Miami Wreck Exploration Project

Technical diving in Miami since 1990

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Captain Harry / Belzona Triangle

Posted by Joel Svendsen on August 12, 2012 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

 

08/12/11

88 degrees,

Seas 2ft to calm

Visibility 70ft

1 Knot Current North

 

Joel and Matt and captain Carlos took the Tiara out for some recreational diving off Miami. First stop was the Captain Harry Barge in 115ft straight off Government Cut. The surface was calm and no current with green water. At 20ft the clear blue water was running at 1 knot North. We landed in the sand and scootered back the barge.

 

We last visited the barge over 4 years ago when we were looking for some missing ship wrecks. Originally we were disappointed to find that there was no ship and just a plain ordinary barge. Its is small, but it is packed with fish life that is not visited by fishermen or divers often.

 

Joel found a baby Goliath grouper hiding in the hold. There were 15 to 20 lionfish scattered over the wreck. At the other end there was a green moray hiding. Several nice Mutton Snappers were off in the sand.

 

After 15 minutes we drifted off and scootered with the current over the sand. We didn’t find anything. When Joel shot the bag, the 150ft reel almost emptied. We did a 10 minute ascent started at 60ft. At the first stop of saw Joel let all the line off the reel and was just hanging on as I slowly scootered up current to stay next to him.

 

The seas calmed further when we surfaced.

 

A quick 30 minute surface interval and we dropped on the Belzona triangle. The water was clear, but still moving at 1 knot North. We hit all three tug boats. Several Tarpon were darting around and 10 of them were congregated at the stern of the Belzona II. It was good to see the limestone boulders DERM set down as a corridor between two of the barges. They are growing over and make good shelter for Tomtate grunts who seek shelter during the day and feed on algea and detritus in the sand at night.

 

We scootered over the barges. Three big Southern Stingrays were buried in the sand. Two of them took off on my approach and one stayed for me. I love to see how close I can get before they start retracting their wings for lift off. Then images of Steve Irwin come to mind as I imagine the bard on the tail injecting poison into my heart!

 

Then set off to find some other small tugs that I had never seen and are hard to find as we do not know exactly where they are. We missed them, but went over the wing of the Spirit of Miami. In the sand we found a big Loggerhead Turtle that appeared to be walking across the sand. I scootered over to him and took the some photos, he was didn’t mind and stuck around. I scootered with him and tried to heard him next to Joel for a photo. I miss my photo model. Then we finished up on the South Seas

- Matt



Narwal Dive

Posted by Rick Thomas on August 6, 2012 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Miami Wreck Divers' Dive Report August 4, 2012

Saturday morning we met at the dock at 0800 with the hope of getting out onto the ocean ahead of a Tropical Wave sitting just east of Miami-Dade/Broward Counties. The first good sign was waking up at 0530 and not seeing a text message from Jody on my phone! We loaded out the Tiara, Carlos again making this adventure possible by driving the boat and being our top-side support. Today's manifest was David, Jody and myself as one team of three. It was also Jody's first dive in over a month since breaking his scapula in a bike accident. So today's dives were two "recreational" dives on some shallow wrecks. Of course it's worth explaining that when you see a Miami Wreck Diver suited up for a recreational dive, the configuration looks a bit different than the 'typical' recreational diver. First off, even though these are single-tank dives, we go into the water in a DIR configuration: back-plate and wing, balanced rig, long-hose and necklace. Primary light and two back-up lights, a spare mask, wet-notes, a surface marker buoy, reels and spools, primary and back-up depth gage and bottom timer, compass, multiple cutting devices, and of course, DPVs (underwater scooters). David and I also configured the first deeper dive with an Aluminum-80 stage (for reasons Alex knows well), with our LP-95 pressed with EAN30 in a 'cave-fill' as redundant gas, to be used on the second dive. A casual observer may feel we were in a bit of an over-kill configuration, but truly when one puts him or herself into an underwater environment, there is no reason not to be self sufficient, even if diving in a team of three experienced divers. The plan was to do the first dive on the wreck of the Narwal; a 137-foot freighter scuttled into the Haulover artificial reef site in April of 1986. She lies in 125-feet of water just NE of Haulover inlet. We powered out of Government Cut Saturday morning onto a very calm Atlantic Ocean, with clear skies and a light breeze, just enough to add an element of comfort in the hot morning sun. We arrived on site to find a very light current, perfect diving conditions. I'm not sure if it was from the comfort of the ride out in the Tiara, the low-stress of the dive plan, the perfect conditions on-site, or elements of all of the above, but our dress-out into our gear was as relaxed and casual as I can ever remember! That said, once suited up and ready to go, we met as a team one last time in the cockpit of the Tiara to do our equipment check and establish the team responsibilities. Jody would lead the dive, I would take the number two position as the photographer, and David would take the number three position. Jody would run our decompression, and I would shoot the surface marker from 60-feet once in our ascent. During our equipment check, I discovered that the camera battery was dead, in spite of the fact I put a newly charged battery in the camera on Wednesday in my dive prep. Needless to say I received a ration of shit from the others, and will likely continue to in the foreseeable future!

