08/21/2019 DIVE BLOG – Why Deep Extended Range Diving?
Our little dive group has been doing quite a bit of technical diving recently including 10+ dives at 200+ feet deep with 80+ minutes (includes VERY extended deco stops) this year. I’ve been wondering, why? What are the benefits? I’ve done the math on wrecks like the USS Spiegel Grove for example. Two dives at 30 minutes each on the deck with 5-minute ascents and safety stops equals 60 minutes at depth and 10 minutes in ascent and safety stops that total 70 minutes. A single technical dive with 60 minutes at depth requires a 46-minute ascent with deco stops (results vary +/- with different gas mixes) totaling 106 minutes. I would rather spend the deco time topside chatting with friends and soaking in the sun. However, 160+ feet dives require a longer deco obligation, so what are the benefits?
For me, high on my hierarchy of needs is something new and different. I’ve visited many unique wrecks in the last few years. I remember how exciting it was to explore new wrecks as a newly certified diver and this brings back the same emotions. Speaking of newly certified, in addition to new wrecks and dive sites, the world of technical diving introduces you to different equipment, gas options, dive planning tools and dive instruction. All of these are almost guaranteed to hone your dive skills and make you a better diver.
Lastly, technical diving introduces you to a new set of mentors. These friendships, if carefully cultivated, can enhance every dive (and post-dive narcosis at the local watering hole). I say carefully cultivated because many technical divers come complete with attitude and contempt for any diver doing it differently than the right way, their way, as in the only way. Interestingly, if you line these divers up, they could argue with each other for months without agreement on the only or right way to technically dive. These hardcore divers should be avoided at all costs!
Which brings me to my story. I had my deepest dive last weekend (239’) off Miami with some of the best tech divers (in my humble opinion) that Miami has to offer. We had two other tech divers aboard visiting from Minnesota. At the tiki bar afterwards, they said they were awestruck by the casual air about the boat. They couldn’t believe we were planning to hot drop (free descend) to that depth as the wrecks they dive have mooring balls (ours don’t because we are in shipping channels). They were intrigued by the calm demeanor of the conversations regarding dive planning between the divers aboard. I assured them that what they experienced were divers that do this type of diving every weekend all year round.
Our lesson today is to pay it forward by helping fellow divers (regardless of skill level) who are asking “stupid” questions. Remember we were all there at one time. I don’t worry about the diver that asks questions, I worry about the one who is afraid to ask questions or the one that thinks they already know all of the answers. I’m thankful I was dive-adopted by skilled divers when I only had 25+ dives under my weight belt. I’m glad I was re-adopted as an advanced diver. I’m further appreciative of my recent adoption into the technical world of diving. With almost 2500 logged dives I still plan to ask questions of those around me, but more importantly provide answers to those trying to learn and improve their dive skills.
05/21/2019 DIVE BLOG – If You Build It, Will They Come?
It all started with a simple idea to host a Lionfish Derby in Key West to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the scuttling of USNS Vandenberg. I mean it is just a fun tournament. If we get enough teams, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will grant up to $2400 to the Museum of Diving History. If we will sell the lionfish for about $6 per pound, 100 fish are another $300 to the museum. $25 per team goes to the museum so that’s $250 for 10 teams. I’m hoping to raise $5000 for the Museum. With two categories and six cash prizes, why not join for a good cause? I’d be disappointed if you didn’t.
We had press releases, social media exposure, posted flyers, local dive operator support, community involvement and sponsorships. We had all our ducks in a row over a month ago. Then……..NOTHING
No one seemed interested in my little endeavor. That is, until now! With less than a week to go, the interest is building and we are gaining momentum. We have teams signed up and expect more as the derby date gets closer so it’s still not to late to join in the fun.
10th Anniversary USNS Vandenberg & Memorial Day Weekend Event Schedule
THU (05/23) @6-9pm USCG Ingham Museum presents Plastic Ocean by Andreas Frankes
FRI (05/24) @8am Plastic Ocean Artwork Deployment on the USNS Vandenberg
FRI (05/24) @6:30pm Plastic Ocean Mixer with Andreas Frankes & Artificial Reef International’s Joe Weatherby
SAT (05/25) @8am USS S-16 Submarine (240’) Technical Dive
SAT (05/25) @1pm USS LSM-R 513 Laramie River (180’) Technical Dive
SAT (05/25) @7pm Happy Hour at Turtle Kraals
SUN (05/26) @sunrise 1st Annual Key West Lionfish Derby
SUN (05/26) @5pm Lionfish Scoring & Awards at Turtle Krawls
SUN (05/26) @7pm Happy Hour t Turtle Kraals
MON (05/27) @8am USA Flag Deployment on USNS Vandenberg
MON (05/27) @8am USS Wilkes Barre (230’) Technical Dive
03/21/2019 DIVE BLOG – Dive into Volunteerism
Summer is quickly approaching and the dive conditions topside and below the surface turn Chamber of Commerce perfect. I challenge everyone to consider taking a little time out of our busy summer dive planning to support non-profit organizations that benefit oceanic initiatives, environmental causes, military veterans, or marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation. These non-profit organizations are passionate about and committed to their causes with volunteers that are recruited and engaged to help when and where needed. Volunteer your skills from your work life (aka non-diving activities) to provide consultation, operational execution, media exposure, fund-raising and other support opportunities. These volunteer experiences not only give ocean lovers unique insight to the undersea world, but they will also present the ocean environment from an entirely new perspective. Students, youths, executives, professionals, and retirees can easily volunteer with local, international and global non-profit organizations such as…
Sharks4Kids - to create the next generation of shark advocates through education, outreach and adventure
Veteran Ocean Adventures – provides veterans the opportunity to experience the healing power of water with sailing, diving and kayaking adventures
Reef Environmental Education Foundation - to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community
Artificial Reef International Preservation Trust - promotes and supports the creation of artificial reefs using ships and other substrate for environmental, research, education and economic benefit
History of Diving Museum - dedicated to collecting, preserving, displaying and interpreting artifacts, antiques, books, documents, photographs and oral history relative to the history of diving
Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association – protecting the ocean’s reef through conservation, education, recreation and appreciation
Marine Mammal Conservancy - to provide professional and effective response and care for stranded marine mammals
01/31/2019 DIVE BLOG – Why Log Dives?
From my initial open water dive in 2003, I cannot say I fell in love with scuba diving. As a water baby, I grew up on the water spending my summers lakeside swimming, water-skiing and sailing. My parents couldn’t get me out of the water! I was basically water-logged all summer! I moved to Miami to attend college at the University of Miami and continued my customary water sport activities. It just never occurred to me to go scuba diving. When I married Darcey, she was a duck to water too! Eventually she decided to get scuba certified for a girl’s weekend in the Florida Keys. The weekend turned out to be a bust as all dives were cancelled due to the cold, wet and windy weather. I decided to turn her frown upside down and get scuba certified myself so we could hit the Keys together! You would think that would be the start of my scuba obsession, but it was not. Like most new scuba divers, I only did 14 total dives in the first three years! But in 2006, I did 46 dives that year and since then I’ve almost averaged 200 dives per year and have a passport loaded with stamps from exotic destinations. What happened?
Since I have splash of OCD, I have always used my dive log to record more than just the numbers, instead recounting memories or lessons learned from each dive. My dive log became my journal. After every dive, I sit down and record what I did and what I saw that day. More importantly, I wrote short stories about the friends I’ve met, places I’ve been and the misadventures that occurred. Looking back at the logs from 2006, my obsession began after meeting Steve Iverson. Me, with just a few dives under my weight belt, was paired with Steve on Scuba-Do to dive the Spiegel Grove. Poor Steve, with over 1000 dives was kind enough to be my buddy. Afterwards, for some inexplicable reason Steve would call me every week and we would make plans go diving together. He showed me wreck sites I didn’t even know existed. He introduced me to Mike Gust and the three of us have been fast-friends for life. I met Lisa Mongy (my scuba ex-wife) on the Big Com-Ocean and she became my every Wednesday night dive buddy. She eventually became the Director of the History of Diving Museum and also taught my son how to scuba dive. Lisa is another best friend for life and we’ve traveled the world together in search of misadventures! Let’s not forget Mike White and the Secret Society of the Frog founded around 2007 on my 100th dive! Then there is Joe Weatherby, who sinks wrecks for a living including the USNS Vandenberg. Simply being in the company of Joe is a guaranteed misadventure! We’ve been all over the world together leaving destruction in our path. Recently, Doug Conner has shown me the dark-side of technical diving and hitting my bucket list destination together at Truk Lagoon this past summer. There’s so many more great friends I’ve gained along the way, too many friendships to mention (sorry if I didn’t mention you…and you know who you are)!
All of these adventures are written in my dive log. In talking with my dive friends, I’ve concluded that it’s all too easy to let this passion for logging dives fade. Either we get too caught up in our day to day lives that we forget, or we dive so often that we don’t place as much value on each dive as we did when diving was still new. Today, in addition to a written dive journal, I keep a record of all my dive statistics in electronic logs. However, while the numbers may be recorded, we miss out on capturing the unique sightings or feelings evoked on each particular dive. It is more than just a dive log, it is a record of my journey and discovery of the underwater world.
I hope one day my grandchildren will sit down in an era of digital communication and read my hand-written anecdotes scribed by their grandfather and think…Gee, Gramps had some pretty cool misadventures!
12/19/2018 DIVE BLOG – Situational Awareness and the Decision-Making Paradox
The Oxford English Dictionary defines awareness as knowledge or perception of a situation or fact while situational awareness refers to the degree of accuracy by which one's perception of his current environment mirrors reality. Of course, it is important to be aware of your tank pressure levels, maximum operating depths and buoyancy all while trying to enjoy the incredible underwater world. However, our minds have this fantastic ability to forget everything that is not relevant to us. Collecting lots and lots of information and trying to remember it doesn't work - unless it means something to us. More advanced divers without significant experience who possess a high level of confidence or complacency might perceive themselves as far more capable than they actually are. Being unaware of the dangers, coupled with over-confidence in their abilities, can lead to very flawed decision-making and significant risk. Learning from mistakes is not always an option because in scuba diving these mistakes might be lethal.
08/17/2006: Aboard the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, two crewmembers prepare for an under-ice dive evolution for practice and familiarization. The officer is not current as a diver and the enlisted diver is not experienced in under-ice operations. Among other oversights, they are over weighted, and their dry suits and BC inflators are not connected, yet the dive proceeds. In all, the final USCG report listed more than 30 errors of all types, resulting in two deaths, loss of command, courts-martial and ruined careers. Most dive accidents result from a series of small variances from safe procedure. In almost all cases, these accidents could have been avoided at any point if the variance had been noticed, its implications understood, and an appropriate response implemented.
Herein lies the decision-making paradox more common amongst divers with 100+ divers under their weight belts. These potentially dangerous actions are generally in place long before the diver arrives at the dock. The dive plan, or lack of a dive plan, for a dive activity outside of a diver’s experience, capability, and training is flawed based on the diver’s perception, confidence, or complacency of the dive about to be performed. Let’s be honest, I’ve practiced these behaviors (both in diving and other aspects of my life), luckily with mostly fortunate outcomes. As my dive experience increases, I’ve found myself taking pause to examine my dive habits and routines. I’ve recently increased my conservatism towards planned decompression dives. I also believe that deco and depth just for the sake of deco and depth is a dangerous game, or at best it invites greater potential for accidents. I just want us to be safe out there, so we can all enjoy the next dive adventure together!
03/15/2018 DIVE BLOG – Decompression Sickness a Matter of “WHEN” Not “IF”
Please note that this is not a tutorial on the symptoms and treatment of Decompression Sickness (DCS), but as a more precautionary tale. Depending on the study used, DCS occurs 1.4 times per 1,000 dives, so at 0.14% it is relatively rare. Divers with the highest proportion of reported DCS symptoms are dive professionals, divers not performing decompression-stop dives, divers not practicing advanced diving, and divers with a low number of total lifetime dives. In summary, inexperienced divers and dive professionals are at the greatest risk while more experienced divers and technical divers present the lowest risk. Enough of the technical talk!
In the past year I’ve had more than a few friends suffer from Decompression Sickness (DCS), so I wanted to share some thoughts. In these cases, these divers were bent performing non-decompression recreational dives without rapid ascents or computer violations. Each diver had a minimum of 500 lifetime dives, but most are in the 2,000+ range. Fortunately, with the help of a barometric chamber treatment and Divers Alert Network (DAN), the divers are healthy today. Since no obvious dive protocols were violated, what happened? Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) was the culprit in two incidents. Commonly called a hole in your heart, which would seem to be the very definition of a problem, yet more than 25% of the population has a PFO and for most it causes no adverse health effects. In fact, the clear majority of those affected don’t even know it. However, several studies have established that the incidence of PFO is two to six times greater in divers who experience a DCS hit.
As for me? My hit was light, so light in fact I didn’t know I was bent. I tapped my elbow on my deco bottle as I hit the water for a planned 180’ dive for 60 minutes that included a 30-minute staged deco stop. The elbow didn’t bother me during the dive, but afterward I had the type of pain I would have expected. After a few days the pain remained the same, but I figured the minor injury needed time to recover and heal. After a few weeks, still no improvement. After seeking counsel from two of my previous DCS affected dive buddies, I made the call to Diver Alert Network (DAN) and was recommended to visit to Doctor Ivan Montoya at Mercy Hospital in Miami. The barometric facility is top notch and features three separate chambers. The unit was always very busy treating wound care in the elderly, but I was the only diver. Armed with written and digital logs of my dive activity, I was able to provide detailed information to the staff since I dive with three computers all enabled to digitally upload dive profiles. They commented that most divers that they see are very inexperienced and have no knowledge of their depths, dive times, surface intervals or ascent rates. This lends credence to the studies naming these types of divers as the most likely to show symptoms of DCS. The doctor explained that inflammation at the injury site could have restricted off-gassing as compared to healthy tissue and bone. He recommended a Navy Table 6 treatment but warned that any significant improvement would be unlikely after such a long time since the original injury and since subsequent dive activity had occurred. After six hours, I emerged from the chamber. I showed some improvement and was scheduled for a second Navy Table 6 treatment the next day followed by a third Navy Table 4 the following day. The treatments resulted in a significant improvement of symptoms.
What have I learned? First, based on statistics and studies it’s not a matter of “IF” but rather “WHEN” will DCS present itself in the most of experienced of divers. Second, denial of symptoms and without treatment, DCS can lead to permanent injury and pain. Third, starting at less than $100 per year, DAN supplementary insurance covers 100% of what your health insurance does not cover and has many other significant benefits while traveling more than 50 miles from your home. To dive without this valuable coverage is just plain ignorant.
In my non-medical experience, for the experienced diver, the greatest risk of DCS is not having DAN insurance! With that said, I doubt there’s a diver within my dive circle that does not already carry DAN coverage.
01/18/2018 DIVE BLOG – Going Broke While Saving Lots of Money!
It’s been almost two decades since my Open Water certification unless you believe the rumor that I bought my c-cards on eBay and it’s taken almost that long to get over the sticker shock of the cost of certification, equipment, and dive charters. I vividly remember the excitement about this new hobby that would be such a strong influence in my life for so many years. I’ve made such wonderful friendships and scuba diving takes me around the world on incredible dive adventures. Since those days so long ago, I’ve (generally) been successful at budgeting my dive activities and equipment purchases.
Enter my trip of a lifetime, my #1 bucket list destination, Truk Lagoon. I want this trip to be perfect since it’s about a 500-mile difference around the world depending on which direction you go. I’m scheduled for trimix certification to ensure no wreck cannot be visited because of depth, I’ve bought two Shearwater dive computers (Petrel and Perdix AI), a new wing and backplate, a new DIN primary first stage and second stage, and let’s not forget all the bits-n-pieces needed to make everything fit and work together! I can convince myself that selling the older equipment on eBay offsets the cost of new equipment which is one way to go broke while saving money! I also have friends with connections that are such scuba equipment purchase enablers. I’ll bet I’ve saved and/or negotiated pricing on all these items and I’ll also bet I’ve saved over 35% along the way! However, that’s 35% of dive dollars that I didn’t budget for this year!
I’m going to justify these expenses as just phase two of my scuba adventures. Just think what is waiting for me behind each wreck, wall, or dorsal fin that I’m going to encounter? I’ll have so many great friends joining me along this adventure and will meet so many more new friends. I’ll think about the memories I’ll have too! All this will certainly help ease the pain that my bank account is feeling right now. My only concern? There’s an old dive adage that says a diver never owns dive equipment because the sea will either take it or break it! Well…I guess that’s a problem for future Tyler to worry about!
12/18/2017 DIVE BLOG – You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know Until You Know That You Don’t Know It
As some of you are aware, I’m attempting to gain more technical dive experience in advance of my TDI Extended Range and Trimix Certification course to fully prepare me for my Truk Lagoon trip this summer. What I’m quickly learning is that I’m not always the best diver AND that experience can be a brutal teacher!
A few weeks ago, my two very experienced tech buddies and I planned a deep penetration dive on a large (un-named) military shipwreck. I had my gear properly set up complete with a bail-out bottle in case of a catastrophic gas issue and my deco gas bottle to manage the decompression obligations on the ascent. We had a dive plan pre-planned and planned to stick with the plan. So, here’s where the little things make all the difference…
I initially planned to leave my deco bottle inside the wreck before descending the shaft to the deeper levels of the wreck. After all, I would never be able to use the deco gas at depth and our only exit was the same way we entered. However, my dive buddies wanted to take their deco bottles with them. I decided to follow the group consensus and keep my deco bottle with me (my first mistake). I had never used this sized deco cylinder before, and I neglected to perform a buoyancy check (my second mistake) once at depth. I’ve performed a buoyancy check after descent as a habit since I first started diving, but since our drop was directly above the entrance to our descent shaft, I simply forgot about it.
Once inside the confined space I quickly became aware that I was right-side heavy, and my deco bottle wanted to be at the bottom. Well, that makes for terrible trim! By the time I clipped the cylinder across my chest to correct the trim, it was too late! As the center of our three-man team, I created a complete silt-out for my buddy behind me! He was completely blind following the line laid by my buddy in front (Sorry, Doug)! At the planned time, my dive buddy in front signaled it was time to turn about, all three of us enjoyed zero viz back to the ascent shaft (Sorry, Steve). Fortunately, everyone followed (literally) their training, followed the line and safely ascended towards the surface to complete our decompression obligations.
After that experience as a terrible dive buddy, experience has taught me not to take those little things for granted. I’ll never again allow others to sway my decisions without good reasoning. I’ll never again forget to take a minute to ensure my trim and buoyancy are in order. With that said, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know that you don’t know it. I wonder what other little surprises experience has in store for me as my training continues?
11/16/2017 DIVE BLOG – Another Dive in Paradise?
Against all odds, with a wicked weather forecast, my tech dive buddy and I headed to Key Largo for a planned technical dive on the USS SPIEGEL GROVE. Worse case, we thought, was an hour drive for a delicious breakfast at Evelyn’s Diner along the Overseas Highway. Our fears were soon realized at 7:55am as the dive operator alerted us that the dive charter was cancelled. Oh well…the best laid plans. I figured we should at least call Ocean Divers and see if they were heading out to the wrecks which they were. Unfortunately, the boat was leaving the dock in five minutes. Fortunately, Ocean Divers agreed to hold the boat for us, and we raced over, paid and completed paperwork, and were off the dock at 8:15am (fifteen minutes later than scheduled).
Which brings me to the topic of this blog. Most of the divers were cool with the delay, but one diver was clearly upset and vocal about the late departure. Why so angry? She was with a dive group from a land locked state where frigid cold lakes were the only dive option (in summer). This was their annual dive trip to the warm waters off Key Largo. If you don’t expect a little time delay in the Florida Keys, you’re in for a shock to your system. This is a laid-back island community that caters to divers trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the mainland. I recommend she never attempts to dive in the Caribbean where time stands still!
I’ve experienced this behavior before in divers from time to time and I always wonder, if a diver can’t be happy spending hard earned dollars to travel and dive in a tropical island paradise then what would make you happy? After all, this isn’t like going to the mall to go Christmas shopping for that hard-to-get toy! This is a sport that can take you to the far corners of our earth to see and do things most people simply dream about. Even the worst dive is generally better than a good day at work, right? After all, this is just another dive in paradise!
10/02/2017 DIVE BLOG – What’s All This About Certifications?
I was at a favorite dive operation the other day and was asked if I had Wreck Diver and/or Solo Diver certifications given my love of wrecks and diving solo. I paused briefly, not sure if the dive professional was serious, and answered honestly that I do not have those certifications. The reply? Perhaps one day I would no longer be allowed to dive wrecks without a buddy diver. That got me to thinking, what would I learn in these courses to make me a better diver given my level of experience? I’ve been fortunate to have been surrounded by some of the best divers and instructors to descend below the waves and I’ve made it a habit of emulating their best practices, acquiring their gear recommendations, and asking questions about dive practices that I was unaccustomed to.
I vividly remember my Rescue Diver certification as the best experience to this day. After the first day of training, I felt like a guppy and the worst diver ever to hit the water. After the day’s trials and tribulations set in, I was prepared for the second day and my confidence returned. The experience made me a far better diver. Today I’m in the process of getting my trimix certification and there are certifications that are required prior to course work, which I acquired to be able to dive the sites visited by my more experienced dive friends. So, what makes a certified diver?
It simply comes down to experience. It’s the lessons we learn from the mistakes that we have made that give us the experience, judgement, and knowledge to become a better diver. Sadly, I’m confronted all too often by divers claiming to be Dive Masters, Master Divers, even instructors that don’t seem to have a clue and are an accident waiting to happen. These divers are usually easy to spot. They arrive at the shop with a portfolio of certification cards and are eager to immediately share their highest certification card. You can just about feel the dive professional on the other side of the counter roll their eyes.
That’s why I only carry my Advanced Open Water and Nitrox certification cards (unless I’m diving something technical) so I can still try to be the very best AOW diver I can possibly be. In the meantime, I’ll gain experience to give my higher certifications more credibility.
