3 Days of Dives @ Key Largo, Florida

Diving is a lot about metrics, air consumption, depth, ocean current, water temperature and more. The experience is colored by each diver’s focus. My experience for this set of dives could have been characterized by all the small details that can go wrong. Days later, I’m still itching from the stings of baby jellyfish across my legs and arms. Small knicks on my hands, knees and elbow are still healing from contact with fire coral and barnacles. Pondering all the possible adjustments for improving gear and physical conditioning for the next dive, I choose to recall the minutes differently.

I remember the hammerhead shark swimming by on an ascent.

I remember the turtle speeding away from the light of my flashlight during a night dive.

I remember the stingray gliding above the sand and reef.

I remember moving about the hull of a boat wreck with barracudas.

I remember big blue.

Three days out from this trip, I can still close my eyes in silence and feel the rocking of waves on a boat, back and forth repeatedly. Men aren’t meant to be under the glow of office fluroscents. Men are meant to be under the open sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Bahia Honda State Park @ Big Pine Key, Florida

Heading south on A1A to Bahia Honda State Park @ Big Pine Key, Florida, I had remembered the cadence of my wheels clearing portions of the bridge above the Atlantic. Looking left, I had caught a passing glimpse of the now decommissioned Old Bahia Honda Bridge feeding into the park. One sensation I had recalled most, the summer air blowing against my arm driving toward this destination.

Clearing the bridge, my vehicle had come upon the park entrance on the left side of A1A. After the gate, the asphalt road was bordered by thick greenery. Moving forward, the road had curved few times in different directions. After one curve, it had gave way to views of the shallow waters beyond the guardrail. Perhaps this reveal  was part of the charm of Bahia Honda? All that greenery was followed by the contrasting blue waters and white sands, typical of a postcard of the Florida Keys.

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Arriving at the parking lot, the walk to the ocean was around 100ft through picnic tables into the turbulent waters this May Saturday afternoon. To my chagrin, the waters were remarkably cool for this far south. After taking refreshing quick dip in the ocean, I had hopped back into my car to dry out in the heat. Leaving this park, I had wished only for less foot traffic and more time in the sun. The park had offered flats for fishing, ample beach for swimming and more. Reminiscing about this diversion, I had thought I would very much like to return for another round of exploration.




Bahia Honda State Park is located at:
36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043
Phone: (305) 872-2353

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Read More:

Bahia Honda State Park (floridastateparks.org)

Bahia Honda State Park  (bahiahondapark.com)

Barracuda Reef Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Second dive of this day, I was able to get around without my wet suit moving constantly in the ocean. I hadn’t seen any barracudas for the Go Pro video below; however, I had seen schools of grunts and jacks, a grouper, a queen angel fish, a yellow hog fish, and wrasses. The only creature undocumented on the final edit was a turtle. Holding on the dive flag had also provided an even flow to some of my camera work. The video I had composed using  Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro and iMovie. Think I was fairly jazzed putting the video together. Adding the track Solar Sailor from Daft Punk to the video, I had thought ideal counterpoint for drift diving.  As far as air consumption,  I was clocking an acceptable number with my PSI on the scuba tank on a 40 minute dive with 1500 psi leftover. Below were the stats from my Suunto Viper Air dive computer for this outing. In retrospect, lots of  elements were ideal on this dive with air temperature at 91 degrees F, warm seas at 82 degrees F and oodles of video. It had  epitomized everything that makes scuba diving fun! barracuda reef drift dive @ garzafx.com barracuda drift dive @ garzafx.com 

Read More: Sea Experience (seaxp.com)  

Tenneco Towers East Dive off the Sea Experience, June 8, 2014 @ Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Tenneco Towers East was one of the more challenging dives out of my twenty-five to date. This day on the boat had started out with my buddy’s cylinder order being mixed up with 21% regular oxygen blend versus a Nitrox blend of 32%. After securing the correct tanks, he had run into a busted o-ring when setting up his gear. Both of us also had issues with our regulators leaking air from one location or another. Luckily, the dive master from the Sea Experience was extremely helpful in securing my wireless transmitter and my friend’s run to his BCD.

After getting out to sea, I had run into a two issues right out of the gate. First my buoyancy was way off  preventing a controlled descent. Second, one of my fin straps had come loose approaching the boat ladder. After getting back on the Sea Experience, I was provided an additional 4 more lbs. of weights. After re-entering the ocean, I had easily converged with my buddy patiently waiting at the top of Tenneco Towers East. We then had started our decline down the slop of the top of the structure.  Originally, we had planned to spiral around the tower but, the strong current and my earlier missteps didn’t allow for keeping with our dive plan. After our last air check, my friend had realized the necessity to work up to a safety stop; however, I had lost view of him moving to the boat anchor. With rising bubbles and silhouettes from other divers, my view of him was totally obstructed. Amazingly, he had seen me the entire time looking down the rope for the anchor.

