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The Valerie E Shipwreck  New York and New Jersey's Wreck Valley
Historical and current New York and New Jersey Shipwreck Information and images for scuba divers and fisherman.
 

  The Valerie E.  was a 71 ft clam dredge that was reported overdue at 12:30 PM on January 16, 1992. At the time she had three crew men aboard. The coast guard located the sunken wreck the next day, but unfortunately in the frigid winter waters there was little hope for the crew. They were never recovered and are presumed lost. The wreck now sits on her port side in 75 feet of water. When we first visited this wreck in the spring of 1992 she was in near perfect condition. At that time her bronze propeller was still shinny. After a powerful Noreaster in the fall of the same year the wreck was moved about 200 feet inshore. Apparently the storm was so powerful that the wreck actually bounced across the bottom because one of the propeller blades bent forward 90 degrees.

 Early in May 1994 Capt Steve Bielenda called to ask if I would join him on a salvage operation. His plan was to raise the clam baskets and clam dredge from the wreck of the Valerie E for a friend who could use the  parts on his dredge. Steve knew that I had been thinking about salvaging her propeller for some time and asked if I could plan the operation for the same day. No sooner then I hung up the phone did I start to plan the salvage. The baskets and dredge hose should be relatively simple. The propeller however would be a different story we would need a surface supplied diver, broco torches, portable welder, surface to diver communications, as well as adequate rigging and lift bags. It did not take long to make the arrangements with Rockwater International, a commercial diving supply outfit. The owner Bart Carielo was a long time friend and had helped out with a few other projects. (Topside photo of the Valerie E is courtesy David L. Baregeron. David is the Valerie E Captain's nephew and at times worked as crew.)
 

  In early June we all arrived at the Wahoo to find a steady 30 knot wind blowing steadily from the north west. Although Rockwaters commercial divers had arrived with all their equipment it was soon decided to abort the propeller salvage portion of the trip. Due to the steady wind the wave were just to large to safely support tethered divers. We did decide to make the trip and salvage her dredge using scuba. Once the Wahoo was anchored over the site Hank Garvin jumped in to set the hook. His job was to also try to locate the 10 in dia black dredge hose. When hank surfaced he reported the bad news. Their was literally no visibility at all on the bottom. Phill Galletta was the next diver to descend. Phill managed to find the hose and used a small lift bag to mark the dredge. Capt Janet from the Wahoo had arranged for a 65 ft steel dragger to be on site. The plan was to hoist the heavy hose aboard the dragger with its hydraulic winch. Divers made several attempts to secure a steel cable from the dragger to the hose but poor surface and bottom conditions made the job impossible. Capt Janet then decided to have diver attach a 2000lb lift bag to the hose. Joel Silverstein and Mel Brenner volunteered for the job and made quick work of dragging down and rigging the big bag. The next step was to cut through the hose which was still attached to the wreck. Joel reported that even a sharp knife barely scratched the hoses rubber surface. I was sent in with a bag of hack saws and a variety of knifes. What I found was near zero visibility a slight surge and a hose with walls as thick as a truck tire. the hack saw didn't cut at all, either did the variety of dive knives. Fortunately I had brought a spyderco serrated pocket knife which sliced nicely into the thick rubber. After almost 30 minutes the bag finally rushed towards the surface. The rest of the day would be spent by the crew of the dragger rigging and hoisting the heavy hose aboard.

 I find that each time I go diving I learn something. During this operation I learned that working with top notch divers and having a little persistence pays off in the long run. We may have been forced to cancel the more elaborate portion of the salvage but we still turned the day into a success.

 Valerie E PROPELLER SALVAGE  
 

In 1995 the Valerie E's 600 pound, four foot Dia Bronze propeller was successfully salvaged.  Marine Historian and author Daniel Berg coordinated and planned the project in conjunction with Diver Mike McMeekin and Rich Fryberg of Subsalve Liftbags.

 On the morning of May 31, 1995 divers Mike McMeekin, Joe Koppelman, Bob Raimos, Fred Bellise, Bob Studen and Dan Berg boarded the R.V. Wreck Valley. Led by veteran wreck diver Mike McMeekin the team planned on filming, photographing and raising the Valerie E's five foot dia 600 pound five bladed propeller. Heavy salvage requires not only the proper equipment but meticulous planning. Each diver had a specific task. Fred set the hook and brought down the torches. Mike and Dan filmed and cut the shaft utilizing underwater torches to cut through the 4.5 in dia Stainless steel shaft. Bob Raimos acted as a safety diver while also utilizing a Dive Com wireless communication system to relate conditions to a topside tender. After the shaft was cut Bob Studen, Fred and cameraman Joe Koppelman rigged the prop and sent her to the surface.  The salvage was completed with the use of three 250 pound Subsalve lift bags which floated the heavy propeller to the surface. Conditions both topside and underwater were perfect the sea was flat calm and visibility underwater exceeded 10 feet. Divers from the Research Vessel WRECK VALLEY then hauled the propeller aboard with a hydraulic winch. The Valerie E's propeller is now undergoing a lengthy preservation and restoration process after which she will be put on display. The entire heavy salvage operation was filmed and photographed for use not only in an upcoming book project, but also to air on Sports Channel cable Networks DIVE WRECK VALLEY television series.

Click Below to watch Youtube video of Propeller Salvage

Finished sketch of the Valerie E by Dan Berg and Dan Lieb

Fred Belise, Bob Ramo, Bob Studen, Dan Berg and Mike McMeekin with and salvage propeller. Photo by Joe Koppelman

Capt. Dan Berg with Side Scan sonar.

Mike McMeekin and Fred Belise put side scan towfish into the water. Photo by Dan Berg

Side Scan Sonar image of the Valerie E. Wreck Valley Collection

Early sketch of the Valerie E. By Dan Berg

Mike McMeekin and Dan Berg with propeller salvaged from the Valerie E wreck.

Valerie E's propeller being hauled aboard the Wreck Valley

Dan Berg and Mike McMeekin

Capt. Dan Berg

Hauling the heavy propeller off the Wreck Valley.

 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

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