December 8, 2018

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It has been awhile since we ran. Between travel, bad weather and more travel, it has been a few months! However, as we draw closer to the close of the year, with a few charters remaining on the 2018 schedule, we seemed to have an opportunity to run. Our schedule for the weekend called for the Romance on Saturday and the Holmes on Sunday. The wind was going to be moderate both days with very cold temperatures below freezing both days. Our plan was to take it day by day. With the wind conditions heading into Saturday, we decided that the Poling would be most appropriate.

With the arrival of Saturday, the wind was still up and the temps were low – like mid teems with the wind chill. Eeek. It was crisp, clear and COLD. Nevertheless we pressed on and the group gathered at the dock, excited to dive although perhaps a little daunted by the conditions. But we cranked up the heat and covered the gear with trash bags and everyone settled in nicely in the warm cabin for a smooth ride. We cruised up to the Poling – picking up some spray and ice along the way. When we arrived on site, we spotted a single mooring and got tied off. We readied the first divers to splash. The back deck was slushy and there was a fair bit of ice on the rails and cabin. It was very cold.

Dave returning from a very cold dive on the Poling.

We got the teams of divers in and soon enough Dave and Scott Z returned from their dives. The conditions were pretty good with about 20 feet of visibility, but some strong current running on the wreck. With that, I started suiting up with Brad K and Matt S. I took my usual approach to winter boat diving–my hood and dry gloves were in the cabin. I got into my suit, donned my hood and a thin pair of gloves to cover my hands until I was ready for dry gloves. We headed out, I got the accessories stowed in pockets and started getting into my gear. As I started suiting up, I quickly realized how much of my stuff was frozen. I had a few minor free flows trying to get my gas on with the first stage DIN capture, but I sorted that. When I got into my CCR I decided NOT to begin my prebreathe until I was much closer to being ready to splash for fear of causing my mushroom valves to freeze. My mask with water in it to rinse out de-fog had already frozen. Not good. I realized quickly that my wing inflator (inlet and vent) was frozen. My DSV was frozen shut. I began to think that I might need to call the dive. Dave microwaved some water and poured it over my power inflator and DSV. We got things going but when I breathed from my BOV it began to freeflow. We got that stopped. Again, I questioned whether I should go. I got my bailout on and began pre-breathing with my CO2 sensor on. All was good. But stuff was again freezing up. I told them team I was going to evaluate at the surface–if everything wasn’t working perfectly after hitting the 45F water, I was calling it. I splashed and everything thawed. My mask was still a little icy but I guess I was going to have to live with that. I did decide to keep my ADV shut off and manually add diluent. But everything else was good. That said, I wasn’t completely at ease.

We dropped down to the wreck, got situated and headed aft. The visibility was actually kind of murky, I’d give it 15-20′ maybe. We dropped into the wreck, which was also murky, and did a tour. It was Matt’s first time in the wreck so he was excited to check it out. We did a tour and then exited the wreck, lapped the stern and headed to the break. The wreck seemed so small compared to the massive wrecks of Truk Lagoon we had just been diving a week earlier. By then, the dive was getting on and we decided to head up. It was cold, but all was good–gear was good and it was a nice swim. We ascended in a little bit of current, but nothing major. We did a short hang and headed up, and out of the water. We quickly got out of our gear as it was immediately freezing on us (I didn’t want to wear my drysuit home). We scrambled inside, cranked the heat and headed back to Beverly.

Upon arrival in Beverly, it became clear running again in similar conditions (perhaps slightly better on Sunday, but only slightly) to a deeper wreck would be unwise. The boat was covered in ice–cabin, rails and forward deck–and the dock lines were likely to be frozen to the dock once we managed to wrap them around the cleats again. Our gear was icy and I knew my CCR would immediately freeze with any moisture remaining in it. We decided to cancel and it was the right call–it was windy overnight and in the high teens in the morning with wind chill. It was a good day to sleep in. All in all though, Saturday was a good day of (almost) winter diving!

We have 1 weekend left in the 2018 schedule and it is hard to say if we’ll get out with the long range weather. If this is our last dive report for 2018, let us close by saying thank you to all who joined us for dives this year! You all are a big part of what makes Gauntlet so fun. See you in 2019!

 

September 16, 2018

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Dave and Eric returning from a dive on the Herbert.

After a week of turbulent weather with huge seas, there wasn’t much hope for good visibility this weekend. There was a slight threat of long period swells from the remnants of Hurricane Florence, but by and large, high pressure kept the storm away and our messy conditions were mostly due to our own crummy local weather. We decided to cancel Saturday since a deep dive in very poor visibility excited no one. We also decided to get some condition reports from those venturing out on Saturday to inform our decision for Sunday. These sorts of situations are such a struggle. Beautiful topside weather is misleading especially when you know a week of heavy seas has turned the water into chocolate milk.

We decided to run on Sunday since it sounded like conditions inshore on Cape Ann were not terrible. However, we also knew that wrecks on muddy bottoms are quite different than places like Burnham Rock, so I set my expectations low nevertheless. The morning brought heavy fog, which appeared to dissipate quickly as the sun came up. It was a beautiful day for sure. We loaded up with the group and before too long, departed the dock bound for the Herbert. We had a nice ride out–the seas had flattened out and there was not much wind. We arrived on the Herbert and picked up the mooring. Dave and Eric F suited up to splash first, followed by the others. I was diving with Tim and Matt today.

When Dave returned we got the grim news on visibility–3-5 feet. Ugh. At least I felt better about bagging a deep dive in these kinds of conditions. Dave even ran a reel, which we never do since we know this wreck so well. However, with divers less familiar with the wreck, these conditions make for too much of a trust me dive, so I too decided I’d run a reel since Matt had never been on the wreck before.

We suited up and splashed. Visibility in the water column was not bad, but it grew cloudy and murky as we descended. When I reached the float ball, the bottom was no where in sight. It was bad. Anyway, we got down and I located the bottom, tied off my reel. We headed aft and I ran the reel straight through the wreck to the very end where I tied it off. This allowed us to swim around the stern section and easily intercept a line if we got a little disoriented. We did this for awhile and then I pulled the reel and we headed back to the mooring point. We decided that was enough in those crummy conditions and headed up.

