The longtime owner of a local dive shop sold the shop and accompanying boats to six scuba veterans who plan to rename the business and expand the role of technical diving in Key West waters.
Subtropic Dive Center became Seaduction Key West on Thursday, when Robin Lockwood sold the business and its two dive boats, which are docked next to the shop on North Roosevelt Boulevard.
"I've been running trips out of there for 28 years," said Lockwood, an orthopedist, who plans to continue his practice about three days a week.
"It's time to move on and get someone younger in there," he said.
Capt. Mike Ange is heading up the new Seaduction group with five other investors, who hosted a barbecue Thursday evening for the dive shop staff, most of whom will remain with the new company.
"We want to put Key West back on the map; where it was 15 years ago as the capital of tech diving," said Ange, an international tech diving trainer, author, editor and dive shop owner in North Carolina. He lives near Venice, Fla., but said he will spend much of his time in Key West.
The investor group also includes Key West Capts. Chris Norwood, Tom Boesch and Shawn Redding, along with Bill Stone of Orlando, John Grapsas in New Mexico and Tracy Grubbs of North Florida.
Norwood is Seaduction's new director of operations, and will be on site daily to coordinate trips, classes and sales in the retail shop. He was one of the organizers of the Vandenberg artificial reef project and has operated a private dive charter company in Key West for 10 years.
Boesch and Redding both have worked for Mel Fisher's Treasures and have spent more time on and under the water than on dry land for the past several years.
They'll oversee the operation and maintenance of the company's two boats, a 30-foot and a 42-foot Burpee, said Ange, who was part of the ordnance recovery team tasked with removing any explosives that had not detonated during the successful May 2009 sinking of the Vandenberg.
He has worked as the international tech diving training for Scuba Schools International (SSI), the training editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the author of nine books and an online magazine about the dive industry.
Technical dives are those deeper than 130 feet, done with mixed gases that enable longer bottom times at deeper depths. Dives within enclosed areas such as caves, caverns and shipwrecks are also the specialized realm of tech divers.
"We're going to offer deeper penetration of our local wrecks, along with tech dive training," Ange said. "We really want to catch Key West up with what the industry has been doing in other places."
But it's not all dark, deep dives at the new Seaduction Key West.
"We're going to use the smaller boat for those tech dive charters, while the larger Starfish Enterprise will be handling general recreational dives," he said, adding that the company plans to offer specials for locals and military personnel.
"I'm excited; I think we're going to do great things," Norwood said. "For me, it's not a change, but switching gears."
He added that he plans to bring the same level of intimacy and service to Seaduction as he delivered to his private charter clients.
"If you liked Subtropic, you'll love Seaduction," Norwood said.