Florida Keys

This isn’t Muck Diving!  True, but that doesn’t mean those in the Midwest cannot treat themselves to some of the more exotic diving experiences.  Because the traditional Muck Diver doesn’t dive in paradise everyday information on dive ops, hotels, what should I do and not do become essential when planning a trip to paradise.  Because of all these questions, we thought we would give everybody a one-stop place to go to learn about these places and hopefully help with planning your next trip.  Once again, the success of this relies upon those that have taken the journey.  So, please help out and tell us about your trips and what worked and what did not work.

10 Responses to “Florida Keys”

  1. Snagel says:

    Original Post by SEMO Scuba on ScubaToys

    Conch Republic turned out to be a fine dive operation. They let you dive on your own, and ask you to limit it to 500 psi or 60 minutes. All dives but my wreck dive are 50 to 62 minutes and the sites are shallow enough that most dives I end up with over 1000 psi. My wife decided to go out and snorkel a couple of times while I was diving and that worked pretty well. Their big boat had 25 divers the first day, and I would not have been happy if that was the case for the rest of the week, but the other days ranged from 8 to 14 divers. Afternoons I went out on their smaller boat with 5 to 8 divers. They have a good shop and my regs ended up needing work while I was there. They provided me with rental regs while they worked on mine.

    Th dive sites were almost all very good and I got in 16 dives for the week. The first dive was pretty blah, but the rest were good to very good. Most of the dives are 30′ or less and I only did 3 dives over 35′. One deeper dive was the Duane wreck, and the current was fierce. Currents can be pretty strong on the local wrecks, you never know till you get down to depth. Viz in the keys is not like viz at Cozumel. Good viz in the keys is 50-60 feet, while normal viz at Cozumel is 100 feet plus.

    We stayed at Ocean Point Suites. They were a little late getting us checked in because housekeeping was running behind cleaning rooms. Our condo was nice and well kept, but had a tiny balcony that barely holds two chairs. It has a kitchen, living area, two baths, and two bedrooms. We only paid for a one bedroom so they have the doors locked to the second. The facility and grounds were very nice.

    There are a lot of local restaurants, and few large chain operations. The local eateries are good, and range from cheap in cost to moderate.

  2. Snagel says:

    Dive Report – Disney Dive Quest
    Original post by John Yaskowich on ScubaToys

    My wife and I took our 5 year old granddaughter on a Florida vacation last week. As part of it we went to Walt Disney World (here-after to be known as “The Land of the Over-Bored and Hyper-Stimulated Kids”). We did Sydney’s 5th birthday at Disney and she had a blast. She got the full Princess make-over on her birthday and was treated like royalty all day (and all trip).

    Anyway – on the Wednesday I told Sydney that I would see her at dinner and broke away. Off I went to do the Disney Dive Quest adventure. As part of the Seas exhibit at EPCOT they have a 203ft diameter aquarium with lots of fish (about 60 different types) and I got to dive there. I had booked it a few months in advance and was looking forward to it like a kid does to Christmas. It lived up to the expectations.

    Disney supplies all dive gear – to lessen the chances of contamination of the pool – although you can bring your mask if you want (I did because of my heavy prescription). After a tour of the backstage facilities where we saw the filtration plant, the kitchen and food prep areas, isolation and medical facilities, etc. it was time to sign waivers, suit up and get wet. There were 13 of us on the dive – me, 11 teens and their leader (some sort of science / academic achievement reward group), plus a Disney DM, 2 safety divers and a videographer. We were led on a short tour of the tank then let loose to do our own thing. I immediately headed over to the windows overlooking the Coral Reef Restaurant, where my wife, mother-in-law, and Sydney were just being seated. I waved to attract their attention and Sydney looked up. It took her a few seconds to put the pieces together but she suddenly YELLED “Grandpa! That diver-man is my Grandpa!” Talk about becoming the instant envy of every kid in the place! I spent most of the next 20+ minutes goofing around with Sydney through the glass – doing barrel rolls, standing on my head, admiring a shark and a turtle that cruised by, etc. The videographer came by as we were having fun and caught some of it on tape. I also cruised by and waved to other dinners but my main focus was my family. The total dive portion was a touch over 40 minutes. After we surfaced and shed our tanks it was off to the showers then a debrief. They showed us the video that was shot (Sydney and I were well featured – of course I bought a copy!) then the experience came to a close. I met my family just coming out of the restaurant so we went back to the hotel. Sydney could not stop talking about seeing Grandpa in with the fish, and made me promise to go diving with her when she is old enough. It is already added to my bucket list for about 5 years down the line.

