This Week’s Dive Report

We’re giving our good friend Eric Billips a break as the holidays approach. So, here we go!

The days are ticking away before we say goodbye to 2021, and what a year for diving in the Florida Keys. For me, trips to Looe Key Reef, Coral Restoration Foundation’s Coral Nursery, Rocky Top and the Spiegel were among the top dives. 

Every year, visitors and locals drop by dive shops not only to explore the depths, but also to secure new certifications. This summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet up with the great crew from Islamorada Dive Center to obtain my open water advanced certification.

From wreck dives to dipping beneath the surface at night, the experience was worth every penny — not to mention the moment that PADI card comes in the mail to let you know it’s all official. 

Rocky the turtle swims beneath the surface near Rocky Top Reef off the shores of Islamorada. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

On top of the memorable dive trips, there were several learning moments in spending time with IDC scuba instructor Chad Reasons. For instance, your buoyancy control device should hug your body tight when diving. This allows you to achieve trim weight and enjoy your time under the water much more than wearing one that’s loose. 

And here’s a tip: If you’re going for your advanced open water, do yourself a favor and sign up for the night dive. It’s an experience unlike any other. 

A big thanks to the crew over at Islamorada Dive Center, located at Postcard Inn Resort and Marina, and Florida Keys Dive Center, located at MM 90 along the Overseas Highway, for providing some great trips.

Conservation Tip

Advancing your dive training is a great way to learn more about our ocean and how to keep it safe. Sign up for a course today!


Good buoyancy is key to keeping coral reefs and other sensitive habitats safe. Practice good trim to stay off the bottom.

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Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family (he's expecting a little boy in October).