Carlos gave us the "dive!, dive!, dive!" command, and David, Jody and I dropped into the water in a splash of bubbles, turning ourselves in the water to a horizontal 'sky-divers' position, primary lights on, scooters pushed out in front, allowing the weight of ourselves slightly negative to "fall" towards the bottom 125-feet beneath us. Carlos using the bottom-finder and his experience in understanding the currents should have given us the dive! command in such a way the current will have brought us over the wreck by the time we drifted to the bottom. By the time we were at 50-feet the three of us were grouped up as a team, watching as the bottom came into view... no, not the bottom... it was the top deck of the wreck coming into view! Carlos dropped us dead-center onto the aft deck of the Narwal! Nice! The water was warm, 82 degrees at the bottom, with around 60-feet of visibility. Not bad. Coming over the starboard-side of the wreck I immediately saw a large Lion Fish near a debris pile in the sand, and powered my scooter directly at the fish; smiling inwardly as I watched the fish at first try to stand his ground, then flee at the last second into the debris pile! Check gas, 3100-psi in my AL80 on the bottom at exactly :02 minutes into the dive. Good. We swam aft around the stern, looked at the rudder bent over as the ship had settled over towards its starboard side. The aft end of the ship looks to be in decent condition, certainly is still recognizable as a freighter. We powered on the scooters and moved up the side of the wreck. Soon enough we could see the damage caused by hurricane Andrew; the bow section was torn away from the rest of the ship. While this has certainly caused additional deterioration of the ship, it also makes the wreck an interesting wreck to dive. We saw lots of marine life on and around the wreck. During our descent we fell through a school of Atlantic Spadefish at around 60-feet. On the wreck we swam through large schools of Schoolmaster and yellow tail snapper. I observed a couple Gag Grouper, several Hog Fish, quite a few large Blue Parrot Fish, several Queen Angels, and lots of live corals, sea fans and basket sponges. We turned at the bow and scootered back towards the stern. I saw a white cloud of disturbed sand off the port side of the wreck and went over to investigate, in time to see a large stingray hover up off the bottom and then "fly" away on its graceful wings. Noticing David and Jody looking onto an open section of the stern section, I rejoined them in time to see an incredibly large Goliath Grouper, easily a 500-Pound fish! This fish was "all mouth" as we directed the beams of our light towards her in the wreck; I believe she was 30" from one side of her jaws to the other, and as she turned and went further into the wreck I would estimate her length at somewhere between 7 to 8 feet. Where was my camera?! We were at :18 into the dive and it was time to go. The SMB shoot went nicely, and Jody brought us up in a nice slow ascent, with short stops at 30-feet, 20-feet and finally at 10-feet. While technically a recreational dive, 20-minutes at an average depth of 120-feet does bring on a decompression obligation, and it's always a good idea to practice precise buoyancy control on the ascent of any dive.

We spent a short thirty-minute surface interval to off gas a little more nitrogen, motoring in closer to shore near the majority of the wrecks sunk as part of the Haulover Artificial reef project. On the way over we saw an interesting bottom profile on the bottom finder, and decided to drop in a little east of the wrecks to explore this section of the reef. We planned a fifty-minute bottom time at an average depth of 60-feet. Dropping back into the water we were quickly back on the bottom in eighty-feet of water. The section of reef we dropped onto looked pristine. We thought maybe we would find an area dredged for the beach re-nourishment project, but instead we found corals, rocks, sponges and abundant sea life. We took a south-west heading on our compass and scootered over this reef, passing by a pile of concrete culverts, then landing shortly on the wreck of the White Coast, a small tugboat in fairly good condition laying in seventy feet. We swam the wreck and came to an opening of broken wreck near the bow. Looking into the cavernous opening, a swim-thru opportunity beckoned. I went first, swimming directly into the ship. Once a few yards into the structure I saw daylight off to my left, turned and swam towards the light. Pulling through a slight restriction I came face-to-face with a Jewfish about half the size of the fish we saw on our first dive; still a large fish! She looked at me as if to say "what the flip are you doing in MY house", and for a moment I thought she would swim directly towards me and my team. Instead she turned and swam out the opening I saw in the side of the ship. I followed and in a moment later was back in open water. I directed my primary light on the opening and soon watched Jody emerge from the hole, with David close behind. The Jewfish had gone out into the sand-flats, likely waiting for the unwelcome trespassers to leave his home. We scootered on, SW over the sand. I directed our attention to an interesting sight; a large whelk had overtaken a smaller conch, and was in the process of consuming the smaller univalve. One can imagine the slow-motion race that must have recently occurred when the conch, a herbivore realized that he was being "chased" by the larger whelk, a carnivore. Obviously the larger whelk won this race! We came upon the wreck of the C-One a larger tug, sitting upright in the sand. Her prop was removed as was her engine, a fairly sterile wreck. We scootered on and came upon the Timothy Allen Reed, a small barge, where we startled a large stingray. Being on scooters we were able to swim a short distance with the ray, able to enjoy seeing her natural grace as she flew through the water. Time goes by quickly under water, and before we knew it, we had scootered back to the C-One and a bit further on the Concepcion, and soon were at our planned fifty-minute bottom time. Jody thumbed the dive and we shot our surface marker. A short time later we were through our decompression obligation and back on the surface. Two relaxing dives in the morning; what better way to start the weekend?! Looking out to the east, we could just see the line of showers on the horizon that marked the boundary of the approaching Tropical wave. Perfect timing.

Dive safe~

Rick Thomas

Sir Scott Dive

Posted by Rick Thomas on July 21, 2012 at 6:45 PM Comments comments (0)

The Incredible Dive that Almost Didn't Happen.

