant and the waves were pushing us around a bit. Plus, the visibility didn’t look great from the surface, and no one thought it was going to be one of those “it’s bad on the surface because it’s good on the bottom days.” No.

When Dave returned, we got the vis report. Grim. He gave it a dark, cloudy 5-10 feet. However, there wasn’t much current and they weren’t getting tossed around on the deco, so it wasn’t completely terrible. We decided to get suited up and splashed. I hit the water with Jessica, Josh and Feng. And as soon as I hit the water, my glove flooded. Despite several attempts to reseat the glove, nothing would stop the water coming in. So, Dave grabbed a fresh glove out of my bag and just completely replaced it. The glove sealed. My hand was wet, but peeling a thinsulate lined wool glove off and putting another one on a damp hand was more than I could deal with standing on the ladder.

Anyway, we dropped down to the wreck and took a swim to the bow and then back to the stern following the rail. I know the wreck pretty well, but I wasn’t keen to get myself and 3 others lost so we kept it simple. The visibility was rough for sure. We headed up, did our deco and climbed aboard. It was very clear at that point we weren’t doing our afternoon CCR dive inshore with the surge and the forecast for Sunday was going to make things worse.

We headed back to the marina, unloaded and gave the weather forecast one final check before throwing in the towel and calling it for Sunday. This time of year, 1 out of 2 ain’t bad. Even if the one isn’t that good!

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October 8, 2016

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With the threat of a hurricane looming all week, and otherwise winds out of the NE churning up the seas, I certainly had my doubts about the prospects for the weekend. The forecast bounced all over the place. Saturday looked as if there would be a small window of opportunity, and Sunday looked like a blow out at times, and at other times, looked doable. The tides over Columbus day weekend looked quite good and so I said the heck with it and put a Stellwagen trip on the books. Rarely do we get out to Stellwagen this late in the season, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. As the week shaped up and it became clear the hurricane would not affect us in New England, it also became clear we had a real shot at our trip to the North Star on Saturday. Sunday still looked questionable though.

Loading in the dark in anticipation of an exciting day out in Stellwagen.

Loading in the dark in anticipation of an exciting day out in Stellwagen.

By Friday, things looked good enough that we went ahead and bought food and prepped for the trip. The weather looked good, although there was a swell running. As long as the wind stayed light, we’d be OK. Saturday morning rolled around and we got down to the boat at o’dark thirty to get things opened up and prep for loading. As much as I was still sleepy, nothing says there’s a fun day of adventure on the water waiting quite like loading in the dark. Before too long, the sun was rising and we were loaded, and off the dock bound for the North Star.

As we cleared Marblehead and headed out to the open sea, it was clear there was a swell running. We hoped the wind would stay light. As we got offshore, we skirted the edge of a large fog bank just to our south, coming as close as 1/4 mile to being enveloped in fog at one point. However, we stayed in clear air, and the sun was still cutting through the party cloudy sky. We arrived on the North Star a bit ahead of the slack window, so we took our time dropping the shot line and getting the divers prepped. Once the tide started slacking, we got Dave and Feng in the water to tie in the mooring. The next waves of divers followed and once everyone else was in, Dave and Feng were back. They had a great dive—conditions were excellent with 20-30 feet of visibility, they say several goosefish and when they first arrived on the wreck, there was a large school of cod aggregating around the wreck. And as an added bonus, they relocated the missing stern piece of wreckage thanks to information provided by the Sanctuary staff. As we usually do, they ran a reel out connecting all the pieces so everyone could easily explore the wreck, which is a debris field.

Scott hovering over the recently re-located stern piece of the North Star wreckage.

Scott hovering over the recently re-located stern piece of the North Star wreckage.

Scott and I waited a bit longer tracking everyone else’s time so we could splash for our dive and pulling the mooring once everyone was headed up. We suited up and splashed, passing the last divers on deco at 30 feet. We descended, released the granny and then continued our dive. The visibility was excellent and got right to work taking photos. Unfortunately the cod were quite skittish and had split as soon as divers came along, so I didn’t get to see any of those. But I did see at least 3, maybe 4 goosefish, along with the usual sightings—sculpin, scallops, cunner, some hake.  All in all it was a great dive. We pulled the reel and then pulled the line and headed up for a short deco. We surfaced, and got picked up by the boat. The wind was beginning to pick up and the sky had become overcast and gray, so we knew the weather was going.

We cruised home in a little under 2 hours, getting back to Beverly around 1:45 or so. The afternoon forecast painted a grim picture for Sunday, with NNE winds of 20-30 knots, so we reluctantly canceled Sunday’s trip. All in all, getting a trip to Stellwagen in October was a real treat, so no complaints here.

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September 25, 2016

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Having returned from Sardinia, Italy this past week, we knew that we’d likely be returning to the early days of Fall in New England. But as the weekend approached, it certainly seemed more like full-on Fall. What should have been a last hurrah for summer with a late season trip to the Pinthis complete with that final BBQ aboard the boat did not come to be. The weekend arrived with cold, blustery northerly winds, starting with a hard NE wind on Friday, before spinning around through the weekend to settle on a 20 kt NW for our charter on Sunday. For sure, the long run to the Pinthis could not happen, and we hoped that the Poling would be possible if the wind and seas did not fetch too much.

I think it’s safe to say I’ll be putting my shorts and crocs away for awhile–at least if I plan to go outdoors. Sunday morning we awoke to cool temperatures–literally–in our house since we didn’t turn on the heat overnight. It was, chilly. With that, I dressed in my more typical boat clothes, which include pants, full shoes and my heavyweight hoodie. We left the house in the dark (yep, we’ll have more of that for the next few weeks) and headed over to the boat. We got things opened up and loaded our gear. Before too long, others were arriving and soon we were loaded and off the dock, bound for the Poling. The sea conditions were a little choppy, but it was much better than we could have hoped for given the wind.

We arrived on the wreck, picked up the stern mooring and began suiting up. We’re back to 400 gram undergarments, heavy hoods and dry gloves. So much for the warm waters of the Med. Dave, Feng and John splashed in and the others followed. When Dave returned, he reported great visibility of upwards of 30 feet. That was good news, it would make the transition from 100 ft of visibility in Sardinia a little easier, I supposed. Scott and I suited up. We splashed in and dropped down to the wreck. Visibility was great. However, upon reaching the bottom, my dry glove began leaking. I just replaced my blue gloves and something was not seating correctly. The leak was slow enough that I didn’t need to abort the dive, and the water is pretty comfortable too.

We took a tour through the interior. Visibility was quite good inside considering we were the last ones in there. The ambient light streaming through the wreck made for some pretty scenes. I didn’t have the camera with me though, so you’ll have to take my word for it. Anyway, we took a swim out into the sand, and then down to the break before heading back to the stern and ascending. Water was marching up my arm and had reached my elbow, so I was definitely beginning to get wet from the glove leak. We did a short deco and climbed back aboard. Nice dive and not too harsh a return from our warm-water, nice visibility trip. We headed back to Beverly, got some hot coffee, unloaded, and called it a weekend. Sadly, the Pinthis BBQ will have to wait for next season.

