Diving at the Punquogue Bridge

On Saturday, September 27, an intrepid group of Ski and Scuba friends and staff dove the Punquogue Bridge. The group left Command HQ (Ski and Scuba Connection store on St Roch Ave, Greenwich) promptly at 7:30. (Joe and Tina rolling up at exactly the designated time!)

The drive out to the Hamptons was roughly 2 hours, leaving about an hour for high tide at 10:49. Joe and Tina used the extra lead time to hit Starbucks, while Ruth and Gerry checked out the facilitles at the nearby beach. Andy and I took a stroll out on the bridge, where some of the local anglers were landing some keeper Porgies. Many of the anglers seemed to be donating tackle to the Bay. There was some light boat traffic going by the end of the old bridge and a Coast Guard patrol was active in enforcing NO WAKE and other regulations.

As the tide was reaching full height, we noticed the very strong current was beginning to die down, although it still seemed imposing. This dive was going to feature strong current, limited visibility, boat traffic and anglers dropping lines down around us.

Andy and I evaluated a few alternatives for entry and exit, and ended up going by “the Book” which was to suit up in the parking lot and walk in along the east side of the old bridge. There were three kayak fishermen who rode the incoming tide in to shore. We took a few minutes to admire their elaborate rigs.

We suited up at about 10:15 and started leisurely wading to the North. We were comfortably in the lee of the breakwater of the old bridge, but we knew that the current was still too strong to make much progress.

We eventually got to the exposed piers of the old bridge and dove down to the bottom, where the current was very manageable. The diversity of marine life was very impressive. There were the expected North Atlantic fish such as small Porgies, but there were also numerous Spotted Butterflies, usually only found in the tropics. I tried to catch one of these Butterflies, but couldnt keep it in the container I had brought. At the end of the dive, I met a local diver in the parking lot who had over 20 Butterflies he had netted, He planned to put them in his aquarium tank which was fully 1,000 gallons!

There were also numerous pairs of mating Horseshoe crabs, and the occasional Spider crab, which would raise its pincer claws as we cruised overhead.

After roughly 20 minuites exploring under the old Bridge, we headed West to the New Bridge. (We never found the supporting piers of the new bridge. We think we might have been between piers and unable to identify them because of the limited visability). As we got roughly 30 feet west, we saw more of the same fish, crabs and starfish we had seen earlier. At this point it became clear to us that the tide had turned and the current was now picking up.So we turned around and headed back for the old bridge. On the way back, we found a large group of spider crabs huddled together in a small depression. We could only admire them briefly as we were now being swept away by the current. As we got to the bridge, we braced against the pilings, and unfortunately, the flag Andy had been towing became entangled. After valiantly trying to rescue Don’s favorite flag, Andy finally had to give up on it, and later we all said a few words in tribute. That flag had served us well!

Meanwhile…the current was picking up. Now, current can be dangerous. However, if you know where it is taking you, and there are no obstructions posing a threat, it can be a fun ride to see where it takes you! I guess this attitude explains why I ended up farther East than the rest of the group! In truth, I had read some trip reports that said that to the East of the old bridge there was a ridge and then a drop off to about 30 feet, and that this structure would provide shelter from the current as well as the possibilty of seeing additonal wildlife. So I took a few minutes to briefly explore this sandy bottomed area. When I didnt see anything of particular interest, I headed more southerly and soon surfaced to rejoin the group.


Min water temp: 68 degrees

The surface temperature was about 71, and the air temp was close to 80 on this gloriously sunny day.

I wore a 3 mil wetsuit with a hood. I was fine for most of the dive, and very comfortable in the 15 foot range. At the end of the dive, in 20+ I started to feel a bit chilly. Andy wore his 7 mil semidry and was toasty.

Bottom time: 32 minutes

It might have been possible to extend the dive slightly by entering a bit earlier, and by exploring the deeper hole to the East, but the strong current made this unwise for the first trip here.

Max depth: 23 feet.

Vis: I could see my dive buddy…roughly 5 feet.

After the dive, some of the group went off to explore the Hamptons. Andy and I went to a local restaurant, Cowfish, where we had an excellent blackened fish sandwich and explored the local marina.

Yet another Great Day organized by Ski and Scuba Connection!

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