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Scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale, Florida October 13, 2008

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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In early March 1992, my wife and I decided to drive down to Florida for a holiday. We chose Boca Raton near Fort Lauderdale, because being far south in the state we expected it to be warm even in midwinter, and because I got a corporate rate of $60 including breakfast for two at the Boca Raton Hilton. So it was a very cheap trip, which is what we needed at the time, especially as my 6 year old Volkswagen Jetta used to get incredible mileage.

Taking the opportunity to find some warm water, I located a friendly dive shop in Fort Lauderdale, and booked a two tank (two single tank dives) boat dive on March 11, 1992, two days after Menachem Begin died. The day was warm at 28C with fine conditions, but surprisingly the water temperature was only 16C (61F) so I’m glad I rented a wet suit.

The first dive was really memorable. It was a wreck dive on the Mercedes, a foreign cargo ship that ran aground in front of a rich woman’s house in Palm Beach. I remembered seeing the television coverage of the incident, with the old woman standing in front of her house looking at this huge cargo ship on the beach. It was pretty funny – for me at least.

There was also a Canadian documentary series called “The Last Frontier” that covered the intentional sinking of the ship to create an artificial reef. The series, with 50 or so episodes shot on 16mm film in the mid-eighties, starred underwater cinematographer John Stoneman, who also headed the “Foundation for Ocean Research”. The foundation disbanded in 2004. Several episodes of this series included Tom  Mount, who were later to lead the technical diving certification agency, IANTD. Another frequent guest was Dr. Alan Emery, Director of the Canadian Museum of Nature. Every episode of the series seemed to feature John Stoneman doing something clever, heroic, or more commonly both, to the point that it strained credibility, but I suppose they thought it made for better television.

While I was excited to see a wreck that I’d seen on TV, I don’t remember all that much except that while swimming along the rails, huge Barracuda would hang a few feet outside the rail looking quite menacing. I covered my dive watch with my wet suit as I’d heard they might attack shiny objects but of course they left me alone. With a maximum depth of 97 feet, my deepest dive to date, my buddy Amanda and I had a bottom time of only 15 minutes.

The second dive was along a coral reef at 20-25 feet and was for 50 minutes. I had new buddies, Alain and Louise, and I didn’t find it all that interesting after the Mercedes. I’ve been talking to the folks at the dive shop about going back to that area to get a Trimix certification, which might be handy some day if I want to dive a deep wreck like the Andrea Doria.

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