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#575613 - 01/26/22 12:29 PM Vacation 2022  
Joined: Jan 2003
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Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
Parrott_head  Offline
Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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Hey Folks,
.
In the past I have used the input from the group to plan two vacations that I can recall. One was renting an RV in Seattle, Washington and traveling to Salt Lake City while seeing the great NW and all that. Great trip.
The other was a suggestion to hit the Orange Beach area of FloraBama. That was an amazing trip as well.

Well, I come to ya'll again to ask my friends for advice and wisdom.

I plan on going to Florida this year. I may be solo, I may be with my Admiral. (No issues, just she doesn't care for the Sun and Sand like I do)

I would like to find places to RV camp and also scuba dive. I have my Nitrox certification but have yet to use it.
Hopefully there are some other diving enthusiasts on the board that can direct me to places they enjoy. If possible I would love to meet up with some of you and visit.

I am looking at the time frame of mid May to late June.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
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#575614 - 01/26/22 12:37 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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On Holiday Offline
Daddy
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Admiral

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PA and Smith Mountain Lake
CattailsPA is/was a member here, he dives in the keys all the time according to his social media posts.


2017 Honda Accord Hybrid
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#575622 - 01/27/22 01:21 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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captkevin Offline
Admiral
captkevin  Offline
Admiral

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Posts: 8,259
Chicago, IL
Sounds like a fun trip. We spend time in the Fort Myers area every year & always have a great time. Don't have any idea if it is a good area for diving on not. I do know the gulf side is shallow. Not sure how that helps or not.


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#575628 - 01/27/22 03:08 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Dec 2003
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athiker Offline
Admiral
athiker  Offline
Admiral

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,981
Lake Norman, NC
No personal experience, but I have been told Looe Key diving is nice. I looked it up and found this. https://www.boatsafe.com/best-scuba-diving-in-florida/

It says 30 - 40 feet up to 100 feet for Looe Key area.

I hadn't heard of the one just above it....Tenneco Towers Dive Sites...some old oil rigs. Looks interesting with lot of marine life now...60 to 130 feet.


2000 Cobalt 206 5.7L EFI Alpha 1
#575718 - 04/16/22 11:11 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
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Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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Well, I guess I should do an update.

I have reserved a camping spot near Jupiter, Fl for a couple of week. I will be diving the Blue Heron Bridge for a couple of days at first to get myself sorted out.

I signed up for Advanced Open Water, Deep Diver and Delayed Surface Marker Buoy classes at a local dive shop and completed the courses at Blue Hole, New Mexico. Blue Hole is a 60 foot wide by 80 foot deep artesian spring. Water is a constant 62 degree.
Over the winter I purchased a new BC, wetsuit, fins, mask and some other items. I also have two Nitrox tanks now and Nitrox certification.
I plan on doing a bit more diving near home before I go so that I can dial my weights in and to practice using the DSMB which is required at some dive sites to mark your position.

Wife and I will drive making it three 7 hour driving days. I don't care to do marathon driving if it really isn't needed.

So late May.....Florida here I come....

Wish me luck and toss out any advice you may have...


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575719 - 04/17/22 07:29 AM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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Justification Offline
Admiral
Justification  Offline
Admiral

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Fruit Heights, Utah
Good luck.
Best advice I can give is Have fun.
Living vicariously through you. We're probably not going to have enough water here to even get to snorkel in the bathtub this year.


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#575720 - 04/18/22 01:13 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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captkevin Offline
Admiral
captkevin  Offline
Admiral

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Chicago, IL
Can't wait to here more about how it all turns out.


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2010 Dodge Ram Crew Cab Laramie 4x4
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#575723 - 04/20/22 12:21 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
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athiker Offline
Admiral
athiker  Offline
Admiral

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Lake Norman, NC
Good luck and definitely give us a post-trip update. I'm looking into getting certified with my daughter this summer...just the basics...nothing like what you are up to!


2000 Cobalt 206 5.7L EFI Alpha 1
#575727 - 04/23/22 11:20 AM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: athiker]  
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Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
Parrott_head  Offline
Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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Originally Posted by athiker
Good luck and definitely give us a post-trip update. I'm looking into getting certified with my daughter this summer...just the basics...nothing like what you are up to!


When I first certified 34 years ago there were not a lot of "specialty" certs. You got your open water certification. I did do a Scuba Life Saving and Accident management (SLAM) cert back then.

I hate to sound like one of those old codgers that claim the new kids have it so easy, but with the advent of resort dive classes, the internet and people pressed for time the classes I took recently are certainly stripped down.


I forget what my first cert was like but I seem to recall two nights a week for three weeks. Seems the classes were three hours long, have class room, half pool.

We had to be able take all our gear off under water, put it on the bottom of the pool, come up and take a breather than go back down and gear up underwater.

