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Thread: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

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    Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    On Tuesday, March 20th, 2008 the Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s hosted a dive in Key Largo, Florida. The catalyst for this dive was fellow Rebreather World diver John Katerenchuk’s (a.k.a. JKaterenchuk) visit to South Florida from his home in Lititz, Pennsylvania. Even though John has done a fair bit of travel to some pretty exotic dive destinations, most of his diving appears to regularly occur in the many cold and dark quarries up in the Northeastern part of the U.S.; therefore, the Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s decided we’d show him a bit of South Florida hospitality and schedule some of our fine warm water diving for him, while he was in town. Prior to this dive, Marc Laukien (a.k.a. MarcLaukien) accompanied John up to Northern Florida for a few days of cave diving. Two days before this dive, Don (a.k.a. Dsix36) and myself took John out in Pompano Beach to dive the Wreck of the Hydro Atlantic. So needless to say, up to this point, John had already experienced some pretty nice South Florida Diving.

    For this trip, our very own Eric “I’m selling my Meg and getting an Optima” Stadmueller (a.k.a. mempilot) took the reins and made the arrangements. The plan was to head South to Key Largo and dive the Wreck of the Doc De Milly, the April Fools Wreck, and the F-4 Fantoms. For this trip, Eric contacted the only true technical dive operation in the Keys, Silent World Dive Center (http://www.silentworldkeylargo.com/) and made arrangements to have them take us out for the entire day and dive these infrequently dived sites.

    Before I get on with details of our dives, let me just say that I have dived Doc De Milly several times throughout the years, and I have NEVER been disappointed! This wreck is an awesome wreck, yet it is not dived more frequently, because it happens to sit midpoint between Miami and Key Largo, which pretty much means it’s an 1 ½ to 2 hour boat ride from either departure point, which makes it a whole day trip. Given all the nice wreck diving within close proximity of Miami and Key Largo, most dive boat operators prefer to do two trips a day, and save the entire day trips for special occasions.

    The Doc De Milly was a 287 foot long freighter originally named Nuevo Rio. The Nuevo Rio was built in 1949 in Rotterdam, Holland. She was sunk on March 6, 1986, and renamed Doc De Milly in memory of a veterinarian who died in 1985. The wreck now sits intact and upright in 147 feet of water, her bow faces south. Personally, each time I’ve dove this wreck, I’ve seen amazing things, all surrounded with a rich blue backdrop. The last few times I dove it, there always seemed to be a school of large Spotted Eagle Rays hovering in the current above the wreck. I remember once descending down the line and right through a school of 8 to 10 very large Eagle Rays. Now on with the trip details…

    I met Eric and John at Eric’s house early Tuesday morning. John loaded up his gear in Eric’s car and we departed for the 80 or so mile drive south to Key Largo. After a quick detour trough a McDonald’s drive thru for Eric’s power road trip breakfast, we were on our way. We made it to the shop right in line with the flight plan that Eric had filed, at approximately 7:30AM.

    After filling out the obligatory waivers and chatting with Chris and the nice folks at the shop, we were ready to head for the boat. However, since we were scheduled to be on the boat the entire day, we made a quick pit spot at Publix, picked up some subs for the trip, and then drove to the boat which was only a short 2 minute drive away.

    A few minutes later, we were at the dock. The marina where Silent World moors it’s boats is very comfortable, because the parking lot is directly adjacent to the boats. Consequently, it only took a few minutes to load up the gear onto the Silent World IV, the 30 foot Island Hopper we were using for this trip. The boat was comfortable and suited rebreathers well.



    We had plenty of room on board, since there were only 5 of us diving, the three of us and Chris (Silent World proprietor) and Captain AJ (Silent World Boat Captain).




    Since Captain AJ was diving with us, they also brought Captain Gary Thompson to run the boat while we played underwater!

    We headed out the marina shortly after and started the long drive East towards the Doc De Milly. The forecast called for calm seas that day, which was indeed the case, but I don’t recall hearing anything about the rain, which certainly paid us a visit – Midway through the run out the rain hit us, so we hid from the rain as best possible, and continued our trek. When we arrived, the rain was still coming down, but that didn’t stop the two captains from doing there thing.

