Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
25 November – 2 December 2017
Air temperature: 85° - 90° F
Water temperature: 81° - 82° F
Visibility: 40 - 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm Shorty or full Wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Christy Weaver
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Video Pro: JJ Di Matteo
2nd Chef: Sarah Pearson
Liz & Loren, Jill & David, Jayne & Bill, Claudia & Jean Phillipe, Tamara & Thomas, Therese, Rick, Gina & Jeff
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden - NWPT & Magic Mushroom - West Caicos
Monday: Driveway & Boat Cove - West Caicos
Tuesday: Elephant Ear Canyon & Brandywine – West Caicos
Wednesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Thursday: Gullies, West Caicos & The Dome – NWPT
Friday: Pinnacles – Grace Bay
We welcomed twelve guests at the dock this week and two late arrivals at our mooring so as not to miss the tide and so early on Sunday morning, before the sun had even peeked above the horizon, we were on our way to Northwest Point to start our epic week of diving. As we were moving out to the mooring in Grace Bay, everyone was excited to see a spotted eagle ray jump out of the water – hopefully this is an omen of good fortune for encounters this coming week.
Our evening prior had been spent with introductions, briefings and great food and everyone was ready for their first dive by 8am. Eel Garden was our first site of the week where our guests could shake out all the cobwebs, get familiar with their gear again and enjoy the warm waters of Turks & Caicos. Eel Garden lived up to its name – a garden of eels, including the garden variety and our resident, portly, spotted moray. The entire of the dive we were accompanied by two Caribbean reef sharks, which prepared us nicely for the great hammerhead, which cruised by on the second dive. Everyone was stunned enough to fail to move cameras into the recording position and so there were no images, but many confirmations of the sighting.
At lunchtime we moved to West Caicos whilst enjoying adult grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch, which gave a little extra kick. Magic Mushroom was our second site for the trip and gave us the opportunity to check out Lobster Tower. We were not disappointed as the coral head was full of Caribbean spiny lobster as well as a full-grown channel clinging crab sporting Popeye-like claws. Along the edge of the wall we enjoyed neck crabs in the gorgonians and the waterfall of blue that are the chromis. Guests Rick and Jean Phillipe were particularly fortunate to see a spotted eagle ray. These delightful creatures stay deep in the summer with the warm water, but as the temperatures starts to drop off we start to see them closer to us. Bring on the cooler water…? Maybe not!
Monday morning was the time to dive Driveway. The visibility was great and with 82°F/28°C water temperature it was a great way to wake up in the morning. We were delighted to see a tiny juvenile spotted drum swimming madly round a coral head near the wall. The many jawfish were scrutinized extensively until a lone male was identified with eggs. At the edge of the wall our usual Caribbean reef sharks cruised along and kept us company.
At lunch we moved just a short distance to Boat Cove for our afternoon diving. Under the boat we were happy to see all manner of jacks and schooling fish, including horse-eyed jacks, blue runners, yellow tailed snapper and bar jacks. On the sand, southern stingrays glided around the isolated coral heads that were teeming with life. Our resident broad banded moray allowed us a glimpse, even though it remained deep within its home. Along the wall, black coral shrimp and wire coral shrimp frequented their namesake homes. At the wall a large nurse shark tucked in under an overhang and remained there for our entire dive and in to the second dive there, posing for photos and video without concern.
The night dive saw the gorgonians and sponges home to long horn and white speckled nudibranchs. More decorator crabs clung to gorgonians waiting for supper to pass. A couple of spotted morays peered out at us as we passed and of course the reef sharks cruised around.
The following morning we moved to a site that we have not dived since before dry dock, Elephant Ear Canyon. We were delighted to enjoy the stingrays majestically gliding over the bottom as they sought out the possibility of a garden eel snack. The black coral over the wall provided camouflage for decorator crabs and the nooks and crannies allowed the arrow blennies opportunity to observe the smaller fish upon which they prey. In the coral patch by the mooring corkscrew anemones protected Pedersen cleaner and squat anemone shrimp. A small spotted moray peered out from under a coral head whilst a hermit crab sat very still beside it. A juvenile queen angel proved a challenge to photograph as it hid in a little crevice only sneaking out occasionally before returning to hide again.
For the afternoon we moved across to Brandywine to enjoy the wandering condylactus anemone. Today a yellow lined arrow crab accompanied it as it sat atop the reef, out in all its glory, shining pink in the strobes and lights of the guests. Lobsters either strode across the reef or shared holes with large channel clinging crabs. Yellow-headed jawfish popped up out of their holes; just one was seen with eggs and despite the patience of a saint, our guests could not wait it out as the little critter refused to reappear.
