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Captain explores Boynton Beach's unique reefs
Monday, 14 March 2016 21:04

John Christopher Fine Special correspondent
Sun Sentinel March 11, 2016
Reefs are magnet for divers in Boynton Beach
Capt. Kevin Metz regularly logged more than 600 dives a year on the reefs off Boynton Beach over the last decade. That's a mighty number when compared with 12 yearly dives, on average, for active scuba divers in the U.S., according to one instructional agency.
"We have high-profile reefs. This makes them different from other reefs in Florida. An abundance of life because of the Gulf Stream," Metz said.
He owns one of five dive vessels berthed in the Boynton Harbor Marina. Dwarfed by 14-story high-rise towers and new impending construction, the marina is on the northern side of Boynton's draw bridge. It is also home to a sport fishing fleet.
The full-service Boynton Beach Dive Center is hardly a block away from the boats.
Metz's dive boat is what they call a six-pack: six passengers maximum and a captain. The boutique nature of the vessel, Metz's experience as a 50-ton master and scuba instructor with thousands of dives on Boynton's reefs, provides area divers special entrée to the underwater world.
"The shore side of the reefs are in 60 feet. The top of the reefs are from 45- to 50-feet deep. It gets deeper on the ocean side where the reefs drop off to 80 feet to the sand. It is drift diving. Depending on the day the northward flowing Gulf Stream carries divers along underwater," he said.
His newly refurbished 34-foot Crusader sport fishing boat boasts a 375-horsepower diesel engine. A shiny yellow hull attests to half-a-year of loving restoration in a local boatyard. Metz is in the process of earning a degree in ocean environmental studies. He is a straight-A student who has provided his time to many scientific and research projects off Boynton Beach.
"I've worked with organizations that are studying algal blooms, staghorn coral surveys, I helped chart locations for placement of artificial reefs and with geological radiographic analyses of the reefs," he said.
Boynton Beach is famous for turtle nesting. Beginning in December five of the seven species of marine turtles can be observed offshore. They come to mate, lay their eggs on the beaches and forage food from the reefs. Most commonly seen are loggerhead, hawksbill and green turtles. Occasionally divers are lucky enough to spot a large leatherback and even Kemp's ridley turtles have been seen underwater off Boynton Beach.
Sharks of all kinds prowl the Gulf Stream waters offshore offering underwater photographers an opportunity to capture exciting images. Ledges and overhangs give marine life shelter. Spiny lobsters seek out habitats in niches in the coral. Whales, whale sharks and dolphins come through. Lucky divers have occasion to spot them diving Boynton's reefs.
Fish abound the underwater reefs using them as havens to elude predators and hunt along the food chain for their own dinners. Tropical fish offer color and entertainment for the avid reef watcher. Some divers choose an interesting coral reef and spend their entire dive observing life around it.
"We have some unique opportunities here. Several ships have been sunk as artificial reefs. On the Castor, sunk in 113 feet of water, goliath groupers aggregate in September. We see 100 to 180 individuals over a six-week period. There are always 15 resident goliath groupers around the Castor," Metz said.
Metz is as enthusiastic diving Boynton Beach and teaching diving as he was when he started as a dive master here 13 years ago.
For those that wish to learn diving there is ample opportunity with regular classes offered by the Boynton Beach Dive Center on the eastern side of Federal highway downtown. For experienced divers that would like to see Boynton Beach underwater visit diveboyntonbeach.com or call Metz at 561-577-3326.

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