Divers in the Florida Keys experienced pleasant conditions this past week, so good that lots of divers and fishermen were out taking advantage of it.
On numerous reefs and most of the wrecks, NOAA has installed mooring balls. These mooring balls allow anyone to moor up to that location and not have to drop the hook. They are first-come, first-serve. No mooring balls are reserved.
So when conditions are nice, like this past week, and there are many boats out, mooring balls become a hot commodity. We planned to dive the wreck of the Eagle on the morning of Dec. 11, but as stated above we weren’t “first come” to the two balls on the Eagle and therefore had to come up with “plan B.” On a reef it’s a little easier to adjust if the balls are taken. You simply find a sand area and drop the hook. But on a wreck it’s a little too challenging to do so.
Our Plan B when we can’t dive the Eagle is to hop over to her neighbor, the Alexander Barge. The history of the barge is hard to find. She’s more known for the fact the Eagle lies next to her. The Eagle was supposed to be sunk directly next to Alexander, but she broke away from her mooring. The crew dropped her starboard anchor to stop her from drifting and the Eagle was scuttled in that spot. The Alexander Barge lies just off the Eagle’s bow on the hull side of the wreck.
The Alexander Barge is a push barge that sits in about 105 feet of water. She is surrounded by bridge rubble that was intentionally sunk to create artificial reef habitat. With the Eagle so close and all the bridge rubble surrounding her, she is a mecca for life. To dive her can be slightly disorienting because of the rubble all around her. It’s easy to get turned around when venturing through the rubble.
I recommend using the barge as the inside of the flower and then diving out from there like the petals of the flower — continually coming back into the center of the flower which is the barge. This ensures your bearing (the barge) will be pretty much in sight the whole dive. Get ready to see tons of marine life including turtles, sharks, goliath and numerous reef fish.