My brother, Joey, lives in Australia. We typically get together about once a year and spend some quality time underwater. And it just so happened that his annual trip coincided with my travels back to Northern Virginia, where our parents still live.
We did not have a dive trip scheduled during this particular visit. But after two beers and a very persuasive argument, I booked a flight down to Florida for a quick diving detour.
I flew into Orlando where I posted up on a comfy chair and finished up my work day until Joey arrived. Then my father, who happened to be in Orlando on a work trip, scooped us up to grab dinner with our Grandad in Satellite Beach, Fla. After a delightful Italian dinner with my Grandad, we continued our drive down to visit my Aunt Mo (we’ll call her Mo I) in Boca. We caught up with Mo I and my Uncle Andy until the early hours of the morning, then after a short nap, I plugged back into my laptop and we drove down to Key Largo.
On Saturday, my father, brother and I rose as early as diving demands, and walked down the dock to boat. We were able to visit four sites during the day: the USS Spiegel Grove, Woody’s Ledge, Spanish Lady and Little Conch Reef.
The night dive in Eagle Ray Alley was absolutely fantastic. It is the second best night dive I’ve ever been on. If you want to read about the first best, check out the bit of about the ostracods in my article on Bonaire. On this particular dive, we encountered a nurse shark who tried to hide from us in plain sight, a turtle the size of me resting beneath the reef, tons of lobsters scurrying about their business, and a moray eel on the hunt. Towards the end of the dive, we killed the lights and finned through the waters under the glow of Key Largo’s full moon, so we could observe the bioluminescent sparkles react to our movements. It’s moments like this, when I’m so far removed from the day to day, that truly make me appreciate this sport.
I fell into bed that night after scarfing down some fish tacos at Sharkey’s totally exhausted, only to wake the next morning to do it all over again. We rose early to do a double dip on the Spiegel Grove, exploring different sections of this ship. Honestly, you could do 30 dives on this ship and still not see the whole thing; it is truly massive and on open-circuit, your time to explore is fairly limited.
We spent the afternoon on Molasses Reef toward the fringes of John Pennekamp State Park. We swam through coral farms and ledges brimming with snapper. We hovered above the reef gawking at little blennies and following angelfish. I was swimming along musing at how healthy this particular section of reef was and thinking to myself, I’m surprised I haven’t seen any sharks along this section. Then I raised my gaze and saw one swimming right in my direction, a wonderful sign to see apex predators along the reef. I ascended from my final dive, sad to say goodbye and knowing that I’d return – next time with Josh.
But before I left, I was happy to reunite with a dear friend and my former publisher. If you’d like to see some beautiful perspectives from beneath the surface at Key Largo, definitely check out his work. Key Largo is his back yard and he’s been shooting its scenes with a skillful eye for decades. We caught up at one of the bars along the dock, and he shared the lesser known stories of how these famed shipwrecks came to rest beneath the surface. It’s no small feat to sink a ship.
We took my Dad out for a nice Father’s Day dinner and, of course, a slice of key lime pie to celebrate the end of a successful Key Largo dive trip. I would suggest that this would be a wonderful way to spend every Father’s Day; just a thought.
After a freshwater rinse and a nice long surface interval (read: airport work day), I returned to Washington, D.C., and back to our regularly scheduled roadtrip.