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    2016 Trip to Conch Divers in the Keys

    Warning: Lots of picture, takes a while to load.
    St. Croix October, 2013

    St. Croix, USVI Dates of our trip were from Oct. 21-28, 2013. We stayed at Cottages By The Sea in Fredricksted, right on the ocean, literally 20 steps from our cottage doors to the beach!...great quiet place, and we recommend it to anyone who wishes a quiet nice homey atmosphere for a dive vacation. And great snorkeling with lots of fish, right at our doorsteps!

    We dove all week with N2TheBlue dive operators out of Fredricksted, less than a 10 minute drive from the Cottages. We contracted for 5 days of 2 tank AM dives. They were terrific. We carried nothing all week, our tanks and BC’s and all equipment were rinsed and dried for us for each mornings dives. The captain and divemaster had everything ready on the boat each day when we arrived. The boat is also right by the shop, a two minute walk to the Fredricksted Pier. Beside local reefs, we also enjoyed wreck diving and a great pier dive.

    As far as eating, we ate at local restaurants for the most part when we went out. We had daily breakfast at our Cottages, which had full kitchens. On two evenings we used their beach side grills to cook and enjoy the sunsets. Aside from our meals at the cottages, we ate in Fredricksted at Pier 69 a few times, lunch, appetizers, and dinner on three separate occasions. We also had three trips for drinks, take out pizza, and eat in dinners at The Lost Dog in Fredricksted. One special meal for us was at the Waves Restaurant in Kingshill, St. Croix. It is a romantic Cliffside location overlooking Cane Bay on the North Shore. Well worth the drive, the sunsets and location were terrific. On our last night in St. Croix, we decided to try the Rythms Beach Bar...a great decision, a nice menu, with locals and tourist enjoying the live music, the beach scenes with swimmers, anchored boats and wave runners, and a tour catamaranand, best of all a great sunset for our last night in St. Croix.

    Shore Activities included shopping and sightseeing in Fredricksted and Christensted. Also, during our stay two cruise ships came into port and the town of Fredricksted came alive on these days, with craftsmen setting up their canopies to sell there wares to the cruisers. We all thoroughly enjoyed our diving, and left St. Croix vowing to return. A great trip!

    Marathon, FL Trip Report July, 2013

    Key Largo Trip Report April 26-28, 2013

    Our PGI Dive Club traveled once again to Key Largo for another weekend together diving, eating and socializing. Best of all this trip finally happened! This weekend was the makeup of the trip last October which tropical storm Sandy.

    Those attending this trip included George and Shelley Vincent, Don and Dee Bergman, Bill and Susan Berger, Denis and Vanessa Cournoyer, Mark and Lorraine Anderson (along with their son and his fiancé ), Carole Ritter, Frank and Barbara Panhuise along with a couple other PGI Dive Club friends, Desiree Kiswiney and Dan and Maureen Devine .

    Congratulations to Carole Ritter who did a fine job of diving over the weekend. These were Carole's first dives since becoming certified. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Key Largo, which was very nice, clean and a fun place to stay close to the dive shop, boat, and of course all those great Key Largo eateries! Many of us got together on Friday evening and ate on the oceanfront at Snappers. We all enjoyed the beautiful scenery as well as our meals.

    Our dive operator was once again Keys Diver & Snorkel. We have been out with them several times in the past. We had two scheduled days of diving-Saturday afternoon and then Sunday morning. We dove from their boat, a 42' Newton, which is a spacious and safe diving platform. Our Saturday dives took us out to Molasses Reef where we did two drops. First we went to the Winch Hole site and then we moved a little to dive the Spanish Anchor site. We had NE winds at about 15 knots with 2'-3' seas. Water temps were 79 and the viz was 60'+. We did depths of about 40' on the first drop, then about 30' on the second drop. We had a nice afternoon and then 14 of us headed in for some more dining together at our gathering place in Key Largo, the Pilot House Restaurant.

