It had been a while since I had dove, especially since I had been saving money to pay off dive gear. Things at work put me in the financial situation that I could treat myself to a decent birthday present. This is an important trip to note, though, because this is my first dive with no 'planned' buddy. I won't have one until I'm on the boat ...
Diving off of Madiera Beach:
- Directions from Tampa: Get on I-275 South. In St. Pete, take Exit 13 and turn right onto 38th Ave. North. 38th meets up with Tyrone Blvd.; take a right onto Tyrone Blvd. Look for SR-666 which should lead you to a draw bridge called the Tom Stuart Causeway. It dead-ends on the other side of the bridge at Gulf Blvd. Take a left. The shop is on the left (I'd say about a mile or so down...like most dive shops, look for the big dive flag!). It's about an hour's drive from USF.
- Conditions on the day of my visit: Sunny. Hot. It's Florida in early September ... what do you expect?
- Personal Notes: Going with Scuba Quest again; nice boat, nice crew, $50 and they provide the tanks (Nitrox is $5 a tank extra). The crew this time was Pete (the captain for the trip) and Chad (the Dive Master). The only negative of the trip was Pete's "Boat Lecture," which was okay, but Mark gave a really good detailed description when I went out with him on July 4th. Still, it was a blast.
There were three of us with no buddy (myself, a guy, and a woman), so we got grouped together. I'm horrible with names and the only one I remember was the way the guy's name sounded; it sounded like 'Plenty'. This was his first dive after getting certified. I don't know about the woman's experience level. These two dives were my 20th and 21st.
They left it to me to lead (ack). "Dire Straits" is a natural reef. Again, it's easy to get turned around in limited visibility and though we always found the anchor, it was never oriented the way I expected it (I'd come swimming up expecting the anchor line to pass over my head, only to find the anchor first and then the line going up away from me. Saw some stone (could have been scorpion) fish; found a blunted spearfishing tip; a Queen angel (with the crown and everything!) that was trying to hide; some smaller grouper; lots of smaller fish. There was also a *lot* of fire coral (don't touch!) and I can only guess it was brain coral. At the very beginning the woman had a weighting issue; it took us a while for me to get the weight into her weight belt. Also, I'm beginning to think my DataTrans Plus dive computer wasn't a good purchase; I would have issues with transmission loss every once in a while (transmitter on tank sends pressure data to the wrist unit). Getting it back wasn't a major issue but the computer would beep audibly and I don't think the fish liked it.
The second dive over all could have been better. Not sure who to blame for the bad stuff, really; we were inexperienced divers, so that was a factor. The boat was not anchored on the wreck of the Betty Rose perse, but on one side of it in the sand. It put the boat right over the wreck, and we were instructed to just go straight down from the stern. However, that apparently caused us to drift away from the actual wreck. My buddies and I swam in what we thought was the correct direction. Unfortunately, when I actually found the wreck, I found myself alone! I looked around for my buddies, waited a second, and then surfaced. They were about thirty feet away, and we were on the port side of the boat. Once reunited, we decided to decend again. We stuck together again but then couldn't find the wreck. Came up, and were about 100 feet stern of the boat. We swam to the boat (into the current) and Pete told us to go to the bow and then head straight down, and we'd find it. Our female dive buddy was apparently tired and got back on to the boat. I was very close ...
"Plenty" and I did as told. He apparently had better bearings than I because he pointed, we swam in that direction, and then there it was! Bait fish all over the place. Others said they saw jewfish, but chances are if I was near them I scared them away. More grouper, and a hog fish (kinda looks like a spadefish but with three spines coming out of his head).
Dive data for dives on this day: