Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
26 Sept - 6 Oct 2015
Air Temperature: 80° - 90°F
Water Temperature: 81° - 86°F
Visibility: 50 - 80 feet
Recommended Exposure Suit: Skin to 3mil Shorty
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: MARC POVEY
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Video Pro: KELLY CURRINGTON
Chef: AILSA KELLY
Instructor: TROY SANDY
Sunday - Eel Garden & The Dome- Northwest Point
Monday - Spanish Anchor - West Caicos & Rock N’ Roll - French Cay
Tuesday - Rock N’ Roll - French Cay; West Sand Spit; Spanish Chain - South Caicos
Wednesday - Spanish Chain & The Arch - South Caicos
Thursday - Transfer to East Caicos due to weather from Hurricane Joaquin
Friday - Joaquin’s Retreat & It Shall Not Be Named - East Caicos
Saturday - Dolphin Point & The Great Escape - East Caicos & Afternoon Delight - Middle Caicos
Sunday - Paradise Valley - Middle Caicos & Lunar Eclipse - North Caicos & Mudjin View - Middle Caicos
Monday - Pinnacles - Grace Bay
Saturday Afternoon we collected all the weary but excited travelers from the airport and caravanned over to the boat. After the divers boarded the boat and settled into their respective cabins, Chef Ailsa prepared a delicious dinner of Pork Loin with a smokey rub. As usual with the first night on a liveaboard, the guests swapped tales and made friends for the 10 day charter. Yes you heard that right, we are about to depart on a week and a half trip around Turks and Caicos!!! Due to the tide times, we stayed moored up at Turtle Cove Marina for the night and planned for an early morning departure to Northwest Point.
Early Sunday Morning, we threw off the lines and started motoring out of the harbor. After about an hour drive, we arrived at Eel Garden. This is a perfect site to let the guests freshen up their skills and perform weight checks to ensure all was right for the long week of diving. Divers were entertained by loads of tiny Yellow headed Jaw fish popping in and out of their dens to look for predators and clean the eggs they are holding in their mouths. After watching them for some time, the divers slowly made their way over to the wall for a peek at the diving to come! They were escorted over by Yellow tail Snapper and a couple of reef sharks were patrolling the edge of visibility. On the wall’s edge, schools of Creole Wrasse and Blue tang were seen swarming the reef mating and feeding. This site is always full of Parrot fish and Angelfish munching on sponges and algae. After two checkout dives, the divers surfaced for an amazing lunch as we moved over to the famous site, The Dome. The Dome is a left over prop from a French Canadian game show similar to the Amazing Race called Pago Pago. It is a large, now mostly collapsed, metal mesh dome with a large fake tube coral structure inside of it. Divers were treated to large schools of fish hiding out under the structure and jacks swimming around looking for the brave fish that poke their heads out from under cover. The wall also holds many surprises for divers, Morays, Lobsters, Channel Clinging Crabs and loads of barrel sponges covered in nudibranchs and decorator crabs. Everyone surfaced for one of Ailsa’s delicious snacks and a surface interval before returning to the depths of the Dome for more diving. After rising from the night dive, we were treated to a rare event. The timing was perfect and once we were all out of the water, the Super Blood Moon started to be covered by earths shadow and was a sight to be seen.
As the sun rose over a perfectly calm ocean Monday morning, the crew cast off for the transfer to West Caicos. The ocean was flat and not a cloud in the sky. We had been hearing about a Hurricane forming off in the Atlantic but it looked like we would be spared any weather from the system. Once we arrived at West Caicos, the boat made its way over to Spanish Anchor. This site is named for the anchor that is lodged in a crevice on the wall. The anchor is rumored to be over 200 years old, and looks like it due to the amount of coral encrusting the metal. After divers had their pictures taken at the anchor, they were excited to see a Hawksbill turtle swim by!! The usual wall escorts were seen, some close like the Creole Wrasse, and some off in the distance just keeping an eye on everything dressed up in grey suits, reef sharks. After two amazing dives on Spanish Anchor, we dropped the mooring and motored over to French Cay. Again, there was not a breath of wind and no waves to be seen. We were pretty sure the Hurricane would leave us alone for the week. Once we arrived at French Cay, we found our way over to Rock N’ Roll. The site is named that because there is usually wind, although there was none today, that can cause the boat to rock and roll slightly throughout the dive. Divers jumped in and were again greeted by a turtle swimming by the wall! This was turning out to be a great week for animal sightings. After two day dives, the guests surfaced for another amazing dinner and then went back into the sea for a night dive. There were so many sharks on this dive, people saw reef and nurse sharks. We all enjoyed the sight so much that we decided to stay and for an early morning dive on the wall.
