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Dive Review of MBT Divers in
The Continental USA/Pensacola

October, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Mort Rolleston, DC, US
Sr. Reviewer   (11 reports)
Report Number 3776
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
101-250 dives
Where else diving
Bonaire, Nassau, Ko Samui Thailand, Great Barrier Reef, Key Largo, Catalina
CA, Monterey, western Puerto Rico, wrecks off NC and in St Lawrence River
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

Water Temp
80   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
100   to 100    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
None (dive your computer)  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
Whale Sharks
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  1 stars
Tropical Fish
2 stars  
Small Critters
  2 stars
Large Fish
2 stars  
Large Pelagics
  1 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
Good size table for cameras only.  Separate rinse bucket.
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
4 stars
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
1 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
1 stars   
3 stars    
While on a business trip to Alabama, I tacked on three extra days to dive
the wrecks off Pensacola.  Originally, I was going to dive through both
Scuba Shack and MBT Divers, the two primary operators there with boats
larger than the six-packs (and thus with all the Coast Guard required
emergency gear, etc.).  However, ocean conditions only allowed me to head
out one day with MBT divers.  Lesson learned:  rough seas are apparently
fairly common in the fall and winter in the Gulf.  This, plus the lack of
divers, greatly limits the amount of trips the local shops take this time
of year, so plan accordingly.  Their high season is apparently in the

The day I got to dive, MBT went out to the USS Oriskany, John McCains old
aircraft carrier sunk in May 2006 about 20 or so miles (or about 90
minutes) offshore to become the worlds largest artificial reef.  Its
quite an experience to dive a wreck that large and its not everyday you
get to dive an aircraft carrier.  The island (the small structure above
the deck that houses the bridge and is about 60 feet high and 120 feet
long) is also pretty fun.  Apparently, much, if not all, of the island had
been carefully prepared for safe penetration.   There are a fair number of
rooms and stairwells near the windows and doors that are easy and enjoyable
for non-wreck penetrating divers like myself to explore.  

The downside is that most of the wreck is below recreational diving limits
 which was necessary to sink the carrier deep enough so it wouldnt become
a navigational hazard.  The top of the island starts at about 60-70 feet,
the flight deck is at 135 feet, the hanger deck is at 150 feet, and the
bottom is over 200 feet deep (indeed, diving the outside of the island
where you can see almost all the way down to the bottom is like a great
wall dive!).  Thus, you really can only dive the carriers pretty small
island that sticks up from the flight deck unless you are a tech diver. 
The other negative is that the fish life was disappointing.  We did see
some medium-sized fish and a few barracuda patrolling the top of the
island, but nothing like the huge baitballs and feasting pelagics you often
see on many older wrecks (unless they are all hanging out in the hull in
the depths).  To be fair, the wreck was just over a year old when I dove it
and fishlife obviously takes a little time to build up.  If it is anything
like the Spiegel Grove off Key Largo (which was overwhelmed with amazing
fish life when I dove it about two years after it was sunk), this hopefully
wont be an issue in another year or so.  So, overall, certainly an
enjoyable wreck worth diving, but I consider it a step below most other
large ocean wrecks Ive dove (Yongala, Papoose, Spiegel Grove, etc.) for
these reasons. 

MBT was a fine operation.  It has a very nice, comfortable, large, and fast
boat with a big photography table run by very experienced, friendly, and
helpful crew that have been operating in the area for many years.  They let
you dive your own profiles.  They had a huge ice chest with beverages and
served up a good, basic lunch.  The only thing to keep in mind
schedule-wise is that their boat is ten miles away from their dive shop. 
While they build in that into the time they tell you to be at the shop in
the morning, you dont want to be running significantly late or youll be
pushing your luck.  It also seemed rather pricey (2-tank day trip was
$175).   While they didnt seem to closely check, MBTs website does say
that all diving the Oriskany must have logged at least 20 dives total and
two logged dives below 80 feet in the last year to dive without a guide, so
be prepared.

New World Inn is an excellent bed and breakfast attached to a small
conference center downtown.  It is literally a block or two from the Scuba
Shack dive shop and about a 10 minute drive to MBT divers.  It is also
walking distance to Pensacolas historic neighborhoods and several good
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