Jan

11

The days of group trips; meeting new divers, that shared excitement, adventure, fulfillment; are giving way to rock bottom pricing.  In the days of ‘Expedia’ and ‘Priceline’ consumers are going it alone.  Some are getting great deals, others just think they are.  Many have never experienced the fun and social aspects of group travel.

Think back to an activity you enjoyed with a group, such as going to a concert.  I don’t mean the Philharmonic, I’m talking about the last big country, rock or R&B show you attended.  Yes, it’s great to have that one on one time with your special someone, but tailgating before the show, everyone singing FreeeeeeBiiiiiiird for 12 minutes, and carrying the excitement out into the parking lot together afterward!  The enthusiasm and excitement is contagious.  This group dynamic is the main appeal to traveling with like-minded friends.

Sure there are those bad experiences, bad weather, delayed flights, that one group member who just seems to get on everyone’s nerves, but those things also happen when you go it alone and a good trip leader knows how to ease tensions and always has plans B, C, & D up his sleeve.  You might be surprised how competitively priced these trips can be and you get the added benefit of an experienced trip director who is usually familiar with the destination.

We had a blast in Turks & Caicos last month and are looking forward to great diving in Roatan, Honduras in March.  We have a few spots left, so make your spring break vacation plans now.

March 9 – 16, 2013         Roatan, Honduras      $1425     unlimited diving, all-inclusive resort

For additional information on these featured trips and others call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970.

Mar

31

Come celebrate Earth Day a week early. Mark your calendars for Saturday April 14th, 2012 from noon- 6pm. This event is hosted by some good friends of ours in Panama City, FL.  Everyone is invited so bring the entire family.  The plan is to focus on the “Kiddie Pool” first.  Beachcombers, waders, snorkelers and divers can all contribute to this phase of the cleanup.  When the tide is right, the divers will slip thru the “Keyhole” in the jetties and spend some time cleaning trash and monofilament from the rocks.

High tide is at 4:32 pm. Because the jetties are a popular recreation area the trash can really build up. Those who do not scuba dive are welcome to come and clean up the beach above the waterline.   This is a great opportunity to give a little back to the resource that we enjoy all year.  The event will be at St. Andrews State Park in Panama City.

4607 State Park Lane, Panama City, FL

View Map · Get Directions

for information or to find out what you can do to help:

  • e-mail: bsinc71@yahoo.com
  • http://www.facebook.com/BluePlanetScubaDiving

Jan

25

New divers are surprised to learn that diving along the gulf coast takes place year round, not just during the heat of the summer. Believe it or not, the beaches don’t close in the winter, the Gulf of Mexico still has water in it when all the leaves have fallen from the trees and there are a lot of dedicated divers getting wet all winter.

If you want to keep diving in the winter months, but are not one of the fortunate few who can slip off to some warm and exotic location while the rest of us sit around watching our breath freeze in the air, read on and learn the basics of winter diving on the gulf coast.

So just what are the alternatives for winter diving and what can you expect for conditions? Obviously colder temperatures, both in the water and out, but not so cold that you can’t go diving. That doesn’t mean you have to gear up for an arctic expedition. Back in December we published a blog article about the importance of staying warm which provided many suggestions for dealing with winter temperatures.

Water temperatures in the gulf are a little cooler than what you are used to in the summer months. You can expect water in the low-mid 60’s at times.  Also, most of the high tides during winter months, fall at night. This is great news for the spearos that target flounder.

These tidal differences are not as much  a consideration offshore but they will affect beach dives like Perdido Pass, Fort Pickens, Destin Jetties and St. Andrews Park.  We have some of the lowest tides of the year during winter months and the strong north winds can make for especially low tides.

The local springs are virtually unaffected by winter temperatures. In other words springs water temperatures stay the same year round. The same 68 degrees that seemed cold and maybe a little forbidding in the summer is now warm and toasty.