Divers were rising before the sun on Tuesday to get their gear ready. As soon as the edge of the big fireball broke the horizon, people began to jump in and descend into the still dark depths of the dive site. Throughout the hour long dive, it got brighter and dive lights were turned off. For the first part of the dive, we witnessed the night predators slowing down and finding places to sleep for the day. Then, once it began to get lighter, we saw parrotfish shaking off their protective cocoons, wrasse darting from coral head to coral head collecting all their friends for the school, and angelfish sneaking out of cracks to begin feeding. All the fish were still on high alert and the slightest movement would send them all scurrying away. Once all the fish had woken and began to swim around, our stomachs started rumbling and all the divers rose from the sea to have some breakfast while we transferred over to West Sand Spit. It is between French Cay and South Caicos and used to be an above water spit of land that has since eroded away. It currently sits about 2-3 feet underwater and has an amazing reef and wall structure circling the sandy area. Divers swam through all the channels looking for Barrel Sponges and any critters they could find. It was full of lobsters and crabs, even a few stingrays were seen! The highlight of the dive though was a couple baby spotted drums, they are so cute with the long streaming tails. After blowing lots of bubbles at West Sand Spit, they all got back on the boat and started resting up for the long trip to South Caicos. Due to the length of the crossing, we had to miss the early afternoon dive but everyone had a nice relaxing lunch and took a long and much needed nap. Again, we were amazed at the smooth as glass Ocean and amazing weather. Once at South Caicos, we decided to stop at Spanish Chain. Much like Spanish Anchor at West Caicos, there is an old chain and anchor sitting on the bottom that is totally encrusted in coral and sponges. Divers found the chain easily but the anchor was harder to spot, only a couple lucky divers found the anchor. After following the chain over to the wall, divers were astounded by the flowing gorgonians and sea fans. The angelfish here were amazing. Divers saw groups of french and queen angels milling about and munching on prime algae spots. One diver even saw a reef shark cruising the site. During the night dive, loads of critters came out to play. Lobsters were all over the sight, conchs were inching along, and rays were seen gliding over the sand. As divers emerged, we noticed the current picking up but hoped it was just a brief taste of the Hurricane.
Wednesday Morning, after checking the weather reports, saw that Hurricane Joaquin was moving very slowly and was getting closer to the Bahamas. It was predicted to turn and miss The Turks and Caicos Islands but it was sending some rougher conditions our way. The conditions were still doable and we did two more dives at Spanish Chain. We then moved over to The Arch, just a little further down the island, and anchored up for the rest of the day and night. The Arch is a beautiful site with an amazing swim through arch that fish love to huddle beneath. The current was starting to pick up so most divers called it early and rested up for the night dive. The night dive brought many neat animals out of hiding and divers got to watch the hunting tactics of the predators. It is always fun to watch the Bar Jacks dart from light beam to light beam chasing any fish they see.
During the night, Hurricane Joaquin reared its head and sent some bad weather our way. It was still projected to miss us entirely but sitting over Bahamas, it let us know it was there. Once the sun rose Thursday, or at least got lighter out due to the cloud cover, we made the choice to cancel the dives that day and make for East Caicos where the boat would be protected from most of the waves and wind. It was a long motor over through some fun and bouncy waves but the guests enjoyed a day of rest and movies after all the dives from early that week. After making it to East Caicos, Captain Amanda found a nice protected area for us to spend the night in. The weather did look like it was improving and we were all praying that we could dive and explore a new part of the island chain tomorrow.
After a night of rocking and rolling on some waves, everyone was happy to hear the dive bell ring Friday Morning at a brand new site called Joaquin’s Retreat!! It is always fun exploring new sites and this one was a hit. It had some nice finger ridges of coral and rocks pocking out of the sand that lead divers to a beautiful wall full of hard and soft corals that descended into the deep blue depths. There were loads of wrasse and schools of jacks swimming about the reef. Under all the ledges more crabs and lobsters than you could count. People saw red banded lobster, channel clinging crabs, spiny lobsters, and loads of shrimp. The guests completed a couple dives here as we waited out the weather and looked for other potential sites to move to. Later in the afternoon, the anchor was pulled and the boat moved up the island some. One spot was found and the anchor was lowered into the blue water. As with any exploration, some sites are good and some are not so good. This was the latter; this site will forever be called It Shall Not Be Named. As divers descended, the tide caused a slight thermocline. After a bit of a swim out to the wall, you popped out on a large Y shaped canyon that descended to about 130 ft. One the way back from the wall, one group of divers was shown the way back to the anchor by a large Hawksbill turtle!! But mostly the life here was pretty scarce so a vote was taken and the boat was moved back to Joaquin’s Retreat for the night dive. The night dive was amazing with all the critters hiding under the ledges coming out to play during the dark hours of the night.
