Friday, January 27, 2017

Dive Team still reminded of Sandy: Items lost and memories found

It has been said that all sorts of things come in threes.  For the Point Pleasant Beach First Aid Dive Team, memories of Hurricane Sandy recently came back in threes.  But rather than cringe at the destruction and loss from the storm, these volunteer divers smiled at the recoveries.

A Friendly Face

Last November, Dive Team members were training off a beach in Bay Head when a reminder of the historic storm appeared in the form of a smiling face.  The divers had been in the water nearly three hours, swimming and practicing underwater navigation.  Just as they crawled out, cold and tired, Nancy Bowden just happened to be strolling down the beach.  They had first met each other nearly four years earlier.

One of the homes demolished by Hurricane Sandy had belonged to Nancy’s grandmother.  In the storm, flood waters and pounding surf had lifted the house off its foundation.  The powerful waves and wind then transported the entire structure from Mantoloking proper to an island clear across Barnegat Bay.  There, it finally ran aground and collapsed down on itself.

In March 2013, the Dive Team was in the bay conducting boat operations training, surrounded by storm debris.  Along the way, the crew met Nancy with friends and family, who themselves were attempting to salvage personal effects from the family home at its new address.  In the collapse, many of the contents of the lower floors had effectively been pushed up into the attic.  Incredibly, the roof was still intact, so everything directly underneath it had remained protected!

Divers assisted with the loading and transport of two boatloads of household goods back to dock.  Furniture, books, clothing, photos, and a hand-made cedar chest full of blankets would all be used to recreate some of the memories from the 85-year old house.  Nancy smiled with some hope as the divers wished her family well.

Running into Nancy Bowden on the beach two months ago was as happenstance as it was in the bay just months after the hurricane.  In the meantime, the family home has been rebuilt.  And she’s still smiling.

A Forgotten Find

Last December, the Dive Team conducted another training dive on the same Bay Head beach.  This time, divers found an entire brick chimney in four feet of water. 

Chet Nesley, Chief Diver of the Dive Team, said at the time, “We were just here two weeks ago, and this was not out like this.”  He thinks that this was likely yet another piece of debris that had been deposited from the superstorm, but only recently exposed.  Shortly after the storm, there were reports from a fishing vessel that an entire house roof was adrift two miles offshore, so burying a chimney on the beach would have been small potatoes for Sandy. 

He continued, “There is absolutely no marine growth on any of the brick.  It just goes to show you how much sand the ocean can move around in a short period of time!”

Returning a Memory

Also last fall, a remnant of the historic storm was recovered, quite by chance, in Shark River Inlet.  Chief Nesley was diving in the inlet by the Ocean Avenue Bridge in Belmar.  While salvaging fishing gear off the bottom, he picked up a wooden plank to move it out of his search area.  However, this board had a mind of its own, falling back down on him.  Twice.

Not wanting to get hit by it a third time, he moved to jam it into a rocky crevice.  That was when his hand slid down the plank, hitting a metal plaque still firmly attached.

Nesley removed the plank from the water.  Brushing the plaque off, he discovered that it had been dedicated to a “husband, father, grandfather, and fireman” lost on 9-11.

“I don’t normally dive in this area, but I had followed a line of fishing debris out to this spot,” explained Nesley.  “And then it wouldn’t let me throw it away!  This was meant to be found.”

This was actually the third memorial plaque that Point Pleasant First Aid divers have located and salvaged.  The other two finds were posted on several social media outlets, with one already being returned to the family of the dedicatee.

The recovery of the most recent plaque, dedicated to Charles W. Mathers, was posted on “Barnegat Bay Island”, a Facebook page, and Jersey Shore Hurricane News.  JSHN acted as liaison to make contact with the Mathers family.  Arrangements were made to return the plaque.

Marjorie Mathers Kane met with the First Aid Dive Team on January 15, 2017 and was presented with the memorial plaque honoring her father.  She expressed her excitement and gratitude while sharing its story.  It had been dedicated on a bench on the Sea Girt boardwalk, prior to being washed away and lost to the ocean during Sandy.

