An alarm clock is rarely a friend when it is set to go off at 5:00 in the morning on a Sunday. Funny how that attitude changes when you’re waking up to go diving though! My wife and I had no problem popping out of bed, donning our swimsuits and loading the pre-packed gear, snacks, drinks and tanks into the truck.
We were on the road by 5:45, after stopping for some pop-tarts and chocolate milk (my breakfast of choice before downing Dramamine). Traffic, as I’m sure you can imagine, was sparse and we made it to Sea Dogs in New Smyrna
at 7:40. Since we arrived early, we got prime position on the boat, second and third from the ladder!
We have dove with Sea Dogs many times, and they never disappoint. I love having the shop only one block from the boat. Very convenient. The boat was full, with Keith doing a class and several other divers taking advantage of the picture perfect weather. The nice thing about a full boat at Sea Dogs is it does not mean a crowded boat. We had plenty of room to set up, store gear and sit during the 1:20 minute ride to our first site.
going to the boat...
...setting up the gear...
...and heading out!
The group on the boat was great, and we made several new friends. Everyone was a competent diver, and Keith, as always, did a fantastic job of keeping his class separate, accounted for and safe. Debbie, who has been the DM every time I’ve been on the boat, gave her usual informative briefings and kept us entertained with stories of her diving adventures. The captain (who’s name I unfortunately forget) and crew are top notch and customer focused. We were treated to glass flat seas on Lake Atlantic, instead of the 2-4’s that were forecast. DIVE 1: Mindanao; 90fsw, 43min, 73°F; Viz: 25-30 ft.; EANx32
We did our first drop on my favorite wreck in NSB. We hooked to the bow, and immediately headed to the stern section. Starting at the bottom, we swam the sand to the rudder, ascended to the deck and headed back towards the break. Shining my light through a hole in the deck, I noticed a huge eye staring up at me. Looking closer, I saw some awfully big fish lips...Goliath Grouper 1! We observed him through the hole for a bit, then swam to the break and watched him in all his 7 foot glory from below deck. We were also buzzed by a huge school of Atlantic Spade Fish that blocked out the light and engulfed us for several seconds. Great first dive of the day!SURFACE INTERVAL
One of the things that, to me, sets Sea Dogs apart is the SI. First, they provide pineapple! I don’t what it is, the salt, the sea, whatever, but pineapple never tastes better than in between dives. I usually have to bring my own, but not here! Second, we did a nice leisurely 1:45 SI, providing us with plenty of BT on the second dive. DIVE 2: Rio Yuna; 78fsw, 47min; 73°F; Viz: 40ft.; EANx32
This is quickly moving up my the list of my favorite dives in NSB. Great structure for swim throughs and the big guys, and plenty of rubble for the smaller stuff. Beneath decks, we saw Goliath Groupers 2,3 and 4! These were just babies though. We were third and fourth down the line, the first pair dropped 3 or 4 minutes before us. As soon as we hit the wreck, I could hear the thumping of some Goliaths. I knew there were areound somewhere, but where? As we circled the wreck, I did a swim through past some small rooms that looked like they could have been crew quarters. Through a porthole, I saw them! Exiting the wreck, we swam to a broken up portion of the wreck and saw them just hanging around between decks on the stern. They moved a bit, be never did get spooked enough to swim away. We spent quite a bit of time watching and I made one attempt to cut fishing line and a lure that was dragging from one of these babies (they were maybe 5 ft. long). He (she?) wouldn’t let me close enough though.
Sadly, it ended all too quickly and it was time to head back in.
And it looked like we were heading for some rain...
But it dissipated before we got to the dock. The crew unloads all the tanks and gear, bringing them curbside for easy pickup, another great service.
We stopped by Pub 44
(on Rt. 44, of course, between the boat and I-95) for burgers and wings (try the buffalo hot with garlic...mmmmm) at their tiki bar.
The fantastic end to a wonderful dive day! Conclusion:
It was nice to finally get out with Sea Dogs, this was the fifth time I’ve tried and the first one that weather didn’t cancel! We had a great time, met cool new people and went home content. Could not have asked for more. If you live within three hours of New Smyrna Beach, you should add Sea Dogs to your list of regular ops. If you live further away, consider a dive vacation there. It’s not the blue water of SEFL, but it’s just as enjoyable and every bit as fun.