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cayman islands and the kittiwake There’s No Comparison



florida Where Diving and Fishing Go Hand in Hand

carolina wreck adventures

Tech Diving with the Experts

Volume 1 Issue 5 $1.95 US/$2.25 Canada

Drift Florida’s Dive Coast North Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale

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◄ Cover by Sandy Sondrol

Raised beside a lake in Iowa, Sandy Sondrol grew up a self-described “water rat,” and made his first dives in the mid1960s. In 1994, he left his law practice and moved to Grand Cayman to become a dive instructor and boat captain for Bob Soto’s. After nearly 10 years in Cayman, it was back to the states to join Nekton liveaboards for three years. He later became the associate publisher of Dive Chronicles, and today works as a full-time freelance writer and photographer. He holds a USCG 500-ton captain’s license with 4,000-plus days at sea and is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with nine specialties and more than 4,500 dives. Recent assignments have taken him to Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt, The Philippines, Belize, Grand Cayman and Key West. You can see more of his articles and photos at:

Southeast Dive News

The complete resource for diving in the Southeast.

Publisher / Editor-in-Chief Rick Stratton Art Director Brian Merculief Production Manager IJ James Expo Coordinator Selene Peterson Staff Writer Jamie Farris Graphic Designer TJ Pierzchala Accounts Manager Tove Chatham Advertising Sales Manager Keath Allen (360) 240-1874 x105 Circulation/subscriptions 360-240-1874

Dive News Magazine is committed to promoting the sport of scuba diving in the Northeast and Midwest. We will present a practical, unbiased point of view regarding all aspects of the sport of scuba diving. The Dive News Magazine believes in honesty and integrity in business and will support all efforts related to this. We encourage readers to participate in determining the content of this publication by giving us their opinions on the types of articles they would like to see. We invite letters to the editor, manuscripts and photographs related to diving or diving-related business. Send us your stories and photos! IMPORTANT NOTICE The Dive News Magazine reserves the right to refuse service to anyone it chooses. The contents of Northeast and Midwest Dive News are opinions of individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, editor or any of its staff. The publishers and contributors assume no responsibility for any mishap claimed to be a result of use of this material. Diving is an adventure sport and contains inherent risks. Improper use of diving equipment or improper diving techniques may result in serious injury or death. Readers are advised to use their own best judgment in each individual situation. MOVING? In order to continue receiving your magazine uninterrupted, please notify Northeast Dive News when you change your mailing address. To ensure uninterrupted service, please contact us six to eight weeks before the change of address occurs. You can call us at 360-240-1874 PST or email us at or mail at: Bedrock Publications P.O. Box 1494 Oak Harbor, WA 98277


Monthly Columns Publisher’s Note.................................4 Incoming Mail.....................................5 Southeast Hot News..........................6

Southeast Activities............................ 7 Tropical Dive Directory................22-23 Local Dive Directory....................22-23


10 Jacksonville, Florida – Where the

Diving and Fishing Go Hand in Hand

There are approximately 60 artificial reefs from wrecks that lie between 9 - 45 miles offshore, making Jacksonville, Florida an artificial reef Mecca. Join Travel Editor Mike Hughes as he visits wrecks that are home to baitfish, grouper, and barracuda exploring the places that Kingfish fishing tournaments take place in tandem with dive trips. By Mike Hughes


14 North Carolina Wreck Adventures – Tech Diving with the Experts

Writer J. Dan Wright gets the incredible opportunity to dive with author Bernie Chowdhury in Morehead City, NC. Wright takes us along as he and Chowdhury explore wrecks the likes of the Schurtz and the U-352 on Captain Bobby Purifoy’s Olympus dive boat. Great weather, a good dive crew and historical wrecks make this story a jumping off point for any diver getting in the waters off North Carolina. By J. Dan Wright


18 Cayman Islands and the Kittiwake – There’s No Comparison

It’s the newest diving attraction in the Cayman’s and it draws hundreds of divers already. Sunk on New Years’ Day 2011, the Kittiwake is a massive ship that rests just 60 ft. under the blue waters of the Cayman Islands. Join guest writer Sandy Sondrol as he gets the chance to go back to his old stomping grounds and explore this incredible new reef. By Sandy Sondrol

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e s a e l P Don’t W


hat a busy summer! As the weather continues to heat up, so has the diving. Our feedback from our readers and dive shops is that divers are coming out again. They are diving locally and in bigger numbers – welcome back to the community if you are part of this group! If you are one of these returning divers, you may be reading our magazine again for the first time. You may be thinking that we are new (different cover, updated website, fresher content) and we thank you for taking the time to peruse these pages. We do what we can to provide the most up-to-date content by working with your dive shop to bring you the news and events that will help get you active and keep you active in diving! The best part of being a reader of Southeast Dive News lies in our magazine/website hybrid. We are in print at your local dive shop or available online 24/7. We are dedicated to promoting the sport locally and promoting an active diving lifestyle. One of the many things that separate us from other resources is our dedication and focus on local diving and dive retailer. We want you to pick up our printed edition free at your local dive shop. This gives you a reason to go to your local store to visit, catch up on gossip, find out about the next dive trip, and ultimately be a part of the amazing dive community. We actually ask our readers to NOT SUBSCRIBE! Taking part in the actual excursion to the dive shop is

