The Palm Beaches

This stretch of south­east Florida coast boasts new wrecks, a clas­sic macro haven and more

Sport Diver - - Dive Travel - BY ROBBY MYERS

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.

DIVE SITES

1)

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.

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