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Diving Blue Heron Bridge & the Palm Beaches

Discussion in 'Florida' started by Sorrows, Oct 13, 2010.

  1. Sorrows

    Sorrows Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    495
    97
    Hello!

    We just got back from a long weekend diving Blue Heron Bridge and the Palm Beaches, and I, being a good and dutiful Scubaboard member, would submit my report for the benefit of all other scuba divers out there. Seriously, thanks to everybody here who provided me (and others!) such good information when I was planning this trip.

    This was our 2nd time visiting the Blue Heron Bridge. We went last year on this same exact weekend (Columbus Day) with our son (a student at Florida Tech, in Melbourne, about 2 hours north) Last year, the bridge was just a stop on a Florida trip; this year it was the centerpiece. We planned to dive it three times in as many days and we also booked two boat trips through Force-E dive shop in Riviera Beach.

    Last year we had stayed at the Marriott on Singer Island--master bedroom, large bathroom, kitchen and a living room (sofa bed for son)--and it was a good deal and a decent fit for us. This year I THOUGHT we had the same deal, but when we showed up Friday night at 11:30 p.m., they put us in a teeny-tiny room that wasn't at all what we were expecting. They could get us something larger, yes, but it would cost $439 a night! Yikes! We put up with the closet for one miserable night, but checked out early next morning and moved to the Admiral's Club.

    The Admiral's Club is a small apartment complext located on the Singer Island side of the Intercoastal Waterway. Rich, the landlord, isextremely nice and helpful. We had two bedrooms, one bath, and a full kitchen and living room. Lots of space for all our gear and places to hang the wetsuit. Not fancy, of course, but comfortable. Only one air-conditioner in the living room, so perhaps not a place to visit in the summer. There is no smoking allowed in the rooms (thank you!) but there are cigarette butts outside--I think from our neighbor who spent a lot of time sitting outside and smoking.

    In any case, due to our unplanned move, we were now too late for our first planned bridge dive that morning (diving the bridge is limited by the tides--specifically slack tides) but Rich invited us to dive off his pier. The water is very murky, but we were just grateful to get into the water! Mostly sand, but some promising rubble with eels and other fish; no, I wouldn't normally choose to dive there, but in a pinch...

    These are just to give you an idea of what the water around the Admiral's Club pier was like.

    PA090154.jpg

    PA090158.jpg

    I'll come back later to finish my report!
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010
  2. DMDavid

    DMDavid Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: Fernandina Beach, FL
    1,018
    275
  3. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board Staff Member

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    62,724
    31,365
    Please continue... and don't forget to add some pictures! :D
     
  4. OneRestlessNative

    OneRestlessNative Contributor

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: East Coast Central Florida
    269
    1
    tagging along too... (the attachment didn't work for me)
     
  5. Jupiter31

    Jupiter31 Contributor

    1,853
    23
  6. rlskill1

    rlskill1 Instructor, Scuba

    578
    133
    me either!! Tell us more!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  7. Sorrows

    Sorrows Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    495
    97
    Thanks for your encouraging words! On to Blue Heron Bridge!

    When we dove the bridge last year, we went to the South side; this part is closed this year due to construction, so we were limited to the West side. This is NOT meant as a complaint--we had two excellent dives and look forward to re-visiting the South when they reopen, whenever that is.

    It was pretty crowded with divers on Sunday--I think there might have been some classes there, in addition to the various "old salts" and several people on those scooter things. The current was a bit strong, I think, and it's a shallow dive--which means that I, as usual, was having trouble staying down. I finally started hanging on to the dive flag with its 2 lb weight to keep me from bobbing up. The viz was quite good, better than I remembered from last year, and there was plenty to see! I'm sorry to say that I did not see the frog fish (or last year's batfish) but we saw plenty else to keep us entertained; octopus, jawfish, blennies, etc.--and an infestation of bearded fireworms!

