This and That…

I’m just hanging out in Key West waiting for the return of my wife. As of tomorrow, it will be two weeks without her. She is providing needed support to her mother and father. I’m thankful she gets to spend this quality time with them. So, what have I been doing?

Key West Sunrise

Key West Sunrise

The Sun Rises over Stock Island Marina

The Sun Rises over Stock Island Marina

Yesterday, I became “Advanced Open Water Scuba Diving Certified.” I learned a few things and, perhaps, most importantly, I feel much more comfortable diving at this point. I’m a little tempted to go for the next level, Rescue Diver Certification. 🙂 We’ll see. Following are some additional photos on the reef that I took yesterday:

One of the world's largest single-celled organisms - an algae known as "sailors' eyeballs."

One of the world’s largest single-celled organisms – an algae known as “sailors’ eyeballs.”

French Angelfish

French Angelfish

I love these Squirrelfish

I love these Squirrelfish

The well disguised ray here is a Yellow Ray ( I think).

The well disguised ray here is a Yellow Ray ( I think).

Elliptical Star Coral

Elliptical Star Coral

Do you see the fish here?  It is a scorpionfish.  Some species of scorpionfish are among the most venomous fishes.

Do you see the fish here? It is a scorpionfish. Some species of scorpionfish are among the most venomous fishes.

This lobster was not too happy with our visit.

This lobster was not too happy with our visit.

I’ve been doing a little boat work. I repaired the navigation lights on the bow. It turned out to be a bad bulb. I ran 12-volt wiring down to our owner’s hull and placed a new 12-volt outlet for the freezer. The new freezer now sits in the floor of the port hull… perhaps not ideal, but not bad. I don’t mind it there at all. It works great and is quite convenient in that location. I installed shelves in the cabinet where the old freezer resided. It now serves as food and beverage storage. I washed Beatitude. I replaced the now-tattered Old Glory on our stern with a nice bright new one.

Cutting Shelves

Cutting Shelves

Working on changing the wiring for the new fridge

Working on changing the wiring for the new fridge

The new storage cabinet.

The new storage cabinet.

The 12-volt Outlet placed for the Freezer

The 12-volt Outlet placed for the Freezer

The New Freezer

The New Freezer

I’ve watched Bulldog games at Jack Flatt’s on each of the past three Saturdays. They know me by name now and go out of their way to accommodate me. 🙂 I’ve attended church at St Paul’s Episcopal Church and The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea. I’ve eaten at a few decent restaurants. I’ve grilled my own delicious seafood, caught by me, fresh from the sea, paired with some wonderful white wine. As you may remember, I visited Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas and snorkeled the waters surrounding it. I’ve watched a few movies aboard Beatitude (last evening’s feature film was Amadeus). I’ve met a few folks at the Marina. As I write this, I’m watching Texas A&M vs. Arkansas with as avid a Texas A&M fan as you can imagine (and they are losing, which means there are a multiple exhibitions of disgust.).

Grilled Blackfin Tuna with a Spicy Mustard Sauce and a New Zealand Savignon Blanc.  (I traded a little bit of my Wahoo for some Blackfin Tuna).

Grilled Blackfin Tuna with a Spicy Mustard Sauce and a New Zealand Savignon Blanc. (I traded a little bit of my Wahoo for some Blackfin Tuna).

Hogfish Bar and Grill is an old style Key West restaurant on Stock Island, complete with cats and roosters walking through the restaurant.  This little guy sat on the railing next to my table and watched me eat hogfish.

Hogfish Bar and Grill is an old style Key West restaurant on Stock Island, complete with cats and roosters walking through the restaurant. This little guy sat on the railing next to my table and watched me eat hogfish.

Stock Island Marina is really nice. It has the best wifi of any marina I’ve been in. It has the nicest laundry facilities of any marina I’ve been in. It has the best boaters/captains lounge of any marina I’ve been in. The docks are concrete, floating docks, and are basically new. The people are nice and the staff is helpful. The only negative is that it is directly adjacent to a boat yard which provides an ample supply of noise which doesn’t completely die down at night. Another negative (or positive, depending on how you look at it) is that it is 4-5 miles from all the activities in Key West. That has been easily negated by the economical rental of my new Honda scooter.

Stock Island Marina

Stock Island Marina

The Captain's Lounge at Stock Island

The Captain’s Lounge at Stock Island

Guess what kind of fowl this is?  (The one unusual thing about this marina is that I've seen no pelicans, herons, or other typical Florida waterfowl.)  This by the way is a peacock sitting on the railing of C-dock.  How many marinas have peacocks?

Guess what kind of fowl this is? (The one unusual thing about this marina is that I’ve seen no pelicans, herons, or other typical Florida waterfowl.) This by the way is a peacock sitting on the railing of C-dock. How many marinas have peacocks?

Many marinas frown upon "houseboats" which aren't designed for or in condition to be moved.  At least this one, a couple of slips down from Beatitude, is well done. :)

Many marinas frown upon “houseboats” which aren’t designed for or in condition to be moved. At least this one, a couple of slips down from Beatitude, is well done. 🙂

Wahoo! Woohoo!

My beloved better half is still in Ohio helping her Mom and Dad after his recent surgery. He left the hospital yesterday and went home overnight. However, it was decided today that he could use a few days of rehab, so now he is in rehab for a while.

