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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
20 – 27 May 2017
Air temperature: 75° - 80° F
Water temperature: 79 - 81° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm or 5mm full wetsuit
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Chef: JESSICA POLK
Video Pro: CONOR FERRIN
Instructor: MICHAEL WEINBAUM
Instructor: COLE PERERA
Kelli & Rob, Frank & Karen, Rich & Liz, Sharon, Connie, Kelly & Jackie, Lynd & Deb, Jan & Jeff, Dann, Bery and Ralph & Agnes
Sunday – Amphitheatre, NWPT & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Monday – Rock N Roll & G-Spot – French Cay
Tuesday – Half Mile, French Cay & Spanish Anchor, West Caicos
Wednesday – Gullies & Brandywine, West Caicos
Thursday – Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos & The Dome, NWPT
Friday – Shark’s Hotel, NWPT
The tide was out so boarding this week was by tender out to the anchorage in Grace Bay. With very little wind and a bright sun, it made for a very pleasant afternoon as guests unpacked, settled in and started to build new friendships. Briefings were imparted, a delightful supper served and then we moved out of the shallow waters in preparation for our first dive on Sunday morning.
The morning dawned bright and calm and Amphitheatre was our site for our check out dive. Everyone shook out the cobwebs and established themselves for a great week of diving. Sharing the site with us for this dive was a scorpionfish, who looked on with apparent disdain as we examined it closely. The jawfish were out in force, as they usually are at this site, but none seemed to have eggs that we could see. An octopus provided a great surprise on the second dive at the site as it munched on a reasonably large crab, oblivious to the divers.
As the weather was calm we opted for an early visit to French Cay, and so to stage this we moved to West Caicos at lunchtime and dived at Boat Cove. Always a great site, the sand combined with the beautiful ridge of rich reef at the wall edge, providing a great home to many critters. In the water column, we saw schools of blue chromis and Creole wrasse feeding on microscopic morsels, creating a waterfall effect as they moved together giving the sense of a much larger fish. In the coral at the top of the reef a tiny juvenile spotted drum darted from one space to another followed by its impossibly long dorsal fin. Caribbean lobsters peered from their hidey-holes, although we had a couple that quite indignantly strutted across the reef. Southern stingrays took the opportunity to feed on any slow garden eels that failed to detect their approach. Two afternoon dives and a night dive for the black and white lighters. For the fluorescence divers barrel sponges were covered in trapania and longhorn nudibranchs. The white-lighters enjoyed lobsters, crabs and the occasional shark.
We moved that evening to French Cay – the seas had remained calm and the winds low although there was quite a low cloud cover that covered the stars as we pulled up to the mooring. The following morning we were positioned to dive Rock N Roll and enjoy the beautiful rich reef that is French Cay. Our resident Caribbean reef sharks circled our guests whilst the cubera snapper kept its distance, something that it does not do on the night dive. Out in the blue some of our guests were delighted to see a couple of eagle rays as they cruised along the wall.
At lunch we moved across to G-Spot. Even though the sun was not more evident we still enjoyed some amazing dives at this site. Around the G we saw the deep-water gorgonians with their polyps out feeding in the outgoing tide. More Creole wrasse swarmed over the reef and an enormous barracuda hung out at the edge of the wall being cleaned by shark nosed gobies. Tucked away in a hole a large channel clinging crab waited for nightfall to venture out from his crevice and up by the mooring line a group of yellow-headed jawfish dipped in and out of their holes. Just as we were about to ascend to our safety stop we noticed one of our resident nurse sharks hanging out just below the main vessel resting before their epic performance for us during the evening. We were in the presence of nurse sharks for the entire night dive. They used our lights to hunt their prey and may have been successful on a number of occasions. A Caribbean reef shark cruised around higher in the water column and our cubera snapper, so shy and reticent during the day, came within a few inches of some of our divers, maybe behaviour learnt from the nurse sharks.
