After a short trip back to the docks, I was trying to
figure out what I should do about an afternoon dive. Since
Loggerhead Divers weren't doing an afternoon trip, Craig and
George were planning to dive with Splash Down Divers and
recommended going with them. Sure. Why not?
I had talked with Lynn some the previous week on the phone and they sounded like a good outfit. Their boat was bigger than most of the dive boats at the dock and had lots of shade area. Again, this was a small group of about 10 divers. Most of them were going to look for lobster. We headed out the same way towards the channel to the ocean.
At this point I should mention about the channel to the ocean. It is 90 feet wide with steep concrete walls and about 300 yards long, depending on how you look at it. There are power boats, sail boats, jet skis and what not, all blasting through this together, in opposite directions. The wakes spread out, bounce off the channel walls and then all come back together in wild patterns. It's sorta exciting. These are big boats and they aren't just putting along. I saw some very surfable waves breaking along the channel wall.
Linda was the skipper of the Splash Down and Lynn was
acting as crew. We went to basically the same area about a mile
out and a few miles south of Boynton Beach. I give credit to
this outfit for being the most accommodating about allowing me
to dive as I wanted. They gave me a variety of choices based on
what I had mentioned in my phone call. I ended up diving with
Mike and Mark. Mike was a pretty senior diver by they way most
people measure such things and Mark was a manic bug diver. My
kinda guy, but I stay away from the type when under water. They
don't leave game behind for me.
Another thing I liked about Splash Down Divers was the 100 cubic foot aluminum tanks they had for me to use. I was unconscionably sucking air in this warm water and I really appreciated the bigger tanks.
Mike took the float flag and it turned out that he was an
ultra mellow diver that just cruised slowly over the reef, just
absorbing what he was seeing and feeling. I guess he was
willing to take any bugs that got in his way, but if his sack
was empty, that was just fine too.
As on most previous dives, I encountered a small Barracuda. It was only about 24 inches, but they really flash silver under water. I decided to see how close this one would allow me to get. I just swam at it and it showed no real concern until I was very close, perhaps 4 feet away. It them left. I was a bit suprised it let me get so close, but that close up and the fish is a really spectacular pattern of lines, shades and scales, that varies evenly over the entire fish.
We were on the outer edge of the reef where the reef meets the sand at about 85 feet of water. The reef may have small fingers to the sand, but generally, it just smoothly rises about 15 feet. Again it was a very pretty coral garden with all sorts of fish, sponges, hard and soft corals. Mark and I were buzzing back and forth, looking for any place bugs could hang out, while trying not to cover the same ground that the other diver had already been over... And Mike... Mike just a kept driftin' along in a line... Finally I moved higher onto the reef and sent out a mental message to the other divers 'Uh fellas, uh you might just want to take a gander at your depth and time. We can't hang out here much longer...' Of course I then noticed that they had NITROX tanks on.
They did move up on the reef eventually, but with vis that good, you just come a few feet higher off the reef and you can still see just fine, but your nitrogen absorption goes way down. It was beautiful diving, but no bugs. Mark stopped to take a picture of a large Green Moray and I found this neat little, maybe 14 inch, sea turtle, but we really saw no lobster.
I surfaced before those guys, but was hanging out 10 feet under the float on GP and to watch the other divers below. Sure enough though, within a couple of minutes, Linda pulled the boat up 20 feet away. Actually I would have liked to hang out longer...
At one point on the boat I asked Linda 'so where is the Gulf Stream'? I knew that it was supposed to be just off shore, but how far was that? She replied 'you're in it'. Oh.
I just relaxed on the boat while Lynn and Linda kept watch on the various flags that were spread out over a few hundred yards. When someone surfaced, they buzzed on over and picked them up.
I'm just not a group diver, but I went again with Mark
and Mike, based on that Mike was so easy to dive with, it was
worth it to go with him just to have him carry the float line.
He just puttered along slowly in a straight line... Always
right there. This time we were on the inside of the reef and it
was more like 65 feet. Also, there was a ledge this time where
the inside of the reef dropped down about 15 feet to the sand
and isolated rocks and reefs on the inside. It looked like
there could be bug here.
It was beautiful reef with many brightly colored green and orange sponges. Mark and I sort of leaped frogged along trying to move along the ledge and be first to spot any bugs that might be holed up. It was actually Mike that found the first one that Mark and I had both passed on the side. Mike was using his cable snare and had a very bad angle on the bug. Eventually, It zipped away across the reef. I still say that Mike had no real interest in catching it anyway.
About this time, Mark was going for one on the ledge so I quickly continued along the ledge ahead of him. I saw a nice bug ahead in a hole and stopped in front. The Florida bugs are less likely to back into their holes when they see movement. They are more curious, move out a bit and wave their antennas to see what is going on. This time I pulled up the loop and slid the head of the snare back past the top of the bug's tail. I then enlarged the loop and slid it up around the tail. Pull the loop tight and you got a bug. This was OK.
Mark and I continued to travel along the ledge. As soon as one stopped to check out something or some hole, the other would quickly pass. There were bugs, some small, some legal. All fun to try and gig out of their holes. I had a caliper measure on the end of my snare, so measuring was easy. Really, once I figured it out, using a snare sure is easier than grabbing by hand. I'm not sure which is more fun.
Once again, I signaled Mike and slowly went up the flag line, not quite touching it. It would not have been polite to pull Mike off the bottom. I had 2 nice legal sized bugs. I again was quite willing to hang out in the clear water and watch from 10 feet, but somehow Linda knew I was up and so the boat was there in a couple of minutes. A nice hot shower in the cabin was a fine way to end the day. The trip back is warm. The water was calm. It's just a nice easy short trip back.
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