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May 19, 2001: West Palm Beach, Florida

"Flower Gardens" - "Teardrop" - "Phil Foster Park"

My sister and I needed to get together so that I could obtain the rest of my gear that she was holding. I had already obtained my BC; my HP Steel 100's tanks came in the Tuesday before (purchased from Terrace Watersports); and she was holding my DIN 1st stage with the Oceanic Delta III second stage and a Suunto Cobra dive computer (purchased from Atlantic Pro Dive). Though we discussed hitting a park with a good shore dive, a check of the schedule showed that it would be low tide around noon ... this translated to 12 feet as a deepest depth, and probably a visibility of less than that. So we decided to go with Jim Abernathy's Scuba Adventures. John, a Dive Master who my sister dives with frequently, was going to go with us, and ended up working that day. He also wanted to try out a new strobe for his digital camera, so after the dives with JASA, we dove at Phil Foster Park.
Diving off of West Palm Beach:
  • Directions from Tampa: To get to WPB, I usually take I-75 to HW60, and then go south on I-95.
  • Conditions on the day of my visit: Sunny, a little warm.

  • Personal Notes: This was a good set of dives. They could have been better.

    There are divers out there that give the rest of us a bad rap. I dove with at least two of them this day.

    The first incident of note involved a lobster, a scorpion fish, and a shutterbug. By that last one, I mean a diver with a camera. We saw many large lobster this day, and apparently there was one hiding underneath a ledge on the "Flower Garden" drift dive, because I witnessed the shutterbug laying down on the reef, disturbing many coral formations, nearly squashing a Scorpion Fish (and getting poisoned would have served this idiot right), and genuinely making me wonder what moron of an instructor taught this guy that this was okay to do. And this guy wasn't done ... because in the second incident:

    It is illegal for divers to touch or interfere with the normal life of a sea turtle, particularly Loggerheads. I'd think that all divers know this, but at least one diver did not.

    We came across a large, I'm guessing female, Loggerhead Turtle asleep on the bottom at Tear Drop; a drift dive where the reef resembles a tear drop. She was partially wedged under a rock. The group of us were watching her, keeping a respectful distance, awed at the beauty of this sight ... when one of the divers, the same one that had torn up the reef earlier, swam up and grabbed her shell, harassing her out from under the rock, in some vague effort to get a "good photo" of this beauty. What was worse, when she tried to swim away, this diver did what he could to block her path to get a good "head on" shot.

    As for the third incident, it's people like the idiots on "Extreme Contact" that portray such behavior as acceptable that make it seem like it is okay to piss off fish life to see what it will do. I just hope some day a large shark comes by and takes a nice, sizable chunk of Manny and lets him know exactly how most of the animals these idiots feel when they aggravate (any respect I had for Megan as the World Record Holder free diver went right out the window when she decided to associate herself with people like that).

    But I digress ... one instructor found it necessary to catch and relocate a puffer fish. Puffer fish do not live their lives all puffed up and spiny, as most non-divers probably assume. That is a defense mechanism, and the fish is pretty much helpless and at the whim of a current when puffed up like that. Normally they are fairly close to the reef, possibly hiding under a coral formation or other form of underwater plant. This same instructor did not do this once, but did it again later on in this same dive.

    Later we came across a smaller turtle, and wouldn't you know it, one of the newer divers decided it was okay to harass that little bugger, too.

    It is people like this that make me wish that they would loose vital anatomy parts to rabid octopi, eels, or sharks.

    The second dive also brought me my first sighting of an in the wild squid; he was probably just under a foot long ... bigger than you'd expect.

    Phil Foster Park was the closest I've ever come to a shore dive. This is just a walk into the water kind of dive; we did not break 13 feet, but we saw some pretty amazing things, some of which we couldn't identify. The octopi (first time I'd seen one "in the wild" larger than an inch and a half across, and the first time I'd seen one in the water) were here and there (including one that was free-swimming!), probably all less than a foot across; some smaller reef fish, and weird looking centipede like worms, as well as some unidentifiable tube worms that didn't withdraw into the tubes when you got too close like most do. As John was lining up one of the octopi with his camera, the little guy was hiding with his eyes just outside of his hidey hole, and he went through several rapid color changes ... it was really cool! John wasn't too close but the little guy was probably a little frightened of him. John snapped his pic, trying to be as polite as possible about the whole thing, and then we left him alone ...

Dive data for dives on this day:

Dive Site Name Max Depth Minutes Water Temp
101 Flower Gardens 56 feet 45 min. 77 F
102 Teardrop 52 feet 46 min. 77 F
103 Phil Foster Park 13 feet 22 min. 79 F
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