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September 3, 2016

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Although we had a great line up of dives planned for the Labor Day holiday weekend, Tropical Storm Hermine saw to it that we’d get almost none of that. With windy conditions on Friday and the early wind from the storm arriving by Sunday, this left only Saturday sandwiched in between for us to get one dive in. Our plan for Saturday was a trip to the Poling, which I suppose was the ideal location to have planned given the wind was still going to be NE, although light.

We got started on Saturday in very cool air temperatures. I might have been pushing it with shorts, a tee shirt and crocs since it was 55 F when I left the house. It was chilly and a sign of approaching fall for sure. I had to throw on a sweatshirt as soon as I could dig it out of my bag. Before too long, the others were arriving and once loaded up, we got off the dock a bit before 7:30 am bound for the Poling. Conditions were pretty good considering the wind we had on Friday. I was not too sure about the visibility, but I had the camera anyway.

Scott and Tim working with lighting as I try to shoot photos in a murky Poling.

Scott and Tim working with lighting as I try to shoot photos in a murky Poling.

We arrived on the Poling and grabbed the stern mooring. Dave and Tony splashed first, and the next groups followed. As divers began returning, we got visibility reports. One said 20 feet, another said “pretty good,” and another said it was lousy at 10 feet. Hmm. Tim, Scott and I suited up and got ready; we’d just find out for ourselves. We splashed and dropped down. I think whoever said it was lousy “won” the prize. The visibility was a very murky 10 feet with a lot of particulate in the water. My favorite conditions for photos. Ugh. Scott set up the slave strobe and Tim got the video camera going and we headed into the wreck. The visibility was a lot worse inside the wreck. I couldn’t even see what I was shooting at times it was so bad inside. The camera can see more than we can.

Anyway, spent a good portion of the dive inside before heading to the break. The wreck is quickly collapsing in this area, the deck is just folding down. My guess is this will continue to collapse until it hits a bulkhead on the other side of the oil hold, and then after that goes it will keep collapsing. In a few years, I predict the Poling is going to be a different dive. Anyway, the visibility was terrible on the bottom too, so we popped back up on top of the wreck and worked our way back to the mooring and headed up. About 15-20 feet off the wreck, we could feel the current picking up. Shortly after reaching our 20 foot stop, the current roared in and we were hanging on and stretched out like flags with the line shaking in our hands. When we surfaced, we could barely pull ourselves to the back of the boat and it was difficult to hand up gear. It was really screaming! We got back aboard and pulled the lines. We headed back to Beverly and called it a weekend. With 15-20 knots of East wind forecast for Sunday, the rest of our plans were out the window…..

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August 27, 2016

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With only one day of charters scheduled this weekend, we were going to make it count with a big day on the water. We dusted off one of the classic Gauntlet trips—a combo of the Pinthis and the Paul Palmer. This trip covers about 80 nm and begins with steaming down to Scituate to dive the Pinthis, and then heading over to the Paul Palmer in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to catch the afternoon slack. It takes us about 11 hours dock-to-dock to make this voyage. It’s a fun trip, as it’s not too often that one can leave home port in Beverly, dive off Scituate, then dive off Provincetown and head back to Beverly in a single day’s trip.

Everyone was right on-time and we got loaded up, and off the dock a few minutes early, which is always a good thing since it gives us more time on the Pinthis. Everything has to go clockwork and delays can throw the entire day off. The weather was fabulous—light winds, comfortable temperatures and good sea conditions. We arrived on the Pinthis and picked up the mooring. Dave and Jessica splashed right away so that we could stay on track and the next groups followed behind them. Tim, Scott and I awaited our turn to dive. We were planning to do some video/photography stuff playing around with lighting, so I was hoping for a good visibility report. Sadly, we did not get one. When Dave and Jessica returned both gave a rather grim report. They reported the visibility was about 10 feet with a lot of particulate in the water. Ugh. Anyway, we suited up with the camera/video and headed in determined to work with it.

Scott swims inside the Pinthis with the remote slave strobe providing additional lighting.

Scott swims inside the Pinthis with the remote slave strobe providing additional lighting.

We dropped down to the wreck and indeed, it was disappointing visibility. I dismissed any possibility of taking photos outside the wreck and we just headed in to see what we could do there. We did a trip up to the bow and back, going slow and trying to set up various shots with the remote slave strobe and Tim’s video lights. It was challenging, but good practice. For sure, we have some ideas to keep working with in better conditions. With our bottom time up, we headed up for a short deco before climbing aboard at 11:10 am—perfect timing, as we needed to leave the Pinthis by 11:15 am. We pulled the lines and headed east into the sanctuary.

We had a great ride over, with Provincetown emerging in distance and an increasing number of whales splashing around nearby. We hoped for a visit underwater with all the great action on the surface. We got over the Paul Palmer and there was a lot of fishing gear in the water all around the wreck. Nevertheless, we dropped the shot line off the bow and got Dave and Jessica in. Before long, the cups were up signaling the shot line was in position, and we dropped in the next groups. Some whales got pretty close, but none wanted to play and we watched them go swimming off into the distance. Some of them were breaching and giving us a pretty good show!

Before too long, it was our turn to dive again, but once again we got a rather grim visibility report. Dave said the visibility was a murky 10 feet at best. Ugh, ugh, ugh!! He did say the marine life was great, with a lot of big lobsters that are always really neat to see. With that, Tim, Scott and I suited up for our dive. We hit the water at 1:55 with about 35 min left in the slow/slack water window. We’d do our dive and then pull the shot away from the wreck when we were done. We got down to the bottom and indeed the visibility was poor. It was definitely not at all well suited for wide angle photography. The current was picking up on the bottom too and was running towards the stern. We went with it, and rode it back to the stern. It’s a fairly long wreck at 276’ in length. Although there isn’t much wreckage, the foot print is large enough that there are a lot of nooks and crannies to check out where one can spot very large lobsters, among other marine life.

Tim shoots video of the auxiliary anchor on the Paul Palmer.

Tim shoots video of the auxiliary anchor on the Paul Palmer.

When we got to the end of the wreck, we spotted two monster lobsters hiding in holes. I think one lobster had a claw the size of my head. I needed something in the picture to give it some scale, but I couldn’t get any volunteers to stick a hand close to the claw! We could really feel the current at the end of the wreck, and I signaled we should start heading back to the bow. We inched our way up to the bow, where the current was even stronger – it was too strong to round the winch and chain pile outside the wreckage. We saw lots of sculpin, a few large sea raven and just a few dogfish. We poked around the area a bit more before deciding to head up. We had a short ascent and stop before surfacing and being retrieved by the boat.

When we were back aboard and the gear had been stowed, we broke out the food and enjoyed a good lunch while relaxing for the 2.5 hour ride back to Beverly. It was a little before 5:30 when we hit the dock. It was a great day and mission accomplished!

