Sea Fever Nov 15-22, 2003

It has been a long time since I have written a dive report and I think I have one that is good, informative, and entertaining.

After several years of trying to persuade me to go on a dive trip on the "Sea Fever" I agreed to go because the dives were to wrecks in the FL Upper Keys and not reefs. The plan of only doing dives of less than 130ft sealed the deal because well........Nancy told me I was going, the dives were in her range, warm, clear, and easy (by our standards) just like she likes it.

I had a few stipulations before I gave in, I will not cover all of them...but one included that I would be allowed to dive doubles(that is all I have) and do decompression diving. While I did not think me diving doubles would be a big deal, the ripple effect that it had, caused the trip leaders to ask me to dive singles. Seems once word got out that I was diving doubles everyone going wanted too. While the boat does allow this, it is only when the boat is chartered and not an open trip like I was on. So I borrowed a Halcyon wings set up for singles from Tom. I also requested an extra alum 80 and brought a reg with rigging to make it into a stage. This allowed me some kind of back up reg and gas should I have a failure inside a wreck or during deco.

Food became another concern, Nancy and others have seen me when I become a bit of a bear when I have nothing to eat. I can eat some foods every now and then, but I must have my steady fix. Though some may consider my eating habits picky because I only eat chicken and steak while only being cooked very bland, there were others even worse. One girl did not even like her food to touch each other on the plate. You never know what kind of people will show up on open trips like ours. The cook was able to handle the food request for the girl and myself.

While talking of food let me say this, the cook Rob Guarino was superb. The food was perfect for everyone, even though he was cooking meals for the 14 guest, 6 crew, and 2 trip leaders. Each person that had a special request was covered. The only way you will not gain weight on this trip is if you got seasick or did not eat. There are 2 things that can screw up a dive trip for me.... being hungry and diving reefs.

We flew to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday and arrived at about noon. I must say that when ever I fly I always have the "waterbuffalo" sit next to me, makes for a very long flight. We had planned a dive on the 6pac dive boat "Topic Diver" at 2pm to the "Tennaco Towers" 112fsw because our boat was not scheduled to depart until Sunday morning. After a 60 dollar cab ride(took us the long way) we got to the Sea Fever and unloaded our luggage. Capt Pete of the Topic Diver was waiting and informed us that the seas were too much to go to where the Tennaco Towers rest. He said if we still wanted to go we would be diving the wreck " Conception" 70+fsw. We just wanted to dive, so Karen Franke, Mike Scammon, Nancy, myself, and 2 freedivers from down there (they had to of tanks) got on the boat to go. The wreck was okay and the water was clear/warm and about the only thing that I remember was the new alum. fluke anchor, chain, and rope I recovered that someone had hung into the wreck. The Capt seemed pleased when I gave it to him. The second dive was a rockpile.

Later in the day we met several of the good people going on the trip like Laura, Tony, and Frank Farmer from Ca., seems Frank was an actor from Hollywood, Tony (his son) was a skateboarder, and Laura....well lets just say she assumed the role HABO ....... "Hot Available Babe Onboard" and when I tried to take a photo of her for the website at the end of the trip she wouldn't let me.......she must be in the witness protection program or something. ;-)

Later we were informed that the wind/seas were too much to go down to the Keys and the Capt made the decision to make the short jump over to Bimini and place us on the Leeward side of the island. Oh no, my worst fear......reefs. Reefs are okay, but once you've seen one, you've seen them all. I'm not a real big fan of the little pretty things if you know what I mean.

The first dive we made was to a reef called the "The Strip", a variety of marine life inhabited this small mound close to where the customs office is. I saw Scorpion fish, sharks, turtles, and tropical fish.......I have seen these before, but what most everyone commented on about the dive was that they saw me in a shorty and a single tank.

We must have dived everything that could have been considered a wreck over there.....Bimini Barge, Miami Rita, Alma B, Boiler Wreck, and then the reefs. You could do 4 dives a day plus one night dive. I choose to miss some of the reef dives. On Tuesday we were informed that the weather forecast for the Keys was improving. So the Capt. and trip leaders made a very popular decision to spend Tuesday night in Bimini and then do 2 dives Wednesday morning and then head back to Miami to get cleared by customs. They would depart at 3:30am and head to the Spiegel Grove in the upper Keys.But before all that we did the "SHARK DIVE".

