Old School Drift Diving in the Gulfstream

Lining up the anchor drop:

Back in the 70s, our boats didn’t have consoles packed with electronics. We relied on the magnetic compass for directions to get us to our destination and binoculars for spotting landmarks we expected to see along the way.

That day, we headed out of Port Everglades and made a hard turn to starboard after passing the “whistling” buoy.

As I peered through the binoculars I spotted a block-like structure. The distinctive building started out as the Hollywood Beach Hotel and later became the Florida Bible College. That was it. Paul cut the twin outboards. We waited for the propellers to come to a stop. When the cavitation calmed down, we strained our eyes to get a good look at the depth sounder display.

Compared to modern depth finding gear, the device mounted on the console was as primitive as a stone axe. You had to run dead slow or drift to get a reading even close to accurate. And that’s if you knew how to read the signals.

We’d been diving on this spot before. We knew what to expect. As soon as I saw the flat red blips on the screen get bigger and return faster I looked up. The bow was lined up with the color change. The column of clear blue water marking the edges of the Gulfstream.

Paul fired up the engines and held in reverse. Earl went forward and dropped the anchor and played out line.

Flying over the bottom:

Current diving could be tricky. Even with a hundred feet of static line tied off at the stern and attached to a dive flag, the last thing you wanted to do was get caught behind the boat while facing a seven knot current.

For that reason, we had a line tied off at the anchor line just behind the bow cleat. This precaution made getting in the water and reaching the anchor line a breeze.

Once we got in the water and pulled our way to the bottom, I hooked a big French clip to the steel ring connecting the anchor chain to the anchor line. One hundred feet of coated braided cable was secured to the clip and wound around a spool clipped to my weight belt.

I lifted the anchor. Immediately, the current swept us over the coral heads. A quick glance at my gauge indicated we were running at a depth of 75 feet. Right were we wanted to be.

This was the outer reef. We swam across the current, making our gradually toward open water. There it was: one of thousands of crevices dividing the reef. Jagged coral walls rose 20 feet above the sloping sand floor.

I hooked up the anchor and we swam down into the crevice. It didn’t take long for a giant sea turtle, as big around as patio table, to swim by

We moved on.

The big bug under the wreck:

The line up had been accurate. The wreck we wanted to dive on was coming up. It’s bad form to approach a wreck down current. We had this technique down to a wet science. As the wreck, now a heap of rotting wood and rusted rigging, got closer, I hooked up on the down current side as we glided past.

For some reason, what was left of a 90 foot sailboat had become the home of a massive school of Atlantic great barracuda. Some of the biggest in the world. These things were monsters, averaging seven feet long and as big around the middle as a telephone pole. Opening and closing snouts revealed crooked teeth. The things would swim right toward a diver but backed off when the diver moved in their direction.

We hugged the bottom, keeping our eyes on the base of the wreck. I spotted a pair of antenna fluttering in the current. Sitting under a plank and wedged into a hole in the reef was a Florida lobster. I managed to get both gloved hands on its head and drag it out.

It weighed in at 7.75 pounds

By zerppzee

On the next phase.

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