|Posted by Joel Svendsen on March 21, 2012 at 5:40 PM|
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.