Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

For a really fun three-day weekend, diving South Florida offshore at Riviera Beach works out perfectly. With a few deeper drift dives offshore, then finishing with some shallow in-shore diving, you can see everything from moray eels and lobster to sea horses and wrecks in two days.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

For our long weekend, we headed South, searching, of course, for our usual “off the chain” dining experience for lunch. We ended up at a wonderful Greek restaurant, the Mediterranean Oasis Deli and Grill in Cocoa, Florida. Pitas, gyros, and every wonderful type of salad was on display. Yum! This was my first experience finding eateries using Yelp!, and I quickly got the “hang” of finding places in a reasonable distance off the interstate, and in the direction of travel toward our dive destination.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

We arrived midafternoon at Portside on Singer Island, right on Palm Beach Inlet, and were instantly delighted with the tropical landscaping, vintage 1950’s-style hotel getaway, inlet-front pool, bicycles, outdoor seating areas, and adorable room complete with kitchen. Settling down by the pool for a good read, we watched the boats coming in from offshore fishing, sailing, and diving, and talked with the long-term vacationers from “Up North.” If we had to wait to go diving, then this was the best place to watch dive boats returning for the day and get excited.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Now, Floridians are particularly loyal to our Lakeland-based grocery store, Publix, so, after a rest, we headed a few miles to stock up on groceries at  Riviera Beach’s two-story Publix with upstairs parking, then we went to peruse Force-E Scuba where we were renting tanks on Sunday and hear about the local dive conditions.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession We found Rodney’s Crabs and More, using Yelp again, and found it was so popular that by the time we got there; Rodney was out of conch! Great reason to go back – we will call a day ahead and make Conchservations! We settled for generous portions of fried fish take-aways and some homemade walnut butter pound cake added to the menu by hand. Someone’s mom had baked that day, so we knew that would be good. We ate our fresh fish under the palm trees back at Portside, enjoying the cool breezes and planning the next day’s dive with Deep Obsession.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

The next morning, we walked a short way to THE Easternmost Point in the United States, and watched a cruise ship come in the inlet while locals fished and walked their dogs. The Marine Traffic application answers all those super-important boat questions I have – “What’s that boat’s name? Where’s she heading? When will she get there? Where’s she been? When did she leave there? How long is she? How wide is she? How much does she weigh? How much does she draw? How fast is she moving? Where’s her home port?” Plus, it’s great fun to be out on a dive, check your phone, squint your eyes at the horizon, and spout off facts about approaching vessels.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Then we cooked a full-on omelet, sausage, and English muffin breakfast complete with French press coffee and dined by the pool  where we could watch the early risers head out to fish, dive, and sail.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

We headed over to the Blue Heron Bridge Scuba in Phil Foster Park, only a couple blocks away from Portside, to scope out conditions for the next morning’s shallow dive and confirm our own research. From what we gathered from them, the divers at Force-E Scuba, locals, friends, and anyone with an opinion, the best time to dive Blue Heron Bridge is at slack high, and entering the water about a half hour before that puts you into your dive at the safest time. The visibility can be poor at slack low, and during the ebb and flood, the tidal flow can be very strong. Divers must carry a dive flag.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

We wanted to observe exactly what we would experience the next day on our self-led dive. We watched locals checking their watches before entering the water right at the time we predicted would be best from reading the tide charts. I like to use the SeaTow app simply because the screen display is very bold and easy to read in full sunlight on a boat deck. We took reference on the tide flow by watching boats moored closer to and further away from the underwater trail to determine where the tide was still running hard, and where it was slacking off earliest.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Blue Heron Bridge is located in Phil Foster Park, which opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. There are some local dive shops who have permission to conduct night dives there, but they must be out of the park by 10:00 p.m. For morning dives, we heard that it was a good idea to get there as soon as the park opens, or around 7:30 a.m. because parking is limited. We noticed the park did indeed fill quickly.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

