Guest Blog by Tom Hayward
Let me first explain where our Black Water dives take place. We exit the Lake Worth inlet in West Palm Beach, Florida and turn south. We parallel the shoreline for about 6 miles then turn due east. Our easterly heading will take us several miles offshore to where the bottom is a mere 400 and 600 feet.
It is night. As you peer over the side you notice the water is ink dark. The excitement rises among the Black Water veterans but all you feel is anxiety. This is your first dive of this type and you know this is the ultimate test of your buoyancy skills. What is down there? We are in the true deep sea where the big animals live. All I have is this little flashlight. Will it be enough? If you didn’t feel at least a little angst then I would wonder about you. This is a whole new diving experience but one that will make an impression of a lifetime. Now let’s relieve those fears and tell you what to expect.
Captain Dean and his crew are like a fine-tuned machine. I have been Black Water diving with four different boats and as a photographer I believe this is the best setup I have seen. Once we reach our dive site, the crew deploys a well-lit floating rig that is our beacon and home base for our dive’s duration. The basic rig components are a fender ball with a 760-pound buoyancy. Attached is a nylon rope with a breaking strength of just under 9000 pounds. The rope is 40 feet long with a weight attached to keep it vertical. At ten and twenty feet, Captain Dean has two different light setups, designed to be seen from all sides.
Lower on the float ball, three blue flashers shine 120 degrees so you should be able to see two at all times. Why Blue? Well remember our old pal ROYGBIV. Blue carries very far both horizontally and vertically. At the bottom of the rig, along with the weight is another light aimed up.
What does all this mean to you? Peace of mind. Between the Buoyancy of the ball and breaking strength of the line, everyone can hang onto this rig without worry. This is also the best thing you can do on your first dive until you feel comfortable. Don’t worry that you miss out, most of the unique sea life you’re looking for are attracted to the very lights you are next to. Rarely do you have to go past a depth of 20 feet to find an impressive array of exotic creatures. To further add to your comfort, there is also a Dive Master in the water keeping an eye on things. They know that you are new and will probably keep an extra watchful eye. If all this isn’t enough, you could probably hire a very capable guide through Pura Vida Divers for your first-time experience.
I hope this has addressed the apprehensions you may have regarding this type of dive. I personally find Black Water diving the most exotic and compelling type of dive. Hope to see you out there soon.
Guest blog and images by: Tom Hayward.
You can learn more about Tom and view some of his photography by visiting thayward.smugmug.com.