The Palm Beaches
This stretch of southeast Florida coast boasts new wrecks, a classic macro haven and more
The anchor chains of the Ana Cecilia guide us like a runway, building the anticipation until we finally reach the 629-ton cargo vessel that was purpose-sunk just north of Florida’s Lake Worth Inlet. Ana Cecilia — scuttled in July 2016 — is the latest addition to Palm Beach County’s ever-growing collection of wrecks. It’s so new we can still see draft marks on the ship’s hull. “There is not a ton of growth on it yet,” says Katie Sandidge, an instructor with Pura Vida Divers, “but it’s cool because we see a little bit more happening with it every day.”
Already fish have begun to make themselves at home on the wreck. Porkfish, snapper, wrasse and sergeant majors swarm around us. A stonefish cleverly hides among the forward winch. Off to starboard, a barracuda warily eyes the commotion on deck.
The Ana Cecilia also offers some easy penetration for divers who are comfortable doing so. The lower deck may look cluttered, but the many openings along the ship mean that open water is only a few fin kicks away. Goliath grouper tend to hang both above and below deck.
While we enjoy this almost brand-new 170-foot playground for about 20 minutes, this site is no one-wreck-pony. The Ana Cecilia is just the first of four wrecks in the area’s Shipwreck Corridor. This stretch of sand also features an old Greek luxury liner called the Mizpah, an old patrol craft designated PC-1174 and the wreck of the 450-foot cargo ship Amaryllis.
Add it all up and that’s about 965 feet worth of sights to see. How is one diver supposed to be able to visit them all in a single dive? The answer is plain and simple: You go with the flow.
Drift diving is the name of the game off West Palm. The trick is to ride the Gulf Stream north as it comes up from the Caribbean. Although its direction is constant, the intensity can vary.
“Sometimes the current is a little more mild, sometimes it’s ripping,” says local divemaster candidate Joe Beck. “The key is to let the current take you.” And that we do.
Many of Palm Beach’s artificial reefs have been laid out with this in mind. Simply hop in and drift from site to site.
Whether the current is puny or powerful, you really can’t lose. It’s a classic case of quality or quantity. You can spend your dive thoroughly exploring a single wreck, or you can make a number of stops and hit all the highlights.
Shipwreck Corridor At a depth of 85 feet, this site is home to South Florida’s latest underwater attraction — the Ana Cecilia. You’ll find a host of other wrecks, including the Mizpah, PC-1174 and the Amaryllis. Keep an eye out for goliath grouper, rays and a resident hawksbill turtle.
2) The Danny and Andrea’s Reef Explore a wreck and a reef where a number of statues have been installed on this two-for-one dive. There are resident grouper and turtles, and if you venture past the wreck toward a group of cement culverts you’re likely to spot juvenile Caribbean reef sharks.
3) Blue Heron Bridge Visit Florida’s very own macro paradise. This easily accessed shore dive is popular among photographers for its variety of critters. In only 15 to 20 feet of water, divers can easily spend an hour or more looking for seahorses, nudibranchs, flying gurnards, frogfish and more.
Clockwise from top: A diver explores the Greek luxury liner Mizpah, part of Palm Beach’s wreck corridor; a lined seahorse makes its home at Blue Heron Bridge; grouper buzz about the Ana Cecilia.