07/21/2017 DIVE BLOG – Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance
Due to a shoulder replacement surgery two months ago, I’ve been out of the water. Fortunately, my charter boat friends have allowed me to tag along to at least live vicariously through other divers. Last weekend we embarked out of Key West for a double-dip on the USNS VANDENBERG with a group of experienced divers who will remain nameless to protect the less innocent. Of course, the conditions were near perfect since I could not scuba, so perfect that the deck of the wreck was visible topside in crystal clear blue water. As we set underway, a diver was adding a remote pressure gauge transmitter to his rig. I’m not sure that was a contributing factor, but the first stage developed a free-flow that was not due to an O-ring issue. Since the “dive-shop-at-sea” was closed at the time, the diver had to sit out a spectacular first dive. Fortunately, another charter boat tethered up and we could borrow a regulator rig. This could all have been avoided if the rig was tested at the full-service dive shop ashore, but these divers also arrived late so that probably was not a viable option. A second diver tested his tank pressures after we left the dock to discover that one tank had less than 1000 psi. The charter had a spare air tank, but his second dive would be shallower and shorter than originally planned on a nitrox mix. What is the solution to these mishaps? I suppose testing gear and gas well before leaving the dock would be proper planning? As a side note these divers are great friends of mine, but sometimes vast experience creates performance gaps due to poor planning. After all, last winter I was the idiot who left the dock without a wetsuit with sub-70-degree water. That’s a lesson I’ll never forget or repeat!
03/24/2017 DIVE BLOG – Monkey See & Monkey Do?
I had a surprise visit from my Irish mate from across the pond last week who I have not seen in years since he flies the new British Airways 777 on different routes than the old 747 took to Miami. We shared a pint or two and of course shared old dive stories! A general theme sprouted up about how we all started diving so many years ago, how much we have all learned (mostly through stupid mistakes), and the types of technical dives we do today. This made me think about all the advances in dive equipment, dive computers, regulators, wings and backplates and how simply reliable all the gear acts allowing us to dive deeper, farther, longer, and safer. Back in the day, I remember how difficult it was to get a dive operator to book two double deep wrecks together. It was always a deep wreck followed by a shallow reef and it wasn’t until the operator knew and trusted you and your buddies that double deep wrecks were allowed.
Today, every dive center offers double deep wrecks on their regular schedule without even asking. Most boats are outfitted to accommodate tech divers with deco bottles and rebreather divers with their bail-out bottles. It’s practically commonplace to see these types of divers on anything over 100’ of water. So, what’s wrong with that? My concern, and I’ve seen it on numerous occasions, is that tech behavior on a boat makes less experienced divers more likely to do something that might cause them harm. For example, we went out in 6-8-foot seas to remove artwork from the USNS VANDENBERG aboard three charter boats (a fourth turned back to port due to high seas), but the divers vacationing in Key West were determined to get in the vacation “wreck-of-a-lifetime” dive despite caution urged by the local dive shops. Ultimately, one customer surfaced unresponsive and had to be immediately transported to shore, a second had to be recused from drowning in the water from a panic attack, and I believe all three boats used their emergency oxygen for safety sake. I guess we all need a reminder now and again to dive safely within our training, abilities, and experience regardless of what the monkey next to us is doing. Right?
06/10/2015 DIVE BLOG – The Sea Gods Laugh at Those Who Make Plans
The best-laid plans Of Mice and Men often go awry. For example, on Friday Randy Jordan of Emerald Charters took us out to the Deep Ledge after a sighting of a 15’ great white shark was reported on this spot an hour earlier. We had plenty for bait fish in tow for all three dives, but never spotted the great white. The dives were spectacular with six shark species, lots of lemon sharks, bulls, some sandbar sharks, four silkies, an over-indulgent nurse shark, and a very shy tiger shark. Silly sharks sometimes act like wild animals that have their own schedules and agendas, while refusing to make appointments!
Another example was on Saturday for a shark tagging with Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center to conduct scientific shark research. Per the permit protocol we baited 46 hooks in total with bonita (a shark’s favorite treat) and only hooked one shark which is good news for the shark vs fisherman plight, but not so good for the research cause. The good news was that we hooked a 14’ great hammerhead and we successfully tagged the shark, gathered skin cultures, and released the shark in excellent condition. We spent several hours on the water for just one awesome shark experience.
The reason for the blog today is to discuss the Rapa Nui Artificial Reef Project scheduled to be sunk off Deerfield Beach. The sculpture consisted of 15 giant 22’ tall figures designed as replicas of the mysterious heads at Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui. The cost of the project was $500,000 funded by a local philanthropist. But things took a bizarre turn when the barge carrying the sculptures began to sink earlier than expected, tipped over and sunk on top of them, crushing the sculptures. The giant statues on Easter Island were carved circa 1100 AD and how ancient people moved them from a quarry to other parts of the island is one of the world's most enduring mysteries. Some folks theorized that the sinking of the barge was a curse for people having used these sacred images. Regardless, the mission did not go per plan.
Where’s the dive lesson here? Well…it’s always important to have a plan but be sure to have a back-up plan. My back-up plans? Surround yourself with great friends and dive buddies. Don’t sweat the missed great white shark and embrace the other wonderful sharks around us. Don’t sweat the missed opportunities to tag multiple sharks, but instead celebrate that a highly endangered great hammerhead will be released and used for research. Don’t sweat that we don’t have a new underwater playground, instead explore a wreck that you have not visited since 2007 and be pleasantly surprised. In other words, the sea gods laugh when we make plans so enjoy the adventure!
12/29/2013 DIVE BLOG – Lost and Found and Found Again
Most avid divers would agree that we never own dive equipment, we just borrow it from the sea because eventually Mother Ocean with either take it or break it. I can’t count the dive gear I’ve found including numerous dive lights, tons of weights, knives, snorkels, masks, and even a GoPro Hero 3 Black camera! I’ve lost and/or broke my share of dive gear too. Recently while on a dive, I managed to lose my tank which was aboard while I was diving. Sure, it was rough, but how does a tank fall overboard during a dive? BTW…if you’re in Jupiter on Davis Reef my white Faber steel tank is somewhere to be found complete with a luggage tag with my contact information. Who knew that might come in handy?
Back to my story, yesterday was my first dive back since surgery on my hand to remove a non-malignant tumor. We were headed deep to ETOILE DE MER (150’) and MIGUANA (140’) for the first dive which was surprisingly devoid of the lionfish congregations that are common on wrecks not often visited by hunters. During our surface interval, my dive buddy and scuba ex-wife (because she has scuba boyfriends…whatever) shared hot chocolate with the usual cast of characters from an old-fashioned thermos like the one her grandfather took to work every day. While cleaning the thermos cup off the stern, she dropped it into Mother Ocean. She took it well, but I knew she was not happy. I’ve seen here reaction to losing her camera on the SPIEGEL GROVE many years ago (which was “found” by another dive boat and returned complete with some moon shots from the crew!
Our second dive was on the RIO DE MIAMI (70’) which is 80’ fishing vessel. Once we tired of the wreck, with just one look at each other, we headed off into the abyss to find the thermos cup "When, what to my wondering eyes should appear...” (Please note the reference to the holiday tale “Twas the Night before Christmas” since we are in the holiday season) the thermos cup was recovered!!! What are the odds we would have “lost and found” it on the same dive?
It’s not uncommon for me and Finless (aka scuba ex-wife) to explore the great sand reef and since we were already off the wreck we decided to continue to explore. I had a monster sized lionfish in hand which we de-spined and bloodied in the water in hopes of a visit from some friendly sharks (no joy…not one appeared). After a brief swim, we came across a triangle of rebar which usually means another wreck is nearby! We continued to swim and came across one of my favorite Miami wrecks, the SHERI-LYN! We had the wreck to ourselves, but with limited downtime we eventually headed back to the Big Comm Ocean with another set of great memories of search and recovery and Mother Ocean’s lost and found!
07/11/2013 DIVE BLOG – Call me Ishmael
Easily one of the most recognizable opening lines in Western literature from Moby-Dick, a novel by Herman Melville, first published in 1851. In fishing lore, we use the term “the one that got away”, but hopefully my story will not end the same way as Captain Ahab's tortured journey. Recently the SPIEGEL GROVE off Key Largo has been impacted a small invasion of lionfish. It is amazing that is has taken so long for this invasive species to discover this wreck, almost four and a half years after they were first found off the Florida Keys in January 2009. We have could eradicate the population on the debris field off the starboard stern, but now lionfish are occasionally popping up around the helicopter pad. That leaves my white whale...a 15" lionfish who calls his home the starboard side crane deck area. I speared him a few months ago, but he shook himself off my barbed triple pronged tip. This venomous critter now sports a scar to prove it. Now...every time I spot him, he immediately darts for cover! This fish is simply too smart to be allowed to produce offspring! This weekend we braved four-foot seas with the occasional six-foot roller to finish the job. We discovered his new hiding spot just forward the base of the starboard crane, but true to form he darted away into a six-foot-long cover that allowed him three feet of protection on either side. Even with the help of super diver Mac (of Mac-n-Cheese fame), we were unable to coax the fish from its hiding place.
While I do not endorse Captain Ahab's methods, the man was clearly loony tunes, but to what ends do we need to go to starve off the invasion of lionfish to our shores and our oceans? Recently dissected lionfish have been found with intestinal fat! That's right, FAT!!! In fact, obese! The only good news here is that obesity could cause severe liver damage. Perhaps Mother Nature, in her own way, is seeking her own natural solution to the lionfish invasion. Until then...
…to the last I grapple with thee; from hell's heart, I stab at thee; for hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee.
06/10/2013 DIVE BLOG – Out of "Diver" Experience
Divers lie. Ever heard that expression? If you're a dive professional, it's part of your everyday life (and possibly your mantra). Personally, I never trust what a diver tells me until I've watched them dive. This weekend, I realized there's another type of diver. This diver probably doesn't think he lies; he's just self-unaware. You know this diver, he (or she just to be politically correct, but it's always a he) does not know what he does wrong and worse blames others including his dive buddy for "his" misadventures!
We were on an Eagle double dip with our friends from Islamorada Dive Center out of Holiday Isle of Tiki Bar fame. Our divemaster warned the group of "limited" viz and moderate currents and strongly advised the divers to stay with the group. Due to those conditions and the fact all are "certified" advanced divers, the divemaster warned the group that anyone who strayed from the group “fired” the divemaster. He stated he could not be responsible for everyone under these conditions if he needed to bring divers short of air back to the ascent line. It all made sense to me and my dive buddy, so we immediately "fired" our divemaster, so he didn't need to worry about us.
The divemaster was right and pea soup conditions with less than 10' of viz greeted us as we were first into the water. We crossed paths with the group of divers a few times and took notice when they headed up the ascent line. We were distracted by a very friendly sea turtle for several minutes and noticed one diver (of a buddy team who were both diving a double-deep wreck without dive computers) was following us. Still distracted by the turtle we didn't notice the diver finning off. We eventually grabbed to the ascent line to return to the surface. Once aboard, the crew realized the diver was not with our team. Fortunately, we spotted the diver off on 3-5-foot seas about 1/4 miles away, of course without a "safety" sausage!
All's well that ends well, but that's not the end of the story! The diver proceeded to blame his dive buddy for leaving him! Under the best of conditions, it takes both divers of a buddy team to leave each other, but one buddy followed the divemaster's instructions and stayed with the group, stayed with the wreck, and safely used the ascent line to return to the surface. How did his buddy think it was possible that HE left HIM? This type of self-unawareness is careless at best and dangerous at worst. To make matters worse, this diver exhibited similar behaviors on the second dive. You would think HE would have learned? Next time you experience an out of "diver" experience, please feel free to express your frustration with a quick fin to the head! It might knock some sense into a less than aware diver?
05/18/2013 DIVE BLOG – Sink-O Deep Dive-O
Most avid divers would agree that you never own dive equipment, it's just on loan from the sea gods who at their whim will either take it or break it. The sea gods are a whimsical bunch and occasionally will offer these treasures to other divers. We were on the second dive of a VANDENBERG double-dip off Key West searching for lionfish reportedly on the starboard stern section at about 130 feet when the sea gods smiled! As our computers hit max down time, it was time for our ascent to the surface....and there...in the sand...was something out of place. With a quick decision to risk some deco time I headed to 145 feet and there it was...in pristine condition...a new GoPro Hero 3 Black....top of the line stuff! For those of you who know me, I believe in FWC (Friends with Cameras). After all, they bear the expense of the equipment, lug the gear about, and I'm always in the pictures...perfect, right? Not being one to look a gift camera in the eye and risk the ire of the sea gods, my camera career has started (complete with an awesome video of the poor divers as the camera performed a remarkable descent complete with a beautiful panorama of the divers and the wreck all the way to the sand!
On Sunday, Cinco de Mayo, we dipped the EAGLE in Islamorada. It was a great opportunity to try out my new GoPro! As the divers entered the water in 4-5-foot seas, I remarked to the crew as I was donning my fins from the dive platform "I've never attempted to put on my fins while holding a camera" when suddenly my fin went overboard. Of course, it was negatively buoyant and made a drop to the sand from 120 feet. With only one fin I attempted to follow the fin into the abyss certain the fin would land directly between the two halves of the wreck. Alas no fin to be found despite circular search patterns which were easy given that I only had on fin! Accepting the adage that dive equipment is on loan from the sea gods I headed to the surface. Fortunately, a fellow diver rescued my fin in the exact spot I expected at no loss to me! I returned the favor when his air integrated transmitter's battery failed before the second dive and he was forced to abort the dive. Fortunately, I keep a spare battery in my save-a-dive kit and saved the dive. He asked what he owed for the battery and I replied, "it only costs one fin"!
There's lots to tell about my first ever scuba certification for Advanced Nitrox, Advanced Deco, and Deep Tech Certification. There's also the STAVRONIKITA Take Down in Barbados removing the artwork of The Sinking World of Andreas Frankes, but those stories must wait until we see each other in our dive travels. In the meantime, stay thirsty my friends and Happy Sink-O Deep Dive-O!
12/10/2012 DIVE BLOG – LIONFISH SCAMPI AND LIONFISH CREOLE
My 1000th dive was recently off the shores of Desecheo Island on the western coast of Puerto Rico. During World War II until 1952 the island was used as a bombing range by the United States Armed Forces. In 1976 administration of the island was given to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in 1983 it was designated as a National Wildlife Refuge. Because of Federal protection, the reef remains pristine, the fish life is abundant, and of course huge lionfish have invaded the reefs. We dipped with Taino Divers in Rincon and when I mentioned I brought my own lionfish eradicator, the crew quickly grabbed theirs to help in the hunt. We killed so many lionfish that we lost count, but the highlight was a new skinning technique with plenty of carcasses to practice with. If you’re ever in Rincon, visit the Shipwrecked Bar and Grill and ask for lionfish served creole or scampi style. This dive bar takes their recipes very seriously and the food is incredible. Always order the specials or ask your server for recommendations.
Speaking of lionfish, a recent hit on a local diver this weekend makes me wonder who the victim is. Lionfish didn’t ask to be deposited off our coast. I remember my first lionfish sighting and thinking this was such a beautiful fish. I still have photos of lionfish hanging on my walls at home. In a sense, you must admire the defensive arsenal. The damn fish even has venomous anal fin spines! The "sting" of the lionfish is painful and perhaps even potentially fatal; lionfish may be categorized as one of the most dangerous vertebrate sea creatures known. Certainly, they are the most venomous of all fishes. There are not a lot of options to help when you’re the victim of a lionfish sting except immersion in hot water or wrapping hot towels to neutralize the venom (sucks if you’re not prepared). Pain killers (or self-medication via a few glasses of Irish whisky) help take the edge off and medical attention is sound advice. Our training teaches us that almost every incident involving sea life is a result of invading the critter’s comfort zone or inappropriate touching. It’s a diver’s rule to never touch the many wonderful underwater creatures we encounter, but if a diver decides to break this mantra the victim is not the diver. In fact, we get what we deserve. It’s been almost two years since my one and only lionfish sting and since that event I give proper respect to this invasive species. I’m not saying I’ve slowed down my hunting activities and I am quickly closing in on my 300th kill, but why do we state we are victims of a lionfish sting? Pretend you’re enjoying a nice relaxing day under the water and a diver spears you just because you don’t belong there. How would you react (especially if you had venomous spines)? I’m happy divers have taken up arms to protect our reefs and the local reef residents, but don’t claim to be a victim if you end up on the wrong end of a lionfish spine.
08/16/2012 DIVE BLOG – QUAD DIP ON THE VANDENBERG AND THE BEST NIGHT DIVE IN NORTH AMERICA
We will base camp out of Casa de O'Brien in Marathon beginning Friday night. Accommodations will be tight, so sleeping bags are encouraged. There are also plenty of reasonably price hotels in Marathon. The plan is to play in Marathon on Friday night and head into Key West on Saturday morning for the first Vandenberg (130') double dip with Captain's Corner. We will slowly wend our way back to Marathon for two dusk/night dive on Sombrero Reef (30') with Halls Dive Center. If you have not been on Sombrero at night, bring a camera because it is one of the best night reef dives you will ever experience. After post-dive narcosis Saturday night, we will head back to Key West for a second Vandenberg double dip.
We will be visiting the engine room at 120' (if your experience level allows) so bring the appropriate mixtures. Also, we will host a tour at 105' finning from the bow to the stern of the ship on a 15-minute swim thru (as experience allows). Lastly, we will visit Henry, the Metal Man in a secret location not to be missed! Don't worry if your experience level does not allow this crazy stuff, the Vandy's relief is about 70' and there’s a lot to see! Guides will also be available. Spaces are limited for the USNS Vandenberg and at Casa de O'Brien so please commit and reply quickly!
08/18 - Saturday Morning - USNS Vandenberg Double Dip - 9am show/9:30am go
08/18 - Saturday Night - Sombrero Reef Night Dive (two tanks) - 6pm show/6:30pm go
08/19 - Sunday Morning - USNS Vandenberg Double Dip - 9am show/9:30am go
08/03/2012 DIVE BLOG – DIVE 948 AND COUNTING TOWARDS 1000
South Florida summer dive season….’nuff said! We’ve played with the Frogs in Islamorada, been exploring wrecks off Ft Lauderdale, and of course our favorite wreck the USS SPIEGEL GROVE (120 lifetime dives on this wreck alone)! Due to excellent dive conditions both above and below the surface, we are logging dives at a frantic pace. I anticipate my 1000th dive to be logged before the end of the year, so what should we plan to celebrate. With work commitments, it will be difficult to get more than a four-day weekend, but we need to plan! Should we plan a major shark encounter? How about wreck diving Bermuda? Could we cavern dive the Cenotes in Mexico? How about the Mighty ORISKANY off Pensacola Beach? We have a few months to plan and suggestions are encouraged!
BTW…Oceanic is the greatest company EVER! I don't know how they did it, but they replaced my seven-year-old "Limited Edition" Atom 2.0 dive computer at no charge! I've only had Oceanic dive computers. Early in my dive career I initially bought used Oceanic computers and when I plunked down $1000 for the Atom 2.0 it was a huge expense! It flooded at 150' this summer due to an O-ring issue (my fault) and they replaced the entire guts for $160 which was a great deal! When I received the repaired unit, I noticed the cracked the bezel. Oceanic somehow found a brand-new computer that has not been produced in seven years and only 100 units were ever made! WOW! BTW...I purchased a new Oceanic Atom 3.1 to use as a back-up!
05/30/2012 DIVE BLOG – FAILURE TO PLAN IS PLANNING TO FAIL
Saturday was spent aboard Big Comm-Ocean dipping the ETOILE DE MER (150’) and the OPHELIA (110’) for my 900th dive and 200th lionfish kill. We served lionfish sashimi soaked in soy sauce with wasabi directly on board to celebrate Mercedes’ birthday. On Sunday, we were treated to JIM ATRIA (140’) and HOG HEAVEN (70’) aboard American Dream off Ft Lauderdale. After two days of successful deep-water diving, we were excited about the long trip out to the DOC DE MILLE (155’) and the ALMIRANTE (135’) on a special Memorial Day dive. The “DOC” has not treated us well on recent dives with rippin’ currents and poor viz, but we felt we were long overdue for some excellent dive conditions. Benjamin Franklin, an avid diver in his day, once said "if you fail to prepare then you are preparing to fail" and these words had special meaning this past weekend. That’s when it hit me, cruising along I-395 (MacArthur Causeway) past the cruise ships, that I didn’t plan the appropriate nitrox mix in my primary tank for the 150’ dive! Damn, but a call to Captain Mike Beach quickly remedied the situation! Once aboard, my trusty Oceanic Atom 2.0 dive computer was having fits communicating with the tank’s transmitter. The transmitter cap was stripped and made replacing the battery impossible, so as a last-ditch effort we replaced the battery on the dive watch. Thankfully, that solved the problem! We even tested the seal placing the watch in the camera bucket for a few minutes. No problem and no need to abort the day’s dive plan. Before we left the dock, Nick Morrell, Poet Laureate from the University of Leicester, was kind enough to share a story about a computer failure without a back-up computer during the end of a mixed air deco dive on the SPIEGEL GROVE as he switched gases to Nx100. With this story echoing about in the deep, dark recesses of my mind like a cartoon bubble we began our descent. With near perfect surface conditions, minimal current, and awesome viz, I Immediately checked my dive computer for air pressure and depth after reaching the deck of the wreck. Sadly, the screen was blank, and a few drops of salt water welled up beneath the crystal. What’s a well-mannered diver to do? Take a tour around the wreck at 145’ spotting eagle rays, a southern grey ray and lots of goliath groupers, of course. After about 12 minutes (that’s a guess), I joined a fellow diver on the ascent to ensure proper ascent rates and safety stops. Before you ask, I also did the second dive on a borrowed computer using dive tables based on best guess first dive parameters, maintaining a single Nx30 mix profile while using Nx50 after 70 feet, and using the dive profile of two other trusted deco divers. I wouldn’t recommend this approach to others, but it was still a conservative approach. I’m off to upgrade my computer to Oceanic’s new Atom 3.1 and in another piece of good news…………Oceanic will repair my old 2.0 for $160 complete with a new warranty, so my “back-up” plan is in full effect!
