May 28, 2016

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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