    If you are ever at Walt Disney World, do the Dive Quest adventure. Yes, it is a touch expensive (about $175) but the memories are priceless.

    A couple of closing thoughts: This is Disney – they go out of their way to make all aspects of your visit Magical. I found the leadership, safety and gear to all be top-notch. The one part of the planning that I found wanting was the lack of communication. There was never an e-mail acknowledging the booking or giving directions for the meet-up. It is on their web-site (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/ev…cot-divequest/ ) to meet at the main entrance 15 minutes prior but having an e-mail to confirm would have be nice.

  3. Snagel says:

    Key West Dive Trip Log February 2013
    Original Post by FirePlug on ScubaToys

    Well, I finally got time to sit down and put digits to keys and share our recent dive trip. We were able to do 10 dives in 4 days.
    Our group took off from Port Columbus, Ohio International Airport on Thursday morning after spending the night at The Airport Hampton on Wednesday night, February 21. Arrived Key West after a plane change in Orlando. Snagged a cab and checked in at Ibis Bay Resort. Rooms wouldn’t be ready until 4 so we had lunch and did the tourist thing. Without telling anyone, my friend Pat walked back to the airport 2 1/2 miles away and got us a rental car. This turned out to be lots cheaper than cabs even with pay to park which is common in Key West. Our first night on the island we slid on down to Margaritaville. Was a good deal as we were able to get together with some friends from home and have dinner together.

    Friday morning dawned beautiful and we did our first dives on Joe’s Tug and The Cayman Salvage Master. Both were stocked with lots of fish including a nice sized Goliath Grouper. Upon returning to the dock, we partook of the lunch and libations at The Hogfish Bar next door. Everybody says their conch fritters are the best. I still fail to understand the taste. Must be acquired or something.

    Saturday saw us out for a full day of 4 dives. We sailed for the Reefs at Marquesses Key. All shallow and fishy. The second dive that morning was the best as we caught a chunk of ocean with crystal clear water and lots of sunshine. Perfect. We had pulled pork sandwiches for lunch on the boat, provided by Kelly, Captain Jack’s wife. Dinner that night was at The Hogfish Bar. My wife said they had the best coconut shrimp she had ever had.

    Sunday dawned clear and sunny with some wispy clouds. First up was The Vandenberg. This is Key West’s signature wreck which is noted for it’s nasty currents. This morning was no exception. I impressed everyone with my swimming skills by promptly getting blown to the rear of the boat while trying to swim a gerry line over to the last buoy on the wreck. Pat stepped up and aimed further up current and got our safety line tied in. 5 divers and a Divemaster went in the water and pulled ourselves down to the wreck. The current died off about half way down the rope. I made the bow at 92′ and swam with our group of 3 toward the stern. We ascended up to the bridge and swan thru the windows, across the bridge and out towards the stern to the front radar dish. This is the 50′ diameter one made out of pipes that you see in the ads for this wreck. There were scads of barracudas overhead lined up shoulder to shoulder, moving their fins to stay stationary in the current. After playing for a bit we started up to the 3rd buoy, doing our safety stop at 15′. On the surface, we floated back to the 2nd buoy then on back to the boat. Captain Robin made the call that the current was not good and we were off to do a shallow reef dive to finish up that day. After lunch we headed back to our rooms and ventured out later for dinner at Sloppy Joe’s. We did sunset at Mallory Square. Captain Robin said that the week before they pulled up to the Vandenberg and did not see any of the 5 mooring balls. The current had them all pulled underwater! These mooring balls are probably 36″ across….

    Our final day, Monday, of diving saw us diving a couple of close by reefs. They were shallow, bright and fishy. I got brave and used Pat’s iPhone in my new Igills case. My phone wasn’t backed up so was scared to try it out at depth. His phone had been backed up the night before so away we went. And what a surprise!!! Fantastic pictures, easily indexed nitrox, digital compass, full featured dive computer and a profile graphic of the dives. What more could you want? I am anxious to get a CD back of the pictures as they looked great on the boat, viewed on the iPhone’s screen.

