Visibility: 60 - 80 feet
Temperature: 82° - 84°F
Thermal Protection: 3mm shorty or full
Karen & Jack, Bob & Nancy, Brand, Roger, Carol, Lana, Mike, Scott, Richard & Lisa, Jill & Josh, Janet & Chuck, Mark and John.
Captain – AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain – CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer – ROB SMITH
Chef – MATT CRAWFORD
Instructor – JESS POLK
Instructor – COLE PERERA
Sunday: Eel Garden – NWPT & Gullies – West Caicos
Monday: Rock N Roll & G-Spot – French Cay
Tuesday: Half-Mile – French Cay & Spanish Anchor – West Caicos
Wednesday: Brandywine & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Thursday: The Dome & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Friday: Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
As the flights carrying the Aggressor guests from Arkansas, Missouri and beyond started touching down, the crew put out the final touches and prepared for another phenomenal week of diving. Jess, one of our instructors, greeted our new friends at the airport. Once they arrived to the boat, the rest of the crew loaded them up onto the boat and got them settled in. With the sun splashing oranges and purples across the sky and sea, we set sail, making our way out to Eel Garden at North West Point, where we would stay the night. Chef Matt prepared a delectable three course dinner – Spinach & Baby Tomato Salad with Peach Vanilla Vinaigrette, Baked Potatoes stuffed with Shrimp, Bacon, Gouda, Cream Cheese and Asparagus and finishing off with the fluffiest French Vanilla Cake I have ever seen in my life. I literally thought about using it for a pillow! With bellies full and eyes tired, guests slowly trickled below deck to tuck in for the night and prepare for our first full day of diving.
Matt rising with the stars still sparkling, starts to prepare breakfast Monday morning, waking us with the wafts of bacon and blue berry pancakes that he sends slowly floating by our bunks. Refreshed and rejuvenated, we rise and yet again fill our bellies with a sturdy breakfast. The dive bell rings, calling us out to the back dive deck. Tanks are analyzed. Kits are assembled. Buddy checks, checked and double checked. We are ready to go diving. With a giant stride, we plummet into the deep blue, immediately immerged in our home away from home – Mother Ocean. Little fish flitter by, rushing off to their early morning meetings. Groupers lumber along, comfortable to get where they’re going at their own pace. Us divers? Stilled by the awesomeness of it all. As we following the telecommunication cable down to the wall, we bump into a chain linked moray eel swimming from bummie to bummie, trying to find a spot to tuck itself away. As we descend down the wall to about 65 ft. Janet spots another one, head popped out of the reef opening and closing its mouth as if singing the song of its people. Moving farther along the wall, the first of our Caribbean Reef Sharks come flying over the edge of the wall, cruising in between Cole (unaware) and Nancy (desperately trying to get Cole’s attention). All along the wall we see Gasby and Rock Hinds patrolling the reef. A school of Black Jacks shallowly swimming in the blue looking for a snack, while a single Lionfish flutters along. Arrow Head Crabs take up residence in small Barrel Sponges and Spiny Lobster have themselves tucked away in the crevices. Even the Arrow Blennies were about, springing away if anyone got to close. When we got back from our dive, true to form, Chef Matt was waiting for us with three varieties of homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies – Mint Oreo Stuffed, Oreo Stuffed and Your Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookie. We’re not spoiled at all. On the second dive here, there was just as much to see, plus more! Karen, our group leader was taking shots of a Nassau Grouper when she looked over to see an octopus making its’ way over the rocky bottom. What luck!
As soon as everyone had a hot shower off the back dive deck, we let loose and set off for West Caicos. During our journey, we were not left unentertained. Rob, our engineer, as well as photo pro served us an incredible lunch – homemade Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil, Mixed Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing, pasta with your choice of Chicken, Alfredo, Marinara or Roasted Veggies and a Mixed Fruit Salad. After making sure our plates were full, he then went on the regal the guest with the Onboard Photography Services. Not only do we have a variety of rental options and workshops available, Rob is always more than happy to lend a helping hand with photo equipment or share some of his prized experencial knowledge. He also puts together a fantastic slide show of all of our wonderful experiences through out the week.
Pulling up to West Caicos we saw there were a host of dive sites available – Gullies among them. This is one of our favorite dive sites. It is so named for the Gully that runs down through the wall, starting off at 50ft and opening up at 110ft. To the right of the gully sits one of our old friends, the gnome. He’s not easy to spot, but when you do see him, you know lady luck (and ok, maybe some of your eagle eye skills) has come to your aid. The welcome crew was ready as we hopped in – three Caribbean Reef Sharks, a Nurse Shark, Southern Stingray and Atlantic Spade Fish. The clarity of the water and azul blue makes diving the waters of West Caicos always a favorite. The second dive was of equal quality – those sharks just do not go away! One tried to get into Karen’s wetsuit!
