Why a hurricane dive was successful
The day before the trip, every person I knew was saying DO NOT take the weekend scuba class down to West Palm Beach, FL.
A lot was riding on it.
We had a class of dive students on a college schedule, an instructor candidate, all with only their checkout dives standing in the way of being certified. A weekend in South Florida, reef dives on a dive boat, certified for life... We had the boat, hotels, crew, all in place and ready for an epic weekend. One of our crew was on her final checkout dive to becoming a fully certified Instructor as well, with a Course Director booked on the boat for her evaluation as well. A lot of things needed to happen.
Then came Hurricane Joaquin.
Two days away from the weekend, Joaquin had suddenly morphed into a raging storm in the Bahamas.
NOAA and other trusted weather forecasters were predicting high winds and wave heights up to 14' on the day of our dive. To put this into perspective, we typically cancel a dive weekend altogether if wave heights are expected to reach 5'.
The phone call went out, the emails were sent, all despite every warning from every person, except one: Captain Dave of Little Deeper Charters.
There is a reason why we use his operation when diving the Palm Beach areas. I refer to him as my "crystal ball" of weather.
When other boats try to entice divers to show up and hope for the best, he's the first to suggest saving the time and cost of the trip (it's nearly 4hrs for us from St. Augustine!).
Captain Dave looks at all the reports, and takes into account things such as wind clocking, wave frequency, tides, and distance offshore the actual data buoys transmit from.
The bigger question stil whirled: Why did he think that it would be OK to take students offshore? Joaquin was devastating the Bahamas only a few hundred miles east of our dive spot, with wind and rain already being felt as far north as Jacksonville?
Because the hurricane was turning away from land, sucking air across Florida and into the Atlantic. With the peninsula blocking the bulk of the wind, only a ground swell was possible. The weather buoys are several miles offshore, whereas we only dive around a mile offshore. It takes wind significantly more distance to build up waves and chop.
In addition, cooler, dry air dominated and the bulk of our weekend was sunny and pleasant! Although weather can always change, so far he's maintained a clean track record for over 5 years with us. All that being said, even my own crew thought I was nuts to green light this trip. But now the world knows of my secret weather forecasting crystal ball, otherwise known as Captain Dave.
The best news of all? Our entire Flagler College scuba class, plus three divers and our crew had a perfectly smooth dive. We also had a new member of the iDive crew (Kayley) become a certified NAUI Instructor!
It was flat, even glassy, with better than normal conditions except one: The water was greener and visibility was lower. While winds pushed the clear blue waters of the Gulf Stream a little further offshore, it was a small price to pay for a nearly perfect day of diving. Even with the low viz it was still plenty to enjoy the dive, and the minimal current made it even easier. All the students passed with flying colors, and it's safe to say that every single person on that boat had a hella day!
Perhaps a little optimism, Capt Dave, and some west winds are all it takes... but I have a hunch that everyone that decided to take the plunge and go on this trip is glad they did. Another weekend to look back on without regret, and with memories that will last forever.
Thank you Capt Dave, the iDive Crew, Flagler College students, West Palm Beach, and above all... Thank you Joaquin for the gorgeous, unforgettable weekend;)
Owner, Instructor - iDive Florida