So we headed out and left the house about 9:00 am. Hit 95 and arrived at Pepper Park about 10:30am. Weather was great. Air temp about 88. Got out of the car and low and behold, super flat! It looked awesome and completely different than the Fourth of July weekend we tried to go. Zero waves, mild current to the south.
We geared up in the back of the car and headed to the water. I decided to do a skin dive and forego the warning a fellow scuba board member told me about jellies at Bathtub the day before. Had 12 pounds of weight in and made a dash for the water’s edge. Started in and jiminy crickets it was freezing. Not just a little cold but “oh my frigging God” cold. Coming from an hour and 1/2 north by Cocoa Beach it is not even that cold there. Needless to say, I had to abort, leave the BCD with hubby in the H2O and go get my 3mil on. So I am not properly suited up and we swim out and dopey me forget to adjust the weights for the 3mil. Can’t get down! Hubby gave me two one pounders and I am able to descend. Let me point out that as this point, it is all too comical. But Rich is down to 6 pounds in his BCD. And he does fabulous on the dive with only 6 pounds.
Well, we head on down and start to head out at bearings of 100 for ocean. 280 being shore. slightly different readings than Lauderdale by the Sea. The adventure begins. We have heard that the reef is about 100 feet off the shore. The current was pretty strong to the south but not unbearable. There is an enormous difference between LBTS and here. The reef is much more of what we call the rubble reef at LBTS. I did not see as many colorful fish and there as a lot more small micro life like blennies, gobies, damsels. There were lots of sea kelp. Several varieties with some broken pieces that were over 3 feet and looked like plastic strips at first. With all the kelp and grass I figured on a sea turtle or two but we were not privileged to see any on this dive.
Visibility was about 15-20 feet in the murky areas and 20-30 in the clear areas further out on the reef in the thermocline. There was quite a bit more sediment in the water and there was a pretty powerful surge in certain areas due to the reef formations.
For sea life, the larger fish were not plentiful but there were 100’s of gobies, fairy basselets, blennies, high hats, juvie spotted drums, little trunk fish and other hole loving fish. This was also a fabulous location for checking out the habitat and natural instincts of the squirrel fish. They were everywhere in a variety of sizes and types. Those hug eyes always get my attention!
The biggest and almost shocking thing I observed was the overwhelming amount of long spined sea urchins. There is a real problem in this area. They are 3-5 times larger than the regular ones you sea at LBTS. They are definitely ripping up the reef and boring directly into holes. You can easily find large groups of 6 that are on average 6-8″ in diameter. I am wondering if this is one of the main reasons for the lack of colorful fish as they may be competing for the same food source.
Furthermore, the other shorter nubby spined urchins were prevalent. I picked up two marvelous looking sea urchins shells that I took home for my garden area.
So onward and outward…the crustacean life is plentiful as I previously commented on. There were crabs, spider shrimp and lots of lobster. We had heard that the day before a deep Six diver had picked up 5 bugs. We spotted our first within 5 minutes on the reef. They do not poke their antennae out like the di in LDBS. You have to get down and dirty in the reef, hand upside and nose around in the holes. They do not make it easy at all. Generally speaking we noticed on this dive they they are back in to a crevice or hole. They like an “out” There were many in pairs. The first one we almost caught looked to be legal size but he backed up and out into a valley we couldn’t get into. Try it again.
We swam about 3-5 minutes more and located another lobster. This one ended up being a tad too small so we let him go. Another few minutes and we found another one. This guy was slippery and was a fatty. In my opinion he knew how to elude divers. He ended up shooting up a hole we hadn’t seen and swam like lightning about 30 feet away. We gave chase but couldn’t get into the hole he was in. As you can see, they were everywhere but could thus far in our bag was ZERO. A few minutes more and Rich located two in a hole in the coral. he opted for the big one but didn’t communicate with me that there were two. While I was blocking and ready to catch the one, he was aiming for the big guy. The dang thing swam right up by my face and shot away. Scared the bejesus out of me. OK, let’s discuss my mah=jor phobia of these things up close and personal. I am from New England and all’s I can think is these guys are going get me. but duh…no big claws up front.
Mantra for next dive…NO BIG CLAWS!!!NO BIG CLAWS!!!NO BIG CLAWS!!!NO BIG CLAWS!!!NO BIG CLAWS!!!
Hubby is pretty awesome and understanding but he is getting a bit perturbed. I am the one who can’t back him up. He is going to just start grabbing them. I told him I would try to tickle them back and he can maneuver the net on the back end. Did I mention he is awesome at spotti g the lobster and cornering them???
So dive goes on. We catch 2 more and both a tad undersized. Hubby won’t even chance it if it looks close so they go back. Good practice catching and scooping them up though. Finally we get one 1/2 way through the dive. By far the easiest one. When I ate him later he was a soft shell lobster. He must have just changed his shell. Think soft shell crab. he was not as big as I anticipated but he was tender, sweet and enough for a little meal.
Well, we were down a little over 2 hours. We started with 3300 psi. Rich gets my attention and shiver hugging himself. We are further out and it is remarkably colder. We head in. It is very surgy at this time and you have to work to get a few feet. Richard started back in at 1100 psi and by the time we made in into shore he was at about 300. I took the dive bag and bigger things. he does not like to push it with his air. I am the one who wants to suck every lat breath figuring it is a shore dive and I can just pop up and casually backstroke into safety. I know many of you are thinking, what an idiot. We ended up about 300 yards to far south with the current pulling us south. As we came up, there were some stormy clouds rolling in. We put the lobster in the cooler, grabbed a Mike’s Hard lemonade and heading north on A1A. I had a list of about 20 other spots up to Sebastian inlet I wanted to scope out.
Rio Mar looks great. Only 4 or 5 parking spots but a shower. It is off the beaten track and you need to hunt for some of these side accesses. I have this one slated for a second dive next Sunday. Starting at Pepper Park.
Huniston Park also appears to have easy entry and then there is Jaycee and Conn Park. these are larger state parks with BBQ grills, tables and facilities. The next few locations North appeared harder to park and get into water and one of the recommended shore sites I had found had wonderful amenities but it is clearly marked NO SCUBA. (Golden Sands). Not sure if this is new or not, if any one has any comments on this, please do so.
All is all, this was a new dive terrain. Completely different from other locations. If it wasn’t for the bugs I probably wouldn’t do it but during season it will be on my list for a good instant FIX.