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The Ande – 8/29/09

Gearing up for the diveAs I’m leaving the house around 6am, I’m thinking to myself, this had better be worth it! After a number of hours on the turnpike, numerous cups of coffee and silly updates to Facebook via the iPhone, I finally pull into the dock. The first person I see is Mike Barnette and of course he looks at me and asks “what are you doing here?” I laugh, we shake hands and I have to go through the friendly banter of what is a cave diver doing diving in the ocean, you know there’s salt in the water, right and all the good natured ribbing that goes along with technical diving!

It all started when I met a couple of wreck divers a few years ago, they decided to take my Cave DPV course earlier this year and they managed to talk me into heading down to Wreckfest in Key Largo earlier in the year. I went along with it and as you probably noticed from previous blog entries, I had a great time and now have a new thing to do as well as cave dive!

I look up and David’s pulling in, so I flag him down and we start prepping our gear for the dive. The Ande sits in 190 ft of water so we’ve decided on 18/45 for the dive and we’re carrying 50% and O2 for deco. We’re using standard gases since both of us prefer using ratio deco in the ocean. David’s also brought his Gavin and I’ve got my SS ‘cause of the currents here. We’re humping all this gear onto the boat and I’m already missing my North Florida picnic tables!

We’re heading out today with Emerald charters and I like the size of the boat, plenty of room for divers with scooters and tech gear and it doesn’t seem crowded at all. We have a few divers on rebreathers and a few on open circuit which I’d imagine is fairly typical for the tech boats. It’s definitely a far cry from the cattle boats of the islands that I used to work on back in the 90’s!

Tim having a mischievous momentHeading out to the wreck, the typical South Florida squall breaks out, but the captain assures us it’ll blow over and after a few anxious moments we relax and get ready to go. This is my first “hot drop”, so I jump off the back of the slowly moving boat to the sounds of “dive, dive, dive” with my deco bottles attached and scooter under my arm, how cool is that! I quickly orient myself and catch a glimpse of David powering down to the bottom so I head off to join him.

We can’t see the boat yet, but my wonderful buddy remembered to bring his compass (yes, you can read that as I didn’t!) so I follow him North to where we think the wreck is. We’re scootering along and suddenly this huge behemoth appears out of the gloom ahead of us. I start hollering and whooping through my reg, it just looks so cool, this massive, intact wreck just sitting in the bottom inviting us to play….

We decide to circumnavigate the wreck once first, but like a typical cave diver, I see a huge hole on the stern and that’s that. We clip off our scooters, tie off a reel and start heading in. We’re almost immediately engulfed in huge clouds of silt, you can tell that nobody’s been on here in a while and hoping David can see something behind me. Like an idiot, I take a wrong turn and end up in a dead end passageway, so we flip around and start heading out. Of course on the way out, I see where we should have gone, but our precious bottom time is coming to a close and it’s time to start thinking about the ascent. As we’re heading back to the scooters I notice Mike pointing out the light holders which still have light bulbs in them and it’s all just so cool!

A bunch of happy wreck divers :)Finally we grab the scooters, clip them off, swim slowly up to about 130’ or so and David blows a bag since we decided I’d take care of the deco and he’d take care of the bag. Holy smoke, the bag’s almost going horizontal! There is a screaming current and I grab a hold of David so we don’t get separated and watch 400’ of line let out in about 20 seconds! I feel kind of bad for David since I know he’s going to have to reel it all back in, but I’m concentrating on our time and stops as we drift at a crazy pace through the depths of the ocean. We see other divers from our boat from time to time, but David’s busy with the bag and I’m busy with the deco schedule so we just focus on our team. After an uneventful and fun ride, we break the surface, start laughing and signal okay to the boat. We get picked up and everyone starts going on about the dive, the 100’+ vis and life is good!

We make plans to all go to “Bru’s” in Pompano, take the long ride out there and reminisce over some of the best wings I’ve ever had, and I think to myself I like this wreck diving stuff! Many thanks to David for being a great buddy, to Tim, who was kind enough to let me crash at his place after a cool day of diving and socializing and to Emerald charters for running a great operation…

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