A S S O C I A T I O N   OF   U N D E R W A T E R   E X P L O R E R S  

Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 00:07:39

AUE Tortugas Trip Report September 6-9, 2001
Rhein, Araby Maid II, U-2513, Oil Wreck, Baja California

Day 2

After getting off to a good start on our first day of the trip, the gang awoke to a quick breakfast and then another dive on the Araby Maid II. The Araby is an interesting dive and quite intact for her age. While the wooden cabins and upper decks are long since deteriorated, the hull and support beams are intact, as well as the wood planking of her lower decks. The marine life can be quite obscene, however, on this visit it appeared the fish soup we experienced in May was a bit watered down. After bagging the porthole, as well as a brass gimbaled mount and what resembles a miniature capstan cover (after a little cleaning it appears the name is embossed on the top), I continued to swim forward. At the bow a diver can witness the fatal v-shaped gash that the SS Denver inflicted on the schooner.

I meandered about the wreck, enjoying the scenery of the dive. Around amidships I could see the rest of the divers exploring the wreck at either end, as well as one of my buddies swimming over one of the masts off the starboard side. Amberjack and almaco jacks circled overhead, curious to our intrusion. After checking out the bow wreckage, I turned and headed back to the hook. Adding a tad bit more of gas to the liftbag, I headed up the line accompanied by one of my buddies. I eventually let the bag continue to the surface while minding the reel so it wouldnt drift off. With 100+ feet of visibility, I could see it resting peacefully on the surface, just off the bow of the boat. As the other divers began their ascent, I headed back to our boat to float about the second anchor line. During the remainder of my deco, I had the opportunity to watch the captains of our boats reel in several blackfin tuna, as well as one barracuda that got a bit close for my comfort. Upon the conclusion of the dive, we all boarded the boat and prepared for a short trip to the U-2513.

The early afternoon started to get a bit gloomy, though the cooler air was heartedly greeted after we had endured the glaring sun the day before. Several squalls lined the horizon, though it appeared they would slide off to the sides of us. Well, all but one ended up sliding past us while one ran headlong into the site. It took us a bit of trying to hook into the U-2513, a Type XXI German U-boat built in 1944. Boasting a length of 252 feet, she was the most technologically advanced U-boat built during World War II. Advanced sonar capability, greater torpedo delivery (6 bow tubes), greater depth range, and a hydraulic torpedo loader allowed for total reloading in 12 minutes. Known as an "elektroboat," she could stay submerged for a greater period than her predecessors due to her robust battery supply. She was surrendered to the Allies in Norway in May of 1945. She sailed for the United States, arriving in New London, Connecticut, in late August 1945. She sailed for the Portsmouth Navy yard in New Hampshire and was commissioned the U.S.S. -EX U-2513. Eventually she headed for Key West, where President Harry Truman boarded the U-boat and participated in a cruise to 450 feet in 1946. Later, she was moved around New Hampshire, Key West, and Norfolk, eventually to be towed 23 miles northeast of the Dry Tortugas to be sunk as a target by the destroyer U.S.S. Robert A. Owens on October 7, 1951.

Again I splashed into the warm, blue water and headed forward to the anchor line. I met up with one of my buddies and headed down towards the wreck with him, following his wake as he scootered down. I soon could make out the shape of the submarine below me, the hook secured into a hole towards the bow. My buddy wanted to scooter the length of the wreck so I swam aft to the port side damage hole to await one of my other buddies so we could check out the torpedo room. I dropped down into the crater of the damaged hull as was just about to doff my deco bottles when I heard this massive PTOW!   poked my head up and amidst a large rust cloud, I saw the hook drifting off the wreck. I quickly kicked towards it as one of my other buddies who just arrived on-scene, tried to scooter it back to the wreck. Unfortunately, the drag on the hook was too great, so we gave up on that option. Knowing that one of our buddies was still aft and unaware of the situation, we opted to stay and continue our dive, hoping that the boats would soon return. Since we had two boats, we were very comfortable in continuing our dive. My buddy and I headed toward the damage hole and doffed our deco bottles. Heading inside, we explored the cool gauges and hand wheels of the forward torpedo room. Wiggling up and over some debris, I could look back and see the loading cradle and other associated machinery of the sub. Quite fascinating. After we saw all the interior offered, we headed out and continued with the dive. We slowly swam back aft, checking the aft damage hole, noticing that access may soon be possible due to some spreading wreckage. Schools of amberjack circled about and several very large scamp were observed along the hull of the former U-boat. Finally inspecting the large screws, we headed back towards the bow. We rendezvoused with the other two divers and made the call to shoot bags for deco. Just as I let my bag go, I saw the hook of one of the boats slowly descend down to the wreck. We swam over to it and tried to re-secure it to the wreck, but unfortunately they didnt feed us enough scope so we had to release the anchor line.

Heading up for decompression, we soon noticed that a massive rainstorm had unleashed itself on the boats above. My buddy shot another bag with some strobes in order to facilitate our identification in the rain storm. We soon saw one of our other buddies snorkel over to the line to check us out as we signaled OK. Left to finish decompression, we enjoyed the brilliant blue water, entertained by the wild scene the pelting rain created on the surface above. A solitary wahoo passed by in the distance, soon to be replaced by a pesky remora that would not leave us alone. By the time we hit the surface the brief storm was all but done. After securing our gear, we slowly motored back to the wreck so the remainder of the group could visit the sub. Quickly anchoring up, the second groups dive was pretty uneventful in comparison.

Our two vessels motored next to the "Oil Wreck," an unknown tanker and war casualty resting in 145 feet of water. Upon reaching the site, it was quite apparent why the wreck was called the "Oil Wreck" due to the massive slick that formed from the bubbling cargo still found within the wreck. After relaxing and having a quick meal, half of the group dropped in for a visit to the hulk below. Visibility appeared quite good, though those of us who had visited this wreck in the past knew that a muck layer is usually found along the bottom. Just as we reached the top of the nearly-inverted hull, the visibility was reduced to a cloudy 15 feet. After securing a strobe to where the hook was draped over one of the large boilers, I dropped down to the sand and swam over to one of the mast along the bottom. A large nurse shark and sleeping turtle shared a space under the metal span, though the shark soon departed at the approach of my light. I headed forward to work on a nice porthole on a bulkhead. As I got my tools out I grabbed my light to find a better placement for it when it cut off. Crap. One of the guys provided enough background light for me to bang the light a bit to see if it would cooperate which ended up being unsuccessful. Shrugging, I returned my tools to the bag, stowed my light, and whipped out a backup light. A couple of the guys ran a line and continued towards the bow, eventually poking into one of the large tanker holds. With their HID light blazing, the interior was brightly illuminated and created a really neat scene. After playing around the interior a bit, the group made their way back to the boilers and prepared to head up for our short decompression obligation. The guys were nice enough to attach a birthday card on my strobe, though I managed to lose it on deco. I was further surprised to find a key lime pie with candles awaiting me upon climbing on the boat. I never noticed them smuggling that on the boat.

After partaking of the dessert, a few of us enjoyed some wine and checked out the brilliant array of stars blazing overhead. We were soon joined by a large pod of friendly dolphins that proceeded to frolic off the stern of the boat. They must have believed we were a shrimper, as they showed off in an attempt for a free meal. They played in very close proximity to the boat, jumping in the air, slapping their tails, and many times just poking their head up to take a look at us. It was quite entertaining. All too soon, the day caught up with us and we opted to turn in for some peaceful sleep before our last dives the following morning.