    On Sunday we all had to wake up early and be at the boat by 7:30 to head out again. Overnight, though, the winds had moved from NE to directly E, which is about the worse you can get off Key Largo, with promised seas of 3'-4'!...this chased off 3 of our members, and left our boat with just 8 divers for the second day...add to this that it absolutely began pouring with a brief shower as we were preparing to depart the dock. We did two drops, first on the wreck of the Benwood, and the second drop was on French reef. Seas were more than promised, most likely 4'-5' and we had a little current on these dives which we avoided on our first day of diving...after the first dive, we reduced our number of divers going down for the second drop to just 4 hearty souls. Viz was a little reduced from yesterday, about 40'-50' with water temperature was about 78, and we had about the same depths of 40' and 25' for the 1st and 2nd drops.

    On both days, Keys Diver, provided us with guides for all of our drops. We all really enjoyed the stress free guided tours of the reefs and wrecks. This totally eliminated the need to worry about where we were and where was the boat. A great thing for our group to factor in to future dives! Our guide on the first day was Megan, and on the second day, Jordan. Captain Dave was our boat handler on both days of diving. All in all, a great experience as far as what Keys Diver provided for our club.

    As far as what we saw you name it! French and Queen Angelfish, snappers and grunts of all varieties, sea turtles, green and spotted morays, nice gag and black groupers, some tasty looking spiny lobsters, tangs, nurse sharks, sergeant majors, cowfish, juvenile drum fish, and snook. Along with these fish we enjoyed underwater soft and hard corals, brain corals, gorgonians, sea fans, tube sponges, and great underwater sea structures.

    Dive of the Mohawk Wreck September 2,2012

    I witnessed the sinking of the USS Mohawk CGC on July 2, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico, some 30 nautical miles approximately off of North Captiva, FL. Out there observing the controlled explosive sinking we were joined by some 100 other vessels. We had hoped to dive the ship that day, but it really took a long time for those in charge of the sinking to clear the vessel OK to dive on, as they were checking for all explosives being detonated and the ship safe...which brings me to our dive today.

    The Mohawk served as both a Navy and Coast Guard ship in its lifetime. Built in 1934 it served proudly in the Atlantic campaign of during World War II. The vessel is 165‘ long. It’s claim to fame lies in the fact that it radioed Supreme Commander, Dwight Eisenhower, that the weather was a “Go” for the Normandy invasion in June 1944. It also served to find and destroy U boats operating in the Atlantic during the war. The wreck is dedicated to the veterans who served in that time.

    We went out of Placida, Fl. on “El Gavilan”, owned by Jim Joseph of Fantasea Scuba in Port Charlotte. The seas were fair, which made for an OK trip for the 2+ hour ride from Placida to the wreck site. We tied up to the mooring ball off the stern end of the ship. We descended through the water column some 50 feet as the ship came into view. The ship lies in 90‘ of water but the top of the vessel is a relatively easy dive. As I needed not to go down to the sand, my maximum depth reached was about 74‘ on the two drops we made that day.

    Water temperature was 83 degrees and the viz, although tropical storm Issac had passed over the area just a week before, was a very doable 25‘-30‘. I was diving on Nitrox 33 in steel 100 tanks, so we had plenty of gas and could stay down comfortably and enjoy just an hour surface interval before doing our second drop. We were down for 45 minutes on each drop we made today.

    After just two months of being under the water, the Mohawk, the wreck now has a nice coat of marine life appearing on it’s hull. The wreck provides the diver with plenty of safe swim throughs to explore the ship, without the need for advanced penetration skills. It was sunk to become SW Florida’s new artificial reef, and I’m a witness to the success of the mission. Fish and marine life are abundant. There are literally thousands of fish of many species are in habitat of this vessel now. Goliath grouper, amberjack, snappers, and reef fish along with bait balls of fish cover the entire scene and within the wreck. It certainly has succeeded in it’s goal to be a magnet for life. Just a month prior to our diving the wreck, another group went out to the vessel and observed a 22‘ whale shark and numerous cobia at the site.

    With the trip done, we motored back to the berth and left with a real feeling of having had a great day of diving and exploration. Although not too deep, this is an advanced certification dive, so be sure you are qualified.

