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Monday
Jun112012

The John Jack Encounters Pirates on the Mohawk 

With the NOAA Sunday forecast set at 2-3 ft seas, the John Jack was prepared for anything – except 2-3 ft seas. Would it be 8-12 footers crashing over the bow, or Lake Atlantic conditions where the ocean lays flatter than a plate of pee? (Have you ever wondered what was going on when this colorful saying was coined? Yeah, me neither). Fortunately, it was Lake Atlantic conditions. As we headed to the Mohawk at a moderate clip, a boat began closing in fast on the port side – it was Captain Jim Wilson and the pirates of the Gypsy Blood. And the race was on. The John Jack pulled ahead, then the Gypsy Blood pulled even. The only winner was the kid at the marine fueling station with the grungy jeans and the stained baseball cap. We set the hook and methodically threw everyone overboard. It was imperative that we get our divers in the water quickly, before the Gypsy Blood pirates removed all of the valuable artifacts from the Mohawk. About mid-morning, one of the Gypsy Blood crew swam over to our boat to pick up some ice cream – and swam it back holding the ice cream above the water. By the end of the day, the Mohawk had surrendered a couple of fish, a few “bugs,” and a handful of ceramic tiles. Conditions on the wreck were great: bright, 30 ft viz, and no current. The ocean was so nice to us, we were taken aback by the humidity and mid-90s temps that greeted us back at the marina. Also at the dock was Captain Jim; apparently, he’s also pretty quick on land.

Pick a date, pick a wreck, and the John Jack will put you and your divers on it – guaranteed!

Captain Rich

Wednesday
May302012

And Brownies

It doesn't get much better on the ocean than Sunday. RJ and ten stallward Treasure Cove (Westfield, NJ) divers boarded the John Jack bright and early, and prepared thermselves for what turned out to be a great dive on the Algol. Divers prepare themselves in different ways; some set up their gear, others munch breakfast in the galley, and still others catch a few Zzzzs in the bunkroom. But once we hit the Algol, it was all business. After the crew did a quick set, the divers sprang into action and were on the wreck in no time. It was "Flounder City" on the ocean floor and "Mussel Mania" on the wreck. During the surface interval, the divers dined on John Jack's famous tube steaks, sauerkraut, beanz, salad, fresh-cut pinnapple, and brownies. The short hop back to the dock put everyone in their cars and on the way home by 4PM. Bottom temps were in the low 50's and viz was an outstanding 20-25 feet. Truly a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Old friends, new friends, and a great dive. And brownies! What's not to like?! Check out the John Jack website for its dive schedule and make us part of your next great dive adventure. You won't be disappointed.

Capt. Rich

Wednesday
Aug242011

High Times on the High Seas

The John Jack was locked and loaded as we left the marina at 4AM Monday with the group of top-notch divers assembled by Mark "Sharky" Alexander. The predawn glow in the eastern sky combined with the wind tousling my hair stirred the same strong emotions that seagoing men have felt for thousands of years. The John Jack waited out the weather by tacking slowly to our first destination, the wreck of the cruise ship SS Carolina. The Carolina is a WWI casualty sunk by U-151 on June 2, 1918, known in maritime lore as Black Sunday (http://njscuba.net/sites/site_black_sunday.html#Carolina). As predicted by NOAA, the seas improved, but as we drew close to the dive site, the ocean grew angry and we were forced to retreat. Plan B, the Resor, was a long haul, but we arrived in time to put divers Dan Wright and Sherwood Probeck in the water for a dusk/night dive. A night dive on the Resor; the food virtually crawls into your goodie bag. Dan and Sherwood collected enough scallops to make a nice lunch for all on board - thanks guys. With the off-shore seas still raging, we abandoned plans to reach the wreck of the destroyer Murphy and instead headed further in-shore to the Stolt. Two nice dives, but not what we planned. As sailors, divers, and wise men know, you take what the ocean offers - and nothing more. Indeed, some of the wrecks we dive are a testament to the enthusiasm of foolish sailors. With Hurricane Irene huffing and puffing its way up the coast, we're busy checking the buoys and the NOAA forecast to determine if we can put Sharky's group on the U-869, aka Hitler's lost sub.

Captain Rich Benevento

Sunday
Aug142011

The Sea Gypsies Enjoy Flat Seas and 40 ft Viz on the Venturo Tug.

It doesn't get much better on the ocean, especially when diving an in-shore wreck like the G.A. Venturo. On Saturday, the NYC Sea Gypsies Intro to Wreck Diving trip was blessed with sunny skies, flat seas, no current, and incredible visibility. The Venturo, a 100 ft long tug sunk in 1996 as part of the NJ artificial reef program, sits upright on the sandy bottom at 75 fsw. The Venturo, running true to form, was teaming with fish and surrounded by sea stars, some of which were "cuddling" shells inhabited by hermit crabs. A dozen sea robins foraged through the sand while a lone flounder "hid" in plain view on the sand along the starboard side of the wreck. Some of the Sea Gypsies ventured out to the cluster of five armored personnel carriers (APC) that lie about 50 ft from the stern. It was a little chilly on the bottom, but with the thermocline only 10 ft above the tie-in, it was a cozy ascent back to the boat. The day ended with a leisurely lunch of ribs (generously provided by Bill Pfeiffer - LIDA), hot dogs, sauerkraut, beans, and fresh fruit - and then a quick ride back to the dock. For some of the Sea Gypsies, this was their first wreck dive in the North Altantic - what a way to start! Join us on our next adventure. We still have a boatload of open dates for wrecks at recreational depths. And for the tech crowd, we'll be headed to the Carolina (230 fsw) and Murphy (260 fsw) on August 21st.

