Miami Wreck Exploration Project

Technical diving in Miami since 1990

Raychel - Dive Report

Posted by Rick Thomas on June 23, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Dive Report: Raychel

June 21, 2014: Miami Beach, Florida Miami Wreck Exploration Project dive on the Raychel.

Such anticipation! Depending upon whom you speak with, we have tried to dive the Raychel three or four times in the past year, always to have something cause us to scrub the dive, usually weather. This weekend the weather was gorgeous! Clear skies, thunderstorms in the late afternoon, flat calm seas. The planets aligned, Matt was able to come and drive the boat, we had two teams of two; Alex and Jody, David and I. Leaving the dock at 0830 we motored out of Key Biscayne and up through Government Cut, past the cargo docks, the Coast Guard station and out to sea. Turning north we made our way to the wreck site, fining it easily on the bottom-finder. The ocean ‘looked’ beautiful, but the current was running north at 2.5-knots at the surface! We had scooters so the decision was made to go for the dive, we were not to be denied! Calculating the lead needed for a hot-drop to 180-feet, Matt set us up and called "dive-dive-dive”! The four of us splashed in, and this was the moment when the curse of the Raychel again reared her ugly head. Something hit the glass cover of my Halcyon 21W HID primary light causing immediate failure. Descending through the water it was apparent the beautiful blue of the ocean was not going to offer us the spectacular visibility we were all anticipating; at best we had 60-feet of visibility. Nonetheless Matt did his job well, and we landed on a pile of steel with about 20-feet of relief.

The Raychel was a Honduran cargo vessel built in Germany in 1955 by Schiffswerft (Hugo Peters Co.). she was 198-feet long and was carrying a load of construction materials into the port of Miami when her load shifted, causing her to capsize on October 18, 1990. She was salvaged by being cut into smaller pieces, hauled off Miami Beach and sunk in 190-feet of water. Now we were swimming around one of the larger of the pieces that once was the Raychel.

Certainly very little of the structure resembled a piece of a ship. It is a good habitat for smaller juvenile fish species, with corals and sea fans also growing on pieces of the debris. The wreck site had another surprise waiting for us; 63-degrees water temperature! We experienced an unexpected twenty degree drop in temperature from the surface to the bottom, the thermocline starting at about 60-feet. We scootered south into the current, still flowing at around 2-knots. We followed Jody past a pile of marker buoys that lay in 185-feet, one larger “bell” buoy and three smaller navigation markers. About 90-feet south of the markers we came upon the barge, sitting in the sand with about 8-feet of profile. It appeared to be in good over-all condition with about 50% of its structure buried in the white sugar sand bottom. Just off the south-east corner of the barge we observed a batfish sitting in the sand. Continuing south we came across another small debris pile about 50-feet from the barge. The relief profile of this debris is only about 6 to 8 feet, with most of the debris shell-plating and frames from the deck of the ship. Again we observed large schools of juvenile fish, and a small population of Lionfish. A couple medium sized hogfish were observed. Here we turned back with the current and moved back towards the barge, about :12 minutes into our dive. The barge is a large structure and easy to navigate to. We drifted past the pile of buoys again and came across the east side of the large debris pile where we started our dive. Here we hit :18 runtime, decided to not extend our bottom time, and Alex sent our yellow SMB up to the surface. David and I did our ascent with Jody and Alex, looking forward to getting back up into warmer waters. As we moved towards our first gas switch, the curse of the Raychel (or Murphy) reared her head once again; my Tec 2G suddenly shut down! We carry back-up, so it wasn’t really an issue, just another aggravation. David and I working with each other on our trim in the water sent a second marker up from about 50-feet, and both teams finished decompression in the warmer 82-degree water under yellow and orange markers.

The Raychel has been dove and surveyed! She’s spread out over a large area; we didn’t make it to the most northern-most section of debris. There were no large fish on the site, almost exclusively the domain of small juvenile schooling fish. Corals are sporadic as are the other marine growth on and around the debris. This site is likely to continue to degrade as little structure remains to support the relief that does exist. Only the barge and buoys remain as identifiable remnants of the ship that was once the Raychel.

Rick Thomas; Miami Wreck Exploration Project



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