Scott, who is pretty much my dive instructor and boss at Neptune Divers of Weeki Wachee, was going into the gulf with Narcosis Scuba. It was Scott's first visit into the Gulf in over three years, as he is usually very busy running Neptune Divers.
Diving in the Gulf of Mexico:
- Directions from Tampa: From USF, get thee to Bearss Avenue and follow it until it becomes Gunn Highway. Take a left onto Tarpon Springs Road. Follow that until you get to ALT-19/Pinellas Ave and take a right. You'll pass Narcosis' shop on the right; go over the bridge and then take the second left (Anclote Road). The boat leaves from Belle Harbor Marina, the first marina on the left.
- Conditions on the day of my visit: Sunny, a little warm.
- Personal Notes: Never one to turn down the opportunity to go into the Gulf (unless I'm going someplace a little more interesting), this day almost seemed like it was not to happen. And then, when it did, the Powers-That-Be decided to throw me a number of curves.
First, it looked like the boat was going to be out of commission; the morning dive saw one of the brand new engines on Narcosis' boat start overheating. That problem was fixed though and my 1pm departure with Scott was on.
Joyce, the owner of Narcosis Scuba, took us out to two sites, the names of which I will have to make up as I forgot to ask Joyce even if the places had names ...
The first was a collection of "Four Barges." The one we wanted had people fishing off of it, but we managed to find a fairly intact barge (well, the shape was there; but there was no skin) and went for a dive. I brought along my camera. Finding two (there were a total of three) large Jewfish hanging around inside the barge, I lined up a shot and clicked.
Enter PTB Curve #1. It didn't click like it usually did and I didn't hear film advancing. I checked the indicators and found them not to be on, in spite of the camera's on switch being on. then I notice the air bubbles trapped inside of the camera ... or, more accurately, I noticed the water *inside* of the camera. Yes, my faithful Sea & Sea Mx5 flooded.
Not one to let that ruin my dive, I tucked it away and shrugged it off.
It was a small barge that we were on; later in the dive, Scott took myself and the student he was with out off the barge to a couple of blocks that were down there; Scott fed a wrasse from the remains of a crab, and made sure his student enjoyed the dive and saw what salt water diving was like. The water was a comfortable 74 degrees, which aided to the visibility and put it at about 60 feet or so. Max depth was 30 feet.
The second site that Joyce took us to was "Three Tanks." I kid you not, there were three WW II era, Sherman M-60 tanks down there. They had been there a while. Scott attempted to locate something worth shooting (he was spearfishing), but we didn't see anything big enough to try to bring up.
Milestone: I hit my 100th logged dive with this dive.
PTB Curve #2 was that Scott's natural navigation took us off of the pilings we anchored on, to all three tanks (though Scott initially swore there were 4 and I thought there were 5). Usually, I'm a good natural navigator myself; I don't usually need a compass to find my way (away from and) back to the boat. Scott aided the PTB and asked *me* to find the anchor. I was a;ready all turned around from Scott's journey to the three tanks and could only guess where the anchor was. Scott surfaced briefly, found the boat, and we made our way to the anchor line. According to my gauge, we hit maybe 45 feet on this dive.
CAMERA NOTES: I can only guess what it was that caused it to flood; chances are, it was me not taking good enough care of the camera. At the time of this writing, I'm depressed in that I'm in the process of spending +$2700 on new gear, and it looks like, for me to not just throw money away, I'm going to have to spend at least another $2300 to get the camera solution I want. I'm looking at something digital, and my best bet is to go digital video that will take half decent still pics.
All in all a great dive ... though with Curacao coming up, I am really bummed and doubt I will have a camera before I leave on that trip ...
What was seen on both dives included snapper, Jewfish (one hiding under a tank, at least two at the barge), large Hogfish, some Cowfish, Parrotfish (including one that I could swear was getting ready to bite Scott's mask lens). On the barge, here and there, there were little brown fish making homes out of various holes. The "Three Tanks" ... well, there were the tanks, and under one, small grouper.
NOTE - added 1/24/04
Hey, someone on the D2D Board was asking about 100th dives. When I located mine on this page, I read the camera thing and wanted to add a note: I found out later what happened to the camera.
The door of the housing had cracked when I closed it. Though it was just beyond warranty, Sea&Sea replaced it free of charge anyway.
Dive data for dives on this day: