Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
2 - 9 December 2017
Air temperature: 85° - 90° F
Water temperature: 80° - 81°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
Photo Pro: JJ Di Matteo
Instructor: Aaron Brouse
Tamyra & Jim, Ron, Courtney & Russell, Len, Dennis, Bruce, Karl, Jeanette & Will, Amalia & Dmitrios, Mike, Steve, Eli, Sandra & Ken
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Monday: Spanish Anchor & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Tuesday: Driveway & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Wednesday: Gullies & Brandywine – West Caicos
Thursday: The Dome & Stairway - NWPT
Friday: Shark’s Hotel - NWPT
We welcomed our new guests this week, a full boat, and so eighteen very excited divers boarded on Saturday afternoon. So as not to miss the tide, we briefed as soon as every one was settled and headed off to the Northwest Point of Providenciales. Eel Garden was our choice for the checkout dives and after a Thai themed supper, prepared by chef Brynne, everyone retired to rest in anticipation of the first day of diving.
With everyone briefed on the back deck etiquette and the dive site, we splashed into the waters of the Atlantic, which are still a balmy 81°F. Great visibility greeted us, as did the condylactus anemone that hangs out at The Crack. A Caribbean reef shark patrolled the wall as our divers explored the nooks and crannies and all that was contained therein. The gorgonians were well occupied by some large neck crabs, decorated to camouflage. A very large scorpionfish moved from coral head to coral head, pausing periodically to stretch its jaw. We saw a mantis shrimp that was relatively unafraid to begin with and braved almost completely leaving its lair, white in colour with the exception of its claws that were a delicate mauve. Just at the last moment as we were returning to the boat we spotted a number of bi valve shells, empty scattered around a coral head. A sure sign of an octopus – messy eaters that they are, and sure enough there it was tightly curled into its home just peering out at its watery world.
We moved to Amphitheatre for the afternoon and night dives. Even during the day the crustaceans were out in full. The lobsters seemed aware that although is it lobster season, they are safe in our marine park, and so they strutted across the reef fearlessly. One or two channel clinging crabs peeked out during the afternoon, but by no means as many as the night dive where we came across a plethora of channel and hairy clinging crabs climbed over the reef. Two octopuses allowed us a short time with them before sliding away under their respective coral heads. As the night dive progressed the southern stingrays appeared, feeding. In the nooks and crannies the porcupinefish and balloon fish hid away from the feeding jacks that passed using our light to feed. It was a great night dive and ended a great first day of the charter.
Early on Monday morning we headed out to West Caicos, right to the south of the island to Spanish Anchor, to check out the sponge encrusted anchor that is wedged into a gulley. The wall was particularly interesting this morning as we encountered many decorator crabs attached to gorgonians. A couple of arrow blennies eyed up the other smaller fish around them, using the straightening of their tails to dart forward and catch their prey. On the top of the wall a large school of juvenile barracuda hung out, being cleaned and just hanging together until a much larger specimen broke up the crowd. Cowfish populated the coral heads constantly feeding and at the same time changing colour as they approached different bottom compositions. The anchor was covered in encrusting sponges and provided and interesting backdrop for the fairy basslets that surround it.
To Magic Mushroom to dive Lobster Tower, amongst other things, was our goal for the afternoon and the tower did not disappoint. Filled with Caribbean spiny lobster it provided quite a sight, especially with the large channel clinging crab also occupying the crack, with the most enormous claws. Guest, Steve was enamored with a southern stingray that happily sat just a few inches from him and his camera. Surgeonfish picked away at the algae covering the rocks, whilst juvenile hogfish provided a cleaner service, in particular to the Creole wrasse. The night dive brought out our Fluoro experimenters who got to see swimming crinoids, longhorn nudibranchs, trapania and decorator crabs all aglow in the night waters. Our whitelighters were happy to see a gold spotted snake eel out and about swimming across the sand as well as a common octopus that sat motionless attached to a rock. Everyone came back relaxed and happy with the nighttime underwater exploits.