that important to us. We do know that not all of our readers can make it to the shop, which is why we put the effort into making sure each month the latest edition is also online. Each item (news, event, feature, dive spot review) you see in this edition can be found on our website This creates over 300 pages a month of content completely searchable by Google and allows you to find articles about dive spots you may want to visit all over the United States! Care to find out about diving in Alpena, MI? Just Google Alpena and Dive News Network. How about diving in the emerald waters of British Columbia? You can find an extensive list of articles we’ve done in the past through your favorite search engine. And this gigantic archive of articles is available at your convenience 365 days a year at no cost to you! As a result of the technology, our online readership is growing tremendously. We are getting 30,000 – 60,000 visitors per month. Our goal is to have 100,000 by the year’s end. You can subscribe online for free and be reminded when the new edition is available on our website. Just send us your name and email, or visit We love the local diver and we support you, because you support us. Without you, we would not be here! We thank you, and again welcome back those divers who may not have been diving lately!

Welcome to the neighborhood, Rick Stratton

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Dear Rick,


Just got the current issue and was glad to see the letter on the front inside referencing Pensacola. I was surprised to see a letter from someone who has a dive charter operation here in Pensacola that I never heard of yet, but that is a different matter. My interest has been, as you know, keeping people informed about our area and updates and I thought an interesting thing might be the fact that we have had “Lion Fish” start to appear on our local reefs. Lion Fish have reached the Northern Gulf of Mexico! So far this summer, aboard the Charter Boat “Viking” I captured one live specimen on the Dredge Avocett out of Pensacola Pass. Another less cooperative one was also taken by spear on the US Navy Dive Support Vessel YDT-14 just outside of Pensacola Pass. Both are popular dive sites here in the Pensacola area. It has also been reported that other specimens have been spotted and/or captured by others in the area. Both specimens captured and speared had empty stomachs and where only about 6-7 inches in length. This is a good sign that they are not feeding well and hopefully a sign that they will not get a good hold on our reefs, although only two specimens are not a good measure as of yet. Our original policy was that if the Lion Fish cooperates and comes along peacefully, then he may have a chance at the good life in a local aquarium. But if he gives us any resistance, he will suffer the death penalty and perhaps become some of our soon to be famous Lionfish tacos! Alas, unfortunately, the local aquarium shops are refusing to take them due to their now bad reputation and the fact that they eat up everything in the aquarium, so….all specimens have been issued a wanted poster with a death sentence as the only option. I still have yet to try them on the plate but I hope that if they do continue to show up, we will be creating our own recipes of how to prepare them to meet their fate….in a tortilla!

LIONFISH HUNTERS Lionfish Tacos Ingredients 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 2 teaspoons canola oil 2 garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons chili powder 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 1 pound firm white fish fillets 8 (6-inch) fat-free whole-wheat tortillas Lime wedges Preparation: Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl. Add fish; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 15 minutes. Wrap tortillas in foil. Place fish and tortillas on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill fish, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Divide fish among tortillas; top with relish. Serve with lime wedges.

Serving Pensacola Divers Since 1992

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Saturday, November 5th Lower Keys at Hurricane Hole

Key West, FL

Over $3,000 in cash and prizes for the top three teams for Most, Biggest, and Smallest Lionfish Categories. Help control the Lionfish population. For information or registration go to: or call 305-852-0030

October 31 - November 6

Capt. Tim Thorsen USMM/USCG Master 100GT Thorco, Inc. dba Viking Diving

Dear Captain Thorsen,

Ok…now I’m hungry! Thank you for such a great (and amusing) letter. This is a very important issue (tacos aside) and I also support the efforts to keep these invasive fish out of the Florida area. Each diver needs to do what they can to contribute to the culinary growth of the Florida area and help these little critters to the plate. Thanks again,


Viking Diving

(850) 916-DIVE (3483) (888) 848-DIVE toll FREE

We support local divers - Local divers support the industry.


HOT NEWS Get your business noticed by sending us your NEWS/EVENTS: Southern Most Diving Splashes onto the Scene

Southern Most Diving is a brand new dive shop located in Long Key, Florida. This new full service dive shop business offers the chance to start your dive trip off with a boat that can take 20+ divers out at a time but only boards 6 to15 divers for a more comfortable trip. They offer a 3 Tank Dive Trip at 3 different reef locations then go out in late afternoon for a 2 tank dive, one at sunset and 45 mins. later on the same reef for a REAL night dive. For more info visit

Be the Next YouTube Dive Cruise to Adventure

Want to take a short dive trip? Want to see exotic locations? Presently there are three short videos on the Diver Style Scuba Channel but more are coming. Who knows, you may be the next viral video star. If you want to be included on the channel, send your video on CD or DVD and it will be edited to YouTube requirements, placed with a sound track and posted. Simply go to www.YouTube. com, and search “maxdivernc.”

US Congressman Takes Heat for Diving with US Flag

Recently, US Congressman Allen West joined a group of military veterans and local divers to celebrate Learn to Dive Month in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The Republican Congressman, a certified diver, was one of several dozen divers to descend on the wreck of the Ancient Mariner near Deerfield Beach. During the dive, the group unfolded an American Flag and took turns posing for pictures. Afterwards West took heat from a group of bloggers who pointed out the divers were technically “in violation” of the US Flag code. The congressman’s office issued a statement, saying he participated in the event to bring attention to scuba diving near his district. The “soiled” flag is scheduled to be auctioned for charity, with the proceeds slated for the Diveheart Organization, dedicated to teaching soldiers and others with disabilities how to scuba dive. For more information, contact Force-E at 866-307-3483 or visit

Scuba Divers Gather 101 lbs. of Trash near Miami

Three teams from Underwater Unlimited Dive Center out of Miami joined other scuba divers aboard RJ Diving Ventures for a day in April dedicated to cleaning up local waters. Man-made debris that didn’t belong in the ocean was gathered up for the event and disposed of. Divers were instructed on proper techniques for removing trash to ensure there was no further damage to the reef. Divers were provided with catch bags, cutting sheers, marker buoys and clips for their BCD, along with protective gloves. At the end of the day dive teams had scrubbed 101 lbs. of trash from the ocean waters. Way to go Underwater Unlimited!

David Dunleavy Announces New Clothing Collection

Dunleavy Worldwide specializes in producing high quality watersports clothing for today’s active lifestyles. The David Dunleavy collection has three lines of style; Marine, Wildlife, and Fishing. He has used his background as a scuba diver, videographer, and angler to capture his passion and create exquisitely detailed ocean paintings, endangered species murals and apparel for the past 15 years. He is announcing a new line of clothing geared towards the outdoorsman. To view the full collection, visit Dunleavy Worldwide at

UST Joins NASE Worldwide

UST Scuba Academy, a long-time proponent of quality over quantity, announces affiliation with the National Academy of Scuba Educators (NASE) Worldwide. UST looks forward to utilizing the reality based philosophies of the NASE programs. The flexibility of their programs is a perfect fit. UST’s success stems from providing quality programs that focus on individual development and avoiding the “one size fits all” type of programming. Diver training is conducted in small groups which allow the staff of UST to identity the unique differences of each student. For more info visit or call them at (919) 848-0529.

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CLUB MEETINGS & EVENTS AUGUST Aug 2: Fanta-Seas Dive Club meeting, 7-9 p.m., Fanta-Seas Divers, 1400 Eatonton Rd., Ste. 750, Madison, GA. Aug 2: Orlando Reef Divers, 7 p.m. Paddy Murphy’s, Baldwin Park, FL. Aug 4: Caloosa Dive Club meeting, 8 p.m., Cape Coral Yacht Club, Cape Coral, FL. Aug 4: Jupiter Drift Divers, 7 p.m., Jupiter Fire Station Community Room, Jupiter, FL. Aug 6: Atlanta Underwater Explorers, 3p.m., East Atlanta Library Branch, Atlanta, GA. Aug 9: Clearwater Hogs Spearfishing Club meeting, 7 p.m., Ocean Sports, Dunedin, FL. Call Carl Nelson (727) 515-4672 Aug 9: Atlanta Reef Dwellers Scuba Club, 7 p.m., Hudson Grill, Brookhaven, Atlanta, GA. Aug 10: Bay Area Reef Runners Club Meeting, 7 p.m., Pssghetti’s, Clearwater, FL. Genny Donaldson (727) 365-6172 Aug 12: Blue Heron Bridge Night Dive, 7 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach, FL. Aug 15: Sea Turtle Dive Club meeting, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Jasper Dive Center, Jasper, GA. Aug 16: Orlando Reef Divers meeting,

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7 p.m., Paddy Murphy’s, Baldwin Park, FL. Aug 17: Suncoast Reef Rovers, 6 p.m., Nokomis Community Center, Venice, FL. Aug 17: Central Florida Pleasure Divers, 7 p.m., Denny’s Restaurant, Orlando, FL. Aug 18: KSC Barracuda Dive Club meeting, 6:30 p.m., Merritt Island Library, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Aug 18: Caloosa Dive Club, 8 p.m., Cape Coral Yacht Club, Cape Coral, FL. Aug. 20: Lionfish Derby at Upper Keys at Coconuts, Key Largo, FL. or (305) 852-0030 Aug 19-21: Wreck Racing League. Key Largo, FL, Aug 22: Lionfish Roundup. Call Discovery Diving for details. (252) 728-2265 Aug 27: Blue Heron Bridge Night Dive, 7 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach, FL. SEPTEMBER Sept 1: Caloosa Dive Club meeting, 8 p.m., Cape Coral Yacht Club, Cape Coral, FL. Sept 3: Atlanta Underwater Explorers, 3p.m., East Atlanta Library Branch, Atlanta, GA.

Sept 6: Fanta-Seas Dive Club meeting, 7-9 p.m., Fanta-Seas Divers, 1400 Eatonton Rd., Ste. 750, Madison, GA. Sept 10: Blue Heron Bridge Night Dive, 7 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach, FL. Sept 13: Clearwater Hogs Spearfishing Club meeting, 7 p.m., Ocean Sports, Dunedin, FL. Call Carl Nelson (727) 515-4672 Sept 13: Orlando Reef Divers meeting, 7 p.m., Paddy Murphy’s, Baldwin Park, FL. Sept 14: Bay Area Reef Runners Club Meeting, 7 p.m., Pssghetti’s, Clearwater, FL. Genny Donaldson (727) 365-6172 Sept 15: Caloosa Dive Club meeting, 8 p.m., Cape Coral Yacht Club, Cape Coral, FL. Sept 15: KSC Barracuda Dive Club meeting, 6:30 p.m., Merritt Island Library, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Sept 19: Sea Turtle Dive Club meeting, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Jasper Dive Center, Jasper, GA. Sept 21: Central Florida Pleasure Divers, 7 p.m., Denny’s Restaurant, Orlando, FL. Sept 26: Blue Heron Bridge Night Dive, 7 p.m., Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach, FL.

We support local divers - Local divers support the industry.





Giving All That Was Promised and More

Divers exploring the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg. Photos by Don Kincaid.


hysically, sinking the Vandenberg appeared easy enough - clean it up, set the charges in all the right places and then down she goes. The real challenge was in convincing community members in the Florida Keys that the ship would have a positive economic impact. Now two years later, the results prove the reward was worth every bit of effort. In May 2009, the retired US Air Force missile tracking ship the USS Vandenberg was sunk in the waters off Key West at approximately 520 feet. The project made the ship the largest vessel sunk as an artificial reef in the Florida area. The original promise was the artificial reef would bring money to the area in the form of divers but it ended up doing so much more. CeCe Roycraft, co-owner of Dive Key West said “I’ve seen the economic impact first hand. All of the impacts on the area have been studied and the gains have been understated.” She goes on, “Divers don’t just spend money on diving; they also spend money on hotels, restaurants and such. The diver is also only a part of the money that comes in; they also have families who spread the money around making the impact enormous.” Roycraft says that her business, which is a full service dive center with a charter service to boot, has seen an increase across the board. “People come here just to dive the Vandenberg.” A recent study aimed at assessing the economic and ecological impacts of the new artificial reef conducted by NOAA stated that in the pre- to post- Vandenberg 8

deployment period, there was a 40.1 percent increase in the total number of users on the surrounding natural reefs. According to the study a 23.5 percent increase in recreational Scuba diving use occurring on the natural reefs representing 5,214 dives is in contrast to a 442 percent increase in the share of recreational Scuba diving occurring on artificial reefs. Chris Norwood of Florida Straits Diving in Key West knows first-hand about the numbers because he did some of the preto post- deployment studies. “The economic impact has been huge,” says Norwood. “I do private charters and I have done more to the Vandenberg than anywhere else; everyone wants double Vandenberg dives.” Norwood says that for his part in the deployment studies he ran the monitoring of 8 different reef sites. “I would go out six days a month and monitor inbound traffic; tracking the types of divers, numbers of visits and even how long they stayed down, there was a big change after the Vandenberg was sunk.” The study concluded what the people of the Florida Keys area already know: introducing an artificial reef by sinking a decommissioned ship benefits the local environment, the local dive charter industry, and the larger local economy. The bottomline has equated to net changes in total recreational expenditures to an increase of $6.5 million. Frank Wasson owner of Spree Live-aboard in Key West says that all his customers now want to dive the Vandenberg. “We are modeled off the California Dive boats carrying 34 divers comfortably and

Dive Locally - Where It Really Matters

now that the Vandenberg is a part of our underwater landscape that’s all they want to dive,” Wasson says. “We just added more Vandenberg based dives because it was what the customer wanted.” NOAA and the State of Florida will continue to monitor the economic impact of the Vandenberg for years to come, but the locals already knew the outcome of the report, more money in their pockets. ■

Come dive the U.S.S. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg! Open to all levels of divers! Daily trips to the Vandenberg and the barrier reef The only custom built dive boat in Key West!

606 Front St., Key West, FL. 33040

(800) 891-3483 (305) 292-9778



The Dive Shop Memphis, Tennessee Turns 50

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The Dive Shop of Memphis, TN, changing attitudes and latitudes since 1961. Photo by


f the 50th is the “Golden” anniversary then it rightly fits The Dive Shop in Memphis, Tennessee because as a dive shop they are “golden” as far as their customers are concerned. The Dive Shop got its humble beginnings in the back of a small jewelry store on Hollywood Street in 1959. That’s when The Dive Shop owner Doug McNeese Sr. decided he was so intrigued with the television show “Sea Hunt,” he was going to learn to dive and open a dive store. Fifty years later The Dive Shop was recognized at the Scuba Schools of America National Dealer Conference for reaching 50 years of serving the best in training, travel and equipment to the diving communities of the Mid South. They went from that one humble store to four major centers in Memphis, Joplin, MO, Little Rock, AR and Atlanta, GA. Randy Wright, Chief Operating Officer of all the stores is thrilled to see the store reach this milestone. “It is fulfilling to see that The Dive Shop is still viable after all these years,” Wright said. “I think one of the key elements is our attention to customer service. These days when economics are working against a lot of other dive shops we are doing well and I believe it’s because we are still handling customers the old fashioned way. A lot of other shops will see you come in with something you are not happy with and just refund your money; we ask why you were unhappy so that we can correct the situation and hopefully retain your faith in The Dive Shop.”