We surfaced, climbed aboard and enjoyed the beautiful topside conditions as we headed in. The weather patterns have been frustrating and low visibility is disappointing. Hopefully we get some decent visibility as fall arrives. We shall see!

August 25-26, 2018

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Scott dropping into the Poling engine room. Visibility was not too good, sadly.

After a turbulent week of weather, I was not sure what to expect of the weekend. It seemed at times we were going to get blown out, then we were looking OK. Either way, we were going to be dealing with S-SE wind, which always seems to bring crappy visibility. On Saturday we were heading to the Poling, which it seems like we’ve been diving a lot this summer in part due to weather along with a few scheduled trips. Sunday we had a private trip. The weather was OK on Saturday and things were a-go so we loaded up with an eager group and headed up to Cape Ann.

As we got past the islands, the seas were definitely lumpy, and there was a decent swell and surge. In fact, it was one of those days where the sea conditions aren’t that good and for no apparent reason. The wind was fairly light. It was just… crummy. Anyway, we got on the Poling and grabbed the break-end mooring which is chained in (good job, Mike). We got the first groups in the water and then awaited our turn to dive. Scott, Tim and I were diving today and I was bringing the camera no matter what since I feel I haven’t been bringing it along due to low visibility on too many dives lately. Anyway, Dave returned and confirmed the visibility was so-so. Ah, oh well, the camera was going anyway.

We suited up and splashed. There was some weird, strong current mid-water but on the wreck it was fairly tranquil. The visibility was maybe 15-20 feet but murky. We made our way aft and into the wreck where we did a leisurely tour. We were last down and another boat was on site so let’s just say the vis was pretty trashed inside. We popped out, headed to the break to tour around the hold, then did our sand lap around the wreck. The resident wolffish was not to be seen today. Coming up the current was even stronger and we literally had to pull ourselves up from about 50 feet to 20 feet. The weight that is usually at 30 feet on the granny was at 20 feet when we got to it. We did a short deco and called it a dive. The seas were definitely choppy coming up and I jammed up my wrist hard on the ladder taking a swing. In fact, it was exactly the kind of situation that can result in a broken wrist so I breathed a little sigh of relief that it just hurt like heck but that was all. We headed in and watched the wind blow all afternoon, wondering what Sunday would bring. Thankfully, it did lay down though by morning.

On Sunday, we were offshore doing project work. More about that soon.

August 18, 2018

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Team X-CCR and Prism2 prepping for a dive on the Poling. Photo courtesy of Josh Rackley.

The plan was the Patriot. The weather said the plan was the Poling. Okie dokie. Welcome to August in the NE. I guess we should feel lucky to get out at all with the weather patterns we’ve been dealing with off and on throughout the year. The sea conditions were OK but not great. We deliberated on Friday whether we should make a go at it, but with deteriorating conditions, wind and afternoon thunderstorms, we decided to stay local.

We loaded up with the gang and headed up to Cape Ann. The seas were surprisingly lumpy despite light wind. We made the right call. We got up on the Poling and grabbed a mooring and settled in for diving. Dave headed in with the first wave, while Scott, Tim and I shepherded the divers in and waited our tun. Things were lumpy out there and there seemed to be a pretty good current running.

Before too long Dave was back and gave us the visibility report. It was murky, 15-20 feet with some weird current. With that, we suited up for our dive and splashed. The surface water was warm and murky. We began our descent and around 30 feet we hit the weird mid-water current. I actually lost my grip on the line momentarily and it began to pull me away pretty quickly. Anyway, I got back on the line and we proceeded down. Upon reaching the bottom we headed aft from the break to take our usual tour of the interior. Visibility really was not too good even inside so I didn’t regret leaving the camera behind.

We popped out and headed back to the break to poke around the hold and look for our wolffish friend that hangs out under the break. From there, we did a big lap around the wreck. The visibility really wasn’t good enough to venture off to the Gannett, which is looking more and more sparse each time I visit the wreck.

After our bottom time was up, we began our ascent, again encountering the weird midwater current. We reached the drop lines and did a short deco before wrapping it up. Not long after we surfaced, the clouds moved in along with the rain and thunderstorms. It got pretty sporty and we got very wet unloading the boat. The weather forecast was even worse for the next day with a no-brainer cancellation coming, so we packed up the toys and took them home, putting the boat away for the weekend. It was disappointing not getting to the Patriot. We’ve only had 1 trip there this summer – which is not for lack of trying. The darn weather just does not want to cooperate.

Onward!

August 11, 2018

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Despite a very hot week, change was on the way for the weekend. In fact, East wind and rain was on the way for the weekend, which was a real bummer since we had our last trip of the season planned to the Pinthis. By Friday, the weather was clearly not going to be ideal for the long 2 hour run down to Scituate so we decided not to hedge our bets and remain local for Saturday. We only had 1 dive planned for this weekend due to other commitments on Sunday.

Saturday rolled around and it was gloomy with overcast skies. Quite the change from the beautiful 85 degree day before. It was a humid 70 degrees. The wind was light though, which was good. However, rain was on the way and we knew our weather window was limited. We decided on the Herbert since we all wanted a break from the Poling. We were hoping the mooring was still there, but really didn’t have high hopes. We got underway and made good time. Gauntlet just splashed back in on Friday after our annual haul out. With a fresh coat of paint on a clean bottom, we were moving along at a good clip back at our typical cruising speed of ~16 knots.

John splashing in on the Herbert. It was a gloomy day, but seas were calm and the boaters were few!

When we got to the Herbert the mooring was nowhere to be found so we dropped in the shot line. Dave and Dominique splashed in to tie it in. They planned to look for the old mooring since it is often just broken at the surface when it does break, and if possible we would refloat it on our dive. The cups were up quickly and we got settled in no time with the next divers hitting the water. When Dave and Dominique returned they said they found and collected up the old mooring, having cut off a length of it due to massive mussel growth, and the vis was bad. Hmm. I decided to forgo the camera and we devised a plan to refloat the mooring and shoot the shot line to the surface so the boat could retrieve it and then pick up the new mooring.