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August 20, 2016

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For me the weekend began late Friday afternoon with a few dives off Back Beach in Rockport, including a night dive. I love night dives, but don’t do them often because I find that I am just exhausted the next day. I rarely have a day when I can sleep in the following morning between work (the day job) and diving (the other day job). Less than 6 hours of sleep and I am in rough shape. Yes, it’s been a long time since the days of late night studying in college for me.

Squid on our night dive at Back Beach.

Squid on our night dive at Back Beach.

Anyway, after a fun couple of dives, we headed home to drop our recreational gear in a fish tub and grab some sleep before Saturday’s double header charter to the New York Central 14-2 and in the afternoon, the Chester Poling where Dave would be finishing up an Advanced OW class.  The alarm clock went off at 5 am and we were off. It looked to be a beautiful day for diving, although there was some troubling SE wind in the forecast that was going to play into the mix. We loaded up the boat with an eager group. I was diving OC since I was finishing up a class that has been dogged by weather and the engine issue we had a few weeks ago.

Once loaded, we got off the dock about 15 minutes early and enjoyed a very nice ride out to the wreck. Conditions were good with light wind and sunny skies. When we arrived, the mooring seemed fouled with a lobster pot, but with a little effort we were able to pick it up and settle in ok. There was quite a bit of current running though. In any case, we got the first groups of divers in and then Scott, Josh and I suited up for our turn. We were waiting a bit because we were planning to pull the mooring out since this is our last planned trip of the season to this wreck. By this time divers were coming back and reporting pretty low visibility of 5-10 feet so I decided to leave the camera behind. Lately, I’ve put the camera together only to break it down without it going in the water due to lousy visibility. Annoying.

Anyway, we splashed and pulled ourselves down to the wreck. We got down, dropped the gear for removing the line and headed off towards the bow. The visibility was milky. We dropped into the forward section for a look around. It wasn’t much better inside. I did notice that the giant oil blob flowing out of a pipe that I had photographed a few years ago was gone and the tank containing the oil was considerably degraded. So that’s all leaked out. Scott attempted to swim down the port side between the machinery and the hull—still not possible. With that we popped out, headed aft and back to the wreck’s stern area. Again, it was pretty poor visibility. Following this tour, we got to work pulling the line and removing it off into the sand. We headed up for a short deco and called it a dive.

Dave and Linda after completing AOW dives to complete her NAUI certification.

Dave and Linda after completing AOW dives to complete her NAUI certification.

With that, we were back at the dock a bit early since Dave was planning to dive only in the afternoon. Before too long we were loaded up with the next group, a mix of newcomers and regulars and off to the Poling. By this time, the wind was picking up a bit as a noticeable sea breeze. We arrived on the Poling and there was only one mooring, so that made selecting which end of the wreck we’d dive easy. We got settled in and the divers followed on. Most were planning 2 dives, although I decided to stay topside being a bit tired. The wind progressively increased and before too long it was quite rough. We pressed on and the next groups completed their 2nd dives. Around 4:30 we dropped off the buoy and beat if for Beverly. We took a good beating most of the way back with a steady 15-20 kt SE wind off our beam. This was the sort of ride where we double bungee stuff and everyone is seated!

By some small miracle, I pulled off docking the boat with a strong beam wind and a ripping current. We unloaded, and called it a successful day. Congrats to Josh for completing his Technical Diver certification and to Linda for making her first New England wreck dives in very challenging conditions and completing her NAUI AOW.

The following morning we awoke at 5 am to assess the weather and decided to call it given we were scheduled for a deep dive and the conditions looked largely the same with SE wind. Such a bummer considering it was otherwise a beautiful day despite the wind!

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August 13-14, 2016

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Another weekend of classic mixed bag New England weather was upon us as we headed into the middle of August. The summer sure is flying by. Saturday’s weather threatened NE winds, which is definitely an unwelcome wind direction, especially in summer when it’s supposed to be nice!  On Saturday our plan was to dive the Romance. When we awoke to gray skies, cool-ish temperatures and NE wind, I wondered about that plan. Nevertheless we decided to head down that way, knowing we could turn off to the Herbert, which is closer, if things got too bumpy.

We got off the dock on time with an eager group. We had a few divers aboard that we haven’t seen in awhile, so it was good to have them back out on the boat. We headed down to the Romance. Conditions weren’t great, but it was workable. We dropped in the shot line and Dave splashed in with Feng to tie in the line. Once they were in, we tied off the boat and got the next waves in. Scott, Dominque and I timed our dive to coincide with the others finishing up so we could go in to pull the line. The visibility report was not stellar, but I wasn’t expecting that anyway. In fact, I had left my camera at home.

We splashed and started heading down. There was almost zero visibility for the first 10 feet. It cleared up a little before becoming murky again. We were tied in on the port shaft, so we got oriented, Scott tied off a reel and we started out. My BOV was leaking and I had an annoying stream of bubbles passing over my face, but I was able to isolate it out and stop the leak. One thing is for sure, on an otherwise quiet CCR, bubbles will drive you insane.  We headed out and Scott managed to navigate out to the bow, which was good work considering the low visibility. Overall it was a pretty good dive considering. We headed up and it was even a bit choppier, which made the retrieval more effort–getting bounced around at the back of the boat isn’t fun. We headed in and called it a day.

NE winds persisted overnight and the morning brought a few hours of gusty wind that lead us to revise our plans a bit. It turned out to be a gorgeous day with not a drop of fog out there. Thanks for the totally bogus forecast! In any case, we had a good day exploring a seldom visited wreck followed by the little cruising around. It was hot, hot, hot and putting on a 400g undergarment was a touch brutal. It sure felt good to chill out in the late afternoon in air conditioning!

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August 6-7, 2016

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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.

Tim illuminates the boiler on the Herbert.

Tim illuminates the boiler on the Herbert.

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.

A humpback whale on the wreck of the Patriot.

A humpback whale on the wreck of the Patriot.

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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July 31, 2016

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The last several weeks have been quite busy for us with teaching classes, and fixing things, and as a result, I feel as though I haven’t had enough time to play with all my toys! I was determined to change that this weekend, as hard as that might have been. We’ve been down with some unplanned engine repairs which took some time to diagnose, causing us to miss a few dives. However, on Saturday afternoon we finally had it all sorted and we took the boat out for a short sea trial—all ran great. With that, we were back in action for diving on Sunday. The weather didn’t want to be kind to us though. The gorgeous day on Saturday gave way to overcast skies, rain and east wind. I’m not complaining about the rain (we need it), but I wouldn’t have minded a real nice day with bright sun and calm seas! Not one bit.

Heather with a new DUI TLS350 Drysuit. Excellent suit!

Heather with a new DUI TLS350 Drysuit. Excellent suit!