    At this point I must mention that the Doc De Milly is notorious for having strong currents, but given the calm seas, we were hopeful that would not be the case – Sorry Charlie, no deal!! The current was certainly present and accounted for today, which complicated the hooking of the wreck process considerably. It took them a few tries to hook the wreck, which burned up a few of our daylight hours, but I'm not blaming the crew, because the current didn't make their job easy, but on the third try, bingo! We knew we were in for a rough pull down the line, because you could see the wake coming off the boat, but if you’ve done any deeper diving in South Florida, you know that is sometimes part of the deal. We had come a long way, so we suited up and prepared to enter the water.

    Eric was diving his Meg, John was diving a Classic Kiss and I, being a proud member of the Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s Optima Army, was diving my Optima FX. We each had an 80cf bailout bottle and a 40cf deco bottle, so we were a bit on the heavy side, but since we had planned to dive three wrecks and stay down a while, we figured we might need the gas. The plan was to do approximately 60 to 70 minutes of run time.

    Eric was the first to enter the water, donning his new Drager Full Face Mask, which if I may say, looked pretty awesome!!! John then entered the water, followed my yours truly, bringing up the rear.

    I hit the water and grabbed the tag line. I immediately saw the beautiful rich blue color and nice visibility you find down in the Florida Keys, and said to myself, even with strong current, I’m getting down and see this wreck! The tag line led me to the “granny line,” which connected the tag line at the back of the boat to the anchor line at the front of the boat – Workout time!!! We estimated the current to be somewhere around a 1 ½ to 2 knots. It was definitely a hand over hand, one step in front of the other, grinding away at it situation, especially dragging my two side mounted bailout/stage bottles and camera w/dual strobes, but as you folks in Rebreather World know by now, I never leave my camera on the boat!!!!

    I followed John down across the granny line to the anchor line. When John got to the anchor line, he wisely got on top of it and straddled it to commence the long pull down. Once he progressed a bit, I proceeded to do the same thing and begin my daily workout. I often did long hard pulls down to a wreck in strong current in the open circuit technical diving days, but since there’s the added risk of over breathing one’s canister with a rebreather, you really do need to take your time. Fortunately, I consider myself pretty good at these long pulls – I immediately inflated my wing a bit counter the effect of the current which tends to push your body against the anchor line and create added drag. I extended my legs and left them limp and started the hand over hand pull down. I noticed John was having a tough pull down and was working hard, but he had it under control and we were inching away down to the wreck. The problem was, as I descended, where was the wreck???

    I continued the pull down and started to see lots of big objects on the sea floor, but still no wreck. I’m guessing the visibility was somewhere around 75 to 80 feet, which wasn’t bad. I remember seeing large cargo containers and huge Goliath Groupers hovering around them, as I passed over head. I even saw Eric down below on the bottom, pulling his way to the end of the line where the anchor was hooked. At some point John also gave up on the pull down and dropped off the line to the bottom. I decided to stay on the line, so I continued my trek to the bottom!

    When I made it down, Eric was at the anchor, which was hooked on a large piece of I-beam like metal in the sand. John was not too far behind me on the bottom. I signaled to Eric, “where’s the wreck,” and he pointed to our left, where you could just make out the big shadow of the wreck approximately 100+ feet laterally and parallel away from us. We then grouped and I led the way and we headed over across the bottom to the wreck.

    When we arrived at the wreck, we were on the starboard side and the current was running parallel to it from bow to stern, so we needed to get up to the superstructure so we could duck into it and hide from oncoming current, which is exactly what I did. I entered the first large open cargo hole and felt relieved to feel the current no longer pushing on me – Yes, relief!! I unfolded the arms on my camera’s to extend out the strobes, made the necessary adjustments and awaited Eric and John to come over the side and into the large area to join me.

    Eric was the first to come over and into the cargo area with John closely by his side:


    After snapping a few shots of the guys, I turned towards the bow and decided to investigate it, since it was into the current and seemed like the best direction to travel. I immediately saw the large tower at the bow of the ship, which was adorned with a large school of barracudas.