Scott, Tim and I splashed in and dropped down. Visibility in the water column was not very good. Scott was carrying the extra line and buoy down. When we got to the bottom it was a little murky and dark, typical of the Herbert, but not as bad as I expected. I would say it was 10-12 feet. We were tied in aft by the steering quadrant so we headed forward to where the mooring was chained it. Dave had coiled the line so Scott was able to tie off the new segment of line quickly and release the buoy, sending the line up. We had a carefully coordinated and timed plan so then we headed back over to the shot line that was tied in. The boat had dropped off that so Scott pulled it while I prepped the weight and lift bag. We shot that whole line up to the surface. After retrieving that line the boat picked up on the mooring. That took 20 minutes so it left us another 20 of our planned dive to explore.

We took a nice tour of the stern area and then around the periphery and bow area, which is more debris field, but still interesting to poke around. There was a big wolffish hiding under a piece of wreckage. There was a fish under the winch too that looked like a decent size but I couldn’t make out what type it was. When it was time to head up, we made our ascent and completed deco. It was picking up a bit when we surfaced with a bit more swell and the rain had definitely arrived. It turned into a soaker of a day, so it was a good call we bagged the Pinthis. Still a great day of diving though on a nice wreck!

August 4-5, 2018

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Unstable weather arrived late in the week, just in time to disrupt our plans to visit the Unidentified Trawler wreck in Stellwagen Bank, which is unfortunate because it is a fun dive. Anyway, we revised our plans on Friday to stay inshore and make a trip to the Poling. Saturday morning arrived and it was pretty muggy, although it was also clear and the wind was light. I began to question and doubt whether or not we should have stayed in shore after all. We got off the dock and headed up to the Poling where for the time being we had the wreck to ourselves. We grabbed a mooring and settled in for diving.

When Dave returned we got the usual vis report and lo-down on anything to know. The resident wolffish was hanging out by the break, and the visibility was a murky 20-25 feet. Scott, Josh and I suited up and splashed. I hadn’t brought the camera and was just planning to enjoy a dive swimming around. We took a tour through the wreck and were heading out to the break when we encountered the divers from another charter boat that arrived at the wreck. It got pretty busy down there and everyone was keen to see the wolffish. Nonetheless, we all managed a peek and went about our way. One thing I keep noticing as I swim around the sand at the Poling is the massive sand waves from ocean storms. It is incredible, some are probably 2.5 feet from peak to trough. We’ve seen this out in the sanctuary too.

When our time was up, we headed up for a short deco and then climbed aboard the boat. We learned there was a tornado warning and the clouds back towards land looked to be that dark gray hazy color that signals thunderstorms and “weather.” We beat it for shore in torrential rain that continued through much of the afternoon. So, it was a good call after all to keep it shorter and local.

Sunday was supposed to bring much better weather, and it more or less did, but much of the day we were cloaked in heavy fog while we were out performing exploration project work. Still a pretty good day though.

July 28, 2018

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Saturday’s plan was the epic Pinthis and Paul Palmer trip where we leave Beverly, head south to Scituate to dive the Pinthis, then turn east out into Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to dive the Paul Palmer before finally making the trek back to Beverly. It is about 11 hours dock to dock and 75 nm. For this trip, we need good weather, good food and a group keen on a lot of fun. Indeed, we got the weather although the forecast was certainly a little dicey looking at times.

The bow winch on the Paul Palmer.

We loaded up and got underway a little before 7 am. For this trip earlier is better since we’re on the tides for the Paul Palmer and we can only spend so long on the Pinthis. Everything has to be timed just right on this trip. There was a little ground swell running as we were heading out, but it dissipated as we got further south. We did encounter a few dense fog banks, but it came and went and we plugged along. We arrived on the Pinthis and met up with our friend Tom who was out on his boat. We took the mooring and he rafted up with us. The conditions were great, although there was a decent current running. No sooner than we arrived did whales begin visiting us with one coming right up to the boat and surfacing several times. It was very cool. The first groups of divers splashed in. Today’s mission was finding my back-up light that I dropped when it became unclipped accidentally while at the back of the boat on our last trip.

Before long, the divers were returning with the dive report – good visibility, current on the bottom, no back-up light despite a sand sweep. Scott, Tim and I suited up next. I left the camera behind so I could focus on looking for the light and swimming out into sand with current running would be annoying with the camera. We splashed in and dropped down. We took a good swim about 200 feet off the wreck and ran a sweep pattern. No light. Oh well. We took a quick swim down the wreck and through the interior before heading up and getting underway to the Palmer. We were running a little late relative to the slack, which I knew might be an issue because we didn’t have an ideal window on this day.

We had a nice ride over the Palmer. The fog had cleared out and the wind was light. It was a beautiful day. We got on the Palmer and dropped the shot line in the water – this wreck we’re not able to tie into because of sanctuary regulations. We got the first team ready and splashed them in on the shot line. It looked like there was decent current running on the surface, and I was just hoping it wasn’t too bad on the bottom. Dave came up first to give us some time while the others remained on the bottom. Scott, Tim and I scrambled to get ready. Dave said the conditions were good – nice vis, tons of HUGE lobsters, but definitely some current on the surface. We suited up and got ready for the drop. The current was running hard on the surface. We jumped well upstream, grabbed the shot and pulled ourselves down. Since we were eating into the dive window and really getting into the unfavorable end of it, the current was moving on the bottom.

We were at the bow with the current running stern to bow, which is what I wanted to set up although I admit it was luck that it worked out that way. We inched our way to the stern taking photos and video before drifting back to to the bow. The wreck seemed exposed on the starboard side and more sanded in on the port side. There is also a large dragger net tow line hooked around the wreck, I guess that will be there forever. We poked around the wreck admiring the very large lobsters, including one that had to be about 30 years old that was covered in barnacles – it looked like it had prevailed in a few fights over the years. Anyway, it was a nice dive with some spectacular marine life. The current was screaming at this point and it was a challenge moving the shot and coming up, but we managed. We climbed aboard Gauntlet, hauled the line and headed home. While we didn’t see any whales underwater, but they were cruising around on the surface! We enjoyed a nice lunch and some nap time as we made the long ride back to Salem. It was a great day on the water!