Anyway, we got what we got and as a result modified our plan (back to our original plan actually) and decided to dive the City of Salisbury since it was closer and deeper than the Haight, which probably would not have been optimal in an east wind. We got off the dock and headed out passing through several intense rain and wind squalls before arriving on the City of Salisbury. Our mooring was present, which was a super deluxe bonus for the day. I had already prepared myself for it to be gone, so I was pleasantly surprised it was there. We tied off and we got right to the diving. Scott and I awaited the conditions report. The word was low visibility, maybe 10 feet, dark and current. Oh well.

We suited up. I was diving my brand new TLS350 drysuit, which I bought primarily for travel since it’s ultra light. I have all the zip seal options too, which again makes it an ideal suit for travel. We splashed and dropped down to the wreck. I had the camera and definitely cringed a bit when we reached the wreck—it was not good for photos, for sure. Scott tied off a reel and we headed off in some direction. We ran out the reel nearly to the end before reeling ourselves back. I really had to work the camera and lighting for photos, and it was not easy.

As a quick aside, the City of Salisbury is a really good dive that I think is somewhat underrated. The wreck is mainly in two sections, the more intact bow section, which is in deeper water (70-90 fsw) and then there is scattered debris closer to Graves Light in much shallower water. We are typically diving the deeper section of the wreck, which of course is more interesting than the debris in shallow water. The wreckage closer to Graves Light is fun, but it is scattered debris and there is a lot of boat traffic—too much for my liking generally in summer. This seems to be the part of the wreck most are familiar with. However, the bow section is further away and is an all around good dive. I’d recommend checking it out if you have not.

Anyway, Scott and I finished up our dive and headed up. We had a weird current in the midwater that required some hand over hand pulling to come up the granny line. All in all though, it was a good day and I was glad to be off the dock and diving again. It is hard to believe it’s August already, but there is a lot of good diving to do!

Scott ties off the reel as we navigate around the City of Salisbury wreckage.

Scott ties off the reel as we navigate around the City of Salisbury wreckage.

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July 16-17, 2016

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After last weekend’s weather hiccup, I was pleased to see a legitimately nice forecast for the entire weekend. Our plans included some exploration diving and a trip to the Romance on Sunday. On Saturday, we we were greeted with a very nice day—light wind, flat seas and clear skies. It was, however, going to be hot. It was already fairly toasty early in the morning coming off a pretty steamy Friday.

We loaded up on Saturday and got off the dock when we had everyone aboard. We headed out to a new target. I can’t say much about it just yet, but it was an exciting day. When we finished up our dives, we headed back and unloaded, and before too long were on our way home to bask in the A/C and get prepped for the next day of diving.

The team following a great dive on an unidentified shipwreck.

The team following a great dive on an unidentified shipwreck.

Since Dave had some work-related travel, he was not going to be diving on Sunday. So, I was planning to dive with Tony, who is working on his PRISM Topaz CCR certification. I busted out my trusty Topaz, which sadly has not seen a lot of action lately since I’ve either been diving my P2 or – gasp – open circuit. Anyway, despite being hot and tired, I put my rig together and crossed my fingers it would pass the crucial negative pressure test. Anyone who’s had a Topaz knows that a 20 minute assembly can turn into 45 minutes of insanity if it has a leak somewhere. Anyway, it passed the negative, but I do need to change out some o-rings since it wasn’t holding a tight vacuum.

Sunday rolled around and it was a little overcast, but cooler. There was some E-SE wind, although it was light. As we gathered, we decided to dive the Herbert instead of the Romance to avoid the prospect of really bad visibility and needing to install a mooring. This turned out to be a good decision since we had a few equipment snags (CCR issue and a leaky pee valve on a drysuit) that thinned out the crew. I suited up with Tony and we splashed. The visibility on the surface was pretty lousy, so I knew we made a better choice going to the Herbert.

We dropped down to the wreck, got situated and then did the usual tour out to the stern section, rounding the boilers and steam engines, then taking a pass around the bow area before heading up. Visibility was about 10 feet, which is respectable for this wreck. We had a nice slow ascent and Tony did great. All in all it was a pretty good dive. We wrapped up, and headed in as the wind was picking up. Getting in a little early, we unloaded, and called it weekend. Dave headed off to the airport and I headed home to clean dive gear.

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July 2-4, 2016

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With the 4th of July weekend already upon us, we were ready for a long weekend of diving, BBQ and of course, fireworks! Although the weatherman had claimed the weekend weather would be excellent, he clearly wasn’t thinking of the ocean forecast across those 3 days. On Saturday, we were heading to the Snetind—our last planned trip there this season, and actually our only trip there since we were blown out of every other trip scheduled to date. Sadly, Saturday would be no different, as we awoke to windy conditions out of the west, after an evening of blustery SE wind and thunderstorms. We loaded up at the boat bright and early as the wind gusted around us turning the water dark with patches of gusty wind moving across.

We knew we would not get all the way to the Snetind with those conditions, but perhaps the Baleen? We would see. We got off the dock and headed out. By the time we were clearing the islands off Marblehead, we knew it was unlikely we’d even get to the Baleen. We headed towards the Holmes thinking if it calmed down we could keep going. When we arrived at the Holmes it was clear the conditions weren’t getting better, so we stopped there and tied off to the mooring. Oh well.

Scott at the bow of the Alma EA Holmes, a schooner in 160 fsw off Marblehead, MA.

Scott at the bow of the Alma EA Holmes, a schooner in 160 fsw off Marblehead, MA.

The first groups of divers got in, and then when Dave returned, Scott and I suited up. I wasn’t sure I was going to bring the camera given the surface conditions were a bit bouncy, but I decided to anyway when they said the visibility was decent. We dropped in and headed down to the wreck. Although the visibility wasn’t terrible, it was not as good as initially reported. The wind had shifted slightly as did the tide and I wondered if the visibility was affected—it was maybe 15 feet and a kind of murky. Anyway, we took a swim up and around the bow, taking our time and poking along, before heading up to complete our decompression. So, all in all not a bad dive, but the wind was a bummer.

By Sunday morning the wind had diminished quite a bit and things were looking good for our first trip of the year to the wreck of the Patriot in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. We loaded up with everyone and got off the dock a little early. We had a nice ride out to the wreck, although there was still a little breeze that eventually completely dropped out. We got on the wreck, dropped the shot and in went the first group of divers. Once tied in, the others followed. Dave and the others returned to give us the download on the conditions. Visibility was “OK” – maybe 15-20 feet, murky through the water column, but lots of fish to be seen, even a dogfish had been spotted. There was some current, but mainly on the surface.

The bow of the Patriot.

The bow of the Patriot.

Scott and I suited up and splashed next. Indeed, it was murky throughout the water column and there was some current, now running even on the bottom. Strange conditions this year with lots of current even when we would not expect so much. Nevertheless, we got into the dive doing several laps around the wreck taking photos. Scott swam into the wheelhouse which is starting to open up. After swimming the wreck and doing the best I could with the vis, we decided to head up after about 35 min. We pulled the shot line off the wreck, and ascended to complete a short deco. When back aboard, we enjoyed a nice ride back to Beverly. It was a beautiful day!