Over the years The Dive Shop has been involved in adding manufacturing and distribution to supplement the retail store. McNeese also once founded a dive bag business, Sports Leather Products Company and Tri States Divers, a distribution business importing dive equipment from Italy and distributing it across the southeast. In 1993 The Dive Shop in Memphis moved to its state of the art location at 999 South Yates in East Memphis. The facility features a 95,000 gallon salt water pool, multi media classrooms, and over 2000 square feet of retail space. It is the only facility of its kind in the region, and is also the region’s only Scuba Schools International Platinum Pro Instructor Training Facility. For more info call 901-763-3483 or visit ■ See the full story online at

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florida Where Diving and Fishing Go Hand in Hand

By Mike Hughes Travel Editor, Dive News Network


n my first visit to Jacksonville, all I knew was that the city had one of the best zoos that I have ever been to in the nation. The raised platform walkways make it easy to view rare species or get your hand licked by a browsing giraffe. Looking at the pool of crocodiles I had little inkling that I was also standing so close to the land of fish and artificial reefs. Groups like the Jackson Offshore Sport Fishing Club and the Jacksonville Scubanauts Reef Research Team have helped create approximately 60 artificial reefs from wrecks that lie between 9 - 45 miles offshore, making Jacksonville an artificial reef Mecca. The wrecks are home to baitfish, grouper, and barracuda. Kingfish fishing tournaments take place around these hollowed grounds as well as fishing for other large pelagic fish such as marlin and amberjacks. Although the vis may vary from spot to spot, from 40-100 ft, you may not see a wreck until you are very close. Sites are sometimes covered with fish obscuring the structure. Many have already been overgrown with gorgonian coral, barnacles, and other resident invertebrates such as spiny lobsters, shrimp, and cryptic teardrop crabs. And just for the record, while oyster toadfish and sheephead wrasse are cool at these sites, lionfish are not, so take and eat these invasive predators anytime you get a chance. As for the type of diving in the Jacksonville area, one person told me no one goes shore diving because of currents, and low vis. On Jacksonville Beach down to Mickler Landing, old tiger shark teeth, and bones from prehistoric bison, horse and giant ground sloth have been exposed in the sand, so there, is no telling what you could find in the water near shore, if near shore Harms Ledge reef site. Photo by Joe Kistel.


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Dive restore Celebrate

November 3 - 5, 2011

The Freighter Anna Artificial Reef. Photo by

water conditions were better but even dive schools avoid the shore diving dilemma so you ought to as well. The dive shops train new divers at alternate locations. In fact, the oldest local dive shop, Atlantic Pro Divers and First Coast Divers train new divers in nearby springs. Once the divers in training are certified, they can obtain advanced and boat water status by going out with dive instructors on one of the many existing dive charter operations. Now before I mention a few dive sites that have given Jacksonville the nickname “The Sea of Fish”, it is important to give you a few tips. Through countless efforts and costs, Jackson Offshore Sportfishing Club has made possible the placement of artificial reefs that are so productive that fishing tournaments and fishing charters have become successful if not downright famous. With this in mind, when a dive boat goes out to find dive sites they may discover that the first dive site may already

1635 Wells Rd. Ste. 6 Orange Park, FL 32073 w w w. sc ub a t ige r. com

be covered with fishing boats; this is not unusual. It is for this reason that divers need to always have a secondary dive site in mind. The Captain has the final decision and you more or less sign up to just go diving and not to visit a particular site. Second, the weather picks up in the afternoon, so the boat will leave early at 7 a.m. to get back before the afternoon weather hits. By the way, it amazes me how many people sign up for a 7 a.m. departure on a plane and arrive at the gate exactly at 7 a.m. to see a plane pulled back from the gate and waiting for a last clearance check before the plane heads down the runway. It sort of works that way when going on a dive boat as well. I recommend showing up earlier than this for a boat dive, just to store gear and do a last minute check on dive and camera equipment. Once having left the dock, the local operators will usually try to squeeze three dives in before returning to shore. You may visit two wrecks and a

Since 1974 Jacksonville’s oldest and most experienced scuba shop and dive boat charter service 10:00am - 6:30pm Mon thru Sat

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The sinking of The Powerful Tug, March 8, 1992. Photo by

The Acosta Bridge Artificial Reef. Photo by

reef in any order followed by arriving back at port around 1-3 p.m. If you are trying to dive something far from shore like the 615 ft. long Dry Dock, then the time or number of dives may have to be altered. Most dives are between 9-23 miles from shore. Some are just as close to dive boats from southern Georgia as they are from Jacksonville itself. Whatever you decide to do, remember the weather, sharing with the fishermen and scheduling your dives…all these things help ensure a good trip. So what are some of these interesting dive sites? Here is a short list that could keep you busy a very long time and not just to see all the dive sites, but to count all the different types of fish you saw too.

Nine Mile Reef

To the west, the closest offshore dive site is Nine Mile Reef. The site is almost nine miles from shore, perhaps that’s where the name came from. It’s an easy 75 ft. dive where you can encounter a couple of barges, a steamer tug, and a fishing boat sunk in 1988. Keep an eye out here for 15 lb. plus grouper.

Rabbit’s Lair

let’s say it’s just unique.

Clayton’s Hollar

Now in between all these area boundaries are dive sites such as Clayton’s Hollar. At a depth of 85-95 ft., this is a very popular dive site. It is almost 17 miles off shore and consists of three reefs. The northern ledge has a swim through; the middle section is a wide mile long reef hosting two tug boats and a barge. The southern section stretches up with a ledge 15 ft. tall and is home to many lobsters.

Blackmar’s Reef

Blackmar’s Reef, is at 95-110 ft., and has a total of 5 wrecks: the Warwick, the Super, the Ocean Going Tug, a banshee jet fighter, and a WWII Cosair. East Fourteen is

DIVE CHARTERS Tampa St. Petersburg Clearwater

The farthest northern dive site, before crossing the invisible Florida State border and only 13 miles from shore has to be Rabbit’s Lair at 60-70 ft. Several long ledges run here with the eastern ledge vaulting up 10 ft. A steel barge, a minesweeper, and a wooden tug give this area a lot of diving diversity.

