I went TDY to Homestead ARB, FL for two weeks and was able to do my first “post-op” dives since my neck operation back in April.
I dove with Ocean Divers in Key Largo ( www.oceandivers.com
) after being referred to them by Brion (GypsyDiver.) Since I was testing my neck to see if it would hold up under the weight, pressure, etc, I decided to forgo any wreck diving in the area and just do some reef dives. Which was hard because of the Duane, Spiegel Grove and, now, the Vandenberg being in the Key’s area. I scheduled a 2-tank with the 0800 boat and a 2-tank with the 1300 boat. Since I went by myself, I was an “Insta-Buddy.” My buddy for dives 1 and 2 was awesome. Good skills, good communication. I had a whole different outlook on Insta-Buddy after diving with him. Dives, 3 and 4… Not so much. They weren’t “awful” but they could have been a lot better. Oh well, take the good with the bad. :)
The day (Sunday, June 14th) was perfect. We had about 90 degrees in the morning and around 92 or so that afternoon. The water temps ranged from 85 degrees on the surface to 83-84 at depth. Viz was in the 75-80 foot range. The plant life and marine life was outstanding. I didn’t realize, until I did these dives, that I had only done wreck or spring dives. I had actually never done a real reef dive before. I’m a big fan of reef diving now. All of our dives were done at different sites on Molasses Reef off Key Largo.
Dive 1: Fire Coral Cave. Huge amounts of plant life. Brain coral, tube sponges, sea fans, etc. And, of course, awesome amounts of sea life. We saw one of the “locals” there. A 250 lb Jewfish (Goliath Grouper,) three playful puffer fish and some huge tarpon in the area. There were many other fish such as Parrotfish, Angels, Snapper, etc. I think the Keys must be the Parrotfish capital of the world. They were everywhere!!! Stats for dive 1: Max depth was 25 feet and bottom time was 1 hour 6 minutes. And I still came up with 1000 psi in a steel 80.
Dive 2: Spanish Anchor. I saw my first moray eel. A little brown one about a foot to a foot and a half. It was fighting a fish for food and lost. Cool to see him though. We also saw one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen under water. You all know what a baitball is.. Well, this was a “bait-ledge.” There was a ledge about 20 feet long and about 4 ½ feet high. The entire opening of it was covered with baitfish. It was amazing.. I made a couple videos of it and they are loaded on my Divebuddy profile. Max depth was 31 feet and bottom time was 1 hour 4 minutes. I, again, came up with 1100 lbs in my steel 80 after starting with 2600. I also noticed after this dive that most “Resort” divers only do about 45 minute dives. I was always the last to come up. (And had the most air)
After a couple hours back at the dive shop and a great lunch at the Restaurant that’s attached to it, we boarded the “White boat” and headed back out to Molasses Reef. Unfortunately, it was at this time that I noticed I had left my camera back on the Green Boat and they had already left. So, I had no camera for the next two dives. (It was waiting for in the dive shop when we got back though)
Dive 3: Snapper Ledge. Had my two other buddies that I had to keep an eye on. This dive had a pretty strong current no one expected. One of my buddies called his dive after about 20 minutes because he couldn’t deal with the current. Me and the other stayed down and swam “upstream” as far as we could and then just drifted back to the boat. We saw a couple sea turtles and a couple of fish doing some kind of mating/fighting thing we had never seen before. Pretty cool to watch. Max depth was 30 feet and bottom time was 54 minutes. (Came up with still having 1200 psi in the tank)
Dive 4: Back to Fire Coral Cave because of the “current“ situation at the last site. Too many people complained. This time, the Jewfish was gone. But, as we were exploring, I ran across a 6-8 foot green Moray out of his hole. I freaked out!! That thing was huge and it was beautiful!!! I followed him over the ledge to get a better view but he disappeared as quick as he showed up. But, as we were looking for him, a 4 foot nurse shark swam right by us. Very cool, but I was pissed I didn’t have my camera. I called the dive at 51 minutes because I was getting a bad headache. The neck was fine, but 4 hours in the water was taking it’s toll on my head. Max depth was 24 feet on this dive.
After 4 hours in the water, I was happy to see that my neck was perfect. It got tired, but no lasting ill effects, so I’m looking at more trips soon to “up the ante” slightly more each time. By the end of the year, I should be back to 100% and ready to do any type of diving again.
Thanks to GypsyDiver for pointing me towards Ocean Divers. And, if you look in my profile pics, I took apicture of one of the DiveBuddy stickers in the shop. Didn’t get a chnace to look for the other two.