    The following day (Monday) the current did not seem as strong--but that may have been because I took an extra 4 lbs of weight--a bit overkill, yes, but dammed if I didn't stay down this time! I was pretty much hugging the bottom and loving all the small stuff I was finding:

    sharptail eel 1.jpg

    baby scorpion fish peekaboo.jpg

    9 arm sea star 1.jpg

    lizard 1.jpg

    scaly tailed mantis.jpg

    blue crab.jpg

    juvenile angel 2.jpg

    baby flounder 1.jpg

    spotted goby1.jpg

    What a wonderful dive! If you haven't been to Blue Heron Bridge, well, what the heck are you waiting for? It's easy, it's cheap (rent your tanks, weights and a dive flag and then you are in!) and surely you can find a reason to go to South Florida? Seriously, you shouldn't be missing this experience--particularly if you are a photographer!

    Side note: the guys at Force-E dive shop had warned us about getting too close to the fishing bridge as fisherman will try to hook divers who come too close and scare away their prospective catches. I admit I was sceptical--who could be such an arrogant *&%#@ that they would willingly endanger another human being? Well, on Monday there were people fishing from the beach and I got hooked on my wetsuit. I was quite incensed--there was a man swimming with his little boy not 30 feet away from me! If I'd had a knife, I would have cut the line. As it was, I unhooked the bait fish and let it go.
     
  8. Dave C

    Dave C Contributor

    563
    41
    Great pics. I am always amazed at all the stuff people see at this spot. Many, many years ago my grandmother lived about two blocks from the BHB, and I used to walk over the bridge to go to the beach. Little did I know there was so much underneath. By the way, your crab photo is not actually a blue crab. I can't remember the true name of the crab right now, and I am away from all my references.
     
  9. Sorrows

    Sorrows Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    495
    97
    We also had boat dives...

    As I said, we came to Riviera Beach to dive the Blue Heron Bridge; we were originally hoping we could do some night dives as well, but that proved to be impossible--the dives would have been after the park closes at 10 p.m. However, we realized that we did (just barely) have time for afternoon boat dives.

    We're going to Yap/Palau at Christmas and I was looking specifically for some challenging dives as practice for our big trip. You see, although I have logged nearly 200 dives, have the AOW, nitrox, etc. training, I know I am definitely the weak link in the chain, compared to my husband and son. Most of my dives have been relatively easy ones and I hadn't been diving since Spring break.

    Anyway, I told all this to the guys at Force-E and they hooked us up with the Narcossis on Saturday and Sunday to do some wreck diving. I mentioned this on another thread and was concerned to hear that some members consider the Narcossis a "cattle boat." More worrisome was the diver who had extremely strong and negative opinions about the boat and its Captain, although he/she never got more specific than "unsafe."

    Anyway, the boat on Saturday was crowded, but the Captain appeared competent and sufficiently concerned with safety. My husband, a former Merchant Mariner, felt quite comfortable with him and didn't know what the negative poster's objections could be. We didn't get to go to any of the wrecks, but, frankly, I appreciated that the captain's main focus was on visibility. I'm kind of fond of the whole seeing thing myself. I also very much appreciate how he took some boaters to task at one point for anchoring their boat right on top of the reef (the idiot said he didn't know where the mooring line was or some such nonsense.) Not that these people had the decency to move, of course, but at least the Captain tried...

    This isn't valet diving--you set everything up yourself. But they do send down a divemaster with the group (unlike the Keys, which still surprises me, even after several visits). There is a dive briefing using a television screen which is sometimes hard to see, owing to glare. I guess its also some kind of fish finder thingee? Sorry, technology and I are not the best of friends, but the dive briefing seemed pretty thorough to me.

    Oh, yes, did I mention? This is drift diving. They made sure everybody had a sausage and knew what to do with it.

    Our first dive was Juno's Ledge. Right off the boat, I saw a huge barracuda. Also a couple of sharks, too far off to get a decent photo. These are sandy, patchy reefs with not a lot of coral; the general hue seems to be brown. But did see some schools of fish, lots of Atlantic Spadefish, and HUGE Queen Angelfish, Rock Beauties, etc. It must be the water!