The instructors would come by and knock your mask off your face, tug the regulator out of your mouth. This was done so when it happens in real life you react without thinking.

None of that is done today.

I think all the different certs they offer are just a way of generating revenue for the dive shops.
My first certification allowed me to dive to 130 feet. Now to go past 70 you are supposed to get a deep diver cert, some dive operators will not take you on dives beyond 60 or so if you do not have this cert, is my understanding.

I really encourage and your daughter to get certified. Diving is a blast! My son and I really enjoy each others company when we dive.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575736 - 05/11/22 01:40 AM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,068
Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
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Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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Well I've got my camping reservations made.
First night we will be just south of Memphis, TN near Coldwater, Mississippi.
The next night we are Unidilla, Georgia.
Finally we get into Port St. Lucia campgrounds the next night.

I plan on diving Blue Heron Bridge and then doing some charter dives.
We will do a couple of nights in Venice, Florida where I will do some diving where they find shark teeth.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575743 - 05/13/22 04:55 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,068
Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
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Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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Well I bought a discount dive package, buy 5 get the sixth for free, from Pure Vida Dive Shop.

Here is my dive plan...

On the evening of May 29th, I would like to go to Blue Heron Park and snorkel. I will use this time to plan my dive for this park the following day. I want to go watch others to see how they rig and any gear they use.

Monday, May 30. Dive Blue Heron. Time depends upon the tide, will enter about an hour before high tide. Use this dive to dial in weights and such. Practice with safety sausage.

Tuesday, May 31: 10:00 am charter dive with Pure Vida. 50-60’ reefs.
Wednesday, June 1: 10:00 am charter dive with Pure Vida. 50-60’ reefs.
Thursday , June 2: 10:00 am charter die with PV. Sea Turtles.
Friday, June 3: Blue Heron, time depends upon the tide.
Saturday, June 4: 1:30 charter with PV, wreck and reef. 70-90’.
Sunday, June 5: 1:30 charter with PV, Shakapalooza. 70-90'.
Monday, June 6: Blue Heron, time depends upon the tide
Tuesday, June 7: 10:00 am charter die with PV. Sea Turtles.

I'm scheduling all my charter dives at the first of my vacation so if there is a rain postponement I can reschedule.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575782 - 05/27/22 05:35 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,068
Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
Parrott_head  Offline
Admiral of Vice
Admiral

Joined: Jan 2003
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Well we made it to Hernando, Mississippi.

An uneventful trip, which is what I had hoped for. Spent most of yesterday trying to distribute the weight and bulk of my scuba gear in the fifth wheel. Decided to put all five tank at the very rear of the trailer to lessen the hitch weight on the truck. Loaded the truck pretty light so there are not a lot of things in it that if stolen would cause us problems. Hate having to factor that into my plans, but that is how it is. Tanks weigh 40 pounds each so that puts about 200 pounds into the back of the trailer, along with most of my wetsuits and other gear. Also about 40 pounds of lead weights.

Prior to this trip a buddy and I replaced the leaf spring shackles and bushings for the axles. The shackles were very worn out and we doubt if they would have last the trip to Florida and back. If they fail your axle comes loose from your frame. We went with after market shackles that are twice as thick and of a higher grade of steel. Replaced all the original bolts with "wet" bolts that can be greased. The replacement bushing are cast bronze, the original were nylon.

We are camped in a very pretty USACE campground with full hook ups. Nice large lots, huge trees, lots of green areas and right on the lake.

Well, gotta choke down some dinner, catch ya'll later.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575784 - 05/30/22 10:45 AM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Jun 2005
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kenhdog Offline
Admiral
kenhdog  Offline
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Oxnard, CA
Sound like a great trip beginning!


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#575804 - 06/06/22 07:51 PM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 7,068
Parrott_head Offline
Admiral of Vice
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Admiral of Vice
Admiral

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We left the house a bit later than we had wanted but all is fine as none of are drives are very long. Feel real good about this trip as Stan Marshall and I replaced the bushings and shackles for the axles along with the EX Flex equalizers. The shackles were very worn, enough so that Stan and I doubted they would have made the trip.

First night we set up at Hernando Point near Hernando, Mississippi. Very lovely park with big open areas and all new facilities. However upon trying to leave the right front jack faulted out. Instead of taking the time to troubleshoot it I used a floor jack to get the trailer attached to the truck.

Second day of trip was uneventful as well and we arrived at the trailer park at Undilla, GA. The park was an older one and very large. As we were not certain the jack would work we decided to leave the trailer hooked to the truck and just find a level spot and level from side to side. This worked well. After we got set up I decided to t-shoot the jake since there was no time table to worry about and with the trailer still hooked up we would be mobile if things did not go well. Found that a wire nut from the factory had fallen loose. It was a crimp type that was not crimped properly. I had some spare one on hand and rendered a fix. Jack works great.