03/01/2012 DIVE BLOG – LERD (Lionfish Eradicator Reclamation Dive)
Last Wednesday night we descended to the PARAISO wreck where a huge lionfish was waiting in the sand along the hull. It was easy hunting with the LFE (LionFish Eradicator) and the triple prong easily pierced the dorsal area. The fish had a lot of mobility and quickly pulled the LFE from my hands. This has happened before, but where is a fish to go with a spear through its spine? ANSWER….? It darts under the hull into a crevasse created by the currents! So…not wanting to put my hand into a dark opening where a seriously ticked off poisonous fish waits (or a moray who mistakes my hand for a morsel), I finally aborted the attempt to recover my LFE. Dr Jordan Harvell, inventor of the LFE prototype, at Underwater Unlimited was immediately commissioned to customize a replacement LFE as a back-up to my back-up LFE (with a few minor enhancements). Sadly, weather cancelled last night’s LERD (Lionfish Eradicator Reclamation Dive) trip to the PARAISO to retrieve the missing LFE. However, please join me next Wednesday night for a second attempt LERD and to clean up some remaining “friends” of the LFE thief!
Please join us for a Lionfish Workshop and hunt sponsored by REEF this Saturday with RJ’s Diving Ventures. Lad Akins, Director of Special Projects, and the REEF team will be conducting a pre-dive workshop to prepare and educate divers on the lionfish invasion. This workshop includes developing detailed action plans for lionfish removal, how to encourage lionfish as a commercial fishery and getting the community involved. This event is co-sponsored by Monty's Seafood and RJ Diving. If you would like to attend this workshop registration is required. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
Last month was a special occasion for my dive buddy Steve Iverson (aka GPS) as he dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE for the 200th time! I’ve been fortunate to share about 100 of those dives with him and have discovered many interesting areas of this wreck that I didn’t know existed. Most divers never reach 200 lifetime dives, so 200 dives on the same wreck is something special! Speaking of didn’t know existed, I discovered “Metal Man” on the VANDENBERG! His name is Homer (it’s written on the wall) and he was created by a welder who carved the 6’ figure out of sheet metal and welded Homer to the deck in a room most divers will never visit. Homer also has a special appendage that would be expected from a Key West resident! I laughed so hard I almost spit out my regulator!
01/11/2012 DIVE BLOG – Key West Christmas and a Sea Turtle Rescue
One of the benefits of living in South Florida is the unlimited number of odd or unusual holiday vacation opportunities. This year we decided to spend Christmas in Key West, the southernmost point in the United States. We double dipped the VANDENBERG twice and joined Pam Dodd, our friend from Merritt Island, celebrate her 100th dive. Clearly, we didn’t expect a white Christmas, but we also were not exactly prepared for how Key West celebrates Christmas! We ended up staying at a clothing optional resort and waiting for Santa’s arrival on the rooftop of a clothing optional night club until the very wee hours of the night. Somehow Santa never made an appearance, but it is possible we missed him if he was not wearing his bright red suit. After all, the only naked folks in Key West are the people you wouldn’t want to see without their clothes! To the best of our knowledge, everyone survived the adventure!
We celebrated New Year’s Eve in Key Largo with a USCG DUANE and USS SPIEGEL GROVE double deep dive. The conditions on the DUANE were not optimal with a surface current and moderate viz, but as soon as we hit the deck, I went off looking for the resident sea turtle usually found in or near the smokestack. For those familiar with this sea critter, she tends to swim into the wreck from time to time, so I was not surprised when I found her bouncing off the wreck. After a few short moments, I realized she was trapped by fishing line to the wreck. Once I cut her free, she allowed me to approach and remove the line wrapped around her neck and right two fins. With a last look of thanks, she headed to the surface for a much-needed breath of air! I was hopeful that she would survive the ordeal since there was no obvious injury. So, I returned to the DUANE a week later and I’m happy to report she is back to her usual antics, both happy and healthy! Our friend, Priceless, is usually good for a story or two and this dive was no exception. She returned to the surface on the wrong mooring ball stating that that was the dive plan all along. However, pictures later posted to Facebook revealed she was most likely low on air after becoming distracted by the resident green moray late in the dive! The ocean is a strange and wonderful lady and our second dive on the SPIEGEL GROVE offered zero current and excellent viz.
It’s not often we get to dive a wreck we haven’t visited before, but we seized the opportunity to dip the DANTOR off Ft Lauderdale. She is a cargo ship very like the OPHELIA BRIAN in two respects. (1) She was recently scuttled and (2) she has a huge lionfish population. Every hunter bagged their fair share on this dive leaving the wreck littered with dead lionfish. While along the hull in the sand, I speared an unlucky lionfish. The critter could free itself from my custom lionfish eradicator and raced along the hull towards safety. Unfortunately, the lionfish swam into the path of a spotted snowflake eel that quickly gobbled up the wounded fish. Credit me with an assist!
The sea gods smiled in 2011 allowing to me dip below the surface for 212 dives with great friends, unbelievable adventures, and awesome memories to last a lifetime. Hopefully 2012 will bring many more adventures, both above and below the surface! I look forward to sharing these memories with some of the best dive buddies a diver could ask for!
11/30/2011 DIVE BLOG – Dive Turkeys!
My name is Tyler and I’m a scuba-holic. It’s been far too long since my last dive (insert “Hi Tyler” from the Divers Anonymous group). The winter dive season is in full swing with those damn eastern winds at 20+ knots and seas over 7’ high for weeks at a time! I begged our half-Neptune flyboy dive buddy from across the pond to grace us with an appearance to guarantee calm seas and fair skies! However, sometimes the sea gods smile on dive turkeys! With the slightest wind shift out of the north, we boarded Scuba-Do for a Thanksgiving double dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE with the usual cast of characters. We braced for rough seas but were surprised by relatively flat 2-3-foot waves. The conditions beneath the surface were good too with no current, moderate viz, and cooling water temperatures. I donned my replacement Camaro 5mm semi-dry wetsuit and was comfy and warm! The dives were uneventful, but as usual were awesome! My dive buddy, GPS, will soon be celebrating his 300th SPIEGEL GROVE dive!
The next day I headed to Key West to get a special tour of the VANDENBERG with Joe Weatherby. Like yesterday’s Thanksgiving dive with 20+ knot winds and a hint of north in the forecast we headed out to sea aboard Captain Corner’s Sea Eagle expecting to be blasted by high seas. To our surprise, once again, we were blessed by the sea gods with 2-3-foot seas, excellent viz, and a slight current. We were able to access the “Hole in the Wall” at 139’ to explore the engine room and power generators before ascending the elevator shaft and a return to the surface. It was the best dive to date on the VANDENBERG! I’m excited to take my dive friends on the same tour!
Speaking of turkeys, a wise diver is a diver who does not tempt the sea gods! I figured two-4-two, why would Saturday be any different? I was so very, very, wrong! While the Key West forecast was similar, the east dominated the north and seas were 5-7 feet as we headed out to the VANDENBERG. It was a perfect storm of Thanksgiving Weekend Key West dive tourists trying to get in a dive before heading back to the frozen tundra. Everyone aboard except for the captain, crew and I made a ritual of feeding the fish. Below the surface the viz dropped and the current was a challenge making the whole dive experience unhappy for most of the divers while I happily finned along the main corridor inside the wreck at 107 feet with great memories of the Thanksgiving weekend of turkey, football, diving, and good friends!
Tonight’s dive off Miami Beach on the OPHELIA BRIAN (110’) with RJs Diving Ventures is a go! Water temperatures should be in the mid-70s and air temperatures dipping into the mid-60s! Let’s embrace the winter dive season and go diving! Be sure to bring a warm jacket, thermal protection, a towel, and possibly a fine Irish whiskey! Regardless, I guarantee the chill is a simple weight loss program to shed post-Thanksgiving gains! Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
Join me aboard Aquatic Explorers December 10th for a double deep morning wreck dive to the ULTRA FREEZE (135’) and the BLUE FIRE (135’). These are two of my favorite wreck sites off Miami and we seldom get a chance to visit them. Call Captain Ani Gonzalez at 305-851-8180 for more information.
11/11/2011 DIVE BLOG – Vandenberg Adventure!
What a great adventure. The unusual cast of characters headed to Key West for a quad-dip with Captain John aboard the Juliet, a 104’ three masted schooner. The dives included two afternoon dips, a dusk dive, and a night dive on the 522’ USNS GENERAL HOYT S VANDENBERG. The team from Scuba Nation was supposed to be on hand to film the event for their upcoming series on Sun Sports. You might know the network as Sunshine Network locally and Sun Sports is now affiliated with virtually every cable company throughout the state of Florida. They are producing 26 episodes to premiere in April 2012. Each episode runs three times weekly on Thursday nights, Saturday morning, and Sunday night at prime time. The VANDENBERG seldom gives up perfect dive conditions, but she offered good surface conditions with warm water without the ever present current. However, the viz dropped to less than 10’ causing the film crew from Sunshine Sports and Scuba Nation to bow out of the dive.
I’ve never experienced four dives at over 110’ over a space of eight hours before so were able to encourage Joe Weatherby to be aboard to guide the dive trips. Joe Weatherby is the person responsible for sinking the VANDENBERG and is co-founder of the H20 Wreck Racing League. He lives in Key West and his stories of spending 13 years to sink this wreck, over two years inside the hull during the cleaning project, personal involvement in moving/securing the satellite dishes, and placement of the current artwork project made him a valuable addition to the trip. He also gave a colorful, back story presentation on Reefmakers during one of the surface intervals.
Our dive plans are generally informal since we all dive together often on South Florida’s wrecks, but the limited viz required a VERY detailed dive plan. One the first dive, five of the intrepid divers planned to explore the engine room. However, the viz was so poor we elected a safer dive plan on the deck level above the engine room. Once back aboard, we were fully briefed on the engine room dive plan and headed back to the engine room on the second dive. Everything went per plan and we safely returned to the surface. The dusk dive was along the corridor the runs stem-to-stern at 110’ with about ten divers. Very few divers elected to attempt the night dive and we kept the dive plan to safe levels as we toured the underwater artwork of Andreas Franke entitled “Life below the surface” attached to the side of the wreck. It was a spooky dive in the dark with 10’ viz, but the dive was a blast!
After the dives, we headed back to port where FantasyFest was being celebrated in Key West. We were so exhausted from the four dives that no one disembarked to witness the spectacle. Instead the usual poker game began with a heated battle between me, Captain John, and Meggan. On the Bahamas trip Captain John regularly beat me in the final two, but that night I outlasted him only to be flogged by Meggan, the card shark! Anyone who wants the liveaboard experience aboard the Juliet can contact Captain John at 866-5-JULIET or visit Juliet’s website at sailjuliet.com for more information.
09/20/2011 DIVE BLOG – Work, Dive, Travel, Work, Dive, and More Travel!
All work and no play make Tyler a dull boy! Mix in a heavy workload and travel and the cocktail leaves little time for reflection and stories since my last blog, but there have been stories to tell! About a month ago we spent a weekend on Venice Beach with the usual characters hunting for 2-7-million-year-old Megalodon Shark tooth fossils. Imagine these fossils lying pristine under a rich coating of clay just waiting to be scooped up with only one foot of viz! Better yet, imagine diving in the Bay of Florida with 50-70-foot sharks swimming about millions of years ago. Everyone found various tooth fossils, but the big winner was Finless who came away with a 5” fossil (and sooooooooo much more….so much for the concept of catch and release)! We watched a drum circle perform on the beach under a spectacular sunset off the west coast of Florida well into the evening. Everyone had a blast!
The bull sharks have returned to the DUANE and have been spotted on our last three trips to this wreck in the past four weeks. Look for them off the starboard stern section circling in the distance. Fortunately, the viz has been awesome making the sharks easier to see. I did get one surprise as I exited the superstructure only to be face to face with one of the majestic creatures. We were both shocked and the shark proceeded to head into the deep blue abyss. Yes, of course I followed him if he would allow.
Finally, we double-dipped the VANDENBERG bringing along a few VANDENBERG virgins for the dive of a lifetime! The conditions were near perfect on the surface and below the 6” ripples. No current and great viz allowed free ascents and descents (and an opportunity to play with the moon jellies during the safety stops). If you have not witnessed the underwater artwork of Andreas Franke entitled “Life below the surface” attached to the side of the VANDEBERG, be sure to book a trip as soon as possible before it is too late. The artist combined underwater photos of the wreck superimposed with post-WWII era figures. My favorite is the little girl running along the weather deck with a butterfly net trying to catch silversides swimming above her net. Joe Weatherby, the legend who sunk the VANDENBERG, served as Capitan and on our second dive of the double-dip gave us directions for a corridor at 105’ the goes from directly behind the anchor locker at the bow to the end of the ship. While it is dark, there are a few exits along the way and ambient light from cabin portholes, which is good because slit is plentiful and the careless diver would have difficulty finding the way back without a reel.
The Secret Society of the Frog, our little drinking club with a serious dive problem, is planning Frogapalooza for the weekend of October 14th and is considered the celebration of the summer dive season. Many frogs become tadpoles when surface and water temperatures fall below 80 degrees and begin the winter hibernation and this is their last dive related hurrah. This year we are staying local heading down to Islamorada for a stay-n-play dive adventure. We are planning wrecks, reefs, and topside activities so if you’re interested please see the detailed event on my Facebook page.
Lastly, Caroline (aka pilot whale 300) was successfully transferred to SeaWorld Orlando a week ago to continue her rehabilitation. She was deemed unable to return to the wild due to a curvature of the spine developed during her four-month recovery in Key Largo. Working with the Marine Mammal Conservancy to save the lives of four stranded pilot whales was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I want to thank everyone who joined in the volunteer effort by donating your time on long midnight shifts, donating medical supplies, much needed items from the whale wish list, and your hard-earned cash donations. Efforts are underway to clean up the site in preparation for the next rescue effort, so your volunteer efforts are still needed. Please reach out to the Marine Mammal Conservatory at 305-451-4774 to assist.
08/11/2011 DIVE BLOG – Best Night Dive Maybe Ever!
Have you ever turned on the TV late at night and there was nothing worth watching so you took a chance on a movie and were greatly surprised by how amazing the movie was? That happened to me with years ago with Tommy Boy and on last night’s dive. The boat was packed to the gills with dozens of students, so much so there was barely room to move about. No worries…I spent the ride out chatting with Captain Mike Beach on the bridge and planned to hit the water as soon as the engines turned off to avoid the herd. Everything went per plan and soon I was headed down to the wreck of the TACOMA. That’s when I hit a 68-degree thermocline! Brrrrrrr, but imagine all the divers that thought a dive skin would suffice in the 80+ degree water (more on thermal protection later)! The wreck was loaded with lionfish and I eradicated six of the invasive species. There were plenty more for the taking, but after clocking six minutes of deco I needed to return to the surface. Our Brotherhood of Lionfish Victims claimed a second-timer who was “attacked” by a passing lionfish (FYI…lionfish do not attack, but you do need to get out of the way). Based on this morning’s report, Lionfish-Bait reports that the heated towels provided by the crew could neutralize the toxin and he described his symptoms as “no pain, but swollen a bit”. For the record….it was NOT MY FAULT! On the surface, we were greeted by a sea of moon jellies. Lots of vinegar was passed around and no one accepted my offer to urinate on the wounds (what are friends for)! Back to thermal protection…remember the divers wearing dive skins….’nuff said! Two sets of dive buddies missed the wreck and surfaced quite a distance behind the boat but could safely “dorkle” their way back to the boat. One set found a wreck but were unhappy we “untied” the boat until we explained that they were the only divers of 40+ in the water on their wreck and we were still secured onto the TACOMA. They ended up on the wrong wreck! I suspect there was something in the dive brief about using the downline to ensure you hit the right site, but I was already in the water before the brief!
So, that was not the best night dive! The highlight was our second dive was on the PIPES. If you’ve ever been to this secret site, it’s not big enough for as many divers as we had. Once again, my plan was to be in the water first, quickly explore the PIPES, and then head into the reef patches to avoid the masses. Immediately upon descent a Caribbean Reef Squid greeted me! I love squid and after a few moments connecting with this critter I set off the say hello to the resident green moray and search for a few lionfish. As other divers joined the fray, I set off into the darkness. I was amazed by octopus, orange seas stars, a nurse shark, a sea turtle and lots of fish life. The highlight was a large school of 30-50 squid that happily feasted out of my hand on the critters attracted to my dive light. I hovered in isolation watching the squid change colors and formation for over 30 minutes right in front of my dive mask before returning to the surface. What an awesome animal encounter! Diving is such a Zen experience and just when you expect the least you have one of your best dives ever!
This weekend we are off to Key Largo! Our plan is to dip the DUANE (120’) on Saturday afternoon followed by my 100th dive on the SPIEGEL GROVE double-dip at night. We plan two leisurely reef dives on a spectacular shallow reef on Sunday morning for you photographer types! Post-dive narcosis Saturday night should be legend…wait for it - dary! There’s still space available, so let me know if you’re interested!
08/04/2011 DIVE BLOG – Sequel to Night of the Living Dead & Zombie Lionfish
If you have not recently visited the OPHELIA BRIAN, there has been a rash of unexplained phenomenon occurring on this wreck off Miami Beach. Last night we joined underwater paranormal expert and host of America’s Most Haunted, Ophelia Snyder, to explain the mystery surrounding the sudden appearance of fuselage from the 727 Spirit of Miami resting against the hull of the OPHELIA BRIAN. Thunderclouds surrounded us as we entered the dark, murky, green water. We encountered currents and thermo-climes that made this spooky night dive send shivers up your spine despite thermal wetsuit protection. Along our path we littered the seascape with the bodies of eradicated invasive lionfish protecting this haunted wreck with their poisonous spines! Suddenly, our psychic spotted a zombie lionfish! She reacted quickly and grabbed the lionfish eradicator from my mitts and with three swats (the first two missed) finally speared the undead creature and thusly saved us all from a fate worse than death! Once safely back aboard the Big Com-Ocean, we unraveled the mystery and to tell the truth our “psychic” re-killed a dead lionfish floating under an awning on the wreck’s superstructure. Does it take three tries to kill a dead fish?
To continue the paranormal theme, we have rescheduled our Spooky SPIEGEL GROVE (135’) night dive for Saturday night (08/13) due to unexplained high winds and seas last weekend and a threat from Tropical Storm Emily this weekend. It feels as if the forces of nature and the sea gods are attempting to ward us off one of the top ten most haunted wrecks per Sport Diver magazine. Once again virgin sacrifices are in order as a blessing to the sea gods or a visit from our half-Neptune friend from across the pond! Thankfully it appears like the Cone of Death (aka storm tracking model) predicts Emily will bypass South Florida and diving will continue this weekend, so we have a SPIEGEL GROVE (135’) double dip planned for this Saturday afternoon.
Pilot whale 300 needs your help more now than ever. As we enter her fourth month of rehabilitation, we are suffering from volunteer fatigue as the novelty effect has passed. Please join me tonight at 8pm (or anytime you must spare) as I am the only volunteer signed up for tonight’s shift. I don’t think I can hold up a 1600-pound pilot whale for four hours by myself, but I’ll give it my best effort if needed. She is still critical, but we are more hopeful than ever she might recover. Please call the Marine Mammal Conservatory at 305-451-4774 to reserve your spot!
07/27/2011 DIVE BLOG – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
We joined Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) off Miami Beach for a FISH ID Survey this past weekend. Despite an all-night study session with Dr Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (and a lecture on fish identification from REEF hosted by Tarpoon Lagoon), I’ve discovered there’s more to fish than meets the eye! For example, I spotted a colony of gobies. Great! I’ll add them to my survey list, but suddenly discovered there were several different types of gobies to check off! The same goes for blennies and most every common species of fish! Let’s not even talk about juvenile vs terminal color differences within a specific species! At least I now know what I don’t know now! My dive buddy GPS has the right idea…take lots of pictures and identify species using the Humann series of Reef Fish Identification books (which he gave me at Christmas) before posting pictures to the net. RJ’s Diving Ventures was the charter and the visibility were awesome all day and the conditions above and below the surface were typical for the South Florida summer dive season. We also had a spectacular dive on the ULTRA FREEZE in the morning where we eradicated over a dozen lionfish, swam with a sea turtle, and were watched by a mega-goliath grouper surrounded by hundreds of silversides!
We double-dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE (dives #96 and #97 for me on this wreck) on Sunday and the conditions were perfect! We planned to hit the sand and swim under the belly of the wreck past the rudder and the props. The dive plan was slightly altered when the clasp on my lionfish eradicator broke and the spear pole quickly disappeared into the abyss about 100 feet off the wreck. With minimal current and 70’ viz, I decided to attempt a rescue. I immediately found the lost object (and a mask) and returned to my dive group. We followed our plan and were greeted under the hull by two nurse sharks and two goliath groupers. I feared for Yoyo’s life as one large nurse shark acted like he was going to be dinner! Speaking of the SPIEGEL GROVE (135’), we are planning my very first night dive on this artificial reef this Saturday night. It’s a double-dip with Scuba-Do at 6pm and space is limited so let me know as soon as possible. We also plan to double-dip the VANDENBERG on Sunday morning at 8am with Subtropic. It’s gonna be a big wreck weekend!
Congratulations to pilot whale 301! The Marine Mammal Conservancy was proud to announce the relocation of one of MMC’s female pilot whales to SeaWorld of Orlando! The calf, known as 301, was successfully transferred to SeaWorld’s new, state of the art, rehabilitation facility this past Friday. Upon arrival, 301 adapted well, immediately began to eat normally and to explore her new environment. The calf was part of a group of 24 pilot whales that stranded on May 5th in Cudjoe Key, Florida. The calf’s mother died in the stranding and would normally teach her necessary skills to survive on her own. Without these skills, she was deemed non-releasable. Rehabilitation efforts with the last remaining Pilot Whale continue in Key Largo and while we see daily improvement, she is still in critical condition. Supplies and volunteers are needed to help! We plan to volunteer this Thursday night from 8pm to midnight so please be sure to call the Marine Mammal Conservatory at 305-451-4774 to reserve your spot!
