Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
21 – 28 October 2017
Water temperature: 84°F
Thermal protection: 3mm shorty or full
Visibility: 40ft – 80ft
AMANDA SMITH – Captain
ROBERT SMITH – Engineer
JESSICA POLK – Video Pro
BRYNNE RARDIN – Chef
AARON BROUSE – Instructor
Dennis & Pat, Reba & Alex, Bill, Scott & Jacob, Phil, Luann & Kathy, Elizabeth & Patrick, Lori, Buddy & Ryan
Sunday – Eel Garden & Amphitheatre, NWPT
Monday – Boat Cove & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Tuesday – Driveway & Brandywine, West Caicos
Wednesday – Spanish Anchor, West Caicos & G-Spot, French Cay
Thursday – Gullies, West Caicos & The Dome, NWPT
Friday – Pinnacles, Grace Bay
An evening at port allowed us to witness and enjoy the entertainment accompanying the Turks & Caicos 3rd Annual Poker Run, a boat race combined with a poker game, all for charity, and so as we briefed, enjoyed a great meal prepared by Chef Brynne, a party was in full swing at Mango Reef.
Early the following morning, we departed Turtle Cove Marina headed for Northwest Point. Our first dive site was Eel Garden and a very special treat for guest Jacob, as the first marine creature he saw was a dolphin cruising across the sand under the boat. This encounter was further followed by an encounter with a Caribbean reef shark. Along the wall the Creole wrasse cascaded like a waterfall and in the gorgonians neck crabs, decorated to camouflage themselves, waited for passing morsels of food.
For the afternoon we moved the short distance to Amphitheatre and enjoyed the theatre shaped cut out at the wall, where seven different types of black coral hang down, home to decorator crabs and tiny shrimp. Our reef shark followed us down the wall and led us to a hawksbill turtle. A small school of Atlantic Spadefish hovered over a coral head and at the same time a large barracuda cruised the wall and was also a feature of the night dive as it followed a school of bar jacks. The night dive also brought out two octopus – both small, but quite content to hang out with the divers, until a stingray startled the last one we saw and it darted under a ledge. On the wall a slipper lobster crawled vertically downward, whilst the smaller banded lobsters, shyly, peered from their holes.
We moved early in the morning to Boat Cove at West Caicos and whilst visibility was not the greatest, we did enjoy the machinations of the reef sharks that frequent the reef, in particular our resident, Sully. Two big green morays proved great excitement for all who saw them. This is also a great site for the different schools of fish that circle underneath the boat, blue runners, yellow tailed snapper, bar jacks and horse eye jacks to name but a few.
An afternoon at Magic Mushroom delivered us to the lobster tower which was packed full of the critters after which it is named. A lizardfish lay still in the sand, camouflaged beautifully against the bottom composition. For the night dive another Caribbean reef shark joined us and we believe from the volume of lobster wandering about that maybe lobster tower was empty.
In the morning, we moved to Driveway, a site so named because of the wide chute that breaks up the sheer wall from that sloped. This was a dive of green; firstly a small green turtle cruised along the wall, which ultimately led us to the large green moray that was wedged in under a shelf of coral. Hairy clinging crabs gripped the coral and in front of one of these we saw the tiniest drum, but only for a moment. The crab was startled which alarmed the drum and it disappeared into the reef.
For the afternoon we moved a short distance to Brandywine. Along the edge of the wall barracuda shadowed our entire dive. One stopped for a short time over a coral head to enjoy a clean from the shark nosed gobies and we saw it stretch out its jaw as the little critters worked on the teeth. As with all the sites we are seeing a very healthy population of sharp-nosed gobies – since our dry dock they seem to have multiplied massively. The night dive revealed a nurse shark tucked away under a rock and several crustaceans in the form of crabs and lobsters. The black light dive literally highlighted a juvenile green moray, glowing bright green as it swam across the sand almost invisible to white light. On the sponges little bursts of light exposed the whereabouts of the trapania, some of the smallest nudibranchs.
