Florida Keys 8.12.2002
If Paradise is half as beautiful as Florida Keys I'd better start going to church... Yes, it is that beautiful, nice warm weather, sun, palm threes, clear blue warm water, tropical fish everywhere. It is fantastic. ... Well, it could have been less windy the week we were there but, oh well...
My first dive buddies Chris and Chris and I started planing this trip for a couple of months. We started talking about it even before my Las Vegas trip so I was really excited about going since I heard from everybody how nice is in the Keys. I got certified together with Chris and Chris back in 1998 but I continued diving like crazy and they chose the easy way of diving only perfect conditions and tropical water. I don't blame them after I have seen how nice it is. By the way, Chris and Chris are married and funny enough his name is Chris and her name is ... guess what... Chris.
We planned to leave Raleigh at about 5 AM and to drive to Florida Keys so Chris and Chris picked me up at 5 from my apartment. I was of course ready with everything packed and excited to go.
The road is very very long. There are 13-14 hours of driving to get to the Keys. Pour Chris drove all the tine so ... I can't complain at all.
We drove a couple of hours and we stop to get some breakfast which was pretty fast. Not to many problems in passing through the drive through line and ordering greasy"healthy" fast food. After we thought for a minute that they screwed up our order we hit the roar again.
Not to much to say about the road ... Long, painful interstate (actually only I95 so it was pretty straight forward), state after state, car after car, forests on both sides of the road. The forests started as pine threes forests and changed more and more to palm threes forests. The number of the pine threes in those forests was anti proportional with the distance to Florida state.
We hit Florida mid afternoon but we still had a LONG way to go. As everybody says, when you get to Florida you are half way to the Keys. By the way ... What are those Keys? Well, they are the outer banks of Florida which almost continue the USA continent toward Cuba. The Keys are a slim line of land some times just couple of hundred of feet across. As I learned from Chris (the man), the difference between a Key and an Island is that the Keys don't have any fresh water of their own.. Pretty cool huh?
We got in the town of Tavernier, out final destination at about 6.30 - 7 PM on Monday the 13th.After a brief search we got to out motel the Bay Breeze. If you can imagine, the office was closed and they left a note for saying that the room key is in out room and to check with them in the morning.
The room was a nice apartment with a small kitchen/family room and a bedroom. In the family room there was a recliner couch which I appreciated allot since that's where I slept. The room was continued on the outside with a patio/deck with a tikki top and of course on the deck we had some plastic chairs and a plastic table. ... Like we used these allot at outside temperatures around 100 F... I don't think I have pictures of the setup but I am sure you can find pictures of the motel on their website.
We went out to dinner and we enjoyed a group of loud ladies having fun celebrating a birthday. At dinner we also enjoyed the sunset. Since the sun is setting on the bay side, the restaurants with a view are there each with nice patios and/or with huge glass doors. Food was great ... well, Chris (the man) and I like it allot but pour Chris got some chicken which was not ... the best she had. No, I don't remember the name of the restaurant.
We went to bed since we were tired after the long road but fortunately we didn't had to get up early in the morning since our dives were in the afternoon.
The big day has come, here it is, finally I am going to dive in the Paradise of the divers, the Nirvana of the water realm, the big blue...
We are getting up at 9-9.30 (well, Chris the girl is getting us up, we could have slept more :-)) and after cooking some very nice breakfast (damned, women in US still do cook) we went for a tour through the local dive shops. ... The dive shops there are like the McDonalds around here. You could see on at each corner of the street. We visited some pour guy who was selling everything since he was getting out of business and we visited Divers Direct. They have a huge store in the Keys. Great stuff in the dive shops. Nothing to exciting though I didn't bought anything ... maybe I should have...
