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Old 05-17-2007, 12:20 PM
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RickI RickI is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Florida
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Default Deeper Free Dive - Wreck Of The Duane

The famous Stephen Frink photo of the newly sunk USCGC Duane

This is a story of a constant weight free dive back in the late 1990's. It was a great early summer day off Key Largo. The water was calm and warm with good viz. I was out free diving with my good friend Spencer Slate's charter boat operation, Atlantis Dive Shop. Slate and I met at an intensive YMCA Diving Instructor Training Course held at FAU back in the mid '70's.

Slate is famous for mouth feeding cuddas and eels. He has a collection of munched masks taken out by ballyhoo charging baracudas in high speed collisions. He has had so many injuries over the years that he has taken to doing his own stitching, ouch! He runs a first rate, world famous dive charter business right out of the north end of Key Largo. If you want to dive the Upper Keys, Slate is your man.

I recall we hit two shallow spots under 25 ft. deep around the Elbow about a couple of miles apart. I did a lot of swimming and free diving that day while most of the folks SCUBA dived. That afternoon one of his smaller boats was heading out to the wreck of the USCGC Duane. Not having been on the wreck before, I tagged along to do some free diving. I had been free diving for about six hours up to that point and was real relaxed and warmed up.


and after

The USCG Duane was sunk as an artificial reef on even kneel in 1987 about one mile south of Molasses Reef in 120 ft. of water. She is 327 ft. long with her superstructure still intact and sits on a sand bottom.

More about the pre-artificial reef life and times of the Duane at:

There was a moderate south running current that day. I hit the water near the buoy at the bow with free diving gear, no wetsuit and about 2 lbs. of weight. I breathed up for the free dive for about 10 minutes, mainly long slow inhalations and exhalations as was my custom in those days, removing my mask for the first few minutes to kick in the relaxation response. I followed with about five purge breathes and then filled my lungs about halfway and dove. I closed my eyes and slowly dolphin kicked downward. I opened my eyes periodically to see where I was at and eventually picked up some momentum and drifted down to the foredeck at 100 ft. still kicking but a bit more lightly.

Looking aft from the bow area

The starboard side of the Duane superstructure.

I slowly arched up and across the foredeck and up past the the super structure on the starboard side. There were five SCUBA divers hanging out on the starboard bridge wing staring all over. I actually moved right in front of them but no one saw me, maybe narc'd a bit? I continued to rise but the current was strong and I remember passing close to and over the aft antenna. Eventually, I made it to the surface with a slow dolphin kick with no contractions. With the set of the current it must have been well over a 300 ft. swim underwater. Upon surfacing, I seemed to have suffered a minor sinus squeeze. So while doing so recovery breathing I took my mask off to try to relax and ease the sinus pressure. While doing this, I caught a large moon jellyfish right in the face! It only hurt for about 20 minutes but it did take the edge and ease off the dive for a while. A 100 ft. free dive isn't all that deep (stay tuned for the story of Martin Stepanek's 280 ft. scooter breathhold dive in the Caymans) but it sure was fun.

Moon Jellys usually don't have all that painful a sting, unless it is on soft, thin skin like your face.

You can do a video tour of the Duane at the link below. The photographer started at the stern and worked forward initially, opposite the direction of my dive.

FKA, Inc.

transcribed by:
Rick Iossi

Last edited by RickI; 02-23-2018 at 08:40 PM.
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