One big consideration, just as important as staying warm during the dive, is keeping warm before the dive and getting warm between dives.  Bundle up and stay warm before you get in the water and certainly bundle up between dives. Bring a thermos of hot tea or coffee to warm you from the inside and stay out of the wind.  A misconception with inexperienced winter divers, is they will stay warm if they keep their wetsuit on between dives.  You will only make this mistake once!  The water evaporating off the suit is taking heat with it, chilling you very fast.  You will stay much warmer by getting out of your suit and dressing in warm clothes.  The more common method is to peel your wetsuit top off, dry off, and put on a jacket. Many divers exit the water, quickly peel their wetsuit off and climb back in their vehicle for a toasty, warm surface interval.

Recently my phoned chimed, announcing a text message from a dive buddy headed to the Pass for a night dive. Sorry I couldn’t make it Joe, too many work and family commitments, but it reminded me, many people are getting wet this winter and you should too.  Call Gulf Coast Divers at (251) 342-2970 to learn more about winter diving.

Jul

1

The Gulf Coast Diving Society will be diving St Andrews Park in Panama City, Sunday July 17th.  Make your plans now to bring your dive gear, friends, family and anything else you think you need to enjoy a day at the St. Andrews jetties. Plan on finding some new dive buddies or getting reacquainted with some old ones.

The park opens at 8:00 am and high tide is around 11:00 am, according to saltwatertides.com. We plan to get there sometime in the morning, before the high tide, and will start diving as soon as the conditions permit. Gulf Coast Divers will be concluding some open water training and introducing new divers to the underwater realm. This event is open to divers of all experience levels so come on down and join the fun. Remember, Florida prohibits alcohol and spearfishing at the jetties and we will be doing a site briefing for those new to the area.

We will try to get there early and claim a couple picnic tables under the pavilions at the north end of the parking lot.  The park gets very busy on the weekends and arriving late can mean a long walk with your gear.  Look for the GCDS sign or your friends.  We will have a grill with hot dogs going. For more info. and rsvp call (251) 342-2970. Please let us know if you plan on attending so we have some idea how many to expect. Hope to see you there.

Here is a link to the park brochure [link] where you can find a simple map of the park

Feb

6

If you don’t live in Florida you may not have heard the state of Florida is considering closing 53 state parks and aquatic preserves in order to save money. The list of proposed closures spans the state and, if the closures actually take place, could directly affect diving in Florida, particularly diving along the gulf coast. The proposed closures have been widely reported in Florida media. The following are links to some of the stories that have appeared.

Holmes County Times Advisor, Chipley, Florida

Examine.com

Audubon of Florida

Tallahassee.com

Some of the proposed park and aquatic preserve closures that would directly affected divers, snorkelers, swimmers, kayaking, boating and beach activities along the gulf coast are:

State Parks

Ponce de Leon Springs State Park, Ponce de Leon
Crystal River Archaeological State Park, Crystal River
Madison Blue Spring State Park, Lee
Peacock Springs State Park, Luraville

Aquatic Preserves

Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve
Apalachicola Bay Aquatic Preserve
St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve
Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve
(Fort Pickens)
Rocky Bayou Aquatic Preserve
St. Andrews Aquatic Preserve
(St. Andrews jetties)
Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve

Many of these locations have been diving destinations for decades. Closure of these and other parks and aquatic preserves will decimate diving and outdoor opportunities all along the Florida gulf coast. Not only will divers loose popular dive sites but the local economies surrounding these sites will pay a further price in an already difficult economy. You should also note there are numerous dive sites, Morrisson Springs for instance, that appear to meet the criteria for closure but do not appear on the list. Such sites may also be at risk for closure.

All divers, not just those in Florida, need to act quickly to express their dissatisfaction with the proposed closures. Let new Florida governor, Rick Scott, and the Florida legislature hear from you now before it is to late.

Gulf Coast Divers
1284 Hutson Drive
Mobile, AL 36609
(251) 342.2970