11/07/2022 DIVE BLOG – We Are Facing Paradise Lost
CREDIT: Elizabeth Murphy
Why do we feed sharks? That is the age-old question for the last 25+ years in South Florida where it all began with Emerald Charters. I’ll tell you why, but in the simplest way possible. Because I could write endlessly about the spiderweb that encompasses shark ecotourism.
First, let me start by saying that there are places to dive such as the Galapagos, Cocos Island, Baja California, the Bahamas, and marine protected areas/sanctuaries where large pelagic life gathers during known seasons. However, when those trips cost easily $4.5k-$10k+, it becomes a little unrealistic for quite a lot of people to afford.
Let us just focus on sharks… divers used to see them EVERYWHERE, all of the time, from when scuba diving was developing in the 1920s and into the 1970s. The number of fish and sharks that could be seen was awe-inspiring according to those generations of divers. Going out into their own back yard felt like they were in an oasis, a completely different world.
Divers today still have that same other-worldly emotion and addiction. However, the scale on which we see wildlife now is drastically different than before. Overfishing, by-catch, ghost nets, discarded lines… everything we are doing is directly causing shark populations to suffer. To be quite frank, the problem is that human greed has led to genocides of multiple species in the past and is still continuing to happen in the present. We have been and are the cause of many animal kingdom extinctions.
So why do we feed sharks?
Divers would hardly ever get to see them otherwise. Also do lots of cool science and research is done, but that’s for another post. Unless you’re doing a dive specifically for ecotourism (or spearfishing), there is a 95% chance you will not see a shark. We bring sharks close so people can experience them as our scuba ancestors used to, up close and personal and in high numbers.
Go to DEMA.org and read “Proposed Shark Feeding Restriction Threatens Shark Diving in the U.S.”
07/2021 DIVE BLOG – The Benefits of an Employee Backup Plan
Ownership of a scuba business, whether retail and/or charter, is difficult at best. There’s lots of divers and customers all at once and then you have empty classrooms, boats at the dock, or no retail customers for hours or days. Asset utilization is a mission critical asset that you want to use to recover your costs and the most important assets in the dive business are employees. After all, who exactly is the face of your company? Employees are the lifeblood of the organization. Your employees are your organization.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused people around the world to lose their jobs temporarily or permanently. Something that may surprise you is that 2.8 million people in the United States voluntarily quit their jobs in August 2020 alone. Two strategies when making a backup plan for employees are cross-training existing workers or determining how fast you could find replacements even in the short-term. Making these preparations is worthwhile because it minimizes the disruptions to the client experience which might cause them to take their business elsewhere.
In an industry with turnover that is significantly higher than other retail service businesses, taking proper steps to avoid employee turnover directly impacts the client experience and their likelihood of returning to your business. Successful business operators hire the right people, recognize and reward employees, offer flexibility, and prioritize employee happiness. They also own a an employee backup plan that consists of thoughtful arrangements made in case an employee suddenly quits, has an accident, or a family emergency to deal with. The success of your business, dependent specific schedules, depends on your ability to be resilient.
In my retail career, I’ve had over 4,000 retail employees in 44 states and Puerto Rico. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it is your that business MUST go forward. To attain that goal, our culture was to interview constantly, especially when fully staffed. Our best hires were found when we were not desperate. Secondly, there was always a backup plan for the business not to operate at 100% due to an immediate employee shortage. We had employees that were on-call listed on all schedules. Typically, a simple call by the employee with a schedule conflict, or their supervisor, solved the schedule problem and the business would continue uninterrupted. “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” is the mantra of all successful entrepreneurs, especially for those in the scuba industry.
06/2021 DIVE BLOG – Should a Dive Professional Tip the Crew on a FUN Dive?
One of my technical dive instructor friends was discussing the difficulty in getting properly tipped for dive instruction. To add to their student's confusion, he is not directly working as a dive professional as an employee of a specific dive operation, but rather as a contracted employee who brings students to a few different operators depending on their locations, sites, and schedules. Students are sometimes confused about tipping the boat crew and their instructor separately, but that’s not the purpose of my blog…
My question…should a dive professional tip the crew on a FUN dive when using one of the operators that they use for instructing students? On a recent technical decompression dive, the discussion about tipping etiquette arose amongst my peers. It seemed that the general consensus is that we should be the “gold standard” among divers. After all, some of us are strapping $5,000-$10,000 on our backs (CCR, Helium, top of the line regulators, life-saving equipment, DPVs, et al) and bouncing off the back of a dive boat. Most of my dive buddies use the PRE-TIP method to tip the crew when they first board the boat directly to the captain or first mate to ensure proper attention to their needs. A $20 MINIMUM gratuity is the agreed upon standard.
