Archive for the ‘North East Diving’ Category

Good to get wet

Monday, September 13th, 2010
Mooring Bits

Mooring Bits

After a few students backed out on my Saturday dive, I reviewing the weather forecast,  and checked with Roger to see if there was any room.  As it turned out, they needed crew for a student dive.  Life is good.   My gear was already prepped and packed, just set the alarm.

The morning was calm with some light clouds. The boat was quickly packed, and we were headed out in nearly flat seas.  Given a group of open water students, bouncy castle the destination was for an inshore wreck in less than 60 ft of water.  In my mind, that means more bottom time, and perhaps fluke.

On the way out, I found out that only half of the group was in Open Water, and the rest were newly certified divers getting in some more practice.   This became evident by the number of question about my KISS Rebreather.  Not wanting to take attention away from an instructor with a class, I tried to be polite, but kept the answers short.

We were quickly at our destination and Chris jumped in as I threw the hook.  Within minutes he had us tied in, and we started getting everyone geared up.   The students went in last as the other divers went in armed for some of the Tog this wreck is know for.   By the time they were in, Chris was up with a vis report.  Not good.

I tried to keep a positive attitude, and rolled in with the camera.    The surface was a little cloudy, but the bottom was downright dark.  Vis on the bottom was 5-10 at best.  I’m not familiar with this wreck, so out came the reel.   I left the gun topside as light, camera, reel, and gun just seems like a bad combination.  Of course, I immediately ran into some nice Tog on top of the wreck, and a fair size fluke as soon as I hit the sand.

The wreck was mostly intact with some areas where you could penetrate.  A quick inspection for lobster came up blank.   The camera was just about useless.   Some part of me was tempted to go back up and exchange it for my spear.   Instead, I fell back to my age old plan of just looking around when on a wreck for the first time.  Even in the tight vis, there was lots to see.  In addition, it’s good to just practice using the camera controls and playing with different settings.  It was good to get wet without students of my own to watch.

After a complete loop around, I doubled back.  I could hear some of the divers starting their second dive, so I headed back to the boat.   We got the class back in the water, and Chris prepared to pull the hook.  Once everyone was aboard, we were quickly free, and on our way home.

Back at the dock we set to work cleaning fish and the boat.  The new divers were obviously excited about the dives, and asking when they could go again.  I only wish I could have gotten some pictures for them to remember the day by.

Missed the Varanger… Again

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

After years of trying, I still have not made it to the Varanger.   However this time we were close!

Besides the Varanger issue, I’ve been trying to get together with some fellow instructors to schedule some student dives in the proper depth range.   It’s been hit or miss over the last year, but we were finally able to coordinate schedules.   Unfortunately, none of my students were available.   It figures.   I’ve never been on the Atlantis before, so I just headed out to check out the boat and crew, and hopefully get in some fun dives.

NOAA was calling for rough seas around a front of storms coming through.  The front generated a fantastic sunrise, but the old “red sky in morning” told us NOAA bouncy castle with slide might be right this time.  We could see the front to the south, so we headed north to out run it.    This plan worked well.  We never saw more than 2 ft seas, and we had a fresh water rinse for our gear on the trip home.

The Atlantis is located right inside the Absecan Inlet with parking next to the AC Aquarium.   She’s a large comfortable boat with lots of deck space, and room inside for passengers and dry gear.   Geoff has been trying to get me down to AC to try it out.  I must say, I was impressed.

Shortly we arrived on the Southern Lillian.  The crew had a grapnel on the wreck quickly, and Geoff jumped in to secure it.  Once secure, divers started dropping in.  As usual, I was helping everyone in, hoping to hear a bottom report before dragging my camera into the water.  Geoff reported that below the thermocline, the clear surface water gave way to dark muddy bottom conditions.  Visibility was estimated at 5 ft at best.

With most fish out of season, I rolled in to look for scallops or lobster.   Geoff was right, below the thermocline the temp dropped to 47, and the vis made it difficult to even read gauges.  Once on the bottom I tied off and started the search.  I’ve been on this wreck several times, but in the current vis, I had no idea where I was.  I pulled out a few lobsters with eggs, and finally scored a couple legal ones.   Most of the fish darted away from my light as it approached.   There was one notable exception.  Off in the distance, I could see a large white object.   On closer inspection, it was one of the largest Tog I’ve ever seen.  It was not intimidated by my light or me.   As I approached within a few feet, it slowly swam over the top of the nearest deck plate, and disappeared.

Satisfied with my catch, I headed back to the line.  for some reason, there were large “clumps” of vegetation.   No one was sure what it was, but in some areas of the wreck it was piled up like tumbleweeds.  Reeling up the line involved pulling out wads of this stuff.   The thermocline at 70 ft felt great, and I could immediately see the boat, and the fact that it was raining.

Most divers went in for a second dive.   I opted for one long dive, and was happy with the harvest it produced.

Many of us slept on the trip home.   There are six bunks below, and lots of space inside to stretch out.   Our wet gear got a fresh water rinse on the way, and we still made it back to watch the rest of the game.

