By Torsten Gross Diving Without Fins
Wrecks: Zion Train Wreck and MG111
Time of Year:
90 Above Water, 81 Below Water
91 feet / 60 feet
This dive trip to Jupiter, Florida (near West Palm Beach) was my first solo dive trip (read: I didn’t travel with Maggie or anyone who knew specifically the in’s and out’s of my dive style). Albeit a bit nervous of what’s to come, I arrived at Palm Beach airport with all my dive gear, rented a car and was on my way to the hotel. On top of this being my first dive trip alone, it would also be my first time diving with sharks, into a wreck, below 60’ and in a drift. Boy oh boy was I in for a treat (So much so that I just wrote boy oh boy).
At 8am I checked in with Steve Metcalf who is a dive master at Jupiter Dive Center. As part of the dive, Steve asked two Dive Masters in Training (Lauren and Daryl) to join us for the dive (from moment one I felt at ease. Super nice folks, just as excited about diving as I am). After signing the don’t-sue-us-if-you-die-because-you-did-something-wrong-you-moron paperwork and reciting my I’m-nervous-but-humor-will-mask-reality jokes, Lauren and crew moved my gear and tanks (Steel 100’s) to the boat. The dock, located behind JDC, has small 3 steps down to get to the boat. The guys lifted me down with no issue. Then Daryl and Clay (one of the great deckhands) backed me down a ramp which, during low-tide, deserves the double-black diamond rating (vs a green bunny slope when we returned with high tide). Once on the boat, I strapped myself to the ladder so that I wouldn’t be thrown around during our trip to the wreck. I must have gotten lucky, because we only had 10 divers on the boat, a luxury for any diver (and they were all great people. With that much luck I should’ve played the lottery!)
Jupiter Zion Dive Profile
Our first location was the Zion Train. Sandy, the dive guide, gave a great safety briefing and explained the plan. Zion Train is a make-up of 3 wrecks: the first is the Zion, a small tug listing on its side, the second is Miss Jenny, an upside down barge, and the third is the Esso Bonaire, a large, upright barge. All the divers dropped first. I rolled to the back of the boat, retied by chair to a rail (don’t want it going over with me), and was lifted down onto the transom. We snapped on my BC and I did a roll forward into the water. As this was my first deep dive (91′ down!), we descended slowly onto Zion. I don’t recall the Zion because I was concentrating more on the process than the view. After a few minutes we rose out of the shadow of the boat where I could feel the current. It wasn’t fast, but nice enough to know that I could drift alone without a problem. We drifted to the next wreck passing a large (30-40) group of Goliath Grouper (up to 400lbs). Peering into some of the openings you could see Groupers that (in my estimation) were so big they couldn’t get out of the wreck! As we approached the top of the wreck, covered by a beautiful green blanket, you could see straight into the hull. I had never breached a wreck, so this was an exiting moment. There wasn’t all that much to see inside the hull, but never the less a good practice run for what was to come.
We continued on and explored the Captains Bridge and the aft of the barge. I peered into one of the openings and felt the urge to go in. As it was a tiny opening, we entered through another entrance (something I rarely say: we “used the stairs”). Being 6’5″, broad shoulders with a tank attached to me and not being the most graciously nimble swimmer (but what the heck right?), heading into the opening was calculated (read: trying not to hit everything). I exhaled and descended down the steps into the passageway with Steve in front of me. We made our way to the back of the barge into the crewmans “lounge”. It’s really interesting to see something that has been suspended in time, sprinkled with ash and sea life. Entering a wreck, with such a small opening, was exhilarating.
At the end of the dive Steve pointed out a shark, sleeping under the cover of a sideways sheet of metal. During my first conversation with Steve I asked “what should one watch out for with Sharks?”. His reply “don’t wake them up. They don’t react kindly to that”. Now, I didn’t (and still don’t) know if he was kidding. All I could think, while looking at this shark, is Elmur Fudd tiptoeing whispering “Be Vewy Vewy Quiet. It’s human season”.
Jupiter MG-111 Dive Profile
After 44 minutes we surfaced. Since we had one diver on Air, we had a longer surface interval (the rest of us were on Nitrox).
The second dive took us to MG-111. This dive was a bit less exciting. We dropped 60′ to see a huge cluster of Goliath Grouper around some steel posts. One of the highlights was watching Steve catch a lobster with his hands, something usually done with equipment which lure out the creatures. Sadly no sharks on this dive. I’m chalking this dive up to experience.
All in all this was an amazing day. The drift currents can be fantastic for HSA divers since you don’t need to exert that much energy to get around. With that said, if the current is not drifting in the right direction (even a little bit), it can be difficult (more on that in my next write-up of my dive on Black Rock Reef). My suggestion is to use a Steel 100 tank and get Nitrox certified (also known as EAN, a mixture of Nitrogen and Air) before you go. With so much beauty, and at that depth, you’ll want it to last as long as possible. Also, more to come on fire coral (yay, pain), sea lice (yay, I look like a leper) and lightning storms (yay being in the water with lightning).
Thanks again to Steve Metcalff, Lauren King, Darly McLaughlin and the Jupiter Dive Center folks for a stellar trip.
Both accessible. Best Western is the better of the two. Both cheap. You get what you pay for.
Best Western Intracoastal – 810 S US Highway 1, Jupiter, Florida, 33477
La Quinta Inn – 34 Fisherman’s Wharf Jupiter, FL 33477
Jupiter has some laid back bars and reastaurants. Check out:
Dive Bar – Great views
Little Moirs Leftover Shack – Ate here post-dive. Refills on drinks (non-alcoholic sadly) and good burgers and seafood.
Jupiter Dive Center 1001 North Hwy A1A Alternate Jupiter, FL 33477
Low transom. With low tide it is a steep ramp to go down. Ramp is 25”-ish inches. 3 steps to get down to the dock.
I believe there is bridge diving.
Advanced and Nitrox due to the drift and the depth times.