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!