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

Tilden's Scuba Center, Sep, 2007,

by Jack Kelly`, MI, USA (Reviewer Reviewer 5 reports). Report 4442.

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

Weather sunny Seas choppy, currents
Water Temp 78 to 83 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
Water Visibility 40 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions Deep, advanced wreck, so 20 to 25 minutes or 1000 lbs, or follow your computer.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles 1 or 2 Whales None
Corals N/A 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
UW Photo Comments Rinse bucket on boat

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

Accommodations N/A Food N/A
Service and Attitude 4 stars Environmental Sensitivity 4 stars
Dive Operation 4 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 4 stars
Beginners 1 stars
Advanced 4 stars
Comments 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 jkelly@lifeinsuranceinparadise.com.
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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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