2001 “Vineyard Trip”
guys, eight days, ten wrecks, fourteen dives.
a summer of diving there’s usually at least one adventure that
sticks out prominently in our minds. For me the most enjoyable
dive trip in 2001 was the week of July 15th through the
the week John Banks, Jack Fiora, John Jascot, Larry Lawrence, and
myself spent eight beautiful days diving wrecks from Mystic to
Nauset Cape Cod Massachusetts aboard the Baccala on the Vineyard
Day one began at eight in the morning
loading all the provisions we’d need to see us through the week. 30 dive tanks, five sets of dive gear, everyone’s personal
items, a full load of fresh water, 10 or so bags of groceries, and
an endless list of items that kept us busy for a good part of the
morning. The swim
platform started out the day a number of inches above the water but
as we’re set to leave the dock all the extra weight has it almost
touching the surface. After a brief stop at Haring’s, for 300 gallons of diesel
fuel, we set our sights some fifty miles away to the first wreck of
the week, The Vineyard Lightship.
The Lightship lies on a mud/sand bottom in
75 feet of water South West of Cutty Hunk Island at the end of the
Elizabeth Islands. The
bow and stern are the most intact part of the vessel with the bow
being the most picturesque. When
your sitting on the bottom out in front of the bow looking at the
huge hawser pipe, it’s hard to imagine the tumultuous seas that
brought the Lightship to this quiet spot. Even though the visibility is not usually all that good,
there are few if any remaining artifacts, and lobsters are not that
abundant; it’s still a nice dive due to its history, the shallow
depth and the fact that it still resembles a ship.
Our dive on the Lightship is an excellent start to a great
After lunch we head for Devils Bridge off
of Gay Head on Martha’s Vineyard to look for the City of Columbus. Larry and I jump in to follow the edge of the reef
where we’ve determined she may rest and see if we can find any
signs of the wreck. The
City of Columbus ran aground on Devils Bridge in January 1884 with a
large loss of life. The wreck is being dove by others and although we continue to
look for her we have yet to find her, luck will not be with us again
on today’s attempt. After
this dive we put a few more miles under the boat and head for
Vineyard Haven. Once we
arrive in the harbor and set the hook some of use take a dip while
others settle in with a good book or a few good stories.
Later, while Jascot prepares a meal fit for kings, we perform
some boat maintenance and then enjoy a few beers on the aft deck.
After dinner and as nightfalls we have some coffee and
dessert under the stars with a few exaggerated stories.
It’s a fine ending to a beautiful day as we sleepily head
one by one to our bunks.
At some point during the week if the
weather offshore was cooperative we were hoping to make a run for
Nantucket Shoals. Unfortunately
right now the weather forecast looks bleak.
During our evening in Vineyard Haven we make the decision to
head for Monomoy Island on the elbow of the Cape and spend the
majority of the week diving the wrecks around there. If
the weather breaks then we will be in easy striking distance of the
shoals. The wrecks around Monomoy average about 50 fsw and provide
long dive times with plenty to see and find.
Also, slightly north is a favorite destination of mine and we
always have something new to look for in this area.
Day two dawns just as bright and calm as
the previous day and we get an early start on our 32 mile journey up
Chatham road for the first wreck of the day.
Halfway through our trip and after rounding RN”14”
heading NNE for the end of Monomoy Island I spied a rather large
sailing ship taking the same course but far ahead.
It wasn’t until we reached Monomy and turned east through
Pollock Rip Channel that we over took her and were able to fully
enjoy the sight of this three masted schooner under full sail with
bones in her teeth. She
was by far the prettiest vessel I saw all week.
Our first wreck of the day is the Alva,
built for William Vanderbilt in 1886 at a cost of a half million
dollars and sunk on July 1892 by the H.F. Dimock while the Alva lay
at anchor waiting out a thick fog.
The Alva is usually a very enjoyable and productive wreck but
this year the sand has covered most of her and the prospect of
treasure is quite bleak. But
the tide is good and we all have an enjoyable dive.
The second dive of the day is the wreck of the Horatio Hall,
which is literally a stones throw from the Alva. In a twist of fate seventeen years after the Dimock sank the
Alva, the Dimock would also sink the Hall in just about the same
spot. Although the Hall
can be an excellent dive, and treasures along with big bugs can be
found here, for some reason she is a wreck that does not hold much
allure for me. However,
on today’s dive I’m fortunate to find my second brass lamp base
from an explosion proof light and have an enjoyable dive.