    Once back to dock we off loaded and cleaned up our gear. We were able to lay out our gear back at the Ibis Bay pool and have lunch. Further drying was finished up on our deck while going out to dinner. This meal was done at the resort and was fairly unremarkable. I would still recommend it though.

    Adventure Watersports Charter is very easy to dive with. Captains Jack and Robin are both scuba instructors and experienced Captains. They allow you to dive your dives without any hassles about time yet they keep you safe. We did all of our dives on nitrox. Captain Jack’s wife Kelly handles all of the office duties and logistics and does a polite job of it. She also provides good food and plenty of it. A little note about The Emily Ann, she is a 43′ Torres with a 15′ beam and a Detroit Diesel power plant, on board generator and air compressor. Not the fastest thing on the water but safe and comfortable. We did a 3 day live aboard on this boat last April and we have a 4 day Wreck Trek coming up end of April with them. Totally recommend it.

    My thoughts on Key West are:
    Ibis Bay Resort was a decent place to stay for the money. While not a 5 star property, it was clean and we felt safe. The restaurant and bar on premise was decent. Breakfast was their best meal. Only annoyance is the lack of a sidewalk to the rear of the building where our room was. I understand the whole sand and palm tree thing but dragging a 50 pound suitcase thru the sand is not cool at all. Small price to pay for the ocean view every morning I guess.
    Get a rental car. Even with the pay to park it is still easier, maybe cheaper and way more convenient than cabs. Cab for 5 from the airport to the resort was $35. Rental car was $300 for 5 days plus $25 for fuel. Without the rental car we would have had a minimum of 18 cab fares. I can see arguments both ways but having a car at our convenience was worth a lot.
    The water was nice as I made all of my dives in a 3 mil wetsuit, hood and gloves. Water temps were high 70’s and air temp around 80.

    All in all a great trip. Scuba diving for some, pool side and beach for the wives. Lots more to see and do if you have the time and money.

    We’ll go back, I’m sure.

  4. Snagel says:

    Girls Keys Road Trip
    August 2012
    Original Post by Jet126 on ScubaToys

    We drove down from my house in Margate Saturday afternoon so we could do some shopping at the Rain Barrel (MM87) and eat at the Hungry Tarpon/Robbie’s (MM75). To do over, I would just pay to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s, which is fun, and eat elsewhere. While the ambiance is great the food is just ok and the service is awful. We did get some wonderfully tacky Keysie gifts, however!

    We stayed at Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo, located bayside at MM104. The room was spacious enough for two people with two beds and a big walk in closet. It was equipped with a small fridge and coffee maker. While very basic, I have no complaints as it was very clean (sleeping room and bathroom) and cheerfully decorated.

    The resort is laid out with office and dive shop at the front, 2-story building with rooms on both levels heading back towards water. There is a large deck over the water and a tiki hut where they serve complimentary coffee in the morning. From the deck you can hear the music from the bar down the road – nice for sitting out at night, and still totally quiet in the room.

    We were in the last row of rooms, closest to the dive boat. It was super easy in the morning to roll out of bed and walk the few steps to the dock.

    The dive boat is a large catamaran that can hold up to 30 divers plus snorkelers. We had 20 divers and 2 snorkelers on Sunday. I felt like we had ample room to set up and store our gear. I had requested in advance Christ of the Abyss and City of Washington as we were taking photos and wanted long shallow dives. The captain took us to the Christ statue first, and by the time we were finished with our dive the place was a mess of snorkelers and other dive boats. So instead of CofW, Capt Rob took us to North North Dry Rocks. We were the only people there. It was beautiful. Diving off Boynton Beach and Blue Heron Bridge I am very spoiled. I didn’t expect nor necessarily want to be impressed with the Keys but I was. The water that day was flat, with no current and vis easily 80-100 ft. It was so very blue and the colors of the sea fans and corals just popped. There is not as much fish as I expected but we did run into a school of 35-40 reef squid. I had also “requested” a spotted eagle ray and Capt Ron delivered.