July 21, 2012

The morning air was calm in Plantation this morning; my wind chimes were silent. These chimes are my first indication of the potential sea conditions. When they are ringing there's an east wind strong enough to make things miserable in the ocean off Ft. Lauderdale and make me question the viability of a dive. Upon reaching the dock, Jody established that he was 'out', was going to do the second shallow dive but didn't want to push it with his shoulder still healing and the seas potentially rough. What's that? Rough seas? Yeah, the wind is out of the south and that was going to make the day interesting. Henry was to do the shallow dive with Jody, and when Jody opted out this morning, he elected to pass on the deep dive; and missed one of the best dives David and I have ever experienced!! We left the dock with a manifest of four; Jody, Carlos as topside crew, David and I doing the deep dive. Our goal was to dive the wreck of the M/V Sir Scott, a Spanish-built 250-ft freighter built in 1957 and scuttled as an artificial reef in 230-feet of water in February 1985. Miami Wreck hadn't gotten on this wreck yet as she's deep and in a part of the ocean notorious for strong current. Once out in Biscayne Bay we realized the seas were going to challenge us today as there was already a light chop in water usually mill-pond flat. We passed through historic Stilt City and headed out towards Fowey Light, and quickly found ourselves in 4-6-foot seas. We stopped to discuss the plan, and the consensus was to continue the :25 minute run to the dive site and assess the conditions once there. Just after 9am we arrived on-site and found deep azure-blue seas, fantastic surface visibility and less than a knot of current. Seas were still 4 - 6 feet with the occasional 8-foot roller. Carlos later told David and I we were just two 8-foot rollers away from not going into the water! Nonetheless, we decided to dive.

Suited up, we dropped a shot-line at the wreck and the float ball confirmed that there was very little current. David and I splashed in and was immediately greeted with warm tropical 88-degree water, and 100-foot-plus visibility with clear view of the shot-line. We descended towards the bottom at 230-feet and immediately I noticed the abundance of marine life in the area; ahead of me and directly behind David I watched a large caudal-fin pushing a 5-foot long barracuda, following David down towards the bottom. On the bottom we found the anchor hung in a lobster-pot line, the little bit of current had drug it away from the wreck. Water temperature was a cool 74-degrees. I handed David a bag and David rigged the anchor with the bag, carefully putting a little gas in the bag by-mouth, ensuring neither of us would be fouled, and sent it back up to the surface. Looking to the south I noticed a patch of white sand in front of a dark shadow about 100-feet away from us. We scootered over and slowly the stern area of the wreck of the M/V Sir Scott started to emerge from the gloom of the water. My first impression was simply "wow!"; she looked incredible from 230-feet deep looking up at her hull-sides, canoe-stern, single rudder and prop-shaft strut. She sits upright on her keel, with her bow facing south. Upon reaching her stern we observed five exceptionally large Hog-Fish and three large Lion Fish. None of which seemed at all concerned we were there. We swam around the stern and realized that we were already :09 minutes into our planned :20 minute bottom time. We headed down the starboard side of the wreck and swam up onto the main deck. Immediately greeted by a large (40"+) Amberjack swimming directly towards us as if to check us out. We continued forward along the deck and noticed that about two-thirds of the way forward the hull is broken with a large collapsed section and openings into the vessel. We dropped down into a cargo hold forward of the collapsed area and observed a stack of large I-beams against the starboard side. Lots of Crevele Jacks, a couple large Queen Angel fish and dozens of Lion Fish populated the wreck, and again none of then seemed concerned about our presence. Its pretty obvious this wreck is rarely dived. Swimming up onto the bow we saw more schools of small juvenile fish as well as more Lion Fish. Two large 5-foot to 6-foot long barracuda were hovering about twenty feet above us. We swam aft, around the fore-mast that has collapsed across the port-bow of the ship. Deck winches are still in place with hawser-lines across the deck. Here I saw a 20" Black Grouper. We swam aft towards the superstructure and hit time at :19 minutes. Allowing the light current to take us away from the wreck we started our ascent and I shot my 78" Yellow Halcyon SMB. As if to remind us how special this dive was, we watched an Eagle Ray gliding effortlessly above the wreck as we drifted away.  Beautiful!  David ran the decompression.

The ascent was uneventful, were at our planned first gas switch right on time at :31 minutes run time. Moving past our 60-foot stop towards the 50-foot stop we both noticed two large Remora swimming towards us. At first we didn't give them a second thought; they were just checking us out. Then we realized we had them as company in our decompression. For the remainder of our decompression, almost 40-minutes, all the way to the boat's ladder these two fish swam with us. I mean, the SWAM WITH us! They seemed to like David best, probably because of his long hair and all the parasites on him. These fish would bump up against his regulators, move down along his body, swim up along his bottles, roll themselves around his arms and across his hands. Yes, they allowed us both to touch and stroke them. Soft smooth skin, no scales, even the serrated section on top of their heads is a soft rubbery texture. They seemed to enjoy the tactile contact and touch we were offering them. They would swim with David for a few minutes, then swim about 20 yards away only to come right back to me, and then swim around me, then go back to David. Switching to our second deco gas was almost a distraction because by this time these fish were very entertaining. Needless to say, 50-minutes of decompression went by amazingly fast! We left the water with an incredible experience, and amazing dive. Feeling clean after a good relaxing decompression.

 

Dive Safe!

Rick Thomas

Bibb & Duane Dive

Posted by Rick Thomas on June 2, 2012 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (0)

June 2, 2012 ~ We met at the dock at 8am for a luxurious boat ride south to Key Largo; Jody had us load up the Tiara for this trip. This was a recreational double-dip on the Bibb and the Duane. Today's team consisted of Carlos, our boat-driver and surface support, Jody, Henry, David and myself. The weather was forecast to be overcast, rainy with periodic thunderstorms. We drove the boat down to Key Largo running on the inside all the way, and enjoyed flat calm seas and party cloudy skies. We arrived on-site in about 2-1/2 hours and observed the two mooring balls on the Bibb partially submerged by the current. Suiting up I had to smile a bit; here we were, doing recreational dives... Henry diving 108's in a side-mount configuration. Jody, David and I going in with a single steel 95 on our back, and David and I slinging an AL-80 stage to dive the first dive. We each carried a back-up mask, multiple cutting utensils, multiple bottom-timers/computers, a primary light and two back-up lights, a spool, a reel, a surface marker buoy and a scooter! I guess we know how to dive a recreational profile, NDL!