    I headed in that direction and decided to brave the current and get to the bow, so I could take a few shots of the tower and its inhabitants up close. The moment I stuck my head up and out of the cargo area, the current was immediately upon me again. I had John directly behind me, so I carved a path through the current, hugging the deck as much as possible and worked my way through the fishing line to the bow area. Once in the immediate bow area, the current was again blocked, so I took a few shots from that vantage point.





    There was an abundance of life in that area. I saw schools of Permits swimming around and even noticed two very large Tarpon swim by while we were on the bow.

    After snapping a few shots, John and I departed the bow area and rode the current back down into the cargo area, where we met up with Eric again. We all turned, and decided to explore the stern area, so we headed in that direction.

    The stern section of the wreck is somewhat separated from the rest of the ship and sits skewed at an angle and is much taller than the rest of the ship.



    Large schools of barracuda were also congregating off on the higher sections of the stern section, with several large Goliath Grouper slowly leaving the wreck and migrating around the Barracuda to avoid us divers.



    We had a tough time navigating our way around the stern section, because the mangled metal was channeling the current together into strong channels that often dictated where you were going to go. I found an area that was sheltered from the current, and even found a opening in the wreck that seemed to be a great area to penetrate, because it appeared to travel all the way to the back of the ship and appeared to have an exit at the end of it. There was a large Goliath Grouper inhabitant that seemed to claim that area for himself and was looking out at me. I motioned to Eric that he may want to lead the way into this area, because he has the large light and I only had my camera strobe’s pointer lights with me. Eric then prepared to enter the wreck, but quickly realized the area and the current had created a suction into that area, so opted not to enter – Wise decision on Eric’s part, because I had not realized the suction!

    We then worked our way up to the highest point on the stern, to an area free sheltered from the current. After getting the signal from Eric that we should probably start to prepare our lift bags to start our ascent, I clipped my camera off on my d-ring and pulled put my lift bag and reel. At that point, Eric signaled me to look up – Eagle Rays overhead!! I quickly handed Eric my lift bag and reel to hold for me and did what I could to snap a picture of the gracefully gliding Eagle Rays, but they were a bit too far off in the distance for any great shots.



    At that point, our computers were already indicating it was time to head home, so I deployed my lift bag, which almost took me for a ride, because the string got momentarily tangled in my bailout second stage I filled it with – Fortunately, I was able to pull the string off in time, even though Eric was close by mi side ready to drag me back down, if need be! Lol!

    Now most blue water hangs are usually not terrible exciting, but not today!!! Shortly after leaving the wreck, while we were watching it fade away as the current pulled us along, I look down and see a rather large Bull Shark swimming by. I signal the guys and we watched it cruise by below us, but it appeared to be headed in the direction of the wreck, perhaps for a snack – Fortunately it wasn’t us!! I spoke to Eric after the dive and he indicated he had seen the shark before I did and it was originally ascending and headed right for my fins below us, but veered off as it approached. Regrettably, no pictures of the Bull Shark, because it was too far away by the time I noticed it.

    Not too long after the shark faded off into the distance, we also had a visit from a lonely and graceful Sailfish. I saw one before on a long decompression, but it certainly is not a very common site. He got fairly close and I got a few shots of it, but it never got close enough for the kind of shot I would like to show you folks, but here’s what we saw.


    We then continued on with our decompression obligation. At the 20 foot stop, Eric figured the practice would come in handy, so he shot a lift bag. Of course, I continued to take shots of the guys while on deco – Just my way of keeping my self entertained.




    Once on board, the captain had quite 1.6 nautical mile run back to the wreck, to retrieve the anchor, which he had left with the float ball on the end, when he stuck with us and followed our lift bags. It took quite some time for them to pull the anchor free from the bottom, but they managed to get that done and we were then on our way.

    At that point, we were all exhausted from the strong current on that dive. We discussed our options, because, not only was it late in the day, but we anticipated a similar current on both of the planned subsequent dives, which none of us was looking forward to.

