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Aquawoman Dive 2001  By Janice Raber

 
Joan Hassler serves her concoction. Sometimes things are a little rugged on a dive boat  

Top: Joan Hassler, Second row: Mary Anne Bessler, Laura Ling
Bottom row: Paula Jerman, Emma Schwartz, Janice Raber, Josephine Posillico

At 4:30 a.m. Saturday morning we were sitting in the DiversWay (Bay Shore, LI) parking lot in a pick-up truck loaded with dive gear waiting to meet up with some more of our group. "Yes sir, that’s the truth," we explained to the nice police officer. "We’ll be out of here and on our way in 15 minutes." That’s the down side of Long Island wreck diving...the early morning hours. By 6:00 a.m. we pulled the truck up to Pier 5 in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Captain Bill Reddan, of the Jeanne II Dive Charter Boat was cheerfully smiling, coffee cup in hand, dispensing hugs and kisses to all the ladies as his crew helped load our gear on the waiting gurneys to be taken down the long pier to where the boat is docked.

On the up side, we were anticipating a day of fun as we embarked on the annual Aquawomen Dive sponsored by the Long Island Divers Association. This year the dive should have been called the Aquawomen and Friends Dive, since we didn’t fill the boat with females and accepted several last minute men on this trip. Capt. Bill said there were seven more on the waiting list when they heard it was the Aquawomen. Lou, a tall fellow who goes by the moniker "Big Lou," and could only pass for the world’s most unlikely female, went so far as to wear a wig for the occasion. Unfortunately, it blew into the water before I could get my camera out of my bag.

The tradition of the Aquawomen Dive began during the early 1980’s when scuba diving was essentially a male dominated sport and there were fewer females who would attempt wreck diving. "Those who dared were sometimes intimidated by the "macho mystique" that surrounded the very idea of wreck diving," says Edith Hoffman, former President of the Long Island Divers Association and promoter of the first Aquawomen Dive. Initially, there was a tremendous response but as the years went by more and more women became more and more comfortable in the atmosphere of a wreck dive charter boat. The need to sponsor a special, all female dive seems to have run its course. These days hardly a boat leaves the dock without some women divers on board.

On this somewhat foggy morning, we planned to dive on the Stolt Dagali, a 583‘ Norwegian Tanker built in 1955 and sunk on Thanksgiving Day in 1964 after being struck by the 692’ luxury liner S.S. Shalom. Her stern was sheared off in the collision; however, her bow section stayed afloat and both she and the Shalom were safely towed to New York. The stern, known for abundant marine life and generally clear visibility, now rests on her starboard side off the New Jersey Coast 36 miles out of Debs Inlet and 18 miles from Manasquan Inlet, in 130 feet of water. The nice thing about the Stolt is that you can first hit the wreck at about 65 feet, making it a good dive for different skill levels. The angled wreckage is covered with graceful pink hydroids and multi-colors of anemones providing for some interesting photo opportunities. More advanced, adventurous divers can descend to 130 feet and even do some light penetration.

On this particular day with low cloud cover, the water was additionally darkened by a thick green thermocline, and though the visibility on the bottom was a clear 30 feet, it was more like doing a night dive.

During our surface interval between dives we were treated to epicurean delights prepared by the one and only Chef Martin who flips a mean hamburger with his favorite tongs and grills hotdogs made to order. He also did an excellent job with the steak. Mate Brian revealed one of his many talents when he whipped up a huge bowl of salad that had us scraping every bit of lettuce out of the bottom of the bowl before the end of the day. The real treat was a homemade brochette brought by Joan Hassler. She grows her own cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, uses extra virgin olive oil and delicately adds seasonings to a tasty perfection. Served on crusty bread slices, it was mouth-wateringly delicious.

The second dive site was a new wreck known as the US Navy’s APL-31, intentionally sunk this past July on the Shark River Reef, in part through the efforts of the New Jersey Council of Diving Clubs. This 260 foot Barracks Barge, affectionately called "Jack’s Spot" after a former chairman of the NJ Marine Fisheries Council, sits in 90’ to 125’ of water. It is very clean since it has only been down a month and has not yet attracted a great deal of marine life. General consensus says this wreck will improve with age and become a more interesting dive after the expected mussels, starfish, tautog, sea bass and lobsters move in. The big draw initially was the portholes, many of which have already been removed by artifact collecting divers. Those that remain are mostly the ones on the starboard side of the ship that rests in the sand, making them more difficult to get. There is still a lot of brass parts and machinery for the dedicated collector, though none of us brought home souvenirs.

The afternoon wind shifted, taking a turn for the worse blowing the seas up to 5 or 6 ft or more. After packing up our gear up and lashing everything securely on deck, most of us gathered in the cabin to share stories and stay dry during the bumpy, wet, two hour trip back to Brooklyn’s shore. Add camaraderie and good food to the special attention and entertainment provided by a crew, (Val, Brian, Martin and George,) who obviously love what they do, and you have a recipe for success despite the weather.

