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Dive Review of MBT Divers in
The Continental USA/Pensacola

MBT Divers, Oct, 2007,

by Mort Rolleston, DC, US (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 11 reports). Report 3776.

No photos available at this time

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 4 stars
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 1 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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 summer.

The day I got to dive, MBT went out to the USS Oriskany, John McCain’s old aircraft carrier sunk in May 2006 about 20 or so miles (or about 90 minutes) offshore to become the world’s largest artificial reef. It’s quite an experience to dive a wreck that large and it’s 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 wouldn’t 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 carrier’s 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 won’t 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 I’ve 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 don’t want to be running significantly late or you’ll be pushing your luck. It also seemed rather pricey (2-tank day trip was $175). While they didn’t seem to closely check, MBT’s 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 Pensacola’s historic neighborhoods and several good restaurants.

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

Weather sunny Seas noCurrents
Water Temp 80-80°F / 27-27°C Wetsuit Thickness 5
Water Visibility 100-100 Ft/ 30-30 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions None (dive your computer)
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales None
Corals 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 N/A Boat Facilities 4 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 4 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments Good size table for cameras only. Separate rinse bucket.
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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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