As the sun must rise every morning, so must it set. The sun made its’ grand exodus peaking from out from behind the cloud for what almost seemed like the last three minutes, glowing a brilliant fiery orange. The water looked as to catch a flame as well, with each wave licking at the horizon. Meanwhile, our group watched in companionable silence, content with the day’s events. Not that it stops here! Rob rings the dinner bell, eager to fill our bellies again. Chef Matt has prepared a wholesome dinner – Caprese Salad, Grilled Mahi Mahi, Sweet Potato Fries, Sweet Peas & homemade Tar Tar Sauce and for dessert: Triple Fudge Brownies. Can life get better? It does! Tonight marks the night of our first night. After dinner, we gather round to be briefed on the dos and don’ts of night diving by Second Captain, Christy. Now ready, we slip into the milky darkness, allowing it to swallow us up hole, our torch light the only thing able to pierce through the night. Our eyes adjust and a whole new world opens before us. Black Jacks dash in and out of our lights, searching for an easy meal. Squirrel Fish hide themselves in the coral heads. Parrot Fish have wrapped themselves up in their mucous cocoon – their sleeping bag for the night. A lone reef shark skits about the edge of the light cast from the mother vessel. Making our way along the wall, Fringe Back & Long Horn Nudibranchs reveal themselves. Just after the gully, a Caribbean Octopus comes out from underneath a small coral head, not shy at all. It slowly moves over the coral, broadcasting an unknown message with its color show. Warm towels and smiles greeted us as we came up from the depths, not to mention our famous Hot Chocolate with Jamaican Rum Cream.
Here on the Turks and Caicos Aggressor, we always do our best to provide the best diving of the week. Having only a small window of opportunity to get down to French Cay, we set off again, arriving near midnight to a dive site called Rock ’n’ Roll. In the morning we woke to more scrumptious breakfast delights, filled our bellies and eagerly headed off to the back dive deck to get ready for our morning of diving. More Caribbean Reef Sharks, Nurse Sharks and all the usual suspects were hanging out underneath the boat and off the wall. Massive Barrel Sponges create little hiding spots for the smaller Nassau Grouper and a variety of Angel Fish. One lone four foot barracuda hangs out on a ledge of the wall. As soon as we approach, he darts away, leery of our bubbles. The diving here never gets old! For lunch, it smelled if we had stepped into Mexico. Chef Matt cooked us up some Stuffed Mixed Peppers, Veggie and Beef Tacos, Homemade Guacamole, Fiesta Salad with all the fixings. Over lunch, Christy moved us over to G-Spot, one of the favorite dive sites of the Turks and Caicos Islands. The wall curves our, quite like the shape of a lowercase “g”, where the nutrient rich waters flow up and over, creating an environment rich in diversity and life. Black coral grows up and out like wings while the “confetti” fish flitter and dash up and down the water column. Farther past the Black Coral, a massive Cubera Snapper sits in a little cave, looking up to see what these crazy divers are doing. A small Green Turtle made its way through the dense coral heads looking for a snack and a place to relax. Lazily, a four foot Caribbean Reef Shark lumbers by and behind that, a beautiful specimen of a full size adult Green Turtle. This turtle had not a care in the world. With a decent amount of algae growing on its shell, you could tell he (or she) has been around awhile. It sauntered up to a coral head and starting tearing apart one of the sponges, eye me up, seeming to say, “It’s my ocean, I’ll do and eat what I want.” Hey, turtles got to eat too I suppose. Meanwhile, almost marking the full swing of the boat, two Nurse Sharks sat under one coral head at one end and a lone Nurse Shark at the other. What fun boundary markers! The night dive here was insane. The Nurse Sharks, along with the Black Jacks, came out to hunt in the divers’ lights, eating anything in sight - carnage. Complete and utter carnage.
The next morning we found ourselves at Half Mile, name appropriately so because it sits a half mile from French Cay. This site was littered with Spiny Lobsters. Little Hermit Crabs sat playing patty cake. Underneath the boat 29 (or so Karen counted!) Yellow Headed Jawfish floated in and out of their little tunnel homes. One was just opening up its mouth, making it seem like he was housing some really young eggs. On the second dive, Jess had a magical encounter. While she was looking at said Jawfish, out of her peripheral, something moved and caught her attention. As she lifted her head, her heart leaped as she realized an Eagle Ray was soaring towards her. Staying still and calm, the Eagle Ray did not fright, swimming mere inches from her face before he floated upward and onwards, leaving her with a message of joy and happiness to spread amongst the rest of the divers. The delightful scent of BBQ tickled our noses as we took our masks off coming up from our dive. Chef Matt had prepared for us decadent cheese burgers, BBQ cole slaw, pea soup and fresh salad.