07/11/2011 DIVE BLOG – “They” Say “It” Happens in “Threes”
Whether this superstition bears merit my personal experience dictates that it applies to scuba diving. Once on our way out the SPIEGEL GROVE we heard Steve Irwin died of a freak stingray attack and then heard a commercial fishing boat ran aground on Molasses Reef. I turned to my dive buddy and advised care because things happen in threes. On this dive, we became very disoriented in zero viz and massive current and were not able to easily find the ascent line after some light penetration. With a little deco on our computers we found “a” line just before we planned a free ascent that would have placed us far from our charter after we cleared deco. While we worried our Caption because our bubbles were not where he expected since we came up the “wrong” line, all ended well. This phenomenon has happened several times since. A week ago, we dipped the DOC DE MILLE and my same dive buddy from the SPIEGEL GROVE had issues with her computer. Our friend GPS came to the rescue with a backup computer. Secondly, her mask seal broke just before descent. Our friend Mac pulled a spare out of his save-a-dive kit. Before we left the boat, I cautioned to be careful as things happen in threes. We began our descent to 150’ in a rippin’ current that took six minutes to get to depth, only to realize her secondary began a slow free flow. We decided to safely abort the dive and ascend. Regardless if these events were just coincidence; it is always wise advice to be alert for potential dangers. It’s my goal to always have the same number of ascents as descents (safely) and whatever incident that occurs during our dive careers just makes us better divers. Let’s have fun but be careful and plan for the unexpected.
We are planning another volunteer session with the Marine Mammal Conservatory on Thursday (07/14) from 8pm-midnight to help with the last two pilot whales. We had a blast last week when 300 shuddered and we all looked at each other and then looked back towards the tail. Sure, enough, whale poop! I was not as impressive as you might imagine, but we were all giving high fives to each other! After all, how often do you get to stand in whale poop! The toddler, 301, had to be placed in timeout as she pulled a temper tantrum (like a two-year-old kicking and screaming on the floor). After we deserted the dock and her line of sight, she stopped splashing and calmed down. I guess timeouts work for baby whales too! If you can volunteer with us or at any time, please contact the Marine Mammal Conservatory at 305-451-4774.
We have lots of diving planned. Join us on Big Comm Ocean this Wednesday night for the SHERI-LYN (110’) and the PIPES (45’) which is a spectacular set of dives. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information. We join our friends from Central Florida aboard American Dream for both the morning and afternoon dives with the featured event a double-dip on the two TENNECO TOWERS (110’ / 105’). Call Captain Todd at 954-577-0338 for more information. There’s a rumor we might try to do BLUE HERON BRIDGE on Sunday, so if interested please let me know. Miami Dade Reef Guard Association is hosting a Fish Survey on the BELCHER WREK TREK the following weekend (07/23). The event will start at 2:30pm with a seminar on fish identification at Tarpoon Lagoon Dive Shop; the boat (RJ Diving) will leave the dock at 5pm for a single tank dive followed by food (sponsored by EBF Bakery) and BYOB on the return. This is a FREE event from a grant from National Geographic Magazine and The Rosenstiel School for Marine & Atmospheric Science. There will be NO CHARGE for the boat, just bring yourself and your gear and tank and participate (Rental gear available if required). If interested, please call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
06/30/2011 DIVE BLOG – Directions? I Don’t Need Stinkin’ Directions!
On a recent night dive off Miami, we dipped the BELCHER BARGE which is part of the infamous WREK TREK. The current was just strong enough to convince us to stay on the wreck and look for macro critters inside and out of the wreck. After an hour, we were topside and Captain Drew became concerned that we were missing a diver and no lights were visible below the surface. Josh went down to search while the rest of us were on lookout duty. Finally, we spotted a light signal from a nearby boat and a voice came over the radio saying, “We have Obo” (name withheld). Here’s the story, the WREK TREK is made up of three tug boats and three barges and is usually started on BELCHER BARGE followed by the three tug boats, to the two barges butted together before returning to the starting point. When “Obo” arrived at the first barge after the third tug boat he was surrounded by divers that were ascending on the mooring line to their boat. It was only when he was on his safety stop did he realize the boat had two outboard engines and not two inboard engines! All is well that ends well and as we say in the dive business, we learn from our mistakes! The best part was later at Clarke’s when “Obo” went to leave, Captain Drew asked if “Obo” would like someone to walk him out to his car to be sure he could find it!
The 4th of July weekend will be filled with awesome dive experiences and celebrations! We will be making our first trip out with Aquatic Explorers on Sunday morning to dip the WREK TREK (70’) (hopefully “Obo” will find his way) and beautiful SAPPHIRE REEF (30’). Call 305-851-8180 for more information. The very best dive trip of the season is on Monday morning with RJs to the DOC DE MILLE (150’) and the BLUE FIRE (135’). These sites are seldom visited, but multiple and massive goliath groupers are guaranteed and sometimes bull sharks and spotted eagle rays make an appearance. Due to strong currents this is an advanced dive. I believe this trip is sold out but reach out to Captain Mike Beach at 305-458-4211 to get on the waiting list! Monday evening, we return to Aquatic Explorers for a twilight dive to the STEANE D'AURAY (70’) and a trip to the anchorage in front of downtown Miami for the fireworks celebration! If you have never done this trip, it is a blast and we return to the dock after all traffic has left Key Biscayne.
We are cautiously optimistic about pilot whale 300. She is being a bit more curious and playful and recently her medications have been lowered. She even tried to bolt from her handlers a couple days ago and these are all good signs. She will still need months of physical therapy for spine atrophy, but finally there is a glimmer of hope! We are planning another volunteer session on Tuesday (07/05) from 8pm-midnight. Duties include getting into the water with 300 to assist in keeping her afloat and recording breathing and heart rates. I have found that this experience has been very rewarding for me and our fellow divers. If you are able to volunteer with us or at any time, please contact the Marine Mammal Conservatory at 305-451-4774.
06/21/2011 DIVE BLOG – Marine Mammal Conservatory Volunteer to Help the Stranded Pilot Whales
On May 5th, eight of nineteen pilot whales were rescued after being stranded off Cudjoe Key in the Lower Florida Keys. Mass strandings of pilot whales are unfortunately quite common across the world and the last such event in the Florida Keys occurred in 2003, when 28 pilot whales were beached. These wonderful sleek black animals are closely related to dolphins and can grow up to 18 feet in length. Two of the pilot whales have been released and a young calf (301) is back to good health and playing in a separate pen during the day. Sadly, four of the pilot whales have been euthanized. On Saturday afternoon, pilot whale 302 was euthanized to end her suffering from pneumonia and kidney failure. We were there to assist and it was a sad and emotional day for all involved. We also provided comfort to 300, the last of the infirmed pilot whales, who is still in critical condition with pneumonia and needs our help. We are planning another volunteer session on Thursday (06/23) from 8pm-midnight. Duties include getting into the water with 300 to assist in keeping her afloat and recording breathing and heart rates. The youngster will also need attendance during the evening session. I guarantee your involvement will have a profound impact. Please let me know if you are interested in helping.
We had a great time celebrating my son Dale’s 17th birthday and one-year anniversary of his scuba certification in Key Largo. While working on his advanced certification with super-instructor Lisa (aka Finless), he went to 141’ under the rudder and propellers of the SPIEGEL GROVE! He also caught a glimpse of Snoopy, the mascot of this huge 510’ long artificial reef. While dipping the deeper ledge off FRENCH REEF, we were visited by a Caribbean Reef Shark and had two spotted eagle rays fly by on the second shallower dive. Dale is a big animal magnet and with just over 20 dives he has seen numerous nurse sharks, two reef shark encounters, six total spotted eagle rays, morays, and goliath groupers. I recommend tagging along whenever he hits the water to see what happens next! Topside activities were impacted by Tara’s (aka Priceless) banana vodka contribution to the dinner and billiard experience at Sharkey’s.
This past weekend we double-dipped the THUNDERBOLT in Marathon with Hall’s Dive Center. As I set up my gear, I put my regulator on backwards. At least I thought I did. I felt silly for a few moments until I realized my regulator was in for annual servicing and the technician installed my first stage backwards from how it was previously mounted. My Oceanic Delta Four generally allows air to flow very easily resulting in low surface air consumption (SAC) rates, but there was a low steady stream of air coming from the second stage even at the lowest setting. Thinking that these two issues will easily be corrected back at the shop, I thought about how things happen in sets of three. Well, I packed two left handed gloves! Dale and I were using the same brand of gloves the previous weekend and I mixed up the sets! Lesson learned to double check your gear before leaving the shop and before leaving home! Aside from these initial issues, the dives were wonderful with lots of opportunity to penetrate. There were lots of goliath groupers lazily swimming about the wreck.
Join us Wednesday night with RJs off Miami Beach as we dip the PRINCESS BRITTNEY (85’) and a reef in what looks like perfect South Florida summer dive conditions. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
06/13/2011 DIVE BLOG – Back from the Bahamas!
It took a few days for our group of intrepid divers to recover from a week at sea aboard the Juliet and gain our land legs. We traveled south of Bimini after clearing customs for a great week of diving. We are returning with lots of lionfish stories! As expected, we saw a lot of this invasive species, but we learned that they are great eating too! We had lionfish sashimi (which is even better that white fish sashimi), lion fish tacos, lionfish ceviche, and lionfish dip! We also fed lionfish to a spotted eel, two reef sharks, and two nurse sharks! They loved the free meals! We also had excellent dives with our friendly shark friends and the night dives were spectacular! We dipped the shark site where Captain Mike Beach was nibbled upon and even saw a bit of swim trucks on the reef that said “property of Mike Beach”. FYI…the incident occurred years ago during an organized feeding where he was the main course! If you’re planning a liveaboard, the Juliet is a great value. The cost is $1500 a week for comfortable accommodations, awesome food, unlimited alcohol, and great diving! Add into the equation the boat leaves right out of Bayside in downtown Miami so air fare is reasonable for out-of-towners and no cost for locals. Call Captain John at 866-558-5438 for reservations.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to dive the VANDENBERG with the individual responsible for the sinking of the second largest intentional artificial reef. Joe Weatherby spent thirteen years of his life dedicated to getting this wreck to the bottom of the ocean off Key West. He was friendly, affable, and had plenty of salty sea stories to share. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Key West to get a personal tour of the wreck! Hopefully we can encourage him to help us get a military wreck off Miami’s coast. Joe is also co-founder of the Wreck Racing League for underwater scooter racing. The next local event is the Gold Coast Underwater Grand Prix off Pompano Beach on July 22-24. Check out http://wreckracingleague.com for more details.
This past weekend a bunch of local divers headed to Key Largo to celebrate my son Dale’s 17th birthday and his one-year scuba certification anniversary. We have awesome dive conditions above and below the surface. We were blown away by the viz and sea life on MOLASSES REEF and two spotted eagle rays and a small sea turtle joined us on the dive. While viz dropped in the afternoon on FRENCH REEF, a friendly reef shark made an appearance to make the dive on the deeper ledge truly spectacular. Sunday’s double-dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE was a great dive too. Dale descended to 141 feet as we passed the propellers and the rudder of this monster wreck on the path to advanced certification. After passing the plaque where Dale’s name will be inscribed once the last lifetime subscribers are completed, we also penetrated the wreck and introduced Dale to the ship’s mascot Snoopy who is painted on the floor riding an alligator! FYI…there are still a limited number of lifetime memberships available for $250 which also make a great gift for your dive buddy! To get your name inscribed on the side of the wreck, please contact the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce at 305-451-4747.
As we left Key Largo, we stopped by to visit the rescued pilot whales at the Marine Mammal Conservatory. Two of the five rescued whales have been released to the open ocean, and another is on the road to recovery. Per Kent Bonde (aka Sharkbait), one was critical yesterday and had to be force-fed food and meds. The juvenile which is in a separate pen will likely be moved to Sea World. Both adults also have severe spinal curvature from lack of swimming and must be worked on daily. We plan to volunteer this weekend’s night shifts and based on feedback from friend it is a rewarding experience. We will be in the water with the whales to ensure their blow holes stay above the surface. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping.
Be sure to call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 to book your spots for the July 4th dive on the DOC DE MILLE (150’) and BLUE FIRE (135’) before this special trip is sold out. This is the very best wreck dive off Miami and should not be missed by any advanced diver. Current is almost always present but is worth the challenge to see multiple goliath groupers, bull sharks, and sometime a squadron of spotted eagle rays on the awesome artificial reef.
05/06/2011 DIVE BLOG – Revenge at the Lionfish Derby!
Please join us in our efforts to eradicate the "vacuum cleaners of the reef" in this Lionfish "Kill 'Em & Grill 'Em" event! Attend the free Friday night presentation for tips on safely spearing Lionfish, then join us in collecting as many as you can Saturday morning. The presentations will be held at 6:00pm at the Fort Lauderdale Divers Direct store. This will be a free presentation and participation in the dives on Saturday is not necessary to attend. On Saturday morning, we will be diving with American Dream II in Fort Lauderdale at 8:30am (8:00am check-in). The fee is $50 per diver (not including tanks). Join us with your catch at Divers Direct Fort Lauderdale store at 1:30pm for a filet demonstration. Prizes for the most lionfish gathered will be awarded. Please call to register for the presentation and/or dives at 954-926-4450 - these spots will sell out fast!
We will also be double-dippin’ the SPIEGEL GROVE off Key Largo on Sunday morning with our friends at Scuba-Do. This will be dives 92 and 93 on my favorite wreck, and I’m hoping to get to 100 total dives by the end of the year. I have not been on the Grove since March, so I’m hoping someone agrees to be my dive guide as I may have forgotten my way around the wreck!
There have been a lot of great dives in the past week and the Sea Gods have smiled upon us with weather that was far better than expected. Have you ever noticed that the weatherman (aka NOAA) is generally correct less than 50% of the time, but that the Farmer’s Almanac is far more accurate? The highlight of last week was the sighting of two hammerhead sharks off Fort Lauderdale. Our good friend, Priceless (aka Tara), is credited with the spotting. It was an awesome encounter!
04/28/2011 DIVE BLOG – Lionfish Strike Back!
It was bound to happen! A few weeks ago, on the TACOMA (121’) in a rippin’ current I came across a school of five lionfish. With my trusty eradicator, I quickly vanquished four of the invasive critters and while removing the triple prong from the fifth I suddenly felt pain and a burning sensation in my hand. I’m not sure how it happened, but the dorsal feathered spine from the lionfish hit me. Back on the surface, my good friend, Captain Mike Beach, immediately placed wet towels on the engine manifold and once heated placed the towels on my thumb to neutralize the toxin. After several applications (and four ibuprofen tablets) the pain ebbed. Dr Doug Ebersol was aboard and called in a broad-spectrum antibiotic to my local pharmacy. Luckily, the pain only lasted a few days with minimal swelling and some numbness in the hand and arm. Lesson learned? Well, thank goodness for 2mm gloves or the sting would have been far worse. Immediate medical attention is critical. Stop messin’ with lionfish…??? Seriously…it’s like you don’t know me at all!
We’ve been getting a mixture of warmer water temperatures sprinkled with a bit of windy weather cancelling a few dives. In four more weeks, the water with be over 80 degrees and the predictable calm waters of summer return to South Florida. In anticipation of a windy weekend, we have begun the process to offer virgin sacrifices to the Sea Gods to grant us calmer seas for our Saturday morning dive on the SHERI LYN (110’) and the PRINCESS BRITTNEY (85’) off Miami Beach.
04/05/2011 DIVE BLOG – Rockin’ Night Dive in Islamorada!
We joined our friends from American Diver International out of Merritt Island, Florida for a night dive to ALLIGATOR REEF off Islamorada Of course, the lobster knew they are out of season and hunting is always prohibited in the sanctuary, so lobster piled one on top of the other, out playing in the sand just to torment bug hunters! Nothing compares with night dives in the Florida Keys, especially in the marine sanctuaries. The usual casts of characters were playing on the reef including a green moray, a small goldentail moray, banded coral shrimp, flamingo tongues, spiny brittle stars, and more fishlife than you can imagine. We played with the common white brittle stars known for the slow-motion lightning effect from an intense bio-luminescence that is a defense mechanism against predators. There was an awesome fly-by from a southern grey stingray as he came from across the reef ledge, attracted to our dive lights, and passed right over our heads! Towards the end of our dive there were so many of the tiny critters floating in the water that if you shined your light into your hand you could create a nice little bait ball! These critters also bring in the squid. We first spotted two rather large squid in the sand and once we made friends with them, they happily swam overhead eating the critters attracted by our torches. They must have called their friends for the feast because as we began our ascent, we entered a large ball of Caribbean reef squid that were too numerous to count! They were friendly and happily let us stay amid them. It was an awesome dive!
My scuba version of Punxsutawney Phil tells me that it is time to break out the 3/2mm wetsuit. Based on the surface temperatures far above 80 degrees and water temperatures inching upwards, the switch to 3/2mm signals the beginning of the spring dive season for the Secret Society of the Frog. However, we still plan to offer virgin sacrifices to the sea gods for calmer seas, greater viz and warmer water (or get our half-Neptune dive buddy Mike Bryars over here to guarantee perfect dive conditions). We have some great dives planned for Wednesday night to the SHERI LYN (110') and Saturday morning to the TACOMA (135') and the PARAISO (70’) with Captain Mike Beach and RJ’s Diving Ventures off Miami Beach. Why don’t you dust off your 3mm wetsuit and join us?
03/28/2011 DIVE BLOG - Spring Season Is Here!
It appears that spring has come to Miami. Water temperatures are beginning to creep towards the mid-70s and I was forced to use my 3/2mm wetsuit this weekend and except for the initial jump into the water it was rather comfortable. I still would not attempt a 3/2mm on night dives yet. After serving me for three winter dive seasons, my illustrious Camaro 5mm semi-dry developed a serious tear and will be retired. I’ve always wanted to marry my 5mm semi-dry, but it knows me to well. With the new Camaro 5mm semi-dry on the way, perhaps the new 5mm semi-dry will be a mail order bride!
I’m marching steadily towards my 100th dive (91 dives and counting) on the SPIEGEL GROVE. This weekend we were blessed by the sea gods with 80/80/80 conditions. We were 80+ feet below the surface, viz was 80+ feet, and the temperature was 80+ degrees (ok…74 degrees below the surface and 86 degree on top). Two weeks ago, on the SPIEGEL GROVE we spotted a regal sea goddess (nudibranch) on the deck railing. I picked the critter up for a better photo opportunity and realized there were two critters engaged in some sort of scuba porn. I was not sure I was interested in turning this into a threesome, so I gave them to Finless to film the final scenes!
We’ve recently run into some examples of poor customer service within the dive service community (names intentionally withheld). One charter agreed to take me and another diver with a last-minute booking out to the SPIEGEL GROVE in what would be a private charter. To help with the profitability of the trip, I encouraged two fellow divers to join me. This outfit previously allowed me to use a multi-dive card on myself and a dive buddy, so we thought we could do the same thing on this trip reducing the cost from $80 to $60 per diver. Wrong! So, a trip that would have added $240 in revenue ($120 in pure additional profit from the added two divers in my group) cost $300 in total. This dive organization lost the future business of four avid divers over $60. I believe this was a little short-sighted, especially in this economy. The shop service was terrible, but the captains and crews of this dive charter have always been professional, interesting, and fun.
We also had an unfortunate incident attempting to double-dip the VANDENBERG this weekend. The conditions at the site we undiveable, but the back-up plan was to head to the CAYMAN TRADER which would have been a virgin dive for me. The kicker was the engines wouldn’t start. The captain was new to this boat (he read a pre-departure brief from a laminated checklist), but he claimed the engine problem was dead batteries from an issue with the alternator. We were not convinced since the engines made no sound when the key was turned. We figured it was electrical in nature. Having owned a boat most of my life, I was not shocked that the boat sprung to life when tried an hour later while waiting for a tow into port. We decided to call it a day with three of six divers feeding the fish a warm meal. The dive operation happily offered to refund our money and added a free dive trip to each diver without much coaxing. The divemaster offered to return our hefty pre-departure tip, but it was not the fault of the divemaster that the boat didn’t work properly and she reluctantly accepted the gratuity. After all, we have used this charter before without incident, it was a beautiful day, and the shop made good, so we plan to return soon.
02/21/2011 DIVE BLOG – 196…198…201…….!
The dive to the deeper TENNECO TOWER was a record dive in so many ways! The dive plan was to hit 200+ feet, but local divers said the depth was a max 180’ on this site. Based on the dive experience of SharkBait (aka Kent), I was certain we would hit 200+ feet. The dive plan…with 6 minutes of dive time at depth we would try the first leg, second leg, third leg until we achieved our 200-foot goal (and then use a shovel to dig to depth…just kidding). The top to the oil rig was about 130’ and we pushed past to the sand. The first leg was 196’, so we set off for the second leg. The second leg was 198’ (too shallow to shovel two feet deeper), but the third leg rewarded us with 201 feet! Well past our planned six-minute dive time, we headed back to the surface to play “whack-a-mole” with the nettle jellyfish. With extended deco stops, most everyone was stung on the safety stops. Our friend, Finless (aka Lisa…more to come on this subject), was hit in the face just at the end of the stop. As a friend and dive buddy, I offered to pee on the wound, but she elected for the spray bottle of vinegar instead. Records…deepest dive (201 feet), most deco (15 minutes), and coldest dive (64 degrees)! We plan to dive the ESMERELDA at 200+ in March because we didn’t get to test the effects of narcosis, but we plan to bring puzzles on this wreck dive!
