Sep-Oct 2002
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SCUBA with the Sharks - September 7, 2002
Activity & report by Alison O.
My friend Pat and I headed to Galilee on the southern tip of RI for 6am <groan> Sunday morning, gradually awakening as the sun came up. We loaded our scuba gear onto the fishing boat SNAPPA and greeted the other five divers as they came aboard. Captain Charlie was a very calm, patient, and happy-go-lucky man who also happens to be a medic (good thing to have along on a shark dive!).

We drove past Block Island and spotted a few dolphins happily jumping alongside the boat, so we stopped there to watch them and catch a few blue fish for shark bait. This trip comes with no guarantee of finding sharks, so at that point we were happy to see the dolphins and to get in some fishing as well.

Another hour further out to blue water we found our spot for diving. It took about an hour or so after letting out the "chum" (fish guts to attract sharks) before the first shark arrived. I couldn't be happier to have earned the title of "First person to spot a blue shark" for the day. :)

Most folks had stayed on the boat so as not to use up the air in their tanks until more sharks arrived, so Pat, Phill (a diver from Ohio) and I were the only ones in the water at the time, snorkeling on the playpen (a styrofoam float device). Originally I hung out on top of the shark cage, but it was not very comfortable with all those bars under me. It's just nice to know you can quickly enter the cage from the top should a group of sharks suddenly appear. The view from the playpen is rather limited as you are reduced to peering over the side.

With the arrival of the second blue shark, two other divers jumped in. Chris is a computer programmer from Wallingford, CT who does "old-fashioned" underwater photography as a hobby, and Becky is a headhunter from western MA who is just getting into marine videography. Her camera cost her down payment savings on a new house, over $7,000. Here's hoping she shares that footage with us this winter after she's had a chance to edit it.

Before booking this trip, I asked Charlie if anyone had ever been bitten on his trips. He told me there was one woman who was bitten on the butt while climbing back into the boat--turns out that woman was Becky! She laughed as she related the tall tale of how she'd supposedly been mauled to death by the thing after the rumor swelled, when actually the account of being bitten on the butt wasn't quite true either. She was in the water and had felt a blue biting on her air tank, and when she tried to poke him with the stick that Charlie provides, she was bitten on the thigh. The docile blues release once they realize you're not food, so there was no thrashing. Still, she had a pretty good bite that left a circular scar after fifteen stitches and a skin graft.

Blue sharks are about 5 feet long and are a very graceful animal with light skin, which to Pat looked purple under the water. They have an arc of spectrum blues on their backs, which is how they got their name. Simply beautiful! I watched as Phill gently petted one on the nose, and stroked another on the side, but I was not able to reach the sharks myself since I was in between Pat and Phill. :^( After a third blue arrived, the trio played around, circling Chris for a bit. Then realizing we weren't edible, they slowly swam off into the abyss. They didn't seem very interested in the chum or in hanging around, but they were definitely curious about us.

Normally waters in New England have a visibility of about 5-20', but we had gorgeous skies, calm waters and thus visibility of about 50'! The rays of sun seemed infinite as they poked down through the 250' depth. It doesn't get any better than that.

When you're hanging out on the playpen, there's really nothing else to see under the water but last year's frozen tuna that Charlie strung out as "live" bait. Occasionally someone would yank the string to make the tuna dance, and at one point Chris brought it up and put a cracker in its mouth to see if we'd notice. :) The sharks weren't the least bit interested in the tuna, perhaps sensing its frozen state. I noticed a white fish with big brown spots (dogfish?) that looked like a dust mop as it swam upward, so Charlie teased me the rest of the trip about the "squirrel" I'd spotted.

After a period of about a half hour, Phill called out, "Baby mako!" Becky had seen one the day before and was hoping to see him again. The mako sharks, even the small ones, have a fierce look about them. Pierre from Montreal now jumped in, but only Pat chose to use the cage. Then the two guys from Long Beach, NY jumped in, but only for a short time since one of them was sea sick from the boat ride (I took Bonine beforehand myself. Not good to chance sea sickness in scuba gear!).

