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
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
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
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.
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.
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!