Day three we get to St. Lucia Lock Campgrounds, a USACE park. It is one of the prettiest parks we have stayed at. Everything is lush and green, the trailers spots are easy to get to and have nice hook up, with two water connections at each site and 50 amp service. Just across from us is the St. Lucia Lock system, we can watch boats pass through the locks.

That evening we drive to Blue Heron bridge in West Palm Beach. I plan on diving it tomorrow but wanted to get a feel for the place. Visited with some divers that were getting ready to dive and they shared their advice with me. The next morning I drove down and started gearing up to dive. I asked a diver who was gearing up next tome if I could buddy with him and he agree to. Bill is an instructor at Force-E dive shop and was there to take some photos. We never went deeper than 10 feet and a lot of it was less than that. Saw lots of sea horses, frogfish and some other fish. Other divers that day spotted a manatee. I was using this as a way to figure if my weight was wet correctly. I was too light so I took the 3 pound weight off of my dive flag and used it. This worked great but when I looked back at my flag it was upside down in the water. I righted it and placed a large rock in the center of the tube and it ran well from there.

Tuesday I went for my first charge dive with Pure Vida. There were maybe 15 people on the boat. Crew consisted of the captain and two guides. One guide did the first dive, another did the second.
I was nervous as I had not dived from a boat in years but it all came back to me and the guides were very safety concious and gave good briefings. They were cordial but firm in how things were to operate, as they should be. Saw lots of turtles and reef fish. Was diving on Nitrox and have discovered that it really agrees with me, when I get to the surface and am not fatigued at all. The 50% increase in oxygen over ambient really makes things go well. I tipped the crew well.

I ran my tanks up to the shop to have them refilled. Since they charge by the cubic foot and I don’t deplete the tanks the refills wind up being very competitive to standard tank fills as they charge a set price for those.

Wednesday I arrived at the shop just as it opened and got my tanks. I went down to the dock and Todd, the guide from the previous day, greeted me at dockside. He loaded my gear and put me on the prime spot on the boat, all the way aft so you are the first person off the boat at the dive sites. It is also the corner of the boat that the dive guide exits from. Sweet!!
I rig my gear with confidence, having had no issues the previous day. I had packed my gear bag in the sequence in which the gear would be needed so I did not have to fumble around grabbing things. Also I know to use the rimmed table in the middle of the boat to hold smaller items until they are needed, such as my dive watch, camera, mask. Lest to keep track of that way. On way home from dive I stopped at the grocery store and got some things. Picked up some Diver Down red ale. Was very disappointed in the taste of it.

The second day of diving was just a good as the first, hitting two other dive sites. Again, tons of turtles, reef fish and colorful sponges, anemones, corals, etc. All dives are drift dives so if you can control your buoyancy you consume little air. However I kept swimming up current to get photos and burned though my air a little quicker this time. On the second dive of the day I did a bit better. Tipped Todd again as he loaded my gear for me. They do not let you carry your gear out of the boat. Ran my tanks up to the shop and then drove home.

Day three. Got to the shop just as it opened again. There was a truck at the shop delivering bottled gas. When I got in the shop I saw my two tanks hooked up to the mixing station, they had run out of gas and were waiting on the delivery in order to fill my tanks. Talk about JIT! They filled my tanks well, the passed both the pressure and percentage checks with ease. 3200 psi and 32% oxygen.

Todd again met me dockside and put me back into my favorite corner. One these dives we finished up at a trench that had been dredged through the reef. It was kind of nice to be able to duck down into the bottom of it and get out of the current. The fish must like this as well as there were lots of them hunkered down on the lee side of the trench. Most of the fish seem very used to divers, many come up and scope us out. Some divers have spotted a lemon or maybe tiger shark but I missed them both.
Todd shares with me that the Saturday dive may be canceled due to weather, this later turned out to have happened.

Friday we move the trailer to the dump station and dump the tanks. The black tank does not drain fully and we spend a lot of time allowing the bathroom gray tank to back feed into the black tank in order to unplug things. This finally works and we get the black tank drained. I need to fully rinse the black tank out next time we dump so that we do not have this issue again. Luckily we get all this done and the trailer set back up before the rain picks up again. Later today we have 100% chance of rain, and they placed that bet correctly. My gear is all hanging out on a line getting all the salt rinsed off of it.

Friday afternoon I receive word from Pure Vida Dive shop that the Saturday dive is canceled. This was expected but it is hoped that Sunday’s dive will take place. We sleep like babies as the rain pours down on us, south Florida is subject to some mild flooding, the typical thing where folks are convinced they can drive their cars in deep water. Kay suggested I place my gear in the big blue storage bin that I had hauled the drink in, it works perfectly. Will have to make this part of my dive knowledge.