July 21, 2018

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It was pretty much clear we were only getting one day of boat diving this weekend with a very consistent forecast indicating that Sunday was just going to be a crappy day with SE wind, rain and seas. So, we knew we should really enjoy Saturday’s dive. Indeed, Saturday was a beautiful day–a 10. This of course made me lament the fact we did not have more ambitious or exciting plans, but nevertheless I was looking forward to diving the Nina T. It is a small wreck, but a nice dive and alternative to the Poling.

Tim and Scott on the Nina T.

We had a few last minute cancellations, so the boat was light and spacious. I have to admit, while I don’t like seeing anyone have to cancel and get stuck with a charter cost at the last minute, it was nice having a roomy boat since we’re often cozy with a full boat. We loaded up and headed up to Cape Ann. The weather was great. We got on the Nina T and it was pretty much a millpond out there. Another charter boat was on the Poling but we had the Nina T to ourselves. There was no mooring as we expected, so we dropped in the shot line and Dave & Eric went in to tie us in.

When they were back we got kind of mixed feedback on the visibility. I decided to take the camera anyway, as I need the practice. The key to staying proficient with the camera and a CCR is to dive both a lot. We suited up and splashed. There was hardly any current we were on the wreck in no time. I set up the camera and we took a leisurely tour poking around the wreck. The wreck is pretty scattered now and it seems to get more and more that way as time goes on. It won’t be long before it looks like the Gannett.

We were also going to be pulling the line since we were not planning to leave a mooring. Tim wanted some practice so we agreed he would “do it all” (lol) while Scott and I observed. So, when the line slacked from the boat dropping off, Tim went to work on it. Once that was done, we made a nice ascent, again in no current, doing a short deco. It was a very nice dive. We climbed aboard, headed back to Beverly enjoying the sun and a cold iced tea. We knew to wrap it up though because the weather was coming, and indeed it did.

July 14, 2018

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A stalled out offshore tropical storm and the associated weather disturbances surrounding it began throwing swell at us on Thursday. This could only mean a weekend of unsettled weather patterns would be playing out. Despite that, the weather remained pretty good for Saturday’s dive to the Poling. We had a good group with a mix of open circuit, CCR and SCR divers (one RB80). We’re becoming so diverse among our diving clientele!

Congrats to Joe on completing his P2 CCR course!

We loaded up and got off the dock. Riding up to the Poling we had a brief bit of excitement with a minor mechanical issue, which we sorted quickly and allowed us to continue our trip. When we arrived at the Poling there was only one mooring present so we tied off and got ready for diving. There was some ground swell, but the wind was pretty light and overall it was a nice day. Dave and Joe splashed first followed by the others in standard fashion. When they returned we got the lo-down on the conditions – very good visibility of about 25-30 feet and strong current on the bottom. Alrighty then.

I decided to leave the camera behind since I’ve done a good coverage of this year’s Poling. Scott, Eric and I splashed down and were on the wreck in no time. There was a good current running for sure. Nevertheless we decided to make a swim out to the Gannett, which did require a little effort swimming into the current. We spent a few minutes poking around the ever diminishing wreckage before enjoying a quick drift bag to the Poling with the current mostly behind us.

After returning to the Poling we did the standard loop through the inside followed by a trip out to the break. There was a lobster pot trawl going right across the wreck, with part of the line looped and caught on some wreckage on the catwalk. I swam over and unfouled it. But unfortunately in the process I poked a little hole in my recently replaced new dryglove and my hand (and shortly thereafter my arm) began to flood. I was very annoyed, but we continued the dive since we didn’t have much time remaining anyway. We then swam back to the mooring and headed up, which was good timing because the water was working its way up my arm by that point. Oh well. At least the hole was in an easy to patch location.

When we surfaced the seas were definitely kicking up a bit with more swell and surge. We cast off and returned to Beverly where one more dive was made by John for his lost sunglasses that slipped off while unloading. Quite the exciting day!

July 7-8, 2018

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The hot, humid weather gave way to fall-like weather on Saturday as a cold front moved through the area. While it was bringing a relief with cooler, dry air, it was also bringing wind and this was destined to throw a wrench in our plans for Saturday. Overnight it got quite windy right into Saturday morning. I got up at 4:30 am to check the weather. I gulped as I saw 15-20 knots of N wind and 4 foot seas at the weather buoy. Certainly with this, the Snetind was out seeing it is next to the weather buoy. We decided to go ahead and deal with bumpy conditions on the Poling.

The Patriot in some very emerald green water.

We met bright and early at the dock. It was a touch cool for shorts and crocs with 55F air temperatures. We loaded up and got underway. We had a slightly smaller group with some last minute cancellations so it was a low key ride up to Cape Ann with plenty of room to relax. When we got onsite we grabbed a mooring and got settled in. There was another charter boat on site already. Dave and John headed in first. The other divers followed and when they returned it was my turn to dive with Scott. Dave said it was a bit murky so I decided to leave the camera behind. By this point, the other charter boat had departed and another one arrived taking it’s place. Indeed thanks to the weird weather the Poling was a busy place! The conditions were actually a lot better than I expected given the wind and duration it was blowing. I don’t think offshore was an option, but it was nice to not get beat up on the Poling.

Scott and I splashed and dropped down. We were on the break mooring. We headed aft and took a tour though the inside, then headed over to the break and swam around the sand line at the bottom. The visibility was maybe 15-20 feet and murky. We cruised around the wreck until we decided to go up. We did a short deco and headed in. By the arrival of the afternoon the wind had diminished and it was a beautiful day. It felt a bit fall-like, but it had warmed up and was quite nice.

Sunday our destination was the Patriot – our first trip of the season due to uncooperative weather earlier in the spring. We did not have a very good slack window. Unfortunately the tide tables this year are not great for weekend, morning slack windows. So we thought the current would be manageable and decided to schedule in on this day anyway. We loaded up with an eager group and got off the dock in no time. We had a beautiful ride out to the wreck. Upon arrival, we got the line in the water and Dave and Dominique splashed in first. We had our eyes peeled looking for whales, but none were to be seen today.