    Our second dive was Shark's Canyon. We didn't make it to where the fish and the sharks were--the divemaster, like all of his breed, went too fast for photographers. We didn't expect otherwise, and didn't mind that we didn't get past the sand. We just find other stuff to look at (and photograph). I mean, there's always something, right? Actually, I believe we came across a small school of Cottonwicks--never saw any before--so that was good.

    Apparently, however, there were several divers who also didn't make it out of the sand pit and were very unhappy about it. "Worst dive ever!" they complained, and I think that shook up the crew a bit. The next day the Captain insisted that anyone who found themselves separated from the divemaster or in a big pile of sand should pop up and signal the boat and they would be glad to deposit them someplace better.

    On Sunday the boat was a lot less crowded. There were only a handful of divers and two spearfishers. They get let off at a separate location; Thursday is also apparently a big spearfishing day for the Narcossis and crew. I'm feeling distinctly uncomfortable about this. Yes, I know its legal and I appreciate that they are not spearfishing near us, but...these are fish we would like to see and--unlike deer and hunters--there isn't a single species of fish they hunt that needs to be thinned. Can divers and spearfishers cohabitate the same reef, the same boat? Aren't we at cross-purposes with each other? More on that later...

    The Captain took us down to the Palm Beach area--Paul's Reef and The Breakers. Still looking for good viz, but really didn't find it. Again, not a lot of gorgeous coral, but an amazing number of barrel sponges. Saw trumpet fish for the first time this trip. Lots of porkfish, of course, morays, porcupine fish, Honeycomb cowfish, filefish, a turtle, etc. I found a saddled blenny and also ( I think?) a sailfin blenny. We (of course) missed the nurse shark and the goliath grouper (wisely hiding, I'm sure).

    As I'm sure many of you know, the lionfish invasion is becoming a serious problem throughout Florida and the Caribbean. The divemasters go down with a two-pronged spear and it seems they catch at least a few on every dive. My son took some photos of one we found--unfortunately, we were unable to kill it.

    Lionfish explosion.jpg

    spadefish with bitten tail.jpg

    Goldentail moray.jpg

    Blue smile.jpg

    Atlantic Spadefish.jpg

    scorpion fish on orange.jpg
     
  10. Sorrows

    Sorrows Contributor

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location:
    495
    97
    More about the boat diving...

    During our second boat dive day, the prop got fouled by a rope that seemed to go on forever and ever...finally the DM brings up an unmarked lobster trap with 6 lobsters in it. They measure them and keep the ones that are legal. Someone from the fisheries dept. was waiting for them at the dock to take the trap. I have no idea how regulated the industry is in Florida--although it doesn't appear to be anything like what they have in Maine--but I'm guessing it was an illegal trap.

    And speaking of hunting...as I've said, the DMs take down a spear for the lionfish on every dive. All of us, I'm sure, applaud their efforts as we realize the looming threat of an unchecked lionfish population on the Atlantic reefs. I was, however, somewhat taken aback to see the DM not only go down with a spear for lionfish, but also one for fish, a bag for lobster, and a camera. Granted, the boats down in the Keys don't even send down a DM, but still...it does seem like the attention should be on his group of divers and not on all that extra-curricular stuff. My son is a DMC and he was surprised as well--it's the very opposite of what he's been taught. It may be that our group was small enough or experienced enough that they felt they didn't need to have their hands free for emergencies. My husband even wondered if they were actual DMs, since the Captain referred to them as "dive guides." Perhaps that's just a term he prefers? They seemed like DMs to me--obviously experienced and in good physical condition. Very nice and helpful--they also are apparently paid completely in tips.

    This particular DM did tell me that he didn't hunt while the clients were around--he waited until we were going up, I guess. He told me this while he was showing me the nice hogfish he had caught. The thing is, I would have loved to have seen that hogfish. It just doesn't seem right that the DM on my dive boat is killing the fish I came to Florida to see.

    Well, those are my thoughts. Would love to hear from those more experienced with the local diving scene. Perhaps the boats make more money from people interested in spearfishing/lobstering than they do from divers who just like fishy reefs and wrecks and only want to shoot with a camera.
     

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