For Monday’s dive, we were heading to the Terra Nova to do some classes. I was diving open circuit and teaching so I left the camera at home. We loaded up bright and early trying to stay ahead of the 4th of July madness. We had a nice ride up to Twin Light off Cape Ann where the wreck is located. We arrived, got tied off on the mooring and got to it. Dave headed in first with Feng and Tim. The next waves of divers headed in next and as usual, when Dave returned we got the low down on the visibility. Sadly, the visibility was not good—a murky 10 feet at best. Argh. Well, I certainly didn’t feel bad about leaving my camera behind with this vis report, but I was also hoping for better conditions. For sure, my students would appreciate diving a helium-based mix over air doing a murky dive to 150 feet.

We suited up and splashed. We dropped down to the wreck and got the strobe set. The mooring was fouled in the tripod mast, so it took me a moment to orient myself in the low visibility. Once we had a direction, we swam out, around the stern and then out and around the bow, taking a nice slow swim, looking around and poking around in the debris. We came back around, then out along the tripod mast before calling it a dive and heading up to complete our decompression. Overall, it was a good dive and everyone did great!!

Heather, Brad and Josh after a great dive on the Terra Nova.

Heather, Brad and Josh after a great dive on the Terra Nova.

With that, we wrapped up the diving portion of the weekend. We headed back to Beverly, unloaded and did a quick turn-around to head back out to watch fireworks in Marblehead Harbor. It was a great show and a great weekend!

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June 25-26, 2016

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Finally a weekend with what appeared to be two really nice days in a row! Light wind, sunny, warm… it is summer. This weekend we were focused on training with both Prism 2 CCR trimix class dives as well as Technical Decompression Diver class dives. For me, this meant two days of diving open circuit!

The boys modeling Gauntlet and NAUI Tech tee shirts.

The boys modeling Gauntlet and NAUI Tech tee shirts.

On Saturday, we were heading to the New York Central 14-2, which is a work lighter in about 115-120 fsw. The wreck is small, but has some fun swim throughs in the interior. Visibility can be tricky there; like many wrecks off Nahant/Boston visibility can vary pretty significantly with the tide. I was hoping we’d have decent visibility. We loaded up with the group and headed out. We had a nice ride out, and for sure knew this was going to be a great day on the water. When we arrived, we dropped in a shot line with plans to tie in a mooring (that we intend to remove later this summer). Once the shot was in, Dave and Jessica splashed to tie in the line. Before too long, the bag was up and we were good to go. We got the granny lines in and the next waves of divers in. When they returned, they reported good conditions with about 10-12 feet of visibility. Believe it or not, that’s good for this wreck.

I suited up with my group and splashed in. We did a few checks on the surface and then began our descent down to the wreck where we were tied into a large cleat on the port corner on the stern. We got oriented and then took a swim over the deck, did a few swim-throughs, rounded the wreck swimming out to the bow, returning to the stern for a look at the rudder and then passed back over the wreck before calling it a dive. I thought the visibility was pretty decent, maybe even 15 feet of so as our dive went on. The wreck, like many, continues to decay. The openings have gotten larger, bulkheads have collapsed and the stern hull is fairly open on the starboard side. We did a short deco and headed up. Everyone did great and it was a good dive.

For the afternoon we headed back out to the wreck of the USS NH for some skills and drills. To make it more challenging, the surge was running fairly hard and we were getting pushed around at 30 feet quite a bit. Nevertheless, we got the skills work done—with no jammed reels either!

Sunday rolled around quickly and before long we were back at it for Day 2. Another nice day of weather was upon us and our destination was the wreck of the Terra Nova, off Twin Light and Cape Ann. We got off the dock and had a nice ride up to the wreck. The wind was light and the tide was outgoing, so we had a current pushing us along. There is a lot of stuff floating in the water—tree branches, debris, and rather gross looking muck which I think is the pollen most of us have been choking on the past few weeks.

Anyway, we got up to the wreck and located the mooring. It needed some unfouling before we could tie off so Dave and Feng splashed on the mooring and got it freed up. Then we tied off and got the next groups in. When they came back, they had another good conditions report. It wasn’t the spectacular visibility we had the first time we visited this wreck last year, but still pretty good. They said about 15 feet and a little dim. I suited up with Josh and Tim and splashed. We dropped down to the wreck where we were tied into the tripod mast. After a quick orientation, we headed off for a few laps around the wreck, poking about the debris. The Terra Nova has further collapsed since last year, but it’s hanging in there. It will be a good dive for a few years until it goes the way of the Nina T and turns into a rubble pile.

I thought the visibility was diminishing throughout our dive and I would give it a murky 15 feet, maybe a little more. As we ascended through the deco, the water got a little cloudier and it was maybe 10 feet in the shallows on deco. All in all though, it was a great dive. The visibility didn’t make me feel too bad about having left my camera behind. We cruised back to Beverly with the wind picking up out of the SE. We got back, unloaded, cleaned the gear and called it a weekend!

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June 19, 2016

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With only one day of diving planned for the weekend, we were determined to make it count with our first trip of the season down to Scituate to dive the wreck of the Pinthis. As could only be expected, the wind was threatening to make our ~26 nm journey difficult, but we decided to hold out and hope for at least a good first half of the day.

We loaded up bright and early with the regular gang, plus one “alumni” who is getting back into the action. We got underway right on time and headed South to the Pinthis. It was a little breezy and we had some choppy water, but it was good enough to keep going. By the time we got down to Scituate and the wreck about 2 hours later, it had breezed up quite a bit. There was a shot line on the wreck belonging to another boat that had been intended to be tied in as a mooring, so once we located it and checked the position was still on/near the wreck, we splashed in the first team to tie it in. Before too long the cups were up and we tied off the boat. Our friend Tom was also planning a dive on the Pinthis and so once we were secure, Tom tied off to our stern and everyone got in on the diving action.

When Dave and the others returned, it was clear they had a great dive. It definitely was windy, and there was some current, but below the surface, it was quite nice with 25-30 feet of visibility. Scott, Tim and I suited up next and eagerly hit the water. Tim was shooting video and I was shooting stills. We are actually tied into the stern and not the usual location in the bow, so we took a moment to get oriented. In fact, I needed more than a moment because I was unable to find the “usual” entry point to the interior on the port side of the wreck. As it turns out, that’s because it’s gone, having collapsed. I was really surprised by this, but not really given the state and rate of decay we’ve observed over the past few seasons. We popped into the accessible portion of the engine room (even Scott can’t get through anymore) and took a few pictures. Then we swam down the length of the hull to the bow. There was a lot of current at the bow so we popped back into the wreck along the starboard side. When the current is running there I much prefer transiting back and forth inside.

Scott exploring the engine room on the Pinthis.

Scott exploring the engine room on the Pinthis.