The Anchor was our choice site for Wednesday morning. The three hundred year old anchor hangs in a swim through and is beautifully covered in encrusting sponges about which fairy basslets swim. Along the wall decorator crabs clung to gorgonians and fed. A full grown, spotted drum dipped in and out of the crevices in the wall, making it a challenge to keep an eye on. As we approached the yacht, on our way back a large hawksbill turtle meandered through the group before heading to the wall and off to the south. This led us to a large peacock flounder, partially spotted, which was quite content to sit and offer its image for photographs. As we ascended to the boat we realized that we were surrounded by all manner of jellyfish and hydroids, including comb jellies, sea walnuts, flattened helmet comb jellies and a type of hydromedusa as well as our favourite the moon jelly. They are very difficult to photograph and were gone by our second dive at the site.
We were not sure whether we would make it to French Cay this week, but the weather calmed and we travelled there over lunch. We were to spend one afternoon there, diving at G-Spot to enjoy the healthy population of sharks that we experience in the area. All the fish seem bigger at French Cay including the barracuda that took a fancy to Luann s headband when it floated away from her and the angelfish that are the size of dinner plates. In the afternoon a couple of reef sharks circled and a large nurse shark slept under a coral head, preparing herself for an evening of feeding!
The night diving was a festival of sharks. The entire reef was terrorized by 12 nurse sharks and 4 reef sharks – maybe more. The one octopus we saw disappeared quickly under a narrow ledge and then barely moved as nurse shark after nurse shark swarmed over the area, attracted by our lights. Our resident cubera snapper was also holding court and the Caribbean reef sharks were accompanied by five large rainbow runners. As we paused as a group, the nurse sharks used our light to wreak havoc around a coral head – sand would fly as they all vied for the same spot. It was very exciting.
We headed back to West Caicos for the following morning so that we had the opportunity to dive at Gullies. Sully, our resident reef shark was ever present and we also have a healthy population of mid sized barracuda here. In the sand the stingrays moved about taking the opportunity to feed upon the garden eels. A lone spadefish cruised the reef, and returning guests Pat and Dennis had some alone time with a hawksbill turtle.
We moved to NWPT and The Dome, home to very large channel clinging crabs and the tiniest of blennies, making their homes in the abandoned tubes of worms. As usual in the structure we had a good-sized school of French and blue striped grunt, with an occasional schoolmaster thrown in for goodwill! The night dive brought an eerie feel to The Dome as light beams spilled in and around it. A small reef scorpionfish was using it as a home, planted between two tube sponges. A reef shark circled the structure before heading off to the blue and the crabs that make the metalwork part of their home for the day, crawled out and stretched their limbs.
Our last morning was in Grace Bay, at Pinnacles, in search for fingerprint cyphoma. Despite Captain s assurance that they are quite rare in this area, once identified it did not take long before the guests were spotting them all around. One might even say that they were prolific! As we headed over the wall we may have awoken a turtle asleep in the sand. After his initial shock he circled back to check us out and then headed off to the surface. We came across a juvenile trumpetfish hovering adjacent to a gorgonian making working as a great camouflage. In the grooves between the finger coral we discovered a nimble spray crab, moving in sharp motions in constant flux. It was a great end to the week of diving with conversations of future trips and new affiliations.
Thank you to VIP plus guest Dennis for contributing to the Captain s dive computer stock – now the proud owner of a Scuba Pro Automatic Decompression Computer circa 1972 – all mechanical and still in working order.
Congratulations to our Iron Divers Scott, Jacob and Reba – 27 dives over the period – very impressive with Jacob tripling his dive count. A special shout out to Lori who joined us with just four dives under her belt and became an Iron “Day” Diver – I hope we have whet her interest enough for her to keep on diving. We had seven new Nitrox divers this week so kudos to Patrick & Elizabeth, Jacob, Lori, Alex & Reba and Phil. Finally congratulations to Pat for completing his 700th logged dive with us, we look forward to his return when he will push that number higher. Also we give our congratulations to Elizabeth for her 200th and Phil who completed his 400th with us.