    PGI Dive Club Key Largo Dive Trip June 25 & 26, 2011

    We had 10 divers from our club travel down to Key Largo for our second time this year for some camaraderie and diving adventure. Diving on this trip were Bob and Cate Peterson, Ken and Connie Bowling, John, Marilyn, and Paul Jorgensen, Skip Reed, Uwe Pfenningwerth, and Frank Panhuise.

    Our club chartered a 30’ Island Hopper, the Tropical Explorer”, through Rainbow Reef Dive Operators in Key Largo. Although our trip advertised for 12 divers, we could only muster up 10 and with the size of the boat…that was plenty! We enjoyed two fine days of basically calm seas and pretty good viz for our two days of diving. In between dives we all got together for a great evening meal at the Port of Call restaurant on the water in Key Largo.

    Our first day of diving brought us nice sea and viz conditions (probably 50-60 feet of viz) as we traveled out to Molasses Reef to a dive site called the “Aquarium”. The second drop of the day was at a location called “Sand Island”. Members took pictures, did reef survey fish ID and counts, and generally had a great time, all the while getting valuable “down” time in for the log books. Captain Tom and dive master Mike, took good care of us all during the course of our trip.

    The second day of diving took us out to the wreck of the “Benwood” and we enjoyed a much nicer experience, with no current, than when we visited this wreck in April. The viz today was not as good as yesterday, with a lot of “clutter” in the water column. But seas were calm and the 85 degree water made it nice. Viz was probably 40-50 feet today. Our second drop of the day was on French Reef at a site called “Sand Castle Cave”. Here we concluded our weekend of diving and adding to our log books and memories of our club adventures together.

    Over the course of the weekend we saw many healthy coral formations, fish, sea creatures, and enjoyed calm seas and warm water. Club members saw rays, green morays, conch, sharks, barracudas, lobsters, snappers, french angelfish, parrotfish, groupers, permit, hogfish, tarpon, sergeant majors, trumpet fish, porkfish, clams, and beautiful corals, fans, sponges, elkhorns corals, brain coral, Christmas trees, Peterson shrimp, cleaning station fish, and more critters than you can imagine. A real good experience for everyone in attendance.

    Big Flat Top Charter May 21, 2011

    Six of our members boarded the Big Flat Top out of Englewood’s Royal Palm Marina for a day of fossil hunting off of the Venice Beaches. The weather was super and the seas were calm. Winds around 5 knots, and beautiful sunshine all day.

    Travis Jones, Skip Reed, Frank Panhuise, Barbe Koss, Don Bergman and Paul Joly all enjoyed the hospitality of Capt. Don and his mate “Fosselbabe”, a self proclaimed expert in fossil hunting and identification. They were very helpful throughout the course of our trip.

    Our first drop was in about 24 feet of water with viz of about 6’ or better, which is good for this type of diving off the beaches. Water temps was 80, and we all stayed down with our 80 cu.ft. tanks for over an hour on the first drop.

    After the first drop we planned to move to a little deeper water, but after setting the hook…and dropping down, viz was less than a foot, so we aborted the dive, except for TJ who hung in there for about 20 minutes before surfacing. We then moved back close to our initial drop to hopefully get decent viz again…to really no avail…most of us surfaced after a half an hour of struggling through pea soup viz, except for Skip who managed to find a few bones in his vast wandering of the bottom.

    We did enjoy the day, the big roomy pontoon boat was spacious to say the least, and it was a close option to get in some diving.

    Key Largo PGI Dive Club Trip Report, April 9 & 10, 2011

    Our dive club chartered the Keys Diver II through Keys Dive & Snorkel operators in Key Largo. These guys were terrific and cared about us. They were there to help all and especially helped those who needed some assistance at various times over the two days of two tank dives. We had 9 divers as well as 4 members who chose to snorkel for one reason or the other. But a good time was had by all. We also received free drink tokens on both trips for the Pilot House restaurant for no one puking down below in their ship’s head!