After a nights stay in Stage harbor we
headed for my favorite wreck in this area the 703.
For me today would turn out to be the most interesting day of
the trip. The day
started out calm and sunny but as we headed North around Monomoy and
passed our first whales of the trip the skies grew darker and darker
as we neared the wreck. As
Larry and I stood on the bow of the boat perched to throw the hook a
lighting storm, which was earlier on shore, started to move our way.
Also at this time we noticed a large group of Humpback whales
about a mile to our east breeching.
The lighting came closer and Larry and I became more
apprehensive until there was a flash about a mile away.
That was it, on the wreck or not we throw the hook and headed
inside. Shortly after
we ducked inside the rain came and the lighting danced around us but
never came closer then about a mile away.
It was interesting but disconcerting to see lighting hit the
water and watch the ensuing burst of steam from where it struck.
As if the storm wasn’t enough for us to take in, the whales
to the east were in a long steady procession South and we watched as
one after the other breeched again and again.
An hour later the storm had passed, we caught or first and
only Cod of the week, we were ready to make our dive, and the whales
were still breeching.
After a long cold dive on the 703 we headed
south past our cetacean friends to the Perkiomen.
On this dive Jascot and Larry were fortunate to find and bag
a lobster that weighed in at 15 pounds.
Since it was so early in the week and there was some concern
as to whether or not the lobster would live long enough to make it
back to the dock in Mystic, Larry decided it would be best to let
him go. So as the sun
set over Monomoy Island and the cameras clicked away Larry released
the lucky crustacean back to his home in the sea.
As we headed back to Stage harbor for a well-deserved dinner
and a good nights rest we all felt the privilege of having again
enjoyed the wonders of nature and another fine day at sea.
After having spent three days on the water
and traveled some 200 miles it was time to get food, fuel, water,
and air. After sleeping
in a bit we made a run to the Aransis for the late tide and then
headed for Saquatucket and our needed provisions.
This harbor is very convenient for provisioning with a nice
grocery store across the street from the marina, it’s very close
to Stage Harbor where we usually grab a mooring for the night when
we’re in the area, and we can bribe the owner of the fuel dock
with a few five pound bugs to let us stay a while at the dock and
hire his son to schlep the tanks to the closest dive shop for fills. There was a dive shop within walking distance but they’ve
unfortunately closed shop and it’s now a 20-minute truck drive to
get tanks filled for those bubble blowers on board.
This is also a good time to hose down the boat, run the
vacuum, make those calls home, and fill the coolers with ice. After everyone is accounted for we head back to Stage Harbor
in the dark for a late but excellent dinner prepared again by the
king of the galley John Jascot.
Although I didn’t know it when I woke
Thursday morning, this was to be my lucky day.
Since the first tide of the morning was at 8:30 and we had
gone to bed so late the night before, we decided to get a late start
to the day. The first dive of the day would be a drift dive in search of
the Dixie Sword. I
don’t know what possessed me to agree to do this dive with Larry,
but when it was done I was glad it was over.
Doing a drift dive here when the tide is running is
equivalent to diving the Race at peak flow. I strapped on an 80 and
went with only the essentials. When the boat was positioned in the exact spot Larry wanted
we rolled off the back of the boat and immediately headed for the
bottom, and that’s when my trouble started.
As I frantically kicked to follow Larry to the bottom I could
feel that my fin strap had let go.
As we drifted on the bottom I gave Larry my fin to help me
put it back on. He was
trying to help me put it on and also look for any indication of the
wreck, since it should be right about where we were.
Of course at this point before he gets my fin on Larry spots
the spar sticking out of the sand about 30 feet away, hands me my
fin, makes a mad swim to the spar, takes a wrap around it with the
buoy line, and then swims the reel back to me while I’m try to
hold place grasping at the sand with one hand, holding a fin with
the other, and over breathing my regulator. After he heads back to
the spar I inch my way up stream kicking with one fin, pulling
myself up the 1/8” reel line, and cussing between deep rapid
breaths. Did I mention
that the tide was running so fast that it was also trying to rip my
mask off, which was now half full of water?
After I made it to the spar and regained composer I was able
to enjoy the sight of Larry trying to climb the spar which stuck out
of the sand about 20 feet. He
was hugging the spar and inching his way up with his back to the
current and the buoy line in one hand.
