As anticipated, Gary Smith, the owner and operator of Red Devil Scuba in Chatham, Ontario, and his intrepid group of divers arrived yesterday morning. With him were David Ebare, Louie Jerome and Bryan Merchant, each of whom had enjoyed Fort Lauderdale in previous years. We had tentatively planned to make a shore dive, but conditions were not obliging and I really don't think any of the group truly appreciates the wonder of our first reef line in merely 25 feet of water. So they made themselves at home by the pool and generally unwound from their flight. Some of them worked on gear and Bryan Merchant set up a clever suspender system for his weight belt.
In the morning, they piled in their van and followed me up Federal Highway to Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano Beach for our first dives of this trip. I had augmented our group with five other divers: Darryn Timm, a recent student, and his friends Teri Smith and Michael Wilson; Leo Paez, a divemaster candidate and frequent dive buddy; and Dmitry Titov, a new dive buddy and possible student of mine. We were ten in all and eager to board Scubatyme and head to sea.
Doug Barkley (the videographer) was the divemaster for our trip, but had reserved the front of the boat for some divers who failed to show. The 10 of us got stuck on the stern, except I stowed my camera under the seats up front. Then I put my camera together and brought it to the stern. I put the camera in the camera bucket where I thought it would be safe and heard a gurgling sound. The dome port had come off, flooding the camera and housing. I quickly got the camera out of the bucket, dried everything off as best I could and put it in Enzo's van while we dived. Unfortunately, nothing the camera would not turn on the next day. I think I have destroyed yet another camera. Worse, I got no pictures of the dives today and will get none of the dives scheduled for Sunday or Monday.
As we geared up on our way up the Intercoastal Waterway to the inlet, Bryan discovered that he had a short fill tank with only 2,600 psi in it. I swapped tanks with him. Our first dive was on the Ancient Mariner, formerly the Coast Guard Cutter Nemisis, which sits in about 70 feet of water. The water was a pleasant 84 degrees and visibility was good. I swam around the wreck, then headed off to look for the tug, the Berry Patch off to the SE. I got out of sight of the Mariner but had not yet recognized the Berry Patch and decided to head back while I still could. Leo was to swim with and act as divemaster for Darryn, Teri, Michael and Dmitry, but mostly he swam around and took pictures. If I had a camera, I might have, too. I was the 3rd diver in the water and the last one up, but I also made a 5 minute safety stop. Cheap insurance.
On the boat, Dmitry had problems with an o-ring during his surface interval. Doug helped him out. Leo missed the whole episode. The dive was less a DM training dive and more a vacation. Dive time was only 46 minutes, but I used only 1,941 psi. My SAC rate was 15.43 psi/minute and the RMV was 0.4 ft3/minute,
Our second dive was a drift dive over Abbey Too reef, which runs parallel to the beach and not far from the Mariner. There is a 10 foot ledge on the West side of the reef and the depth was 55 feet to the sand and about 45 feet on top. Captain Oliver pushed us on our surface interval and I had too large a nitrogen load about 10 minutes into the dive, so I spent a lot of time at about 30 - 25 feet just so I could stay in the water for the whole dive. Lots of fish on the reef. Gary spotted a small baby eel about 7 inches long. Other divers spotted a Green Sea Turtle. Nice dive and a fairly strong current. Dive Time was 67 minutes; my SAC rate was 15.93 psi/minute and my RMV went up a hair to 0.41 ft3/minute.