|Posted by Rick Thomas on June 2, 2012 at 8:55 PM|
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