The dive was kinda fun, they had everyone form a half circle around a line that was sent up and some pre rigged fish were attached. The dive leader would pull the line down and the sharks would eat the fish............the fish never made it ........the sharks were on it the first 5 seconds.....not one piece made it to the bottom. The sharks did hang around and some great photos were taken.

That night we spent docked in Bimni. Everyone went over to the "Compleat Angler Bar", it is best known as the watering hole of Ernest Hemingway. Several photos of Ernest with fish and sketches which were the inspiration for his story "The Old Man and the Sea" decorated the walls. Further down the road the famous "End of the World" bar served us drinks while we gazed on the surroundings of bras and underwear hanging from its ceiling and walls, these were donated by former patrons who most likely woke on the boat naked with no memory of what they did. We did 2 dives the next morning and headed for Miami.

At 3:30 am the boat started at the dock in Miami and departed for the Spiegle Grove. The wreck which rests in 130+fsw is a huge site. We did 3 dives on her. I rigged my 80 stage and donned my drysuit for a long dive. The wreck rests on its STBD side and after my first long dive, I called it the recreational Andrea Doria of the Keys. While I entered many passages and tried to remember were I had worked on her in my early years in the ship repair industry, it became clear to me that this wreck will claim a few lives. The rumor mill says that has already happened. Massive in its size and inviting to enter her bowels, clearly it spells death to the foolish and untrained. Upon my return I had told everyone of the number 52 I had seen painted on the bulkhead on the FWD end of the landing dock, which I took as BHD 52, very easy to get to for the experienced and trained. Of course everyone had to go see it. That is how it starts........

We then moved in to do an afternoon and night dive on the wreck Benwood 40-50fsw. I choose to skip the afternoon dive and dived soon after dark. I was told if I heard the engines start to come back because the wind was picking up and the night dive would be cancelled. I was at the far end of the wreck when I heard the engines go rruummmmm....rruummmm and I returned to the mooring line and was coming up the ladder when someone asked what are you doing back..........seems another dive boat had showed up and it was there engine I had heard.Damn........ I was ready for dinner anyway.

The next morning we headed for the wreck Eagle 100+fsw. This wreck I had dived several times before, nothing new to me. I swam to the engine room and entered, went into the lower part. I had unknowingly blocked a 500lb Jew fish and we were face to face, he very much wanted to exit that place, but would have to bowl over me to do it. I slowly back finned until clear from him and exited the engine room. Another Jew fish was spotted on the wreck and everyone had a good dive. We departed for the USCG Duane. I have dived this wreck before, but the seas had become bumpy and the Capt felt conditions were not what he was comfortable with and we went to the Benwood again. Most of the divers felt this was a poor decision.

We headed for Miami with the intentions of diving one more wreck, the Blue Fire. The current was so strong that it held the 90ft Sea Fever against the wind and we left. Another site was chosen....a barge and only 2 chose to dive it. I had a great time on our vacation. I would like to thank the Capt. and crew for a job well done. I will place photos on my site very soon. Below I have listed details of the boat for those interested.

The Sea Fever is a 90'x22'x6' 91ton live aboard dive vessel 7 rooms 2 full bath 1 head on deck. Open boat trips run $1262.00 for a 6 day trip,$795 for a short trip. Whole charters for shops/groups or special charters have different rates.
The boat has nitrox available for $8 a fill or $100 unlimited per person. The boat makes fresh water at a rate of 1000gal a day. Tanks are provided with air fills at no cost, there is an assortment to chose from on a first come basis, 95 & 80 STL, 80 alum and others. Normal boarding is 8am on the day of departure. The tip for the crew is a recommended 12-15% of your bill. I can say our trip was so good that the crew received its highest tip ever and they deserved it. We were pleased with there performance and they were pleased with the tip I was later told. An edited VHS video containing footage of everyone on the trip and several of the dives is offered for $45. The boat has 2 Kayaks for you to use, rental gear, and instruction is available. or call Deanna Kenny 1-800-443-3837
Thanks to:
Capt. Michael "Redman" Salmon
Co Capt./engineer: Ed Carboni
Cook: Rob Guarino
Ellie Marks & Rick Gifford
Steward: Cody "RUN" Roberts

Hope you have enjoyed this report
Capt JT