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Friday, August 30, 2013

Report for Don Dessert Memorial Dive

24 August 2013: Don Dessert Memorial Dive

A few Down Under Dive Club members gathered together to place a memorial to Don Dessert, our friend and dive buddy. The trip was planned and we had a hefty memorial to position. The start of the trip was like any normal dive trip for most of the people involved. Craig Capion, who set the concrete for the memorial took a strong leadership role. Our goal was to place the memorial on the Mizpah wreck trek. We discussed various methods for handling this with the crew. Eventually the plan was to position the boat near the Amaryllis. We then moved the memorial with a tethered marker on it to the back of the boat. On the captain's signal, the crew kicked the memorial off the boat. This would also signaled our ten minute warning for getting ready. One particular crewman had some experience with lift bag work for positioning things on the bottom. His aid was quite valuable.

As we approached the site, however, there was concern of a powerful current. The reported current would have made the site unsuitable for safe diving. The boat sent a free diver into the water to check the current. When he returned to the surface, he reported a moderate current, sixty feet of visibility, and many Goliath grouper.

With that news, we suited up and prepared for our entry. As I descended, I was surrounded by schools of fish. Small silversides in the shallow depths followed by larger wrasse in the middle of the water column and finally Goliath grouper. The visibility was a bit less than reported, probably on the order of fifty feet. The current was much stronger. As the dive progressed along the Mizpah, we saw many Goliath grouper.

As we approached the next wreck in the sequence, we saw a Caribbean reef shark that kept its distance. The current persistently dragged us along the dive. As we approached the Amaryllis, we began searching for the memorial. It would be eventually found approximately 10 feet down current from the wreck. We would move the memorial an agonizing 20 feet in the current. The dive master helped with the lift bag portion of it, and I helped muscle it over the gunnel, but the bulk of the effort belonged to Craig.

For Craig and I, this would mark the near end of the dive. However, Craig managed to spot and retrieve a lobster after placing the monument. This feat was particularly impressive since we brought no gear for that activity (we were preoccupied with the our one specific task). As we made our way to the surface, I pulled out my real and my surface marker. I inflated the marker and let it go, but the reel jammed. Rather than get pulled rapidly to the surface, I released the real. The captain would later retrieve take me to it so that I could retrieve it. This would be an error on my part. My reel had recently had a minor modification done to it with respect to the locking screw. This resulted in a difference in how much I had to turn it to unlock it.

This brought us to the surface interval. This would be a special surface interval that most of us would spend in snorkel gear. It turns out that Florida Atlantic University had to return some baby turtles to the wild. So the boat took us to deep water and released them one by one.

Eventually, it was time for our final dive of the day. We went to Midreef. This reef is relatively deep, making it a second deep dive of the day (both divers were about 85 feet deep). The current was still strong and the visibility did not improve. Here we would see turtles, filefish, puffers, and coronets. After about 40 minutes, air consumption or bottom time forced everyone out of the depths and into the boat.


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