We started making our way aft and all I can say is, “wow.” The wreck is really collapsing. The whole port side is really just coming down. The interior space is significantly reduced and there’s a whole new “twist” to the metal inside. We took pictures along the way and then poked around the engine room some more before spending the remainder of the dive swimming around the stern where we saw two nicely camouflaged sea ravens. When our bottom time was up, we headed up and did a short deco. I could tell looking at the surface it was getting rougher up there. We got back aboard and beat it.

We got out of our gear, grabbed some lunch and then enjoyed a nice ride back with a following sea. When we arrived back at the dock amidst the Sunday boater madness, we unloaded and called it a day. Overall, a great dive on the Pinthis!

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June 11, 2016

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Our plans for the weekend included a dive on the Unidentified Trawler in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary on Saturday and a dive on the Snetind on Sunday. The weather hasn’t been cooperative this month, and looking at the forecast for the weekend, this weekend would be no exception with big wind forecast for Sunday. That meant we needed to make Saturday count!

We loaded up bright and early—it was looking to be a beautiful day. The wind was light, the sun was out. It looked like a great boating day. I even had a pair of shorts in my bag that I hoped to wear in the afternoon. We got off the dock and headed out. It was nice. We had a great ride out to the sanctuary, and even spotted some whales pretty close by. When we arrived on the wreck site, we had about 15 extra minutes before the slack tide, so we got the shot line in, and prepped the divers. Dave and Tim splashed in with scooters hoping to do a little cruising around the wreck. Although a small wreck, the shallow Stellwagen wrecks can be fun to scooter since good visibility typically allows for some sand sweeping within visual range of the wreckage.


Scott explores the wheelhouse of the Unidentified Trawler. The clue to the wreck’s identify may lie within!

Sadly, such scootering was not going to happen today. When Dave and Tim got back they said they had a great dive, but the visibility was low, maybe 10 feet and definitely not scooter vis. We decided to leave scooters behind for our dive, much to Scott’s disappointment. We suited up and splashed. There was some surface current and I noticed while waiting for Scott to hit the water that the current was running hard in the water column. The granny line had a wiggle to it. We dropped down pulling all the way to the bottom. On the bottom the current was mild. Dave and Tim had put a line for everyone to use to navigate the wreck, so we followed this out to the wheelhouse piece.

We poked around for awhile, spotting a wolffish hiding near a large lobster. There were fish and some sculpin. It’s too bad about the visibility. I brought camera anyway and got a few decent pictures. Anyway when our bottom time was up, we pulled the shot off the mooring block and headed up. The current was running hard and we dragged a bit. When we got up near the surface we encountered the first tuna ball at 10 feet. We surfaced, got picked up by the boat and then grabbed some lunch, settling in for the ride back.

Unfortunately, big wind did arrive and we were blown out for Sunday. Hopefully we see a change in the weather patterns soon!

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June 4, 2016

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Another round of unsettled weather arrived just in time for the weekend continuing the pattern of getting out only one day. We had made a change in the schedule to dive the Baleen on Saturday to make up some dives for a CCR trimix class, and then if all went according to plan, we’d dive the Snetind on Sunday as scheduled. Saturday was an overcast day, but with some periods of sun expected. However, we were also going to be dealing with fog, and at times very dense fog.

Saturday arrived and we loaded up with a good group of divers, and one loaf of banana bread. Although almost any food will be consumed on a boat, certain foods are very popular. With banana bread baked by our friend Marcia (delivered by Gary), there is high likelihood of it wiped out before the last divers have finished their dives. So, you have to get while the getting is good. Once fully loaded, we got off the dock and headed out for the Baleen. Yes, the banana bread had already been opened and a few pieces had been sliced off with a dirty “little Vicky” knife.

Not far off Marblehead we ran into a solid fog bank, which stayed with us all the way out to the Baleen. The seas were pretty calm, but the fog was thick. As we approached the Baleen we noticed one end of a gill net high flyer buoy. We groaned at the thought there might be a gill net on/near the wreck. Sure enough, when we arrived and located the mooring, we saw the other end of the gill net marked with a double flagged high flyer. It was very close and the net was either running along side or off one of the ends. We puttered around for a few minutes before deciding not to dive there. We headed back inshore to the Holmes where we had a mooring.

Scott and Gary explore the wreck of the Holmes in great conditions.

Scott and Gary explore the wreck of the Holmes in great conditions.

We headed back to the Holmes where we had a mooring and the area was clear of nets. The fog was patchy and so it cleared a bit. We got the lines set and the first group of divers headed in. The visibility looked good on the surface, but since that usually means it will be lousy on the bottom, we didn’t get too excited. However, when Dave returned, we got a positive visibility report and everyone was thrilled. The sun even began to come out!

I suited up with Scott and Gary and we splashed last. We knew we’d have to say farewell to the banana bread, which had little pieces shaved off all sides of the remaining chunk. We dropped down and found the visibility to be good. A little cloudy perhaps, but good. I’d give it 20 feet with ambient light. We headed for the bow first, then back to the stern. We took some photos and just generally enjoyed a nice dive in good conditions.

We headed up, completed an uneventful deco in fairly “warm” (50s) water and then called it a dive. Indeed the banana bread was long gone. But the fog was back and it was thick. We motored back to Beverly with a lookout posted since the visibility wasn’t more than a few hundred feet all the way back, including through Beverly Harbor, where there were lots of recreational boaters popping out without radar or a clue for that matter. We got back to the dock and called it a day. Unfortunately, poor weather did indeed sink our plans for Sunday, as rain, fog and SE wind forced a cancellation.

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May 28, 2016

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We were scheduled for two days of diving on this Memorial Day weekend, with plans to make our first trip of the season to Stellwagen on Saturday and then diving something deeper, wither the coal wreck or Baleen, on Sunday. The weekend brought with it a complicated forecast. Although Friday was beautiful, and Saturday looked to be a continuation of that for the the most part, the weather was going to begin to deteriorate on Sunday, with rain finishing off the 3-day weekend on Monday.

Saturday was going to be a 10 though. The hottest day of the year to date (nearly 90 degrees forecast) and sunny with light wind. Not only did I break out crocs but I also threw a pair of shorts in my bag. We were planning to dive the wreck of the North Star, which is an eastern rigged dragger/clammer that sank in 2003 out in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The wreck is broken up and is largely a scattered debris field, but like most sanctuary wrecks, the marine life never disappoints, so I was looking forward to it.

We loaded up bright and early with a mix of regulars and divers new to us. We got off the dock early and enjoyed a nice ride out to the wreck with seas flattening out as we got further offshore. We arrived on the wreck and dropped in the shot line. We were a bit early on the tide so we took our time with the first team suiting up and waited for the slack window. Dave, Eric and Jessica suited up and splashed to tie in. The drop was good and they were tied in quickly, so we secured the boat and got the next groups of divers queued up. The conditions looked to be great and we had our fingers crossed for a positive bottom conditions report.

Stellwagen never disappoints with marine life. A fish cruised right through my photo of a star fish and ocean pout!

