Posts Tagged ‘dive’

Manatee 2010

Thursday, February 4th, 2010
Manatee calf looking for attention

Manatee calf looking for attention

Val and I were invited on a trip to Florida, including a Manatee dive in Crystal River. As it worked out, I did have some time off, so we packed our gear and headed down. Val was going to stay a few days, for the Manatee dive, after that, I was planning to stick around for a cavern/cave class.

Packing went smoothly, except for the snowstorm that covered the area the day before the trip. Most of the roads up here were dry with some salt for good measure. On the trip down we stopped over with our friend Grace in Durham. Their roads were not cleared as well, and the drivers were not accustom to snow. It was not a pleasant situation, but with only minor delays we were back on the road the next morning.

We arrived in Crystal River a bit later than expected, but were up and ready for the dive the next morning. Dive gear, camera gear, and all weather gear packed and ready, we headed out.

This was our first time diving with Manatees. The boat rental required us to watch a video concerning the regulations around Manatee interaction. Bottom line, nothing can prepare you for the actual dive! Becky had invited a group of experienced divers. We hit the water expecting to see a few dozen Manatees. I’m not sure if it was the cold weather, or something else, but there were a few hundred Manatees in the area.

We anchored in a small tributary with river water, and spring water running past a Manatee Sanctuary. Within the roped off sanctuary, there were a dozens of resting Manatees. Back in the springs, the sandy bottom was covered with them. We were all snorkeling on the surface looking to see if any were interested in interaction. Many were resting, but others would swim right up to us.

At first, it’s a bit unnerving to have a 1200lb animal swim up to you. These creatures are 5-6 times our size. It makes you think for a second. Then they roll over and want their belly rubbed. Ok, not so intimidating. The juveniles (calf) are more curious than the older adults, but both were curious about us as divers. I’m not sure why, but my camera seemed to draw their interest. Some would swim up and interact. Several would swim up, play for a bit, and then swim away. Many came back again and again.

After I filled up my still cameras memory card, I switched to the video camera. It was both fun and enlightening interacting with these gentile creatures. As usual, they had to drag me from the water, since I was having so much fun.

If you ever get a chance to dive with Manatees, I highly recommend it. Take your time, and let them come to you. They are both fun and engaging.

40 Fathoms Grotto

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

40 Fathoms Grotto used to be a great place for training.  As the name implies it is 40 fathoms deep, or 240 ft for you landlubbers.   Located in Crystal River Florida, the facility provides a controlled environment for deep TRIMIX training. It’s my understanding that the facility has been purchased by a commercial diver training agency, and is no longer available to recreational divers.   This is a shame as it was one of the few training locations with the depth necessary to perform this training.

I hope they reopen to the recreational market, but in the mean time here are a few shots we took on a training trip during the renovations.

October on the Stolt

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Someday NOAA will get it right. It just was not today.

With a forecast for northwest winds, and diminishing seas, we headed out for the Stolt. Given all the reports of bad vis inshore, Captain Dan was hoping for reasonable conditions offshore. On the way out there were some rollers from the south, and some chop from the northwest. If the stars aligned, it would all calm down for two dives.

When we reached the Stolt we had some stiff swells, but it seemed manageable, and the NOAA forecast said it was going to die down. I has some gear issues, so after tying in, I came back up and helped the passengers get in. Vis was about 20 ft on the top of the wreck, but I’m sure the bottom was not as clear. Lobster, scallops, and a few fish came up. Everyone agreed that the water was warm, but no one had a temperature.

The surface conditions did not improve during the dive, so we decided to head inshore for dive two. A few weeks ago we dove an intact reef wreck with lots of Tog and Seabass within the state waters. We headed there in hopes that the relief would allow for some vis. Surface conditions were much better inshore, but as expected the vis was not as good.

Everyone was just happy to get in the water after all the blow outs this fall.