While we dined, we made our way back to West Caicos and moored up to The Spanish Anchor, so called for the three hundred year old sponge encrusted anchor that rests in the gulley. Both Christy and Rob were in the water making sure they got video and photo of our divers as they made their way by the famed anchor. Out on the wall, a Reef Shark cruised by. Up in the coral heads, Oceanic Trigger Fish puffed into the sand, looking for a treat. They are plentiful at this dive site. We had another fabulous dinner and then back in the water for our night dive. It really is: Eat, Sleep, Dive. Wash and repeat on this boat! The Aggressor way!
In the morning we moved just a tad north to Brandywine, marked by an old crane on the island. Brandywine is known for its massive Barrel Sponges that could easily fit a small person inside. Down past the second sand shoot, we found a stunning pink anemone, as more Reef Sharks swam up and down, keeping us company. Lunch was Asian themed today and followed by dives at Magic Mushroom. The wall here is extremely healthy and will keep you entranced as you follow the wall down, down, down. Tucked away in a nook in the wall was a petite Spotted Spiny Lobster. Farther down, we saw a very well fed Green Moray, about the size of a human thigh! Underneath the boat, southern stingrays swept the ground like vaccume cleaners with Yellow Snapper and Bar Jacks in their wake, looking for an easy meal. In one of the small coral heads, we could just see a Chain Linked Moray Eel hanging out. Further up near the mooring line, is the Lobster Tower. Four big Spiny Lobster called it home for today. Even farther up in the shallows, John and Jack reported back they saw an Eagle Ray! How lovely! On the safety stop, a Reef Shark swiftly swam up from the depths towards the boat. At first six or seven Bar Jacks surrounded him, but then as if on cue, the whole school of about 100 Bar Jacks convened on the poor shark, steering him away from the boat and towards the surface. An incredible sight!
The dinner bell rang and everyone eagerly found their seats with urgency. Not only was Beef Tenderloin with basil crema, watermelon salad and Butternut Squash on the menu, but Chef Matt’s infamous, world-renowned homemade Butterfinger Ice Cream. I heard, seconds and even thirds were had. I don’t doubt that there will be some mischievous behavior tonight… early wee hours and several divers (guests and crew alike) digging into the leftovers like kids in the candy store. Clearly we need to start putting combination locks on the freezer if Matt is going to keep this up. Only time will tell. The night dive was crowd pleaser. Swimming in the boats light below, a school of Bar Jacks feasted on the plankton and small crustaceans in the water column.
We woke with luck with following morning – there is still some of that fabulous homemade ice cream left! And with that and the sun not even thinking of coming up yet, we set forth to venture back to North West Point to dive The Dome for our morning dives. We jumped in the water and I know all of us squealed at least internally, as the water was a full degree below than what it was at West Caicos. We headed over to the wall, swimming through pockets of cool and warm water, such a funny feeling. Through the finger like coral mounds, a Nurse Shark led the way. Once to the wall, Creole Wrasse cascaded down the reef, taking us to “the chimney” – a vertical open column that rises from about 80 feet. Rob was at the foot of it, snapping photos of us as we entered and rose up and through. Chef Matt delighted us with a delicious lunch of smoked salmon and set us up for an afternoon of diving at Amphitheatre. Here we searched for the frogfish that has been sited for the last few weeks, but alas despite extensive searching he proved elusive – not that we didn’t enjoy the scorpionfish that sat in the sand and as Karen was photographing this critter, she noticed a very calm hawksbill turtle just hanging out close by and so she changed her subject.
The rollers picked up from the north during the late afternoon and so during our weekly Thanksgiving celebration of roast turkey, with creamed corn, mashed sweet potato and dressing, we returned to West Caicos.
And so again we found ourselves at Magic Mushroom for the dawn dive on Friday morning. A great wall to end the week with Caribbean reef sharks still around as the other fish seemed to pop out of the reef as they awoke. As the sun rose the light followed under water making a delightful end to our diving this charter.
The north shore was not an option for the return to shore this week and so we travelled the beautiful south side of Providenciales enjoying aqua marine, calm seas as we crossed the Caicos Bank to Caicos Marina & Shipyard. At this time whilst feeling comfortably full from a great breakfast from Matt we had the opportunity to reflect on the week with Christy’s movie and Rob’s photos.
The afternoon was spent enjoying photos, movies, conversation and naps with a little packing thrown in for good preparation measure. Our cocktail party was a great opportunity to reminisce on the week passed turn our thoughts to the future and the exciting prospect of upcoming adventures. Of course we also had to celebrate our Iron Diver of the week, Jill, who despite our challenges of early dives and changed schedules managed to dive all 25 dives on offer. Well done Jill! Thank you to Karen & Jack from SportsCo, Arkansas for bringing a great group of Folks to share a fantastic week of diving – check in next week to see what Mother Ocean will share with us.