The second dive was to the ANDRO, where lionfish were everywhere on this seldom visited site. I bagged six on my own, but the final kill was a one foot plus monster lionfish. I hit it near the tail and the big fish still had quite a bit of mobility. Our dive buddy, Henry, grabbed the spear and knife from my hand and quickly killed the pesky invader. However, at the surface complained about a “mild” sting. The sting resulted in two days in the hospital with a morphine drip and for over a week later, severely swollen arm and fingers. We had heard that a lionfish sting cannot kill you, but you will want to die. Myth CONFIRMED!
The Lemon Shark Lover’s Lane dive was spoiled by six-foot seas. Many of the divers aboard were a little (or more) seasick, but not our Miami divers! We killed quite a few lionfish and spotted a few bull sharks at the end of the HOLE IN THE WALL at 140’ before heading to the surface. The viz dropped and we elected to abort the final two dives, much to the relief of the seasick. Oh, the story about Finless? She “elected” to attempt to dive without the benefit of her mask. Luckily, her dive buddy and former student, was still attached to the boat (bungee cord on his tank) and could bring her mask along. Nice training technique if the instructor is a little absent minded!
02/04/2011 DIVE BLOG – Going Deeper and Deeper…….!
We have been regularly diving off Miami and the Florida Keys despite the cold 66-degree temperature encountered off Miami last Wednesday night. It was still a rockin’ dive on the SHERI-LYN with two Regal Sea Goddesses (nudibranchs) engaged in sexual activity. Like eels, nudibranchs are hermaphroditic and have a set of reproductive organs for both sexes. We also hit the BELZONA BARGE where we encountered green and snowflake eels (hunting, not!), flamingo tongues, and a deer cowrie covered in a fleshy coating. The reason cowrie shells maintain such a nice gloss is that a fleshy material that covers the shell. If startled, the cowrie can withdraw this material to confuse a predator. We saw another lionfish, but it was quickly eradicated. The highlight was a very friendly southern stingray that wanted to catch a free meal on the critters attracted to my dive light. He stayed so very close to me, I was concerned I was about to be molested!
Deep, Deeper, and Deepest is the mantra this weekend as we head to the deeper TENNECO TOWERS. I’m hoping to get down to 200’ on this dive! It ought to be beautiful and since this site is rarely visited, we hope to encounter some larger pelagic species and a few ocean apex predators. My current record depth was on MIGUANA at 152’ in 2009. This dive should shatter my previous record by two atmospheres.
Love is in the air and in the water! At least for lemon sharks off the coast of Jupiter. Hundreds of lemon sharks have been spotted off the coast. As part of the mating ritual, female lemon sharks release pheromones into the current to attract potential mates that pick up the scent. The result is an underwater traffic jam of lemon sharks that is both awesome and exciting! We are headed north the following weekend to play with the lemons!
12/26/2010 DIVE BLOG – Dear Santa…….
Dear Santa, while I tried to be a good little boy this past year (to no avail), please do not put “coal” in the stockings of my fellow divers in the form of canceled dives due to high winds and cold weather.
Dear Sea Gods…I have a confession to make and it’s been 21 days since my last dive! Perhaps we could convince our Irish flyboy, half-Neptune, dive mate from across the pond to pay us a visit and bring excellent dive weather in his wake?
The following are the words of wisdom from the better half of Mac-n-Cheese… It seems it is time to get wet, how is the weather for some scuba next weekend? I see tell-tale signs of Scuba-Deprivation: Taking endless showers, turning the sprinklers on standing in the middle of them staring longingly into space…. Yes, these are early warning signs of “SD” Have you noticed any peculiar signs for yourself or others, then it is time to act and jump in NOW!!! Let the Sea Gods be on notice that a virgin sacrifice will be offered…have any suggestions???
Let’s plan to dive Wednesday night on the DEMA TRADER (70’). Pre-dive pool sessions and refresher courses to be offered at Monty’s at Miami Marina by Finless, our resident SSI instructor, as needed!
12/07/2010 DIVE BLOG – Officially a South Florida Winter
OK…it’s time to separate the warm water wimps from the die-hard locals with this Wednesday’s night dive to the SHERI-LYN (110’). Water temperatures are expected in the mid-70s and the air temperature dropping into the 40s! I spoke with Captain Miguel De La Playa (Mike Beach) who stated that no dive is called for cold weather! That sounds like a challenge to me! Who is willing to brave the forces of Mother Nature and join me for this dive? Be sure to bring hot chocolate or firewater to toast your toes!
There have been many awesome dive experiences since my last post. We have been down to Key West for a VANDENBERG double-dip, Marathon to dip the THUNDERBOLT with my son Dale over the Thanksgiving holiday, Key Largo for the usual SPIEGEL GROVE double-dips, and of course various Miami dives. This past weekend was some of the best diving with crystal blue water and excellent viz. Our friend, the Mole, called me late this past Friday night to convince me to join him on Saturday for the WREK TREK. I agreed and the first dive was on the ORION which sits at 100’ and could easily be seen from the surface! The viz was easily 80’+ and in addition to the usual resident green moray, a second green moray appears to have joined him. Speaking of morays, did you know morays are believed to be hermaphroditic (have both male and female parts)? This eliminates the need to find a mate of the opposite sex to reproduce! That’s an Interesting little factoid, huh? On our second dive, we ventured out on the WREK TREK where each wreck brought little surprises. On Belzona 1, I found myself face-to-face with a large goliath grouper in the wheelhouse. Belzona 2 was loaded with lobster of all sizes under the hull, there had to be over 50 bugs of various sizes ripe for reaping. Belzona 3 was the Mole’s very first lionfish spot and I happily eradicated the invasive creature. On our way to the Belcher 2 and 3, the Mole surfaced and headed back to the boat leaving me to discover more goliaths on the two barges. Upon the return to Belcher 1, penetration through the eight inner compartments was in order and I came face-to-face with another large goliath grouper in one of the smaller sections. We passed each other with a friendly flip of our fins!
On Sunday, we joined American Dream for a TENNACO TOWER double-dip. Who woulda thunk we would get the opportunity to go to the deeper tower in beautiful blue water, minimal current, and awesome viz followed by a second dip to the tower we frequently visit that was just as impressive? We were greeted by a good-sized nurse shark and tons of fish life. The coral formations and sponges are wonderful and colorful. We will make the TENNACO TOWER double-dip a regular part of our dive schedule.
11/10/2010 DIVE BLOG – Winter Winds Interfere with Diving
Winter winds have blown out most the dives recently. Since the last post, we’ve only double dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE, had one-night dive to the ORION and BISCAYNE, and last weekend we had an interesting trip out to the TORTUGA with the most significant currents I could recall (even compared to DOC DE MILLE trips). The valiant combination of Captain Keith and Dive Master Ani hooked us to the wreck with a mixture of good fortune, skill, and sheer will. The dive was safe enough and the wreck protected divers from the current, but not without challenge and effort. Everyone made safe descents and most everyone made safe ascents (one semi-rapid ascent without issues), but most importantly everyone made it back to the boat without needing rescue. We voted to cancel the second dive and head to shore for post-dive narcosis at Monty’s south of South Beach.
Speaking of winter winds, tonight’s dive to the SHERI-LYN looks promising. Based on the surface temperatures dropping to 70 degrees and water temperatures falling below 79 degrees, it is time to break out my beloved Camaro 5mm seamless wetsuit. The switch to 5mm signals the beginning of the dive winter season for the Secret Society of the Frog. It’s a little like being the scuba version of Punxatawny Phil. If I ascend and do not see my shadow, it’s winter (especially since this is a night dive)! Despite the cooler weather, please join the stalwart South Florida dive community on tonight’s dive. Remember, the folks reading this in the frozen tundra are thinking we are a bunch of warm water wimps!
10/15/2010 DIVE BLOG – 600th Dive and Still Counting
Wednesday’s night dive to the OPHELIA BRIAN was my 600th dive (and yes…there have been 600 successful descents and 600 successful ascents)! I’m still in awe of the experience of my divers. For instance, a bunch of us are hitting the SPIEGEL GROVE this Saturday morning in Key Largo with Scuba-Do. I will likely be the diver with the least experience. In fact, most of my dive buddies on this trip will have double, triple, and 4x the total dives that are under my belt. I’ll still see them diving on days with less than perfect conditions (think South Florida winter diving) and on less than perfect sites. However, they always come out of the water with smiles, stories, and a shared bond of a hobby (some say obsession) that creates lifelong friendships. I cherish every memory, friendship, and interesting story my dive experiences have given to me.
Speaking of interesting stories…on the surface interval after my 600th dive we were atop Deep Com-Ocean comparing minimum temperatures on the dive. My computer read a minimum of 81 degrees, while others ranged from 78-82 degrees which is a topic for another time. It was dark (it was a night dive after all) and one experienced diver who we will now call The Mole stated that he wished his computer would back light like everyone else’s aboard. His Suunto D6 Dive Computer with over 150 dives recorded was suddenly the topic of conversation. Since the Mole “never” dives at night (please note this was a night dive and we all have seen The Mole on numerous night dives), Rebecca leaped to his aid and quickly “showed him the light”. I suspect Suunto packed an owner’s manual in the box (or even keeps in on-line); I wonder how familiar we are with the equipment that maintains our safety. I’ve heard numerous conversations about “how do I set this to Nitrox?”, “how do I know my surface interval?”, and “how does this thing display dive planning for repetitive diving?” I’ve spent plenty of time sitting in the bottom of a pool getting familiar with new equipment, but still dipped for the first time with my new wing system on a 100+ foot dive, at night, on my first dive post knee reconstructive surgery (but I did have the good sense to bring a rescue diver/instructor along, there were no issues, but thanks to Finless none-the-less).
Oh…why the nickname The Mole? Moles have a thin layer of skin and fur covering their eyes. These subterranean, burrowing animals can till tell night from day, although they are otherwise blind. This state of their eyes is probably due to gradual reduction from disuse aided by natural selection. In short, The Mole does not need to see at night.
Hopefully you will join me and my fellow intrepid divers at Doc’s in Key Largo at 7am for pre-dive narcosis. I defy anyone to say “weather pending” because we will be there with bells on for a double-deep wreck dive and bounce out of the water with smiles, stories, and another adventure to add to the memory bank!
10/05/2010 DIVE BLOG – Are Lionfish Getting Smarter?
Sometimes the forecast is accurate, but not as bad to experience as it was reported. Two weekends ago we ventured out in 6’ seas to double dip the SPIEGEL GROVE with a hardy group of local divers. It was a bit rough heading out, but the waves were spaced far apart and made for a comfortable surface interval. It was a good test for the upcoming winter dive season. Speaking of winter, I checked last year’s logs and the water temperature should remain above 80 degrees until Thanksgiving and to my surprise the water does not return to the 80’s until June!
Last weekend we finally were graced with excellent conditions on our VANDENBERG double dip. We usually experience poor viz and rippin’ currents, but on this set of dives we were able to free descend to the wreck. We discovered the mess hall at 106’ for future PADI F.U.N. course work on the first dive and dipped the elevator shaft to 137’ on the second dive. The dive conditions were so good we decided to extend well into deco and explore the stern section where we met Junkyard, a large resident goliath grouper. Junkyard was accompanied by two lionfish who after one failed attempt with my custom Lionfish Eradicator decided to head to a lower deck to avoid a repeated attempt. I think I actually heard one say to the other “Hey! This idiot’s computer is reading 10 minutes of deco and he is still 90’ below the surface and 200’ from the mooring line, let’s head 20’ deeper and escape certain death”. At least that’s what I thought they said to each other, but it could have been the narcosis speaking! That officially drops my record to 4 of 10 kills, so clearly the lionfish are getting smarter (or I’m still suffering from user error)!
Please plan offerings to the sea gods asking for the weather to change and salvage tomorrow night’s dive to the OPHELIA BRIAN (110’). We also plan to dive locally this weekend off Miami Beach to dip the ORION (95’) and the PIPES (45’) with RJ’s Diving Ventures on Saturday morning.
09/16/2010 DIVE BLOG – Summer is almost over, but the water is still warm!
Labor Day Weekend was awesome. We had great conditions both above and below the surface and completed our dive plan of nine dives in three days. Some of the highlights were our first full exploration of the RADIO TOWERS. There pyramids from the old Radio Marti tower are loaded with fish life and create excellent photo opportunities. We also joined RJ Diving Ventures for a rare Saturday night dive to the PARAISO and the NEPTUNE MEMORIAL REEF and for those aboard you were able to witness me making a jerk of myself for wanting to dive the super-secret PIPES as per the schedule (please ask for details). On Sunday, Underwater Unlimited Booked Tons-o-Steel in Key Largo on the BIBB, DUANE, and SPIEGEL GROVE. There were two highlights on these dives. On the DUANE, we encountered a large green moray out hunting in the main corridor who unhappily decided to charge us, but we couldn’t retreat with divers in tow. Fortunately, the moray decided to disengage and disappeared into a crack in the deck. The second highlight was on the SPIEGEL GROVE where as we exited the well deck a lone fin floated by, we grabbed it, and looked for the one-finned diver. With no other diver in sight, we assumed Priceless (Tara) must be at the surface attempting a “finless” giant stride entry (we knew it wasn’t Lisa because she was with me). We eventually found the diver on the crane arm traverse line and returned the fin to its rightful owner. Lastly, we hit DOC DE MILLE and BLUEFIRE on Monday for a pair of deco dives. The conditions were a challenge on the DOC, but manageable and the wreck was loaded with over a dozen huge goliath groupers. We also eradicated a lionfish on BLUEFIRE.
Last weekend was good, bad, and ugly as we headed to Looe Key for our ever visit to the ADOLPHUS BUSCH and LOOE KEY REEF to add an entry into the Florida Key Wreck Trek Passport. The “good” were the dive sites and dive conditions where the wreck was spectacular and the reef rivaled the best reefs in the Keys. The “bad” was we saw lionfish on each dive and were not able to eradicate any with the Lionfish Eradicator Prototype II (user error and/or design flaw). The “ugly” was the engine seizure on my Dodge Charger six miles out of Marathon at 10pm Friday night. Our dive operator Innerspace Scuba was very expensive, but nothing compared to the repair bill or the purchase of a new 2010 Dodge Challenger SRT8 (6.1 litre, 450 hp, 6 speed manual transmission). On Sunday, we revisited the THUNDERBOLT in Marathon for another great dive and full exploration and penetration of this wonderful wreck! Our dive operator Abyss was great but charged an undisclosed $75 “wreck fee” so beware and check prices if you elect to dive with these operators.
This weekend we plan to join RJ’s Diving Ventures on Saturday morning to dip the TACOMA (135’) and the SOUTH SEAS (75’) followed by a Saturday night dive on the PRINCESS BRITTNEY (85’) and a reef. We are once again planning virgin sacrifices to the sea gods in hopes for an improvement in the sea conditions. The following weekend my son Dale will be in town for his first visit to the SPIEGEL GROVE (135’) on a double-dip Saturday morning (09/25) with Island Ventures in Key Largo followed by his first night dive aboard RJs Diving Ventures to the SHERI LYN (110’) and a reef.
09/03/2010 DIVE BLOG – Extreme Wreck Diving Weekend!
Last weekend Dale joined us for a set of four Saturday dives. We bopped along the reefs in the morning and spotted three nurse sharks, lobster galore (on Keith’s Canyon for you bug hunters), and a boatload of student divers. In the afternoon, we joined Ophie on her signature wreck the OPHELIA (nice to have a wreck named and scuttled specifically for you, huh?). We descended immediately after engines off to have the OPHELIA to ourselves for a while and went directly to the sand at 115’ on Dale’s first deep water dive. Underneath the stern section of the hull greeting us was a friendly goliath grouper. After swapping bubbles with the grouper we continued to penetrate the wreck starting in the engine room. As we drifted through the cargo hold, we spotted a lionfish. Once again, the triple prong double barbed lionfish eradicator prototype was not in my possession, but Captain Mike Beach had equipped me with a pole spear. However, my mission failed as trying to use a blunt spear to puncture this invasive critter was a little like trying to drive an 18-wheeler over a church mouse. The lionfish, although bruised, could find shelter.
In addition to Dale’s first deep water dive, we tested his air consumption on the WREK TREK which consists of three barges and three tugboats. On this 43-minute 60-foot dive we took the opportunity to explore the insides of each wreck and enjoyed some deeper penetration on the BELCHER BARGE at the end of the dive. Dale is now a wreck lovin’ diver, just a chip off the ole block!
The ill effects of Hurricane Earl are behind us and the seas gods have returned South Florida to summer-like dive conditions and we expect great diving this Labor Day weekend. Summer is almost behind us, so we need to 80-degree saltwater saturate ourselves before we end up huddling together to escape cold winter winds on night dives. Join us with RJs Diving Ventures on Saturday night as we head out to the little dived wreck of the PARAISO (70’) followed by the PIPES (which is a great night dive). The boat is far from full, so we should have the sites to ourselves. Sunday morning is Tons-O-Steel with Underwater Unlimited in Key Largo as our sites are USCG BIBB (130’), USCG DUANE (120’), and the SPIEGEL GROVE (135’). Monday morning, we head back to the DOC DE MILLE (140’) and BLUE FIRE (135’) on Labor Day, which is either the most challenging (wicked currents) or awesome (bull sharks, goliath groupers, eagle rays, etc) dive.
08/27/2010 DIVE BLOG – Things Not Needed to Go Diving!
I’m back in the water with no ill effects from my knee surgery. I’ve had to re-train to kick with both legs and forgot how nice it is to be able to beat the current with two fully functioning legs. On my first dive, back in the water we used our lionfish eradicator prototype and vanquished our second lionfish in the cargo hold of the OPHELIA. The second dive was on KEITH’S CANYON where three octopuses graced us with their appearance. It’s great to be back under the surface!
Last weekend’s Double EAGLE was a blast! The conditions were excellent and we enjoyed full penetration. We performed a fishing leader rescue on a green moray and by way of thank you our new friend decided not to take a bite out of my hand. There was also a family of four goliath groupers under the hull on the port side of the stern. The following day we double dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE. The trip started on an auspicious note as we left the dock and suddenly came to a complete stop (because the stern line was still attached to the dock). The first dive was uneventful, but the current whipped up for the second dive. Our good friend Tara was the first to attempt to go in the water, but as she began her giant stride entry Captain Joe held her tank valve to keep her on the boat. We pointed to her mask that was still on the back of her head. She was quite embarrassed, but I assured her that I would not pick on her because of the mask incident. Of course, I cannot resist talking about the fact that she didn’t have fins on her feet either! How does someone with over 100 lifetime dives and an excellent SSI instructor try to go diving without a mask and fins? PRICELESS! As a side note, Paul also went next and forgot his weight belt on the boat, so we were treated to waiting five minutes on the ball in rippin’ current for him to go back to get his weight belt. As they say, things happen in threes. I guess it don’t take no brains to be a diver (or a dive boat captain), but its shore is fun to watch!
Last night’s dive on the PROTEUS yielded two lionfish, but the lionfish eradicator prototype was not available, so we will go back and take care of business. It seems we see lionfish on almost every wreck dive so please join the Underwater Unlimited Lionfish Awareness Workshop on Tuesday, September 7th at 6:30pm - 8:30pm. Alecia Adamson, Field Operations Coordinator from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) will cover the history of the lionfish invasion, ecological impacts, reporting, venomology, symptoms of stings and first aid. Regulations on collecting lionfish, collection techniques, and on-site dissection will also be discussed. The shop is located at 5749 SW 40th Street (Bird Road) in Miami. The cost of the workshop is $20 with proceeds to benefit REEF Research and Control Programs. Pre-registration needed and space is limited! Please call the shop at 305-661-0099 for more information.
Since my post-surgery return to diving, I have been testing my new back plate and wing gear. What a difference in performance due to the reduction in drag making it far more efficient through the water and safer to wreck penetrate. I’m down to only two hoses, one for my primary and a second for the power inflator/octo combo (my transmitter takes care of my gauge readings). I’ve also experienced extremely low air consumption with this gear and on last night’s dive on KEITH’S CANYON my computer reported my lowest ever Surface Air Consumption (SAC) rate of 0.239 ft3/minutes.
We are diving local this weekend on two shallow reef dives in the morning and the OPHELIA (110’) and WREK TREK (70’) in the afternoon with RJ’s out of Miami Beach. We are looking forward to returning to the DOC DE MILLE (140’) and BLUE FIRE (135’) on Labor Day. I’m not sure if there’s still room aboard, but this is a great dive so be sure to call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
08/16/2010 DIVE BLOG – Medical Clearance to Double Deep the EAGLE Saturday and the SPIEGEL GROVE on Sunday
OK…enough of the post-surgery whimpering! My surgeon has provided medical clearance to dive effective on the Wednesday night dive on the OPHELIA, and for good measure we have added an EAGLE double-dip on Saturday morning in Islamorada and a SPIEGEL GROVE double-dip on Sunday morning in Key Largo. That’s 700 feet of diving in six dives in five days. Please join me as I test my new knee joint after swimming in circles for the last six months kicking with only one leg! Of course, I should take a pool session since it has been 14 days since my last dive, but since the whole certification process is a mystery why start now?
I will also be unveiling my new dive wing with aluminum back plate! I’ve added an Atomic SS1 octo/power inflator combo, so now I’m down to only two hoses out of the first stage. Everyone has said that I will wonder why I waited so long to switch over to the dark side. Gee, what’s next, caves?
Underwater Unlimited is hosting a Lionfish Awareness Workshop on Tuesday, September 7th at 6:30pm - 8:30pm. Alecia Adamson, Field Operations Coordinator from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) will cover the history of the lionfish invasion, ecological impacts, reporting, venomology, symptoms of stings and first aid. Regulations on collecting lionfish, collection techniques, and on-site dissection will also be discussed. The shop is located at 5749 SW 40th Street (Bird Road) in Miami. The cost of the workshop is $20 with proceeds to benefit REEF Research and Control Programs. Pre-registration needed and space is limited! Please call the shop at 305-661-0099 for more information.