For four years, anytime Marjorie’s mother visited from Galveston, they would walk the beach.  They would turn over debris, every time wondering, “Could this be it?” with a slim hope of the plaque one day returning.

After four years, it insisted on being found. 

Three months, three Sandy memories.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Sinker Dive for Flea Market...

Sunday was a busy day for the team, we sorted and separated all 2100 pounds of sinkers for the coming fishing flea market. We separated the one we can resell and the ones we sell for scrap and then by size. With everyone pitching in and doing a job we were able to get the job done in just over three hours. Loading the sorting table with sinkers and sorting and emptying the bucket as they filled and weighting and marking the full buckets we had a job for everyone. We may not get to the 3500 pounds we had last year, but we still have over a ton and we still have a few weeks to go before the flea market

After finishing with the sorting we had time to get a dive in, so we checked the water at Manasquan Inlet and saw it was pretty good so we geared up and headed to Shark River Inlet.
  By the time we got there it was already raining and the wind was just starting to blow, but the ocean was not all that kicked up yet. We checked and you could see the bottom and we made plans to start out by the mouth of the inlet as the tide was still coming in. Rich G. Joe S, Joe S Greg and I headed out to the end of the jetty with Brandon B. as our surface support.
    Getting in was what we have been training on the last few months and it showed today, everyone got in with no problems even with a three foot swell rolling in the inlet. Once in the water and on the bottom it turned out to be really nice, we had visibility around 5-10 feet and some surge but nothing that we couldn’t handle.

This was a sinker dive right from the start and everyone hit good spots and sinker tubes started fill fast. In an hour the tubes were full and lift bags deployed and recovered. Rich G had wanted to try to recover a rail post from the old boardwalk that is still sitting on the bottom and with all the team working he got his wish. Not only did he get one, he got two!

Joe S and I wanted to hit a good spot that I had found, so we both geared up and headed back in. As we were getting ready the two bridge tenders came down and were talking to us about what we do and what’s on the bottom, so the team made some new friends we got a picture of all of us all together

   Joe and I headed back to where we entered on the first dive and got back in. By this time the weather was starting to pick up, with the raining coming down harder and the wind blowing stronger and the waves starting to pick up and most of all the light was starting to fade. But with what little time we had left we filled our sinker tubes and headed up to get out.
   Joe went first and I waited on the bottom so the guys on the surface only had to work to help one guy out at a time. I started swimming down the inlet to get away from the surge and the swells that had by now picked up. As I hit the surface Joe was out of the water and I threw the flag line with the tube and lift bag up to Rich and he pulled it in leaving my hands free. By now it was dark and time to go.
   But in those two dives Rich got his rail posts and the team got two hundred and ten pounds of sinkers and we made two new friends in Katie and Katie our bridge tenders

I think we may need a bigger table. The new sinker total is now 2406.4 pounds

Monday, January 02, 2017

New Years Dive ~2017~

The tradition lives! The team came out and did our first dive of the year as it has since we were formed over twenty years ago. This year’s conditions weren't all that bad, we had 50 degrees of air temperature and bright sunny day to come out to.

The water could have been better, visibility was 2-5 feet and the temperature was 43 degrees. But we did have a high tide to work with. In the past we have had temperatures of below zero to 60 degrees and low tides and high tides and good visibility and really bad visibility. It really doesn’t matter because if we’re called we will be ready, good weather or bad weather we have been there and done that.

   Everyone one came up with something, keys, knifes, lures and sinkers and one every nice J.R.Lynch bottle. We added 54.4 pounds of sinkers to our total for the year which is now at 2000.8 pounds and we have to the end of February to match last year’s 3550 pounds.

   Recovery of the sinkers is one way the team raises money for equipment and things we use. We sell the sinkers back to the fishermen at the Ocean 1 Fire Company’s fishing flea market at is held in last February.

  The team does work cleaning the bottom removing the mountains old fishing lines that covers the bottom, which is a problem for the fishermen and the fish and crabs that gets trapped in the lines. So by recovering the sinkers and other debris we help the fishermen and the environment.

   If you would like to see what we see, go to and click on chiefdiver34 and you can watch the video we shoot. You will also see how the conditions can change, from good visibility to bad visibility.