We get at the marina close to the Holiday Inn hotel and we meet with Jeff, out captain. His boat was the HMS Minnow a nice six pack (this is in diving terms a boat who accommodate 6 divers so 12-14 tanks) ready to go, with the tanks already on the boat. Chris and Chris have dove before with him but it was the first time I have met him and his lovely wife Betty. Jeff is a great captain, full of jokes and stories and great at driving the boat. Of course I couldn't keep my mouth shut at his jokes so ... it was pretty funny.
On the boat we also met Tom (I think) which was diving with us that afternoon. Tom had in his lunch bag a banana which in boating terms signifies bad luck. ... They say is so bad that if you go on a fishing charter the captain will reach in your cooler and throw your banana away. ... Only crazy superstitions ... Or are they?
We started navigating the canal from the marina toward the ocean and after getting about 300 yards of shore the captain turns back since the motor of the boat was not working too good. I should have stick that banana up Tom's ...
So we turn back and fortunately Jeff radios another boat, the Sea Dwellers and asks them if they can take us too. The banana vas gone at this time so Sea Dweller is taking us on board with gear and ready to go. After signing the annoying waivers we start going again toward the ocean this time with success. The captain briefs us about the conditions and the visibility and tells us that we will stop first to see the wreck of Bedfort. The boat mates are giving us more briefing about stuff on the boat and the getting off the boat procedures. .... But what boat mates... I'll tell you more about them later.
We start the first dive in a 85 degrees water (so I dove in a T-shirt) with a good visibility - about 40 - 50 ft. I think the difference between North Carolina diving and Keys diving - if you don't consider that the boat trip is 2.5 hours in NC - is that the sand is whiter and there is more light so everything is bright. I saw this when I got my pictures back ... I could have done a better job!
The wreck of Bedfort is a pretty much spread a part wreck with a little bit of structure but you could see so many tropical fish that you don't care much about the wreck. I have seen grunts, blue tangs, hog fish, trumpet fish, squirrel fish and many many more. Check out the pictures to see what I am talking about.
After about 65 minutes under water (the wreck is pretty shallow so I had about half of tank full when I got out) we get out and the captain reminds us that the other people came up much faster and they don't feel to good (it was about 1-1.5 ft chop) so we should make the next dive a little bit shorter. ... I am apologizing for everybody and we get out of our gear and switch the tanks.
Now the boat mates story... Probably to have more clients, the captain hired two female boat mates/dive masters. I am not sure how good divers they were but I have never seen women that beautiful in my life. Yes, I am always saying that when I see a beautiful woman but those were really pretty. I don't remember their names (even though I got teased for the rest of the trip about them) but they looked fantastic. ... And imagine when they took their shower to wash the salt off and the shower was on the back of the boat ... not an easy to miss event. One of them was more like a nice girl beauty, with a great skinny body, perfectly tan and shaped wearing first a one piece bathing suit and after the first dive wearing a bikini two pieces bathing suit with fruits (I think mainly strawberries). She nice blue eyes and a good looking face. The second one looked more like a naughty girl, very well developed in all the right spots... She had a tattoo on her right leg I think picturing a lizard... I don't even remember what she was wearing after that showering scene ... :-)
The second dive of the day was at the French Reef. I don't know why they call it the French Reef but it is great. The reef consists of fingers of high profile coral full of fish with allot of caverns and arches which are pretty nice to swim through. The dive was again about one hour but this time I got everybody out of the water after 50 minutes not 60 something so the captain was happy. Great reef, no current, warm calm shallow water full of marine life, white sand which blinds you ... like in the dreams.
We got back in shore at about 6pm and we got back to our room to prepare for dinner. After a brief shower we went to have dinner and to see the sunset at one of the bay restaurants. Great food again and this time good service to. I think this restaurant was called something with sunset ... Sunset Watch, Sunset Something... I don't remember. I remember though they had a fantastic mango daiquiri which I enjoyed allot. Sunset went by and I discovered my camera still had batteries and it was in perfect working order EXCEPT that I forgot the memory card in my computer so I couldn't take any pictures of the sunset. I hope Chris will send me some. The rest of the evening went without incidents, we went to do some groceries shopping and then straight to bed.