It was not the Varanger, but it was still a fun day of diving.

Thanks to the kindness of friends.

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Saturday, a group of divers headed out to the Arundo in a two fold trip.   First, we were in search of any gear left by our departed friend Yasuko Okada.  Second we wanted to hold a brief memorial service for our lost companion.   While the NOAA forecast was not good, the conditions could not have been better.   Clearly someone up there was looking out for us.

I can not say enough about the kindness and consideration of the captain and crew!   We were all still hurting.    I still can not write this without tears.  Some of us chose not to dive, and everyone understood why.

Thanks to the crew, our tie in was only a few feet from the original. In pairs, we all went over the wreck in separate directions.   I went to the end of my inflatable slide reel with no joy.  Stefan and Shelly found our target by going over the top of the debris.   Back on the boat, plans were made to recover the gear, and mark the location.  Rob recovered this on the second dive.

After the dives, we all gathered at the stern to honor our lost friend.   Captain Jim started off with a brief reflection, then Rob tried to say a few words of comfort.  Both were noble in their efforts, but there are really no words to express our feelings.   In silence we put flowers on the water above the resting place of our good friend.   With the flat conditions, the flowers formed a blanket on the surface above the site of our departed friend.

Many thanks to Captain Jim and the crew of the GypsyBlood for being so helpful and considerate! They were very helpful and understanding to a group of grieving divers.  At the same time, I know they too were suffering!

We were blessed with a beautiful day, and great conditions.

Yasuko, we were also blessed to have met you, we will all miss you!

Another casualty of Independence

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

Each year the Dina Dee II has a crew day and BBQ.  This year was as fun as usual.  However it was a little hotter than most.   The dive was my standard 2 hour dip on an inshore wreck.  No flat fish this year, but a few lobster, and a lot of anchors came up.   I only inflatable obstacle course send up the new anchors with price tags attached.   Others sent up some rust.   Either way.  It was a fun dive, and a great BBQ.   Lobsters and seabass were put on the grill, and there was even a beer or two passed around.

A great group of divers, and some of the most friendly captains and crew around.   A good time is always had on this boat, and I get to see my family on the way home.   What else could you ask for.

2010 BBQ

2010 BBQ

The Resor on July third

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Always a popular wreck, the Independence II headed out with a full group of experienced wreck divers to the Resor.   The seas were calm, and since it is a bit of a ride out, many were able to get a quick catnap on the way.  Yoda Frogman (Terry) jumped in for the tie, and had the pool open in no time.  We heard rumors that another boat had been there recently, but tied into the bow.  Dan’s numbers are for the stern.   Given the size of the wreck, there were no real worries.  This wreck is huge.  It’s a good swim from the bow to the stern, and anyone looking for dinner would take too long to make the full journey.

Sunset over the bay

Sunset over the bay

Terry clocked a 150 minute dive and brought up a bag of goodies for his effort.   I jumped once he was on deck.

There was some current on the surface, but it dropped off by the 100ft mark.  The bottom was bright with a good 30+ ft of vis.  I tied off and headed out.  Terry inflatable games told me about his excursion to the left of the anchor, and recommended I go right.   Within a few seconds, I knew exactly where I was, the stem.  There above me was the deck gun, and a few feet away was the scallop dredge … and then the stern of the wreck.   OK, Right is not the right way to go.

The bottom was littered with empty scallop shells from previous trips.  Here and there were live scallop.  By this time I’d nab a few.  Lobsters were in short supply.  I saw a few small claws, but nothing that called out “take me home”.  Heading back through Terry’s path of carnage I ran into the largest Ling Cod I’ve ever seen.  I had no poll spear available.  It swam right up to me.  I pulled out my bag to see just how curious it was, but it was not quite that stupid.

While picking up a few scallops in my path, I was still looking for lobster here and there.   Finally, I found my quarry in large pipe about 4 ft off the bottom.  With claws just smaller than my hands, I estimate a good 4 pounder.  Rules of engagement were discussed, battle plans were drawn, and the moment of truth arrived….  I had was at a distinct disadvantages.  The pipe provided him a deep area to retreat.  But for some reason he would come up to within a few feet of the open end, almost in reach   After he mocked my attempts,  I gave up and continued the scallop harvest.   On the way back to the line Lingzilla swam by again.  It’s annoying when the fish have attitude!

All in all a nice dive.  The bottom was a bit cool at 43, but the hang was a close to 70.

A good number of nice lobsters came up, and Terry extracted a good 4 pounder from another part of the wreck.   Scallops came up by the bag full.  Captain Dan had so many, he had to shoot his up on a lift bag.  Many divers had acquired their first scallops, and Dan spent time demonstrating the proper cleaning method, and discussing various ways to prepare them.  (I’m partial to the wrapped in bacon and grilled, but my wife has many recipes that are all good.)

Most divers did a second dive, with even more scallops and lobster were brought aboard.  Joe and Terry jumped in for a short dive and pulled the hook.

We were quickly home and coolers were loaded.  A great day of diving!