Middle Ground

A southern boundary wreck and at 85 ft. max depth should be Middle Ground. This is a series of small reefs and home to a tug, but what makes this place so unique is a section called the Japanese Reef where the Japanese government set up a pyramid made out of fiberglass tubes. I have no idea what the purpose of this experiment was; 12

at 65-85 ft. and has the old Gator Bowl press boxes, red rock reef, and the Y-ledge. The 225 ft. long freighter Anna was sunk here as an artificial reef in 1986. The 150 ft. long Huggins was reefed in1987 and the 103 ft. long Coppedge Tug at 50-80 ft., was reefed in 1988. Some of the others of interest are The Acosta Bridge Rubble at 75 ft., the Amber Jack Hole at 85 ft., Paul Main’s Reef at 75-90 ft., and the Montgomery’s Reef at 50-65 ft. So there you have it, Jacksonville has a cool zoo, but also lots of older sunken ships, planes, reefs, culverts, cement artifacts, fiberglass oddities, and tons of fish. And remember, the fun and adventure starts the minute you plunge beneath the waves. ■

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By J. Dan Wright Guest Writer, Dive News Network

Deep in the bitter cold winter of 2010 -2011, Bernie Chowdhury, the author of “The Last Dive” asked me to join him on a technical dive trip he was organizing for the late spring in Morehead City, NC. The timing couldn’t have been better because the trip would be a perfect warm-up for my journey to the USS Monitor, off of Hatteras, NC, in late June. The tech trip booked quickly since the popular leader had a solid

reputation. I’d guess that a large number of the clients were former students of his because they all spoke highly of this diving Renaissance man. Our home base was the Olympus Dive Center and the 65 ft. “Olympus” dive vessel would be our ride. The owner and captain, Bobby Purifoy, opted for the larger boat since we tech divers are notorious for taking up so much space on any vessel. Half the divers stayed at the dive lodge, also run by Purifoy; it was convenient and only two

Leaving the Olympus dive vessel for the Papoose wreck. Photo by J. Dan Wright. 14

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John Eells views the U-352. Photo by J. Dan Wright.

blocks from the dive shop and marina. This was my old stomping grounds. I had cut my teeth on wreck diving off the southern outer banks in the late 1990’s so this was a homecoming of sorts. The last time was 2004; diving with Captain George Purifoy, Bobby’s father. Captain George suddenly passed away on September 14, 2008 so his son Bobby has taken the torch and carried it with pride and style just as his father did for so many years. Chowdhury planned for four days of diving but with the tricky climate of the outer banks and blowouts being common, we would be happy to get in three days of diving. A horrible winter and spring was behind us so I tried not to fixate on the forecast and just methodically packed the rig and camera equipment then headed south to meet up with the others. I arrived at 6 p.m. the night before, and signed in at the dive shop. Captain Bobby showed me around the “Olympus” and invited me to pre-load any gear if I wished and promised me that it would be safely locked overnight. She is an impressive sight, the Olympus. She’s fully covered from the sun, there are plenty of gear stations along the gun whales, and she sports a wide swim platform and dual “fins on” dive ladders. There’s also a large salon and galley inside, with a/c. She

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Shelly and Stefan videotape a critter on the Spar artificial reef. Photo by J. Dan Wright.

looked as comfortable as I had remembered. The stage was set for a 7 a.m. departure with our destination being the U-352. Captain George is credited for locating and identifying the Schurtz and the U-352 in 1975 along with the advent of Loran C, a precursor to the familiar GPS navigation systems. It is an honor to dive here. At 6 a.m. the dock was buzzing with everyone loading the boat. There was bristling with shiny manifolded doubles at just about every station, a camera table jammed with housed units and lights and the aft end of the vessel settled lower as the divers weigh the Olympus down, causing the dew on the canopy to pour off at the stern. About 75 percent of the divers opted to go dry; the crew all went wet since the water was now 72 degrees at the surface and 70 degrees at depth. We traveled with a slight breeze and chop out to the infamous U-352; we made great time to the wreck site. I have dove this sub many times over the years, and have always loved the warm blue waters 16

and stunning visibility; this day would be no exception. A popular destination, the U-352 is on everyone’s “bucket list” of must do dives when visiting Beaufort or Morehead City, NC. My dive buddy, John Eells, agreed to model for me on several of the wrecks and we start out with a bang, getting solid stuff on the first dive on day one. For our second dive we moved over to the “Spar”, a US Coast Guard cutter sunk as an artificial reef in ‘04. Sitting upright at 110 ft., the same depth as the sub, she is an easy dive and fantastic to penetrate. On this day we were assailed by thousands of tiny jellyfish that had swept in just as we descended on the wreck. John and I ducked inside but not before getting at least three stings to the exposed lips and cheeks. It’s a small price to pay for an excellent day of diving. I have never seen so many jellies in one place at one time! Back at the dock, most leave their gear onboard, except for cameras and lights that require charging. The Olympus Dive Center is full service

and did all the tank fills, a huge timesaver; from pure O2 to Tri-Mix, they did it all. The “Papoose” would be our target for day two. It is more distant and deeper, by about 15 ft., than the previous days’ dives. We had to depart earlier. The Papoose is known for its population of Sand Tiger sharks. It has been a favorite of mine since 1997, when I shot stills on Ektachrome film. The wreck was literally swarming with three dozen sharks. We were not disappointed on this dive either because the tanker, which broke in half when it sank, was peppered with 6 ft. Sand Tigers, a 10’ Southern stingray, a turtle, schools of baitfish, Spadefish, and the hated Lionfish. Calm seas and brilliant conditions topside made the bottom gin clear and 70 degrees. I splashed first, using my electronic rebreather, silently approaching the shy residents of this massive hulk while snapping photos as fast as my camera would allow. I wanted to get as many as I could before the open circuit divers enveloped us with

