July on the Stolt

The Independence II headed out on Saturday with clear skies and a forecast calm seas. Well, by the time we returned, they were calm. However, on the way out it was a little rough, but mostly a medium period swell. When asked where the passengers wanted to go, the decision was for the Stolt.

Upon arrival, I splashed to set the hook. I must admit to being a bit nervous since we had just returned from our North Sea Expeditions, and I had only unpacked my gear the night before. The configuration was a bit different from what we used in Belgium, and I did not have much time to test out the rig. Another trial by fire.

Dropping down the visibility on the surface was not great. Once past the thermocline at 40 ft, it opened up a bit, and I could now see the line before me. Within a few minutes, we were tied in, and I started looking about. Despite the swells above, there was little to no water motion on the wreck. No serge or current. Visibility here was a good 40 ft, but dark due to the murky surface. Large tog were swimming in and out of holes in the wreck, and along the hull. Here they picked at the mussels growing there. Cunners are everywhere on this wreck. One nipped at my glove while I was working with the chain. They keep hang out in front of my mask. I assume they are looking at their reflection, but I’m not taking changes that they want to nip at my lips (the only exposed skin).

At 100 ft, there was a second thermocline where the temp dropped to 46 degrees, and the visibility dropped down to 20 ft. The ocean floor was covered in winter flounder (out of season of course), and skates. A few small lobster were about, and one reasonable one way back under the rudder. Ling cod were about in large numbers, and many of them were large in size. After making a full circle around the wreck, I headed back to the line. I cut the dive short figuring, next dive, I’ll bring a either a weapon, or camera.

At this point, I could see the bubbles of divers rising off in the distance, and the lights of divers on the bottom. Great conditions. Soon, I was back in the surface snot, and the wreck faded from view. On the other hand the temp rose to 72 degrees. On the surface, I informed Brandon of the visibility and suggested he take his camera. I told Bill and Dan that I would do a second dive later with weapon in hand. They handed it to me my spear, and sent me back down the line. So much for a surface interval. (Don’t try this at home.)

Back down on the wreck the visibility seemed to have dropped a bit. Other divers were swimming about, and the tog visible on the first dive were no longer around. The decision was to drop down to the bottom and try for some of the Ling, then wait for the other divers to clear out and see if the tog would show up again. The first part of the plan worked well as Ling are not all that bright. On a previous dive, I recall dragging the line across one wreck, with a ling cod in my face the whole time I was wrapping the line around a beam. Today, even after missing a shot at one, it only retreated a few feet, and I got him on the second shot. Once a few of the larger ones were in my bag, I started to head up to look for some tog.

The other divers were still down on the wreck. In one area, large plumbs of rust colored water billowed from openings. Other areas also showed evidence of activity. I was able to get close to a few of the tog, but none of the big ones. Off in the distance a large gray one darted around the corner. However, he never let me get a clear shot. I guess they don’t get big by being dumb.

Along with my bag of fish, a few lobster came up, a bag of mussels, and a couple of bags of scallops. We headed off to another wreck for the second dive. This was a low lying wooden wreck, with very few spots to attach a chain. Brandon found a good one, and the pool was open. This wreck is often covered with lobster, but this time was also covered in scallops and skates. Many bugs and a few bags of scallops came up. Personally, after spending over two hours on the Stolt, I was done for the day. I splashed to pull the hook, but had no energy left to look around. This was probably good, as I felt a cold trickle down my leg as soon as I hit the water. Somewhere along the line, I must have poked a hole in the suit.

The trip back was on calm seas. It had been a great day of diving, and it was good to be back in NJ.

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