Dive Fest 2014 – Recap from Days 3, 4, & 5

The start of Day #3 sent us to our northern most dives sites on the trip.  Both on Elbow Reef, Mike’s Wreck and City of Washington are popular spots.  Mike’s Wreck is the remains of an unknown steel ship.  Contrasting that is City of Washington, which in 1898 was anchored in Havana Harbor near the USS Maine when it blew up.  The Washington was damaged by burning debris from the Maine.  After being a troop transport during the Spanish-American war, she was converted to a coal barge.  While being towed in 1917, she struck Elbow Reef and quickly sank.

Both were full of life.  Karen found a snapping shrimp the hard way.  Her finger took the brunt of that encounter.  No pictures of the shrimp (or the finger).  But there was a pair of Flamingo Tongues to be found.


We took a long break for lunch & a siesta and headed out later in the afternoon for a twilight dive.  That sent us back to Molasses Reef.  The large coral formations hold a lot of variety.  The first good find was a Pederson Cleaner shrimp hanging out near a Corkscrew anemone.


Additional friendlies included a Smooth Trunkfish and Sharpnose Puffer.

Having recently encountered a Sailfin Blenny in Belize, blennies are my new favorite subject.  I haven’t been able to identify this one yet, but with eyelashes like this one, they make for a fun image.

Roughhead Blenny For Day #4, the first site/wreck of the day was the MV Benwood.  A merchant marine freighter, she was running with her lights off during WWII due to the German U-boat threat when she collided with the USS Tuttle. The captain attempted to save the ship & crew by grounding her.  Because she was ultimately used for target practice during WWII, her hull is pretty much blown wide open with layers upon layers of steel deck plates and ribs.  This makes for a great habitat for fish of all kinds.

Normally this site delivers a great dive, but upon tying up to the mooring ball was saw a problem.  The problem was we didn’t see anything.  The visibility stunk and the wreck wasn’t visible.  We geared up anyway and jumped in.  It was too murky for any pictures, but we did see a Green sea turtle briefly.

When we got back onboard, Captain Jordan had been on the radio checking out the visibility on other sites.  Molasses was clear, so we headed south.  The current was running pretty good, so the crew turned it into a drift dive.  It was follow the leader and Dive Master Rachel was being put to the test.  She had to navigate us along the reef looking for landmarks to make sure we ended up in a spot the captain could do a ‘hot’ pickup (no anchoring or tying off to a mooring ball.  She did a great job.  Since the pace was going to be fast I decided to leave the camera on board.  I should have brought it with.  Shortly into the dive we had a school of about 30 Permit in hunting mode zig-zag through our group.  They were like fighter jets flying in formation.  Later on we saw a Spotted Eagle Ray on the edge of our visibility.

The early afternoon brought another drift dive.  No pictures from that dive either.

The final dive took us to Coral Canyon.  Karen spotted an good sized Southern Stingray, but he wasn’t being social.  So we only got to see him swim away.  Spencer spotted what I think was a large Porcupinefish.  I managed to capture a pair of blennies and a Spotted Trunkfish.

Day #5.  Time to go home.  I think it’s harder packing gear for the trip home.  Seems like it never fits as well as the first time.  We went through the cleaning checklist of the rental house twice and headed out.  The upside to heading home means a required stop at Alabama Jack’s for lunch.  You can’t explain this place just have to go.

Until next year.

Back Row: David, Gayl, Spencer & myself
Front Row: Carol, Joanne, Karen & Mike.
(Stole your picture Carol.  Thanks!)

Published by

Brian McGowan

Tampa Florida