Breaking News: Key Largo invaded by Indian Valley Scuba!

 

This just in – it’s official, Key Largo has been taken over by the Indian Valley Scuba gang!

Forty IVS divers descended on the quiet hamlet of Key Largo last evening, and immediately set up camp at Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort!  Other guests at the resort were aghast at the news – there are NO spots available on the boat all weekend unless you are with IVS!  Team IVS has filled the Amoray Diver to capacity and then some.

Our group started arriving Thursday at the resort, to join the twenty lobster hunters already in position,  We kicked it right off with a night dive to the Benwood wreck, enjoying perfect conditions above and below the surface.  Great viz, 86 degree water temps, lots & lots of sea life to enjoy – what a way to start off the trip!  While 18 of us were enjoying this night dive, another 8 were completing the last lobster dive of the mini-season, helping to ensure that there would be plenty of lobster for everyone at our dinner Friday night.  We ended up with 106 lobster tails in the freezer by the end of the two day event.  This night dive brought my personal time underwater to 15 hours over the last 42 hours – I feel like I am truly a walking talking DAN dive study.

Friday morning, and the perfect weather we have been enjoying all week continued.  No wind, blue sunny skies, all good stuff!  We motored out to French Reef this morning and started off with a  dip on the City of Washington, carefully timed to coincide with a Creature Feature dive that was being run by Capt. Slates.  We got to enjoy the feed, with about 7 or 8 friendly nurse sharks coming in for the feast, along with barracuda and a large green moray.  Nice chance for the IVS gang to enjoy some big animal encounters with plenty of photo opportunities.   Great dive, period!  We followed that up with a visit to the Train Wheel wreck, another nice 30 ft dive on the beautiful reef system.  It’s a lot like Dutch Springs here, with a distinct thermocline in the water column – the difference being that the surface temp is 90 degrees with a big drop in temperature to 86 at about 15 feet – brrrrrr!

Our afternoon trip took us out to visit one of our favorite wrecks, the Spiegel Grove.  As we approached we could see the ominous signs of a strong current with the mooring balls hanging partly submerged and the water piling up against them….hmmm…not the best sign, but hey – we’re here to dive!  So, our teams got themselves geared up, and began the entries into the water and down the descent line.  The current was absolutely ripping on the line all the way down to the wreck – with each diver hanging off the line like a flag as we went down.  Once on the wreck, we used the mass of the large ship to hide us from the current, and each of the teams enjoyed a great dive, with a great first deep/ocean/wreck/nitrox experience for a bunch of the group, including Rob Lunny, Jamie Winchester, Brad Creveling, Tim Brown, Brenden Malloy, James, Jonathon & Nicholas MacKnight, Jenna Murray, and Dave Elmer.  IVS Instructors Ray Graff, Sue Douglass, & Butch loggins, assisted by DM’s Frank Gabriel, Bill Zyskowski, and Csaba Lorinczy, worked together to ensure a great experience for each group.  I took Niki Lorinczy and  John Glowdowski for some wreck penetration training running a reel line inside the wreck.

After coming in from our dive and gussying up, we headed over to the Key Largo Conch House for our third annual lobster feast.  Our friends Ted & Laura Dreaver, owners of the Conch House, went out of their way taking care of us and cooking up our 100 tails and all the fixings to go along with them, making a perfect dinner under the stars for us. Perfect opportunity for a lot of bonding between the IVS group with a lot of new friendships solidifying. 

Saturday dawned with another perfect weather day, and we loaded the boat to head out for one of the signature Key Largo dives – Key Largo Dry Rocks, or more commonly referred to as Christ of the Abyss.  Perfect conditions greeted us, with decent viz and no current or surge to speak of.  Donna Raleigh & Jenna Murray worked on their Fish ID specialty, completing REEF fish surveys on this and the next dive.  A perfect 60-plus minutes was spent exploring this site. The time passed too quickly, and it was time to enjoy a long and arduous 12 minute surface interval while we motored over to our second site, north Key Largo Dry Rocks.  Another great reef dive, more good stuff for all.  These were the last dives of the weekend for two of our lobster assassins, Tricia Healy & Gary Kai.  Gracing the topside and soaking up the sun for our afternoon ride were the designated bathing beauties for the trip, Isabella Gabriel and Stephanie Skelton.

Back at the dock, we had a generous 25 minutes for lunch and then it was time to head back out for another visit to the Spiegel Grove.  If yesterdays current was ripping, today’s was clearly ripping plus!  Like jumping into a washing machine, we entered the water and went hand-over-hand across the mooring line to begin our descent down to the wreck.  “Hold on to the line – don’t let go” was truly the order of the day. We had a few different groups once again, with Dave Hartman, representing IVS South, leading a penetration tour under the well deck, with Frank G, Bill Z, John G & Csaba L gearing up wth stage bottles and working as teams to run some reel lines into the wreck for some serious technical exercises.  The rest of us split up into a couple of tour groups, with Butch, Sue and myself leading each of our groups on nice penetration tours of this fine wreck.  In spite of the conditions everyone came up smiling and laughing, and wiser for the experience.  Niki Lorinczy finally got her breathing under control, nearly matching the gas usage of the much older and much larger Dave Valaika.  The ‘lame-o’ tour, led by me, ended up with the longest bottom time and most penetration time of all the groups – what’s up with that??

