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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
22 April 2017
Air temperature: 70° - 80° F
Water temperature: 77° F
Visibility: 50 – 80 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm or 5mm full wetsuit
Captain: AMANDA SMITH
2nd Captain: CHRISTY WEAVER
Engineer: ROB SMITH
Video Pro: CONOR FERRIN
Chef: CHRISTY BROWN
Yves & Katie, Jill, Nathalie, Oren, Carlos, Mike, Mike & Bob, Pippa, Lisa & Scott, Nora & Karie, Cheryl & Paul
Sunday – Eel Garden, NWPT & Brandywine, West Caicos
Monday – Rock N Roll & G-Spot – French Cay
Tuesday – Dewey’s Delight, French Cay, West Sand Spit & Rock N Roll at night
Wednesday – Spanish Anchor & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Thursday – Gullies – West Caicos & The Dome - NWPT
Friday – Amphitheatre - NWPT
A much calmer departure this week and whilst we have a forecast of wind for the first day or so, we are looking forward to the calm that will be the middle of the week. At the dock our guests joined us and started to set up their gear, introducing themselves to each other and us and starting to share stories.
We headed for Northwest Point for our first dives of the charter; keen to soon head west and south to get to French Cay for the weather that is promised. Eel Garden was our site for our check out dives. Our condylactus anemone was out in all its glory with Pedersen cleaner shrimp a banded clinging crab using it as a home. We were delighted to see that our resident scorpionfish was still in situ having been absent (or at least hiding) for the last few months. One of the largest scorpionfish I have ever seen, this critter sits and stares tolerantly at us as we take the opportunity to fire off a few shots (photographic that is).
We moved to West Caicos at lunchtime and spent the afternoon at the beautiful site of Brandywine. Lots of great coral heads provide homes for the life of this site. Our roving anemone was still in the same place as last week – obviously resting and also providing protection for some more Pedersens. Four Caribbean reef sharks shared the reef with us, cruising along the wall and coming in close to resolve their curiosity. A turtle chose this time to munch upon a sponge allowing many of our guests the opportunity to watch, photograph and video whilst the turtle nonchalantly fed. The night dive was a great site for our black light diving, with the roving anemone glowing a vibrant green and many of the sponges sported nudibranchs that would have been difficult to see in white light. Some of the sharks were still around and continued to approach our divers as they swam the site.
An early start for French Cay on Monday morning gave us our first dive at Rock N Roll. Caribbean reef sharks circled the site and a hawksbill turtle revealed itself as the surface as well as below. A spotted moray peered out from under a rock curious as to what might be passing. On the wall decorator crabs clasped the sea rods with their hind legs allowing their front legs free to catch any passing morsels, whilst the Creole wrasse cascaded over the edge of the wall in search of tiny critters.
G-Spot was our afternoon dive, providing an outstanding underwater seascape with the beautiful wall, covered in deep water gorgonians and elephant ear sponges. More Creole wrasse kept the wall alive as the moved fluidly within their school. Caribbean reef sharks cruised along the wall and under the boat, joining the guests on their safety stop at shallower depths. The cubera snapper that we usually see at the site was around and we saw more of this fish during the night dive when it was actively hunting with the barracuda that was short of the surface by just a few inches. The night dive also revealed two octopuses that were out hunting. A flounder moved across the sand, changing colour as it moved across different textures and colours of the bottom. Only one small nurse shark was seen, which is unusual for here at night as they often inundate us.
The next morning saw the sun joining us again and with hardly a breath of wind we moved to Dewey’s Delight. A site very close to the island of French Cay, as we approached the mooring we were most definitely checked out by the Brown Noddys that frequent the island in their hundreds. Joining them was one of a mated pair of Osprey that uses the navigation light on the island as their personal nesting pole. The site seems to be the home for many lionfish – over the past few years we have seen a decline in these critters – maybe they have just moved! Yellow headed jawfish used the sand between the corals for their homes and one of the males sported a mouthful of eggs – still very young; just a creamy colour. On the wall a yellow lined arrow crab sat waiting expectant of any passing breakfast options.
