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.
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.
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 theparts 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.)
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.
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.
E PROPELLER SALVAGE
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.
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
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