Capt. Rich Benevento

Tuesday
Jul192011

Shipwrecks, Omelets, and Baklava

Our late return from the Andrea Doria put the crew into double time to ready the John Jack for its 6AM departure to Block Island with our good friends from the NYC Sea Gypsies. Each day began with a "how would you like your omelet" prepared by Chef Jeff and, later in the day, a freshly prepared lunch. Dinner and dessert was in the Block Island marina, a refuge for wealthy boat owners and an itinerant over-21 crowd looking for a good time. Without a doubt, it was a "there goes the neighborhood" moment when The Big Red Boat pulled into the Block Island marina where every boat is white fiberglass on the outside and lacquered mahogany on the inside. As a finishing touch, the John Jack was adorned with a multi-colored assortment of drying dive duds on the upper deck rails. Many locals, including one fellow who introduced himself as "Baklava," came by to gawk and ask questions about the John Jack, scuba diving, and the local shipwrecks. In truth, the marina was a curiosity; we came to dive. Because most of the Block Island wrecks are in sheltered waters, we can usually get in two dives - and sometimes three - each day. We dove shallow wrecks like the Grecian, Black Point, Idene, and deeper wrecks like the U853 (130 fsw) and USS Bass (155 fsw). The weather and surface conditions were great and the wrecks didn't disappoint either. The Sea Gypsies Block Island trip has become an annual event that the entire John Jack family looks forward to; perhaps you can join us next year.

Captain Rich

Tuesday
Jul192011

The Ocean Giveth . . .  .

The John Jack arrived in Montauk on July 11th where it will spend a month diving off-shore shipwrecks like the Andrea Doria and other maritime casualties in the waters off Block Island, Rhode Island. We began our Montauk season, a 3 day expedition to the Andrea Doria, a day late due to rough seas at the dive site. But the wait was worth it. The Mount Everest of Scuba Diving greeted us with 2 ft seas and no current. Thanks to Hank Garvin of Garloo fame who left his mooring line on the wreck, we had divers in the water within an hour of our arrival. Hank's tie-in at the break in the hull enabled our divers to penetrate the wreck quickly and safely. A few bottles were recovered during two dives and plans were laid for the next day's dives. Unfortunately, we were chased off the wreck at 7AM by a roaring surface current and an approaching weather front. We left the Doria with 3 ft seas, but as the front overtook us, the seas grew to 5 ft., then 7 ft., then 9 ft. and finally for about 3 hrs, Capt. Rich was skillfully guiding the John Jack through 10-12 ft. seas. By the time we reached safe refuge, we were closer to Martha's Vineyard than Montauk and our 6 hr. return trip had become 13 hr. rodeo on the high seas. Like so many expeditions to the Andrea Doria, you take what you can get because as quickly as the ocean giveth, the ocean taketh away.

Captain Rich

Tuesday
Jul122011

Deja vu All Over Again

Last week's trip to the Resor was a smashing success. Could we reprise the ocean conditions, the air temps, and bottom viz the following weekend when Bernie Chowdhury's group would be on the John Jack? It turns out we could. While the customers slept in the bunkroom, the John Jack slid through the flat seas between Manasquan and the Resor. By departing during the "wee hours" of Sunday, we had a full day on the Resor for two dives plus breakfast, lunch, naps, naps, naps - yeah, it was lazy day of diving and taking it easy. Even though the folks last week bagged every scallop and lobster anywhere near the stern, it was clear that reinforcements were sent in just in time for our return. So we cleaned out that small corner of the ocean again. The Resor never disappoints. After the head count, we pulled the hook, and headed home with the game cooler full of the day's bounty.

Unfortunately, the John Jack does not have Neptune on a retainer. Our Monday night departure from Montauk to the Andrea Doria is on hold until Tuesday evening when off-shore sea conditions are expected to improve. By Friday, the John Jack will be overnighting at Block Island while the NYC Sea Gypsies dive wrecks off the Rhode Island coast.

Captain Rich Benevento

Tuesday
Jul052011

The Resor on a Perfect Day

The Resor on a Perfect Day (July 2, 2011)

Imagine waking up to a great dive site, flat seas, sunny skies, the smell of breakfast cooking, and hot coffee brewing. On Saturday, the divers on the John Jack had a chance to enjoy such a magical day.

When the John Jack plans to sail to off-shore wrecks like the Resor, (35 miles from the inlet), I like to sail early. The customers sleep on board the night before and usually wake up just as we arrive at the dive site . As a dive boat captain, I enjoy the early morning at sea. There is a certain feeling of refreshment when you leave the dock in the dark while the rest of the world sleeps and then watch from the helm as the sun slowly rises. You can do it a thousand times - each time feels new. Dive conditions on the Resor were just about as pretty as it gets. The drop was so well placed that the crew had us tied into stern gun mount within minutes. The lines were set quickly and the divers began entering the water shortly after 8 AM. With 25 foot of visibility on a majestic shipwreck, scallops in the sand, nice size lobster in the crooks, there was something for everyone. With a second captain on board, I decided to break out my dive gear and dive. Yes, I still dive and I love the chance to get in the water. The early start enabled everyone to enjoy a long and leisurely surface interval on deck, the galley, or down in the bunk room. The lunch menu was subs, fruit, drinks, and laughter. After the second dive, we called the roll, pulled the hook, and headed home. By the time we reached Pt. Pleasant, the lobsters were iced, the scallops were "scalped," and the customers were well-napped. It was a great day at sea with Randi Eisen and her group.

The John Jack returns to the Resor this Sunday, July 10 with noted author, explorer, and instructor Bernie Chowdhury. Join us. Don't just talk the talk, come walk the walk with Captain Rich and the crew of the John Jack. Your memories will last a lifetime.

Captain Rich