    We ultimately made a decision to scrap the plan and head back south and just do a nice wreck. We all decided on diving the Spiegel Grove (“SG”), because it was geographically perfect to where we needed to go, and it was a large enough wreck that we could spend plenty of time on it. Consequently, we ate our subs and settled in for the 1 ½ hour bumpy ride North to the SG.

    I’m sure most of you have heard of the Spiegel Grove, but if you have not, it’s a 510’ long goliath US Navy Landing Ship that’s 84’ wide and sits in approximately 134’ of water off Key Largo. It was sunk in May of 2002 and it has become a major draw for divers in the Keys.

    We subsequently arrived at the SG to find no other boats on the wreck and minimal current – Thank God, because none of us had any desire to fight any more current! We suited up and hit the water.

    The Captain tied us off at an ideal spot, the port side center mooring ball. Once on the wreck, we encountered a mild/medium current, which seemed to subside as the dive progressed. The first thing we encountered was the tower house that controlled the cranes. This is always a nice spot to take wide angle shots, because the flag on the tower makes for nice shots. Eric was kind enough to pose for me both over and inside the tower, so I of course had fun taking shots there.




    After, we sunk down into the main bay compartment of the SG, which is adorned with large overhead crane trusses, and headed for the stern. It was a long peaceful swim protected from the current inside the belly of the ship.



    When we arrived at the back, which I had never seen before, I was surprised to see that the stern had a huge door-like platform sloping down all the way to the sand. I had rather hoped to see some propellers that I could photograph, but no luck. We consequently headed back towards the bow, spending more time at the upper deck sides of the main bay compartment this time.



    When we arrived at the crane tower again, we were facing the large dark opening that made up the overhead portion of the main bay compartment. We decided to enter that area and explore a bit. It almost felt as though we were diving a cavern/cave overhead environment, because it was dark, yet calm and peaceful. Eric led the way, because he had the strongest light, and we worked our way all the way to the end of the main bay compartment.

    There was an opening at the end of the compartment, which Eric ventured into briefly, but exited pretty soon after that, and we turned and headed towards sunlight again.


    At the exit of the large cavernous area, at the bottom of the compartment, was a single solitary toilet – So I figured, why not, so I stopped for a quick bathroom break. And as fate would have it, John got a hold of my camera and decided to memorialize the moment for all of Rebreather World.

    After leaving that area, we hung out for a bit in the tower crane area, then Eric signaled his legs were cramping. Fortunately, John was there to give his calves a quick rub-down. That might have looked a bit shady to any bystanders, but after a Keys trip with some other filthy Northeasterners, it seemed innocent enough to me.


    Eric then signaled he was not doing ok, so he was bugging out early, and indicated that John and I should stay and continue our sightseeing adventure. Immediately after that, we ran into Chris and AJ. Chris was filming with his video camera, so we stopped to make our faces known on the big screen.

    Chris then signaled to us that AJ had found a friend inside a room just behind him. We went in to explore and found AJ visiting with a turtle which was hiding from the rest of the world inside the wreck. I managed to get a few shots as the turtle slowly exited the room and made a slow ascent out of the wreck.








    Fortunately, the turtle had no desire to leave the room, so it swam out, did a lap around the area and went right back to another room to hang our. I decided to stick with it for a while and managed to get a few shots of the turtle swimming and settling in to the other room in the wreck.







    Let me just say, wow! I thoroughly enjoyed photographing the turtle, as I have not seen too many friendly ones in my diving experiences; well, at least not ones that were so ok with being photographed.

    After that, we escorted Eric to the ascent line and bid him farewell. John and I did a bit more sightseeing and headed for the bow area, stopping first at one of the wreck’s flags to take a few shots.

    At the bow of the wreck, John was kind enough to pose for a few more shots.

    After that, John and I decided to call it a day and happily began our ascent up the line. There, we saw Chris and AJ up near the surface completing their decompression, as we began ours.

    After surfacing, we headed back in, unloaded our gear off the boat and into our vehicles and decided to go our for a bite to eat, before starting the drive home. We bid farewell to the crew of the Silent World IV and headed over to the Fish House for some delicious Florida Keys seafood.