08/08/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lionfish Eradicator (1) vs Lionfish (0)
On last Wednesday’s night dive, we had more than a little excitement! The dive plan was to descend immediately into PRINCESS BRITTNEY’S cargo hold and circumvent the engine room as soon as engines off aboard the Big Comm-Ocean. As we entered the engine room, we suddenly encountered enough silt to create almost zero viz. Since we were the first to descend it couldn’t have been a herd of guppies kicking up the silt. Next, we heard the banging of tanks along the wreck which could only mean one thing! Appearing out of the silt was a 300+ pound goliath grouper “thumping” at our intrusion! He quickly evacuated the engine room in a cloud of dust, but re-entered from the opposite side of the engine as we began to leave the close confines of the engine room. That is where we found the lionfish! Finless (aka Lisa) had the prototype of the Lionfish Eradicator attached to her tank. She handed the short, three-pronged, barbed spear to me and with a couple of attempts we eradicated our first lionfish! The post-dive narcosis celebration would have to wait as my reconstructive knee surgery was scheduled for early the next morning.
Assuming medical clearance on Friday, we will join the Secret Society of the Frogs this weekend (08/14 – 08/15) for TEAM FROG - "Pretend it's the Bahamas" Drink & Dive! Since the trip to the Bahamas was rescheduled, we decided to plan a weekend trip to Tavernier for Frog fun and festivities!!! We will stay at the Keys Lodge where we plan to hang out by the pool, relax, eat, drink and have lots of laughs. The diving will include a double-dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE and a DUANE/REEF on Saturday with a beautiful reef dive on Sunday morning.
07/21/2010 DIVE BLOG – Let’s Double Dip Some Big Wrecks – Part 2!
Phew…it’s been a few weeks since we all chatted. Work and travel have been a major distraction from posting dive adventures, but we have been under the surface! After an uneventful pre-4th of July double-dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE, we celebrated our nation’s independence with a dive on the TORTUGA followed by awesome fireworks over Miami’s skyline! The TORTUGA’S aft section has been torn apart, so in the one time I actually listened to the dive brief we were told the boat was tethered to a nearby barge and we needed to swim north to find the TORTUGA. Instead we were on the right site, but spent ten minutes searching the area for the wreck at 110 feet. Next time I’ll refuse to pay attention per my usual course of action!
We were also in Key West to double-dip the VANDENBERG. Based on our last dive trip to this site and dive reports from friends about poor viz and rippin’ currents, we were less than hopeful for good dive conditions. The sea gods smiled and we had blue water and a manageable current. We had a blast exploring this huge wreck and look forward to researching the deck plans before our next trip to the Conch Republic and the second largest artificial reef.
I know I’ll be chastised for this next comment, but on a dive in Marathon Key I saw my first Flamingo Tongue which is a small, brightly colored sea snail. Per Humann’s Reef Creature Identification Guide (and all my dive buddies) this is a common sighting. Go figure, I spotted a total of seven for these critters on one 45-minute dive!
Once again, we will offer virgin sacrifices to the sea gods to ask the wind to abate after cancelling last weekend’s dive and an iffy forecast. We have the usual Wednesday night dive to the PRINCESS BRITTNEY (85’) and the BISCAYNE (60’). This weekend we are double-dippin’ the SPIEGEL GROVE (130’)-DUANE (120’) with Scuba-Do on Saturday morning and a SPIEGEL GROVE (130’) double-dip with Island Ventures on Sunday morning. We will possibly stay the night in Key Largo and will be joined by our half-Neptune (because good weather follows in his wake) Irish 747 fly-boy on Saturday night for a pint or two and the Sunday morning dive!
Next weekend is a Stay-n-Play weekend in Islamorada. Saturday morning, we double-dip the EAGLE (130’) followed by a nice set of shallow reef dives. Sunday morning, we will also visit shallow reefs. My son, Dale, will be joining us on the shallow dives (no need to introduce him to excessive depths so early in his dive career).
07/02/2010 DIVE BLOG – Let’s Double Dip Some Big Wrecks!
Dale had his first dives as an open water certified diver last weekend. He is ultra-comfortable in the water and did some light wreck penetration on MISS KARLENE without overhead obstruction. His air consumption was so good we could drift off the rock pile next to the PATRICIA and discovered BILLY’S BARGE! We also did quite a bit of fish identification on our dives. I think his favorite were the lizard fish and the file fish, but when I poked the tigertail (sea cucumber) that was sticking out from the reef and it moved like a tiger’s tail I thought he would jump out of his wetsuit! On the second dive, we explored the MATTHEW LAWRENCE and he led the dive on the M60 ARMY TANKS.
On last Wednesday’s night dive, we were greeted with 20’ of viz on the OPHELIA. There’s been an amazing amount of growth on the deck as sea kelp has taken root. Inside the wreck there are quite a few tube anemones that are fascinating, but the wreck now has a resident green moray under the stairwell in the aft section of the ship. Our second dive to KEITH’S CANYON was also viz-challenged. However, we spotted a half-stingray, half-nurse shark critter. It was something we had never seen before. Back on shore we could identify this unusual creature as an Atlantic Guitarfish! The name makes perfect sense as that is the exact shape of our new friend.
Double Dips! The diving this weekend looks to be awesome! We’re planning to double dip the SPIEGEL GROVE on Saturday afternoon with Horizon Divers in Key Largo. Next weekend we head to Key West to double dip the VANDENBERG Saturday morning with Captain’s Corner. We also have planned the 4th of July dive on Sunday evening to the TORTUGA off Miami Beach with RJs Diving Ventures. This is a BYOB and BYO-Food event, but the usual cast of South Florida’s diving characters will be aboard to provide the unusual antics as we watch the fireworks display from the water!
06/20/2010 DIVE BLOG – Dale is a Certified Open Water Diver!
Great News! Dale is the first certified diver in the family and I cannot be more proud of my 16-year-old son. If you have kids not yet certified, the experience of being able to share our passion under the sea cannot be put into words. As expected, every dive increased his confidence and his dive skills as well. Unexpectedly on his 3rd dive we sighted the largest Spotted Eagle Ray I have ever seen on the BENWOOD, but the real highlight was on his 4th and final certification dive when a 5’ Caribbean Reef Shark cruised along with us to celebrate Dale’s certification! Join us this Sunday (06/27) for Dale’s first dive as an Open Water Diver with RJ Diving Ventures on Miami Beach as we go down on PATRICIA (55’) and MATTHEW LAWRENCE (45’).
There’s been lots of great diving especially our double-dip on the EAGLE in Islamorada with my favorite 80/80/80 (80+ feet of viz, 80+ degree water, and 80+ feet deep) and no current! Also, as expected, my Irish pilot buddy delivered critters on the night dive to the PIPES with spotted snowflake eels, a rare sharptail eel, and a very shy octopus! We are now offering the official PADI FUN (Professional Alcoholic Drinking Instructors...Froggified Underwater Narcosis) Course or the Advanced PADI FUN Night Dive Course! Pool sessions and theory testing are required! Please contact us for more information!
If you haven’t booked the DOC DE MILLE (150’) and ULTRA FREEZE (135’) dive trip with RJ Diving Ventures on Saturday (06/26) afternoon, there are still spots available. The weather looks iffy, so the backup plan is ETOILE DE MER (135’) and the JUPITER STAR.
RJs is also offering a 4th of July Special to the TORTUGA (110’) and followed by strategic positioning to watch the fireworks from the water over the Miami skyline. It’s BYOB and BYO-food, but promises to be a great time. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
06/11/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lion Fish Continue to Invade South Florida
TENNECO TOWER presented difficult diving conditions with green water, low viz, and a significant current, but once at the bottom we found shelter and began to explore. Off in the sand about 15’ from the oil rig, a large goliath grouper rested in the current comfortable that we wouldn’t venture out to inspect her. One of her smaller siblings was hiding under some wreckage nearby thumping with all her might when I figured out, I was blocking the only exit to the crevasse! Sunday’s double-dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE was quite the opposite story with blue water, great viz, and no current. On the first dive, we set about our usual penetration and we were led by a large goliath grouper through the well-deck and hallways. We spotted a juvenile lion fish on the forward deck and I attempted to crush it with my fin. I didn’t think I was successful, but Steve was far more optimistic. We also played with a family of friendly goliath groupers at the end of the dive. The second dive was another ill-fated attempt to find the frog fish on the starboard crane arm. At the end of the dive we explored a new entrance aft of the helicopter deck. It appears to go stem to stern at a depth of 115’, so we shelved the idea to explore until we can return with the right mixtures and equipment. Oh, I can hardly wait!
Wednesday night we hit the SHER-LYNN in spectacular conditions. I found a new multi-level penetration route that I did not know about before and can’t wait to share it with friends. She is such a great wreck. The second dive was the WREK TREK and as we visited the series of three tugboats and three barges we spotted southern stingrays hiding in the sand. On one of the barges we found a juvenile lion fish. Our intrepid hero Lisa stabbed the invasive critter and wounded it. Hopefully it will either die from the cut or a predator will find an easy meal. It’s getting easier and easier to find lion fish off Florida’s shores and we need to protect our local reef fish from this predator. We need to find a better method to carry a collapsible spear when we dive and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
My son, Dale, will be getting scuba certification next weekend in Key Largo. We will be celebrating his 16th birthday, his new driver’s license, and Father’s Day in addition to his scuba certification. Look out Neptune, there’s another Mahler getting into the water, but at least this one will be properly trained and certified!
If you haven’t booked the DOC DE MILLE (150’) and ULTRA FREEZE (135’) dive trip with RJ Diving Ventures on Saturday (06/26) afternoon, it might be too late. This promises to be an awesome set of dives and the DOC owes me a current-free dive after the last encounter beat us up badly.
06/03/2010 DIVE BLOG – Tenneco Towers, Eagle Double-Dip, and the Doc De Mille Again!!
About a year ago, my Irish mate “claimed” to have seen a blanket octopus off the coast of Florida. Generally spotted off the Australian coast, it is a rare sight to find one on the SHERI-LYN during a recent night dive off Miami Beach. It must have been a female because the male measures 6” long vs the female who can grow to over 2’ in length! Who says size matters? Unlike other octopuses, the blanket octopus does not use ink to intimidate potential predators, but instead unfurls a large net-like membrane which spreads out like a cape and gives the animal its name. With a full moon above the surface to light our way under water we decided to explore the reefs around the PIPES on the second dive. Perhaps we need to get a refresher in navigation because two “ascents of shame” later we still ended up “dorkeling” back to the boat on the surface with the crew and us laughing at each other!
The shark dives in the Bahamas proved uneventful and spectacular at the same time, but we returned to the States in time for the Annual DOC DE MILLE Trip off Miami Beach. Mother Nature reminded us about the power of the ocean with rippin’ currents more than 3 knots in depths shallower than 50’ making deco stops a challenge at minimum and a workout at best. After a 140’ dive on the DOC DE MILLE and a 130’ dive on the ALMIRANTE with more current issues near the surface, it was a nice change of pace on the TARPOON (70’) to relax and catch our breath! Thanks to Chef Dan for the catered lunch and to all our friends, new and old, who participated!
We have planned excellent dive sites to experience in addition to the usual awesome Wednesday night dives! This weekend is a trip to TENNECO TOWERS (110’) with RJ Diving Ventures on Saturday (06/05) afternoon, which is a site we do not often visit. The following weekend on Saturday (06/12) morning offers an EAGLE (110’) double-dip with Ocean Quest in Islamorada. Finally, we hit DOC DE MILLE (150’) and ULTRA FREEZE (135’) with RJ Diving Ventures on Saturday (06/26) afternoon!
05/24/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lotsa Great Dives Planned!
Wow! This past weekend we double-dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE and the sea gods smiled once again. We anticipated 4-6-foot seas, but were greeted with 3-4-foot seas, 70+ feet of viz, and no current! While inside this great naval wreck, we poked our heads out of the port side access and were surprised to see a family of three goliath groupers right in front of us! These huge critters were content to stay nearby and allow us to observe. A spear-fisher had shot the largest of the group as the spear and line was still attached to the large fish. While non-the-worse for wear, the big fellow otherwise appeared to be in good health. Recognized as a critically endangered species since 1990, it’s curious that someone would want risk fines and jail time to shoot a majestic creature that cannot be eaten and is federally protected.
I was “lucky” enough to join RJ’s Diving Ventures Sunday morning with 35 students and instructors on the wreck of the BISCAYNE. However, Captain Mike Beach (Miguel De La Playa to his friends) suggested I swim 700-800 feet to the south to visit the wreck of the RIO DE MIAMI. I was game since I’ve never been to this wreck! Without a reel that can travel that distance and diving solo, I decided to make a trail in the sand (aka Hansel and Gretel) to be sure I could find my way back to the Big Comm-Ocean. After a ten-minute, underwater swim, Mike’s directions we dead on! The wreck was covered with fish life, a green moray, and a goliath grouper. I spotted a sea star that was dark green with brown spikes that I tried to identify the species with the Hunan Identification books without success, so I’ll need to perform more research. It was an easy task to navigate back to the BISCAYNE following my “bread crumb” trail.
Congratulations to my (former scuba) friend Erin Magee! She broke a nine-year-old United States free diving record off Grand Cayman’s Performance Free Diving Invitational Competition “Deja Blue” by swimming with a “mono fin” to 233 feet! The dive took 2 minutes and 18 seconds to complete and broke Tanya Streeter’s 2001 record of 230 feet. This was the longest standing US record until Erin blasted the record “out of the water”!
What’s ahead….? After the upcoming Wednesday night dive on the DEMA TRADER, it is off to the Bahamas for a little shark diving! No fears, we will return in time to dip the DOC DE MILLE (150’) on Memorial Day with RJ’s Diving Ventures. This is the dive event of the year and we are always treated to goliath groupers, bull sharks, and hopefully an eagle ray squadron fly-by. Chef Dan will cater the surface interval lunch on this three-tank dive that also includes the ALMIRANTE (135’) and the TARPOON (70’). Unfortunately, the charter is sold-out, but you can always try to get on the waiting list. If you’re not able to get on board, quickly call Captain Beach at 305-861-6277 to get on the June 26th trip back to the DOC DE MILLE (150’) and the ULTRA FREEZE (135’). RJ’s has also planned a trip to TENNECO TOWERS (110’) and the GRACELAND (45’) on Saturday, June 5th, in the afternoon.
Don’t forget the Secret Society of the Frog’s “Frogapalooza” Keys Dive Weekend on 18-20 June. This don’t miss weekend of fun, diving, and foolishness promises to be another memorable (or possibly not) Frog Experience. In addition to being Father’s Day weekend, my sixteen-year-old son Dale will become the first member of our family to become a certified diver! Let me know if I can provide more information or colorful (green) stories!
05/15/2010 DIVE BLOG - Red Tipped Sea Goddess
Since we last talked, eight dives have been entered in the logbook. There was a double-dip on the SPIEGEL GROVE, two shallow reefs off Miami Beach, a solo trip around the WREK TREK and a reef, and we headed to Pompano Beach for the ANCIENT MARINER and a drift dive. That’s eight dives in the last two weeks (welcome summer dive season, I finally broke out my new 3mm Shark Flag wetsuit)! What was the biggest surprise….? On a shallow reef dive off Miami Beach following Ani and three of her students, we spotted a Red Tipped Sea Goddess (aka nudibranch and/or sea slug). Go figure….500+ dives and the first sighting of a new species, but the students were more interested in the arrow crabs! Guppies!
05/05/2010 DIVE BLOG – My 500th Dive on the M60 Army Tanks
500 descents (and 500 ascents) were achieved a week ago! It’s been a wonderful experience that I have shared with cherished friends, delivered me to exotic locations, and offered adventures that will remain in my memories and logbook forever. To summarize…63% of the dives were deep, 61% wrecks, 34% were in the Florida Keys, 24% were at night and 13% were international. Clearly RJ’s Diving Ventures off Miami Beach is my charter of choice accounting for 38% of all my dives, but I was also aboard Scuba-Do in Key Largo for 15% of all dives. The #1 dive site is the SPIEGEL GROVE with 61 total descents! The Secret Society of the Frog is a wonderful little drinking club (with a serious dive problem)! As most of you know, my passion is shark diving so expect more stories as I head towards 1,000 dips. Thank you to everyone who shared a memory or adventure with me over the past 500 dives!
On Dive #499 on the MISS KARLEN, I offered to lead my two intrepid (and far more experienced) dive friends to explore the “9” RADIO TOWERS that lie off the bow of our assigned wreck. The current was moving, but not a significant issue since we would be headed up-current at the beginning of the trek. We tied a reel to the debris field in front of MISS KARLENE and tied off to the first RADIO TOWER. It was an uneventful dive as we visited each of the “9” RADIO TOWERS. We turned to head back to the MISS KARLENE, briefly stopped at the POLICE BARGE on the return trip, and when we arrived at the 9th RADIO TOWER we circled the site to find our reel to lead us back to the debris field. We could not find the reel, but did spot a 10th RADIO TOWER! It turns out there are “15” RADIO TOWERS and when we ran out of ideas (after all we could not stop and ask for directions); we spotted a rock pile in the distance. We recognized the site as being off the starboard side of the wreck of the PATRICIA which led us directly to the MISS KARLENE (and finally a rescue of the missing reel). Oh…the best laid plans Of Mice and Men (or divers). Dive #500 on the M60 ARMY TANKS was uneventful in comparison.
My fifteen-year-old son Dale did not complete his Open Water Certification this past weekend. He ended up needing a minor procedure to repair an umbilical hernia. We will re-schedule the certification dives for later in the month and I promise to keep everyone informed. After all, he will be the first member of our family to get certified (remember…I got mine on eBay)!
04/14/2010 DIVE BLOG – Invasive Lionfish
During our dive on the ORION last week we spotted a lionfish. Without the proper equipment, we could not eradicate the wreck from this invasive species. Once again, we tasked our hero, Jack, with a critical mission. We provided Jack with GPS-like directions and he quickly grasped a broom handle and tie wrapped a dive knife to the end in a makeshift spear. He plunged below the waves in search of our antagonist. One of two things happened to cause the mission to fail. (1) Someone tipped off the offensive (but beautiful) critter or (2) Jack simply failed in his mission. I’ll let the reader decide (choose option 1 - Jack failed the mission).
This past weekend we hit Boynton Beach to dive the CAPTAIN TONY and a second lazy drift dive. The wreck was occupied with the usual characters (goliath grouper, lobster, silversides, and a green moray), but the highlight was a Florida Regal Sea Goddess. This nudibranch or shell-less sea snail is a spectacular sighting with a purple body and bright yellow stripes. The drift dive was a treat with a scared little sea turtle immediately upon descent, while later in the dive we met up with a larger leatherback that was happy to let us tag along. We also joined up with a southern gray stingray that also played dive buddy for several minutes.
My fifteen-year-old son Dale will be completing his Open Water Certification this weekend. We have some special dives planned for him! On Saturday afternoon, we head down to Key Largo and board Scuba-Do to dip the BENWOOD and a nearby shallow reef. Sunday morning, we complete his certification on Big Com-Ocean with RJ Diving Ventures off Miami Beach to visit MISS KARLENE and the two M60 ARMY TANKS. Post-dive narcosis will be celebrated with family and friends at Monty’s south of South Beach. Please feel free to join in on the fun!
04/14/2010 DIVE BLOG – It Was My First Tekkie Dive
Spring is in the air and with the change in weather comes a more predictable dive pattern with water warming one degree per week as we head towards the 3mm summer dive season! We did the night dive on the ORION, but did not see the resident green moray rescued from the metal fishing leader two weeks ago. We still have not given up hope, but our thoughts remain with this wonderful sea creature.
This weekend was my first tekkie dive. We dipped the OPHELIA at 114 feet for 66 minutes and 17 minutes of deco on 30/49 oxygen mixes. It was a great “dry” run for deeper dives, but I gotta ask myself at this depth is it better to go down once and take your time or go down twice fast? For the post-dive narcosis, I had lunch with John Chatterton. While a TITANIC diving legend, he was just a regular guy...with a wicked sense of humor like most of the diving community! Shadow Diver is a chronicle of John’s career and a must read!
John Chatterton is one of the world’s most well-known wreck divers. He hosted the History Channel’s Deep-Sea Detectives. His passion involved the discovery and identification of the German submarine U-869 in 1991 off the coast of New Jersey. This saga has been the subject of several television documentaries including NOVA’s Hitler’s Lost Sub and the subject of a New York Times best-selling book by Robert Kurson, called Shadow Divers. He was one of the first technical diving expeditions to the legendary RMS LUSITANIA in 1994 in Ireland. A few years later, at a depth of 400 feet, he was the first diver to use rebreather technology on the wreck of HMHS BRITANNIC near Greece. In addition, Chatterton has managed to make over 160 dives to the well-known wreck of the ANDREA DORIA. In August 2005, Chatterton was involved in an expedition to the TITANIC. The exploration was featured on the History Channel special, Titanic’s Final Moments – Missing Pieces.
I’m still looking for a great set of wreck dives this weekend. Does anyone have anything on the schedule?
04/07/2010 DIVE BLOG – Orion’s Green Moray Rescue Follow-Up Visit
Awesome adventure! We went face-to-face with a pair bull sharks during the Running of the Bulls two Saturdays ago. For a second or two you doubt your decision-making paradigm, but then you realize that the sharks are just as curious as we are. Sea turtles were everywhere including two on the surface making some turtle love. We rounded out our threesome (bull sharks, sea turtles, and goliath grouper) by sighting a lone goliath grouper resting in the sand near the reef ledge.
For warm water divers, two of the three shark dives broke records for cold water at 64 degrees. It’s been a cold winter. I have a total of fifteen sub-70-degree dives and NINE have been this dive season! The cold water really hit in late February following the spree of northern cold fronts and has not warmed up as it usually does in early April. My previous record of 65 degrees was on 11/16/2007 on the CAPTAIN TONY off Pompano Beach.