Dive boat crews work very hard to provide service and safety, but typically try to make it look easy and flawless in front of customers. If you want to witness what happens behind the curtain, show up early and hang out later to witness the exertion needed to lug gear, clean the boat, douse rental gear (including wetsuits…UGH). It’s a long tough day and it’s my opinion that it’s done as a passion vs a higher paid office position. Next time you are fretting about the gratuity, think about who needs it more. Is it them or you (and who is diving with all that expensive gear)?
09/2020 DIVE BLOG – Random Silliness
Earlier this year, we began a quest to have regular every Saturday morning technical decompression dives off Miami. According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there are over 100 shipwrecks off Miami-Dade County with about 40 shipwrecks deep enough for the tekkies. I enlisted the help of divers who enjoy random silliness. In other words, I couldn’t guarantee what might be seen once at depth. It turns out, these uber-serious types have a fine sense of humor! We had our pluses and negatives surrounded by high-fives and aww-sucks afterwards, but no grumbles.
Since I’ve been temporarily sidelined from decompression diving, I took the opportunity to dip the shallower shipwrecks to create various wreck treks like the Key Biscayne (aka Richie Rydell) Wreck Trek, the Sunny Isles Wreck Trek and the Radio Tower Wreck Trek. Soon, these were as popular for advanced divers as the others were for technical divers. In fact, both can be performed at the same time due to close proximity with a willing and skilled boat captain. As more advanced divers joined us, I noticed a great opportunity for divers to master their skills of hot drops, drifting skills in the water column, navigation, a better understanding of currents, the proper use of surface markers (SBMBs), free ascents, and surface delays while the boat picks up other divers. If these important skills are of interest, it would be wise to hire an instructor to train and post-dive debrief the skills used in these dives.
That’s when the underwater scooter bug bit me! The local operators have no problems filling their boats with students and open water divers to visit Neptune Memorial Reef and the 30’ reefs off Miami. However, just a quick drop away with a scooter are the sudden drops to 70’, 100’, or deeper! Think of the possibilities for random silliness. My plan is to build shallow-to-deep wreck treks that guide divers from these shallow sites into the deep for advanced or technical dives. I’ve already purchased a brand-new BlackTip Diver Propulsion Vehicle (DPV), but due to popularity and COVID-19 manufacturing delays it will not arrive until sometime in November. That’s were my “dive-gear crack dealer” came into play. He found on the Facebook Group Page that a used BlackTip DVP was for sale at a good asking price, so I bought it too! I wonder if I’ll keep both scooters and/or eventually sell one? One might say that I’m a Random Silliness Addict.
08/2020 DIVE BLOG – Don’t Be “THAT” Dive Leader!
Florida Lobster Mini Season is a two-day event that allows non-commercial divers to get a jump on commercial lobster hunting which starts a week later. Thousands of tourists trek to South Florida and the Florida Keys which does boost the economy, but many locals hate it because it also brings with it mayhem and crowds on the water, congestion on highways, poaching and other headaches. According to Divers Alert Network (DAN), it also averages two diver deaths per year. This year, various municipalities fear the further spread of the Covid-19 virus and many have ordered that boat ramps be closed. As a result, the usual gaggle of personal watercraft were not out and about. To date, there’s not been a diver death in Florida reported this mini season which has many government officials asking for a more permanent end to Florida’s Lobster Mini Season.
Me? I’m just a lionfish hunter. I would prefer my lobster to be served on a plate at local restaurants. However, I happened to be aboard a private charter organized by an out-of-town dive group whose dive leader fully enabled his group of ten certified divers to have out-of-air and non-decompression limit (NDL) issues. He was “proud” to have dealt with all the issues while underwater, but I felt he was more of an enabler. Instead of patting himself on the back, he would have been better served by teaching life-lessons once back aboard. As certified divers, an out-of-air situation is avoidable unless an introduction to Darwin is in order! It’s my guess that they didn’t understand the importance of a gas supply while underwater. Fortunately, all is well that ends well enough. Hopefully the experience might have enlightened this group of divers so that future experiences don’t mirror the past.
03/2020 DIVE BLOG – Don’t Be “THAT” Diver!
Recently I was on a dive boat in the Florida Keys to dive the USS Spiegel Grove in what I like to call tech-lite double-dips. The idea was to perform two separate dives in deep and dark places but keep our decompression obligations to a minimum. The charter boat had a mixture of tourist divers, advanced divers, and technical divers. The tekkies were a mixture of open circuit doubles and rebreather divers. One couple in particular, both rebreather divers, also brought their underwater scooters. The captain gave us all a specific time to be back aboard which was plenty of time for us tech-lite divers to complete both dives with a comfortable surface interval. The rebreather/scooter couple nonchalantly told the captain that they would return exactly upon the time deadline. Here’s the rub…after everyone was aboard and the deadline had passed, there was no sign of the two divers. Keep in mind a pair of OC divers would have bubbles flowing to the surface for 40+ minute deco ascent to 20’ that would alert the captain to their presence. Even without bubbles, we should have been able to see the two divers at 20’ below the surface. Without a visual sighting and a passed deadline, the tension mounted amidst the crew. About 15 minutes after the deadline, the couple appeared on a different mooring ball. With the power still available on their scooters, they returned to the boat on the surface. My question is…WHY? Why not scooter to the proper ball and why not return on time? To compound their dismal dive habits, they had a similar experience further down Keys the next day with a different charter.