We moved a short distance to Driveway, still along West Caicos, for the following morning. A very friendly hawksbill turtle decided to join us there and eat in front of everyone, allowing plenty of opportunity for photos and video. Along the reef our resident female Caribbean reef shark cruised by keeping tabs on us as we explored the reef and its critters. One guest, Karl, had an amazing encounter with a turtle that decided to check him out, and when he came level with his mask the turtle tried to nip Karl’s nose. I am not sure who was surprised more by Karl’s reaction.
Boat Cove turned out to make for a spectacular afternoon, where there was really no need to stray too far from under the boat. Caribbean reef sharks cruised around amongst the jacks & snapper, whilst at the same time a hawksbill turtle decided to join in. During all this time a southern stingray did its utmost to ruin the visibility by stirring up the sand, in search of something to eat. Unusually, a lone Atlantic spadefish hung out over an isolated coral head; it is more common to find this fish schooling, but over the last few weeks we have repeatedly seen a single spadefish at both this site and Gullies. Our resident friend, the broad banded moray was home, and as usual made us work to see him as he tucked back in his hole.
Wednesday was a Gullies day! A little more current than we are used to, maybe as a result of the recent super moon, however we still got to enjoy some shark action and a couple of mackerel that cruised past. For those who enjoyed the smaller stuff, they were still enamored by the neck crabs that were hanging out on the gorgonians and rope sponges.
We moved across to Brandywine for the afternoon. Our wandering anemone was there in all its glory, blue under ambient light, but shocking pink in artificial light. The coralimorphs were resplendent in black light; not usually so easy to see during daylight, they glowed under fluorescent. Trapania fluoresced on the sponges, a tiny nudibranch almost impossible to spot with the naked eye, and in the sand juvenile fire worms explain why sometimes you can get stung without realizing it by kneeling in the sand.
After the night dive we moved to Northwest Point and moored overnight at The Dome, in preparation for our morning dive. Although windy and overcast, by the time we entered the water, the sun was out again and it proved a great way to wake up. Along the wall we saw a couple of Caribbean reef sharks passing by. A small turtle showed up for a short while. The myriad of wire corals held many of the tiny shrimp that live on them, illusively moving to the back of the coral whip to hide away. A spotted moray peeked out from under a shallow coral head on our way back from the Chimney into the Dome, which itself was alive with life. On the frame the secretary and spiny head blennies provided great entertainment as they tried to take on the world. Two sergeant majors guarded two separate, large areas of eggs that had been attached to the base of the structure, whilst at the top amongst the sponges small fire worms moved around slowly, bristling their spines upon approach of anything. Just below and all over the Dome we enjoyed the social feather dusters as they delicately swayed in the water movement. Inside the Dome the grunts and snapper protected themselves from the eyes of any predators amongst the sponge-encrusted framework.
We were coming back to The Dome for the night dive, but for the afternoon we decided to spend some time at Stairway. This site is particularly good for lobsters and today was no exception with several out and about strutting across the reef and others tucked up together in crevices in the coral heads. A good-sized green moray displayed its body and therefore it took us a few moments to locate its head, and we did and it was still around for the second dive there. Along the wall our sharks accompanied our divers and by the mooring schools of small barracuda hung out together.
Back to The Dome for the night dive and lots of exciting critters, including an octopus that followed the group a little way. The crabs that had been hiding in the structure during the day were out and about for the night, foraging for food. At the wall, a nurse shark cruised the edge of the wall watched by a variety of lobsters – Caribbean spiny, spotted spiny and red banded.
Our last dives of the week were amongst the cleaning stations of Shark’s Hotel. Groupers and hogfish took the opportunity to utilize the services of the gobies and shrimp that thrive on the cleaning the other critters on the reef, and so we watched as the customers postured to show that they were ready for a sprucing. Despite the name we were a little concerned that the sharks had checked out, but we were relieved to spot at least two reef sharks around the site. A turtle made for a great end to the week as it chowed down on a sponge.
We made our way back to Turtle Cove Marina, for a relaxing afternoon and a cheese and wine party to bring our charter to its finale.
Check back with us next week to see how our next charter goes, we are very happy that the temperature is still in the 80s – long may that last.