Trip Report My First Year of Local Diving in South Florida

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CosbySweater

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Loudoun county last 4 years, I previously lived on FL emerald coast for 12 years, but I'm starting to miss the water, beaches, diving and fewer taxes/expenses...
My girlfriends family lives in rural Loudoun. Pretty country but very expensive. I lived in not so rural Fairfax County for most of my life.
 
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Ironborn

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Did they offer 'free' guide service by chance? Any idea what their policy is on solo divers? Did they require you have have a clearly set buddy, or could you just sort of dive with the group?

Thank you for this. With 'retirement budget' in mind, considering how often people lament the price of lodging in the upper Keys, this is good to know.
The guide service at Horizon Divers is not free but very reasonably priced by local standards. When I used it early this year, it was an add-on of $40 for a guide a two-tank trip if I was the only guest using the guide, and $25 if I was splitting the guide with another guest. A good investment for a wreck as large, complex, and potentially challenging as the Spiegel Grove, in my opinion.

Horizon Divers does recognize Solo/Self-Reliant Divers. In fact, they offer the SDI course for that certification. So you should be fine if you want to dive solo from their boat.

Since I do not have a Self-Reliant/Solo Certification yet, they looked to see if they could pair me up with anyone else on the boat when I booked. If there was an appropriate instabuddy for me, they would pair us up. If not, they reserved a guide for me.
 
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Ironborn

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Would that me lower cost than just renting? Not just tank price, but viz. and hydro., having to get them filled and lug them around...sounds like a lot of hassle.

The price of tank rentals is a significant proportion of what I have spent on local diving this first year. I thought about buying tanks in an attempt to reduce costs in the long-term (i.e. several years) but the hassles, maintenance, and filling costs that you and others have mentioned were one deterrent. Another other reason is that it would only make sense financially if I stayed here diving locally in the longer term, i.e. several years, and I am not sure yet how long I will be living here. The final reason is that I would need a lot of them to accommodate my weekend dive schedule, since I do back-to-back trips on both mornings and afternoons on both Saturdays and Sundays. So it makes sense for me to just keep renting, at least for now.

I have noticed that a large proportion of locals on the boats here, at least half or more, bring their own tanks.
 

deeper thoughts

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The price of tank rentals is a significant proportion of what I have spent on local diving this first year. I thought about buying tanks in an attempt to reduce costs in the long-term (i.e. several years) but the hassles, maintenance, and filling costs that you and others have mentioned were one deterrent. Another other reason is that it would only make sense financially if I stayed here diving locally in the longer term, i.e. several years, and I am not sure yet how long I will be living here. The final reason is that I would need a lot of them to accommodate my weekend dive schedule, since I do back-to-back trips on both mornings and afternoons on both Saturdays and Sundays. So it makes sense for me to just keep renting, at least for now.

I have noticed that a large proportion of locals on the boats here, at least half or more, bring their own tanks.
I own 7 tanks(4 steel) and whenever I dive commercial which albeit is quite infrequently I use the ops tanks
 

CosbySweater

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You can certainly save money owning your own tanks, even when you factor in yearly inspections and 5-year hydros (which really aren't that expensive or inconvenient).

I pay about $11 to fill an HP steel 100 with EAN with a fill card. That same tank would cost me $21 to rent at the same shop. So, I save about $10 a dive. An HP steel 100 cost me about $400 last year. I can offset the cost of the tank by diving it 40 times.

A visual inspection is about $25 a year and a hydro works out to about $14/year if you spread the cost out over 5 years (70/5). So, about $40 a year in tank maintenance. You can offset maintenance cost by diving it 4 times a year.

Using this math, I've paid off both tanks and saved around $900 in tank rental costs this year alone. YMMV depending on the type of tanks you own, how often you dive, and where you dive. For my circumstances, it makes sense to own to my own.

Further, I don't like to worry that the outfit I'm diving with isn't going to have the type and size of tank I want. Also, at least one shop northern PBC where I live will not let you choose the mix you put in a rental tank (they put 34% in all rentals). I like to have the flexibility to use the most optimal mix for the dives I'm doing.
 

Rick Brant

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Ironic that you mention cities as "sinking ships" given the FL governor's stance on climate change and his recent enthusiastic support for fossil fuels. All along the Miami coastline there are spots that are constantly flooded already. The state's water table will go first, but it's possible that much of the coastline will be rendered unusable in our lifetime. In a way that is good news for marine life, as humans have turned FL from a paradise to a dump in only about 200 years. I grew up in Pompano and love the state, but the government and the people that elects them are not thinking clearly.
 

tekkydiver

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I'd like to further highlight the OP's comment about the Pompano reefs. They are in bad shape with very little to see, and all divers should skip the location all together.
Pompano's reef are bad and it is worse topside, people should stay away.
Yep awful, never catch me there!
 

Scuba_Jenny

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The only shore diving I have done here so far is at the Blue Heron Bridge. My understanding (and someone please correct me if I am wrong) is that the only other shore diving in South Florida is at Lauderdale-by-the Sea. What I saw of the reefs on boat dives in neighboring Pompano Beach persuaded me that the reefs in Broward County were not that great, and that I would be better off elsewhere. (If someone disagrees with that, I would like to hear their opinion.) The lack of a regular buddy has been another obstacle, but I hope to resolve that with Self-Reliant Diver certification.
I dive a lot in Broward County. Mostly beach dives. They are not the pretty reefs and big fish. They are close to shore therefore catch more of the runoff from the coast, very shallow, lots of algae, dying corals, etc., more tempermental to weather conditions, adn the walk across the sand, and surface swim.
Why do I beach dive? Can I can go whenever I want (conditions permitting) and the extra long bottom times for the fraction of the price of a boat dive. For me it's about diving, being neutrally buoyant, and seeing sealife as so few others ever will.
@Ironborn you should contact @Scuba_Jenny for information about local shore diving.
Oh, that would be me. :)
Is there a specific operator in Tavernier/Islamorada that you would recommend? Is there one that stands out for great service, in your opinion, like Horizon Divers?
Conch Republic. Cap't Gary used to be on SB years back. Good guy. Good operation.
 

Scuba_Jenny

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Oh, nice write up, and though I have pretty thin skin, your political comments to me were just your opinion and your reasons for moving south. Welcome.

One other thing. One year of diving in this warm water.. yeah, the second year its cold! LOL..
 
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