When Dave returned he reported “ok” visibility that was a bit murky. He also said the bottom current was strong. Ugh. Nonetheless, Scott , Feng and I suited up for our dive and I brought the camera along. Dropping down it was murky in the water column but before too long the wreck came into view. We poked around on the topside side of the wreck in the lee of the current. I tried to swim off and around the bow for photos and I couldn’t do it! The current was too strong. I literally could not get out past the bow. I decided to stay in the lee of the current and work on some photos there. Eventually I tried one more time to get our around the bow and could not do it. In fact, I started to think it was getting stronger and it might be time to split. So we headed up. A short distance up off the bottom and the current dropped out, so it was a nice ascent. The visibility was about 20 feet, but it was just cloudy enough that photos were challenging. Nevertheless, it was a great day and nice to finally get out on the Patriot.

We cruised back to Beverly in nice conditions – it was another beautiful day out there for sure. We docked, unloaded and called it a weekend!

June 30-July 1, 2018

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The Pinthis is getting a bit smaller inside each year.

The weather was looking perfect for the weekend – finally! Legit summer weather (hot, hazy and humid) was in the forecast. Fortunately we were departing from land to spend the weekend on a boat and under the water, really the best place to be in such weather. Saturday’s plan was our first trip of the season to the Pinthis, with a trip to the Terra Nova on the books for Sunday.

Saturday morning was warm for sure, but not too sticky. We loaded up the boat with an eager group and cast off bound for Scituate. There was a mild swell but it dissipated as we got closer to Cape Cod Bay–and it was otherwise glassy out there. When we arrived on the Pinthis, there was already a mooring present so we tied off and got ready for diving. The first groups of divers went in. When Dave returned, we got a low down on the visibility — which was that it was an excellent 30-40 feet! I liked the sound of that. Scott and I suited up and splashed. We dropped down the line where we were tied in at the bow. There was a decent current running on the bottom bow to stern. We drifted with the current down to the stern where we poked around. The hull is pretty much split open over the engine room, so the interior is poking out. The hull is flattening significantly. I took a few photos off the wreck and then we poked around the small area of the engine room that is still accessible. We popped out of the wreck and the back in to the hull. We swam through the collapsing bulkheads. Things are getting tight in some places. I had a tough time passing through one set of frames with the camera. It is still such a pretty swim with light filtering through. We took another ride down to the stern and then back through the interior before calling it a dive.

When we surfaced, the grill was already going and Dave was churning out ribs and chicken wings. We got out of our stuff and hit the back deck for some burger and sausage action where we had considerable debate about whether the sausage rolls should be cut straight down the middle or in from the side. Important stuff here. Anyway, we gorged on food finishing up all of it and then hit the road for Beverly. It was a great ride back catching some sun and enjoying a beautiful day on the water.

The prop and rudder on the Terra Nova.

Sunday morning was another warm one and this time, humid right from the get go. We were heading to the Terra Nova though and once again conditions looked to be great. We loaded up with another eager group and were off the dock in the no time. We had a nice ride up to Twin Light off Cape Ann. There is a mooring on this wreck so we were able to tie off and get to diving quickly. Dave and Eric headed in first, followed by the remaining groups of divers. We had heard there was 30 ft of visibility at this wreck on Friday so we were hoping for more of that, although we were coming off dead low tide so we weren’t sure what we’d get. When Dave and Eric returned they said the visibility was good, although it was murky in the water column. I suited up with Scott and we splashed. Heading down the line it was murky and I wondered about this good visibility when we reached the wreck it appeared quite cloudy.

I groaned a bit as I set up the camera knowing this was going to be tough. It was a very murky 15 feet at best and not ideal for photos at all. Maybe it changed as the tide turned because we had a bit of current. Anyway, we did a tour of the wreck and I tried to set up a few photos that I thought had a chance of coming out decent. This was definitely not a day for being 25 feet off the wreck and getting a wide angle shot. Anyway, we did some photos and then headed up. The wreck is more or less the same as it’s been the last few years, just crumbling a bit more each passing season.

When we surfaced, we headed back to Beverly enjoying another nice day with totally glassy seas. After an exciting episode trying to dock the boat in a weird current where my worst fear almost came true (being pinned to the pilings), I pulled off a save and got the boat on the dock. We unloaded and headed home to chill in air conditioning for the rest of the day. Great weekend of diving!

 

June 23-24, 2018

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After a beautiful week of weather, the arrival of the weekend brought an “unsettled” stretch of weather. The typical “all over the place” NOAA forecast wasn’t helping, but we felt we’d get out Saturday, which was the more questionable of the two days. On Saturday we were scheduled for the New York Central 14ii (NYC14-2), the steam lighter off Nahant in 120 fsw. And on Sunday we had another trip to the Snetind.

The now exposed steam engine on the New York Central 14ii.

Saturday arrived and it was a cold and raw day, overcast with off/on rain. I had pants and a sweatshirt on – so much for the arrival of summer! The wind was light, but predicted to pick up. We discussed and decided to continue with the plan of going to the NYC14-2 with a bailout option of going to the Herbert. We were told the mooring on the NYC14-2 had disappeared so we had to factor in a tie-in/pull into the weather. The water was fairly calm on the way out so we continued to the NYC14-2 where we discovered a mooring, go figure. So, we tied off to the mooring and got underway with diving. Naturally though as soon as we arrived the wind picked up to about 15 knots out of the E-NE. So, the seas began to build in. When Dave was back he reported good visibility and everyone agreed it was camera worthy, so I brought it along. I was keen to get some photos of the recent collapse.

Scott and I suited up and splashed. The visibility was not bad for this wreck, about 15 feet but murky and photos were more challenging than I expected. We did a tour around and through the remaining intact portions. I think I like this dive more as the wreck is collapsing–more to explore and more interesting features. Anyway, it is very fragile and I’d encourage everyone to be careful poking around inside. Not much is keeping it together. We ascended at the end of our bottom time and did a short deco. By the time we were up, the seas were running pretty good and we had a bouncy ride back to Beverly. Good day of diving though.

 

Tim illuminating the stern hull of the Holmes.