Off-shore Open

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Tuesday, the weather finally cooperated, and the Independence II kicked off the off-shore dive season.   Dan had a few other dives scheduled in July, but the conditions were not right.  Yesterday there was a light breeze, and nearly flat seas.   We left early, and Dan and Bill took turns at the helm.

Franky and I jumped into clear blue water to set the hook. The line was visible for 50-60 feet below us.  Below 80 ft the vis dropped, and the sunlight quickly died out.  Only our dive lights could be seen at this point.  Once on the bottom, we tied in quickly and started to look around.  The bottom temperature was 46 degrees with 40-50 ft of vis.  It was tough to tell since it was so dark.   I was surprised by the lack of fish and lobster.  Normally cunners are everywhere, but not here. On many deep wrecks, the lobsters are out during the day.  Perhaps it’s the lack of light at depth, but they seem to be more active, and often more abundant.  Not today.

Time goes quick at this depth, and it was soon time for the long cold ascent. The thermocline at 80ft was quite welcome.  There was another one at 40 ft that brought the temp up to 75 degrees (almost hot).  Visibility here was over 60 ft, and I could clearly read “Independence II” on the back of the boat.

With Franky and I were aboard, Dan and Bill geared up and jumped in.  While we waited for the other divers, we could see disturbances on the water surface, some 200 ft from the boat.  This occurred several times, then for a brief moment, we could clearly see tuna jumping 4-5 ft out of the water.  While looking for divers on the line, we could see Mahi-mahi swimming under to boat.   Unfortunately the divers did not notice them.

With Capt Dan and Bill aboard, we soon got underway for the trip home.  Just then, a whale breached some 200 yards off the bow.  It’s body nearly cleared the water.   On the trip home, the radar lit up as we passed a group of 20-30.  Checking the charts, this was apparently a popular tuna fishing location.  Well we certainly saw a good number of them.  I’m sure the fleet did also.

Scallops, Lobster, and Training on the Lillian.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The Scuba Connection had a charter to the Lillian this week.  Wayne was out with a class. With a few of the usual suspects in tow, the Independence got underway.   NOAA was calling for thunder storms in the afternoon.  The drive out of the inlet was in heavy fog.  Once that open up, we could see on the radar that the rain was following us out (a bit early).  The worst of it hit before we got to the wreck, and mostly cleared by the time Richie had us tied in.

The passengers soon rolled in, and Richie returned with a nice bag of scallops and bugs.   He had us tied into a large pipe next to the engine.  This section of the wreck stood some 20 ft off the silty bottom.  The surface temp was 58.  Bottom temp was 43-48, depending on who you asked, and visibility was a dark 40.  If the sun came out, this would be a fantastic dive.  As it was, it was just great.

The Lillian was a freighter that sunk back in 1939 with a cargo of sugar. It sank in 150 ft of water after a collision in the fog.   The wreck is on the edge of the mud hole, so the conditions can vary depending on the tide.

After seeing all the scallops coming up, I figured I’d have to go out in the sand to find any.  This proved futile, as the scallops were on the wreck itself.  Once I figured this out, I bagged my share just as my reel decided it did not want to go any further. Flounder were all over this wreck.  Some were so large, I had to check twice.  Many were still buried in the sand.  Those I checked three times.   Ling cod were also about, along with a few Eel Pouts.  One unusual item was the large sponges lodged about the wreck.  These seemed out of place here.  Some were close to 3 feet across, just laying in the sand.  Captain Dan told us to keep an eye out for portholes, so I looked closely as I reeled my line back in.

I headed back to the boilers, and was soon comforted by the sight of the strobe in the distance.  These were great conditions for this wreck.    Back on the boat, we all took turns cleaning scallops.  Several of the passengers had bagged their first scallops, and were learning how to clean them under Captain Dan’s tutelage.

We headed home just as the sun broke through the clouds.  Oh well, it was still a great dive!  The scallop dinner was good too!