    Both Capt Ron and DM Alyssa were great. SGJ and I were the only locals on the boat and watched the patience and professionalism with which they handled our fellow passengers.

    I would definitely use Amoray again, both the resort and the dive op. Walt, in the office, handled everything from our room reservation to the dive with a single phone call. Not one thing was awry. I just think I will stay away from weekends, which tend to be very crowded this time of year. One last note: they give you a complimentary late check out if you’re on the morning dive boat – one hour after the boat docks. More than enough time to grab a quick shower and be on our way!

  5. snagel says:

    Keys report
    March 2012
    Original Post by LMM1967 on ScubaToys

    Conditions were good. Seas never above 2 or 3 feet, visibility around 50′, water temps 68 – 69 on the reefs.

    Highly recommend Conch Republic for anyone looking for an operator.

    Fiancé and I finally made it to the Keys for a few days. Arrived Thursday and got checked into Ocean Pointe Suites – we were in building 4 and had a great ocean view. Great place to stay and we will stay there again. Friday we visited Conch Republic to get setup for dives. I had not dove from a boat in the ocean since 1984 and this would be a first time for my fiancé so we wanted to try to gauge conditions and talk to the staff. The team at Conch Republic were great, they told us they could put together a reef trip – it would most likely be only us and 2 others. They recommended we dive at least 1 or 2 times with a dive master / tour guide – we agreed that would be a good idea and we were setup for a Saturday morning trip to reefs.

    Saturday morning came and we were surprised to see the larger boat being prepped – since there were only 4 divers I assumed we would be going out on the smaller boat. Since my fiancé has a tendency to get motion sickness I was glad to see we would be on the larger boat. We had started her on bonine a few days earlier and kept her on it the entire trip.

    After a short 20 minute boat ride and some excellent discussion and guidance by the divemaster (can’t remember names – sorry, but everyone at Conch had the same great attitude!!) we arrived at Snapper Ledge, finished suiting up and in the water we went. The crew on the boat were great – they focused attention on my fiancé and made her first walk across a rocking boat with tank and fins on a good experience. In the water we went. Fiancé took a minute or 2 at the surface getting used to being in the ocean. Our divemaster did great (again), increasing her comfort and making sure she was ready to descend. Once she began descending I followed – we had guessed at how much weight I would need and although I was able to swim my way to the bottom once there it was obvious I was too buoyant – divemaster surfaced, retrieved 4 pounds and assisted getting it in the pockets of my BC. All was good so we began the tour. Bottom temp was about 69, visibility probably about 50. Our guide immediately started pointing out critters – lobsters, a turtle, LIONFISH, 2 morays and a few nurse sharks – all the normal reef fish were present as well. Once pressures required we surfaced and re-boarded the boat for the short ride to Little Conch. Same scenario as 1st site except I was weighted properly and fiancé knew what to expect. Divemaster did another great tour – he knew the reefs well and was great at pointing out hard to find residents of the reef.

    We were able to dive Sunday morning and Monday afternoon – again, all double reef trips. Great trip for us, total of 6 excellent dives, overall about 5 ½ hours of bottom time. I was able to practice basic navigation and actually was able to explore a good bit and still get us back to the boat every time!

    Hopefully back to the keys in a few months and we will be back at Ocean Pointe for a place to stay and diving will be with Conch Republic.

  6. Snagel says:

    South Florida and Florida Keys dive report
    April 10, 2011
    Original Post by FirePlug on ScubaToys

