A weekend trip to the Florida Gulf Coast creates a new prospect for me. I’ve never dove the Gulf of Mexico, so I seize the opportunity by reserving a spot on a Sarasota dive charter boat.
We head out first thing Saturday morning for a two-tank dive. The skies are clear, the breeze is light and the seas are lying down.
Our first site is the Gullys dive. Here, 55 feet down, lies a mesa-like geologic feature which is ringed by a ledge two- to four-feet high. The ledge is encrusted with a modest collection of coral, which is populated with a small population of coral reef marine life. Our visibility is awful — no more than 10 to 15 feet.
It is as if we are in a large bowl of Miso Soup.
Due to the shallow conditions, our dive time is over 50 minutes. Mostly, we see sheepshead fish and stone crab in the crevasses of the ledge. Later, we are to hear on our dive boat that the marine life has been scarce for months due to red tide problems in the gulf.
Our second dive doesn’t really have an official name, and our dive master refers to it as “Snap Jew”. Again, we dive down about 50 feet to a mesa-like formation which is surrounded by crevasses and ledges.
Just off our boat, as we prepare to plunge in, we spot a very large sea turtle floating along on the surface of the water, getting closer and closer to our boat as if he or she wanted to join us for our dive.
The visibility is only slightly improved at Snap Jew, and the marine life remains rather scarce.
For both dives, we see a white sandy bottom with ridge lines formed by wave action just off of the ledges.
Our water temperatures were about 85 degrees down to about 20 feet, and then cooled to about 78 degrees below that depth.