We dropped in on the Bibb a little after 11am. She's a 327-ft long x 41-ft beam USCG cutter built back in 1937. She lays in 135-feet of water on her starboard side. We hit the water and immediately were pushed past the first mooring line. The current was running 2 to 2-1/2 knots top to bottom. We dove two teams of two; David and Henry in one team, Jody and I in the second team. We powered down, following the second mooring line in perhaps 60 to 70-feet of blue-water visibility.  Once on the wreck we split up, everyone knowing we were diving a :20 BT and using an average depth of 120-ft as our basis for getting out of the water. She's an interesting wreck, with a lot of fishing line entangled in the superstructure. In a way she looks eerie laying on her side, her superstructure projecting horizontally out over the sandy bottom. We all saw two large Jewfish that were swimming near the bottom towards the aft-end of the ship (see video). The wreck was covered in soft corals in vivid yellow, red and orange hues, sponges, sea fans and thousands of schooling fish in and around the wreck. Very much alive with a diverse amount of sea life. One fish we didn't see was the Lion Fish, which these days seems unusual. None of us saw a single one on either wreck today. There were quite a few barracuda hovering over the wreck. Swimming up to the bow, it's an interesting bottom-scape, as the bow-plating is very visible, with little marine growth attached to the large flat expanse of hull-side. Working aft there is a large circular opening on the foredeck that was a gun mount; an opening that just beckons one to swim over, 'come on in'! We all avoided temptation.  All the way aft she has a canoe stern and dual 3-bladed props.  After :20 bottom time Jody and I left the wreck up near the bow, and I shot our bag from about 60-feet. Even though the dive was a recreational NDL type dive, we executed a few minutes of deco at 20-feet, and a couple more at 10-feet, allowing our computers to clear before surfacing. On the surface we were able to see David and Henry's bag in the water about 50-yards from ours.

Back on the boat we took a :45 interval before moving over and jumping in on the Duane. Carlos placed us perfectly in the 3-knot current and in less than a minute we were on the mast and crow's nest of the superstructure at 60-feet. This wreck is impressive; a sister-ship to the Bibb, she is a 329-foot long USCG cutter sunk in 1987, sitting upright on her keel in 120-feet of water. We dove a team of three on this dive, Henry sat the second (best) dive out. We took advantage of the fact we were using scooters to work against the current and explore the wreck from her main deck up. We entered the wreck several times doing swim-thrus and dodging in and out of the current. We swam through structure up towards the bow and upon leaving the tranquil water in her superstructure felt like we were hit by a wall of water! The current was that profound.  I was in the #1 position after handing my camera off to David, and could hear his laughter underwater as he filmed Jody humping his scooter bouncing down the deck of the Duane. I pointed out about a 4-foot Jewfish at the stern and watched as it swam into the wreck through an opening (see video). Back up in the bow I noticed a few large barracuda hovering into the current at the forepeak, Swimming up closer I saw a school of about 30 barracuda just ahead of the bow, below the main deck level. An Impressive sight. The wreck is simply impressive with watertight doors open, hatches, ladders and stairways still intact. She is loaded with marine life just as the Bibb was, perhaps a little more-so if that's even possible. We came off her after a :20 bottom time, and shot our bag from 60-feet; David did a great job of filming the bag-shoot in the last video. We surfaced to calming seas and sunny skies. So much for the weatherman's forecast of stormy rainy Saturday in south Florida. Two wonderful dives with a great group of divers.

Dive safe~   Rick Thomas

June 2, 2012

Pioneer One

Posted by Joel Svendsen on May 28, 2012 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (0)

This morning started out warm, clear cloudless skies. Leaving the dock and heading out towards Fowey Light, the seas were calm, maybe 1-2 with an occasional 3-ft swell. We got on-site and had to loiter while two other boats fishing the site drifted north, allowing us access. We took our time, searching with the bottom-finder for the wreck of the Pioneer One. We (Miami Wreck Divers) has been going out to this site for years, looking for conditions that would allow a dive. Up until today, all attempts less one several years ago have been thwarted by high currents. Today we found relatively light current at the surface; she seemed dive-able today. Today's dive team was Henry and myself. Carlos and Jody were our top-side support.

Jody and Carlos threw a shot-line in on top of the wreck, and fairly soon we all realized that the conditions at the surface were not what was waiting for us below. We watched as the float-ball initially sat high on top of the water, then soon was pulled half-submerged and spinning in the eddies caused in its mooring. Still, the conditions seemed reasonable, so we decided to dive the wreck. Henry and I dressed-out, did our pre-dive check and confirmed our dive plan; Average depth of 220-ft for a :20 BT. On Jody's mark, I splashed in off the port side as Henry followed off the starboard. I quickly oriented myself, hovered at 20-feet and watched Henry above me acquire the shot-line and start the descent. The water at the surface was turbid, visibility was only about 25-feet towards the surface. I stayed full-on the trigger and was able to maintain my position relative to the shot-line in the descent; Henry ahead of me and above me about 15-feet. Obviously the current was moving closer to 3-knots below the surface. At eighty feet the water started to become a little clearer. At 130-feet I noticed an appreciable change in the illumination of the water-column; the water became 'murky', we entered a twilight-zone, yet the visibility in the water was much improved. Three minutes into the dive we reached the bottom at 225-feet, at the anchor which had snagged a piece of debris in a small debris field off the north side of the wreck. The wreck lay south-east of us about sixty feet away; clearly visible from the anchor. Henry and I scootered over, myself right above the sand and Henry positioned above and to the left of me, approaching the stern of the Pioneer One wreck. She lay west-to-east with her stern on the eastern side. She is also perfectly upside-down in the sand. The stern lies in 236-feet and we estimate her bow is in 240+ feet. She looks to be about 200-feet long. In her profile her shallowest part, her keel is right at 200-feet depth. Here the visibility had improved to about 100-feet, as we could clearly see both ends of the wreck from amidships position. At depth the water was about 70-degrees. (Henry?) She has twin three-bladed props, in prop-tunnels separated by a keel-skeg with rudders still in place aft. Bridging each prop-tunnel is a prop-guard bar; these propellers are obviously designed to operate in shallow waters. No superstructure is visible in our transit of the wreck on the starboard side (left side in our perspective swimming forward). Shortly after we reached the props, I did a bone-headed thing and allowed line trailing from my reel to foul in my T-16's prop. I took a couple minutes to remove the prop, clear [most] of the line and reinstall the prop. Unfortunately, I needed to take an additional couple minutes to fully eliminate all the line wrapped around the prop-shaft; but due to depth and time, I elected to deal with that later in the dive, and just swim the wreck. The current on the wreck was minimal.

