Trip Report Back in SE FL 2021 part 5

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scubadada

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I haven't been in SE FL since the end of June, when I had water temperatures as low as 60 degrees, brrrrrrr. I was extremely fortunate to make a trip to Malpelo, Colombia in July, probably my favorite trip, ever Trip Report - The Magic of Malpelo, July 9-18, 2021 on the Ferox

I came back down to Boynton Beach on Tuesday afternoon. Everyone in both airports and on the plane are still wearing masks. Everyone at National Car is still wearing masks. Essentially nobody is still wearing masks in Winn Dixie, but I did. It was a very smooth trip but it turned out the landscapers had cut my broadband cable and I did not have internet, TV, or landline for my security system. I had to wait for service on Wednesday morning, JDC was nice enough to switch my reservation from the morning to the afternoon, no charge

Day 1 of diving, Wednesday Sept 15

I did 2 afternoon dives out of Jupiter with JDC on Republic IV. It was a nice day with seas around 2 feet. The first dive was on Capt Kirle's, water temp 85-6, visibility about 40 feet, moderate north current. This was a pretty bland dive, 1 Hawksbill, the usual reef fish. The second dive was on Tunnels, same water temp, vis, and current. This was a considerably more active dive, several Goliath Grouper, quite a few Reef Sharks, a couple Nurse Sharks, 3 Hawksbills and all the usual reef denizens. A good 1st day.

Day 2 of diving, Thursday Sept 16

I did 2 dives with Starfish out of Boynton Beach. It started warm and sunny, clouded up and sprinkled a bit at the SI, sunny again on the way in. Seas were around 2 feet. I was happy to see my friend Barry, @OceanEyes on the boat, I have not seen him for quite a while. We had dolphins in our wake on the way out, including a cute baby, only about a third the size of an adult. The first dive was on the Castor. The current was quite brisk. Visibility was around 40 feet, down a bit more at the end of the dive. Water was 84-5 degrees. There were maybe 10 Goliath Grouper on the stern, none on the bow. Too much current to swim off the wreck. There was a little bit of bait, some hunters, a few barracuda. It was a disappointing Castor dive. The second dive started outside Black Condo (Tumbled Rocks) and crossed over the reef to the inside for the 2nd half. Outside the current was brisk north with a strong west pull, the diving with the flag was tough. The water temp and vis was unchanged. Another pretty unremarkable dive. We had a small Nurse Shark swim circles around us for 25 minutes on the inside. A couple of Green Morays, no turtles, plenty of all the usual reef fish.
 

drrich2

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Got a question, from the perspective of traveling divers who may just visit an area once or twice. Jupiter gets a pretty good amount of attention on Scuba Board as the place to go for the Goliath grouper aggregation in fall, the lemon shark aggregation in winter, and (for those inclined to participate) shark feeding diving (tigers, bulls, lemons, hammerheads, etc...). In a nutshell, it's a good place to go see 'big stuff.' And ironically, it's not far from Blue Heron Bridge, famous for...little stuff!

I don't see Boynton Beach area mentioned nearly as much, and if it weren't for your trip reports I'm not sure I'd remember it at all.

Do you see any particular 'selling points' for divers considering a Jupiter trip to maybe choose Boynton Beach instead, or take time out of a longer trip to spend 2 or 3 days there? From your trip reports you like to hit both.
 
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scubadada

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Hi @drrich2, my friend, what a very.good question.

First of all, I'm not out to sell anything, diving is a personal choice. Overall, SE Florida is probably not much of a dive destination for most divers. The Florida Keys are a much more common destination. Some of that has to do with the fact that the fall, winter, and spring can have variable sea conditions, frequently not consistent with easy diving, or diving at all. SE Florida is not tropical. I have a 3, 5, and 7 mm full suit and dive each, with or without a 5/3 mm hooded vest, every year. Water temps easily vary from the high 60s or low 70s to the current temp of 85 degrees. Last June, I had bottom temps of 60 degrees. The visibility is not always 100 feet, in fact, it is very rarely that good. More commonly it is something like 30-60 feet, some worse, some better. The current is very variable, from nothing to very brisk, usually north, sometimes south. Today, the current was brisk, making it difficult to swim against. I only saw one other diver on the bow of the Castor while I was there.

I had exclusively dived the Upper Keys until I visited Jupiter in 2007 and tried, and fell in love, with drift diving. From 2007 until 2011, I dived from Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter, looking for the best diving. Again, it is personal. Pompano Beach, has numerous wrecks, that was not what I was looking for, perfect for others. I found that the reef in Boynton Beach was of the highest quality with the best population of reef fish. Jupiter was the best spot for big animal encounters, sharks, Goliath Grouper, turtles. West Palm was intermediate between the two. So, my wife and I bought a townhouse just north of Boynton Beach in 2011, turns out to be a great decision. I'm 3 miles from Boynton Harbor Marina, 15 miles from West Palm and the BHB, and 30 miles from Jupiter. The three inlets are not equal. Boynton inlet is most affected by big seas. Jupiter is intermediate and West Palm is wide open and the least affected. I do most of my diving in West Palm when I can not get out of the Boynton or Jupiter inlets.

