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Thread: Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009

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    Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009

    Here is the trip report to let everyone know about Miami's newest wreck, the ZT 202 a/k/a the New Barge a/k/a the Miami River Barge. The barge was sent to the bottom of the ocean in the Key Biscayne Artificial Reef Site on November 25, 2008. She lies in about 120 feet of water, and the wreck has perhaps 20 feet of relief.

    I hope that this wreck attracts a lot of fish life and marine growth, because, other than this, I don't find it good for much else. The barge is a hopper style barge, which means that there is basically nothing more to it than an outer wall, a very small deck, and a raised lip around an open compartment in the middle. The only kind of penetration possible looks to be no mount diving between the outer hull and inner hold walls.

    On this particular day, PadiPro and I were the only two rebreather divers aboard the Big Com Ocean for its first dives on this new wreck. As we anchored over the site, it was plain to see that the Gulfstream current was probably moving at three knots or more. So, the boat gave us the option of doing a hot drop to a line with a float ball that was hooked to the wreck below.

    We dropped a good distance upsteam of the line and headed straight for the bottom. I was lucky to run right into the line about 30 feet from the wreck, and I pulled myself against the ripping current for the short distance to the structure. I ducked behind the leeward side of one of the barge's walls, waiting for Scott to pull down to the wreck. After a few minutes, it became obvious that he didn't make it to the line, and I set off to explore the site.

    This wreck is about as uninspiring as they come. Picture a single story house frame that has yet to have a roof put on it, with just four walls around the perimeter of a blank center. That's about all that there was to the wreck. I will say that it looks like there is already some good growth taking hold of the wreck. So, I hope that this will become a fish haven soon. On this day, I don't think that I saw a single fish on the wreck.

    After pulling myself around the perimeter for about 20 minutes, I had had enough. There really wasn't anyplace to get away from the current in these conditions. Visibility was also only about 30 feet, maybe 40.

    I decided to shoot a lift bag, and to make an ascent while drifting and completing my brief decompression. (This was the plan made with with the boat crew prior to making the dive.) As soon as I shot the bag, I took off like a rocket. During the early stages of the drift, I became concerned that the current would take out all of the line from my reel, which can sometimes happen if the current at depth is running in a different direction from that of the surface. Luckily, by the time I reached about 70 feet, things started to ease up, and by the time I reached 50, I was drifting along solidly with the surface current, and I could continue to wind in my reel while remaining at a steady depth.

    Visibility was probably 60 feet or more as I got closer to the surface, and I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the ride. I could hear the boat passing nearby as I slowly rose in the water column.

    When I reached the surface, I looked around, and I could not see the dive boat, but the area was crawling with fishing boats all around. Some local fishing tournament was going on, and there were boats all over the water. As each fishing boat passed, not even one bothered to ask if I was okay despite seeing me floating on the surface with my SMB. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they were intentionally avoiding gazing in my direction in order to assure that they would not lose any time assisting a diver afloat during their precious tournament.

    After floating for a while without seeing the dive boat in the distance, I tried calling out to a group that was drift fishing less than a hundred yards from me just to ask them to inform the dive boat of my location. After several calls and waving my SMB and arm to them, they just sat there fishing away. I don't know how they couldn't hear me on a day without any wind, and without their engine running, but that's at least how they were acting.

    I pulled out my Dive Alert, one of those very loud horns powered by connecting to a low pressure regulator hose. Wouldn't you know it?: The damn thing wouldn't work! No worries: I still had plenty of signaling devices in my pocket, and there were still hours of daylight.

    Just as I was contemplating my next move, I turned around to check out the area, and I saw a spot on the horizon. It was headed in my direction, getting bigger all the time, and looked like it might be the dive boat. Sure enough, it was the Big Com Ocean on the way to get me.

    After a few more minutes, I was back aboard. The captain had been picking up other divers after passing over me when I was still on my way to the surface. Inasmuch as my SMB was fully inflated and sticking plenty high out of the water, the boat was able to keep track of my whereabouts while roaming around to pick up other divers.

    I had drifted two miles from the wreck by the time that I was picked up. So, that gives you a good idea of just how fast the current was moving. Many people couldn't make it down to the wreck against the current, or missed the line during the drop. So, not too many of us got to see this new wreck and all of her glory.