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SOUTHEAST DIVE DESTINATION their hiss and bubbles. Several of the other photographers went about photographing the turtle and sharks while my dive buddy John and I turned inward to explore the recesses of the wreckage. Topside, the chatter was all about the turtle and stingray, until the Ocean Sunfish made an appearance on the surface, flopping about in its quirky manner. At 60 miles from shore, the “Manuela” was the sole destination for day 3 of diving. At more than 160 ft. deep, she was our and Olympus’s biggest challenge for the week. Chowdhury and the New York/Jersey contingent were charmed with absolutely calm seas and max speed out to the wreck. Everyone Tri-Mix certified was diving a 21/35 mix, including myself on the eCCR. A few divers used air or “neartrox” as we joked; a 22-24 percent Nitrox. Dive tables were cut and bailout scenarios planned as is called for on any deeper dive. I also dial my gradient factor to the most conservative profile that my Hammerhead electronics would calculate to follow my open circuit dive buddy’s deco profile schedule a bit closer. Once at the “Manuela” I was reminded of a NJ wreck dive with the greenish cast and lower 35 ft. vis. The temps were still comfortable however, at 68-70 degrees. I didn’t wear gloves on any of the dives and many guys went without hoods, including Chowdhury. John and I penetrated the wreck for some good images. I was impressed by how well my budding model did on his first outing. It’s not all glamor and red carpet in front of the camera in the water, as I can attest. Captain Bobby commented that the Olympus Dive Center had just used up all its good luck for the summer of 2011 on us. The chances of perfect weather, a flawless technical dive trip, eventless dive operations and spectacular conditions topside never happen all at the same time. I said, “Of course it did, today’s my birthday!” The final day we visited the venerable “Schurtz”, at 100 ft. and the “Spar”. We enjoyed a perfect forecast again, and the added bonus of a New York dive club’s members filling the sister ship, “Midnight Express” at the dock. The “Schurtz” is a popular wreck; a broken up freighter that sunk after a collision in 1918. Stunning as ever, the wreck is always productive. On the second dive of the day, the Olympus moved over to the “Spar” wreck. The Midnight Express was already anchored over her. It was a treat that both dive vessels came together on the second dive. I enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces at the artificial reef at one time and I finally got to dive with two rebreather friends, using their rEvo rigs and snapped a few pictures of them happily videotaping a critter on the deck. A more positive end to our technical dive trip I could not have imagined. Hoods off to Bernie and Olympus. What do ya say…same time next year? ■

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5/6/11 1:50 PM 17



Cayman Islands

and the Kittiwake There’s No Comparison

By Sandy Sondrol Guest Writer, Dive News Network e could see the ship sitting on the bottom, just below the surface. The shadow under the water was huge. A big square of white looked like a reef, even though it was a half mile off the shore. It looked shallow as we tied up to the mooring buoy and soon we discovered that it was...just below the surface. We were diving the Kittiwake, the newest diving attraction in the Cayman Islands. It had been sunk on January 5, 2011 and we were there only 3 months later. It’s a big ship, and since it lies in less than 60 ft. of water, the top of the wheel house rises to only 15 ft. below the surface. As we descended, a school of horse eye jacks swirled around the wheel house, already taking up residence around the ship. Further down, near the huge propeller, a Goliath Grouper lay on the sand along the keel, letting Calvin Tang, my dive buddy; take pictures to his heart’s content. We moved along the massive side of the ship toward the bow and both shot lots of pictures trying to show the beauty of the ship and its massive size. Calvin dives ships and wrecks more than I do and was anxious to get inside. We entered through one of the large holes cut into the hull and came out onto the third deck. Even that deep into the ship, there was natural light from the access holes throughout the ship. We explored the engine room, the compressor room and the galley before heading back out to check the bridge, wheel house and upper decks. The top of the ship is shallow enough so that snorkelers can easily see the full outside of the ship, and at one point someone proved that you could free dive down to the outside of the main deck quite easily. It was a great dive, but only one highlight in a week-long trip to the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism had invited four media people to spend a week experiencing Cayman. I jumped at the chance because, several years ago, I had lived on Grand Cayman. For nearly 10 years this had been my playground.


The trip gave me a chance to do a then vs. now comparison. For me, the trip began with a flight from my home in the mountains north of Phoenix through Houston to Grand Cayman and then on to Cayman Brac. Cayman Brac was hit by Hurricane Paloma in 2008, and this was my first chance to see how it has recovered. I have always liked the quiet, laid back attitude of Cayman Brac, and I’m glad to report that the attitude remains. People genuinely like visitors and for several evenings at Brac Reef Beach Resort, where we stayed, groups of locals joined us for dinner and the entertainment that followed. Recovery from the hurricane damage is coming along quite well. As we toured the island we occasionally saw a building that has not yet been repaired, but overall the island seems to have returned to normal. I was only able to do two dives while we were on the Brac, the M.V. Captain Keith Tibbetts (Russian Destroyer) and Radar Reef. The ship is now in a couple of pieces from general deterioration, but the coral encrustation and fish/critter presence continues to be great. The reef dive was also just as good as I remember from past dives, with large schools of Bermuda Chubs, schoolmasters and striped grunts dotting the spur and groove reefs. Calvin Tang bow-on view of the Kittiwake. Photo by Sandy Sondrol.