After 11 years of diving Boynton, Jupiter, and West Palm, I have over 900 dives in Boynton, over 200 dives in Jupiter, and about 60 dives in West Palm. Though Boynton's strength is the reef and reef fish, there are other things. The Castor is a great wreck, including for Goliath Grouper aggregation. Unfortunately, its peak was probably 2015-6, before Hurricane Matthew knocked off the bow to the starboard. Though big stuff is not so common, I saw Great Hammerheads in March and April of this year and have seen dolphins, mantas, mobulas, Eagle Rays,, and sailfish. Lemon Sharks are not uncommon, especially during aggregation, and Bull Sharks are not rare at the northern sites of 75 and 95.

So, for me, the real answer is that these 3 areas are very complimentary. I am extremely grateful that I am able to dive all of them every year.

Back up to Jupiter tomorrow to do Deep Ledge, looking to dive with some Bull Sharks :)
 

Divin'Papaw

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@drrich2 I too love diving Palm Beach County. As @scubadada has said, the various inlets complement each other. I try and regularly hit Jupiter, Palm Beach & Boynton. The only reason I don’t dive Boynton more is because the inlet is the toughest for boats to get in & out of. It therefore gets blown out more frequently than the others. For an adequate taste of the diving in the area you really should try and hit all three inlet locations.
 

drrich2

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For an adequate taste of the diving in the area you really should try and hit all three inlet locations.

A key insight from both of you guys' descriptions is that someone flying in to stay at one of these places is close enough to reach the others without much trouble. I knew West Palm Beach and Blue Heron Bridge were close to Jupiter (because over two 'dive trips disguised as family vacations,' as my wife calls them, I dove out of Jupiter but we visited Palm Beach Zoo, and I got 1 dive at Blue Heron Bridge).
 

CosbySweater

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A key insight from both of you guys' descriptions is that someone flying in to stay at one of these places is close enough to reach the others without much trouble. I knew West Palm Beach and Blue Heron Bridge were close to Jupiter (because over two 'dive trips disguised as family vacations,' as my wife calls them, I dove out of Jupiter but we visited Palm Beach Zoo, and I got 1 dive at Blue Heron Bridge).

I live in Jupiter and I can easily make it down south to the Boynton boats for morning dives. It's an easy 35 minute drive down 95. For those visiting, I'd recommend staying in West Palm Beach. You'll be about equidistant from both Jupiter and Boynton inlets (and very close to Palm Beach inlet) so you can experience the diversity of dive sites that all three have to offer with relative ease. There are lots of good lodging options in WPB and the airport is close.

As @scubadada mentioned, Palm Beach County isn't exactly a tourist diver destination the way the Keys are. You can do open water training here and there are plenty of sites for novice divers to enjoy but the unpredictability of the gulf stream and the weather (particularly in the winter) has stifled Palm Beach County's diving popularity. TBH, I selfishly like it that way.

For a more experienced diver who has experience and is comfortable in varied conditions (current, viz, temp, and snotty seas) it's a fantastic place to dive. The diversity of sea life here is nearly unmatched. If you are flexible with you diving schedule, it can be dove year round (I've dove every month of the year since October 2020 - several dive trips per month).
 

Divin'Papaw

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For those visiting, I'd recommend staying in West Palm Beach. You'll be about equidistant from both Jupiter and Boynton inlets (and very close to Palm Beach inlet) so you can experience the diversity of dive sites that all three have to offer with relative ease. There are lots of good lodging options in WPB and the airport is close.

... or Palm Beach Gardens. I travel to that area once a month to dive. I stay in either West Palm Beach or Palm Beach Gardens. I have 3-4 hotels that I prefer and I stay at whichever has the lowest rate.
 
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scubadada

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Day 3 of diving, Friday Sept 17

I did the 3 tanker with JDC today on the Republic IV with Capt Tom, Sandy, and Ryan. The day was sunny and warm, Seas were glassy and less than a foot. Water temp was 85-6 degrees, visibility was 40-60 feet. The first dive was at Deep Ledge. The current was moderate. Only saw 1 Bull Shark and 4-6 Sandbar Sharks with brief appearances. The 2nd dive was at Tunnels, it delivered again. Several Goliath Grouper, including a cute little one at the 2nd swim through, many passes by Reef Sharks, including a pretty big one, a nice Hawksbill, and all the usual reef fish. The 3rd dive was on the MG-111. There were very many large Goliath Grouper on the north side of the barge, surrounded by dense bait balls, with hunters swooping in. It was a nice dive.
 
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