During our surface interval Capt. Christy and guest Therese snorkeled over to the shoreline at West Caicos and were rewarded with a juvenile green turtle, a nurse shark and a plethora of blennies, not to mention the chitons that frequent the rock wall of the island.
Spanish Anchor was our Wednesday morning choice, with the anchor that is wedged up into the gulley that cuts through the reef. It is covered in encrusting sponges and particularly popular to fairy basslets that hover close by in all orientations. All our guests made it to the Anchor and identified it for what it was. As the dive was coming to an end we encountered a hawksbill turtle meandering across the bottom, not particularly interested in spending time with our guests but a delight to see regardless.
Whilst our divers were enjoying the underwater wildlife we onboard, including guests Claudia & Therese enjoyed a flock of at least 25, very pink, flamingoes as they flew past the boat.
At lunchtime we moved off to French Cay to experience the healthy shark population that we have there right now. We were not disappointed, although there were not as many sharks out during the day as there were during the night dive. We did experience a lethargic nurse shark during the day, seemingly preserving her energy for the feeding frenzy that was our night dive. As well as our abundant population of sharp-nosed puffer fish we saw a large number of queen angelfish, of all sizes, majestic in their bright colours against the backdrop of the reef; and all the while the sharks circled.
The night dive was spectacular. As soon as we dropped into the water the nurse sharks appeared having shaken off their lethargy. They were there for action and food. Of all sizes, from the largest of seven feet to the smallest at about 1 ½ feet these creatures ran into each other, tried to ram their noses after prey in the coral heads and competed with Caribbean reef sharks and our enormous cubera snapper. We were as much a part of the action as we lit up the area that they covered and none of the nurse sharks were above shoving us out of the way. All smaller fish fled for cover and the one octopus that we saw seemed safe until it moved – at that point the snapper spotted it and all hell broke loose – the octopus relied on brains, not brawn, and won the day by disappearing into a coral head. It may have been stalked for a while thereafter, however. As we had to leave, controlled by our air consumption still the action continued below and we enjoyed a wider-angle, scenic view from the hangbar as we counted down our safety spot. Despite our description of the dive prior, I do not think anyone was quite expecting the dive that we experienced.
Thursday morning saw us back at West Caicos for two dives at Gullies. Here we had a great show from four Caribbean reef sharks as they cruised through the group. Amongst them periodically was a huge king mackerel, with beautiful pure silver scales that the sunlight shone off. A hawksbill turtle swam through the group and then found the sponge that it had been feeding on and returned to breakfast whilst we all looked on. Under the boat scores of jacks schooled – horse eyed jacks, blue runners and bar jacks, whilst closer to the edge of the wall we enjoyed the Creole wrasse and blue chromis and a sole Atlantic spadefish that would hang just above a coral head.
For the afternoon we moved to Northwest Point and dived The Dome. The boat was hanging toward the island and so we ended up with quite a swim to the wall, but whilst we were there we saw a couple of turtles cruising along the wall. Yellow-headed jawfish lined the sand that leads to the Dome. On the Dome we saw another hawksbill turtle, just a small one, who was bouncing over and under the structure. Under one of the concrete rings, a condylactus anemone peeked out with a spotted cleaner shrimp using the nematocysts to protect it from predators, whilst it waited until a customer came along for a clean up. In the edge of the Dome a huge channel clinging crab hid away waiting for night to fall to come out and feed. A spotted moray used the remains of the “sponge” that ejected the pearls onto the water column to lay out and during the night dive a slipper lobster clung to the inside of the structure.
A very early start got us to Grace Bay for the morning dive at 6am, where we enjoyed the fish waking as well as waking up ourselves. When we returned to the yacht we had a hot breakfast awaiting and the viewing of the video of the week, as shot by Capt. Christy. The second dive revealed the fingerprint cyphoma that the crew all love to see and pretty much only see here at Pinnacles. Under the boat in the shallows, goatfish schooled with yellow trumpetfish and hundreds of tiny reef fish darted around making a great colourful spectacle.
Sadly our last dive cam to an end and we headed back to the marina to spend an afternoon relaxing at Turtle Cove Marina.
Our cheese and wine party brought everyone together for one last time before early flights and trips to other islands separated us.
A great week – well done to our Iron Divers: Jayne (just 20 minutes!), Bill and Rick. Congratulations to Tamara for completing her 500th dive with us and good luck in the Bahamas next week with Thomas and the sharks – we hope we gave you some good practice! And to Therese who is now a Nitrox diver – welcome to the “green side”!
Check in next week to see what great adventures we have with our next group of epic divers.