    At dinner, we reminisced about the amazing day of diving we had just experienced – How many times do you go diving and see that many beautiful underwater creatures (Tarpon, Turtles, Goliath Grouper, Sailfish, Bull Shark..etc.) on the same day!

    I’d like to thank Chris and the folks at Silent World Dive Center (http://www.silentworldkeylargo.com/), as they made our great day of diving possible. Definitely give them a call if you are thinking about doing any diving in the Keys, because they proved that they deliver amazing diving experiences!

    Lastly, it wouldn’t be a complete Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s Trip Report, unless I included a picture of the divers during the post dive meal – So here you are!

    Hope this trip report convinces you that, just as John did, you should definitely join the Florida S.C.R.U.B.’s for some spectacular South Florida diving!
    Last edited by sfldiver; 22nd May 2008 at 14:06.

  2. #2
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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Awesome pics. Wish I could have been there, looks as though you guys had some great diving.
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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Quote Originally Posted by sfldiver  View Original Post
    The Doc De Milly was a 287 foot long freighter originally named Nuevo Rio. The Nuevo Rio was built in 1949 in Rotterdam, Holland. She was sunk on March 6, 1986, and renamed Doc De Milly in memory of a veterinarian who died in 1985.
    FWIW, she was actually a 254-foot long freighter originally named DOMBURGH. In 1968 she was converted to a container ship. In 1975 she was renamed FORWARDER, and 1983 renamed NUEVO RIO.

    As originally built:


    Following her conversion in 1968:


    Cheers,
    Mike

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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Adrian,

    Awesome report bro!

    I had a great time diving with you and John yesterday! As always, Chris at Silent World Dive Center put together an awesome trip for us. I'll write up my report to add what I experienced in addition to your recollection.

    Eric

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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Quote Originally Posted by barney  View Original Post
    FWIW, she was actually a 254-foot long freighter originally named DOMBURGH. In 1968 she was converted to a container ship. In 1975 she was renamed FORWARDER, and 1983 renamed NUEVO RIO.

    As originally built:


    Following her conversion in 1968:


    Cheers,
    Mike
    Hi Mike,

    I got my information from:

    FLORIDA East Coast Shipwrecks Doc De Milly Wreck Dade County

    So she is not 287' long or is this source wrong?

    Thanks,

    Adrian

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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Never trust what you read on the internet - unless its on the AUE website :D

    She was not 287-foot long and the source is wrong. Dan Berg's book has a lot of erroneous information in it. Trust me.

    Great pics by the way...

    Quote Originally Posted by sfldiver  View Original Post
    Hi Mike,

    I got my information from:

    FLORIDA East Coast Shipwrecks Doc De Milly Wreck Dade County

    So she is not 287' long or is this source wrong?

    Thanks,

    Adrian

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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Quote Originally Posted by barney  View Original Post
    Never trust what you read on the internet - unless its on the AUE website :D

    She was not 287-foot long and the source is wrong. Dan Berg's book has a lot of erroneous information in it. Trust me.

    Great pics by the way...
    I appreciate the the heads-up on the erroneous information about the Doc De Milly and I'm glad you enjoyed my pics - Thanks Mike!

  8. #8
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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    another stellar report and pics from Adrian! man, am i sorry i missed these dives. it sucks when work interfers with awesome RB diving. if ya'll ever want to set up another doc demilly dive, count me in. i will make sure i am off

  9. #9
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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Quote Originally Posted by swadiver  View Original Post
    another stellar report and pics from Adrian! man, am i sorry i missed these dives. it sucks when work interfers with awesome Rebreather diving. if ya'll ever want to set up another doc demilly dive, count me in. i will make sure i am off
    Jeff, I could have used you on this trip, because even though John only brought a Classic Kiss with him into town, he's actually a Meg Diver, so the Megs technically outnumbered the Optima divers on this trip - What is this world coming to when there are more Megs Than Optimas on a South Florida dive trip!
    Last edited by sfldiver; 22nd May 2008 at 02:29.

  10. #10
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    Re: Trip Report: Wreck Of The Doc De Milly/Spiegel Grove Dives 05-20-2008

    Sounds like a big dive (and work out). Glad you all had fun.

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