    The Gods were smiling on our trip this time, since we were blown out last November, when we originally had it scheduled. The weather was great all weekend, with hot air temperatures, and sea temps around 78 & 79 degrees, with a light rolling 1’-2- sea. On Saturday afternoon we first motored out to French Reef and dropped onto the reef with beautiful blue water, as it was all weekend. Water depths averaged about 25-35 feet on the reefs. Viz was great, maybe 80’. So we explored this reef, and the sealife and sea creatures it held. The next drop of the afternoon found us out on Molasses reef, a short motor away from our first drop. We all had about an hour of surface interval before this drop. We were greeted at Molasses by a host of other boats, and a little more current then we found in our first drop. But the reef was pretty and we found many of the normal tropical fish, snappers, grunts, gobys, cowfish, trumpet fish, groupers, hogfish, squirrelfish, a spiny lobster and green moray eel; and best of all, Vanessa and Denis were entertained royally for a while by two large eagle rays! Too bad Frank and his camera had departed.

    On Saturday evening the entire group met at the Pilot House Restaurant at their waterfront restaurant for a nice dinner and some celebratory libations. Then off to bed at our hotel, we all stayed at the Bayside Resort, and it was a nice, close, accommodation for our trip. All too soon, we had to wake up, pack up and check out of the hotel, since the AM boat called for us to arrive and board at 7:30 AM Sunday with an 8 AM departure.

    On our second day of diving we first dropped down on the wreck of the Benwood. Which is an actual wreck from 1942. This wreck lies in about 30-35 feet of water and has tons of fish on it after all these years. The only problem with this dive was current--it was kicking! Viz this morning was a little less than yesterday, but about 50’-60’. A few of our divers had a real go of it getting used to the flow down below, but after about 35-45 minutes all returned safely back on board. Our captain took us back to French Reef for our final drop of the weekend and we again dropped into calm pretty blue waters. It was a relief to both divers and snorkelers to get out of the current of the Benwood location. This reef again was covered with reef fish. We had a nice time exploring the reef and completing a great weekend of diving, snorkeling, and camaraderie.

    Attending this trip were the Beezleys, Bergmans, Bowlings, Cournoyers, Mitchells, Panhuises, and Vincents.

    Disney Dive Quest March 12, 2011

    Our dive club again traveled to the Living Seas at Disney World’s EPCOT Center and dove with Living Seas dive masters and their videographer in their enormous aquarium. Just eight divers made the trek this time up to Orlando and enjoyed a behind the seas tour of the facility and then were equipped with diving gear and shorty wetsuits to do about a 40 minute dive in the Living Seas. Traveling up for the event were Gary Gaddy, Kim Kosiba, George and Shelley Vincent, Frank Panhuise, Skip Reed, Barbe Koss, and Paul Joly.

    Our group enjoyed an informative tour of the facility and received the royal treatment from the Disney staff of diving professionals. The Living Seas aquarium in Epcot was once the largest aquarium in the world. It contains 5.7 million gallons of water in a circular tank containing several thousand different species of aquatic animals. The tank is 203' in diameter and 27' deep. Several species of sharks, rays, sea turtles and coral reef fish species made this a very special trip for our divers.

    The dive log for this experience goes like this: time in 7:45 PM, time out 8:25; bottom time 40 minutes; visibility was over 200 ft. in the crystal clear water; water temperature was 78 degrees; of course there was no current and no sea conditions…just placid, smooth water.

    At the completion of the dive, the divers showered, changed and then completed Disney post dive surveys to evaluate their experiences for Disney staff. All in all it was an educational, positive and fun experience for all involved.

    Disney Dive Quest January 22, 2011

    Our dive club traveled to the Living Seas at Disney World’s EPCOT Center and dove with Living Seas dive masters and their videographer in their enormous aquarium. Fourteen divers made the trek up to Orlando and enjoyed a behind the seas tour of the facility and then were equipped with diving gear and shorty wetsuits to do about a 40 minute dive in the Living Seas. Traveling up for the event were Denis and Vanessa Cournoyer, Bob and Cate Peterson, Jim and Lynn Olzacki, Don Bergman. Mitch Miller, Terry Bandel, Travis and Debbie Jones, and John, Marilyn and Paul Jorgensen.