We swam up to the bow of the wreck, and can confirm the bow is not a ramped-bow. It is a traditional bow with a near-vertical prow. There are a couple large openings cut or blown into the side of the ship near-amidships. It is possible to enter the wreck through these openings, but the visible passages seem limited.

The interior of the wreck was teeming with thousands of juvenile fish; I was unable to identify specifically which type of fish.. From the moment we arrived at the anchor we were greeted by two large Lion Fish that had moved to our shot-line anchor. We saw many others swimming all over the wreck, and never in a hurry to move out of our way! I observed two 3-ft long barracuda swimming above the wreck, and one large (24") Black Grouper swimming near the props. Swimming above the wreck were a few large Crevele Jacks. Henry pointed out a large [6-ft-7-ft] Loggerhead turtle sitting in the sand off the south-east side of the wreck. The wreck has some soft corals and light marine growth, but not any high-profile growth such as sponges or sea fans. Thus the hull shape and running gear is clearly defined visually. These are quite a few old anchor lines laying across the wreck, some fishing line. There are a couple debris fields off the wreck, with the exception of some barrels we observed, was not possible to visually identify the material in the debris fields. My guess is we are seeing elements of the superstructure sheared off or crushed when the wreck hit the bottom upside down.

At :20 Run time we left the wreck from the aft-end of the wreck. We ascended to about 160-feet where Henry shot his surface marker. It went up and then quickly the line trailed off at a very sharp 45-degree angle! I was observing Henry's reel and it looked almost empty of line!! We found out later that our line had fouled with the shot-line on the way up, and we were dealing with the dynamics of two lines for a while. I had Henry scooter with me in tow for a couple minutes as the line seemed to want to lead away dramatically. As we ascended I noticed a reversing of the descent phenomenon... As the lighting grew brighter, the water's turbidity increased and our visibility decreased. Once we hit 80-feet the marker line issue seemed to have resolved, the line's direction reversed, and then we were back to a vertical up-line. I went to turn on my MOD-70 bottle only to be greeted with a face-full of bubbles! Shit; De-Ja-Vue!! Simple-fix; my DIN connection had come loose during the dive. A simple tighten of the knob, and I was back in business; luck to have not lost the O-ring when I first turned the bottle on. We did our first deco switch at 70-feet onto our 50% mix, and things felt normal. I took the time here to remove my prop again, and clear out the remaining line fouled on my prop-shaft. It took about two minutes in a calm relaxed drift... Henry ran the deco on his Liquivision Computer while I compared our stop times with the Ratio Deco plan; very close. We moved up to the 20-foot switch to 100%, our longest stop. Did a little picture-taking here prior to our final ascent to the surface, 74 minutes total run time. The dive felt good, hours later I am feeling good, not at all fatigued... so the deco was effective.

It was a great experience; thanks to everyone today to make the dive possible!! I did get just over one-minute of decent video down on the wreck, which I will post as soon as I have an opportunity to do-so.

Dive safe~

Rick

Deep Freeze -> Tortuga

Posted by Joel Svendsen on May 20, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

I knew this was going to be a great day of diving on my drive down to Coral Gables to meet Jody this morning. The sun was rising and I was jamming to STP's "Interstate Love Song" and CCR's "Have you ever seen the rain"... Beautiful sunny morning. Loaded out and left the dock at 8:15 with just one team diving; Jody and I. Carlos at the helm; Thanks! The Plan was diving the Deep Freeze (135-ft) and scootering to other wrecks; average depth of 120-ft, 40-minutes bottom time. We dove 21/35 back-gas and deco'd on 50%. On site the seas were flat calm and we registered a half-knot of surface current.

Once in the water Jody and I experienced about 20-feet of visibility at the surface, but as we descended the visibility improved to about 60-feet at the bottom. Water temperature was 74-degrees at 120-feet, 80-degrees at 70-feet and 82-degrees at 20-feet.