I’ve been accused (at times) of pushing the limits of depth and penetration during early parts of various stages of my dive experience, but one thing I try to avoid is to not intentionally break the basic rules of dive etiquette that would cause the crew to begin thinking about calling the Coast Guard (or tossing me off the boat and scratching my name off the manifest). After all, these are the professionals responsible for my safety and I want them to continue to allow me to do the things that I want to do underwater!
Basic Rules of Dive Boat Etiquette
Be on time at the dock, at the beginning of each dive and at the end of each dive because the crew has a schedule to keep (a second charter, non-work lives, families, and/or happy hour to get to).
Don’t show up with a binder full of certification cards, just show what is needed to complete the dive requirements (especially if you’re an instructor).
Respect everyone’s space, set your gear up quickly and efficiently and keep your gear properly stowed while aboard the boat (remember the crew is watching you and making judgements about you).
No one likes back-splash from the showerhead or hose, please spray to the outside of the boat (it’s just gross to splash what you’re trying to wash off onto someone else).
Maintain the minimal amount of situational awareness, both above and below the surface, to be considerate of other divers and the crew (we all share this experience together so don’t ruin it for everyone).
PRE-TIP the crew when you first board the boat. A $10 tip is nice, but $20+ gets the crew’s attention. A special bonus is that anything you might need will be attended to quickly. I’ve had regulators rebuilt (free), empty tanks filled (free), equipment issues quickly addressed (free). We’ve even been given a boat slip for three nights including water and electricity directly in front of the Lionfish Debry’s host restaurant (also for free). In case you didn’t notice the code word…. Sometimes it’s FREE (all for the boarding price of $20 per person)!
12/2019 DIVE BLOG – To Buddy Dive or Not to Buddy Dive?
I’m sure this will be controversial since the importance of the dive-buddy system is a scuba tradition that starts with the first open water class and continues to be enforced on most dive charter boats. I would argue that the dive-buddy system as an absolute rule is flawed logic. Back in the day, equipment was unreliable and with today’s equipment, failures are rare. Plus, dive buddies seldom practice and prepare for an emergency underwater after their initial training. Studies have shown that dive-buddy teams do not provide adequate support or assistance in a real emergency. The buddy system also can become a crutch for the less-experienced diver.
With proper training and certification, I’ve come to prefer solo diving especially when my usual cast of characters are not available. I enjoy the peace and tranquility of the solo underwater experience. While I generally have a dive plan before I hit the water, solo diving allows me to significantly change my dive plan if a passing shark captures my attention and I descend that extra fifty feet to the sand and hit a little decompression obligation for the pelagic encounter. With a less experienced or unfamiliar dive-buddy, that wouldn’t be a proper option.
But what about technical diving? After all, that means having enough gas not just to complete the dive, but also to deal with emergencies. It means having anything that counts as life-support equipment, including cylinders, first and second stages, signaling devices and a schedule of decompression stops PLUS the experience, training and certification. Let’s examine the experience (or inexperience) mismatch; there will always be divers who have more or less experience and training than their buddy, but it is usually to the benefit of the less-experienced diver. FYI…a huge thank you to all of you out there that let me tag along at the various levels of my inexperience. I learned a lot from that!
The intuitive nature of a great buddy team is non-replaceable and NOTHING is better than a great peer buddy team with experience together in technical diving. Knowledge of how your buddy thinks and/or reacts above and below the surface is critical when something goes sideways at two hundred feet. Also, the decision-making process is more effective in a team situation. What’s the old adage…two heads are better than one (why not three)? Working through options together makes the correct decision more likely and underwater equipment adjustments and repairs are more easily identified and resolved.
I will continue to dive solo whenever the mood strikes me, but for those of you who I count as my dearest friends and dive-buddies, I always look forward to sharing our next adventure together soon!
08/2019 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.
05/2019 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 too 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
03/2019 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
01/2019 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!
12/2018 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!
03/2018 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.
01/2018 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!
12/2017 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 prepared 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.
11/2017 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!
10/2017 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.
07/2017 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!
03/2017 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?
06/2015 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!
12/2013 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 USS 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!
07/2013 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 USS 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 might have eradicated 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.
06/2013 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?
05/2013 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 USNS 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!