    The group enjoyed an informative tour of the facility and received the royal treatment from the Disney staff of diving professionals. The Living Seas aquarium in Epcot was once the largest aquarium in the world. It contains 5.7 million gallons of water in a circular tank containing several thousand different species of aquatic animals. The tank is 203' in diameter and 27' deep. Several species of sharks, rays, sea turtles and coral reef fish species made this a very special trip for our divers. Also on the tour we observed manatees and dolphins in their separate tanks.

    The dive log for this experience goes like this: time in 7:45 PM, time out 8:25; bottom time 40 minutes; visibility was over 200 ft. in the crystal clear water; water temperature was 75 degrees; of course there was no current and no sea conditions…just placid, smooth water. Everyone was issued identical shorty wetsuits, which seemed a little underprotective for the cooler than normal waters (usual sea temp in the aquarium is 78, but due to the cold winter weather and the filters locations outdoors, the Living Seas were cooler than advertised). Disney also supplied all dive equipment: BC's, regulators, boots, fins, weights, and masks. Lockers, showers, and after dive drinks were also part of the dive package.

    At the completion of the dive, the divers showered, changed and then completed Disney post dive surveys to evaluate their experiences for Disney staff. A video of our groups dive was shown and available immediately for all who wanted to purchase a copy. All in all it was an educational, positive and fun experience for everyone involved.

    Bonaire Dive Trip September 4 - 11, 2010

    Our much awaited trip to Bonaire finally happened! We flew via Insel Air directly to Flamingo airport in Bonaire in just 2 ½ hours. We had a great week of diving and snorkeling via boat, shore dives or just jumping in from our resort, Sand Dollar and then diving our own Bari reef as much as possible all week. Bari reef has had as many as 375 different species of fish identified there from REEF surveys, making it the most diversified reef in the entire world for fish species.

    We dove with Bonaire Dive and Adventures on this trip. They were only operating one boat this week, since September is a slow month by Bonaire standards. We made 6 one tank boat dives during the course of the week, three on the reefs of Klein Bonaire--which is a large uninhabited island about 1 mile off the western shore of Bonaire. The sites we hit off of Klein Bonaire were named Carl’s Hill, Keep Sake, and Hands Off. The other three dives off of the Bonaire western coast were on the Hilma Hooker, a wreck off of the southern end of the Island; Small Wall, a beautiful and healthy wall dive, and a popular shore dive site which is easier done by boat named 1000 steps. All boat dive destinations were only about a 15 minute ride from our resort.

    Shore diving in Bonaire is a must. There are about 80 + sites which you can get to via a truck. Since we had unlimited air and nitro tanks available to us all week, we soon became acquainted with many of the locations. We dove and snorkeled on such colorfully named sites as Aquarius, Lake City, Angel City, Batchelors Beach, and others. Entries into the beautiful shades of blue were sometimes tricky to say the least, especially wearing scuba gear, carrying fins and a camera! But once in on the reefs, the diving, colors, and diversification of species made it all worthwhile.

    Water temperatures were in the low to mid 80s all week. The viz was good, ranging from 70 - 80 feet most of the time. We wore skins all week for diving and these were fine. As all of the waters of Bonaire are protected as a marine sanctuary, no gloves were permitted, since they wanted no touching of any of the undersea corals. The health of these reefs was utterly amazing.

    Above the water line, we also toured the island from the salt ponds and slave shacks in the South to the cactus covered hills and elevations of the North. Donkey and goat herds roaming free throughout the island was another experience we discovered. We even had the pleasure of having a donkey put his head in our truck window looking for a handout. On Tuesday night we had a nasty storm and lightning hit one of the islands oil storage tanks, it burned for 3 days and nights--a real amazing site to see from anywhere on the island.

    Last, but not least, we enjoyed many fine dining establishments throughout Bonaire. We enjoyed breakfast daily at our own Eddy’s at the Sand Dollar. We also ate at Paradise Moon, a restaurant owned by one of our boat captains from Bonaire Dive and Adventure, Carl--who, by the way is also the gourmet chef, and his menu was outstanding. In town we ate at City Grill on the waterfront, at a fine restaurant in the business district named Mona Lisa, and also at the Chibi-Chibi restaurant of the Divi Flamingo Resort on the harbor. One other meal was at the Bon Pasa Pizza restaurant…great pizza but it was hot inside the open air restaurant…better maybe to order take out here in the future for us!

