By Mike Fabish
While visiting my son Justin the weekend after a business trip in May, 2011 I was able to find a charter operation out of Jacksonville FL that would get us out into the Atlantic for the 1st time. We motored about 18 miles offshore to two locations where barges had sunk and become reefs and dive sites.
The day was perfect: mid to upper 80's F and smooth water. Each site gave us the opportunity to see varieties of fish and coral. One of the divers in the group was spear fishing and I got several photos of him with his harvest from the first barge. I don't know the names of the fish he got, but there were abundant, and came in close to see what we were doing.
The first barge was somewhat surrounded by stinging jellies. They were small, and our captain said that as long as we didn't get too close, they wouldn't be a problem; the biggest exposure would be using the down line to the wreck because the tentacles would break off on the rope as they drifted by. We were all wearing gloves and there were no incidents.
The barge had several areas where we could penetrate and explore the immediate area. There was one elusive Goliath Grouper ("Jew fish") that I say. The water was 75 F at depth, and visibility was 20' - 30'. We spent about 45 minutes, maxing at 67'.
The 2nd barge had no jellies to contend with, and the captain said it was about the same in depth and length as the first one. It had the same types of fish, no grouper, and one extra Mother-in-law fish (ugly fish) hiding under a plate that I could just get a photo of its face.
The 2nd barge was much more open, and could be entered at one end and we could swim through the whole boat, under the deck, dodging bulkheads and supports. Because of this, it was a pretty cool dive and gave opportunity to do much more exploring. There were lots of dark areas and corners where we would find fish hiding. We spent about 40 minutes on that barge, reaching 77' while inside the vessel; it had settled into the sand and therefore gave us more depth.
Temps and visibility were the same as the first wreck.
It turned out to be a great day to dive the Atlantic!