    Once aboard, the captain also told me that some fishing boats had contacted him by radio to warn him to get his divers out of their way during their precious fishing tournament! So, apparently, the fishing boats were well aware of several divers afloat in the water. If you were cruising along, miles out in the ocean, and you spotted a diver floating on the surface without a dive boat nearby, wouldn't you at least ask if he or she were okay?

    Anyway, once everyone was finally rounded up and out of the water, we went to a shallow area hoping for to avoid current. We made a second dive to an artificial reef site known as the Pipes, a group of cement pipes dumped in a spot in about 50 feet of depth. Though the current was still moving, it was at least down to under a knot, and we could avoid much of it by staying inside the pipe tunnels.

    On this dive, we saw some really big lobsters, and a big shark zoomed by. Too bad the vis was still pretty poor. Who knows what else we might have seen if things had been clear.
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    Last edited by ScubaDadMiami; 6th April 2009 at 07:13.

  2. #2
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    Re: Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009

    Thanks for the report Howard!

    I'm sorry there wasn't much to the wreck, which is what I assumed when I heard you guys were going to dive a new barge/wreck. At least years from now, when the barge is covered with growth and fish, you can say you dove it when it was recently sunk and bare.

    Had this report been written by another diver, I might have been worried for the diver's well being. However, given that you have written articles and given presentations on diver survival, I wasn't too concerned, because I know you are not only qualified, but you are also well equiped and prepared for this type of event! After reading the report, I'm thinking that if you had been out there any longer, they probably would have found you laying on your survival raft, working on your tan and sipping margaritas mixed in your portable blender, just waiting to be picked-up!!

    Glad it all worked out ok!:D

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    Re: Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009


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    Re: Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009

    Ya this one was a real blast... Turned out to be a 120 foot sand dive for me. I splashed first followed by Howard and that was the last time I saw him until he climbed the ladder back on board the boat. The current was ripping and I didn't want to slow my descent in order to see where he was for fear I'd miss the line or the wreck. Turns out I missed both. The vis was bad enough that with just 10 to 20 foot separation between Howard and me, he found the line and the wreck and I saw absolutely nothing but sand and a pair of concrete blocks, which it turns out are only about 30 to 40 feet west of the wreck.

    After blasting along the bottom for a couple of minutes looking for any sign of the barge with another pair of divers that were going to dive with us I thumbed the dive and we both pulled our lift bags out and sent them to the surface. As soon as the bags were out the current caught them we were pulled apart and soon I was drifting along all alone.

    I made my ascent only to surface, like Howard said, in the middle of what seems like several hundred fishing boats all around me and the dive boat nowhere in sight. I had spotted the Big Com Ocean near my bag while I was hanging at 20 feet so I knew they'd be back to pick me up pretty soon but floating on the surface in the middle of all those boats full of drunk fishermen was a little unnerving to say the least. At one point I spotted a large center console heading right for me. I held my lift bag up and thank God they saw me in time to change course. As they passed me just a hundred or so feet to my left I gave them the thumbs up to say thank you for not running me over and the look on their faces made me laugh. I could tell they were trying to figure out what the hell I was doing floating in the middle of the ocean with no dive boat around, but unlike the boats Howard encountered these guys actually stopped a few hundred yards after they passed me, discussed the situation amongst themselves, turned around and came back to ask me if I needed help. I had to tell them several times that I was indeed OK and just waiting for the boat to come pick me up. I was soon back on board the Big Com Ocean and felt a little better to find out that most of us on the boat that day either missed the wreck or thumbed the entire thing because of the current.

    Over all it was a good dive, the weather was nice, I got wet, blew a lift bag for the fist time while diving a CCR with no problems and I wasn't killed by a fishing boat. What more could a diver ask for.

    Anyone planning anything for this weekend?
    Last edited by Padipro; 8th April 2009 at 05:13.

  5. #5
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    Re: Trip Report: ZT 202 (New) Barge, and Pipes Dives: 04/04/2009

    WOW, I'm sure glad I had to work
    Happy you guys are ok.



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