    Be sure to check out our three sets of photo albums for this dive adventure, one above the sea and two below. And don’t put off taking your own trip to Bonaire in the near future. I know I’ll be going back!

    Islamorada, Florida Keys…Lobster Season 2010/11 Opens

    Some of our PGI dive club members joined friends from the Caloosa Dive Club of SW Florida on a trip for the opening weekend of the “regular” lobster (aka “bugs”) season. Lobster season in Florida annually runs from Aug 6th through March 30th. Prior to this regular season, the state of Florida annually permits non- commercial sportsman to have a two day “sports” or better known as “mini” season held annually on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. We dove with Keys Dives out of Islamorada aboard their boat “Giant Stride”, a roomy 42’ dive boat. The services aboard the boat by the captain and dive master were great. Besides free air tanks and weights supplied by Key Dives, we enjoyed fresh fruit after each drop, and enjoyed the fresh water shower rinses as needed by hot and, at times, dehydrated, sweaty divers!

    Joining me and several of my friends from the Caloosa Dive Club www.diveclub.org on the boat for the two days of dives were John Jorgenson and Travis Jones. Barbara Panhuise also came down for the festivities during the weekend (for her this meant, dining, cocktails, shopping, and last but not least hoping for hubby to bring home some lobsters for dinner!) The four of us enjoyed a great sunset and a few “adult beverages” at Lorelei on Florida Bay on Friday evening, and a great after dive al fresco dinner under the giant Tiki hut restaurant at the Islamorada Fish Company on Saturday, again with great waterfront scenery and sunsets!

    We enjoyed warm water in the mid-eighties all weekend. So we only needed to wear dive skins for protection from any “stingy” type things in the ocean. We all were using 80 lb. aluminum tanks with air for the weekend. We dropped into depths ranging from the mid 50’ range to the mid 30’ range as we enjoyed the great viz (50‘-70‘), and very healthy looking coral reefs off-shore Islamorada. And yes, we were successful at bagging a few “bugs” to bring home for dinner. Hopefully more PGI members will be able to join us for these out of town adventures in the future!

    For more photos, see the Photos section.

    Bayronto Wreck Dive 5/26/2010

    Skip Reed and I, along with a few other buddies, chartered onto the six pack boat “El Gavilan” captained by Jim Joseph, (owner of Fantasea Scuba) and left the dock in Placida at 7AM to venture out to the wreck of the Bayronto, 35 miles offshore, a trip of about 2 ½ hours each way. The Bayronto is a 400’ freighter which sank in 100’ of water during a hurricane in 1919, so it’s been down a long time.

    The Bayronto lies upside down and over the years has had some structural collapses from the 90+ years it has been under the sea. But the wreck is magnificent. Air temperature was about 85 degrees. Water temperatures were in the high 70s at the surface, then at 75’ depth we hit a thermo cline which dropped temperatures continually until we bottomed out about 68 degrees in the sand.

    The wreck is covered with anemones, soft and hard corals, and is home to a myriad of sea life. There were too many goliath groupers to count, as were there too many barracudas, along with thousands of snappers schooling all over the wreck. A large southern stingray scurried away as I closed in on it. Many other species were all over and through the wreck.

    We did two drops on this wreck, accounting for one hour total dive time. We did a surface interval of about 1 ¼ hours between dives. The seas were relatively calm with about 1’ waves at best. There was some current on top of the wreck, but it wasn’t too bad down below the starboard and port sides. Viz on these dives was in excess of 40’, not bad for the Gulf. Aside from the thermo cline and current, the dives were super.