Overnight the wind kept blowing 15-20 kts out of the NE and the seas built in. I began to worry that we’d be calling with a morning cancellation if the weather didn’t follow the forecast and lay down. I did a 0430 check on the weather and the wind had dropped out, but there was going to be some left over ground swell. We decided to head to the Holmes instead of running out to the Snetind, which is right next to the 16 nm E of Boston weather buoy – so a little bit longer run. The conditions were a bit sloppy although it was not terrible. It was again overcast and cold. At one point the wind looked like it was picking up out of the south, so we were sitting weird with an NE swell, incoming tide and South wind. Anyway, the wind actually diminished like they said and as the day went on, it turned into a beautiful day.

The visibility report was “excellent” which I love to hear – so Scott, Tim and I were looking forward to our turn. I brought the camera along too. We did a nice tour of the wreck. The bow continues to collapse and become more disperse. It is definitely getting easier to lose your eye line there and get yourself lost if you swim a bit too far off without a line. I would say visibility was a solid 25 feet with ambient light. Much better than we’ve had on the Snetind the past few weeks. It is weird how inshore wrecks are now having better visibility than the offshore Boston wrecks. Makes you wonder what’s being dumped out there! Anyway, we finished up and headed back to Beverly – as we arrived the sun was out and it was getting very warm! All in all a very good weekend of diving. Now let’s bring the summer weather back!

June 16, 2018

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With only 1 day to dive due to work travel impacting the weekend, we planned to make it count. For the morning, we had a trip to the Snetind and in the afternoon a trip to the Poling. These double-headers make for a long day, but we do what we must sometimes! Anyway, the weather for the whole weekend looked to be amazing, so I tried not to think about the fact we weren’t going to be diving Sunday.

Heather returning from a dive on the Poling.

Saturday morning actually started off cooler than expected – at least I was chilled wearing shorts in the morning as there was a slight westerly wind in the morning that diminished as the day went on. We cruised out to the Snetind and picked up the mooring. I was hoping for good visibility based on reports around other dive sites, but I also know this wreck (as is the case with all the “Boston dumping ground” wrecks) is quirky and visibility can be lousy for no good reason. Dave, Feng and Tim suited up first, followed by the others. Everything was going smoothly and in about an hour the first group was returning–with the visibility report. I love the visibility reports from different people: Dave: lousy, Tim: crap, Feng: 15-20 feet. We concluded Feng’s report was due to the fact he was using 10/70 diluent. the extra 15% compared to the others must translate into perceived feet of visibility.

In any case, I left the camera behind since 10 feet of murky visibility wasn’t going to be ideal. Scott, Carl and I suited up and splashed. The water column was murky and kind of a gross green color. Mid water was decent, but the visibility quickly diminished and by the time we reached the wreck it was a cloudy 10 feet at best. We headed forward towards the bow and swam up a ways before coming back, exploring around the break. Scott cut out our ghost mooring from last year so we can re-use the float ball and sent it up on a reel. We’ll recover the chain next time since that looked to be in good shape. Then we headed up for an uneventful deco.

Returning to the marina, we had the next wave of divers waiting on the dock. We did a quick change out and were off the dock again this time bound for the Poling. We had our P2 students onboard with 2 out of 3 finishing up their last dives. We had a nice ride up to the Poling–it was a millpond by this point. We grabbed the stern mooring and settled in. There was a lot of boat traffic, which reminded me of why I hate the afternoon trips. We got buzzed by just about every kind of boat–whale watching boats, big power boats, sail boats–all coming very close or throwing a huge wake at us. Ugh. When the first group returned they reported good visibility but a strong current running across the wreck.

Jessica and I suited up for our dive. It was a similar murky green in the water column, but the visibility on the wreck was very good–a solid 30 feet although a little murky. We made a trip out to the break area to explore the newly collapsed area before  making a swim back to the stern along the bottom on the starboard side. It was then I realized the current had swung around and was mostly running stern-bow direction, which made for an annoying swim back. There is so much trash and junk around the Poling. Jess and I wondered if it was due to winter storms and current, and stuff tossed overboard in the area just collected in the wash out around the Poling. We popped in the inside and did a tour. The wreck is really collapsing–I notice more and more change each time. After about 40 minutes we headed up and called it a day. We had a nice ride back to Beverly, getting back around 6 pm. It was a long day for sure, especially by the time Dave and I had cleaned up our gear and ourselves, but a fun day nonetheless! And congrats to our P2 students who finished! Great job by all.

June 9-10, 2018

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Finally a weekend with two nice days in a row! The weekend line up was as follows: Poling on Saturday and the Snetind (aka Schooner Barge) on Sunday. We were excited to get our first trip in on the Snetind, definitely a top dive around these parts.

The new collapsed area on the port side of the Poling is making for some good photography.

On Saturday, we had a P2 class that has been underway making their first big dive on the Chester Poling. We had a few bubble blowers on OC and the remainder as CCR divers. A good group. The weather was nearly perfect with light wind and glassy calm seas. Nice. We got up on the Poling and Capt Steve Smith was on site and occuyping one of the two moorings on the wreck with this new boat, Charterboat1. Looking good and very nice to see Capt Steve out on the water. We got the first groups suited and in the water. And when Dave and the gang were back we got the visibility report, which was pretty good 25-30. I’ll take that.  Scott and I suited up and splashed too. We decided we’d take a swim out fo the Gannett since the visibility was good. When we got to the Gannet it definitely seemed to be even more scattered and disperse. I think between storms and fishing trawls, it’s been pulled apart further. Anyway, we returned to the Poling and took a swim out to the holds for some more photos. It’s very fragile in there and I think complete collapse is probably just a few good winter storms away. All in all it was a good dive.

Sunday we were scheduled for the Snetind. We decided to skip the Baleen since we got blown out of most of our scheduled trips and so we decided to just move onto the Snetind since we have it coming up on the schedule. We had a nice ride out – seas weren’t completely flat, and it was cool with some ENE wind, but still it was a very nice day. We got onsite and dropped the shot line. Dave and Tim splashed to tie in. We had some weird current on the surface that was a little annoying to deal with, but we got ourselves tied in after the bag popped (10 minutes time, not bad!). Once the granny line was in the water, the pool was open and divers began splashing. When Dave and Tim returned, we got the visibility report – which was the usual mixed bag: not very good, not bad, about 10 feet, but it could be 15. Um, OK. I decided to leave the camera behind and just check out the conditions for myself. We have a few more trips coming up and I really hope at least one of them is “awesome vis” consensus. Scott, Dominique and I suited up and splashed.