His objective was to tie the line off at the top of the spar
but the current was so strong it kept trying to twist him around the
spar and rip him off. He
never made it but half way up.
Having had enough we headed for the surface knowing we had at
least seen a piece of the Dixie Sword and survived.
To top it off, upon arriving home at the end of the week we
read a story about a charter boat that lost it’s catch to a Great
White that was cruising the Rip, makes you think.
The second dive was much more pleasant and
was on one of our more productive lobster wrecks, the wreck of the
;-) The wreck is in about fifty feet of water and although there
isn’t much left it has degraded into a perfect lobster hotel.
Two years prior I pulled a twelve pounder out of her and this
year I topped that by eight pounds.
Half way into my dive I was following John Jascot around the
wreck letting him get his share lobsters since I had already done my
share of removing lobsters from their accommodations.
Well, to my right side I spotted a behemoth sitting on a
mound of sand like he was the king of the wreck, which he was.
He was just to good to pass up and since my bug bag was full
John was gracious enough to let me borrow his bag so I could get him
to the surface. Tony,
what we call all the big lobsters, was on display at the Mystic
Aquarium until this past January when he unfortunately passed away.
He was a really cool animal that a lot of people got to enjoy
very close up and I’m going to miss watch him roam around the
After another nights stay in Stage harbor
we set out for another full day of diving.
Today we would dive the Pendleton, 703, and what we named
Albatross rock. On the
way around Monomoy Island and out to the Pendleton we were able to
get a close up look at the large number of seals we had been seeing
hauled out on the beach. Its no wonder the Great White(s) were
cruising this area, I remind myself to avoid surface swims if at all
possible. We caught the
morning tide on the Pendleton and had a nice dive although
visibility was not at it’s best.
I was lucky enough to find another big bug, 11 pounds, which
I bestowed upon Larry in reparation for releasing his15 pounder
earlier in the week.
After the Pendleton we headed north past
the 703 to a set of numbers that was supposed to be a large fishing
investigated these numbers a few years back but came up empty handed
as we usually do. Since we were ensured that the numbers we had were good we
thought we’d give it a second try.
This year would be a dream.
When we were right on the numbers the first time a huge spike
came up on the recorder and the excitement plus frustration began.
Since we were marking fish we thought we should fish it first
so we dropped a buoy and made a number of drifts over the
several attempts it was obvious that our skills were lacking or the
fish just weren’t biting, there are reasons for us calling Jack
“Captain No Fish”, so we now turned our attention to diving.
We went through our normal procedure, drive in circles for
awhile, throw the hook, make sure it’s set, get the sideline in,
and then just as we’re ready to hit the water we’d notice we
were drifting. Pull up
all the gear, set the hook again, get ready to hit the water, check
our position on the buoy, yup we’re drifting, time for plan two.
Now we head upstream of the target, throw the hook, and John
Banks and I hit the water with Jack to follow.
Both John and I make a scramble to get to the bottom as quick
as we can and when we get there there’s nothing within our 50 foot
viz. John thinks we
missed it so he clips off his reel and heads off to one side and up
stream while I stay behind to drift with the hook and pick up the
many Sea Scallops that are all around.
Jack descends and drops to the bottom down stream of the hook
about 40 feet away. He
points down stream and then to John followed by the “what the hell
is he doing” signal. I
get Johns attention and we head towards Jack with the hook.
What comes into vision is not a large fishing vessel but a
rock as big as a house. All
around is sand and this huge rock, it’s quite a sight.
After we set the hook to hold the boat Jack and John head to
the left while I head to the right to check out a school of Cod.
There had to be about thirty Cod schooling together from the
bottom to halfway up the rocks side.
With the rebreather I was able to get within ten feet before
they got spooked and dispersed, I headed back around to Jack and
John. When I got to Jack he was kneeling in front of an overhang
that was four feet off the bottom and sloped in about fifteen feet.
He looked at me, gave me the “really big” sign, and
pointed his light under the overhang. At first I wasn’t all that
impressed but as all the Cod under this overhang moved around I saw
tucked in the back the king of all Cod.
This guy was HUGE and dwarfed all the other Cod.
With a big smile we called it a dive and headed up the side
of the boulder to the anchor line.
This may not have been a virgin wreck but we all agreed it
was certainly worth another visit sometime in the future.
summer season of 2002 has stopped me from writing more J