One of the advantages of living in a state that sticks out from the main land mass that is the United States is the number of ships that run their courses into it. And I mean literally!
Because of the limestone under-layer that Florida sits upon, many ships have met an untimely end. This is most unfortunate for them but, years later, I find myself thinking how bored I would be as a water adventurer had they not met such misfortune.
Exploring shipwrecks is an activity that every sunshine-loving Florida girl should get to experience at one point for another.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to be home in Vero Beach on a day where the sun was shining, the water was clear and the tide was low.
I explored a wreck of a three-masted, iron-hulled steamer called the Breaconshire on its way to Tampa from New York that ran aground, unsuspectingly in 20 feet of water. For more information visit the historic Ocean Grill Restaurant’s website. Restaurant goers can see the mast of the ship on days when the tide is low and I’m sure they could see me when I went out to explore the wreck!
I packed up my truck with two kayaks, my banana-yellow one for me and a red one for my boyfriend. The kayaks are important not only to get out to the wreck which is about 300 yards off-shore but for packing all of the supplies needed to snorkel a reef.
Supplies that include dive flags, an anchor to keep the kayaks nearby, rope or bungie cords to keep the kayaks together, snorkels, masks, fins, bottled water, dry boxes, sunscreen and socks for me because my fins are too big!
The most important thing to remember is be aware of your surroundings because there could be a few hindrances when exploring the decks of ship’s past.
The waves, normally as sweet as a rocking cradle, are important to watch for especially when snorkeling. One’s snorkel could fill with water, making for an inconvenient stop-and-go exploration. Waves also throw around swimmers that may not be as strong as say, Michael Phelps.
For me, the biggest issue the waves gave while exploring the Breaconshire was the swamping of my snorkel. When this happens, it’s best to not inhale the saltwater by keeping it in your mouth and blowing it out much like a whale does. If this doesn’t work, you can always surface and spit!
Sleeping sharks, although I say better a sleeping shark than a stalking shark, is more of a set of code words for me that could mean any assortment of scaly creature that could be hiding from predators beneath old wooden planks and ship skeletons. And trust me; I saw a lot of them.
The typical reef and shipwreck sharks of Vero Beach mainly consist of nurse sharks, like the one shown. Nurse sharks are docile and will even let you pet them without as much of a flinch. I very hesitantly reached down as I was swimming above and ran my finger down that nurse shark’s back.
My warning is simply, “Be alert.”
As long as I was aware of my surroundings, there was no need for worry.
As I quickly learned from all my encounters, it is important to be sure the surrounding boaters, especially motor boaters, are aware of your presence. For some, this means floating a red flag with a white slash through it that symbolizes “divers.” This red flag will give boaters significant warning that people may be just beneath the surface they’re about to speed through and helps avoid any catastrophe.
My last warning comes from direct experience. Jellyfish are clear and often bright floating invertebrates with the ability to sting on contact. They are particularly susceptible to currents in which they mill about every which way until they hit something zappable i.e. me. The stinging sensation lasts for more than 30 minutes and is quite unpleasant. It’s like a bee sting that just keeps coming.
Although I can’t fish every jellyfish out of the sea to save you from their wrath, I can tell you to refer back to my comment about being alert. Alertness is really what saves people from a non-enjoyable experience on the water.
So, while you’re exploring all of the Spanish ships that weren’t as lucky as the Pinta, the Nina and the Santa Maria, be sure to remember that the ocean is often a place of shared company.