Once on the Deep Freeze; laying roughly South-to-North, we spent :14 of our planned BT scootering around and through the cargo holds. It's really cool how the wreck is split apart towards the bow, with the bow section laying over onto its starboard side. We saw a lot of schooling jacks, some large Queen Angels, a smattering of Lion Fish, and two barracuda on the wreck. We move from the bow aft towards the stern and from there took a heading south-west and started scootering. We were on-trigger for :03::40 when the Gimrock 898 / Atlas Recycling Barge came into view. Nothing remarkable other than its size, a decent target to hit with about 20-feet of profile. Steel sides and a bottom full of sand, not much marine life. We quickly moved on a northerly heading and scootered for about :02 when we saw the Tortuga come into view. She is beautiful, lots of profile off the bottom, sitting essentially intact in 115-feet, she has about 40-feet of structure in profile. We scootered around the bow and came in on her main cargo deck from the port side moving aft. We went all the way to the stern, then moved up and entered the ship through an opening on the cargo deck. Went into the engine room where only the engine mounts remain. Interesting interior spaces, with stairways, ladderways, man-doors and compartments throughout. Going back up on deck we left the ship off her port railing, where I noticed that blue paint was still visible under the marine growth. We continued N-NE and quickly came to the wreck of the Betek Ar Pen, a low-profile structure, barge-like. As we passed over her hulk, I noticed a large green moray eel coming out to check us out. He had a large thick head, and a body about six to seven feet long. I took a moment to go eye-to-eye with him, then we moved on in a northerly direction and quickly came to a very interesting looking wreck; the St.Henry's Express. Jody tells me he believes it is a dive boat, but the more I think about what I saw, the more convinced I believe she is an old steel-hulled yacht. She's about eighty feet long and has a narrow beam of only twenty feet or so. Her bow is very traditional in vertical sheer, while she has a canoe-stern, with twin screws and rudders bracketing a skeg-keel. Her superstructure has nice walk-arounds and port-holes (port-lights long ago removed). A hard-top is laying off in the sand on her starboard side. Her naval architecture and deck layout speaks to me as more yacht / pleasure craft than dive boat / commercial craft. Up in her bow Jody pointed out a small juvinile Lion Fish who's spines were way out of proportion with its small body. We left the St.Henry's Express at :34 run-time and scootered on an easterly heading where in about one minute on the trigger we hit the Gimrock 402 barge. She has about 15-feet or so of profile sitting in 115-feet of water. She looks to me to have been a fuel barge or something similar. We scootered up to about mid-ship when Jody thumbed the dive on "time". (Or was it on "cold")?! We were at exactly :40 Run Time and decided to not extend an additional :05. We left the wreck and made our first stop at 90-feet, and did :01 slides up to 70-feet. Here we switched to our deco gas and I shot the bag. Deco was uneventful. The water became warmer as we ascended and the visibility became degraded. We surfaced at :70 Run time, and were escorted back to the Jupiter by two sizable Remoras! Great dive this morning. Thank you Jody!

Dive Safe~

Rick

Tacoma -> Sea Taxi

Posted by Joel Svendsen on May 8, 2012 at 12:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Saturday Morning; Cinco de Mayo-2012. Carlos at the helm; a dive team of three: Jody, David and myself. Seas were 2-3 with the occasional 4, but diminishing. We arrived on-site just before 9am to beautiful dive conditions: half-knot of current, 78-degree water and about 40-50-feet of visibility.

We splashed in, formed up fairly quickly and descended as a team to the bottom at 135-feet. Carlos dropped us almost directly on top of the Tacoma; she was only about 20-feet to the south of us. We scootered over to the Tacoma, and swam along its port-side going aft just above the sand. Saw a couple Lion Fish near the rudder-posts, a queen angel, some nice live corals as well. We went up onto the wreck, and entered the superstructure for a quick swim thru (around), came back out and went forward on the wreck. Visibility was around 50-feet so team awareness wasn't difficult. Good thing, I brought out my Sealife 1200 camera for the first time. (Photos of the dive are uploaed onto our Yahoo Group Page; http://groups.yahoo.com/group/miamiwreck/photos/album/601488635/pic/list).

Jody lead us off the Tacoma to what I believe is the wreck of the Sherry-Lynn. On the way we passed by a large steel cylinder, about eight-feet diameter x about 20-ft long. We didn't spend much time on the second wreck. Enough so we could do a circuit around her, noticing large schools of spade-fish, a couple small baracuda as well. Jody took a heading from the Sherry-Lynn and we scootered across the desolate sand bottom towards the Sea Taxi (we hoped). About three minutes into the transit Jody adjusted course a little more easterly... and two minutes later we swam right up to the bow of the wreck. She's not been down very long, only about three years, so all-in-all she looks pristine. We swam down into the large cargo holds (nothing much to see there) and then swam up the aft engine room exhaust riser to the upper deck. From here Jody asked us if we wanted to extend our planned 40-min BT by 5-minutes, we all entheusastically said yes! The water was warm enough that even after the long scooter transits we weren't cold. We had plenty of gas. We swam forward, followed a flight of stairs up into the wheelhouse, then back down onto the main deck. We swam back aft again where we hit "time" and needed to shoot the bag. Jody ran the deco, I shot the bag with David's assistance. Our bag went up at :47 Run Time, using my large 78" yellow Halcyon marker buoy.

We made our ascent and were only about two or three minutes into our 20-foot stop when we had a visitor. (Of course my camera was put away in my pocket)!! A Loggerhead sea turtle, maybe about 5-ft tip-to-tip came up to check us out. We were strung out in a line, with maybe eight feet between each of us. The turtle comes first to Jody, eye-to-eye, maybe three feet away... then languidly swims over to me; same thing, eye-to-eye about two-to-three feet away from me... then a moment later swam over to the Oracle. No sooner did he look into David's eyes, the turtle turned and swam back down towards the bottom, making haste!! This was a nice 'moment' in deco, it doesn't happen very often. We were out of the water after :72 run time.

All back on board with plenty of gas. Awesome dive my friends!

 

Dive Safe!