    Sea Trek Dive Pics 5/8/2010

    The day started out early on Saturday, May 8th…3:30 AM to be precise…headed out to get aboard the Sea Trek out of Captain Bills marina in Fort Myers Beach. It was a nice calm morning and was going to stay that way, producing fine, calm waters…we headed out at 6 AM and it was already 78 degrees…we traveled out and about the many west ledges which are limestone rocky bottom areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
    We moved about for hours, everyone getting in three drops during the course of the day…we were dropping half of the boat load of 16 divers at each drop, which makes for 8 divers down at a time. Water depths were all about 50‘-55’ and the bottom temperature was 77 degrees. Topside weather conditions were perfect, sunny, 85 degrees by the middle of the day and very little breeze.. not so the underwater viz…each drop became tougher on all of us… at best we had about 20’, then 15’ and on our last drop.
    The divers on the trip were there for a few different objectives, some to do photography, some to do some hunting in the way of spear fishing, and a few just for recreational diving and exploring. Needless to say the hunters did well, several groupers, snappers, hogfish, sheepshead and a few other assorted species will be filling up the home freezers for these divers. The photographers had other issues…with lots of backscatter in the pics, the hopes of any landscape or wide angle shots were really diminished with the lack of good viz…the best the photo bugs could hope for would be to do some macro, and a lot of bottom dweller pics.
    Some nice photos revealed a beautiful SW Florida sunrise, some dive trip pics, lizardfish, sea cucumbers, anemones, starfish, tube sponges, sea spiders, leopard toadfish, juvenile drumfish...and a friendly remora right at my leg as I was about to get aboard the ladder at the end of the day.
    All in all we enjoyed a nice day on the water and returned back to the dock by 6 PM, and that only left us with another hour to drive home. The gear will be cleaned up tomorrow! Needless to say, I slept well that night.

    Key Largo 5/1-2/2010

    We traveled down to the Keys for a weekend of diving on the first weekend in May with Island Ventures dive operators in Key Largo. We dove from the boat Diversity with captain Joe and divemaster Hugh. Sea conditions were not good as we had a steady wind from the SE at 20+ knots all weekend, leading to some rough seas and heavy surge on the shallow reefs. We traveled to Molasses Reef and did two drops, first on Logan's Run and the second on a site known as the Aquarium...these dives were not very deep 34' & 27' respectively. Water temperatures were about 77 & 78 degrees for all the dives over the two days, which were OK in the 3/6 mm farmer john wetsuit I chose to wear. Picture taking was a challenge for those attempting to do so because of the surge. Viz was about 40 max due to the rough seas. I can only equate these dives as knowing what it must feel to be inside a washing machine. We did manage to see many nice coral formations which appeared to be very healthy in this marine sanctuary area of the Florida Keys...the reef fish were too numerous to mention, I alone saw over 40 different species as well as many healthy sponges, soft and hard corals and even some conch and spiny lobsters. So the first day was rough but we did see some nice sea life. On the second day,we opted to go to a little deeper reef this time, French Reef, which was about a 1 hour boat ride, like the day before, through rough seas and then we dropped onto two sections of the same reef known as Woody's Ledge. Our depths this day were deeper 46' & 52'...deeper water was fine, with only a light current, but the tradeoff was poorer viz, about 25' max., again due to the rough seas above. All in all I've had better weekends of diving conditions, but the important thing was that we got back into the water again, and that felt great.

    Venice Beach Dive 4/17/2010

    The PGI dive club went to Venice Beach for a shark tooth fossil hunting excursion on April 17th...attending the trip were Eddie and Karan Beezley, Denis and Vanessa Cournoyer, and Frank and Barbara Panhuise...the water conditions were smooth, but cool, water temp was just about 70 and the viz wasn't too good, 6' was about the best we could do once we got off the beach and into about 15-20' of water. The bottom had silted over very badly from the rough winter we had, so searching for the sharks teeth was a real challenge. All in all we did get in a nice dive, we saw dolphins on the surface, and under the sea we saw baitfish, flounder, snappers, small crabs, conch, soft corals, sand dollars, starfish and some sea cucumbers. The most important part about the day was finally doing some diving this year. Denis Cournoyer managed to even find a small Megaladon tooth, about 2 inches, but it was his first, so he was happy with it..We hope to come back to Venice and have beach dives often and hopefully the silting will go away, the waters will warm up and the sharks teeth will fill our collection bags.
    Link to Photo Album of Dive