The visibility descending was a mix: very poor for first 40 feet, then crystal clear down to the wreck where it was cloudy, 10-12′. Vertically the visibility was great – you could easily see 25 feet down, perhaps the tide turning had some effect. Anyway, we are tied in by the “china pile” so we took a swim up about halfway to the bow, and then came back to the break and explored around the stern a bit before poking around until our bottom time was up. We had a nice uneventful deco and all in all and excellent dive! We cruised back in with some choppier seas – the NE wind having picked up. A good weekend!

June 2, 2018

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With a questionable forecast just in time for the weekend, we had a reasonable degree of confidence we’d get out on Saturday, but get blown out on Sunday. With that in mind, and a forecast that was literally all over the place for Saturday, we decided to go to the Poling over the Nina T so that we could make it a quicker, efficient trip utilizing the mooring on the wreck instead of tying in and pulling a line, as we’d need to do for the Nina T.

A new, large opening in the deck of the Poling on the port side near the break end mooring.

Everyone was very early arriving with the last person arriving at 6:50 am (henceforth referred to as “the late arrival”). We got off the dock by about 7:15 or so and had a nice ride up to the Poling. It was flat calm. However, not long after arrival the wind shifted around to the N-NE and began to pick up. Dave, Eric and Tony splashed in first, followed by the others. It was actually a really nice day and warm enough for shorts and crocs. When Dave returned, we got the visibility report, which strangely ranged from 10 feet to “very good!” Um, OK.

Scott and I suited up and splashed in next. There was some current running on the surface and the wind was opposite the tide, so the lines were running down in an awkward way, but we arrived on the wreck to very nice conditions. I would say the visibility was about 30 feet, perhaps a little cloudy though. There was a mild current running on the wreck. We took a swim out to the break to see the new collapsed area again and take some photos. Then we entered the port side hold and explored in there – totally different now. We exited the wreck through the hole in the deck and then headed aft for a tour inside. Another lap around the wreck and we headed up just under 45 min bottom time. It was a very nice dive!

When we surfaced, the wind had considerably increased and a cancellation for Sunday was all but emailed out. We wrapped up, headed back and later that afternoon called the dive. The forecast for Sunday was not even a close call with NE 15-20 kts and 4-6 feet predicted. Instead, we headed south to Jamestown to Ft Wetherill to continue our P2 CCR class and intro to tech class. All in all a good weekend, despite the challenging weather.

May 13, 2018

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Heather, Matt and Scott at Hathaway’s Pond.

On Saturday, we were again at Hathaway’s Pond teaching P2 CCR and Intro to Tech classes. But on Sunday we had our first trip of the season to the Poling on the books. It seems late in the year to be getting to the Poling for the first time, but it is what it is! We were all keen to see what changes have occurred over the winter.

We weren’t sure if there would be a mooring on the wreck, and had assumed there would not be actually, so we had one ready to go in. We got loaded up and off the dock about 15 minutes early – which was a good thing since we were going to be a bit pressed for time with a Mother’s Day commitment in the afternoon. A few little trip facts of potential interest – we had 3 new customers on the boat, which is probably the most new customers we’ve had in awhile. So it was nice to see some others checking out the boat. We also had 5 open circuit divers (!!) on the boat (including Dave and me)! I actually had to think about where to have people place their gear on deck to avoid creating a list with all those heavy doubles!

Anyway, we had a nice ride up to the Poling. The ocean was like glass with a mild swell. There was not much wind, but it was overcast. There was fog in the area, but we were clear of it. We got up on the Poling and lo and behold there were 2 moorings on the wreck! We picked up the stern end mooring, which posed a few challenges because the line was short and we couldn’t get the buoy up all the way. There was some current running, but it was fairly mild. Anyway, we managed to get the granny in the water and Dave and Dominique splashed.

The next groups of divers filed in and soon enough Dave and Dominique were back with a good visibility report – both reported visibility of “at least 40 feet, maybe more” and excellent bottom conditions. Dave said they could see the wreck from the 30 foot granny line weight, which means the visibility was definitely better than 40 feet. Anyway, with that, Matt and I began suiting up. Although we were approaching high tide, the current was picking up a bit on the surface. Dave had also mentioned that the surface visibility was becoming cloudy on his ascent. I was hoping we’d get that good vis. Anyway, we splashed and descended. It was becoming murky in the water column near the surface – I could just make out the wreck from the granny line ring at about 50 feet.

We continued down to the wreck where the visibility did indeed open up. How I wished I had my scooter… camera… haha. But I was looking forward to swimming around and enjoying the dive just the same. We headed out towards the break end. Dave and Dominique said there had been collapse on the deck near the break and I wanted to see this too. Indeed, the deck has collapsed in the area near the mooring. It has basically folded in and a diver can now access the oil hold from the deck. There have been a few other areas falling away and holes growing in size in the hull. With this rate of decay, I think the Poling is going to look pretty different in the next 2-3 years.

Anyway, we swam the whole the wreck and poked around the break. It would have been a perfect day to go to the Gannett but we stayed on the wreck. The water temperature is still pretty chilly too – my bottom timer said 41 and my Petrel said 39. I’ll call that “cold” in any case. When our bottom time was up at 32 minutes, we had a nice, easy ascent. We surfaced, pulled the lines and called it a day. Everyone was excited about the great dive and conditions, and headed over to the Anchor for a few cold ones after we got back. Dave and I, however, had to beat it for home to get into Boston for a Mother’s Day gathering. I love getting in a good dive before a family event – almost as good as sneaking in a dive ahead of storm!

May 6, 2018

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On Saturday we were down at Hathaway Pond teaching classes. It was quite windy in the morning and in all likelihood we would have gotten blown out. But Sunday we were scheduled for the Holmes and we were hoping the wind would lay down. We were also hoping it would not be a braille dive again.

Flat calm seas and good visibility made for an excellent day on the Holmes.

