Pirate Vacation Part 3 – The Landlubber Goes to Sea

As promised, here is Scott’s rundown of his scuba diving trip off the coast of North Carolina, and also his first post on this blog. 🙂 Hope you all enjoy!  – Allie

Hello world wide web friends, thanks for checking out my first blog post! In this post the landlubber will be reporting on his adventure into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.                       Here is Part Three.

First off, I have to give a shout out and thank you to my lovely wife for getting me interested in scuba diving and helping me get certified back when we first started college. When she first told me about the scuba class I thought she was joking…nope! Haha! Her father is a certified Divemaster and even had his own dive shop in Southern Illinois for a while. We still have one of his shirts from the shop, it’s pretty cool:

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Anyway, back to the present. Three or four months ago while looking through a dive magazine, I saw an incredible photo of a sand tiger (aka ragged tooth shark), a quick description of the little town of Beaufort, NC and I couldn’t help it, I immediately began researching the area. This is when I learned about the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” – a term coined to describe the thousands of shipwrecks littered up and down the Atlantic Coast due to past wars (mainly WWII), hurricanes, and numerous other tragic events.

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The idea of visiting an area smack dab in the middle of so much maritime history gave me goosebumps every time I thought about it. I’ve always enjoyed diving in the middle of colorful reefs and the vast amount of marine life that accompanies them, but the history and legend behind some of these wrecks were just too good to pass up.

As my geek brain continued to obsess, I eventually came across the most famous wreck in the area – the site of the Nazi U-boat U352.

U-352BW        *Photo courtesy of firstcoastdivers.com

Have you ever seen the movie U-571 or Das Boot? No? Well, you need to change that my friend. Go watch them tonight, I probably will be!

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As we got closer and closer to the trip I decided to check in with the dive shop again. I learned two hard facts through this phone call – (1) Because of the unpredictable nature of the Atlantic Ocean, no dive shop will guarantee which site they will dive ahead of time, and (2) so far, I was the only person signed up to dive that day. I think it’s safe to say that my hopes were quickly fading. BUT, two days before I was scheduled to dive, the dive shop called me and said they had 6 people lined up to go out the next day and that I was more than welcome to go with that group. It was ON!

Once I checked in and had my gear loaded on the boat, I immediately sought out the boat’s captain to see what his game plan was for the day. He said it was “a little choppy” on the water that day and, since we also had some newer divers on board with us, he would be taking us to a beginner/novice level wreck dive, the USCG Cutter named Spar.

USCG SparVessel Type: USCG Cutter
Size:
185′ x 30′

History: Commissioned 12 June 1944, the Spar began as an anti-submarine vessel engaged in convoy duty off the coast of Brazil. After the war, the Spar conducted hydrographic operations throughout the Northwest Passage where she held the unique distinction of being the first US vessel to circumnavigate the North American continent. She spent the 1980s and 90s as a Class “C” Seagoing Bouy Tender before being decommissioned on 28 February 1997.    Sinking: The Spar was sunk in June 2004 as part of North Carolina’s artificial reef program.

Initially, I was a little disappointed to hear this news. But, even though the Spar wasn’t a U-boat and it wasn’t sunk during a WWII battle, it was known to be loaded with sand tiger sharks. And I sure love me some sharks 🙂

I know what you’re thinking right now, and I can assure you I’m not crazy! Through far too many magazine articles and documentaries on Discovery Channel and NatGeo, I knew this was going to be about the safest shark encounter you can experience in the ocean (besides nurse sharks, they don’t even have teeth). You see, sand tiger sharks feed at night and are almost completely harmless during the day. So there was nothing to fear. Let’s do it captain, Carpe Diem!

I was pumped. And to make things even better, as we were heading out we got within a quarter mile of Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge wreck site –

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But wait, oh, what’s that? Those “little choppy” waves the captain mentioned earlier were actually 8-12 foot swells? That’s right. And 8-12 foot swells meant I got to lose my stomach every 10 seconds as the boat repeatedly dropped. I’ve been on my fair share of boats in the ocean and this trip was by far the worst, mainly because I felt like I was on a 1hr and 45min roller coaster extravaganza while we headed out to the Spar. Grrreeeeat…this was quickly turning out to be “Barfe Diem”.

I always try to look on the bright side though, and I am proud to say that I wasn’t the first person on the boat to throw up – I was the second. Luckily though, I figured out that when I’d lay on my back and cover my eyes with a towel, all of my nausea would disappear. Thank you Lord, thank you.

BUT, enough about all of that. I don’t want to ruin the long running history of quality blog posts this site has produced because I went on a huge explanation of my stupid landlubber stomach, let’s talk about the sharks! Here they are along with a picture of the Spar, a barracuda and some bait fish:

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I took these with our Canon SD 960 camera in an underwater housing, the WP-DC32. Both of which, by the way, really work great. I would highly recommend them to any divers out there. I went down to 110ft on both dives and the set-up worked like a dream. I do not, unfortunately, have an external flash for the camera yet, so a lot of my photos were blurring. To fix this problem, I just started taking tons of video footage while I was down there. Here’s the best of what I captured, hope you all enjoy:

Sand Tiger Sharks – USCG Spar – YouTube video

As you’ll see, sharks are beautiful creatures that are incredibly misunderstood. Do they have sharp teeth? Yes. Could most of them kill us if they really wanted to? Yes. But here’s the thing, they don’t want to. Almost every shark attack is just a misinterpretation by the shark, and it’s usually our fault because we unknowingly tempt them. If we sit on surfboards and splash around like an injured fish, what do you expect them to do, just ignore that ringing dinner bell?

As some of you know, I could probably defend sharks all day, but maybe I’ll save that for a later post if Allie ever lets me near this blog again  🙂

I have to give my wife some props though, she is an amazingly patient woman. Due to my nausea on the boat I really wasn’t able to eat or drink much of anything all day and by the time I got back to the room I was running on empty. So, instead of cleaning up and heading out for a nice dinner that evening, my awesome wife revived me through tons of Gatorade and water, some awesome pizza and a couple of IPA’s.  She never complained once. And I tell you what, it was the greatest food I had ever tasted in my life, Carpe Pizza!

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– Scott

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2 thoughts on “Pirate Vacation Part 3 – The Landlubber Goes to Sea

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