    Once again I’ve decided to write a little blurb about our recent scuba diving trip to the diving paradise known as South Florida and the Florida Keys. We did Key West, Key Largo and Ft. Lauderdale. For the record, I’m Rick Mansfield, semi-retired fire buff and avid diver. I retired in 2006, took up scuba in 2007 and have had a great time so far!!! Only problem I have is having to work a part time job to pay for my addictions. Well enough about my problems, how about some diving commentary?
    Flew in Wednesday, March 30 to Ft. Lauderdale. Lounged around the afternoon and evening then on the road at 4 am Thursday for Key West. Luckily very little traffic on the Florida Turnpike and we were in position at Subtropic Dive Shop at 7:30. Took our time loading out and headed for The Vandenburg. I have been wanting to see this mother since they put her under and I was not disappointed. Our boat tied off on the #3 buoy, got briefed and we headed down. I noticed while pulling myself along the rope that the current seemed pretty stiff. Once I got down on top of the of the ship I really understood what it was about. We were all hanging onto the handrail doing our best Superman flying impressions. I worked to the rear of the bulkhead with the current coming at me out of the west, (stern). I could move sideways on the bulkhead but could not push out away or swim into it. My instructor always said the fierciest current he had ever faced was on the Andrea Doria and he said that this was right up there with it!!! I swear if someone would have lost their grip, they would have surfaced a mile down range by the time you made it back to the surface. Advice to anyone going to do the Vandy, make sure you have some experience under your belt before booking it. Anyhow, we worked around on top of the bridge until out time was up and then reboarded the boat. After a nice SI we had one diver sit out the second dive so we reshuffled buddies and hit the water. Once on top of the bridge, same buoy, I looked around and thought, “Where’s the current?”. Amazingly we only had wisps and nudges compared to the fire stream from our first dive. Took off and went down to 96’ on the deck, did the mesh radar dish, thru the bridge area and had one of the greatest dives of my life. Could not believe it was the same wreck. We came back up a happy bunch and headed in. Went to Duval Street and did lunch at Sloppy Joe’s. Listened to the guitar player and keyboard guy do some good tunes and washed it all down with a couple of Rum Runners. Walked around a bit, did the pic thing at the Southernmost Buoy and headed for Key Largo. As I had nodded off and on when not driving that morning I made an effort to see everything on the way north. I was not disappointed. We checked in at Keys West motel in Key Largo. Clean place, polite staff. Up and out the next morning for breakfast at Doc’s then up to Captain Slate’s for the Creature Feature. I had done the shark feed deal here before and really enjoyed it. This time the winds out of the NE had the bottom riled up so the vis was less than great. My first time buddied up with a new diver in my role as a divemaster in training. I made it down, got gathered up and over to the anchor drop and promptly swam off the wrong way looking for the site. My instructor used his esp and gathered up our lost souls and we got to see the fishies. Frazier Nivens was on site doing his underwater video thing. We had 5 or 6 nurse sharks and a couple of 100 pound groupers hamming it up for the cameras. All too soon we headed back for the boat. Our next dive was on Mike’s Wreck. Fishy dive but the viz was still crappy. We got back in and loaded up to get back to our home base in Ft. Lauderdale. Dinner that night at Fish City. This is a great seafood place in Coconut Creek. Patricia is the den mother for our group and she doesn’t forget a name or what your drink after your first time there. Next morning we headed over to Pompano Dive Center and got 4 dives in with them. I had not dove with them before but some of the group we were with had made the reservations. I am used to going with Dixie Divers but Pompano did a nice job also. I especially liked the warm water shower hose on the stern of the boat. We had hit a thermocline on our deeper dives so this felt really good!!! Our dives consisted of The Captain Dan, (my favorite wreck), Ancient Mariner, the Rodeo 25 and a reef drift dive. We only had one problem in that we had a gentlemen from Russia on vacation on the boat. He related that he had 6 dives total and the crew asked if he could tag along with our group. We always welcome lost puppies and divers without buddies. We were cruising along at 90’ when I noticed our comrade diver starting to shade up in the water column. Our instructor, Captain Rick, was closest to him and tried to get his BCD to dump and ended up going all the way to the surface with him. We met up with Captain Rick at the safety stop and had a nice long hang before reboarding. Once on board the Captain and divemaster said they had not been able to get the BCD to act up again. Next dive was a shallow reef. Going down I kept an eye on our guest and when he started to get buoyant I was able to get above him and push him down. This happened 3 times and I was finally able to get his buoyancy straightened around. One side of his bladder was aired up and the other side was flat. I’m not a service tech or play one on TV but something was not right with that guy’s BCD.
    Next morning we only had 3 of us able to dive in the morning due to flights so we did The Mercedes and a reef drift dive.
    I was able to get 10 dives in 4 days so was happy. Something is going right as I was able to see another sea turtle at depth. My trip down to Florida in January was my first turtle sighting. Hope this becomes a trend. I love the turtles.
    Monday was a day of rest. Ran down to Miami to see some stuff, cleaned the condo, did laundry, fueled the van, packed up everyone’s dive gear that was dry and generally hopped around until dinnertime. Up the next morning ready for a shared limo ride to the airport and back to the Buckeye. Everything was going smooth until they announced that there was a weather delay. As tends to happen, this snowballed into one delayed flight into another. I was supposed to go via Memphis to Columbus, Ohio, landing at 4ish. Reality was I didn’t get out of Ft. Lauderdale until 6 pm to Nashville then into Columbus at 11:45. I got home at 2 am, had a grass fire at 6, they cancelled it, back to bed, up at 8:30 to get ready to go to a funeral. Back to work after lunch. Fire meeting Wednesday evening….Wait a minute, I’m supposed to be retired!!! Anyhow, slept real good that night!!!
    All in all, a good time. Highly recommend diving The Vandenberg and can’t wait to do it again. Key Largo is always great. Captain Elmo at Captain Slate’s Atlantis Dive Center makes me giggle everytime I look at him. Something about being named Elmo, I guess…….
    If you are in Central or Southeast Ohio look up http://www.captainricksscuba.com if you want an experienced instructor for your dive education needs or if you are looking for a group to dive with.
    Till next time, fins up!!!