Sunday morning was overcast with the occasional hint of a clearing sky, and with off and on showers. However, the wind was light. We gathered up at the dock and got loaded with the plan of diving the Holmes.  Fingers were crossed on the visibility. We headed out and the ocean was flat calm with just the slightest waves once we got past the islands and out into open water. The mooring we installed last week was still there and before long we were tied in and getting the first group suited up. It seems we brought some Gremlins with us on this trip because 2/3 divers in the first group had some equipment problems, so only Dave and Jessica ended up splashing. The next groups moved along.

Scott, Feng and I were bringing up the rear in the last group. We were pleased to hear from Dave that the visibility was awesome with about 30 feet and ambient light despite the overcast skies. Instantly I was more excited about the dive. We got suited up and splashed. Unfortunately, Feng’s neck seal wasn’t sealed up and his suit promptly began to flood. So Scott and I headed down for our dive. The water column was a little cloudy but not terrible, and there was some current. On the bottom the visibility was easily 30 feet – we could see across the wreck for sure. With sun, it would have been incredible down there. We swam the entire wreck enjoying near-perfect conditions. The bow definitely seems to have opened up a bit more. When it was time to go, we had a nice ascent and deco. It was chilly with only 46 at the surface and about 41 on the bottom.

All in all it was a great day of diving!

And, since I know you’re all in suspense about where we were tied in after last weekend… we are tied in on the starboard side, near the bow end. Go figure!

April 28-29, 2018

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Finally! After several weeks of blow-outs after we resumed charters in March, we finally made it out for not one, but two days of diving!

On Saturday, we were headed to the wreck of the New York Central 14-2 (NYC14-2). Coincidentally, we recently learned the wreck had recently collapsed from the engine forward, leaving a heap of twisted hull and a partially intact bow over on it’s side. We were certainly keen to check out the changes, as it sounded quite dramatic. The weather was naturally a question mark and we weren’t sure what Saturday would bring – there was a heavy ground swell, fog and the conditions seemed generally crummy. However, Saturday looked to be an improvement and we decided we’d just go for it.

Saturday arrived with overcast, but clearing skies and fog. However the wind was light and the ground swell was down to about 3 feet. No one expected good visibility, but it was good enough to check out the NYC14-2, which we also heard still had a mooring. We cruised out to the wreck, in and out of fog banks along the way and indeed located a mooring present on the wreck. We got settled and everyone began splashing. Dave and Eric headed in first. When they returned, we got the visibility report: excellent vis all the way to the bottom where it was 5 feet, maybe 10 if you were squinting. I decided to leave the camera behind despite wanting to get some photos of the changes. Tim, Scott and I jumped in for our dive and explored the remnants of the NYC14-2 as we knew it. The wreck is 1 maybe 2 storms away from complete collapse. The section forward of the engine is completely collapsed with only the engine standing, the water tanks and the partially intact bow. It is otherwise a heap of metal. Moving aft, the stern is still intact, but there’s nothing really supporting it. The hull is swiss cheese. It won’t be long now before this looks a lot like the Herbert but with more debris. The visibility was quite bad and it was cold (39F) so we headed up and did a short deco. It was a good dive, but it is a bummer to see the wreck change so dramatically. It’s a deeper average depth dive now for sure with less relief.

The line up of rebreathers on Gauntlet’s Saturday trip. JJ-CCR, SF2, X-CCR, rEvo, Prism Topaz, Hollis Prism 2. How times have changed!

On Sunday, we were again spinning the weather dial to see what we’d get. Although the wind looked light for Sunday, we still had ground swell and rain and fog were in the forecast. And overnight it became windy. I was almost anticipating an early morning cancellation, but the weather held and we had light wind and clear skies on Sunday morning. We were scheduled for the Holmes and that was our plan. We got loaded up and off the dock early. The skies were clouding over but it was much better than expected–the fog bank stayed away and we had a nice ride out to the wreck. We did need to put in a mooring so Dave and Bob jumped in to do that. It was a fast tie in–4 minutes per their clock, 5 according to mine when the bag hit the surface. We did not have high hopes for the visibility but thought it might be better where this wreck is deeper. We were wrong.

Dave and Bob returned and did their best to put a positive spin on the visibility so that we wouldn’t be completely discouraged from diving. All Dave said was it was worse than Saturday. Gulp. Oye. Anyway, Scott and I suited up and splashed. We dropped down–the water column was murky and not as good as the day prior. When we hit about 120′ it went black and to about 3 feet of heavy particulate and for all practical purposes, no visibility. I think I laughed when we got to the bottom knowing it was not going to be a long dive. We did a short swim along the rail and then concluded it was utterly pointless to be down there and headed up. When we surfaced we put in our opinion as to where we were tied in–basically no one knows for sure. Maybe we’ll find out this weekend. With the rain starting to come down, we pulled the lines and headed in. All in all a good start to the season, at last.

 

October 28, 2017

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Divers suiting up for a dip on the Baleen.

For the final weekend of October, it appeared we had a short window of tranquil weather in between bouts of stormy weather. This all assumed the NOAA forecast would be correct, which is anyone’s guess it seems these days. Nevertheless, we planned to run, and developed a set of back-up options to dive depending on what the morning brought. Fortunately, this time the forecast seemed to be correct and the wind dropped out, resulting in about 10 knots of SSW wind for Saturday morning.

With that we gathered at the dock at our later departure time, now loading at 8:15 am to allow for a little more daylight and warmer temperatures (as the winter comes in). Illness and work conflicts cut into the group numbers for the day, but the rest of the group was keen to dive and it looked as though we’d make it to the Baleen. There is a mooring on the Baleen, which is rare for this late in the season, so we hoped to get the chance to make it there while it’s still present. We headed out and the conditions were not too bad; there was a light chop but the seas were otherwise pretty nice and the temperatures were mild. When we arrived on the Baleen, we located the mooring and got the boat set up for diving.

All in all, it was quite a nice day on the water, although visibility on the Baleen was only a dark 10 feet or so. I guess you can’t have it all in late October. The weather quickly deteriorated as the afternoon went on, with south wind picking up before the leading edges of the tropical storm, now Nor’easter arrived, wiping out our plans for Sunday. So it goes, but 1/2 is better than none.

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.