To sum up the trip in one word - WONDERFUL!!!!!!
A group of us met at 9:00 AM at Nations Bank parking lot and after a quickrun through Burger King for cresants, headed south.
Other groups headed out on their own. One group made a stop in Boca to dive Sting Ray City . They said that the dives were awesome. Their first dive was a 70 foot wreck dive with giant sting rays and a monster jew fish. Their second dive was a 40 foot reef dive with beautiful corals. They spotted bunches of lobster here. Of course, the lobster know that it isn't season yet. :-)
Another group went straight to the Keys and did an afternoon dive. They said that their dive was also very good. We met up at the hotel in Florida City . As far as the hotel goes, it wasn't the Ritz, but the rooms were clean and the staff was very polite and helpful.
Our group (the South Brevard SCUBA Explorers ) headed into the Keys around 3:30 PM and went to Pennekamp State Park to snorkle and have a picnic dinner. Some of the other folks met at Mrs. Mac's diner. We heard that their dinner was very good. Note, if you go to Mrs. Mac's , take cash - they don't take American Express..... or Master Card, or Visa, or Diner's Club, .........
I went on to the dive shop and got everyone checked in. This was the "It's a Dive" operation out of the Marriot at MM 103.8. We all had waivers filled out ahead of time and I had a copy of everyone's C-card. This really made checkin go extremely smooth. I then joined the other Explorers at Pennekamp Park.
We showed up at the boat for the night dive around 7:00 PM. We had 16 divers and 2 snorklers (yes, night snorkling) We had an additional 5 divers join the trip. Captain George and Mate Doug took us to Molasses Reef. The ride out was a little bumpy (2 foot swells) but the 43 foot pontoon boat, the Sea Star , rode it pretty good. We had LOTS of room on the boat.
The night dive at Molasses Reef was really neat. There were sand channels lined with 6 foot ledges and large patches of coral. All of the divers said that they enjoyed the dive (I was one of the snorklers)
We got back to our rooms around 11:30 PM and hit the beds to get up at 6:30 AM for our day dive.
Up bright and early and checked out of the hotel. Headed for the Keys after a quick drive through for breakfast. We got loaded on the same boat (Sea Star) with 22 divers and 6 snorklers. We still had plenty of room on boat. This boat is really good for a large number of people. We didn't feel packed in. It was very roomy and comfortable.
By 8:30, we were headed out to the first dive site.
We dove French Reef. The first spot was Christmas Tree named for a very large coral formation that looks like a Christmas tree. Directly under it was a swim through that was about 18 feet long and 4 feet high. It was full of hatchet fish. This was a really neat part of the dive. We had a max depth of 40 feet with 50 to 60 foot of horizontal visability.
A few divers in the group came across a sea turtle. As usual, there were many, many fish on the reef. Lots of large grouper and snapper as well as the small tropicals. I did notice that a lot of the coral was dead. However, the reef is making a come back. I've heard that a few years ago, French Reef was completely white from the dead coral. Most of the divers in the group came across a number of good size lobster.
The second dive was at a spot called Jew Fish Ledge - still on French Reef. A couple of the snorklers actually saw the big guy that gives this spot its name. An eagle ray was also spotted here. This area had lots of high ledges with large holes up underneath. We saw a number of lobster and a gigantic stone crab. However, I also noted that a lot of the coral here was also dead. On this dive, we did 45 feet (should have done this dive first) and again had at least 50 foot of hoizontal vis.
The water was warm, the day was sunny and beautiful, the down time was an hour at each spot, and the company was great!
On the ride back in, we had fresh oranges and pinapple to clear the salt from our mouths.
We got back into the dock at 12:45 and everyone started to make there way home. This was a wonderful trip and I'd like to thank all of the divers that were on the trip for their courtesy to the crew, their respect for the reef, and for just being a lot of fun to be with.
Remember, lobster mini-season is July 29 & 30. You need a measuring device, a fishing license, and a crawfish stamp to take lobster. For those not going for lobster, we are having a Descenders Dive Club meeting at STI at 12:00 in the large conference room of the building on Evans Road.
Last Updated: 10-July-2002