New Year, New Dive!

It’s 2015! Gym memberships are spiking, the health food stores are more crowded, and savings accounts are being opened. The typical resolutions of losing weight, eating healthier and saving money are under way.

By February or March the gyms aren’t so crowded. The bike paths have fewer runners/walkers/bike riders. Those savings accounts may not be active. Many of us, including this gal, fall short on our new year’s resolutions.

Adolphus Busch
Adolphus Busch

Think outside the box this year. Make a resolution you know you’ll stick to and make it fun! This year make a resolution to make a new dive.

The Keys contain quite the assortment of dive sites. If you’re a local, making a new dive may be as simple as a trip of no more than two hours at most. If you’re a tourist you have a chain of islands over 100 miles long full of dive sites to consider.

Let’s start at the top…Key Largo! Key Largo is known as the “Dive Capital of the World”. The waters off the shore of Key Largo hold many wreck dives.

Let’s start with the Spiegel Grove. The Spiegel Grove is a landing ship dock reaching 510’ long with a beam of 84’. The story of her sinking is interesting as there were many years of delays due to red tape and financial problems. Yet when it came time to sink her she began her descent prematurely leaving her bow exposed in the air with her stern resting on the ocean floor. Doing the best they could she seattled on her starboard side in 130’ of water once completely submersed in 2002.

Eagle
Eagle

Along came Hurricane Dennis in 2005 providing the Spiegel the push she needed to set upright. She sets perfectly now thanks to the helping hand of Mother Nature. As if her story does not make her intriguing enough take a dive on her and discover her majestic beauty!

Key Largo’s list of wreck dives also includes two USCG Cutters-the Bibb and the Duane. The Duane rests upright while the Bibb rests on her starboard side in 130’ of water.

The SS Benwood is a true wreck dive. April 9, 1942 the Benwood met her demise. Due to rumors of German U-boats ships were traveling completely blacked out. This resulted in the Benwood colliding with the Robert C. Tuttle. She now rests in approximately 25’ of water.

Key Largo holds many reef dives. The most popular being Molasses Reef, a sanctuary protected area. Definitely a site to see!
Islamorada isn’t just for fishing. The diving is great too. Islamorada is the home of the Eagle wreck dive. The Eagle sank in 1985 as an artificial reef. She rests in 110’ of water on her starboard side. In 1998 the Eagle had her hurricane experience. She was torn in half making her appear to be a true wreck. A must see!

Davis Ledge and Alligator Reef make great reef dives. Alligator Reef can be seen from the highway due to the 136’ tall lighthouse.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Alligator Reef Lighthouse

Marathon-the “Heart of the Florida Keys” is home of the Thunderbolt. The Thunderbolt is a wreck dive sitting in 120’ of water.

She was intentionally sunk in 1986.

The Thunderbolt was originally named Randolph. Upon completing her military service she ended up in the hands of Florida Power and Light. They used her for research on electrical energy in lightning strikes resulting in the name Thunderbolt. She makes a striking dive site!

Marathon is also home to many great reef dives including Sombrero Reef, home of Sombrero lighthouse standing 160’ tall that can be seen from the Seven Mile Bridge.  Samantha’s, the Donut, and the Gap are great dives to hit in Marathon, as well.

Big Pine/Looe Key offers the Adolphus Busch to include in your wreck dives. The Busch, originally named Dundee, had many names finally being purchased by Adolphus Busch IV. She was sunk intentionally as an artificial reef in 1998.

A great reef dive to hit after your wreck dive on the Adolphus Busch is Looe Key Reef. It’s common to see the resident Goliath grouper not only on the Busch wreck but the reef too!

Key West, the end of our island chain, is home to the Vandenberg wreck dive. The 524’ Vandenberg doesn’t have quite the sinking tales of the Spiegel but she made quite the splash prior to her sinking.

According to Wikipedia the Vandenberg, originally named the USS General Harry Taylor, served in the Navy during WWII, then the Army only to be reacquired by the Navy in 1950. She joined the U.S. Air Force in 1958 then reacquired by the Navy in 1964.

In 1998 the Vandenberg went Hollywood in the science fiction film the Virus. In 2009 she made her final voyage and sank beautifully resting upright in 130’ feet of water.

Spiegel-Grove
Spiegel Grove

The Cayman and Joe’s Tug are great wreck dives in Key West. Western Sambos, Eastern Dry Rocks, and Marker 32 make great reef dives!

There are too many wreck/sites to be listed by name and tell their story.  Take time this year to visit your site of choice for the first time. Make a resolution you look forward to keeping!

Tracy Brenner has been a resident of the Florida Keys since 2002. Tracy owns and operates Abyss Dive Center in Marathon. Tracy’s scuba instructor rating is a PADI Course Director. She is an Instructor Trainer for Divers Alert Network and a Diving Safety Officer for the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.