Sunday, March 2, 2008

Mine Countermeasures Gear

For those of you who know, check out the old MK-105 and the Q-14 at the Man in the Sea Museum in Panama City.

The Chippewa

This is the wreck we dove in Panama City. I saw the stack and part of the pilot house, the rest was lost in the crappy viz. Cant wait to go back.

Vortex Springs

Some shots of Vortex Springs in Ponce De Leon, FLorida. It was a beautiful place with great visibilty and a cave you could get lost in. The first three hundred feet are open to all divers, or maybe just the stupid ones, and the rest is locked off to only certified divers. At the locked gate, the depth is 119', 300' into the cave. If yhou dont have your mind screwed on right a lot og stuff can go wrong.

Florida Road/Dive Trip

Friday Feb22 George (tk1031) and I loaded up and headed for Florida about four thirty in the afternoon. Our original plan was to hit Ginnie Springs, the Blue Grotto and try to make an ocean dive off Jacksonville. The weather was miserable in Ohio with sleet, freezing rain, snow and a lot of ice on the roads. We spent an hour trying to get around Dayton because of all the accidents where idiots ran off the road. Under the lights along Interstate 75, the snow was crusted with a slick sheet of ice. We stopped around one o’clock in the morning in Knoxville, TN and slept a restless few hours in a hotel room.

Saturday Feb 23 We got on the road about eight in the morning and after checking the weather reports decided to head Gulf side. The internet showed us Vortex Springs in Ponce De Leon as a place to get in the first dives of the year and then hit Panama City for some salt water wreck diving. The weather around Jacksonville was going to be nice but seas were going to be running 4-7 feet and PCB was showing calm conditions.
After what seemed like an endless stint in Alabama, we made it to Vortex Springs around six in the evening. We checked in, got a wrist band and then went to 4CBBQ a few miles down the road. Back to Vortex and we kitted up in the dark and made a night dive in the gin clear water of the Florida cave systems.
I don’t do a lot of night diving but we wanted to get in the water and get a dive in. I tried my new to me dive light in the cavern area. The fresh water eels were creepy because I hate snakes. I was testing out my new Interspiro AGA full face mask, coupled with the first dive of the year, a night dive and being out of shape helped me to wolf down an eighty in no time flat. It was a good dive and we stripped off our gear and headed for PCB.
An hour later we found the Dive Locker off Thomas Drive and a hotel room around midnight.

Sunday Feb 24 After a quick breakfast, a stop at Kmart we got to the dive shop, loaded up a few tanks of 31% Nitrox and headed for the Fintastic, the dive boat. The day was beautiful about seventy degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The weather report wasn’t lying because the seas were flat and perfect all day.
The area experienced a lot of rain and the bay water was a nasty brown color from the over flowed sewer and treatment plants. Out in the ocean the viz was great staring into the water from the boat. About forty-five it crapped out and you could hardly see ten feet at ninety-eight feet.
We dove a wreck called the Chippewa, an old tug, on the way down the line was a huge school of amber jacks. I think they enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them. The water was littered with jelly fish and good sized Man-Of-War. Schools of black, dinner plate sized, French Angelfish roamed the wreck. The dive was great in 68 degree water except for the low visibility, which was about ten feet. I joked that I had to swim fifteen feet to see fifteen feet of the wreck.
I had switched back to my standard gear using a mask and regs on the dive and missed my AGA even though I had only dove with it once. The Nitrox was extremely dry and I needed to snort some snot to clear my sinuses so all that had to wait until I got back to the surface, fifteen minutes later.
Back on the boat, we switched tanks and ran to the next dive site, after visiting four more places, we canceled the second dive because visibility had dwindled to about five feet or less.
The rest of the day was spent cruising around PCB checking out the sites and finding local fair to eat. We ate lunch at J Michaels had supper at the Boathouse. We wanted to see the inside of the History of Man and Water museum but it was closed and I relived some of my Navy experiences looking at old helicopter towed mine-countermeasures gear on display outside the museum building.

Monday Feb 25 we left PCB and headed back to Vortex Springs for some salt water rinse and more diving since we have only made two dives on this impromptu road trip. We got to Vortex Springs and spent time talking to Johnny in the dive shop and Ed, a diver who works in the springs and cave. They gave us a local history and lay out of the cave area.
The spring isn’t large and at the bottom, at 60 feet, there is a small cavern opening and then a cave that extends back three hundred feet into a large open cavern where there is a gate into the main cave. We made two dives into the spring and explored the cave up to the gate.
We loaded up and headed for home spending the night in Eufaula, Alabama and then making the rest of the trip into the nasty snowstorm in Ohio on Tuesday.
I was disappointed that we didn’t get in more dives but we kicked off the dive year with a road trip into great weather and beautiful water.