Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My review of local Northeast diving

This past weekend, I decided to give Northeast scuba diving another try. The local diving here has a reputation for being only for the hardcore diver: cold water, murky visibility, deep dives, challenging shipwrecks, occasional currents, sometimes choppy topside conditions.

I'd tried local diving once before, doing a night dive on the wreck of the Stolt Dagali last summer from the dive boat Jeanne II. That experience was almost enough to swear me off Northeast diving, but not because of the diving itself. The seas were flat, the water bearable, the visibility not too bad. The dive operation, however, barely amounted to a "dive taxi"—the only service they provided was a ride to the dive site. Anything else (even drinking water), you're on your own.

I thought it fair to give local diving another try, especially during the day. A spot opened up on the dive boat Garloo last week, so I jumped aboard with some friends from my dive club. I have to say, the diving largely lived up to its reputation: at depth, the water temperature sank to 45 degrees, and visibility barely reached 10 feet. Finding our way around the wreck of the USS San Diego at 90 feet was indeed challenging.

But in terms of service, the Garloo provided an entirely different experience. The cabin was comfortable, and the boat had bunks for sleeping onboard the night before (which is a great alternative to trying to get to the boat before the 6:00 a.m. departure). And the crew was fantastic, bringing your rig to you before the dive, helping you off and back onto the boat, trying to help in any way they could.

I'm still undecided on what I think of local Northeast diving. There is certainly a devoted community of local divers who rave about it, and there's a whole fleet of wrecks off the coasts of Long Island or New Jersey that you can dive on. But yes, it can be cold and murky, so go into it eyes wide open. And hitch a ride on the Garloo. The conditions might not be a sure thing, but at least you'll have a smooth ride and good service.

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