Chilly Dives in March

Dive Stats:
Time: 25(ish) minutes
Water Temperature: 39-41°F
Air Temperature: ~35°F
Avg Depth: 13.4ft | Max Depth: 17.6ft
7mil wetsuit + gloves – 5mil hood

A review of that dive: it was cold, and dark, and we saw a worm. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

– Dan

In a past life, I would get bummed when my dive computer showed more than a week between dives…quite a change to now when it said 109 days. But life and environment changes tend to make diving hard…aka I travel a lot and my friends are weenies about the cold (you know who you are…). So when another traveling friend mentioned he’d be flying out to CT in March and wanted to know if anyone wanted to dive, my answer was a resounding HELL YEA. With the caveat of “If I’m around” haha.

So March 13th rolls around and I was indeed “around”, so the time/place to meet was determined. I had just gotten back from Colorado followed by the weekend at Boston Sea Rovers, so it was just a nice little extension of happiness. What I should also mention is that Day Light Savings had also just kicked in…so we still had light as we suited up at 18:00!! It was still a night dive, but you know summer is coming when you’re gearing up after 16:00 and there’s still sunlight out and about. At least, it gives you HOPE that summer is coming. Hard to imagine it when the wind is blowing and the air temps feel pretty daggone close to freezing.

Onto the dive! After Dan put on his drysuit and I struggled into my 7mil, we made our way to short distance from the parking lot to the beach. And into Poseidon’s welcoming arms we went! Despite the chilly temperatures, I didn’t experience that instant ice cream headache feeling that often accompanies cold water diving. I’m gonna chalk it up to my face already being numb from the wind. The light was swiftly fading from the sky, but my SeaLife Sea Dragon camera light and Dan’s Light and Motion lit up the underwater world just fine. In fact, it was one of the clearer visibility dives I’ve had at Stonington Point! We had a solid 10+ feet of visibility…which might not seem like a whole lot, but considering some days we measure it in inches, ten feet seems like a whole need world!

I was ready to see a whole lotta nothing – we’re in that in between phase where the seaweeds are just starting to come back and the fish/inverts are slowing making their way back from deeper waters. But to my immense surprise we saw a lots of life! Now, not Caribbean lotta life, but pretty awesome for a chilly New England night in March.

Species Spotted:

  • Purple-Spined Sea Urchin (Arbacia puntulata)
  • American Lobster (Homarus americanus)
  • Cunner (Tautogolabrus adsperus)
  • Hermit Crabs
  • Green Crabs (Carcinus maenas)
  • Acadian Hermit Crab (Pagurus acadianus)
  • LOTS of tiny Shrimp
  • Forbes’ Sea Star (Asterias forbesi)
  • juvenile Scup (Stenotomus chrysops)
  • Sculpin
  • Clam Worm (Neanthes virens)!!

For pictures on these critters, check out the Local Species page on the SECONN website.

Clam Worm!

Hands down the most exciting species I saw was the Clam Worm. While in Colorado on Thursday, Pete mentioned the chilly day when we went diving at Fort Wetherill and the floor was literally writhing with them. Then I came home and on Sunday Facebook had a “on this day 3 years ago” post from that same dive! THEN Dan and I got underwater and I spotted one swimming along the bottom! Super exciting, haha. We don’t typically see them in the summer – I couldn’t find anything online about it, but my guess is that they reproduce in the March time frame. When we were at Fort Wetherill and they were covering the seafloor, they seemed to be spewing white stuff into the water and then dying…which brought in a bunch of Green Crabs – most double clawing pieces of dead Clam Worm (yet still willing to fight you if you got too close). The fact that the worm we spotted was swimming (versus crawling along/in the mud) leads me to believe that it was indeed reproducing, as Clam Worms undergo epitoky – a morphological change that occurs when they become sexually mature. Their parapodia (the tiny “feet” on the sides of their body) enlarge so they can swim in the water column – spewing their baby bits in the water before dying. Unfortunately for them, they are a part of animal kingdom that experiences semelparity or death after reproduction. Glad humans fall under the iteroparity side of things! (guess that Marine Science degree does come in handy!)

Anyway, after almost a half hour in the chilly water, I signed for us to start our ascent. After 80+ dives at Stonington Point, it’s easy to navigate about and we only had a short surface swim before we hit the beach. Thanks to my sweet Fourth Element wetsuit, I wasn’t overly cold, but my fingers were headed towards too cold, and hot beverages were calling our names. Now comes the hard part…taking off all your gear with cold fingers and then braving the biting wind to dry off and get dressed. There were certainly a lot of holy moses it’s cold type comments grunted into the air as we struggled to get ourselves out of our gear. But thanks to the cold, we didn’t dilly dally about before heading over to DogWatch for some warmth! We were soon starting to thaw with mugs of hot chocolate (and rum) in hand. It’s always fun to people watch when you walk into the local establishment with soaking wet hair, shivering bodies, and hands that aren’t as agile as they should be. His drysuit was being worked on and it was deemed too cold for a wetsuit, but Chris joined us for the post-dive libations and dinner.

Image may contain: Christopher Fletcher, Corey Leamy and Daniel McMath, people smiling, people sitting, people eating, table, indoor and food
Photo by Chris

Thankful to be surrounded by an intrepid group of friends who will brave all weather conditions to adventure on both land and sea!

Next up, Day Three in Colorado – donuts, museums, and horses disguised as dogs.

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