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November 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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In Search of Undiscovered Diving

Panama, no; Mozambique, yes

from the November, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Remember last April when the Icelandic volcano eruption covered Europe with ash and grounded flights? Curt Andrus (Lewisville, TX) was aboard the Manthiri in the Maldives and reports that it departed without two divers whose planes could not fly due to that European ash. While some liveaboards may apply all or part of your unused payment to a future trip, you may never again have the time or the inclination to go to that distant part of the world. So, when youve got a lot of money at stake for your dive vacation, consider trip insurance. Its pricey, but we divers have to expect the unexpected. You can find all sorts of travel insurance policies at www.insuremytrip.com

Andy Kenley (Summerfield Fl) dove the Duane solo with Scuba-Do out of Key Largo in September and his report should be taken to heart by skilled divers. Key Largo is a dangerous place for experienced solo divers. The passengers on dive boats there represent a wide range of experience. We were six: two fellas, an instructor and her two AOW students, and me. I have dived the Duane 10 times; 80 percent of the time the current is at least two knots. It was calm. The instructor told me to go first. I grabbed the line to the buoy. The current was running, but diveable. I consumed 300 psi of my precious gas while my fellow divers dithered. That was it. I went to the buoy line and pulled myself down to the smokestack. I clipped on to it with my reef hook and awaited the others. After awhile, they were making tentative movements down the line. Well done! I dropped to the deck and worked my way into the current until I reached the radar tower. The school had reached the smokestack, good for them, they were gaining valuable experience. I fooled around inside the structure, wandered further towards the stern, floated up to the radar mast, rehooked, and flew in the current until I had expended my bottom time. I ascended and returned to the boat. There I get a lecture from the twenty-something skipper. I love diving the Duane, but if you go down there by yourself, more than likely your buddy (through no fault of their own) wont be up to the current.

Visibility is not the greatest in
Bocas, but it wouldn’t really matter
if there was something to see. Most
dive sites are totally dead,

Ocean Encounters Diving, Curaao. Kenneth Katz (Livingston, NJ) has a lot of dives under his belt, but fell into the same trap many of us do going along with what the divemaster says, against our better senses. After surfacing from one dive, the captain threw a line and everyone grabbed it to pull themselves in. About 30 ft. from the boat the DM told me to remove my fins and hand them to him. I did as required, but then he pulled the line from me. I was treading water with no fins, hanging on to my camera. I was screaming give me my fins back. I replaced my fins and swam to the ladder. I asked what was that all about? An error in judgment. The next days dives were on the house. Looks like Ocean Encounters stepped up to the plate for an error most operations would either disregard or deny. Thumbs up to them. PS: He did say Ocean Encounters was otherwise a good operation and he found the reefs in good shape, especially at Mushroom Forest and Cornelius Bay. (www.oceanencounters.com)

We ever-hopeful divers keep searching the Caribbean for one last hidden destination with unmolested reefs, and Stanley Zuk (NYC) took his shot in September. Most Caribbean diving is done around Bocas del Toro Islands, Panama, where in Bocas town you may choose to dive with one of three operators. I dived with La Buga Divers, a nice small operator, nice staff, good service and attitude. The problem is that most of the pelagics are fished out, and overfishing has destroyed Bocas del Toro. On some dives I could only see a few fish, or a school of baby blue tangs, and that was it. Visibility is not the greatest in Bocas, but it wouldnt really matter if there was something to see. Most dive sites are totally dead, and even snorkeling is not rewarding. Only once did we encounter a big nurse shark in sea grass. Diving in caves on the northern side of Bastimentos Island was equally dead, with two lionfish, and a couple lobsters in the rocks. Panama has great jungle tours. There are nice beaches in Bocas del Torom and a great chain of beautiful islands in San Blas with Kuna Yala Indians; a bit better diving than Bocas del Toro, but still not worth the effort. It is sad that Panamas government doesnt protect these areas, and gradually destroys them forever, due to lack of environmental protection.

Some people travel even further in search of those last unmolested reefs, often with better luck. Peter Van Kampen (Elkhorn, WI) was pleased with Vamizi Island Lodge in Mozambique where vis ran 30 to 60 ft. and the water: 72 to 76 F. Most spots were average to good, but Neptunes arm was spectacular. Miles from shore, I went over the side like a kid falling thru the roof of the first Toys R Us and being told everything is free. It was overwhelming, and Ive been diving since 1955. You couldnt take it all in. Gray reef sharks greeted us with lots of curiosity as we descended. The site is a series of reefs protruding up from the bottom, almost like a sunken city. We descended past the buildings to the city streets below, and followed the street to the corner and around every corner was new surprise of color and coral, great variety of large and small fishes, turtles, Napoleons, schools of fish that took the shape of huge fish to keep the many sharks at bay. Finished that dive with one thought in mind: got to come back tomorrow, which we did. Its a long way from anywhere, but if you get the chance, do it. Great people, great resort, food. (www.vamizi.com)

Or, stick around home. The Nass-T-Habit is a private (6 divers max) Lake Michigan dive charter boat that runs out of the Milwaukee, WI area. This is dry suit, wreck diving for people who know what they are doing. As Allan Ripple (West Bend,WI) reports of his July diving, Bottom temperatures are typically in the low-to-mid 40s. All wrecks frequented (Dredge #906, the Lumberman, Prinz Willem V, Gillen Tug, Car Ferry Milwaukee, the Appomattox) are typically within a 30-minute ride from the harbor and in 60 to 120 of water. Wreck diving can be very challenging. This is a boat for experienced divers with their own gear who know what they are doing. Reservations are made directly with the boat captain. See Nass-THabit Adventure Team on Facebook. . . . Or try Cape Ann Charters in Gloucester, MA. Craig A Wood (Craig Wood (Radnor, PA) dived with them in September on the Daybreaker. Though easily big enough to take more, they take only six divers. There is a large covered cabin for protection and a nice head. They serve cookies, fruit, and soda. The owner and captain, Fran Marcoux, and his son, Matt, did everything to ensure a safe and successful dive. An incredibly nice feature for those of us who dive wet (all but one local dived dry) was the warm water down the wetsuit before dives. The 1st morning dive was to the wreck of the Chester Poling, the very nice 130-foot stern section of a 281-foot coastal tanker that sunk in a storm in 1977. There was brisk surface current that dissipated at depth and the visibility was about 30 feet with a bottom temp of 47 at a max depth of 86 feet. The 2nd morning dive was to Halfway Rock, a great pinnacle covered with lobster, crab, starfish, and urchins. Though this goes much deeper, we had a max depth of only 44 feet with a temp of 49 degrees. We returned to the dock, wolfed down a tasty pizza delivered to the boat by Dominos and headed out for dives at Little Salvages and Dry Salvages with many lobster, crabs, and a real treat, harbor seals. The water was warmer at 53-56 F, and vis was 20-25 feet at max depths of only 38-42 feet. The day ended on a real high note as my dive buddy invited me back to his house to enjoy the spoils of his lobster hunting. Maybe its time to make the investment in that drysuit Ive been thinking about for the past several years. (www.Nass-T-Habit.com)

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