12/2010 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 Lisa (aka Finless), our resident SSI instructor, as needed!
12/2010 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 USNS Vandenberg double-dip, Marathon to dip the Thunderbolt with my son Dale over the Thanksgiving holiday, Key Largo for the usual USS 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 Wreck 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 Wreck 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 Tenneco 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 Tenneco Tower double-dip a regular part of our dive schedule.
11/2010 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 USS 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 DeMilly 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!
10/2010 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 USS 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 Lisa 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!
10/2010 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 USS 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 USNS 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.
09/2010 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 USCG Bibb, USCG Duane, and USS Spiegel Grove. There were two highlights on these dives. On the USCG 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 USS 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 DeMilly 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 USS 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.
09/2010 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 Wreck 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 USS Spiegel Grove (135’). Monday morning, we head back to the Doc DeMilly (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.
08/2010 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 thanking 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 USS 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 Wreck Trek (70’) in the afternoon with RJ’s out of Miami Beach. We are looking forward to returning to the Doc DeMilly (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.
08/2010 DIVE BLOG – Medical Clearance to Double Deep the Eagle Saturday and the USS 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 USS 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.
08/2010 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 USS Spiegel Grove and a USCG Duane/Reef on Saturday with a beautiful reef dive on Sunday morning.
07/2010 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 USS 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 USNS 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 USS Spiegel Grove (130’) - USCG Duane (120’) with Scuba-Do on Saturday morning and a USS 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 flyboy 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).
07/2010 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 USS Spiegel Grove on Saturday afternoon with Horizon Divers in Key Largo. Next weekend we head to Key West to double dip the USNS 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!
06/2010 DIVE BLOG – Dale is a Certified Open Water Diver!
Great News! Dale is the first certified diver in the family and I cannot be prouder 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 DeMilly (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.
06/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lionfish 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 USS 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 lionfish 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 Wreck 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 lionfish. Our intrepid hero Lisa (aka Finless) 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 lionfish 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 DeMilly (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 DeMilly owes me a current-free dive after the last encounter beat us up badly.
06/2010 DIVE BLOG – Tenneco Towers, Eagle Double-Dip, and the Doc DeMilly 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 DeMilly 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 DeMilly 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 DeMilly (150’) and Ultra Freeze (135’) with RJ Diving Ventures on Saturday (06/26) afternoon!
05/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lotsa Great Dives Planned!
Wow! This past weekend we double-dipped the USS 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 DeMilly (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 DeMilly (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!
05/2010 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 USS Spiegel Grove, two shallow reefs off Miami Beach, a solo trip around the Wreck 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!
05/2010 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 USS 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 Karlene, 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 Tower. 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)!
04/2010 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!
04/2010 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 an HMS 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 HMS 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?
04/2010 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.
03/2010 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!
03/2010 DIVE BLOG – Lots of Dives 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 USS 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
02/2010 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 USS Spiegel Grove on Sunday morning! Dive, Dive, Dive (hopefully)!
02/2010 DIVE BLOG – Rescheduled Lemon Shark Dive!
How about a Monday night dive? Our Irish ex-patriot 747 flyboy 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!”
02/2010 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!
02/2010 DIVE BLOG – Double Dip Ophelia Wednesday Night!
On Saturday, we double dipped the USS 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 Lionfish). 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!
01/2010 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!
01/2010 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!
01/2010 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!
01/2010 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% USS 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.
12/2009 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 USS Spiegel Grove and Eagle double-dips we have planned for three straight weekends. Saturday’s USS 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.
12/2009 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 USS 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.
12/2009 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 USS 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!
12/2009 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 USCG Duane. During the surface interval, we heard poor viz and currents were being experienced on the USS Spiegel Grove, so we decided to stay on the USCG 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 USS 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).
12/2009 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 Wreck 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 USCG Duane (120’) and the USS 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 USNS Vandenburg (130’). I’ll keep you posted!
11/2009 - 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 USCG Duane and USS Spiegel Grove. While the current was a small issue on the USCG 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 USS Spiegel 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, USNS Vandenburg in Key West claimed its first fatality, as did the USS Oriskany in Pensacola, and lastly Key Largo lost a diver on Molasses 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.
11/2009 - 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. (Froggified 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 Wreck 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!
10/2009 - 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 USS Spiegel 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!
10/2009 - 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 bioluminescence), 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 USS 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!
10/2009 - 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 USS 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!
10/2009 - 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 USS 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!
09/2009 - 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 USS Spiegel 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 fin (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 USCG 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!
09/2009 - 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 (aka Finless) 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 USCG 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.
09/2009 - 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 Tenneco 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!
08/2009 - DIVE BLOG - Tenneco Towers and the 400th Dive
Did you ever have one of those dives? Last weekend’s Doc DeMilly 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 DeMilly 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!