Posted by: mcjangles | May 23, 2008

Dry Tortugas – Diving the Rhein and Araby Maid



May 18-22

Just got back from an excursion to Florida where I had a great time diving the M. S. Rhein (see latest issue of Wreck Diving Magazine) and the Araby Maid.


This was the first time traveling with the Meg and all told it went very smoothly. My overloaded backpack containing the head did decide to bust at the seams revealing the “DANGER this device can render you unconscious without warning” sticker just as the TSA official was carrying it to the inspection table. But other then that and the subsequent sirens and “STAND DOWN!” orders when something in my bag set off the bomb sniffer… all my gear managed to arrive in Florida.

The obligatory shot

The farewell committee

The 3 day trip was aboard the 100′ Ultimate Getaway out of Ft. Myers, FL. After loading everyone and their gear we left Sunday and made the 12 hour journey to the Dry Tortugas which lie 100+ miles away and ~70 miles from the closest point of land, Key West. The first wreck we hit was the German freighter Rhein lying in 240 feet of warm clear water. Although the wreck is collapsing in areas it is surprisingly well intact for being down over 60 years. We were tied in midships and seeing the wreck come into view around 130 feet is breathtaking. The anchor line tracked past the kingspost which is still standing as if the wreck is letting you know its defiant heart refuses to fully give up the ghost. The goliath grouper sitting on top at 150 feet only adds to eye candy as we descend to the main deck still 60 feet below. We spent 3 dives exploring this incredible wreck and never made it aft of the engine room. The first two dives we spent exploring the intact bow which rises off the bottom 50+ feet. Around a winch and into the shadows passes a massive tail of a grouper that looks like something Paul Bunyon would have used for a broom letting you know you are not alone. The visibility makes you feel like you are flying along the 5th story of a 10 story building as you round the tip of the bow. We recovered one complete porthole that was laying loose from the interior of the focsle along with a camp lamp and some other brass light fixtures. Other portholes still remained in place on the walls with the storm covers clamped tight. On the last dive I ventured into the cavernous engine room which is now torn open due to the collapsing of the wreck. Water on the bottom was in the low 70s and deco seemed to fly by as we had all kinds of visitors in the 80 degree water near the surface including playful pods of dolphins that we could hear squeaking on nearly every dive, huge schools of barracudas, and on one dive a very interested 8 foot shark of unknown race. 3 dives was merely a teaser and not nearly enough time to fully appreciate the wreck of the Rhein.

Jim and Chris mix gas over the Rhein


Tuesday evening we bid auf wiedersehen to the Rhein and motored the 14 miles to the resting place of the steel hulled bark Araby Maid. The Maid was a change of pace as it was a much smaller and older wreck but spectacular in her own respect. We were greeted with the bow of this old girl and several “small” goliath grouper leaving the wreck in the wake of the bubble blowers. I spent a fair amount of time working my way from bow to stern in between decks. Rows of portholes line the wreck and require a fair amount of work to get which is why at 210 feet the closed ports are still denying the interior residents a cool breeze. I thought for a second I was the first person to get narked on 10/90 when out by the fallen forward mast I thought the wreck was trying to swim away. It turned out to be the biggest turtle I have ever seen giving me dirty looks over his shoulder for waking him up as he slowly picked up speed and disappeared in the distance. On the second dive I was planning on digging around inside. I quickly changed my mind when I saw there was a massive Goliath grouper in the way (along with a couple other “smaller” in his/her entourage). This was literally the biggest fish I have ever seen and decided not to find out the hard way if we could indeed share the somewhat cramped interior of the Araby Maid in harmony.

This was a great trip with great people. The Capt and crew of the Ultimate Getaway run a world class operation. Safety is number one with them and spare bottles were placed on the bottom, at 70 feet, and O2 at 20 feet. They had safety divers in the water to monitor divers and to recover unneeded bottles/gear and were just all around professional guys. Thanks to Jim at Fantasea Scuba for handling logistics of the trip including supplying bailout bottles and onboard gas. And of course thanks to Richie Kohler for running a great trip.

Next time I’ll have some underwater shots as it looks like a new toy will be mine very shortly 🙂

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Responses

  1. […] Read the trip report from May here […]

  2. […] of the Ultimate Getaway everything was well taken care of. There was no shortage of beer Report here __________________ […]


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