Marshall is a coworker that had learned to dive with a friend, and to a lesser degree than I had gotten the bug. With my sister off doing an expensive trip that I could not afford (due to still paying off that nasty dive gear bill), Marshall and I decided that this would be the best day for us to dive, considering that we were both taking classes and economically disadvantaged (well, compared to other divers ;). At least I know this guy, so I'm not getting a buddy I know nothing about.
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: Cloudy, cloudy, and cool. A little bit of rain on the way out. In spite of this, vis had increased!
- Personal Notes: Going with Scuba Quest again; nice boat, nice crew, $50 and they provide the tanks (Nitrox is $5 a tank extra). $65 and they provide all gear needed. These were Marshall's first dives after getting certified.
These were the same two sites my sister and I dove at when we went with Scuba Quest in July (though Pete had different names for them than Mark did). This was the BEST trip with Scuba Quest yet. Let's see, where to start ... where to start ...
On the way out I rode up with Pete and Bob (our divemaster for the trip) on the bridge. We spotted a couple of dolphins on the way out (Pete said they were a juvenile and his mother). We got to the first spot which was the artificial reef. Marshall and I saw some great stuff; Marshall's bouyancy was a little light so he was always drifting above me. We swam around it a couple of times, seeing various fish, including (I think it was the first dive) a large barracuda (nearly missed him; my dive computer was not as bad as last dive but still dropped out once in a while). There were (what my sister says) some flounder too (flat looking grayish fish that nearly blend in with the sand). Some rock/scorpion fish, angel fish, trigger fish, spade fish; curtains of bait fish, and some makerel. Mars pointed out a shy little lobster to me, that tucked up inside himself when I shined my light on him. We also saw some bigger fish fighting over a meal of a smaller fish (poor guy). But the best was yet to come ...
Irregular natural reefs in low vis water bug me; same reef, again I get lost (Marshall and I popped up 70 feet off to the starboard side of the boat). However, it was well worth the swim. Marshall and I headed south from the anchor, and just about the time I was thinking we were swimming a little far my computer went off (lost the signal from the transmitter). As I was futzing with it to get the signal reestablished, we happened upon a nurse shark sitting between two large rock shelves, snoozing in the sand! I saw what it was right away; it was curled up a little and Mars thought it was a ray at first but then he looked at me and there I was (probably looking pretty stupid) with my hand sticking up from my head in the sign for shark! This was my first in the wild (I swam with three small bull sharks at Epcot).
Aside from that we did get lost; with no reliable feature to fix on it's easy to get lost on the natural reef (Kokomo). Think I saw a grouper but can't be sure; saw more stone/scorpion fish, some more flounder too.
After swimming around for 30 minutes, never finding the anchor since we had originally decended and left it, we decided that it was time to surface (Pete had said that he wanted us back aboard after 30 min). Being lost, but still being responsible divers, we did a minimal safety stop at 15 feet for 3 minutes. Once we broke the water and saw where we were in relation to the boat (I'm a poor judge of distance but I'm guessing 70 feet) I took my regulator out of my mouth as Mars and I started swimming back towards the boat, and said, "Well, I got us lost, but that nurse shark was well worth it." Mars responded, "I haven't seen much after seeing that shark ... been in a little bit of a haze."
Marshall was a good buddy. Not more I can say about that. :) As long as my buddy has a good time (or it's not my fault that they didn't), I did my job.
On the way back in, while in that state between being wide awake and wanting to go to sleep, looking back into the Gulf, I saw a manta ray leap from the water and dive back in. It's one of those things that only you catch and it's pointless to point it out to anyone cause it's already happened and the ray is unlikely to do it again in the same place.
Dive data for dives on this day:
||Madiera Beach Artificial