~ Rick Thomas

Spiegal Grove , March 31, 2012

Posted by Joel Svendsen on April 6, 2012 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Miami Wreck Divers ended the month of March with a beautiful day of diving off Key Largo, returning to the wreck of the Spiegal Grove. We left the dock just after 8am in Coral Gables with Carlos at the helm of the Jupiter. Manifest was Jody, David and myself diving. David's nephew Josh came along to watch bubbles (and chum for fish). The weather was clear, sunny, light winds from the south, seas 2-4-feet offshore, near flat calm in the bay. We were on site at 10:40 after a nice run out to the dive site.

Dive plan was :50 BT on EAN-30; Avg-D 100-ft; 1's from 50-20; :15 Deco on 100%. I led the dive, David shot the bag, Jody ran deco.

When we arrived on station there were three boats moored to the wreck, divers down. We followed the aft-starboard mooring line down to the wreck. Visibility was marginal, only about 30-feet. +/-. Made for a very myopic view of a very large wreck. It had been over a year since I last dove the SG, and I was in for a couple surprises. First I led the team down the aft cargo ramp, around the port side of the stern and under the wreck between the props and rudder. A classic route I have swam a dozen times previously. What used to be a large swim-through and a max depth of 144-ft is now a restricted swim-through with a max depth of 137-feet! My stage plowed the bottom silting it out for Jody & David. Sorry guys!! We scootered forward up the starboard side of the wreck at about 125-feet, and moved off the side of the wreck about 40-feet into the debris field. Looking to our left the massive structure of the Spiegal Grove was lost in the gloam, visibility was poor! Continuing forward to the bow and following the anchor chains out ahead of the wreck, the bow-on view was limited. Decision made; keep the camera in my pocket.

We scootered aft down the port-side of the ship. David signaled us, having found a very new yellow weight belt with 13-lbs of shiny-new lead sitting out in the sand! I deployed my 48" SMB and David and I attached it to the belt, adding enough gas to bring the belt neutral buoyancy. We continued up over the port-side rail, and down into the cargo bay. We swam forward into the overhead section, darker than usual with the poor visibility. David signaled us and guided us up into the mezzanine area where I put him into the #1 position, me taking #2 position. As we exited the bay, I signaled the team and switched from my stage to my back-gas. David had stashed the weight belt on a ledge near the top of the bay, now we relocated the prize to a rail aft of the forward crane, to be retrieved later. David switched me back to the #1 position again. I guided us into the machine shop from the aft-starboard entrance and transited out through the port-side man-door into the port-side companionway. Swimming forward the passage was restricted just forward of the large athwartship companionway, so we turned right and went towards the starboard side. Said hello to Snoopy as we passed over the landmark. Turned right again and swam aft down the starboard-side companionway and back out of the wreck. I brought us back in the wreck twice more, first through one of the access openings cut in the side of the ship. Debris limited our passage and I brought us back out the only practical exit. Scootering forward out onto the foredeck area, I swam us into the ship through a man-door on the port side of the superstructure. Debris having fallen in from the overhead again restricted our passage. The wreck is changing. Interior elements are deteriorating making penetrations more treacherous.

There seemed to be quite a bit of marine life on the wreck. Lots of soft corals, green coral, sea fans, sponges. I saw several large Queen Angel fish, and two large Hog Fish down in the cargo bay. Up above the cargo bay I saw three large black grouper. Swimming around the wreck were quite a few 3-4-ft barracuda. During our scooter transit David and Jody poked their head into one of the hull-side openings on the starboard side, only to be challenged by one of the exceptionally large Jewfish that live on this wreck. The one fish I didn't see was the Lionfish. Perhaps because of the limited visibility. We saw a few other divers swimming around the mid-ship superstructure about half-way through our dive. This was the only time we observed other divers on the wreck.

At :49 into the dive we thumbed the dive. I had an average depth of 101-feet displayed on my Tech-2G at this point. Perfection! David shot the big yellow marker, then he and I shot the orange bag with the weight-belt up the line. Later Carlos told us the weight suspended under the bags made the two markers on the surface stand vertical and look GOOD!! Looking up at our bags, they hit the surface just aft of a dive boat that just tied into a port-side mooring. Carlos said we had their full attention as their divers were just suiting up. Jody brought us through our deco, switching to 100% at 20-ft. We were on the surface clean at :75 run-time. I started to feel cold in the last :10 of the dive, water temps were 74-degrees.

On the surface the seas were laying down a little, but not enough for Josh's comfort. I think much to his distress we started to eat the pineapple pieces and the (tribute to Alex) Trail-Mix I put together for the dive. David says its some of the trail-mix best ever!! Jody was gracious and altered our return course, going through a very interesting channel through Key Largo to take us back on the inside. From the S.G. we headed west and passed thru the south channel of, and into Largo Sound. Interesting to se how the Army Corps of Engineers cut the channel through the coral rock. From there we continued (west) thru the "Marvin D. Adams Waterway" (Adams Cut) which took us to the "Backcountry Bay & ICW". We enjoyed calm flat waters, made great time from Key Largo back to Coral Gables. What an awesome day on the water!

Rick Thomas

Techfills LLC

Star Trek 3/17/2012

Posted by Joel Svendsen on March 21, 2012 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

We left the dock this morning at 8:30 with prospects of beautiful weather, on our way to dive the elusive Pioneer One. She lies in 220(ish) feet of water, southeast of Fowley light. Cruising Biscayne Bay the seas were nice, but as we gained open water the seas picked up. By the time we were on station, seas were 3-5-feet, still dive-able. Unfortunately the current was running close to 3-knots. The Pioneer One was not to be visited today. Per Jody, this is indeed a difficult wreck to dive.

The Oracle suggested we try the Star Trek, laying in similar depth a few miles north. Once on station we realized we made a good decision. Seas had laid down nicely and the current was less than a knot. Dive-able! We went in as two teams of two. David and I first, Jo dy and Henry second. Once in the water David and I formed up and powered down towards the bottom. Immediately we realized this was another dive with marginal visibility. Thirty-feet at best. 160, 180, 190... We stopped the descent and started looking; Carlos did us right! We landed almost right on top of the wreck. Water temperatures we 74-76 degrees top to bottom! Looking over towards David I think I could see him smile! We scootered to the wreck, arriving next to a series of small openings on the deck. The wreck had an ambience of twilight with the poor visibility, still the current was minimal.

Immediately we noticed the abundance of marine life on the wreck. I saw two Cobia just as we arrived at the wreck. Several Creval Jacks, a large hogfish and a very large Queen Angel were swimming along the deck, all of this within the 20-25-feet of visibility we had at depth. The wreck was populated with a lot of soft corals and seafans. Just before we thumbed the dive I observed a large Lionfish swim right up to David, David's hand moving uncomfortably close to its dorsal spines. Almost immediately David saw the fish and used his primary light to chase the fish away, unaware of how close he actually came to a very painful interaction with the fish!

Almost the very moment we got to the wreck, David's primary LED light went out. He manipulated the switch, it came back on, then almost immediately went out again. We stayed in position on the wreck while David did what he could to resolve an uncomfortable situation. It was rather hopeless. The poor visibility and diving with scooters made the option of deploying a back-up Scout light sub-optimal. We needed good lights to signal and stay in communication in the poor visibility. David thumbed the dive. We got just under seven minutes on the wreck (plus decent time)... The benefit of diving Ratio Deco is the ability to change the dive plan as we go, so we were quickly able to recalculate our decompression schedule. We shot our bag from the wreck at 190-feet and began our ascent. The ascent went well, and with such a short BT we were able to do all of the deco from 70-ft up on our 50% mix.

Once back on the boat we saw the other team's marker. We never saw Jody or Henry during our short visit to the wreck, but with poor visibility and a 200-foot long wreck, that was not really surprising. Only when Jody and Henry were back aboard did we learn that they never found the wreck. They descended to 208-feet without seeing the wreck. Scootered south a bit in hopes of coming up on the wreck, then a little east into deeper water, but ten minutes into the hunt, the realization that finding the wreck was not likely in only 25-feet of visib ility, Jody and Henry thumbed their dive.

The morning's dive wasn't the dive any of us planned, but was an excellent dive to hone our situational awareness and skills. It also was a great example of how the whims of the sea god/Murphy influences who gets on the wreck and who sand-dives. Finding the wreck this morning was as much about luck as it was about skill.

Dive safe~

Rick Thomas

Mystic Isle 2/18/2012

Posted by Joel Svendsen on February 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Saturday February 20 we dove the wreck of the Mystic Isle, a wreck laying due east of Key Biscayne. Dive roster was David Buhlinger, Jody Svendsen, Alex Gilson and Rick Thomas. Two teams of two. Carlos was our captain, and as always thank you Carlos for your superb boat driving.

We arrived on-site at 8:45am and were suited up and in the water by 9:10. Dive plan was :20 BT, Average Depth 180-Ft. :30 Deco, starting at 130-ft. :58 Run time.

Sea conditions were ideal, flat seas, no appreciable current, good visibility 60-ft+, water temperatures of 74-deg on the surface and 72-degrees at depth. We had a picture-perfect descent and were on the wreck in less than :03. We came in on the starboard side of the wreck near the stern. Scootered up into a large opening in the hull-side and went in below the main deck. It's an interesting swim-through with just enough potential entanglements to keep the penetration interesting. There was a lot of silt on the decks, of significant build-up evidenced by the way it sloped into any opening in the deck. Being the #4 diver in the group, I had the best over-all perspective of the silt build-up in the wreck! The internal steel bulkheads are still fairly intact. We swam back out and scootered a circuit around the wreck, seeing the over-all condition of the structure. Lots of soft corals and sea fans growing on the wreck. We swam into the super-structure on the main deck, around 170-ft, and did a quick passage through. I noticed a porcelain hand-bowl is sitting on the deck in the forward area of the structure. There was no large marine life evident, only a school of small grunts swimming above the main deck. Up above the structure we noticed an opening that seemed to go down into the bowels of the wreck, likely the engine room. We didn't attempt to enter through here.

At about :15 into the dive we left the Mystic Isle and scootered NW in search of the wreck of the Esmirelda. We scootered at 180-feet for a minute, then turned a more southerly heading for a few more minutes. At :20 run time we thumbed the dive, without finding the second wreck. Moved up to 130-ft, our first deep stop where we shot David's new Dive Rite yellow SMB. I noticed that by the time we were in our ascent the visibility was degrading to less than 50-ft. We surfaced to still pristine conditions.

I did an experimental decompression schedule, testing the theory that in Ratio Deco, one stop can be omitted without significant risk of DCS. I blew the last :05 from 10-ft and relaxed on the surface breathing my MOD-20 gas. Pleased to report I came out of the water feeling clean, and went through the day feeling good, being active and walking Miami Beach in the afternoon. I am not endorsing the action of omitting any decompression, simply stating that in my case, having done all of my decompression properly up to the point I surfaced, I was still out of the water feeling good.

Was a great morning of diving. When we were finished with gear stowed, we did a SMB visibility test, placing three different SMBs in the water. We placed an orange BBQ bag, a yellow 52" Dive Rite sausage marker and a yellow 72" Halcyon sausage marker in the water together. We did not weight the sausage markers to allow them to stand vertical, as we wanted "worst-case" situations. We motored away and observed the visibility of the markers. The 72" Halcyon marker was the most visible from all distances.

Dive safe!

Rick Thomas

Techfills LLC


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