  7. Snagel says:

    Keys report
    Original Post by LMM1967 on ScubaToys
    2/5/11

    Conditions were good. Seas never above 2 or 3 feet, visibility around 50′, water temps 68 – 69 on the reefs.

    Highly recommend Conch Republic for anyone looking for an operator.

    Fiancé and I finally made it to the Keys for a few days. Arrived Thursday and got checked into Ocean Pointe Suites – we were in building 4 and had a great ocean view. Great place to stay and we will stay there again. Friday we visited Conch Republic to get setup for dives. I had not dove from a boat in the ocean since 1984 and this would be a first time for my fiancé so we wanted to try to gauge conditions and talk to the staff. The team at Conch Republic were great, they told us they could put together a reef trip – it would most likely be only us and 2 others. They recommended we dive at least 1 or 2 times with a dive master / tour guide – we agreed that would be a good idea and we were setup for a Saturday morning trip to reefs.

    Saturday morning came and we were surprised to see the larger boat being prepped – since there were only 4 divers I assumed we would be going out on the smaller boat. Since my fiancé has a tendency to get motion sickness I was glad to see we would be on the larger boat. We had started her on bonine a few days earlier and kept her on it the entire trip.

    After a short 20 minute boat ride and some excellent discussion and guidance by the divemaster (can’t remember names – sorry, but everyone at Conch had the same great attitude!!) we arrived at Snapper Ledge, finished suiting up and in the water we went. The crew on the boat were great – they focused attention on my fiancé and made her first walk across a rocking boat with tank and fins on a good experience. In the water we went. Fiancé took a minute or 2 at the surface getting used to being in the ocean. Our divemaster did great (again), increasing her comfort and making sure she was ready to descend. Once she began descending I followed – we had guessed at how much weight I would need and although I was able to swim my way to the bottom once there it was obvious I was too buoyant – divemaster surfaced, retrieved 4 pounds and assisted getting it in the pockets of my BC. All was good so we began the tour. Bottom temp was about 69, visibility probably about 50. Our guide immediately started pointing out critters – lobsters, a turtle, LIONFISH, 2 morays and a few nurse sharks – all the normal reef fish were present as well. Once pressures required we surfaced and re-boarded the boat for the short ride to Little Conch. Same scenario as 1st site except I was weighted properly and fiancé knew what to expect. Divemaster did another great tour – he knew the reefs well and was great at pointing out hard to find residents of the reef.

    We were able to dive Sunday morning and Monday afternoon – again, all double reef trips. Great trip for us, total of 6 excellent dives, overall about 5 ½ hours of bottom time. I was able to practice basic navigation and actually was able to explore a good bit and still get us back to the boat every time!

    Hopefully back to the keys in a few months and we will be back at Ocean Pointe for a place to stay and diving will be with Conch Republic.

