I have been remiss in getting these out. Considering that most of the country is in the deep-freeze today, I hope as you are hunkering down this will bring you back a bit of summer.
Before I talk about my second day of diving, I need to tell you about one of my favorite places to eat in Key Largo. Actually I have three favorite places… Hobo’s, the Sundowner, and Mrs. Mac’s. Hobo’s, like most places in the Keys, has a lot of sea food. But… I go there for the burgers. I think theirs are the best in Key Largo.
Sundowners is a place right on the FloridaBay. It’s kind of an upscale place… at least upscale for the Keys. So shorts, and flip-flops are still perfectly acceptable. The big deal at Sundowners is the sunset. If the weather is right, you can sit on their “outside porch”, have a great meal, a couple of tasty margaritas, and watch the sun set. It’s an amazing sight as the big red, orange, and yellow ball sinks into the distant ocean and mangroves. It ranks among the best sunsets I have ever seen anywhere in the world.
Mrs. Mac’s is my favorite place. I never go to the Keys without eating dinner there at least once. Mrs. Macs now has two places… the original that’s been there forever and a new one about another 1/3 mile down the road. I always eat at the original because I just walk there from where I stay. It’s kind of a “hole in the wall” place. I call the décor “early American trailer trash — funk”. The walls are covered with license places from all over the country and the lamp shades are made from bent-up license plates.But don’t let any of that fool you. It is clean and the food may be the best in the Keys. They have been voted “The Best” in the “Peoples Awards” year after year. By the crowds that are always there during the tourist season, all the food must be good. I say it that way because I have only ever had one thing to eat every time I’ve been there… Mahi- Mahi. It is the best I’ve eaten anywhere. I also get the black-beans, cole-slaw, and top it all off with Key Lime Pie. I ate there this trip and as usual it was mmmmmm-mmmmmm good.
The next morning’s dive was to a ship-wreck. A US Coast Guard cutter, the Duane, was sunk as an artificial reef. Diving on the Duane is one of my favorites. I think I like it as much because of its history as for anything else. She served the country for nearly fifty years. During World War II she escorted convoys in the Atlantic. During the Vietnam War she participated in interdiction and fire support missions off the coast of South Vietnam (1967 & 1968). She has a long list of citations including a “Presidential Unit Citation.”Two of the Duane’s sister ships are also in Florida… the Bibb and the Ingham. The Bibb was sunk near-by as an artificial reef and I have been SCUBA diving on her. The Ingham is a floating museum in Key West. Like the Duane, the Bibb and Ingham were convoy escorts during World War II and served off the coast of Vietnam.
Diving on the Duane is for those with advanced certification because of its depth. There is usually a swift current so that often makes diving there quite challenging. This time was no different. The current was at about the max that we could dive in. The good news is that with that kind of current the “viz” is great. There were lots of large barracuda patrolling all around the ship. We discovered another giant grouper hiding inside the ship. Man… those are big fish.
After the Duane we moved back to Molasses reef… “mo.” The current was still high so we did a “drift dive”. I love “drift dives”. The dive boat just drops the group of divers in the water and “drifts” along with them a short distance away. The divers descend (this time to about 45 ft) and then let the current carry them along. It’s really “neat”… you just sort of hover near the bottom and as the current carries you, you watch the underwater world go by. On this dive we saw stingrays, a giant eagle ray, a huge sea turtle and we captured two lion fish.
The dive sites around Key Largo are protected, “no take” places. That means that you can’t take anything you find with you nor can you take any fish. (No fishing is allowed in those areas either.) However, the Lion Fish is the exception. They are not natural to these waters and have no predators in the region. They are a danger to the other fish so it is allowed to capture them.
All in all, the morning dives were very good. The water temperature was 82 degrees and was just what I was hoping for. That said, the night before I had a change of heart… I decided after the morning dives I would go to Key West; Cayo Hueso… BoneIsland. After all… this is summer’s last gasp and I couldn’t get this close and not go there.
I suppose I should explain about the nicknames; “Cayo Hueso” and “BoneIsland”. Actually, that’s not a nickname. The Spanish originally named the island “Cayo Hueso” which translates to “BoneIsland”. It was named that because of the bones the Spanish found all over the island… human bones. It had been an Indian burial ground. The world Hueso is pronounced “Weso”. So when the Yankees heard the name they thought it was Cayo Westo… hence Key West.
Anyway… instead of diving a couple more days, I decided to spend the time in Key Weird (another of the nicknames). I checked out of the motel before going on the the dives. Then, after changing into some dry clothes, I put the top down and headed to Key West.