We got up as usual at about 9.30 and cooked breakfast and we went to visit the gift shops around the area. Nice things if you like to shop. Allot of stuff, just stuff nothing more. You could find anything from skull like piggy banks to nice plates and shell made spoons. Of course the coolest things were the shells.
We got to the dock on tine and Jeff was waiting for us with everything loaded. We started, this time on Jeff's boat and we got to the famous Spiegel Grove, a new artificial reef sunk just for divers. The wreck lays on its starboard side in about 130 ft of water. The dive was fantastic. Really great wreck. Not to many fish yet but I have seen a pair of French Angel fish big and nice.
We did our dive, a little short because of the depth, we got on the boat and then we went to see another piece of French Reef. Same really nice and shallow water, same light and same great marine life.
We headed toward the shore and as the previous day we took a brief shower and we went to eat. After dinner we got back and watched a little bit of TV, mostly the weather channel ... The forecast didn't look to good. For next day we were expecting high winds and big waves... Sad...
During the night it started raining and one lightning stroke our motel at about 30 ft away from our room. It was close and it shook the windows and the beds. Pretty scary...
Well, that's when the sadness begun. We watched the weather forecast and it didn't look good, 20-30 knots winds off shore and 6-8 ft. waves. We got to the marina and the captain told us that after the reef there are 6 ft. waver. We still decided to try it so after about 40 minutes of boat ride we got off shore after the reef and yes, he was right. The waves were huge, much bigger than the boat. Unfortunately we couldn't stay and dive so we went straight back toward the shore.
Since we had a day to burn we decided to go see Key West, the southern most key in the Florida Keys. Key West is more like a party place which comes alive after the darkness comes. Diving in not to good around Key West so that's why if you want to dive, stay in Key Largo, if you want to party, stay in Key West.
Key West is a real town with more than one street in the center of the town, with Hemingway's house and favorite bar. Definitely a party town. Bars at each corner, live music, no parking spots and allot of scooters. Definitely not a diving town.
It was a fun place to visit and we had good food but it brought back again the memories of big towns with bars full of people with only one think on their mind. The diving world is better and cleaner. It has something magical which can't be spoiled with a night of cheap lust in a bar, even if it's Hemingway's bar.
We turned back and got in out motel by 11 or so and we went to bed with the dream of a great dive tomorrow... Unfortunately the weather was not on our side again.
Same story in the morning, same drive to the marina and unfortunately same answer from the captain: 6 ft waves breaking on the reef. This time we realize it would be pure hell and we decide to get squared with Jeff and spend a quiet day on the motel's beach and snorkeling in the bay.
Considering the possibilities, not to bad the snorkeling in the bay. Allot of jelly fish very nice colored with purple tentacle and shaped as snow flakes, a couple of hors shoe crabs and even a nurse shark. The shark was pretty awesome, about 3-4 ft and brown I have never seen a nurse shark brown.
We spent all day on the beach and in the swimming pool, we clean our gear and we packed for the next day since today was the last day in the keys. A little bit sad but life goes on. More adventures are expecting us next time we go there.
Since it was our last day and we were definitely not going diving tomorrow, we got a couple of drinks and we grilled some salmon for the boyz and some steak for the girl and we had a feast. We enjoyed the night breeze and a cold beer on the beach under a palm three until we finished the six pack we bought and since we had to get up early in the morning we went to bed.
Not much to say here. The same 14 hours of car ride, same pour Chris drove all the time. We got home by 10.30 PM and I had too unpack and hang up my gear.
This is it. It was a great trip. Yes, we could have dove more and drive less but I think we learned some lessons for next time.
Well, the pictures are not as nice as I thought. Probably is because the light is very different that the one I am accustomed with and probably is also because they screwed up a little bit when they printed the pictures. Anyway some are not to bad and the land pictures of course they are pretty good. Enjoy:
|Updated August 27, 2002 9:55 PM by Vlad Pambucol|