  8. snagel says:

    Just returned from Key West- great experience
    Original Post by DiverDurf on ScubaToays 10/19/09

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    Bud & I went to Key West this past weekend. Squeezed in a dive on the Vandenberg with 100′ viz and 84 degree water temps and another reef dive Friday afternoon. Returned on Saturday and did another 2 tank dive on the Vandenberg; viz reduced to a whopping 80-90′; same water temps. Seas kicked up a little with that cold front that moved in which made for fun times while boarding the boat (bucking bronco!). Each of these dives were with the Lost Reef charter and they were absolutely fantastic to dive with. They really go out of their way to move “ALL” of your equipment for you on/off the boat to/from the shop. They go over a thorough safety briefing and ensure everyone is listening to them. They are also very conscious about guiding divers on/off the boat as you waddle across the boat in your fins.

    The Vandenberg: if you haven’t done it yet, you simply must! There are several lines tied off at various points making for an extremely easy descent/ascent. We had “NO” current on the ship and made several penetrations through the sides (clear openings to other side and a straight shot). There is an American flag attached at the rear of the ship that you can grab onto, dump your air, and pull down for an awesome photo op. The sea life is growing and the reef is starting to form around the ship, but it’s going to take some time yet- it’s a BIG ship.

    Came up Sunday and dove the Duane and Snapper Reef with the FL Keys Dive Center in Tavernier, FL. Those guys were awesome as always and have the biggest of dive boats in the Keys (of the Newton series……theirs are 46′). There was a strong current descending to the Duane and the staying on the lines was a must, but after that it was smooth diving with little effort. Plenty of life, plenty of curious ‘Cudas, and two reef sharks in the 5-6′ range wandering around. Had about 80-90′ viz on that one and bath water temps.

    I highly recommend both of these charters if you’re heading down. The only consideration you need for Lost Reef is that while they do air fills they do not have nitrox. You will need to get nitrox at another nearby shop, and you’ll find the fill prices to be around $10 per tank. Keep an eye on them though because a lot of shops like to fill them fast and hot, then dump air on top for when the tanks cool down. One fill resulted in 2800psi once the tank cooled off. However, an experienced diver on a 110’ dive will find that this is still plenty of air with great bottom time.

  9. admin says:

    Vandenberg Trip Report with Keys Maritime Charters
    Original Post by WaterRat on ScubaToys (8/17/09)

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    Well, today is the first day back at work after a weeks worth of wreck diving in the Keys. E-mail can wait while I tell you about the Vandenberg trip.

    Based on information from Chris at Silent World, we booked with Keys Maritime Charters Keys Maritime Charters – http://www.keysmaritimecharters.com – diving, snorkeling, fishing, and chandler service. Their boat is located at the Key West Harbor Yacht Club and has to be one of the fanciest marinas I have ever seen. No issue with parking and it is about a 30 foot walk from your car to the boat. The ladies only take out a maximum of six divers (we were the only 3 on the boat for this trip) and they have plenty of room for doubles, stages, scooters, etc…

    If you happen to be the first person to schedule a trip for a specific day, you get to pick your departure time. Sine we were driving down from Tavernier, we picked 11am depature. That was nice being able to pick the time that best worked for me.

    We headed out and the seas were great, just a light chop. Upon arriving at the wreck there was one commercial boat finishing up their second dive so we tied into the 4th ball which is mid ship at the radar dish. Upon getting tied in we could see there was a moderate current and visibility was great as we could see the radar dish from the boat. We dropped in for the first dive and did a survey from mid ship forward. Noticed a lot of bait fish schooling and there were a couple of big parrot fish on the deck. The wreck is impressive and there are a lot of places to explore.

    Once back on deck from the first dive, Capt. Kathy had hot dogs cooked for our surface interval. So we sat around, swapped stories, ate hot dogs and they had fresh cut watermelon for desert. Really a first class surface interval.

    On the second dive we went forward again and did some light penetration/swim through on the wheel house. Part of the ceiling had collapsed in the wheelhouse from the sinking. It’s pretty amazing what water pressure can do. All too soon we were hanging on the line again and waving goodbye to the Vandenberg. We’re going to try and get there once a year so we can see the progress as it becomes a reef.

    So if anyone is looking to dive the Vandenberg, I highly recommend Keys Maritime Charters. They really run a great operation.

