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Fort Lauderdale trip report


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#1 ce4jesus

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 12:00 PM

I've always lived by the motto that a bad day diving is better than a good day at work. So when my wife and I went diving in the Boynton area just South of Palm Beach our expectations were just to have a good time. The dives here were good. The viz was good and bad with clear water that was clouded by what appeared to be tiny shrimp and tons of baby fish. For example, I could adequately see a diver from 40 feet but trying to focus my camera on a moray eel just 2 feet away proved to be an almost impossible task with autofocus. On a sidenote, I was amazed at the health of the reef. It was in spectacular shape. The amount of life was incredible. The reefs we dove were directly off-shore from Deerfield beach about a half mile. My wife and I had just did a shore dive there Wednesday and were treated to the largest puffer fish I'd ever seen along with a stonefish and a small nurse shark. Viz off the beach wasn't good at all and you had to deal with a light surge. The dive operator we went with is hard to grade out because it was still mini-lobster season however I thought that they did a decent job catering to Lobster hunters, spear fishermen, a private collector and 4 recreational photographers/divers.
Our final two dives were with Pennekamp (which previous to Friday, was one of our favorite stops along the Keys). Shorelanders from Colorado, we were just trying to sneak in a couple more dives before departing on Saturday. We probably should have just went shopping or enjoyed the nice beaches. The morning was windy and our first clue about the coming events should have been the zero visibility just off of the beach. It was complete soup. My wife and I hoped that it would be different off-shore. Our 2nd clue should have been that the operator didn't have the vis report available and when asked about it the boat coming into shore told them he'd call them on a landline. We were never given the forecast. Clue number 3 was when the Skipper said it was rough seas out there so if you want a refund you need to get off the boat before it departs. :o Alarm bells should have rang but didn't :(
We were greeted out the gate with 6-8ft waves followed by 8-10 footers once were were anchored at the dive site (Molasses Reef). I have been there once before and it was spectacular. This time it was forgettable. There was a steady current and a heavy surge. The viz was the only thing disappearing faster than the air in my tank :wacko: I managed to snap a few pics during the first part of the dive but after 20 minutes underwater the viz had dropped to about 20ft and even less in some areas where the sand was being pounded by the surge. The hardest part of the dive wasn't the viz, the tough surface kick back to the boat after some poor navigating :blink: or even the challenging photography. It was getting back on the dive boat. Just as I removed my fins and was ready to attempt a boarding in 8 foot waves I see my wifes dive light drop to the bottom. Naturally, I had to go get it. I finally retrieved it and got aboard breathing like I'd been chased by a great white :) The 2nd dive...yes there was another. No one on board could actually figure why the operator wanted to continue other than not wanting to refund any money (My thoughts on this a little later). The skipper assured us that the viz would be better on the 2nd site....it was worse :o. My wife stayed aboard with most every other sane dive on board that day but a few adventurous spirits went in, me being one of them. The only sane thing I did was leave the camera onboard. The viz was terrible...maybe 3 meters at best. My dive buddy was a complete stranger who insisted on leading the way despite not having a compass. 10 minutes into the dive he relented :D and allow me to take us back to the boat. We saw absolutely nothing. You'd almost bump into the reef as it came into view.
Now back to the operator. The people who stayed aboard were all seasick when I got back on board. Most were swearing off Pennekamp and some even the South Florida Area for diving. My wife and I have been coming down for several years and have never experienced this kind of poor visibility and conditions. I'm still at odds as to why the operator can't figure out that if people don't have a good time, they're not coming back. Furthermore, despite the money they earned today by taking us out when they had first hand knowledge that it wasn't a good day to dive, they had to know it would cost them (and Florida) because people would obviously not come back. BTW, there was a young 15 year old girl with her mother who were swept quite a ways down current. The look on her face when finally getting aboard might have her swearing off diving altogether. :( Even my wife and I will have 2nd thoughts about returning to Pennekamp despite having done several wonderful dives with them. At the minimum I would expect a dive operator to give an accurate report on the afternoon dives. They just took groups out and are in communication with other operators and know what the conditions are. Pennekamp's steathly approach to keeping clientele in dark will only cost them in the long run. Which is sad. Enough said, I always get something out of the dives that I do and on this one I gained confidence in my navigation and dive skills in some heavy surge and current. The two combined with poor visibility made navigation and diving in general extremely tough.

I live to dive another day :ninja:
Gary
Gary
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#2 Rocha

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 09:40 AM

Thanks for the nice report Gary! Very interesting, I didn't have many good experiences diving in South FLorida either.

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#3 ce4jesus

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 02:47 PM

Thanks Rocha,
Say...I just got back from Oahu. Despite a 75hr work week I managed to sneak away for 1 morning dive. I went with AAA and had a pretty good time. Visited the twin pinnacles just off Pearl Harbor a few miles. Water Viz was again fairly decent but millions of tiny, translucent jellies clouded things up. Still managed a few nice pix, a visit from a Galapagos Shark and some other cool stuff.
later,
Gary
Olympus E-520, TLC arms, Inon Z-240s, 50mm, 14-42mm woody's diopter

#4 Rocha

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Posted 02 September 2006 - 06:51 PM

That's very cool Gary. I dove only twice here in Oahu, have to get out more. Post some pics of the twin pinnacles when you can...

Luiz

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#5 ce4jesus

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Posted 03 September 2006 - 08:33 PM

Rocha,
I just uploaded the photos that I liked the best to the site I've linked below. This is like the 2nd location I've dove in a month, halfway across the world from each other (Florida and Hawaii) where I had to deal with both current and surge on the same dive. Everytime I get both, the viz is marginal. I also decided to try out a new fiber optic cable which refused to fire my optical strobe on either dive. I also had some brain-lock about my camera on the Hawaii dives which prevented better results.
However, the dive itself was one of the best I've had. My first shark (the DM called it a galapagos but it looked a lot like a bronze whaler) I got a silouhette of a photograph of it in the distance. It was quite impressive as it swam overhead. Seemed very large in girth for a 8-9ft shark. Saw tons of Moray Eels and some rare fish. Overall it was a very nice dive...current and surge aside! I may have some opportunities to return in the near future and will again sneak in a dive or two. http://www.cupsonlin...97/Default.aspx
Gary
Olympus E-520, TLC arms, Inon Z-240s, 50mm, 14-42mm woody's diopter