In the meantime, I’m making my best effort to enjoying the waters of the Keys. I’m so glad we decided to make the passage from Marco Island to Key West before she had to leave. I love the water here. I love the diving, snorkeling and fishing.

My ride for a couple of days.  The marina has these tricycles for the use of those who have boats here.  While thankful for them, they are a little awkward to get around in and not practical to go very far.

My ride for a couple of days. The marina has these tricycles for the use of those who have boats here. While thankful for them, they are a little awkward to get around in and not practical to go very far.

It was Bike Week in Key West.

It was Bike Week in Key West.

More Bikes!

More Bikes!

My ride for the week.  I finally realized I should rent a scooter for a week.  I love it!  I'd never driven a motorcycle, scooter, or anything like it... So, this was a totally new experience.  I'm hooked!  It moves along at a whopping maximum speed of 32 mph.  Perfect for Key West (and cheaper than taxis and shuttles!).

My ride for the week. I finally realized I should rent a scooter for a week. I love it! I’d never driven a motorcycle, scooter, or anything like it… So, this was a totally new experience. I’m hooked! It moves along at a whopping maximum speed of 32 mph. Perfect for Key West (and cheaper than taxis and shuttles!).

Today, I ventured forth on a day of fishing aboard the Linda D V, a forty-foot charter boat captained by Billy Wickers III. We left around eight this morning and returned around two this afternoon. It was a fun day on the water, although the action was scarce… and what we had was at the beginning of the day. Suddenly,within a few minutes of putting out six lines (there were four paying customers on board, along with the captain and first mate), fish were on five of the six lines simultaneously. We must have encountered a school of tuna. A husband and wife team landed two nice blackfin tuna. The other three fish got away. About fifteen minutes later, a nice fish hit my line and a brief though intense struggle ensued. By the time my four-foot long wahoo had been gaffed by the first mate and brought aboard, both arms were burning from the fight. What fun!

The Linda D V. in the early hours of the morning.

The Linda D V. in the early hours of the morning.

Threatening skies as we head out.

Threatening skies as we head out.

Unfortunately, that was the last fish landed for the entire day. It was a slow day out on the waters today. The captain kept in touch with the other boats out of Key West. My wahoo was the only one landed on the day. I believe we were the only boat that landed tuna as well. I was thankful for the wahoo. Our first mate, Eli, filleted our fish when we were back at the dock. I shared my wahoo with the rest of the gang and still have enough for several meals here on Beatitude.

The catch of the day:  Two Blackfin Tuna and One Wahoo

The catch of the day: Two Blackfin Tuna and One Wahoo

My first wahoo!  I hope to catch many more during our travels on Beatitude!

My first wahoo! I hope to catch many more during our travels on Beatitude!

I’ve got more diving lined up for the next few days. I’m looking forward to more time “under the sea.”

Grilled Wahoo finished with a simple white wine butter sauce.

Grilled Wahoo finished with a simple white wine butter sauce.

Diving the USNS Vandenberg

I have had the blessed experience of diving on the USNS Vandenberg, the second largest artificial reef in the world, which sits in 140 feet of water several miles off of Key West. This is a real treat for divers, as this is considered by many to be the best artificial reef dive site for recreational divers worldwide.

She was launched as a military transport ship in 1943, and made many voyages between San Francisco and the South Pacific transporting troops during World War II. She also later served as a missile range instrumentation ship, tracking missiles and spacecraft up until her retirement in 1983. She was acquired for use as an artificial reef by a group of banks and financiers from Key West, and on Wednesday, May 27, 2009 she was sunk in the warm, tropical waters nearby. This huge vessel is 523 feet long and has a beam of 71 1/2 feet. That makes for a lot of boat for a diver to explore.

The uppermost parts of the ship are submerged 40 feet below the surface, which make it accessible to even new divers. Of course, it also serves as a very deep recreational dive site. Coming to Key West, I was open water certified in scuba diving. Unfortunately, to dive the Vandenberg, one must have an advanced open water certification due to its depth. Fortunately, this could be circumvented by paying for an expert guide to accompany you on your dive. So, that’s what I did. And what a blessing that turned out to be! I went deeper, went into more places within the ship, and saw more aquatic life than anyone else on the dive ship. My first dive was to a maximum depth of 115 feet for about 25 minutes, and the second was to 97 feet for about the same length of time. Having an expert diver as my diving “buddy” allowed me to enter into sections of the bowels of the ship that no one else entered. He knew the Vandenberg like the back of his hand. It was a little eerie, one hundred feet below the surface, gliding over the deck and in and out of compartments which were once bustling with activity. Thousands of servicemen once scampered along this strange and mysterious landscape.

There are a number of interesting things to notice in the 6 1/2 minute video that follows. Not too far into the video, you’ll see one of the large dish antennas which were used for communication and tracking. We were the only ones to reach the rudder area of the Vandenberg. You’ll notice several large Goliath grouper back in this area, which is 100+ feet deep. These gentle giants weighed between 350-500 pounds. You’ll also see a couple of large barracuda swim by. You’ll also see a Duval Street sign attached to the ship. How many have been to this section of Duval Street? You’ll also see two American Flags, one suspended in one of the interior rooms of the Vandenberg. You’ll see, right at the end, a large 30 x 40 foot flag which was placed on the USNS Vandenberg on July 4, 2014 to honor our country and those who serve in its defense.