We dipped OPHELIA and NEPTUNE MEMORIAL GRAVEYARD last Wednesday night and a two-tank dive on EMERALD REEF on Saturday. While these were fairly uneventful dives, we are beginning to string together dives without cancellations! Springtime weather patterns are a welcome treat.
Join us tonight on the ORION as we follow-up on the resident green moray’s condition post-rescue from two weeks ago. There’s a double-dip on the OPHELIA Saturday morning with Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers, the true adventure of two divers who risked everything to solve one of the last mysteries of World War II. I’ve just loaded the novel onto my Kindle and can’t wait to read how it unfolds! Space is very limited for Saturday’s dive, so please do not be disappointed if the spots are already filled.
03/26/2010 DIVE BLOG – Running of the Bulls (Sharks)
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last wrote. No one wants to hear me complain about the terrible “winter of 2010” dive conditions. It appears the virgin sacrifices to the sea gods has finally paid off and we could dive last weekend and go down on our second night dive of the year on Wednesday night! We double-dipped the EAGLE in Islamorada and while topside conditions were excellent, we had cold (67 degrees), green water and low visibility. Not that we were complaining because it was nice to get wet and the dives went off without a hitch! The Wednesday night dive also had excellent topside conditions, but poor viz and cold (69 degrees) water beneath the waves. There are lots of stories to tell from this set of dives. First, we had to perform a green moray eel rescue. For those familiar with the ORION you must have encountered this resident moray. Well, she snagged a fish hook with a metal leader and found herself snared in the wreckage. She didn’t look healthy and we didn’t have the tools to cut through the wire. Back on the boat we asked our hero, Jack, to grab a pair of cutters and rescue our serpentine friend. He successfully performed the rescue and we give our friend a 50/50 chance of survival. So, if you go down to the ORION in the next two weeks, please let us know if you spot our friend! FYI…what kind of fisherman uses a metal leader to catch fish? I suspect they were fishing for sharks. Is it illegal to scuttle a shark fishing boat (…just wondering aloud)? Our friend with the bright pink camouflage dry suit experienced an equipment malfunction and 69-degree water seeped into the suit. Now that’s gotta be cold! Have I mentioned before that I would marry my Camaro 5mm seamless wetsuit if allowed? The dive on the PIPES was awesome! We saw three nurse sharks, a green moray eel, and the friendliest octopus you ever met. I spent most the dive watching him hunt crabs and generally goof off!
Saturday, we are planning a three-tank shark dive called the Running of the Bulls (Sharks) in Jupiter. We are hearing there’s still a possibility of lemon sharks in the area, but it is bull shark season. I’ve only been blanked on a shark dive once before (that was when I missed the hammerhead sighting), so I figure we are due to see many sharks this weekend!
03/10/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lots of DIVE BLOG with the Sea Gods Permission
Before we plan human sacrifices to the sea gods to gain their favor for calm seas, we have two special weekends planned that ought to bring a smile to every diver’s face. We are heading to the Florida Keys for a Heavy Wreckage Dive, Stay-n-Play weekend. On Saturday [03/20] we plan to double-dip the EAGLE with Ocean Quest in the afternoon, staying overnight at Harbor Lights in Islamorada. On Sunday [03/21] we will head up to Key Largo to double-dip the SPIEGEL GROVE with Scuba-Do in the morning before heading back to the mainland. This is an a la carte or dive, stay-n-play weekend, so let me know if you’re interested in more details.
The following weekend is the Running of the Bulls (Sharks) Dive, Stay-n-Play! Saturday [03/27] is planned for a three-tank shark dive with Emerald Charters in Jupiter that includes a box lunch. Bull Sharks congregate on the deep reefs of Jupiter this time of year. The diving in the Palm Beaches is some of the best in Florida and in our country. You never know what lies ahead just out of sight. It could be a gentle sea turtle flying through the water or the thrill of BIG animals. Just off the coast, Reef Sharks, Lemon Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerheads, Dusky Sharks, and Goliath Groupers are common sights during most dive trips. We will stay overnight at the Jupiter Waterfront Inn. Sunday morning [03/28] is a two-tank shark dive. As always this is an a la carte or dive, stay-n-play weekend, so be sure to ask
02/24/2010 DIVE BLOG – Hammerhead Sighting!
Patience is a virtue I usually have in abundance under the waves, but our Lemon Shark dive tested my limits due to an aggravated knee injury playing hockey and cold water. After two lemon shark-less dives due to slower currents, the sharks simply did not want to come out and play with us. For our third dive, we dipped a site well known for lemon shark sightings. After spearing and slicing a few fish, we patiently waited 40+ minutes for the sharks to arrive before heading back to the surface cold and sore. Five minutes later the second half of the group surfaced telling stories of a hammerhead shark passing directly in front of their eyes. It’s a true story and the video is posted on my Facebook page!
We had to cancel Monday night’s dive (even though my half-Neptune Irish mate usually calms the seas whenever he crosses the pond) and tonight’s dive. Raise your hand if you’re tired of watching the NOAA website forecast 20+ knot winds. A quick look at our dive log shows that we have been in the water 50% less in 2010 than any prior year. However, it looks like the weekend weather will break and we plan to double-dip the SPIEGEL GROVE on Sunday morning! Dive, Dive, Dive (hopefully)!
02/17/2010 DIVE BLOG – Rescheduled Lemon Shark Dive!
How about a Monday night dive? Our Irish ex-patriot 747 fly-boy from London will be across the pond for a dip in warmer waters on Monday night. We are booked with South Florida Diving Headquarters in Pompano at 6pm on a semi-private charter so let me know if you’re interested. This wreck and reef drift dive promises to have the usual onboard chicanery and post-dive narcosis!
This has been a difficult winter. While the Atlantic coastline has endured three blizzards since the first of the year (and I was able to enjoy one blizzard my visit to Virginia last week), the northern cold fronts are canceling dive after dive. I can generally accept the fate of a blown dive, but when it impacts shark diving, well that’s another story! The good news is that Lemon Sharks love the cold weather, so we have rescheduled the Lemon Shark three tank dives for this Sunday morning with a 10am departure. The dive report from Captain Randy is “I was in the water with "hundreds" of Lemons today. OK…the numbers may be a stretch, but they were getting so close you could count the freckles on their skin!”
02/10/2010 DIVE BLOG – Valentine’s Weekend Lemon Shark Dives!
Wind and waves canceled our double-dip on OPHELIA last Wednesday night, but we could go down on her Saturday morning. The winds shifted from the west at 15+ knots and the waves were knocked down briefly for a great set of dives on the OPHELIA and DEMA TRADER. The dives themselves were uneventful except for a visit with a Gray Southern Stingray off in the sand. However, we witnessed one of the poorest examples of dive instructional leadership as during our safety stop an instructor rapid ascended past us (without exhaling) to get to her separated student (her only student) who was safely on the line above us. They decided to free ascend the last 15’ and ended up getting caught in a surface current that created a mini-rescue by the crew as they needed to add additional rope to the tag line for the pair to grab behind the boat. While the student refused to attempt a second dive, the “brave” instructor decided to go despite her rapid ascent on the previous dive. I guess it is ok for the Darwin Effect to absorb the ignorant, but it is criminal to lead students with this behavior. Without releasing names to the public, we did issue a complaint with PADI.
On to positive news, Lemon Sharks! We are headed to Lover’s Lane in West Palm Beach this Valentine’s weekend to witness the Lovey Dovey Lemon Sharky migration (Sat 2/13 and Sun 2/14). Saturday is a 3 location, 10am departure ($70 -with lunch) and Sunday is a 2 location, 12:30pm departure ($55). This is a stay -n- play weekend and a good number of the Secret Society of the Frog members will be in attendance, so who knows what’s in store for us below and above the surface! Of course, our goal is to dive with Lemon sharks, but there's no guarantee so be sure to bring your good vibes, offerings to the sea gods, and karma with you so the Lemons know we're cool to hang out with!
02/02/2010 DIVE BLOG – Double Dip Ophelia Wednesday Night!
On Saturday, we double dipped the SPIEGEL GROVE in Key Largo. The Sea Gods cooperated with 3-4-foot seas, no current, and a balmy 73 degrees below the surface. While the first dive was uneventful, the second dive started off faster than expected. After the required surface interval, I dropped into the water and quickly found myself down current (which we didn’t notice due to the high seas and now I understand why that tag line is out there)! Grabbing on, I pulled myself to the descent line and proceeded to start my dive. The rippin’ current abated after 30’ and while semi-waiting for the rest of the gang to descend I spent my time with a 6’ Goliath Grouper near the crane arms. The other highlight was when I tried pointing out a camouflaged Scorpion Fish near the ascent line to Sonja, who almost placed her hand directly on the spines of what many consider the most poisonous fish in the ocean (directly related to the Lion Fish). Shortly afterwards Steve ribbed me about my written warning to his wife because I incorrectly spelled poisonous at a depth of 100’ due to a bit of drunken narcosis (HEY…you try spelling poisonous at 100’ while someone is trying to poison themselves)! As a quick side note, the two Jersey boys had to abort their dive because they couldn’t deal with the current, but had no issue with the sub-40 temperature of their dive last week up north. It’s bold to be cold, but current is their Kryptonite!
The weather looks like it plans to cooperate for this Wednesday nights double-dip on the OPHELIA. Given the unusual 2010 weather patterns, I suspect we will see the usual cast of local characters aboard the Big Com-Ocean who have been thwarted on recent attempts to get below the surface followed by post-dive narcosis at Clarke’s south of South Beach. Saturday morning, we will once again visit OPHELIA before surfacing for The Black-Eyed Peas concert at the Hard Rock Casino! Remember, Valentine’s weekend is Lemon Shark spawn down Lover’s Lane in West Palm Beach which is a stay-n-play two-day dive event and evening fiasco!
01/27/2010 DIVE BLOG – Wet, then?
We finally made it beneath the surface for the Wednesday night dive on the OPHELIA. While the surface current down to 60’ was present and viz was less than favorable, it was great to get some saltwater into the ole bloodstream! Our second dive that evening was to KEITH’S CANYON where a cold 69 degrees below the surface was a record for this winter! The dive still lasted almost an hour as retard (I know…not PC, but that’s what the collective noun is) of squid continued to join us and they’re so much fun to watch. They will curiously come right to your light in front of your mask if you’re patient and calm enough not to scare them away. With our core body temperatures dipping we ascended to be greeted by Captain Mike Beach and some yummy (and needed) hot chocolate. As usual, it was off to Clarke’s south of South Beach for post-dive narcosis!
The morning greeted me with a touch of the flu that lasted into the weekend canceling our weekend DIVE BLOG. Oh…the best laid plans Of Mice and Men! Business travel will keep me out of the water until this weekend, so let’s see where I surface!
01/19/2010 DIVE BLOG – SE Winds 8-13 Knots with Seas 2’ Or Less!
…with fingers crossed a 19-day dive drought is erased (and it might hold through Saturday)! I stopped by the doctor and was warned about a serious lack of saltwater in my bloodstream. The good news is she offered a prescription of a great set of Miami dives planned Wednesday night on the OPHELIA (110’) /PIPES (45’) and Saturday morning on the OPHELIA (110’) / PROTEUS (75’). As usual the post-dive narcosis will be a Clarke’s south of South Beach and the obvious thinning of the bloodstream from spirit fluids!
Don’t forget the Lovey Dovey Lemon Sharky Valentine’s Day (Sat 2/13 and Sun 2/14) Jupiter Dive Weekend. Spots are filling up fast, and you can dive Saturday, Sunday or both. Saturday is a 3 location, 10am departure ($70 -with lunch) and Sunday is a 2 location, 12:30pm departure ($55). We are staying at the Jupiter Waterfront Inn ($125 if you book early and let them know you are with Lisa's dive group). Of course, our goal is to dive with Lemon sharks, but there's no guarantee so be sure to bring your good vibes, offerings to the sea gods, and karma with you so the Lemons know we're cool to hang out with!
01/12/2010 DIVE BLOG – Tenneco Towers Weekend Splash (weather permitting)
Nothing, Nada, Zero, Zilch! It was a good week to travel as this past week’s dives were either canceled due to high seas or frigid sub-40 temperatures! The weather promises to be warmer (FINALLY), but high SE winds might be an issue as after a fifteen-day absence between dives (I’ll need a pool refresher course first) we plan to dive TENNECO TOWERS off Miami. This is always a spectacular dive, so your prayers and offerings to the sea gods will be greatly appreciated!
01/05/2010 DIVE BLOG – Wednesday Night on Ophelia
Welcome 2010…a look back at my hand-written dive logs from 2009 tells me this was my most active dive year with 165 dives in 365 days [70% Deep, 48% Miami, 25% Key Largo, 24% Night, 13% SPIEGEL GROVE, 11% International and 7% Sharks]! It was a great year for fun and adventures! 2009 was shared with new and old friends, at home and abroad, with so many post-dive narcosis memories to completely fill a few dive logs!
This past week has been all about OPHELIA! She went down in less than ten minutes on Wednesday [12/30/2009] and after a lateral twist she landed upright on the sandy sea floor at 105’ at the props and 115’ at the pointy end! Shortly after being certified by DERM (Department of Environmental Resource Management) we were the first divers down on Miami’s newest and second largest artificial reef. We were lucky to get the sinking in because a major cold front came in that night bringing 40-degree temperatures, high winds and high seas. We had planned to double-dip OPHELIA on Saturday morning and our intrepid Captain Mike Beach exclaimed “Come hell or high water, we’re going out Saturday morning” on Friday night! Cool (or cold depending) heads prevailed and we heeded the small craft advisories and 30+ knot winds reported from NOAA and decided to delay the dive. Winds calmed down to less than 20 knots by the afternoon and the sea gods smiled upon us with surprisingly good sea conditions of 2-4 feet. Not all was good because upon descent we were greeted with poor viz, a very dodgy current, and the coldest water temperature of the winter dive season. Still, it was a great way to start 2010 with good friends and another dive adventure!
I will be heading off to Orlando and South Carolina in the next week, so DIVE BLOGS are limited. We are going out Wednesday night to OPHELIA and post-dive narcosis at Clarke’s south of South Beach. Mark your calendars for Saturday [01/16/2010] as we head out to TENNECO TOWERS which is always a great dive. Also, there’s still room for Lemon Sharks on a stay-n-play weekend in West Palm Beach.
12/29/2009 DIVE BLOG – Sinking the Second Largest Wreck in Miami
Finally, after canceling Wednesday night’s dive, the Sea Gods smiled. The winds drifted out of the north allowing the islands of the Florida Key to protect the reef and outer edges from high seas. That slight change in wind direction allowed us to dive the SPIEGEL GROVE and EAGLE double-dips we have planned for three straight weekends. Saturday’s SPIEGEL GROVE dives were greeted with blue water, relatively calm seas, no current and good viz. The dives were uneventful, but we had a pod of dolphin swim right past the boat while we were enjoying our surface interval. Our post-dive narcosis started at Sharkey’s for lunch, and then we headed towards Coconut Cove Resort in Islamorada. Apps were served at Ocean View (on the Gulf side?), dinner at Lorelei’s, and finally drinks at an undisclosed establishment (to protect to not-so-innocent)! Sunday offered even better dive conditions as a second pod of dolphins joined us as we headed out to the wreck of the EAGLE. We had a very aggressive penetration plan on both dives and everything went off without a hitch as we pushed the limits on these non-deco dives. After lunch at Gilberts for their famous blackened fish sandwich, we returned to Miami to watch the (land-based) Dolphin’s playoff hopes disappear into another wonderful December South Florida Sunset. Alas, not all can be perfect in paradise!
This week is all about the sinking of the SEA TAXI, Miami’s second largest artificial reef. The sinking is planned for 1pm on Wednesday (weather permitting) and the waiting list on RJ’s Deep Com-Ocean is longer than the length of the Sea Star. So, unless you own a boat (or better yet have a friend with a boat), you’re out of luck. Never fear, there’s a double-dip planned for Saturday morning and another visit next Wednesday night with space still available. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information.
The Lemon Sharks are migrating to Florida and there is still space available to join us on the Valentine’s weekend Lemon Shark Migration down Lover’s Lane in West Palm Beach. This is an a la carte or dive-stay-n-play weekend. We will be staying at Jupiter Waterfront Inn (approx $120) and there is also La Quinta (approx $149) and Best Western ($129). While Reef Sharks are more common on this dive profile, the Lemon Shark Migration is in season and as with any wild animal a sighting is never a guarantee, but should be anticipated. So, this is the deal…Saturday 10am departure, 3 locations, Lemon Sharks and reefs, $70…and Sunday 12:30pm departure, Lemon Sharks and a reef, $55.
12/22/2009 DIVE BLOG – Four Wreck Dives in Two Days This Weekend (try and try again)
Do things happen in threes, REALLY? I’ve always thought weather patterns follow a seven-day cycle. For instance, if high winds cancel the weekend dives over the past two weeks, we stand a good chance of seeing the same weather pattern this weekend as well. I’ve also noticed the pattern with Wednesday night dive cancelations. It makes sense, the calendar is based on a seven-day week and the lunar cycle in 28 days (or 4 weeks). So, it would make sense that the dives that I’ve re-re-scheduled for this weekend will be canceled as well, BUT since hope is what separates us from the lower animals (and opposable thumbs) my plan is to provide offerings to the sea gods in hopes of a change in weather patterns!
Please join us as the dive plan is to hit Key Largo for a SPIEGEL GROVE double-dip on Saturday morning with Scuba-Do and Islamorada for an EAGLE double-dip on Sunday afternoon with Ocean Quest. This is an a la carte or dive, stay-n-play weekend. We will be staying at the Coconut Cove Resort and Marina (approx $155 use code A1 to identify yourself as an Ocean Quest customer and they will waive the two-night minimum) in Islamorada. You may also book reservations at Harbor Lights ($99) or Day’s Inn directly with Vicki at Ocean Quest at 800-356-8798 or visit Ocean Quest’s website for more resort information.
There is a silver lining to this otherwise bleak Dive Blog, we had the best night dive of the year on the ORION and the PIPES! We spotted another tube dwelling anemone called an orange ball corallimorph which is very uncommon, but our second sighting in a week on two different locations! We also solved the mystery of the koosh-ball-like mollusk we have spotted on two previous night dives. It’s a common cowrie out feeding at night which is uncommon! The reason cowrie shells maintain such a nice gloss is that a fleshy material that covers the shell. If startled, the cowrie can withdraw this material to confuse a predator. The ORION also had a nice sized goliath grouper in the lower hold section and there were eels and plenty of larger fish life. The PIPES were even more spectacular! There were several ruby brittle stars out and about and a very friendly nurse shark that swam in front of my mask several times before bugging out as other divers became curious. As other divers entered the water, we ventured off site and were greeted by brown spotted eels, snowflake eels, scorpion fish, and other assorted critters. We encountered a small green turtle that let us lazily follow him off into the darkness. To our surprise a second small green turtle swam right past us! Since navigation was not a priority with all the fun and excitement at hand, we turned off our lights and could see some light in the distance to guide us back to the PIPES. As DECO warnings approached upon ascent, we spotted a large green moray eel in the pipes and spent a few extra moments with our new friend before an extended safety stop! Now that’s a rockin’ night dive!
Miami is about to get its second largest artificial reef! Miami-Dade Reef Guard Association led by Captain Mike Beach will scuttle a 210’ freighter on December 30th in 110’ of water. The vessel is a sister ship to two very popular, previously sunk Miami-Dade artificial reefs -- the Ultra Freeze and the Deep Freeze. The sinking and almost immediate dive afterwards is sold out to the best of my knowledge, but if you’re interested a double-dip is scheduled for Saturday morning (01/02/2010) and a visit Wednesday night (01/06/2010) as well. Call Captain Mike Beach at 305-861-6277 for more information. Also, there is still space available to join us on the February Lemon Shark Migration in West Palm Beach.
12/16/2009 DIVE BLOG – Four Wreck Dives in Two Days This Weekend
High winds canceled this weekend’s dives, but in addition to re-scheduling the Islamorada EAGLE double-dip on Sunday afternoon we are adding a Key Largo SPIEGEL GROVE double-dip on Saturday morning. That’s four deep wrecks in two days and don’t forget this Wednesday night’s dive on the ORION (95’) and THE PIPES (45’). Remember we have the Lemon Shark Migration in February! Let me know if you’re interested in joining us!
Last Wednesday’s night dive on the SHERI-LYN offered extreme multi-level penetration due to the 45-degree angle of the wreck. It was my 9th visit to this site and it’s a real playground. We took pictures of a red starfish and showed them to our resident sea life professor, Susan Banks. She identified it as a Studded Sea Star. It turns out to be a rare species and per the Humann ID book R.E.E.F. should be contacted when a sighting occurs. Not to be out done, the second dive to RJ’s LEDGE was loaded with the small stuff. We sighted a decorator crab, lobsters, a small brown eel, a small yellow stingray, and a nice anemone. The highlight of the dive was a tube dwelling anemone called an Orange Ball Corallimorph (thanks again to Susan for the ID)! It has a bright orange body column and ball-like tips on nearly transparent tentacles. This species is an uncommon sighting. I guess every dive offers the opportunity to see something different no matter how many dives one has logged, but two very rare species in one night was a real treat!
12/09/2009 DIVE BLOG – Double Dip the Eagle in Islamorada and Lemon Shark Migration
High winds this past week kept most of us out of the water and canceled Wednesday’s night dive. The dives out of Miami were canceled last Saturday due to 20+ knot winds, but we were hearing surprising reports of good ...conditions down in Key Largo for our double deep wreck dives. We decided to set sail (by car) to the Keys figuring we could grab a bite a Sharkey’s (get it, a bite, shark, if I must explain it it’s not as funny) if the dives were canceled. To my amazement the winds were calm and the seas were 2-3 feet. The sea gods smiled and gave us very good viz and blue water for our first dive on the DUANE. During the surface interval, we heard poor viz and currents were being experienced on the SPIEGEL GROVE, so we decided to stay on the DUANE for our second dive. How is it possible that surface conditions vary from Miami to Key Largo? Even more confusing is how underwater conditions change from wreck just miles apart? Weather and the ocean are mysterious things. Key Largo is such a small town and we ran into quite a few locals to catch up on the latest gossip. We eventually met up with new and old friends for lunch at Buzzard’s Roost who had also enjoyed the Key Largo dive experience (including the intrepid SPIEGEL GROVE divers).
