How to Scuba Dive in Key West Wrecks

How to Scuba Dive in Key West Wrecks
Scuba divers from around the world travel to the Florida Keys to dive among some of North America's most vivid coral, but the wrecks lining the sea floor also make this area undeniably attractive. Some of the ships, like the Cayman Salvor, are part of a government artificial reef program and were sunk intentionally. Others, like the Atocha, wrecked on the reefs or sank for other reasons while still in service. Artificial reefs are more common off the waters of Key West, but divers can dive both types of wrecks.
 

Instructions

Difficulty: Challenging

Things You’ll Need:
  • Scuba certification for appropriate depth Wet suit Dive boat Dive light Dive knife Underwater camera or Ikelite case for your regular camera
  • Scuba certification for appropriate depth
  • Wet suit
  • Dive boat
  • Dive light
  • Dive knife
  • Underwater camera or Ikelite case for your regular camera
 
Step 1
Decide how deep you want to dive. Some Key West wrecks lie in water as shallow as 20 feet while others are more than 100 feet below the surface. Most scuba certifications allow divers to go down to only 100 feet--anything deeper will require special certification. You can get that certification at dive shops in the keys, but make sure you're comfortable diving that deep and consider the reduced amount of bottom time associated with those depths.
Step 2
Compile a list of prospective dive sites. Ned DeLoach's "Guide to Diving Underwater Florida" is a great book to help select sites, but the web is also an invaluable tool, not only for finding sites but reading feedback from other divers.
Step 3
Figure out how you are going to get to the dive site. If you have your own boat and the proper anchor, you have more control over when you dive, but charter dive boats have local knowledge and the proper equipment (including tanks) that can make your dive easier and more efficient. If you don't have a dive buddy, a charter dive boat might be able to match you up with another diver.
Step 4
Prepare for your dive with the proper equipment. While the water temperature in Key West is warmer than most of the country, it still gets cold in the winter. A wet suit will help protect against the cold (especially at greater depth) as well as protect your skin from nicks, scratches and jellyfish. A light and a dive knife are two simple tools that can make your dive a lot safer. If you have questions that are site-specific, call a local dive shop or, if you're using a charter dive boat, talk to the dive master.
Step 5
Calculate your bottom time and determine how many dives you can complete that day.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
If you're used to diving in fresh water, remember that you are more buoyant in salt water. You will probably want to add weight, which you can do one of two ways: add weights to your BC or weight belt or dive with steel tanks. Many Key West resorts have saltwater pools, so try out the weights before your dive, if you can. Use a dive operator if you are at all new to diving or if you are unfamiliar with the waters off the keys, which are typically shallow. Remember, many of these wrecks got there because of skippers who didn't know the waters. Remember that you can't fly a day after diving, so plan your dives accordingly and leave a few days as a buffer in case you decide you want to dive the site again.
 
If you're used to diving in fresh water, remember that you are more buoyant in salt water. You will probably want to add weight, which you can do one of two ways: add weights to your BC or weight belt or dive with steel tanks. Many Key West resorts have saltwater pools, so try out the weights before your dive, if you can.
 
Use a dive operator if you are at all new to diving or if you are unfamiliar with the waters off the keys, which are typically shallow. Remember, many of these wrecks got there because of skippers who didn't know the waters.
 
Remember that you can't fly a day after diving, so plan your dives accordingly and leave a few days as a buffer in case you decide you want to dive the site again.
 
Wreck diving is exciting and worthwhile, but proceed into the wreck with caution. In deeper waters, it's easy to get turned around inside a sunken hull. It is crucial that you stay with your buddy and review hand signals before you dive. Under no circumstances should you exceed 100 feet unless you have the proper certification.
 
Wreck diving is exciting and worthwhile, but proceed into the wreck with caution. In deeper waters, it's easy to get turned around inside a sunken hull. It is crucial that you stay with your buddy and review hand signals before you dive.
 
Under no circumstances should you exceed 100 feet unless you have the proper certification.

Article Written By Cathy Salustri

Cathy Salustri started writing professionally in 1995. Salustri's work about Floridana, tourism and the environment appears in the "Gabber," "Southwinds Sailing" and Visit Florida Web and print publications. She is pursuing a Master of Arts in Florida studies at the University of South Florida, focusing on historic Florida tourist attractions.

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