Dove with Dive Charters International run by Leo Sands (888) 340-DIVE. There are now two boats. The Deeper and the Lil Deeper. The Deeper can handle up to 21 or 22 divers and is a faster boat. They also drop in groups of 2-4 and drop the different groups in different spots on the reef so that you are not in the midst of a herd. Unless everyone on the boat wants to dive a wreck, it will be drift diving on the local reefs. They dive a 60-60-60 profile (60 minute max dive, 60 minute SI, 60 minute max dive) and given the depth of the reefs (60-80FSW) this is a case where NITROX can significantly extend your bottom time.
The main purpose of this trip was to work for a week as a DM on a boat. Just wanted to see what it was like. After all, I am not getting younger and sometime I will want to give up the day-to-day drudgery of being a nerd in favor of something more exciting. Well, I found out what being a DM (at least on a boat in SE Florida) is like. Take a typical weekend day (Sunday, May 17.)
Two trips are planned. A 2 tank trip leaving at 8:30 and a 3 tank trip leaving at 1:30.
The DMs (two of us) arrived at 6:30. We started out by turning on the water heater and the inverter. Then we hosed down the deck and got the boat ready for the morning run. This includes filling the fresh water tanks so everyone can have a nice shower after they get out of the nasty old salt water. Then we refilled the cooler with soda and ice and added ice to the water cooler. Fill two buckets for rinse buckets and we were done on the boat.
On to the dock where we hosed down the dock area and generally tidied up on-shore. Now it is time to be sure that all the tanks needed for the morning trip are topped off and ready.
By now, it is 7:30 and the divers are starting to arrive for the morning trip. Time to check them in, be sure everyone signs the boat waiver, hand out rental gear, weight belts, tanks, etc. As soon as the Captain arrives, we can begin loading the divers and their gear onto the boat. Mostly, we load they watch. It was low tide that morning so handing the tanks down to the boat is a lot of fun. As the divers are assembling their gear, we are watching to see how it is assembled and who may be having problems. There are a couple of new divers and a couple we are not sure of on board so we are paying special attention to them.
8:30 and time to leave. Linda does the boat briefing and I cast off as we sail out the Boynton inlet, I am getting into my Jerry Garcia Polartec. I am going to be an UW Guide Dog this morning (a very important specialty - you have to pay big bucks for this one.) The guys I am diving with are Royal Navy divers who have no real c-card.
9:00 and time for the first dive but not before taking a few moments to replace a blown o-ring on one divers tank. Dove Briney for 54 minutes at 60 feet.
10:00 and it is surface interval time. Time to watch the divers again putting their gear together for the second dive and time to catch a Coke from the cooler and some pretzels.
11:15 and back in the water. This time it is Lynn's reef and we get about the same profile.
12:15 and back to the dock. When we get there, everyone is asked to help get the tanks off the boat first so they can be refilled and then we will get everyone's gear off. Despite that, several toss their gear on the dock and walk off leaving their rental gear and tanks on the boat (thank you so much and have a pleasant day.)
12:45 and the boat is empty. Now there is time to empty the trash and hose down the decks before starting all over again. At 1:00 we start loading the boat for the next trip. A three tanker with not as many divers. There is one kid on the boat fresh out of OW certification in a quarry. Never been in the ocean before. Put the BC on backwards but he corrected it without being corrected.
13:30 time to cast off again while Linda does the boat briefing. This trip will be a wreck (the Bud Bar) and two reefs. Never having done it before or even seen the wreck, I get to drop down and tie off a line on the wreck. NBD. Found it the first time and once I figured out which way the current was running (there was almost none) I got it tied off and back on the boat in something like 8 minutes including a safety stop.
14:20 Everyone is up from the dive and now it is time to go back down and get the line. As I was coming up, I went through a school of what I think were Amberjacks so that was pretty cool.
14:30 Surface interval 1 on the afternoon trip. Boring.
15:30 Dive 2 and time to be the UW guide dog again. This time with a group of 5 of whom 4 have less than 20 dives between them. Dive was at Fink's Grouper Hole and was a very cool dive but I spent more time watching the divers than looking at the scenery. Some very large turtles, a couple of morays, and when I found a largish nurse shark under a ledge, all I could see from the newbies was the whites of their eyes.
16:30 Surface interval 2 and it was a long one since we had an OW instructor on board doing the last dive with an OW student.
18:00 Dive 3. I am not in the water this time but doing surface support. Now there is a fun job.
19:00 and everyone is back on the boat.
19:30 and we are back at the dock. Same story as before. There is the majority of people who helo get their own and others gear off the boat and there is that small minority that care only for their own comfort and enjoyment.
20:15 and all the gear is off the boat. Now comes the fun part of hosing down the entire boat rinsing the salt off the bright work and the decks. Hosing out the head, etc.
21:30 or thereabouts and we are done. Gee, I make that a 15 hour day. Two trips with two DMs and we got a TOTAL of $10 in tips. Trust me, I did not do this for the tips - I really don't need the money - but there is something wrong with this picture. The sad fact is that most of the people on the boat never even said 'Thanks! I had a good time.' That seems to me like a common courtesy.
Things I learned:
Divemasters should have a large stock of ibuprofen. Most nights were 3 Advil nights for me.
It is a lot more work than I ever thought it was. Physical labor is in my past (I worked in steel mills as a laborer in college) but not my present.
There are a lot of people that will say nothing and do nothing to acknowledge that you were a part of a good (or bad) experience for them. The reward is in the others that do acknowledge it. Both in words and in the look on their faces when they see their first shark (OK only a nurse shark but still - your second dive and you see a shark.)
There are a lot more people that are (IMO) poorly trained than I had ever imagined. Bouyancy control, reef conservation, boating practices are just a few of the skills/disciplines that are sorely lacking.
Can't speak for others but there was a minimal emphasis on boat safety and protocols when I was taking the DM course. Had I not spent a lot of time in my misbegotten youth in and around boats and the CG Auxiliary, I would not have known what to do in a lot of instances. Things as simple as mooring and casting off if you don't know how can be hazardous to you and to the boat. Leo (the Captain) thinks there should be a separate course for DMs working on boats. I tend to agree but I also think it should be from the Coast Guard and not from one of the dive agencies.
Other Dive Sites:
Del Ray Ledges
Pompano Beach on a day off:
Hall of Fame/Hojo
Water conditions were fairly calm with moderate to stiff currents depending on the day. Viz ranged from 20 feet on a bad day to 80 or more on a good one. Temperature was 78-80F depending on the dive site.
Up to the day (mostly) ocean conditions off Boynton Beach
One of the local divers that frequents the boat owns a Cuban restaurant in Boca Raton. Drive S on US1 to Spanish RIver and take a right to N Boca Raton then a left and it is on the left about 1/2 mile down the road. The Zarsuela de Mariscos is excellent as is the Ropa Vieja.
There is an Ale House in the strip mall next door to the Hampton Inn as well as a Chili's. The Ale House has a good selection of micro-brewery beers and pretty decent seafood at a reasonable price. Chili's is Chili's is Chili's.
Cookers (out of the Hampton parking lot to the first light - Congress - take a left and go about a mile and a half on the right) is a little more upscale but has good food and the prime rib is good on the weekends.
If you are making both the AM and PM trips, the Two Georges at the end of the dock has pretty good fish and chips (one serving is enough for two) and also has pretty good burgers. There is also a sandwich shop in the strip mall across the road. For a working DM, lunch is an optional accessorie that I never really got to enjoy (this time.)
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