    Oh and for the rest of the week, we dove with Conch Republic Divers. We got to do the Eagle (double dip), Spiegle/Benwood, Duane (double dip) and finally Spiegle (double dip). Seas were near flat on most days, current was light and viz was great. Really a fun trip with lots-o-wrecks!!!

    Thanks,
    Ron

  10. admin says:

    Great trip to Key Largo

    Original Post by IndyDiver on ScubaToys (6/2/09)
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    Just got back on Saturday from 5 days in Key Largo. Awesome trip, some great dives and beautiful weather almost the whole time. Turned out to be a very sparse week tourist-wise as well.

    We got there about 9pm Sunday night, which was pretty good timing because they had a severe thunderstorm come through late Sunday afternoon with 45-50 mph winds. They were still cleaning up blown-over chairs and trash from the beach when we got up Monday morning.

    Monday we just hung around on the beach, went to lunch, and did some shopping. I always like to spend the first day of a vacation just unwinding ,relaxing, and reaquainting myself with beverages that contain fruit and rum.

    Tuesday morning we dove the Benwood and French Reef. Lots of critters in both places, but the coolest part of the dive was on French Reef. I’m just floating along at about 25 fsw when this bird goes flashing by in front of me, grabs a fish, and heads back up to the surface. A bird 25 feet underwater, not exactly what I had expected to see on the dive. Figured out later that it was probably a loon. They can hold their breath for up to 3 minutes and can dive over 100 feet deep.

    Wednesday morning we only had four divers and an instructor on the boat. A Father/Son pair that were taking AOW and us were it. They both had been certified for several years and were only taking AOW because some charters were requiring it to make deeper dives. We did a shallow dive on Davy Crocker (15-20 ft) and a dive on a slope that went from 30 to 90 feet, so that the AOW class could do their deep dive and we could stay shallower with the critters.

    Davy Crocker was one of the best creature dives I have ever done. We saw a couple of 6ft nurse sharks, one of which just came out from under a ledge about 4 feet in front of me. There was a large ray, about four feet in diameter; and the largest Morey eel I have ever seen. I thought they only got about 5 feet long, but this guy must have been 6-7 feet and 14 inches high in the middle. Great stuff – lots of other fish too, even a turtle in the distance.

    The dive on the slope had a lot less fish to see, but it was interesting because it turned into a mini drift dive. The boat tied up to a buoy on the middle of the slope and everyone went down the line. The AOW pair and their instructor went straight ahead into deep water and we went to the right swimming perpendicular to the slope at a steady depth of 55 feet. There was zero current and the water temp was 79 degrees. A little less than 20 minutes into the dive, just after we turned around and started to head back, an upwelling of 70 degree water started coming up the slope from deep water. It picked up speed until it was pushing us up slope even though we were angled about 30 degrees into it. By the time we got back to where I thought the boat should be, we were in 35 feet of water, so I knew we were well behind it. We ascended to 15 feet to do our safety stop and found the current there at 20 feet off the bottom was still pretty close to zero, so we just hung out and had a relaxing time. When we surfaced, we came up about 400 feet dead astern of the boat. Since there was very little surface current, we just flipped over on our backs and swam back. When we got there, the AOW group had just got on board ahead of us. Since they had gone down the slope, the incoming current just pushed them back up the way they came. They spotted the buoy mooring on their way past and came up the line.

    I can now give a strong +1 to Splitlip’s advice that you always carry an SMB with you whenever you do an ocean dive. You never know when you are going to suddenly find yourself heading away from the boat when that is not part of the plan. I felt much more comfortable with my SMB last week than I would have surfacing without it.

    Thursday was my wife’s birthday, and we did something she has wanted to do for a while – we went swimming with the dolphins. If you have never done this, I highly recommend it. They are really amazing creatures and we had a blast. Once again, it was a very small group there that day – only 5 people for the 3 dolphins in the lagoon. We were in the water with them for about 40 minutes and got to pet them, be pushed through the water with their noses, work with them on their tricks, and hold onto their dorsal fins for rides. Great stuff.

    Friday morning got rained out with thunder storms and we decided not to dive. But, I managed to find consolation by having a fortified fruit beverage lunch in the Tiki bar next to the hotel. Actually, it turned out to be a pretty sunny afternoon, so I worked on the tan that friends expect when you get back from Florida

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