Key West Dive Report: West Sambo Reef

Key West Dive Report: West Sambo Reef

Scott Cruit came to the Caribbean from the chilly waters of California. He’s accustomed to diving in an ocean which where the temperatures hover in the mid 60°s and the reefs boats of volcanic structures, lava tubes, and sharp drop-offs. During a trade show he met Cece Roycroft, co-owner and operator of Dive Key West, and was lured by her enthusiasm and the 523’ of metal seven miles off the coast of Key West, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the second largest wreck in the world.

“I primarily flew out because of the Vandenberg. I’ve already spent two days diving it,” explains Scott, “four dives. It’s fabulous. I could spend a whole week out there.”

The visibility is invigorating is what Roycroft tells us. Divers have experienced 100’ of vis for the past two weeks, and during the hour break, divers dove in with their masks and snorkels just to take a look at the ship from the surface. Reaching to depths as deep as 140’, the Vandenberg is not a beginner’s dive. Open water divers must hire a guide to take them to where the action is, between 70’ and 100’. Today, we’re doing a beginner’s dive at marker 32, West Sanbo Reef. The water temperature is at 87°, and the captains take us five and a half miles offshore. Often referred to as “The Cable,” there is an old communications cable clearly visible against the coral which used to be a communications line between the islands and Cuba.

“The cable runs east and west,” explains dive master Jeremy Hansberger. “You can follow the cable east until the coral ends and then head back. Ideally, the cable brings you back to the anchor.”

I pulled on my EVO Women`s 3mm Elite Shorty Wetsuit. I wouldn’t go through the trouble, but this suit is flexible, easy to put on, actually feels good against my skin, and looks sporty. The suit is made with super stretch neoprene and can stretch 235% of its original shape. Even thought Hansberger told us the water is over 85°, I’m an islander and once I’m deeper than 20’, I start to shiver.

Unlike, Cruit, who says, “This is wonderful! I brought a 3 millimeter wet suit and I really don’t need it.”

The suit changed up my ability to sink. I had six pounds in my integrated pockets. Cruit descended towards the reef, and I swam back to the boat.

“Can you stick more weight in my back pockets,” I asked Jeremy.

I turned my back to him and from the boat he reached into the water, grabbed the back of my BCD and stuffed the back weight pockets. I’m sporting the AQUALUNG Pearl BC, a BC made specifically for women. Anyone on the dive boat can tell because this BC is detailed in pink, and has a built in sports bra for added comfort and stability while you’re in the sea. I liked the streamlined fit. A quick tug of the adjustable waist and shoulder bands and the BC fit like a glove. I almost feel too spoiled by this sleek SCUBA essential. The way I justify such a luxury is: any piece of gear, which is going to take your mind off worrying and turn your attention to what’s in the water, is worth the splurge. I placed my snorkel in one of the deep lobe pockets and descended to meet Cruit.

I was immediately greeted by a Squirrel fish and other species.
Hansberger notes, “West Sambo is home to Nurse Sharks, sting rays, and eagle rays. They are all very prevalent.”

Also prevalent are Lion fish. The Florida Keys are seeing the invasive species. They eat everything in their path, including Parrotfish, Grouper, and small Florida Spiny Tail Lobster. They are venomous and do not have any enemies of their own, and can destroy life on a reef if they are given the opportunity to populate. Cruit and I spot one under a box next to the reef, and we know not to attempt to touch or feel the unwanted creature.
We swim along at an easy 35’ to 45’ playing with the Angel fish, and a more formidable Barracuda. 

“I’m used to a lot more topography in California and Hawaii,” Cruit relays, “but this was neat. Photographing all of the critters underneath the reef.”

In an hour we followed the cable back to the anchor with over 500 pounds of air.

“The ocean is beautiful. The water is pristine. This reef is gorgeous. There aren’t any signs of any ecological damage at all,” Cruit cemented!

 

Divekeyswest
When the Deepwater Horizon Oil initially entered the gulf, Dive Key West had $6,000 in refunds to issue to cancel dive trips. Now, the boats are full again since Cece and her staff are offering official oil spill projections from NOAA. “People do need to go to reliable sources and not get sucked up in the national sensationalizing of the national news,” Roycroft advises. Pictured from right to left are instructor Jackie Skafas, co-owner Cece Roycroft, instructor Brad Pate, and instructor Henry Rose.

 

 

Cabletocuba
The cable line ran from Florida all the way to Cuba, and sits in 35’ feet of water.

 

 

Aqualung
Gear your guy would never think of stealing! The AQUALUNG Pearl BC is a new mid-level women’s BC combines superior fit, with comfort and cosmetic appeal. Notice the scalloped lower edges which will rise above your hips for a better fit. The integrated weight pockets are simple to fill and drop in case of an emergency, and you can attach your knife to the grommets. This BC has more features than most species of fish you’ll find on your next dive!

 

 

Lionfish
NOAA and all Florida Keys dive shops are monitoring the invasive Lion fish. Divers are to advise their captains when and where they spot the destructive species.

 

Scott
Californian Scott Cruit, a member of the dive community for eight years, relished in the warm waters of the Caribbean and 80’ to 100’ of visibility he enjoyed each dive.

 

 

Fire coral
While lying close to the bottom my arm got burned by this – Fire Coral! Ouch. My forearm is still showing bright, red burns.

 

 

Angel fish
The clear, aqua waters of the Florida Keys are perfect to admiring a sizable school of Angel fish.

 

 

Wet suit
I love the EVO Women’s 3 mm Elite Short. Easy to put, this suit keeps your body temperature perfect when you’re 25’ – 55’ below the surface. For me, a Florida native living on a tropical island year-round, my blood is thin and I admit I become chilly when the temperature sides below 90°! Designed by women for women. Don’t be jealous guys, they have a make for you, too flexible for all of your water sport activities including, diving, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, and lobstering!

 

 

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