Half Mile was our destination for Wednesday morning and unusually Caribbean reef sharks accompanied us again. They circled under the main vessel as we entered the water and were still there when we returned from dive filled with nurse sharks and jacks, and another sighting of an octopus by day.
We moved back to West Caicos and stopped off at the most southerly dive site – Spanish Anchor. Here we enjoyed the delightfully encrusted 200-year-old anchor embedded in a crack in the wall, suitable for swimming through. A peacock flounder moved between sand and reef changing colours and texture as it moved. On the sea plumes, decorator neck crabs grasped the gorgonians with their back legs posed to catch any passing nutrients with their long front arms and claws. Flamingo tongues populated the sea rods and fans all with their individual patterns of spots and differing cover from their mantles. The night dive brought out a tiny octopus, which uncharacteristically stayed out for a little while. Also in the realms of tiny, a small reef squid found itself in the mask of guest Agnes, who got our attention to the critter that then proceeded to dance in the beam of her flashlight. A large scorpionfish lay motionless at the base of a coral head and provided delight for the white lighters and then the black lighters as they discovered that it did indeed glow.
We moved on to Gullies for Thursday morning. Our resident reef sharks were waiting for us and hung out for the entirety of the dive. In the purple gorgonian sea plume at the edge of the gulley we noticed a trail of white, which turned out to be the eggs of a Hamners tritonia. These nudibranchs are very pale in colour with ridges running lengthways down their back and small protuberances that look remarkably like sea plume polyps; they can be very hard to spot. The same gorgonian was also hosting a number of neck crabs, one of which had decorated itself, very delicately, in some red algae. Also the home to single toothed simnia, swimming crinoids and hermit crabs, it was near thrumming with life.
For the afternoon, we dived at Brandywine – home of the wandering anemone. It had not wandered far, but equally was not out in all its glory this week. What we also enjoyed were the stingrays and the juvenile spotted drum that appeared at the edge of the wall. Our guests decided to take a break from night diving and so Captain Ron was our entertainment of choice and this classic movie had everyone in fits of giggles.
It was back to the diving on Thursday morning and Elephant Ear Canyon, still at West Caicos. Here we had our sharks and stingrays, but also a plethora of pipefish, with a scattering of pipe horses and sea horses; all very small but a delight to see. In amongst the grass a couple of different headshield slugs moved about and a lone flapping dingbat, which we hope signals the start of the dingbat season!
We motored over to The Dome at Northwest Point at lunchtime. Here we took in the spectacle that is the Dome, a French game show from the late eighties called “Pago, Pago”. It is now the home to many schoolmasters and grunt as well as the occasional domicile to a large green moray. One of the highlights for this dive, however, was a reef octopus just to the side of the structure, which although did not come out, was visible sufficiently for all to see. We also took the opportunity to visit the coral nursery to see the great work being carried out by Reef Fund in Turks & Caicos – providing moorings for the dive sites and working on projects at regenerating reef. The night dive was supported on this evening and more of the tiny reef squid came out to play, to captivate our divers.
Our last morning took us to Shark’s Hotel, where it seemed that not all of the sharks had checked out. A deep sighting reminded us why the site has its name, but for the most part we enjoyed the large number of cleaning stations and the groupers, amongst other fish, that frequent them. Cleaner shrimp and gobies, alike, burst into action at the approach of a fish, acting in a strange manner to indicate that the cleaning could begin. A great end to a great week of diving and on Friday morning even the appearance of the sun.
A comfortable crossing brought us back to Turtle Cove Marina, where we docked and enjoyed the weather in a relaxing afternoon. Cocktails at six brought everyone back together to reflect on the trip and talk about future travel. Achievements were rewarded and unusually this week that did not include any divers of iron!
A great week of encounters, a fun group to dive with and excitement about what the future holds, both for our next charter and for our guests’ next voyages with Aggressor Fleet, wherever they may be.