Contributed by: Martin J. Allred www.Floridaography.com
The Gulf waters are warming so the time is right to get wet again. Actually, one can really dive year-round in Sarasota. The surface temperatures in the offshore waters normally range from the low 80s Fahrenheit in summer and dropping down to the lower 70s in winter. Visibility ranges from 20 to 50 feet, depending on the dive site and weather conditions. Shallow sites in sandy areas are prone to lower visibility, so many inshore Sarasota dive sites will have lower visibility. Although, just offshore in the Deep-water you can have underwater visibility of up to 100 feet or more.
The seabed off of Sarasota is mostly a vast sandy plain; because of that, many dive sites focus on wrecks or artificial reefs. One prime site is a British freighter BayRonto which was built in 1905 by Armstrong Whitworth & Co. in Newcastle. The BayRonto was 400 feet long with a 52 foot beam.
She foundered in heavy seas on September 13, 1919. The ship was carrying a cargo of wheat from Galveston to Marseille at the time. The NEW YORK TIMES reported that eleven of her crew were picked up by the fishing smack Ida and brought to Tampa. The steamship Calno rescued 19 survivors and brought them to Charleston, South Carolina, on September 21. Another 18 survivors were reported to have landed at Havana on September 16. After the final count, the BayRonto’s full complement had been accounted for.
The BayRonto is now located 30 miles offshore in 110 feet of water. This wreck sits upside down and broken in half on a sand bottom and is excellent for spear fishing. This is an advanced site and the visibility is generally good.
Another popular dive is the Mexican Pride. You can read the article just below this text from Advanced Diver Magazine which covered the ship dive in detail. http://www.advanceddivermagazine.com/articles/mxpride/mxpride.html
Other popular dive sites around the Sarasota area are; Sheridan, South Jack, Fin Barge, MD1 Barge, Bullshark Ledge, Blackthorn, Sheridan, Rube Allen, Veterans reef, Treasure Island 1 and 2, Duniden, , The Hard Bottom area west of the Mex Pride. Some Army tanks too; 5 intact army tanks were sunk in the area at a depth of 60 feet (18 meters). The visibility is great but it does require advanced certification. The site is home to plenty of sea life.
Just south about 18 miles of Sarasota is Venice Beach, noted for its deposits of fossilized shark teeth. Right offshore are large areas of black sand, and sometimes fossilized teeth can be found in those black sand deposits. The depth on these sites is rarely more than 20 feet. These teeth come from shark species that existed at the time of the dinosaurs, and are far larger than the teeth of modern sharks. A diver who wants to hunt for shark teeth can either start or join a charter trip from Sarasota, or plan a shore diving expedition from Venice Beach.
If you have a large enough group or are able to afford the cost, you can private charter dives through the dive centers and name your own dive sites. Alternatively, you might join someone else’s charter trip, occupying a seat and defraying the cost, but with no voice in deciding where the boat goes.
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