Champagne divers hunt for bubbly in Buzzards Bay

Jan 1, 2023

Keith Baker isn’t old enough to drink the bottle of champagne that he found at the bottom of Stonebridge Marina in Onset, but the 17-year-old diver was still bubbly from his discovery.

“Woohoo!” He cried as he came up from the shallow, green-tinted water. “My face is so cold.”

“This is a good brand,” one of his friends said, picking up the champagne and inspecting its peeling label.

Baker was the youngest diver at the 18th annual New Year’s Champagne Dive, sponsored by the Buzzards Bay Dive Center. On Sunday, Jan. 1., divers searched the seafloor to find champagne bottles that instructor Steve Carey tossed into the marina on New Year’s Eve. 

 “They’ll probably find some [bottles] from last year,” said instructor Ray “Pudge” Doucette.

“With a thick wetsuit, it’s not bad,” said Baker, who carried 60 pounds of equipment on his back as he dove. “It’s cold at first, but your body warms up.”

The temperature of the water was 45 degrees. On dry land, it was an unseasonably warm 52 degrees.

“Hey, it could be 28 degrees,” Doucette said. “This is a godsend today. We chip through ice to get here some years.” 

Nevertheless, Baker prefers diving in the Caribbean. 

His older sister Kelly Baker, 20, has four years of diving experience, but always in warm water.

“I’m coming out as soon as I find one, guys!” She said before slipping beneath the surface.

“Be tough!” Encouraged her boyfriend, William Gunn, who came all the way from Worcester to watch her dive.

Kelly didn’t stay true to her word. Contending with low temperatures and visibility, she stayed in the water long enough to find two champagne bottles — and the sole of somebody’s shoe. 

“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, actually,” she said. “It was very exciting.”

Kelly dives to find peace and quiet. Keith dives because he enjoys “seeing what’s down there.” Carey offered a new logbook as a prize to whoever brought up the strangest piece of trash. 

“It’s a way of cleaning up the marina a little,” he said. 

80-year-old Bill Jeter, the oldest diver at the event, found a cell phone. A diver for almost 60 years, he likes “the mystique, the adventure” and the camaraderie at the New Year’s event.

The logbook ultimately went to Matthew McCaffrey, who found a “crusted-over” knife and a large speaker covered in seaweed, barnacles and crawling little crabs. 

“That helped me stay down!” McCaffrey joked. “It was in the middle of the channel. I thought it was a suitcase, so I dragged it back.”

Amanda Meli has dived for champagne before, but it was the first time for Alex Boeri, her coworker at the state Division of Marine Fisheries. 

“My jump-in was never graceful,” Meli said.

“Just walk in and take a big step,” Boeri advised her.

“If you’re in real trouble,” Doucette told them, “stand up. It’s not that deep. Inhale, exhale, have fun.”