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TROPICAL DESTINATION introduced us to many of the Iguanas, all of whom he knows by name and who come running when they hear his voice. His respect for the Blue Iguana and dedication to their continued existence created an inspiring end to our trip. I would not have missed the opportunity for anything, even diving! How do I see the Cayman Islands now as compared to my 10 years there in the 90s and early 2000s? Very positively. The coral, marine life and diving environment is every bit as good as it was when I left it. On land, Cayman Brac remains the same laid back, quiet place to retreat from the hubbub of the world. Grand Cayman remains

The Russian Destroyer, M.V. Captain Keith Tibbetts. Photo by Calvin Tang.

We also did an island tour with one of the Dept. of Tourism guides. Although I had poked around Cayman Brac on my own several years ago, we got to hear full histories of the caves, the bluff, and the various communities from a lifelong “Bracer.” It was tremendously enjoyable. Tour guides are available from the Brac office of Cayman Dept. of Tourism for the asking. I’m really glad we asked. Having a guide that truly knows the area made the entire afternoon much better. An early morning 18 minute flight aboard the Cayman Airways plane brought us back to Grand Cayman and then it was out to Cobalt Coast for breakfast and to get settled in for the remaining days of our trip. Wind direction controls where we get to dive on Grand Cayman. Spring winds tend to come from the Northeast, and that was the case while we were there. Cobalt Coast’s diving partner, Dive Tech, moved their boats to West Bay to provide a calm venue. Although, we only had two and a half days of diving on our itinerary, we were able to dive two of my favorite west wall dives, Big Tunnel and Little Tunnel and two of my favorite west side shallow dives, Bonnie’s Arch and Chain. Plus, of course, the Kittiwake. Hurricane Ivan hit Grand Cayman shortly after I had moved away, and at this point, I saw almost no residual effects from that devastating storm. That was certainly the case on the dives that we made. The wall and shallow sites were all as healthy as I remembered them to be, and we still had 100+ ft. visibility on every one of our dives. In addition to the healthy corals, I was excited to see Goliath Grouper at both Big Tunnels and on the Kittiwake. I can only recall seeing one Goliath Grouper during 20

the entire 10 years that I worked in the dive industry on Grand Cayman, and to now see two in two days bodes well for the species and for Cayman diving. The last couple of days of our trip were spent exploring some of the opportunities for non-diving activities on Grand Cayman. In the past, I have always tried to dive, dive, dive. Even during the time I lived there, I really did not take advantage of the island beyond diving; that was a mistake. I got to do some things on this trip that I regret not having done much earlier, so I could have repeated the experience sooner. Two things that I will repeat from now on are the “Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park” and the “Cayman Islands Blue Iguana” recovery program. The Botanic Park showed me Caribbean flowers and plants like I have never seen before, and...that’s after having lived there for 10 years! I was truly fascinated to see the unique flowers and plants. The experience that impacted me the most from this whole trip was the time that I spent with the Blue Iguanas and their protectors. These spectacular lizards are endemic only to Grand Cayman, and a mere fifteen years ago were on the thin edge of complete extinction. Dogs, cats and other animals were forcing them out of existence, and expanding human population was reducing their habitat to the point where there were only a few dozen left alive. Today there are 1500 or more, many of them having now been reintroduced into the wild in two Blue Iguana preserves located in different areas of Grand Cayman. We were able to spend an inspiring time with Alberto Estevanovich, one of the recovery program wardens, who showed us around the captive breeding program and

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A Cayman Blue Iguana. Photo by Sandy Sondrol.

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call (360) 240-1874 or email us at

To be listed in our Tropical Dive Directory call 360.240.1874 or email us at

indonESia (Cont.) Tasik Ria Resort Spa & Diving 62.431 -.824.445 Worldwide Dive and Sail 866.258.6398


Abyss Dive Center 52.984.873.2164 Aquanauts Dive Adv. 998.206.9365

PHiliPPinES Atlantis Dive Resort 775.588.0500 Deep Blue Adventures 888.266.2209 Island DreamsTravel 800.346.6116

rEd SEa - EgYPt Fly & Sea Dive Adventures 888.995.DIVE(3483) Learning Through Travel 516.781.5556

roatan CoCo View Resort Roatan 800.282.8932

roatan (Cont.) 888.405.8737

SEa of CortEZ/SoCorro iSlandS Rocio Del Mar 602.558.9580

St. Croix (U.S. Virgin iSlandS) BVI Scuba 284.540.2222 Cane Bay Dive Shop 340.773.9913 Jost Van Dyke 800.778.8066

St. kittS Dive St. Kitts 869.564.8914

St. VinCEnt Bequia Dive Adventures 784.458.3826

tUrkS & CaiCoS

Oasis Divers 649.946.1128 Dive Provo 649.946.5040

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Northeast Dive News JANUARY 2008

Aug 2011 Vol 1. Issue 8  

c ayman i slands and the k ittiwake adventures Where Diving and Fishing Go Hand in Hand Tech Diving with the Experts There’s No Comparison D...

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