15 May 2010

Florida Keys - Day 4 - Key West Diving

We all got up early, 7am? Hopped in the rental car and headed South/West for about an hour to Key West. Check in time was somewhere around 9 - 9:30 am with Captain's Corner Dive Center. A PADI gold five star center. We boarded the Sea Eagle. Nice boat. As described on their website - "Sea Eagle" is a 60-foot, 37-ton, all aluminum dive vessel. The custom configuration features two dive ladders, state of the art electronics, and the creature comforts divers and snorkelers prefer. With all these custom features, it is no wonder "Sea Eagle" was chosen to feature in the James Bond film, "License to Kill." They keep all their rental dive equipment right on board, in a large room, below deck. Again all the staff of Captain's Corner were very friendly, helpful and professional. The owner was a real nice, older lady. She told me that she was thinking/planning to sell the business. She also was going to hook us up with a place to stay for the night but the girls already found something. Honestly I think we would have been better off staying in the place she had to offer. It was like a block away and close to Duval Street.

As with all our dives it was about a 30-40 minute ride out to the site. Today we were heading out to the Vandenberg wreck. When we got to the site we tied up to the stern buoy of the wreck. There are about 5 mooring buoys along the wreck. It's huge! 523 feet long. The bottom rests in about 140-150 feet of water although the upper structures can be reached starting at about 40 to 50 feet. Most of the interesting structures are above 100. I was never below 92 feet. The crew tied off, from the mooring buoy to the front of the Sea Eagle. A second line was run at a depth of about 20 feet, attached to the mooring line and running to a second weighted line attached to red buoy the crew threw over. Make sense? No. Let me put it this way. We would hit the water, swim out to the red buoy, drop down 20 feet to a horizontal line, follow that line to the mooring buoy line and drop down that line to the stern of the Vandenberg. Still don't make sense, see the diagram. This method meant no one needed to hang on to the anchor line and possibly be jarred around/injured when the Sea Eagle rocked in the waves. Also a stage bottle was hung on the line should divers exceed no decompression limits and need a longer safety stop.

Dive conditions were about as close to perfect as they could be. The water was smooth, almost like glass. There was only a slight current. Visibility was 60 feet or more. We dove pretty conservatively as per the crew. With a 3000 psi tank we would start heading back to the accent line at 2000 psi and be heading up with no less then 1200. That would give us an extra 1000 psi should anything go wrong. I had no problems with this. We also did a 1-3 minute deep water safety stop which was 1/2 of our maximum depth.

As we descended there were schools of Barracuda around 60 feet and a thermocline at about 85 feet. The ship has been sunk for just about a year but is already starting to show growth. There was a slight current heading from the stern to the bow of the Vandenberg and this meant swimming against it to get back to the accent line. During the safety stop our captain swam by with 2 freshly speared Amberjack for his evenings dinner.

Because of the current we did the second dive as a drift, Cozumel style. As soon as we all hit the water the boat un-moored and moved to the bow mooring line of the wreck to pick us up. This was great. We effortlessly drifted past the whole 500' wreck from bow to stern.

1st dive -
  • Site depth 150 feet
  • My max depth 92 feet
  • Vis - 60 feet or more
  • Coldest water temp - 78 F
  • Bottom time - 30 minutes
2nd dive
  • Site depth 150 feet
  • My max depth 91 feet
  • Vis 60 feet or more
  • Coldest water temp - 77 F
  • Bottom time 24 minutes

Our surface interval consisted of an evening bar hop up the 1 mile stretch of Duval Street. Favorite bar - Sloppy Joes.

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