Stellwagen never disappoints with marine life. A fish cruised right through my photo of a star fish and ocean pout!

When the first group returned, the reported good conditions, although cloudy visibility on the bottom, maybe 15-20 feet and cloudy. For Stellwagen, this is not great, but it’s still pretty good. They also pointed out the current was very strong on the bottom. Although they went in right at the start of the slacking period, it was still running hard through most of their dive (and others in the next wave). Unfortunately, despite having a pretty good prediction tool, it is not an exact science and sometimes the slack just isn’t that good. Anyway, it was strong enough they didn’t venture off to look for the stern piece and spent most of the dive pulling themselves around the wreck.

We were hoping to catch some better tide on our dive since we were on the tail end of the group and thought it may have just been shifted a bit later than predicted. I suited up with Scott & Scott Z and we splashed after the other divers were up. We’d do our dive, and pull the shot line. We dropped down the line in a mild current. The visibility was a bit murky through the water column, and a little cloudy on the bottom. There wasn’t a lot of current on the bottom though, which was good.

We headed off and swam along the wreck to the end of the line that Dave had run. They had placed a reel connecting the main pieces, which is what we usually do to make it easier for everyone to dive the site. However, they didn’t venture off and given the somewhat unexpected conditions we decided not to test our luck being 100+ feet out into sand if the current picked up. We had a nice time poking around the wreck. I saw many, many scallops, fish of various sorts, 4 wolffish (including one very large one), and ocean pout and really fat star fish. It was such a pretty dive.

When our time was up, Scott and I took a few minutes to pull the line, and Scott did a little scraping to clean mussels off the mooring chain. We headed up, and did a short deco before being picked up by the Gauntlet. We had a great lunch, and a very enjoyable ride back to Beverly. It was a really fun day.

Unfortunately, Sunday came with a rude surprise—15-20 knots of wind out of the North, which meant we needed to scramble to make calls and cancel out plans for a deeper dive. It just seems like we can’t get a reliable forecast anymore. All in all, we had a great day on Saturday and that I will call a win. Please don’t forget to take a moment on this Memorial Day to remember the many who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

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May 21, 2016

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A beautiful day on Friday foreshadowed a carry over of great weather into Saturday–for at least the first part of the day. Our destination was the Baleen and we had a good group of new and regular divers out with us. With calm wind, sunny skies and calm seas, we headed out. It was a nice ride out and before too long, we arrived. We did not expect to find a mooring, and indeed there was not one present.

Scott, Tim and I suited up to tie in the mooring since Dave was working with students. We suited up and splashed. The visibility on the surface was a bit murky, which isn’t totally unexpected. I made a few adjustments to my mask, which was leaking a little bit and then we were off. There was a fair bit of scope in the line since it was around low tide and the line was prepared with a little extra on it at high tide. The midwater visibility got quite good and then as we got closer to the wreck, the visibility became a bit cloudy. It wasn’t terrible, but I would give it 10-15′ with some ambient light. We landed just forward of the former location of the pilot house, which is now a heap off the side of the wreck. Scott grabbed the line and swam it aft to where planned to tie in.

Scott and Tim put the finishing touches on the mooring tie in and prepare to shoot the bag. Visibility wasn’t perfect and with only one working strobe, this was my last photo of the dive.

Tim set up the bag and weight to shoot it up to the surface once we were tied in. With no official job on this one, I started setting up the camera to get going with photos. Unfortunately, one of my strobes wouldn’t fire. I had some intermittent problems last time I was at the mine, and it seems now the intermittent problem is a full time problem. I tried fiddling with a few things before concluding I could not fix it. I put the camera away and just swam around for the remainder of the dive, which entailed a swim back up and around the bow, and down the starboard side. Visibility wasn’t perfect for photos anyway, but I cringed at the thought of another Ikelite trouble shooting odyssey. My guess is it’s the cord since the strobes both fired back on the boat. We’ll see if I’m right next weekend when I try out a new cord.

Anyway, it was a bit chilly down there with 43F on the bottom and 46F on deco, but I enjoyed some warmth from my heated vest on deco. I have a new undergarment to break out that has been on the to-do list. My latest new piece of gear is the 11 mil DUI hood. It is very nice and I really like it. Thick, but not so thick and stiff that I feel like my head is bound. I’d recommend it!

For the afternoon we headed back out to work with a student. By then, the wind and seas were up. A horrible forecast for Sunday led us to cancel our planned long-distance trip to the Mars. Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day though, and a total miss by the weather forecasters. At least we made the most of our day on Saturday!

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May 14, 2016

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The weather looked so nice for Saturday that I decided to throw a pair of shorts in my dry bag, just in case! Sadly, the weather did not turn out to be that nice, but it was one of the nicest days we’ve had in awhile with sunny skies, light wind and warm (albeit a bit cool on the water) temperatures. Our destination was the Herbert and I was diving with a few students for a Tech class, and this was one of our first dives to begin the class. We loaded up with a mix of open circuit and CCR divers, and departed for the Herbert, everyone eager to get in a good dive. We knew there was no mooring on the wreck, so we had one prepared.


The group enjoying a great day of diving

Upon arrival at the wreck, we dropped in the shot line and Dave and Jessica went in to tie in the line. There seemed to be a problem with the lift bag with it reaching the surface not once but twice and then sinking back to the bottom. After 2 tries, they left it there, and we tied of the boat knowing we were good, and figured on a plan to retrieve it during our dive. The next group son divers headed in while we awaited our turn to dive.

When Dave and Jessica were back, they reported good visibility of 10-15’ with ambient light. This is nice for the Herbert. They said they decided to leave the lift bag and move it to the line after it came down for a second time, so we would get it on our dive. I suited up with Josh, Brad and Scott, and we splashed in before too long. We dropped down to the wreck and Scott attached the retrieving line he had carried down with him. After a few minutes as agreed upon, the topside crew hauled the line to the surface. While this was going on, I gathered up line from our previous, broken mooring that we could recover and re-use.

Once our mooring tidy work was done, we headed aft and explored the stern section, poking around the engine and boilers. We headed forward, explored around the bow area before finally checking out the dredge off the starboard side of the wreck and calling it a dive at the end of our planned bottom time. We did a short deco and headed up. All in all it was a very nice. Unfortunately, heavy wind came in overnight on Saturday and blew out our planned dive on Sunday.

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May 8, 2016

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A week of terrible weather with rain, wind and seas preceded our weekend of diving. Bad weather lingered into Saturday and we canceled our planned dive to the Bone Wreck. We hoped to salvage Sunday with what seemed to be a short weather window between fronts. We decided to give it a shot and just before 5 AM, I climbed out of bed to take a peak at the weather. South winds, 10-15 with gusts to 25 kts. Ugh. That wasn’t the window that NOAA had forecasted the day prior with light wind out of the SW. At any rate, the wind was light and knowing it would take a bit of time to build in, we decided to go for it and head to the wreck of the stern section of the Poling.