Saturday we just hang out in camp and put up with the rain. We go into town and have a nice meal at a New England Fish Market. I get the mixed grill of Mahi Mahi, shrimp and scallops. We stop by Home Depot to maybe check out a bin to use like some of the local divers use for their gear but I’m undecided as to the real benefit.

Sunday I head into town to go diving. The shop opens early on the weekends so I get my tanks and head to the dock. At the dock there is no boat and checking my schedule I see it does not leave until 1:30...Ooops. I go back to camp and take a nap. Later I get to the boat and we have a pretty full load. All the divers are on Nitrox as this will be a deeper reef dive at first, followed by a wreck dive.

On the reef I spot on shark that is shy and takes off as we approach. Small one, maybe 3-4 feet. See a couple of turtles and the usual reef fish. I have become jaded and this dive is not as impressive as others. On the way up I briefly foul the line the guide is using for the dive float but quickly clear it. I board the boat with no problem now. The crew is well trained and the divers follow their instruction well. I float with the SMB facing the boat. The boat backs towards me under the directions of the crew member standing at the boarding platform that goes the full width of the stern. The boat is a wide boat with twin inboard engines. The guide motions me to stay as I am and not swim towards the boat. Once it is within about 15 feet he motions me to swim towards a particular ladder, either port of starboard. I swim face forward and a brisk pace. As I bounce into the wave I can see the ladder, a Christmas tree style, that angles deeply into the water. Ahead of each ladder is the exposed propeller. When I reach the ladder and grasp it the guide yells out “Contact on Port/Starboard ladder”….as I get my feet in position and fully mount the ladder he yells out “Diver on Port/Starboard ladder”. I then go up the ladder, swinging my feet to the side in order for my fins to clear and get up on the next rung. Once on the platform I put one fin up on the step and the guide pops my fin off for me, slapping my leg to inform me the leg is clear, I switch legs and my other fin is removed in the same process. I then stagger forward with 20 lbs of lead and 35 pounds of tank on me, plus the weight of all my other gear, all of which is soaking wet with sea water. I sit down on one of two benches that go down the sides of the boat and lean back, nestling my tank into a vertical cradle mounted to the gunwales. A deck hand quickly wraps a bungie cord around my tank valve, securing it to the cradle. I am then informed I may remove my gear. I uncinch my shoulder straps and then unbuckle all my gear. No one seems to wear weight belts anymore

We now head to the next dive site, the wreck of the Danny, a small fishing trawler that has been stripped and sunk.

As we near an hour of surface time the guide holds a briefing about depth, current, what we will see, how long we will spend where and what to do if you become separated from the group.

We have one person on the boat who is spearfishing for Lionfish, which are not native to Florida and causing some issues for the native fish. He asks us to point out any we may see by signaling with our hands by interlacing our fingers and waving them about to mimic the spiney profile of this species, which have venomous spines on their dorsal and anal fins. I later film him as he hunts his quarry, one of which he has in his creel, a clear hard plastic tube with a one way flap on one end.

At the wreck site we explore the hold of the boat. The remains of a stove are still in place, as are some storage bins. From there we drift over to where a large amount of square columns have been dumped, maybe old bridge pilings. This is where we spot a few sharks, one with a lure hanging from its jaws. Everyone later expresses concern for this guy. We spot a large shark, maybe 6-7 feet who swims among us, unconcerned.

I spot a lionfish but loose it in the gloom and debris before I can contact the hunter. When I spot him later he has one or two in his creel. He has told me you clean them by snipping the spines off first, then filleting them like any other fish. He says the taste great but the fillets are small when compared to other fish of similar size. The smaller ones he shoots he just shakes off and lets the other fish dine on.

Once the dive is over I head back home. Kay and I dine at a Mexican restaurant where we are the only gringos present and seems to be a favorite place for families to dine. I have Shrimp Diablo and taco lengua. All are delicious. We ask about sopapillas but they have never heard of them so we get Charros to go as a dessert.

We will need to move the trailer tomorrow, but I am also diving. We decide that tonight we will get the trailer pretty much ready to haul and even perhaps hooked to the truck, than we will move it to the parking lot while I go diving, Kay will find some way of passing the time. There are photo ops galore at Phil Foster Park, which is the popular dive site at Blue Heron Bridge.


Former owner of a 2002 Four Winns 234 FunShip
'16 F250 4x4 Oil Burner
"Hey, if I'm a Vice Admiral, which vice do I get to claim?"
#575812 - 06/08/22 10:56 AM Re: Vacation 2022 [Re: Parrott_head]  
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,981
athiker Offline
Admiral
athiker  Offline
Admiral

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,981
Lake Norman, NC
Great write up and interesting tips, glad the trip is going so well!...missing only 1 day isn't too bad.


2000 Cobalt 206 5.7L EFI Alpha 1

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