After getting topside again, I had found my dive buddy seated at the front of the deck. We soon had engaged about the miscommunication under the water and the break in visual contact. The fundamental faux pas had centered around dumping our planned movement and properly signaling with our hands to ascend outright. I had thought for myself, “Lesson learned. Keep it simple stupid!” With my dive relatively unsuccessful with about 23 minutes submerged time, the silver lining was firing up a newly acquired Go Pro gathering my first dive footage. To that end, I had posted a video below that I think truly communicates the unworldly feel of Tenneco Towers.

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Created with Go Pro Hero 3+ Black Edition, MacBook Pro, and  iMovie.

Read More:

Sea Experience (seaxp.com)

 

Long Key State Park @ Long Key, Florida

Long Key State Park had fit the bill for a random interlude for pulling to the side of the road and viewing the tropical surroundings. The great attraction was the quick access to the shoreline. There was very little foot traffic aside from one park ranger. A few benches had lined the side of the parking lot. The bulk of my visit, I had sat in my vehicle looking across the horizon thinking of what tomorrow might bring. The only other drawback was the timing of low tide making swimming in the flat impractical.

Combining the Florida State Park Annual Pass for families with one time seasonal fee of $5.00 for Monroe County surcharge, had made exploring this and other state parks affordable on this road trip down into the Florida Keys.

Long Key State Park is located at 67400 Overseas Hwy, Layton, Florida 33001

Park hours: 8:00 AM until dusk 365 days a year. Admission Fees:

$5.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.

$2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.

$4.00* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.

* Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge.

Read More:
Long Key State Park (floridastateparks.org)
Florida State Park Annual Pass (floridastateparks.org)

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Unfinished business in John Pennekamp State Park @ Key Largo, Florida

John Pennekamp State Park @ Key Largo, Florida was the first stop on a recent road trip through the Florida Keys. Different friends and family had suggested checking it out during my travels. One friend had posted this park being one of their favorites. Another had recommended it for the serene surroundings. The last had mentioned the Statue of the Christ underwater.

Upon arriving at the park, winds were brisk and skies overcast. With tide being out, I was dissuaded from going into the water. Staying ashore, I had walked past up the beach past two antique canons facing the waves. Nearby a picnic area was freshly landscaped with a kids’ play area in the far corner. The real appeal of this area were the low hanging tree branches. They had reinforced the laid back appeal of just gazing out across the ocean.

Moving across the street, past the showers were several charter boats handling the onslaught of incoming tourists on buses. I had mixed feelings about that level of tourist activity; however, I had walked past these boats to the nearby dive shop. Inquiring about their daily dives trips, the blonde guy behind the counter had responded these outings kicking off daily at 9 AM and 1:30 PM. “Hmm,” I had wondered.

After getting this piece of information, I had decided to get back on the highway. The goal of the day was getting to Marathon Key. I had conceded returning another weekend with calmer seas and more time. For now, I had withheld my final appraisal of the park’s unexplored offerings. I had known an unfinished adventure in scuba diving lay offshore Key Largo, Florida.

John Pennekamp State Park is located at 102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037

Hours: 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
Admission:
$8.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$4.00* Single-occupant vehicle or motorcycle.

*Plus $.50 per person Monroe County Surcharge

Read More:
John Pennekamp State Park (floridastateparks.org)

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Veteran’s Memorial Park and Seven Mile Bridge @ Little Duck Key, Florida

During a scouting trip through the Florida Keys with a buddy, I had searched for a location for hopping into the azure blue salt water off the coast with little effort and few people. On the second day of driving southbound toward Key West, Veteran’s Memorial Park just past the Seven Mile Bridge @ Little Duck Key had provided that venue. The opportunity also had provided the chance for testing out my new GoPro3.

After clearing the Seven Mile Bridge at Little Duck Key, I had pulled into parking lot on the right accessing the now defunct bridge. Walking down the decommissioned run of the Seven Mile Bridge, I had passed some folks fishing from each side of the bridge. Before reaching the end, I had come across the dried out corpse of a moray eel. Apparently the little guy had missed the memo about hydration and sun screen. After walking down a bit further, about a good half mile, I had reached the end. At this cut off, I had a clear view of other end of the bridge no longer in service. I had thought this would be a perfect location for a photo op at dawn or dusk.

Once returning to the car from the escapade on the bridge, I walked across the road to Veteran’s Memorial Park. Entry was free with park hours dawn to dusk. The beach and shallow waters were easily accessible. On this side of the key there was decent amenities like restrooms and shaded picnic tables. If looking for a pit stop going to Key West, this had seemed an ideal location for a breather. For myself, I had fired up my GoPro3 taking a test round of footage. Despite some shaky camera work, the footage had still recorded enough material communicating the natural beauty and feel of the park.

Though a brief interlude, each location had definitely caught the spirit of the Florida Keys I had yearned for from afar. Moments in the sun that had embodied the American ideal of manifest destiny driving toward tomorrow.

Read More:
Seven Mile Bridge (Wikipedia)

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