Posted by Steven C on September 13, 2009 at 09:21:25:|
Terry May was right in suggesting Ocean Divers for my dive trip. I booked the afternoon trip out to Molasses Reef, in the Pennekamp Reef neighborhood. The reports from the earlier dive scared me, as the vis was only being reported as 30 feet. Obviously we get much better vis than that this time of year at Barb, Cat and Clem (the southern Channel Islands for those who don't know me). The boat ride out to the reef also had me worried, as I've seen the same muddy green water conditions around San Pedro in the harbor.
But OMG, when we got within about a mile of the reef, we started seeing the same green patches that I'd seen in the Bahamas in April, when you're in an area of sand banks, with clear water. This is the best indication that you're going to have sparkling, crystal clear water !
The capt. parked the boat, one of the typical 25 packs that you see in the Caribbean, about 200 yards from the huge buoy that marks the reef for ships. Since this was the off season (meaning after summer), there were only 7 divers on the boat, and 2 surface swimmers. Throughout the dives, there were numerous boats on the reef, but only once did we see other divers.
The water temp was 86 degrees, which was too warm for me. I would have preferred about 74-76, which is nice and refreshing in warm weather. But to be able to dive without a wetsuit made it very tolerable. Vis was in the neighborhood of 80+ feet, and the reef was incredible. The size of the reef was beyond belief, and it seemed to stretch forever. The reef structure is what they call Spur and Groove, which is relatively narrow walls, separated by sand channels, kind of like stripes painted on the ocean floor. So you swim one wall until it ends, and either circle around the other side, or select one of the other spurs that are everywhere. There were swim through's everywhere, and really good coverage with sea fans and other corals. Unlike my dives in the Bahamas, there was so much reef structure, you couldn't possibly cover it all, even given a month.
The two dives we did, were typically between 15 and 25 feet deep, so with the Low Pressure Steel tanks that the boat carries, our dives averaged about 55 minutes.
As far as fish, there were so many, everywhere we turned, that I can only remember the key types. We saw barracuda, yellow tail snapper, jacks, a type of fish that looked like a Wrasse, which was a dark green, with turquoise trim, it was beautiful. There were angel fish the size of 18" car wheels, and we even saw a wild reef shark. By wild, it hadn't been lured there with bait or the promise of food. The was a very small green moray eel, pipe fish and parrot fish everywhere you turned.
Unfortunately, I didn't have an underwater camera, so there are no photos, but you really should see this place for yourself. Fly into Miami, which is a great place to explore anyway, then drive about 50 miles south, on "Dixie Hwy" (hwy. 1), to Key Largo. There are some decent hotels in Key Largo, and the prices for just about everything were very cheap. Of course it was the off season.
The Capt. and Divemaster on my trip were both named Mike, and were excellent. Much more seasoned and knowledgeable than the crew during my Bahamas dives. Many thanks to them for an incredible trip. I definitely plan on doing this again.