Mohawk Trip Aboard El Gavilan

On August 31, 2013, I made a trip out to dive the USS Mohawk aboard the El Gavilan, a sturdy, 32-foot custom dive boat captained by Jim Joseph, owner of Fantasea Scuba of Port Charlotte, FL. The plan was to make two dives on the Mohawk and be back to the dock by 3:30pm.

El Gavilan charter boat

32ft El Gavilan

I met up with the other divers at El Gavilan’s dock in Placida FL at 7am. The twelve tanks of Nitrox were strapped in, and dive gear was quickly loaded. We filled out paper work, and without delay, we were off the dock in Charlotte Harbor and on our way dive the Mighty Mo.

Comfy deck chairs on El Gavilan

Comfy deck chairs on El Gavilan

This Cat diesel powered boat is comfortable and  capable with a shielded cockpit,  marine head, and tall & roomy cabin where even someone 6’4″ like myself could comfortably stand up. It’s 14 ft max beam makes for lots of space.

Passengers can seek shade in the cockpit, cabin or under the canopy on the tuna tower. For the sun lovers, Capt Jim brought up a couple of nice padded deck chairs for divers to sit in comfort on the rear deck.

The Mohawk is about a 33 mile trip from El Gavilan’s slip in Placida. The boat cruises at 15 knots, so it’s about a two hour trip out.  Weather was perfect  with sunny skies, 1 foot waves and winds under 5 knots.

Capt Jim briefing divers on the USS Mohawk

Capt Jim briefing divers on the USS Mohawk

We arrived as the first boat on the Mohawk before 10am. We had our choice of moorings and took the bow. Capt Jim gave the thorough dive briefing, then helped the open circuit divers gear up and make their giant strides off the large dive platform for dive one of two. Since I was diving my CCR, my plan was to make one long dive and follow the divers out at the end of their second dive.

 

Goliath Grouper and Grunts off USS Mohawk Bow

Goliath & Grunts off Mohawk’s Bow

I made my way down the mooring, which is now attached to a large concrete block 87 feet deep in the sand off the Mohawk’s bow. This block is right next to the anchor chain that runs up to bow on the starboard side.

Visibility was about 30-35 feet, with a water temp of 83F on the bottom. As I followed the chain up to the bow deck, I spotted three smaller goliath grouper straight off the bow among the schools of grunts…. a good sign.

Once on the bow deck, I could immediately spot some of the underwater artwork on the super structure. These art prints by Andreas Franke were placed on the Mohawk for the summer months of 2013. They are scheduled to be removed on Sept 7th, so I was glad to get a chance to see them in their final week. Some of them already have been coming off on their own. A few mounts appear to have corroded prematurely.

 

Rolling my GoPro camera, I slowly made my way along the starboard main deck from bow to stern.  For a diver who’s been diving the Mohawk periodically since she was sunk in July 2012, it’s been amazing to witness the transition in marine life taking hold.

USS Mohawk Loaded with Life

Mohawk Loaded with Life

She is now well covered with sea urchins, barnacles, plants and mussels. I was greeted by moon jellyfish, schools of grunts, jacks, goliath grouper, and barracuda.

One of the Mohawk’s unique features is the engine room.  It’s easily accessible through large blow-outs in the starboard wooden deck. The blow-outs allow for sufficient sunlight reach down to illuminate the front half  it.  So, I just dropped down through the blown-out deck mid-ship directly into the engine room.

The massive 1800 Horsepower Fairbanks-Morse Diesel was left in for the reefing.   The machinery makes for some great photography.  I fired up my video lights and moved back towards the rear of the engine where I spooked the resident ‘engine room Goliath’ lurking in the shadows. Yup, he still there. He’s still the biggest one on the Mohawk, but be aware he’s quite anti-social and elusive.

Underwater Art on USS Mohawk

Artwork at Mohawk’s aft Deck

My engine room tour ended with an exit on a port-side cut out near the sand. I then went aft to check out the rudder and prop, and eventually back up to the aft main deck.   From here, I slowly made my way forward towards the bow composing shots along the way.

Before long, the open circuit divers had returned to the Mohawk on their second dive. At this point, I had accumulated about 18 minutes of deco, so I remained above 60 feet to time my departure with them and not hold up the boat.

Goliath in Wheel House with Art

Wheel House Goliath

I ventured into Mohawk’s wheel house a bit, where  I found small and fearless Goliath  hanging out.  He almost appeared to be on patrol guarding a piece of art that was placed inside.

Eventually I ascended the mooring line along with the other open-circuit divers, and was the last one out after finishing my last 5 minutes of remaining deco at 10 feet.   I was glad to find a well constructed stainless steel ladder which made re-boarding El Gavilan a breeze.

My total bottom time for this one Mohawk dive: 132 minutes.

In no time at all we were underway and headed home. Divers enjoyed the ride back eating, resting, and socializing. We hit the dock a bit ahead of schedule at 3pm with a group of happy and satisfied divers.   A great day trip on a well run dive boat, El Gavilan.

 

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