Category Archives: Free Diving

Reading the Conditions to Go Free Diving in the Keys


Upon arriving in the Florida Keys in late February Jeannette and I were anxious to get in the water and do some serious freediving.  The entire sail down from NC was filled with strong winds, oddly enough from the southwest,  and once secured to a mooring in Boot Key Harbor the winds continued. Front upon front that marched across the states would find us down here and blow as they passed through then increase in strength as the high pressure filled in behind.  Well all this wind is obviously not good for diving.  A few days when the wind settled down to around 15kts I would charge out for a beating in the dingy.  The first two times I went out the water was clear one day and cloudy the next.  My first thought was a change in wind direction had caused a change in water clarity.  In NC an onshore wind will bring warmer cloudy conditions, while an offshore breeze will bring cooler, clearer water in. As I experimented with the winds with each passing front my theories were being blown out of the water, nothing was being consistent relating to wind direction and water clarity.  As a result I began to question other variables that could effect visibility on the reef.  It was on a bus ride back from Key West that it became apparent what had the most effect on the visibility.  Riding over the seven mile bridge I could see the green cloudy water of the bayside in contrast to the blue clear water on the oceanside.  The tide was coming in and the clear water was rushing by the pilings of the old bridge. It was like a light bulb went off in my head.  So over the next few weeks whenever the wind slacked to 15kts or less I would review the tide charts and go out on an incoming tide, and voila,  more consistent clear water. Thinking about it it all makes sense.  The high nutrient rich waters surrounding the shallow mangroves has that green cloudy characteristic, while the deep cool ocean water has the clear visibility that is needed for more enjoyable diving.  Watch the tides and you have your own calendar for the best times to make the run out to the reef without getting burned.  Now it’s mid April and the fronts have finally settled down. The wind and sea has calmed and the water is becoming clearer each trip out.  There are truly some amazing reefs to dive, and if you venture to the greater depths there can be some rewarding spearfishing as well.