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Dive Review of Tilden's Scuba Center in
The Continental USA/Thunderbolt Wreck

September, 2007, an Instant Reader Report by Jack Kelly`, MI, USA
Reviewer   (5 reports)
Report Number 4442
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
251-500 dives
Where else diving
FL Keys, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan, Cayman, Hawaii, Puerta Vallarta, mainland
FL, Aruba, St. Martin, Barbados, etc.
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

choppy, currents  
Water Temp
78   to 83    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
40   to 60    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Deep, advanced wreck, so 20 to 25 minutes or 1000 lbs, or follow your
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
1 or 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Tropical Fish
3 stars  
Small Critters
  3 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  3 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
4 stars  
Boat Facilities
4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's  
4 stars  
Shore Facilities  
4 stars  
Rinse bucket on boat
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Service and Attitude
4 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
4 stars
Dive Operation
4 stars  
Shore Diving  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
4 stars    
1 stars   
4 stars    
Tilden's is a good, quality dive operator.  Trips are run from the dock
around the corner from their shop at Mile Marker 49.5 in Marathon and also
from the Duck Key dock at MM 61.  Good boats and good crews.  The
Thunderbolt ("T-Bolt") is an old cable-layer which was converted
by Florida Power and Light for studying lightning (thus the name!) strikes.
 It's deep -- ranging to about 120 ft. at the deepest and is an advanced
dive.  I've done several dives on it and have seen the good, bad and ugly! 
Currents can be staggering and coupling that with lousy viz can be
treacherous.  But, when currents are low and viz is high, it's an
incredible dive.  You can swim up into the bridge, down a flight of stairs
and into the engine/cable laying area behind the bridge.  It's all open so
no overhead environments (unless you really try).  Usually quite a few big
barracuda off the bow and the sides and often a big jewfish off the side
keeping watch on the intruding divers.  Occasional big bull sharks off the
bow.  Tilden's hangs a tank and reg at safety-stop level for inadvertent
deco or heavy breathers.  Good thing for those super-heavy current days!  I
love this dive as it's great for seeing machinery in the wreck, looking out
from the bridge over the bow and the big fish around it.  There's good
little critters there, too, but you're usually pre-occupied with the wreck
itself.  Tilden's has nice, newer boats and a nice shop in Marathon. 
Nitrox available (and recommended for the T-Bolt).  Crew is competent and
helpful.  Divemaster/leader accompanies the group (usually less than 8
divers) to the T-Bolt.  Reef dive for second dive after the T-Bolt is
usually interesting and relaxing.  To editorialize a bit - it's interesting
that the middle Keys diving community bought this boat in 1986, cleaned it
and sank it for us to enjoy but the entire county of Monroe (Keys) and
state of Florida can't seem to get their act together to put the Vandenberg
down off Key West.  I dearly hope by the time this is printed that the
Vandenberg will be sitting on the bottom off Key West for us to enjoy. 
This has been in the planning stages for something like 10 years, was
supposed to happen in May and still hasn't.  The Key West dive operators
desperately need it and the entire Keys would benefit tremendously,
somwehere around $10 Million to $20 Million per year, according to studies.
 If interested in further information, drop me a line at
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Other dive reports on Tilden's Scuba Center

All The Continental USA Dive Reviews and Reports
Diving Guide to The Continental USA
Diving Reviews for All Dive Destinations

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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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