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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Neptune Memorial and Key Largo

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In July of 2017, several members of the Down Under Dive Club (DUDC) took a trip to Neptune Memorial and Key Largo. Jeri Curley has an account of the adventure.

It was a hot, steamy, dog-days of summer type of day in Florida-much like all summer days in Florida. The temperature was in the 90's, humidity had reached 100%. Lucky for me I brought my dive jacket. There was frost in the car driving toward Miami! Yes! Anything below 80 is cold to this Florida scuba diva! It amazed me that I only needed a 0.5 mm wet suit! We entered the dive shop and were greeted by 30 divers signing waivers and renting gear! This group was heading down to Key Largo. We had about a half hour to wait, so we headed to South Beach...the beach. It was crowded with tourists and we did the tourist thing and got our photos taken by another tourist. By the time we reached the boat, Deco Divers-- formerly known as RJs, my shirt was dripping wet. Gotta love the heat!! Our first stop was the Belcher Barge, the Belzona One and Belzone Two. The Belcher, a 195 foot steel barge lies upside down in 60 feet of water, approximately five miles offshore. She was sunk by explosives on November 29, 1985. The Belzona One is an 85-ft oceangoing tug that was sunk in May 1990 and sits upright. The Belzone Two lost its roof to a hurricane and lies in 60-ft of water. Belzone Three is a 100-ft tug in 85-ft of water. The current was fairly strong and I wish my FitBit was water proof because I definitelly got my 12,500 steps for the day here! We found one of the resident Green Moray, but I zoomed by too fast to get anything but a blur! Then we headed to the Neptune Memorial. The gates were gone, but everything else was as I remembered. Eels hid in little crevaces; more coral on the structures. The dive master challenged us to find as many eels as we could. She said her record was 21 or so. Found a Purplemouth, Green and a couple of Spotted Morays. No where near the record. After a leisurly dive, we tried to find a parking spot in South Beach in order to partake of the local quizine, but there were no spots to be found. So we headed on down to Key Largo. Laura remembered a great spot to eat--Sundowners. Aparently, advertising works. No one had ever been here. We were lured by subliminal advertising! It was great. We ate on the water; experimented with chemical concoctions and watched the sunset. Not a terribly colorful sunset but nice. We headed off to our hotel--Bayside Inn next to our favorite after dive drinking hole, Snook's Bayside Restaurant & Grand Tiki. Remember, what happens in Key Largo, stays in Key Largo. All that I will say is that the pool was rocking that night. It was surprisingly easy to wake the next morning...well, for those of us with the morning wake up gene. We only had 15 minutes to get to the boat, so we hit the BK Lounge for coffee and essentials. We made it to Ocean Divers. We loaded the gear into a wheel barrow and Shauna shlepped the gear to the boat. I was impressed, it must have weighed over a hundred pounds! Our first dive was Snapper Reef--always a favorite for me. We encountered nurse sharks, free swimming green morays, snappers, grunts and more grunts. I noticed a bit of water in my housing, so I surfaced. As I walked by the camera rinse bucket, I saw water churning. Oh S*#@t! I grabbed the camera and started to open it to get the water out. To the crews credit, they took over that task quickly and saved the sd card. So, sans camera, I became the wild explorer on the second dive at Coral Ledges. I can't remember exploring caves without worrying about my camera dome getting scratched. I found 3 sleeping green morays deep under the ledges; encouraged a giant porcupine fish to head toward my dive buddies. After the dive, we hit another here-to-for unventured eatery, the Key Largo Conch House. We hit it on the day when the regular staff were off at a baby shower! But OHHHH...Cuban coffee (cortadito--ahh the memories of working in Miami after the hurricane), Florida Beer, fresh seafood...heaven on earth. Oh, and oh my goodness, the desserts were to die for! Ok, I have to confess, I've been forbidden to show you a picture of our fearless leader on the boat, hamming it up for the camera..but it has replace the "Rehab is for quitters" photo as her Caller ID. Sorry Laura...but it is sooooo you!

Several pictures from Steve Ratts and Jeri Curley are available...

 

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