Captain Bill logged in some of Aquawomen Dive day’s activities in his Weekend Dive Report. "Brian was left home Sunday to study!!! (And rest from his hectic day with all the Aquawomen on Saturday.) The women kept stuffing dollar bills into his bathing suit, and calling ‘Oh, little boy.....!’ Capt. Val also missed the boat Sunday, because he tried to keep up with young Brian for the dollar bills and hurt his back. Wife states he could not get out of bed all day. What the Aquawomen did to my crew.... I do not know what the future will bring."

The Long Island Divers Association is holding their Annual Film Festival on November 24, 2001 at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY. See four great slide or video presentations on New York Diving, win prizes and attend the after show party at Hofstra with DJ, food and beverages sponsored by the Cayman Island Tourist Bureau. Win a trip to the fabulous Cayman Islands! All for $15. in advance; $20. at the door. Reserve your ticket now. Call Paula 631 281-2086 or Janice 631 286-0159.

For more information on scuba diving in the New York area contact The Long Island Divers Association. Visit website at www.lidaonline.com

For information on the Jeanne II and other Dive Charter Boats contact the Eastern Dive Boat Association. Visit website at www.EDBA.COM or call 718 332-9574  

 

Aquawoman Dive 1995  By Janice Raber

Some divers arrived at Captree Boat Basin in Suffolk County, Long Island, on Saturday night, traveling as far away as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, to partici¬pate in the 15th Annual Aqua- Woman Dive. This traditionally all women event, is a spin-off activity promoted by the Long Island Diver's Association. Every year we gather to dive on a wreck off the South Shore of Long Island. This year's dive would be on the U.S.S. San Diego lying at a depth range between 65 and 110 fsw.
This 15th Anniversary year was special for several reasons. We were diving off the Research Vessel "Wahoo", which was the vessel used for the very first Aqua-Woman expedition and this year would be totally female, captain, crew and divers. While our famous Captain, Janet Beiser, claims the Aqua-Woman dive is a form of reverse discrimination, we protest that we are not really making any kind of a "protest" with this women thing anymore. 15 years ago that may have been the case, but now the only state¬ment being made is to have an enjoyable day without worrying who's around while we change from bathing suits into dry clothes.


Loading gear in the warm, drizzling, August rain is not a ton of fun, but meeting new people and sharing stories has a way of diverting your attention from soggy sneakers and sticky T-shirts. One by one we staked our claim to bunks and drifted off to sleep as the "Wahoo" gently rocked on the incoming tide.
It was barely 5:45 a.m. when the chatter of voices and clank¬ing of tanks on the stern, woke us up. The drizzle persisted as the rest of the divers arrived and loaded gear aboard. Caroline Swift's perky cheerfulness filled in for the absent sunshine and managed to brighten the day for those of us who are somewhat less than exuberant first thing in the morning.

Two hours later, and twelve miles out of Fire Island Inlet, Captain Janet expertly pinpointed the mooring on the wreck of the San Diego. Mates, Sally Wahrmann, Mary Artale and Mitzi D' Alelio, skillfully prepared the vessel for diving. 1 wish 1 could report that every thing following went smoothly that day, but the intermittent rain, the steadily increasing Northeast wind, the swift current and the seven foot seas, did not make for the most pleasant dive experi¬ence. (I swear they looked like seven foot waves to me and those who provided break¬fast for the fish would agree!) Other estimates on the seas were 2 to 3 (crew and 4 to 5 (strong stomach bubble watchers). Even though the vis¬i bi Ii ty on the bottom was reported at 15 feet, Michele DePew brought up a two
pound lobster and Paula Jerman re¬trieved a weight belt, lost by some unfortunate un¬known on a previ¬ous day.
With the weather continu¬ing to deteriorate rapidly, everyone except the guy, voted to forego the second dive and head back to shore. Wait just a minute! Back up! Full astern! What guy you ask? Where did he come from? A stowaway? This was sup¬posed to be all women! Well, we were already out to sea and sud¬denly there he was! (Sporting a devilish grin on his face I might add!) Who was this lucky mystery mer-man? Maybe he was just a figment of our imaginations. . . the mind can play tricks when cast about on rough seas for a period of time. His identity shall remain a mystery, as we've sworn an oath of secrecy.
During the ride back to the dock, we probably gained a few pounds eating the big spread for lunch. LIDA President, Christine Schnell says, "The one thing never lacking on a ship full of women is food."
- Good conversation and camaraderie passed the time as we filled our stomachs. It seemed all too soon before we found ourselves back in the harbor.

All in all, this day of adventure can be summed up as a success. Mary Artale put it all in perspective, "At the end of the day if everyone's feeling good and you go home with everything you came with, it's a success." Add to that a few laughs, new friendships, a lobster and a weight belt and the day comes up, certainly not bad!
Maybe next year Long Island Diver's Association will promote a Co-ed Aqua-Women Dive, get your reservations in now!