We also made note of where the shortest route from car to water carrying heavy gear was, where the freshwater showers were, and where there were picnic tables that would suit us for staging our gear.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Then we headed another block West back to Force-E Scuba Center to confirm tank rentals, pick up a few pieces of gear, and hear about local diving. We enjoyed meeting the people at the shop so much, and viewing their extensive store, that it was a pleasure to spend a bit more time there. We ended up purchasing an Akona dive weight bag, and a heavy-duty safety sausage.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

That afternoon, we dove with Deep Obsession on a couple offshore reefs. Their shop seems like it usually is closed, except for when they are checking out divers. They opened about an hour before our departure, handled everyone’s paperwork, closed shop and followed us across the road to the boat to load tanks.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Once on board, first all divers new to the boat had a briefing on the bow. I was new to the boat, so I listened closely. On any dive, there are at least five safety items I want to know exactly where they are located: 1) PFD’s. Just in case my BCD is not handy. 2) Fire extinguishers – location, and I like to conduct a quick visual check if their dial is “in the green.” 3) Flares. A bit awkward to ask to see the expiration dates, and if I ask with fancy terminology to see the “visual distress signals,” they’ve probably pegged me as a difficult customer, so sometimes I have to resort to tossing my hair and declaring, “Oooo! Aren’t those interesting – how DO you know when they are too old?” and let someone show me. 4) Sound producing device. You’re looking for the horn, here – air horn or a button on the dash. 5) First Aid Kit. It’s not required on vessels, but I like to know where it is located, and also if they have a defibrillator on board. Trust then verify…

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

When he finished, I said, “Let me review,” and I rattled off my five items of interest and pointed to make sure I remembered where they were located. There are other items required by the Coast Guard; ventilation, backfire flame arresters, running lights… I have to trust those are all in good working order, or else have a plan to put on my in-water survival gear (That’s what you’re carrying when you go diving, you know!) Lights, well, I figure there are a few divers on board with cyalume sticks and dive lights, so we can limp on back home if necessary. Deep Obsession passed my test. We saw a lot of traffic on the waterway as we headed offshore.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

We dove offshore at “The Flower Gardens” South of the inlet first. We zig-zagged across the reef, with a slight current pushing us North. We had decent visibility, about 30 feet horizontally and 40-50 feet vertically, at 60 foot depth. We saw moray eels, plenty of lobsters, and zillions of colorful fish. I was finishing up an Open Water II certification through NAUI with iDive Florida, so I had a few maneuvers to perform for my instructor.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Our second dive was an area called “The Elevators” in about 50 foot of depth, with visibility dropping fast. Again, we saw moray eels, lobster, and just loads of colorful reef fish of all types, including one three-foot-long grey fish with electric blue dots. It was so big and so long, I didn’t even recognize it until my dive partner told me later that it really was a trumpet fish! I can tell you, it was so busy watching me that it ran into a piece of coral, shook it’s head, and swam away. Maybe that was the reduced visibility.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

On this dive, I was to perform my navigation exercises. I’ve grown up using a compass my entire life, so that was no worry. My dive partner and I headed East, perpendicular to the group, across the top of the reef, counted fin strokes, visibility dropping rapidly with every kick, then I turned North. I swam ten minutes, then headed back West the same number of kicks to rejoin the group. Boy, was I disappointed when I did not arrive exactly back with my group! My dive partner was ready to surface, so we signaled that we would send up a safety sausage. The first one was on a new line which did not perform as expected. We immediately jettisoned it, and wasting no time, deployed our other one. As we slowly rose to our decompression stop, we felt bubbles, and realized our group was right there with us – we just could not see them through the gloom. Success!

    diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Back dockside, everyone lugged gear ashore and prepared to drive home. We had one more fantastic day of diving planned! With several dozen unique restaurants in only a mile or two radius from Portside, we chose a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant, Pho and Hot Pot, reviewed all we’d seen on the dive and watched the locals come and go. We reviewed, as usual, what worked, what didn’t, what we could do better, and what gear in which we might want to invest next. I also learned that at a Vietnamese restaurant, if there is a teeny tiny spoon, whatever it is close to must be consumed in teeny, tiny amounts. It surely is a “tiny spoon of death!” Beware!

