Boynton Beach, Florida

Well, there I was in Florida. What could I do? Catch a ride with Splashdown divers of course.

I had called the dive shop at
Two Georges Harbor in Boynton
Beach days earlier to make
sure I could rent what split
fins were available. I wanted
this to be a chance to plan
what I might buy. I had a pair
of Atomics and some ScubaPro
Split Jet Fins... of all the
novel concepts.

The trip out to the ocean was its usual excitement of blasting through the narrow channel that goes from the inland waterway to the ocean itself. People must get wiped out in that channel as a regular thing.

Most of the divers were just finished with their basic scuba class and their experience was in quarries. I figured that they were in for something special, seeing the ocean for the first time. It's a short trip out to the Gulf Stream and only a bit further to where we were going to dive. Due to heavy boat traffic in the area, the law there is that you must have a dive flag and that you must ascend at the flag. So they give a float flag to each group and the flag carrier is never lost, only people that leave the flag. Terry (boat DM) asked if I wanted to solo or go with a group. I just wanted to take pictures and so said that I would follow a group. What that means is that I would follow their flag, maybe. As Terry pointed out, if I passed one group, there would be another group a bit further on. I noticed that the first person off was an older gent in a drysuit and full gear, that was referred to as 'Uncle Peter'. Most of the rest of the divers entered in groups of 4 as did the last group, who I followed.

I don't think I had ever done a group dive before. It takes good conditions and vis for it to be feasible and I'm usually hunting, so whether there is a group or not, I'm strictly solo. It was interesting to notice though.

The last group of 4 went in,
three new divers and a leader.
I followed behind, but at 40
feet, they turned to go up, so
I just cruised on to the next
group. Vis was about 80 feet
or so, so the other divers
were very easy to find. It was
a Florida coral garden with lots
of corals and sponges, but most
of all, the various type of sea
whips that make it so much seem
like a garden. While I don't
consider Florida the most
spectacular coral diving I have
seen, it is pretty and there is
lots of life.

There was almost no current and everyone was doing a very leisurely swim. I had my new lens on my camera and was looking for subjects. Using a close-up lens like this one, I was having to get closer than I had ever tried before, but it is really hard to shoot some small sponge when it is surrounded by sea whips sticking up a few feet all around it and you don't want to touch anything. There are lots of colorful fish there if you look closely. I saw red barrel sponges that were bigger than any I had seen here before. I was seeing small pale blue sponges that I assumed were the beautiful lavender sponges I had seen in Belize.******

There were the bright
yellow and the dark
blood red sponges that
are common in the
Caribbean. There is
about as many little
things to look at as
you want to take the
time to find. Since I
was set to photograph
pretty small stuff, I
was traveling slowly
and looking closely at
what was under the sea
whips. Look closely at
them and you will see
a delicate beauty.
We were all traveling along
the inner side of the reef
and I was slowly moving
along, but that was still
fast enough to pass the
groups and come upon Uncle
Peter. He was moving very
slowly in front of everyone
and it seemed that he took
an occasional large
sweeping kick with his fins,
between pauses to absorb
what he could see.

It was time to go up, so I went to the nearest group at the time and started drifting up their flag line. Lo and behold, it was the group I had started with and that was now the farthest out in front of all the divers. As usual, as soon as I got to the surface, Lynn had the boat right there to pick me up. This dive had been very pretty and was what I considered typical Florida diving. Diving in the sea whips.

A little while later the boat had
moved some and we were starting
the routine again. When I got down
though, I saw an immediate
difference. This was still a coral
garden of sea whips, but this place
was far prettier than anything I
had seen in Florida. There was just
more life here and it looked happier.
I saw the usual brain and other
corals, as well as many sponges. Here
though, they were bigger and there
was far more color. A huge pair of
dark gray Butterfly Fish were in a
small coral canyon. Again, I was
seeing some of the pale blue sponges.
I was amazed and pleased. This was better than I had expected. I was mostly focused on looking at every little thing to see if it would make a good shot when another diver came by and handed me a camera to take their picture. I obliged and then just for good luck, took the picture of some other divers that had come to watch.

I was using the ScubaPro Split Jet
fins on this dive. The Atomics on
the last dive had fit poorly and I
didn't much like them. I've never
liked ScubaPro Jet Fins in the 20
or so years that they have been
selling them ... but these split
jets worked really well. You don't
notice when you are going slow, but
a couple of speed runs showed that
these worked pretty good. Well,
what do you know!

I was getting to the end of
the dive when, son of a gun,
there was one of those pale
sponges, but here it had the
beautiful delicate lavender
pastel color and slight
iridescent blue highlights.
It was under a large pink
sponge and I figured I had
gotten my picture and made
my dive. Just a bit further
on though, was another one
and then on to the surface.

Addendum: As usual, I really liked how Splashdown Divers ran their trip. I don't know that I have ever taken such a casual dive before. It was odd for me and it was different to see a group of divers that close. Being made of mostly new divers, it never dispersed much at all. Vis was great, the water was warm and the people I talked to were very nice. I managed to rib Terry enough about how much I like cold water, to get him to shiver just a bit.
Later that night, I came back to the harbor with the wifely and had the pleasure of meeting Michael Brady, from the DiverLink Board, over some beer and good munchies. That was fun conversation and was the first time that I had been able to get together with someone I had met through the dive boards.

As I mention elsewhere, the one downer
of the trip was my horrible photography.
There is an awful lot you can do wrong
down there and I did a fair amount of it
as far as poor lighting and even poorer
framing. Oh well. I guess I'll just have
to go back.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt

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