We are double dipping the EAGLE on Saturday afternoon on my new favorite Islamorada dive charter, Ocean Quest. Let me know if you’re interested in joining us for this low stress adventure with Captain Sonny. We can only take eight divers so first come, first served!
Nothing says love like diving with Lemon Sharks for Valentine’s weekend in West Palm Beach. We plan to join the Lemon Shark Migration on 13th and 14th of February. Saturday is a three-tank dive and Sunday is a two-tank dive so remember to bring plenty of gas. Lemon Sharks migrate in numbers up to 50+ when the water is colder in the low 70's where they have been seen lying in the sand very close together. Scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what they are doing there. It is most likely courting or mating related. It is however a unique and amazing spectacle. Until 2000 it had never been heard of anywhere else in the world. Lemon Sharks get their name from their light coloration. They can reach over 10 feet in length and have two dorsal fins, like a nurse or sand tiger shark. Additionally, you can tell if it is a Lemon Shark if you squeeze it and it makes lemonade. PLEASE NOTE: While Reef Sharks are more common on this dive profile, the Lemon Shark Migration is in season and as with any wild animal a sighting is never a guarantee, but should be anticipated. So, this is the deal…Saturday 10am departure, 3 locations, Lemon Sharks and reefs, $70…and Sunday 12:30pm departure, Lemon Sharks and a reef, $55. This is an a la carte or dive, stay-n-play weekend. We will be staying at Jupiter Waterfront Inn (approx $120) and there is also La Quinta (approx $149) and Best Western ($129).
12/01/2009 DIVE BLOG - Double Deep Wreck Dive in Key Largo
I’m happy to report that Mike Bryars survived his 100th dive on the TACOMA to a max depth of 119’ last Wednesday night. We celebrated the event during the surface interval with a special cake and a chorus of “For He’s Jolly Good Fellow”. My Irish mate was a good sport and for those of you who have witnessed my ability to cook cakes you will certainly understand. For those of you who don’t there are pictures on my Facebook page. The second dive was highlighted with an octopus sighting (hint – look for very clean shells near rock openings). For an interesting side note, Mike could not drink due to an antibiotic forced upon him for an errant dental procedure gone wrong. How’s that for socialized medicine!? At least in the States we get meds that let us still enjoy Clarke’s for some post-dive narcosis!
Over the weekend we headed up to West Palm Beach for a drift ledge dive and GOVERNOR’S RIVERWALK (which is a series of wrecks and usually some sharks). I was the lucky one to get very close to a 12’ bull shark. This WWF shark was not like the Disney-like reek sharks in the Bahamas, but he was simply not interested in me and disappeared after the second pass! The weekend was wrapped up by joining Capt Beach on Big Com-Ocean off Miami Beach for the BELCHER WREK TREK and a shallow reef.
Water temperatures have dipped into the low 70’s, but my trusty companion (a 5mm seamless wetsuit) kept me warm and toasty. I know what you northerners are saying, but seriously that’s cold water after a couple of hours under especially in the shallower water!
After Wednesday night’s dives on the PRINCESS BRITTNEY (85’), we are headed down to Key Largo on Saturday morning to dip the DUANE (120’) and the SPIEGEL GROVE (130’). If you are interested in the night dive or Saturday morning’s dive, please let me know. There’s also a rumor of a Secret Society of the Frog Event in Key West to dive the VANDENBURG (130’). I’ll keep you posted!
11/22/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Wednesday Night Dive and Mike Bryar's 100th Dive
Phew……it took two weeks for the first blast of winter weather to blow through South Florida (for those of you from outside the State of Florida we mean the nasty easterly winds that generate high seas, not that cold stuff you’re dealing with)! We finally could enjoy a couple of uneventful night dives off Miami Beach on Wednesday night, but the water temperature also finally dipped to 77 degrees and caused me to store my 3/2mm and pull the 5mm seamless out of the closet for the rest of the winter.
Then the serious fun began this weekend! We headed north to Jupiter to dive three tanks well into deco with Emerald Charters. We hit the HOLE IN THE WALL to a depth of 142 feet and two deep ledge drift dives. There were the usual large nurse sharks, turtles, and goliath groupers in attendance. At the end of the second dive just before ascent a hawksbill turtle swam right up to within 12” of my mask! The curious critter hung around for a while, but since I was already several minutes into deco, I needed to make my ascent and said good-bye to my new friend. The bad news, we saw two lionfish on this dive (one did not survive). That’s three lionfish in one month and these were the first I have seen in South Florida. Hopefully this is not a sign of things to come and these predators don’t invade our waters like they have in the Caribbean, but it does not look good. Please report lionfish sightings (even if you kill the offensive pests) to REEF at 305-852-0030 and be sure to ask your Captain for GPS coordinates to help REEF in the removal. Pictures are also helpful. The first confirmed lionfish sighting in the Florida Keys was on 01/06/2009 near the BENWOOD.
Today’s dives were back down in Key Largo for some heavy metal on the DUANE and SPIEGEL GROVE. While the current was a small issue on the DUANE (we had to dodge the jellyfish during the safety stop), we were blessed by the sea gods with blue water and excellent viz. This was my 57th dive on the SPIGEL GROVE and she was magnificent as usual!
Be sure to join us off Miami Beach this Wednesday night with RJ’s Diving Ventures for my good mate’s 100th dive on the TACOMA at 135 feet. Most of you know this Irish bloke who flies jumbos for British Airways. Post-dive narcosis is at our favorite Irish pub, Clarke’s south of South Beach. Stories guaranteed to occur!
I’ve finally switched my reg over to din (I wonder if there’s a PADI certification for that? I hope not because I’m still working on that open water certification, darn written exams and, oops, I digress). No more blown O-rings and safer wreck penetration! Speaking of safety, we have lost four divers in Florida this past week. One in GINNIE SPRINGS cave diving, VANDENBURG in Key West claimed its first fatality, as did the ORISKANY in Pensacola, and lastly Key Largo lost a diver on MOLASSAS REEF in 30’ of water. We must always be diligent that this is a spectacular sport we enjoy with passion, but let’s be sure to dive safe and live each day to the fullest potential surrounded by family and the friends we love.
11/03/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Searching for a few good dives!
I apologize for letting two weeks pass since the last newsletter, but business travel and expansion (aka, work, YUK) have consumed a lot of my spare time recently. It’s a good problem to have in today’s economy AND it has not interfered with my DIVE BLOG! So…weather played havoc with Mike Bryars’ 100th DIVE BLOG canceling the Monday night dive two weeks ago as well as the Wednesday night dive. We could squeeze in the PADI F.U.N. (Frogified Underwater Narcosis) Pool Session before a rain delay that changed the venue to a local micro-brewery! We are working on completing the written test and feel free to submit appropriate questions to help. All we have right now is “Do you want another drink?” It’s sort of a pass/fail test!
We’ve hit Islamorada for a wonderful EAGLE Double-Dip on what ended up being a private charter with Ocean Quest, our new favorite dive charter for trips south of Key Largo. We were greeted with blue water, moderate viz, calm seas, and no noticeable current. This is quickly becoming a favorite wreck site.
Last Wednesday night’s PRINCESS BRITTNEY and reef dives were terrific, but uneventful. There was an interesting "Attack of the Killer Fish" incident. A fish of unknown origin did not like dive lights and attacked anyone holding one. I’m hearing it was a Toad Fish, but more research might be needed. We had to turn off our lights to make an escape. It was funny!
This weekend we were treated to a Saturday afternoon Pompano dive on the ANCIENT MARINER/BERRY PATCH WREK TREK and a reef drift dive. The amount of fish life north of Miami is staggering and on the drift, dive we saw five huge green moray eels, a spotted snowflake eel, a large nurse shark, a grey southern stingray along with stone crab and lobster. On Sunday morning, I went on a solo dive journey off RJ Diving Ventures to the wreck of the PATRICIA. Absolute perfect surface conditions, no current, and excellent viz allowed me to venture over to the MATTHEW LAWRENCE and the RADIO TOWERS. I was unaware there are several pyramid structures scattered about 75’ apart along the sea bed until this dive. I surprised a spear fisherman diving a few hundred yards from our boat, as well as the two excited nurse sharks circling nearby hoping to catch a free meal. At the next pyramid, I also encountered a small reef shark watching the hunter too! Another surprise was the amount of grey southern stingrays swimming about and resting in the sand. After a while I simply lost count! The second dive was on the M1 ARMY TANKS. I took to opportunity to re-pound the rebar that someone pulled out of the sand. The passage is now clearly marked over to the NUMBER 7. My computer showed I nearly tripled my normal surface air consumption (SAC) rate during the 24-minute working dive.
I’m going to try to plan something for this weekend. I will keep everyone posted as dives are booked. If anyone wants to do something special or already has interesting dives planned, please let me know!
10/18/2009 - DIVE BLOG - PADI Certification (it's not what you think...see below)
After a weekend of new friends, 80’ viz, and no current on multiple SPEIGEL GROVE dives, it’s time to get a bit more serious about our diving and the potential of new PADI certifications! IF the weather cooperates, don’t forget we plan to dive Monday Night to celebrate Mike Bryars 100th dive. The plan is simple! Dive #98 (optional) – MIAMI MARINA (10’) to scrub the bottom of the boat, Dive #99 – SHERI-LYN (110’), and Dive #110 – DEMA TRADER (70’). Post-dive narcosis is planned at Clarke’s south of South Beach (post-dive if we get off the dock and 7pm if we get canceled due to weather watch). BEWARE NOTICE: Mike Bryars is an Irish bloke fly boy piloting 747s for British Airways with too much time on his hands when on this side of the pond. Additionally, there will be several members of the Secret Society of the Frogs (SSOTF – www.SecretSocietyoftheFrog.com) in attendance to initiate our new London Chapter! EGAD!
We are offering a new PADI (Professional Alcoholic Drinkers Inc) certification at my place on Tuesday night at 7pm. Our goal is to add lead to a few scuba tanks on the bottom of the pool along with those little airplane liquor bottles to understand the best methods and/or procedures to best drink shots at depth. As a responsible (non-certified) diver, it would not be recommended to attempt this at depth before becoming fully qualified with a pool session prior to certification! PADI (Professional Alcoholic Drinkers Inc) certification cards will be issued upon final open water certification to be scheduled later. Unlike PADI (Put another Dollar In and/or Professional Association of Diving Instructors), there is no charge for this BYOB certification. My place is located directly on Biscayne Bay with a beautiful poolside view of downtown Miami. Please RSVP for directions!
10/09/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Sunday Afternoon Eagle Double Deep Wreck Dive
Wednesday night’s dives were an unusual set. We attempted to dive the ORION, but holding on to the descent line was a little like body surfing so the attempt was aborted. We headed off to the PROTEUS which is a terrific wreck site that we don’t visit very often. The current was better, but still a significant factor and combined with poor viz pushed air consumption levels to almost double normal levels for the depth. The “friendly-neighborhood” green moray eel was in its usual spot (hidden from the current) and posed for pictures that won’t turn out well due to scatter. It was a different story on the second shallow reef dive. One day someone needs to explain how a vast ocean can have rippin’ currents in one spot, significant current a mile or two away, and no current another two miles away. SUGAR BEAR REEF was loaded with coral banded shrimp, common brittle stars (for the slow-motion lightning effect from an intense bio-luminescence), a small yellow stingray, and a brown spotted eel. All that left time to blow bubble rings off in the sand at the end of the dive (and Clarke’s for post-dive narcosis)!
The plans continue for Mike Bryar's 100th Dive on a Monday [10/19/2009] night dive with RJs out of Miami Beach to the SHERI-LYN (110’) and DEMA TRADER (70’). There’s plenty of room aboard Deep Com-Ocean, and we have five confirmed divers, but we need six to leave port! Post-Dive Narcosis at Clarke's south of South Beach!
This weekend is Columbus Day Weekend! We planned on staying at the Key Motel in Tavernier with our friends from Ocean Safari, but we will be diving the SPIEGEL GROVE Double Dip on Saturday morning with Scuba-Do and the EAGLE Double Dip on Sunday afternoon with Holiday Isle Divers. We only have two confirmed divers for the EAGLE trip, so we will pretty much have the boat and the wreck to ourselves as a private charter! Two more intrepid divers would help ease my financial burden!
10/06/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Mike Bryar's 100th Dive Celebration
What, no dives since my last report? Gee, that’s sad! I'm sure I have too much blood in my saltwater system. I'll fix that this weekend!
I’m planning Mike Bryar's 100th Dive! To celebrate our British Airways mate's 100th dive, we need three more divers in total to arrange a Monday [10/19/2009] night dive with RJs out of Miami Beach. There’s plenty of room aboard Deep Com-Ocean, but without six confirmed divers we can’t leave port! It will be a deep two wreck/two tank dive. If we get enough Frogs [SSOTF] to attend, we could also make him a member. Beware…he could easily challenge the Captain! After all, he's Irish........! Post-Dive Narcosis at Clarke's south of South Beach!
This weekend is Columbus Day Weekend! We are planning on staying at the Key Motel in Tavernier with our friends from Ocean Safari, but we will be diving the SPIEGEL GROVE Double Dip on Saturday morning with Scuba-Do and the EAGLE Double Dip on Sunday afternoon with Holiday Isle Divers. We only have two confirmed divers for the EAGLE trip, so we will pretty much have the boat and the wreck to ourselves as a private charter! Two more intrepid divers would help ease my financial burden!
10/03/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Eagle Double Dip in Islamorada
What a cool dive on Wednesday night and what BIZARRE creatures we found. The Eagle Rays were awesome, the Red Brittle Star was neat, the Basket Stars were creepy (literally), the Mantis Shrimp was down-right mean, and I still don't know what was on top of that decorator crab! Gee........it's like an entirely different world down there under the sea!
We quickly descended to the SHERI-LYN as soon as Captain Georgia turned off the engines in hopes of seeing some of the larger pelagic sea critters known to haunt these wrecks. As we descended into crystal clear, blue water with 80’+ viz we saw two Spotted Eagle Rays directly below us. We evened off and the pair was as curious about us as we were about them! Eventually as more divers descended, they swam off to a more protective area. Steve pointed out a neat Red Brittle Star and with no current to deal with we spent most of the dive penetrating the various nooks and crannies of the wreck.
We opted for the BELCHER BARGE on our second fully dark night dive, even though I was hoping to play with the common brittle stars on a shallow reef. With your dive light turned off when touched you will find they glow with an intense luminescence. It looks like lightning in slow motion! However, the dive created a bunch of cool stuff to see! Basket Stars were out everywhere in full bloom and if you look closely you can see them creep along the edges of the hull of the wrecks (it’s really “creepy”). We passed a small Southern Grey Stingray as we finned between the three Belcher wrecks (we also visited BELZONA). I also had my first Mantis Shrimp encounter. Don’t mess with these powerful (and very aggressive (and mean spirited)) critters. Although no more than 12” long they carry a powerful bite that can take the tip of your finger right off! As for the decorator crab, it had some sort of white mollusk-like creature on its shell with what looked like yellow hair on top. Very odd, but I guess it pays to dive slow and enjoy the gifts the sea gods offer! Clark's Irish Pub offered the perfect spot to enjoy our post-dive narcosis and a perfect set of dives!
We have a Saturday morning SPIEGEL GROVE Double Dip [10/10/2009] and a Sunday afternoon EAGLE Double Dip [10/11/2009] scheduled for Columbus Day Weekend. Let me know if you're interested!
09/21/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Tuesday Lobster Nite at Tobacco Road
There's lots of gossip to tell from our weekend with the Secret Society of the Frogs including a Manta Ray sighting on FRENCH REEF (not witnessed by Shallow Water Dive Snobs who instead elected to enjoy 100' viz on the SPIGEL GROVE), another unfortunate (or fortunate depending on how you look at it) victim of Chocolate Vodka, an all you can eat $10 Fish Fry (including all the beer you can drink), the 5am 12-mile If You Hurl You're a Girl Sunday morning fun run, Finless (Lisa) actually donning fins (and someone forgetting fins after heading back to the mainland), Susan's birthday cake celebration (and leftover eggs to break at 120' on the hull of the DUANE), and an unusual pairing of Key Largo/Brickell Key residents (now that's one long swim)! I guess you need to attend to get the rest of the scoop!
We have a great Wednesday night dive planned (but it will be difficult to replicate last week's post-dive narcosis at Clarke's), a deep local wreck dive this Saturday, and don't forget to sign up for the Columbus Day Weekend Key Largo Adventure!
09/17/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Columbus Day Islamorada Dive Adventure
The water is still warm (80+ degrees), seas are still calm, and the weather is still cooperating. We will all want to get in as many dives as possible before these wonderful South Florida dive factors change and start to cause dives to be canceled! With that said, Lisa celebrated her 1,100th dive on Wednesday night. She was so excited about the event she forgot to put on her fins! See what happens when an instructor can enter the water for a fun dive without students in tow? They seem to forget all reason! Speaking of forgetting all reason, this is the weekend of the Key Largo Secret Society of the Frogs Event. In addition to great wreck dives and friends, there will be Coed Chicken Pool Fighting, Mixed Doubles Sunset Watching, 1st annual Float, Drink and Digest-a-thon poolside, Saturday 5am 7 mile 'BOOTCAMP RUN' with Darcey (vomit bag provided), Pizza Party Twister, Friday Fish Fry, 1st annual "Who Can Outrun the Angry Bikers from the Caribbean Club" Contest, and a Sunday 5am 10 mile 'Hurl and You're a Girl' run with Darcey just to name a few of the featured activities. If you elect to join us for one or all of these events, I apologize in advance for our behavior and it's important to note that most everything the occurs is captured in a digital format for those who tend (or want) to forget what happened!
Join us for an Islamorada Dive Adventure on Columbus Day Weekend [10-11 October 2009] for 2 days and 1 night (includes taxes and hotel accommodations), 4 dives, and an afternoon cookout with Ocean Safari after Saturday’s dive!
• $175 per person based upon double occupancy
• $200 pp dbl occ w/tank rentals
• $230 pp dbl occ w/Nitrox
Book your trip today by calling Ocean Safari (305) 548-3483 or e-mail: ani.Gonzalez@comcast.net to join Ocean Safari for a weekend getaway to the Florida Keys to dive the awesome wrecks of The USCG DUANE and the EAGLE! We’ll start off with a ride down to Islamorada to load up and dive the DUANE and a reef. A cookout will be waiting for us at the dock. Sunday morning we’ll dive the EAGLE with a reef and end the day with a pit stop at Gilbert’s.
09/10/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Secret Society of the Frog
400 dives logged and counting! I want to thank everyone who participated in my 400th dive celebration on Labor Day. Capt Mike Beach (and great friend) went to heroic behind the scenes efforts to ensure we could dive TENNACO TOWERS. Mac –n- Cheese (Chris and Mike) made a terrific shark decorated cheesecake and Lisa made sure I was drenched in champagne post-400th dive (she also had a fruit platter with and oddly phallic ice sculpture that was “supposed” to be a dolphin. Almost everyone aboard met up at Clarke’s South-of-South-Beach for a Post-Dive Narcosis Celebration. As stories unfolded about 500th, 1000th, and 2000th dives, I am humbled to be surrounded by such an awesome group of highly experienced divers and appreciate the camaraderie of this special passion for the sea that we all share.
While the Secret Society of the Frog was not in attendance last weekend, we are just nine days away from the SSF Key Largo Experience and I suspect additional celebrations will be the order of the day (and night). If you are unable to attend the entire weekend, feel free to call Amy Slate at 800-4AMORAY or visit Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort Website to dive with the Frogs on Saturday and/or Sunday even if you elect not to stay Friday or Saturday night (but it is highly recommended because that is when the “frogs” come out to play). Also visit the Secret Society of the Frog Website for more gossip, pictures, videos, and embarrassing moments!
09/03/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Tenneco Towers and the 400th Dive
Did you ever have one of those dives? Last weekend’s DOC DE MILLE trip was a bit frustrating with an intense, rippin’ current and an unusual equipment failure. As we waited to enter the water, I blew my O-ring. I’ll admit to “breathing” a sigh of relief that it didn’t happen three minutes later when I would be 150’ below the surface in a 2+ knot current. The replacement O-rings (and we used several) failed to produce a seal and all efforts by friends and crew couldn’t solve the mystery. I borrowed a different regulator from a friend and set off on the dive. I can’t remember ever going into the water with worse current, but we went out so far for what is the best wreck dive site off Miami we didn’t want to abort the dive since current tends to ebb as we descend. Long story short, with discomfort from unfamiliar equipment, different gauges, deep depths, and rippin’ current I decided to abort the dive when I reached the wreck. It’s better to not tempt fate with multiple risk factors. As bad as the dive was for me, it was but not as bad as when one of our buddies lost his $3000 scooter to the current. On a humorous note, the second dive would be a drift dive with some of the most experienced divers in South Florida in our group and NONE of us were able to find the reef ledge due to a dodgy current! What are the odds? I named the dive site the South Atlantic SAND Reef! And now for a Zen moment, of all the great dives that have gone awry, I can only think of a few, of all the dives I thought would a poor experience, many have been great. So, in the end I come out on the winning side and it keeps things in perspective.
Sunday morning’s wreck dives and last night’s dives returned us to the normal dive routine. Captain Mike Beach has re-scheduled a DOC DE MILLE trip for Saturday afternoon [03October2009]. Space is generally sold out immediately, but it never hurts to give him a call at 305-861-6277 to see if space is available. We have a long Labor Day weekend ahead of us, so I hope to see everyone on the Tenneco Tower trip Monday afternoon for my 400th dive!