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

Back at Portside, we chased the sunset West as we walked the inlet path, paused at some of the covered seating areas and pavilion, and admired the public areas accessible to runners, walkers, cyclists, and dogs on leashes.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

The next morning, we repeated our inlet-side walk to greet the sunrise, made coffee and cooked breakfast, and got ready for the one-mile trip to Blue Heron Bridge to dive some statues, wrecks, and sea life. We admired the on-site dredging system at Palm Beach Inlet, and wondered how often the inlet must be dredged.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession 

We went to Force-E Scuba Center to pick up our tanks, and rent a dive flag and float. In the background, you can see their mobile shop. A few of their divers were teaching this morning, so they had an entire truckload of gear. What a great idea! If we found ourselves lacking anything, they would be right there with backups for everything on Earth at the park.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

All of our planning worked out perfectly. We locked our valuables in our vehicle, and headed down to the water to wait for the tide to turn. Several other divers were preparing to dive. First we headed from the lifeguard stand straight South, along the snorkel trail, to see the shark statues and grocery carts. That is exactly what they are; statues of sharks, and abandoned grocery carts. From there, we proceeded East along the trail, marvelling at how many fish you actually see if you slow down and pay attention. We saw plenty of large starfish, some small wrecks, skinny shrimp, schools of drum and sheephead, and a conch positively running across the bottom.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

From the snorkle trail, we headed under the East Bridge and saw a few of the wrecks. It’s a bit dark and eerie under the bridge due to the sun being blocked, so it gave a real spooky feeling to the boat wrecks. Although it was a shallow dive, after an hour, it was time to gently swim back to the starting point – we planned that out well. We had parked right next to the showers, so we could rinse ourselves and our gear and dry it in the sun. We inflated BCD’s, hung wetsuits, lay out fins, masks and snorkels to dry. At this point, my dive partner realized his Zeagle Ranger BCD had suddenly failed to retain air in the bladder, and the successful repair story I’ll save for another article.

This map from Pura Vida Divers shows the general area of the Blue Heron Bridge.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

This map from Blue Heron Bridge Scuba shows some more specific items.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

After dropping our tanks back at Force-E, and purchasing some flip flops, a long-sleeved sun shirt, and a dive slate pencil, we lingered in the lovely Riviera Beach area, settling on a RJ’s Caribbean American Cuisine restaurant near the dive shop, then headed home to rinse and spread out our gear.

diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession  diving blue heron bridge and deep b, Diving Riviera Beach: Blue Heron Bridge Shore Dive and Offshore With Deep Obsession

I’m glad we signed up for their frequent buyer program at Force-E, because by the time the weekend was done, we’d been so pleased with them that we had made several purchases. I think the next time we are in the area, they have some tank refills waiting for us to thank us for our patronage. What a great reason to return to Riviera Beach! Well, that and Portside, the free shore dive at Blue Heron Bridge, and a wide variety of offshore boat diving.

What We Learned:

Actually practice what you’ve thought about doing – go for a dive, and actually hook that safety sausage to a line, fill it, and let it rise to the surface when things are great and there’s no pressure. We enjoyed experiencing having a new one tangle, then switching to another proven one. It feels great when your gear performs exactly as you expect because you have tested it and tried it and tweaked it. Don’t wait to learn that it could have been attached a better way, or differently. I absolutely loved the feeling of preparation when nothing goes wrong, and everything goes right.

We also learned that a lot of research always pays off – research about dive sites, research about tides, even research about places to stay. It all adds up to make a more enjoyable dive trip!

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