We loaded up and departed in relatively clear weather, but just outside of the harbor we hit pea soup fog, which persisted all the way up to the wreck. Upon arrival, we selected the stern mooring among the 2 moorings present and tied off. We knew visibility wasn’t going to be great from the prior day’s trip reports from others who had been out in the later afternoon, but we were diving anyway. There was a strong surface current, but otherwise seas were reasonable with some left over swell/surge from the day before. When Dave and the others returned, the fog had lifted and we had some brief clear air and sun! When it was our turn, Scott and I splashed. We did a tour of the wreck outside and then inside. Visibility was about 10 feet and while the sun was out, we even had some ambient light. There was some surge on the wreck though for sure.

We surfaced when our dive was finished. The sunny skies were now gone and overcast conditions and increasing SSE wind arrived. We made it back to the dock just time for a squall to arrive with wind and steady rain. We unloaded quickly, packed it up and called it a day. All in all, it was not a bad day of diving.

April 30 – May 1, 2016

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The weather looked promising for getting two days of diving in. As many of you know, we’ve gone through a very difficult experience recently, but we felt getting back out on the boat was something that we needed to do. With that, we decided upon a simpler plan with a double-header weekend on the wreck of the City of Salisbury (COS). We were scheduled for this wreck on Sunday anyway, and modified our plans to dive it on Saturday as well. We decided we’d put a mooring in on Saturday to make Sunday go a little easier and faster.

Saturday was a beautiful day, with a clear sky, bright sun, but slight chill in the air. We headed out with a small group of friends. The seas were fairly calm in the morning and we had a nice ride out to the COS. Upon arrival we dropped the shot line, and Dave and Jessica splashed in to tie in the line. When they returned, Scott, Tim and I went in for our dive. The conditions were nice, and visibility was a decent 10-12 feet, which for the COS is quite respectable. We tied off a reel and I ran it out until it was nearly empty. I’d say we covered a good 350’+ of wreckage. We headed up around 40 minutes and had a good ride back to Beverly. For the afternoon, we headed back out for a CCR class. The wind had come up out of the SE by this time, and things were getting choppy out there, but we found a good spot to tuck in at the wreck of the USS NH to introduce another diver to the dark side of diving. And yes, he’s hooked.

Sunday brought the first day of this lingering bad weather that persisted for the whole following week. Again, we headed to the COS. It was gray, overcast and “raw.” Nevertheless, we were off for a day of diving. The seas were pretty calm, although we knew rain and bad weather was on the way. We found the mooring intact, got the boat secured in no time, and were off to diving. Scott and I were diving last and for our dive, we did another tour of the wreck running out the reel. It’s such a confusing wreck, but an interesting dive. We wrapped up a bit early because Scott’s suit was leaking and I too was cold. All in all, a good dive, but conditions weren’t as good as Saturday for sure. We finished up, pulled the lines, headed back to the dock, and called it a weekend.

March 12-13, 2016

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A long awaited weekend of fair weather finally arrived. In fact, it seems that winter has suddenly disappeared. Despite a lack of snow this winter, we had plenty of wind that kept us dockside on the weekends. But not this weekend. Our plans for the weekend were to dive the Holmes on Saturday and the Romance on Sunday. Believe it or not, we got the whole weekend off as planned!

Saturday was a beautiful day with light wind and sunny skies. It really doesn’t get much nicer than this. We loaded up the boat bright and early now that we’re back on our regular departure time of 7:30 AM. We enjoyed a smooth ride out to the Holmes, but unfortunately we did not find the mooring present. That mooring really doesn’t owe us anything, as it survived 2 seasons and held in some snotty weather the last time we were out. We had a mooring prepared and planned to put in a new one.

We dropped the shot line, got tied in and were off to diving. Slowly, everyone suited up, dusting off the dive gear and getting back into the swing of things. I decided to leave the camera home this weekend given the uncertain diving conditions and the fact I could use a little warm up without too much task loading. When it was my turn to dive, I too slowly donned my gear hoping I would remember what this diving business was all about. Once I was in the water, it felt good and before too long, everything felt natural again.

We dropped down to the wreck, it was dim, but not totally dark. Visibility was about 15 feet or so. It was a little murky with particulate in the water, but overall I thought the visibility was quite good considering what we’d been seeing when we did get out over these past few months. Anyway, we are now tied in on the starboard side, aft, so we took a swim to the bow, and then back to the stern, covering all of the ~200 foot long wreck. The water temperature was 39F on the bottom, so it’s still chilly. The heated vest was a nice touch for the deco.

On Sunday, we were not sure where we’d land, as very windy conditions were forecast out of the NW, which usually means Poling; however, we awoke to light winds and it looked as though it was stay light/moderate so we decided to go for it with a trip to the Romance. With daylight savings kicking in, it was dark once again in the morning when we arrived at the boat, but we were treated to a spectacular sunrise.

Before too long we were off the dock, bound for the Romance. When we arrived, we dropped in a shot line and got tied in. When Dave returned, he had a positive conditions reported, with a reported 15-20 ft of visibility—pretty darn good for the Romance. Tim and I suited up quickly and got right to it.

We splashed and dropped down to the wreck—it was a little murky, but still quite good. I tied off my reel and we headed out for the bow, and out into the sand. We spent most of the dive exploring the forward half of the wreck. When our time was up, we pulled the shot line, moved it off the wreck and headed up. All in all it was a great weekend of diving!



The group suiting up for a great dive!











January 30, 2016

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It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve written a dive report. That is probably because it has been a long time since I’ve written a dive report! Wow, who knew the 2015 charter season would end back in November. While we did have a fantastic time closing out 2015 with a cave diving trip to Mexico, it has been a bit too long since I’ve visited inner space, and salt water in particular. At last we had a weekend that appeared to be cooperating weather-wise to end this dry spell.

Our first official charter of the season was actually the day prior with a research group, but this would be the first one where we’d be diving and I think everyone was excited to finally get in. Of course, the weather did throw a curve ball and it did become windy, but it was W-NW and so we were able to sneak up to the Poling. We loaded up, covered everything with trashbags (a true marker of winter diving) and got off the dock early. We had a good ride up to the Poling with the wind behind us, and were even treated to finding one mooring intact!

When Dave returned, we got the dive report—first, the NERD Santa brought him was the coolest thing ever, and second, the visibility was terrible, maybe 5-10 feet. Ugh. In addition, there was surge down on the wreck. Well, we were going anyway and I still planned to take the camera since it hasn’t been in the water since Mexico and I needed to confirm everything was working OK after traveling. We suited up and splashed. Things definitely felt a little rusty, but there’s no better way to shake off cob webs than to task load the heck out of yourself. So, I knew bringing the camera along in crummy conditions would do just that.

From that point there wasn’t much left to do and Scott’s glove was leaking, so we decided to head up. All in all it was good dive, despite the conditions, and it felt good to be swimming underwater again. Unfortunately, the S-SW wind picked up overnight and into the morning blowing us out for Sunday. But I will take anything we can get in January and call it a win.