Normally Charlie would insist on everyone being either in the cage or on the playpen, but since four of the divers had done this trip with him before and the rest of us didn't seem like foolish divers, he let us choose what we wanted to do. Pat was ready with her stick when the mako looked as though he would enter the cage. The shark chose not to enter, but rather swam over to me to investigate. I must've looked like food in my purple wetsuit and lack of air tank, since I chose to skin dive instead. He was a much faster and erratic swimmer than the blues, and the look on his wide-eyed toothy face made me think twice about trusting him, but I just held still under the water as he came very near, hoping to pet him once that head went by... Unfortunately at the last minute he veered off, and then he left us.

The experienced shark divers were saddened when they realized it was time to head back soon, and that there would probably be no more sharks arriving for the day. Who would've guessed a pod of about 30 dolphins would be leaping by just then, and so close to the boat?! What a blessing! Becky and Chris jumped in and swam toward them for the ultimate shots while the rest of us looked on in quiet awe.

With no guarantee of blue skies, calm waters, shark sightings, cool fellow divers and warm weather, we all booked this trip in advance hoping for the best. The day couldn't have been better! We'll do it again next year for sure.

Thanks, Captain Charlie!!

World's End Walk - September 7, 2002
Activity & report by Jan G.

Pam, Marilyn, Denise 1, Jan, Jim, Jen, Ann, Denise 2, and Patrice met in the parking lot at the World's End in Hingham, MA. The latter three were brand-new to GONewEngland, and I hope to see you again soon. The day was warm, sunny...couldn't have been better. Well, the dragon taking tolls at the gate could have been nicer, but we got over it.

World's End is a figure-8 of land sticking out into the Boston Harbor. It is filled with easy loops of trails that go through woods and by the water, with views of Nantasket.

For about 2 hours, we walked the trails. There is a "Rocky Neck" portion that is perfect for resting, eating lunch, and enjoying the view. We saw some cormorants, and Denise 1, our birder, kept us well-informed re wildlife, etc. Did you know Gorgonzola cheese is made with worms? I didn't, and I still can't believe it. I'm gonna have to research that one.

After lunch, we inadvertently circled around the neck a few times, but we made it back to the parking lot after a great walk with good people.

Mt. Greylock Camping Weekend - October 4-6, 2002
Activity, report, and photos by Dawn S.
Additional photos from Kathryn D.

Overlook Trail View

The 5 people (Joe, Joan, Michelle, Kathryn, and Kim) who joined me at the Stoney Ledge group campsite on Mt. Greylock now understand why I say it's the best campsite on the mountain. In order to snag this wonderful site, I had to call for the reservation in July. It's so hard to know what you will get for weather in October in New England, especially a couple thousand feet up a mountain, but I was optimistic. As the date approached, I got nervous. For a while, it looked like we might have some hurricane rains to deal with - but in the end, we had some fog, rain, and wind on Friday but then had beautiful autumn weather for the rest of the trip.

On Saturday, those who showed up late on Friday got their first peek at the spectacular Hopper, the valley below.

Views from Stoney Ledge

We had breakfast on the ledge and then we headed up to the top of the Massachusetts' tallest point, enjoying views on the Overlook Trail along the way.



At the top we had lunch and climbed the War Memorial

War Memorial
A lighthouse that landed far from the sea

The Group:  Dawn, Joe, Michelle, Kathryn, Joan, Kim

From there we continued down the other side to Robinson's Point, a short detour with spectacular views.

We headed back to our campsite and cooked a wonderful dinner. We donned some fleece and cranked up the fire, and even got a great view of the stars (if only Gary and his telescope had come along!)

Sunday we enjoyed another "breakfast with a view", packed up, and did a quick hike to Rounds Rock - where we soaked up some sun and more amazing views, before we all headed our separate ways.


Rounds Rock

Overall, the foliage might have been little behind schedule but it was still spectacular, and it was a great weekend!