Saturday Morning broke as the boat was moved closer to the point of the island in hopes of seeing larger animals hanging out there. When we dropped anchor, we were hoping for an amazing site and we were not disappointed. As divers dropped down, they were again amazed by the hard coral structure of the reef. Sand channels dug deep into the rock and lead the way out to the wall where large sea fans were gently swaying in the surge. As divers made their way back to the boat, they heard a odd clicking sound in the distance. Several divers started looking around and were shocked to see a dolphin!! It swam with them and circled them all they way back to the boat. Even the crew on the boat got to see the dolphin as it swam by!! That made this an easy site to name, Dolphin Point!!!! Everyone wanted to stay here for one more dive to hopefully see the dolphin again. As people started sinking down to the wall, ears were open and eyes were staring out into the blue in hopes of seeing him again but it appears he found some fish to chase and left for the day. Once back on the boat, the anchor was raised and the boat scooted over a couple miles to another potential spot. As the anchor was being lowered, the chase boat decided to venture off on its own and had to be retrieved. That again brought about an amazing dive site name of The Great Escape. Once the escapee was captured and tied back on, divers jumped in to a clear blue ocean and swam out to the wall. The coral makeup on the North Side of East Caicos is beautiful no matter where you go. It is all hard corals with some fairly rare stag horn and pillar corals scattered about. On any exposed piece of rock were large sea fans and gorgonians that were home to flamingo tongues and decorator crabs. Everyone was so excited to keep exploring this part of the island that we moved again but decided to trek further on to Middle Caicos. After searching far and wide for a potential anchor site, the anchor was dropped and the swim gates were opened. The anticipation of what new treasures would be seen was palpable. From the second our fins hit the water, you could tell this was an amazing site. The whole seabed was criss crossed in gullies and channels. As divers started exploring, many swim throughs were found and our divers braved the darkness of the unknown to come out the other side smiling. This was one of the best sites of the trip and earned its name of Paradise Valley. The night dive did not disappoint with nurse sharks coming out to play. Under every ledge and in every nook and cranny were lobsters, crabs and shrimp. Several spotted morays were found hiding in finger corals. As divers reluctantly surfaced from an amazing night dive, a vote was taken and we all decided to stay here for two more dives in the morning.
Before the bell was rung Sunday morning, most divers were already up and standing by their gear. More exploring of the beautiful Valleys and Gullies was done and more critters, swim throughs, and amazing coral formations were found. This is definitely a spot to remember. Once everyone had their fill of Paradise Valley, the boat made its way up to North Caicos to try out the diving there. As they all dropped down, this sight was not as impressive as the previous ones. For the intrepid diver, the wall was pretty but it was a bit of a swim out to it. Everyone decided to leave Lunar Eclipse and head back to Middle Caicos. We stopped just outside of Mudjin Harbor at a newly named site, Mudjin View. The rocky bottom was cut by gullies and covered in gorgonians and sea fans. If you looked under the crevices there were parrot fish and tangs. Hiding inside a finger coral was a baby spotted moray. A couple lobster were even seen. During the day, this site was kinda slow as most critters were sleeping but everyone could tell that the site would come alive at night. And boy were they correct, right off the bat the few divers who braved the night were greeted by 2 reef squid that were hanging out by the chase boat. After swimming with the squid for a while, everyone dropped down and saw lobsters and crabs all over the place. It looks like all the cracks and crevices were full of critters that were waiting for cover of night to come out. Larger spotted morays were seen hunting through the gullies and jacks were seen darting around looking for a quick meal.
Very early Monday morning, the engines roared to life and the anchor was pulled for the trek back over to Grace Bay for our last dive site and 2 remaining dives. As we pulled up to Pinnacles, we could see schools of Yellow tail Snapper swimming below the surface. We knew we hit it big for the last dive. Once underwater, divers were treated to large Pinnacle corals and huge sea fans. Flamingo tongues were everywhere and even a couple Fingerprint Cyphoma were spotted. From the boat, we could watch all the divers spread over the whole site exploring all the gullies and grooves of the site. The brave ones that wanted to go deeper saw a blue parrot fish and some Atlantic Spade fish!! After two amazing dives at Pinnacles, Divers surfaced for the last time to clean and stow their gear for the long flights home. Once back in the Marina, everyone was free to roam Provo and explore all the neat shops. As the sun was setting, the Wine and Cheese party started. As always happens after a dive trip, people exchanged info and promised to meet again underwater somewhere around the world. The crew was sad to see everyone leave but enjoyed spending the last ten days with them. Hopefully we will see all of you again!!