We followed that experience with a visit to the Benwood, giving everyone the opportunity to see this World War II wreck in the daytime, and to be able to appreciate the change in sea life that happens each day after dark.  Butch & Bev Loggins, along with Frank G, Mike Conn, Jason Stelle and a few others, headed off the bow to visit the “Benwood Wall” a nice 90 foot sloping drop 150 degrees off the bow of the wreck.  Amazing schools of fish surrounded the wreck today, and just further fueled the question – “where do they go at night??”  And as is typical with IVS, the training never ends – using darkness and night diving to raise the stress conditions a bit, Butch and Rob Lunny practiced running penetration reels as a team.  They performed flawlessly, running nearly 300 ft of line throughout the wreck area, maintaining perfect buoyancy and light communications, and just clicking as a team.  We’ll see the results of their practice tomorrow when we put this to a test in the Spiegel Grove.  While they were hard at work, Donna Raleigh shared her biophosphorescece illuminating gear with several of us, using a special filter on her lamp and polarized lenses over our masks, we were able to see the unbelievable glow of the phosphorescence of certain hard corals, sponges, anenomes, and a few other of the seas critters – very cool study in an area that is unknown by most.  For more information on this check out this link – (insert link here). And Jenna and I had a nice startle – while focusing in on some photography of a nice size crab out for the evening, Jenna looked up and suddenly grabbed my arm, so I raised my light up and Holy Smokes Batman!! – look at the size of the shark, sitting almost on our heads!   A very curious and not shy gray friend, either a reef or bull, out for dinner and not perturbed about us being in his dining room at all!  Very cool, and a great rush too!  And to top it off Jonathan MacKnight shot some super video of a turtle swimming along with us – check out our U-Tube clip here (insert link),

We had a bit of rain during the night, and a light breeze greeted us Sunday morning.  The wind caused some choppy surface conditions, but it was all bark and no bite as the sea was calm below as we visited the Wellwood wreck site on French Reef, followed by Hardbottom Caves on Molasses.  Very slight surge, but viz was super, lots of critters to enjoy, and a couple of great dives overall.   Sylvia Lorinczy ended up with completing two 45-minute dives on a single 65 CF tank, returning to the boat with an amazing 600 psi left – unbelievable!  Julie Antidormi, Steve Monte, Linda Malloy, Tom Brennan, Sandy Stelle, & Don Yowell wrapped up their weekends diving this morning, preferring to avoid the reported rough conditions on the afteroon’s double-deep adventure.  While we motoring back in, we listened to reports coming in from boats on the Duane, our target this afternoon. Not good, it sounded, as divers were aborting the dive and calling them before even starting down the line in the current.

In light of that report from the Duane, we opted for the usually better but still supposedly ripping conditions on the Spiegel, doing a double dip on this wreck.  Well, as usual when you get reports on sea conditions from the locals, everything is bigger and worse than reality, by far.  We arrived at the Spiegel, and you could not have asked for better conditions anywhere.  Near-flat seas, zero current, great viz – we really should learn by now, when you get the local report, divide by four for the actual wave height and current speed.  The dives were great, with more deep & dark penetration for the IVS gang, exploring all sorts of nook, crannies and voids deep in the bowels of this ship.  On an international note, we learned that the Hungarian symbol for “crane” is almost identical to the PADI symbol for “fin pivot”, so you can imagine the blank looks and WTF’s that you get underwater when you use this sign to ask everyone where the crane is while you’re down on the wreck.  Have to admit, the fin pivot exercise on the deck was humorous, but finally the group managed to understand the alternate translation, and make it back to the ship’s crane to return to the Amoray Diver.  And Niki is off the hook on getting the Air Consumption Queen Award on this trip, as her dad managed to make the first dive this afternoon a nine minute express version.  The bottom line for the day- all great stuff.  This afternoon we saw Shelly Liu, Meredith Bernardo, Craig Bentley & Jason Stelle all getting in their fourth Spiegel Grove dives in for the weekend. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, we opted to add a third night dive to the trip, heading back out Sunday evening to visit the City of Washington, after dark.  A light breeze from the East made the ride out a bit wetter and bumpier than normal, but it didn’t detract from the stellar conditions underneath.  Zero current, zero surge, just fine diving with all sorts of fun animals out to entertain and amaze the divers – octopus, lobsters, cuttlefish, eels & sharks – all made for a great last dive for most of the group. With the following breeze the ride back was smooth as can be, and we were treated to a great light show with lightning flashing all around us the entire ride in.  Another perfect day in paradise. 

Monday morning dawned darker and breezier than any day of the previous week, and we counted our blessings for the fine weather we enjoyed every day of this trip.  Never the less, Don Yowell and I headed out for one more visit to the reefs this morning before we had to head up to the airport for the trip home.  The ride out was very wet with a number of waves breaking over the bow of the boat, but we soldiered on.  The reward: two nice dives on French Reef, with Hardbottom Caves and Christmas Tree Caves as the chosen sites. Great quiet relaxing way to wrap up a superb trip to the Keys.  It was not without a moment of sadness, as I had to take my regulator off my tank for the 32nd time in the last 5 days, and this time I had no new tank to put it on.  Finally Don & I headed to the airport, officially turning the Key Largo back over to the locals.  Not to worry, we’ll be back soon enough!

Winers of this trips ‘ADD’ Award (All Dives with Dave) are Jason Stelle, Jenna Murray, Brenden Malloy, Shelly Liu, Mike Conn, Dave Elmer, Rob Lunny & Craig Bentley.  Make sure you visit the IVS website for photos and videos from this trip! 

 

 

    

 

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