Many of my friends have had the opportunity to go diving with this dive operation in the past. Things just never seemed to work out in a way that I could attend the festivities though. I was asked by my buddy Tony to go on the trip over Memorial Day weekend to the Dry Tortugas. I have been working overtime for the past 9 months and did not really think there was much chance of getting the extra time off to be able to go. Upon talking to my boss, I was pleasantly shocked to get the “all clear” to go.
I was so excited that I was having trouble getting all my gear together and packed for the trip. I was finally going to meet Frank and Melanie after hearing about them for so long, mostly good things, BTW.
Tony offered to drive and we loaded up his car for the road trip on Thursday afternoon and began the drive to Key West. We got there for the initial introductions and paperwork around 7pm and the boat left promptly at 8pm. We were off for an adventure on the water. I knew this would be awesome, just because there was a cat onboard with us.
Frank, Melanie and rest of the crew went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and at ease for the entire trip. Their orientations, dive briefings, and safety messages were clear, concise, and done in a very friendly and fun manner.
As we all got familiar with each other and our new living quarters, we were speeding along to our destination. After getting settled in for the night, I fell asleep to the smooth rocking of the ocean. Melanie’s wake up call was the next thing I heard. Obviously, it was time to get up and start the day.
I have never been a real PC type of person or very outgoing with strangers, but it did not take much time at all for me to feel comfortable with the entire crew and all of the passengers onboard. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and actually felt a lot like family.
We had the opportunity to do four dives a day and a night dive too. The dives were all in the recreational range on various reef systems throughout the Dry Tortugas. I did not write down all the names, but with Tony’s help are day 1 Coopers Reef & Patties reef, day 2 Dante's inferno & bat cave, day 3 mushrooms & Texas rock.
The entire boat is well setup for diving. Starting with how the tank filling system is integral to the boat all the way to the heated showers on the dive deck. Yes, I did say heated showers.
Here is a rundown of a typical dive:
We would go to our station and get geared up. Walk to the jump point with fins in hand. Put fins on. Do a giant stride entry. Grab the current line. Follow current line to mooring line and go down to begin the dive.
Upon returning to the mooring line and ascending to the current line, we would follow the line to the back of the boat and grab one of the two ladder ropes. Remove fins and climb the ladder. Report max depth and dive time to the DM and start thinking about food, err I mean go take gear off, then food.
One point of interest – If Melanie happens to mention that the current is a little sporty and then says “good luck”, DO NOT think she is joking. In all fairness, her dive briefings were always spot on and very informative. It made my dives much more enjoyable having her insight rather than jumping blind.
I think that every diver on the boat had a camera. This is a great location for photography. Wide angle shots of the reefs to macro are all good. I have not gone through my pictures yet to see if any are worth showing yet, but I will share some in a later post.
We were given the choice of skipping one morning dive to take a tour of a Fort Jefferson. No, my dumb arse did not remember that name either, Tony told me. I was glad that we went though. I found it very interesting and educational at the same time. Then back to diving.
I really got Melanie’s attention when I returned form a night dive before the other divers made it to the current line. I had a minor flood of my rebreather and Melanie was not about to get any sorb or caustic material on her boat. I think she was also legitimately concerned for the well being of my rebreather too. Fortunately it was a fluke OPV issue and all was fine for the rest of the trip
On Monday, we were at the Vandenberg when we awoke. Two dives before we headed back to port. I have always wanted to dive this wreck and now I could. This is a big ship and I will have to return to further my exploration of it.
There was always plenty of food and it was quite good. I do get the impression that they are trying to make all the divers fat though. I am sure that I did manage to add a few pounds.
My overall impression of this weekend was pretty much off the chart. This is not some kind of 5 star resort where you have private suites and eight course meals via room service. This is a relaxed friendly atmosphere. You WILL become friendly with others on the trip, even if you are anti-social like me. Food is buffet style and I guarantee that you will not go hungry. Personally, I plan to return as soon as I am able to.