The weather was perfect for us to move to West Sand Spit for the afternoon. Flat calm seas and an incoming tide. We anchored in our usual sand spot. As we dropped in to the water we experienced great visibility. A school of Atlantic spadefish circled across the top of the wall and closer to the reef oceanic triggerfish blew into the sand as if preparing a nest. In the sand an enormous southern stingray hid shallowly beneath the surface and appeared completely impervious to the onlookers that surrounded her. Sponges and sea plumes are much bigger here than the other sites that we dive. There are areas where the tube sponges dwell in colonies of over twenty covering a three foot square. As the tide rose, the sand spit disappeared and after our second dive we returned to French Cay to dive Rock N Roll at night.
An awesome night dive – we met up with the regular nurse sharks that we usually see at French Cay and that had alluded us the night before. Four nurse sharks and an enormous cubera snapper accompanied Captain Amanda and guest Carlos for the entire dive, stopping to search under coral heads for any morsel of food. As we approached the sandy area shallower on the site an octopus appeared on the sand spread out barely visible. Although this octopus would be the object of a nurse shark’s attention, as they cruised over the top of this critter it changed shape and colour and camouflaged itself with its surroundings until it found a little hidey-hole.
After the night dive we moved back to West Caicos and prepared for our morning diving at Spanish Anchor. Here we enjoyed the attention of a scorpionfish hiding amongst the corals, beautifully camouflaged. The anchor provided a great focus for the swim through and most, but not all of our guests saw it as they swam past it being covered in richly coloured encrusting sponges. We were reunited with the local shark population and we continued to share our dives with them as we dived our way back along the coastline of West Caicos.
For the afternoon we explored the dive site of Boat Cove. Stingrays cruised the sand of this site feeding upon the garden eels that peek from their holes. During the night dive we saw enormous crabs feeding along the edge of the wall and a number of different lobsters, including flame lobsters, spotted spiny lobsters and red-banded lobster. Basket stars used the sea plumes, fans and sponges to anchor themselves to as the branched out in preparation for their feed.
Gullies was our last site along West Caicos. It was a great morning dive, with a swim through that was frequented by our friend, resident shark “Sully”. She cruised along the edge of the wall and up the gulley moving in close to both guests and crew allowing for some great photographs. More spadefish schooled along the top of the wall and also allowed the guests up close. On the delightful gorgonian sea plume to the south of the gulley three decorator crabs hooked in, awaiting any tiny critters that might float by in the water column. A large green moray peered out from under a ledge using its mouth to sense all and anything around. For the afternoon we travelled back to Northwest Point to dive The Dome.
The Chimney, at the wall of The Dome site is a vertical swim through and is filled with golden crinoids and encrusting sponges. The wall in the immediate area is covered with sea plumes, fans and wire coral. The wire coral are home to the tiny wire coral shrimp usually, but not always the same colour as the coral. The resident green turtle checked out the Dome and moved on. Southern stingrays moved around the structure and the tyres to which the vessel is moored. The tyres are also home to a little area of corkscrew anemone where Pedersen cleaner shrimp await any fish that require cleaning. At the same time a red snapping shrimp waits in the background to use its large claw to snatch its prey also using it as a deterrent by creating a sound wave by cracking it – to be heard even by the divers. A strong thunder and lightning storm moved in at the end of the fourth dive and remained with us until into the night leading to a cancellation of that dive, but the following morning broke bright and breezy and we moved to Amphitheatre for a dawn dive.
Enjoyed by all that partook, we enjoyed the reef waking up – to begin with nothing much about, but soon the reef came alive with schools of fish and critters and we were able to see yellow headed jawfish with eggs.
We moved In to the marina for the afternoon and a relaxing end to the charter. Our cheese and wine party an opportunity to reflect on the week gone by and talk about plans for the future, whether diving, swimming with large mammals or any other plans.
Next week we have a group from Kansas – Amber Waves. Check in to see how their experiences of Turks & Caicos differ from their home diving at Beaver Lake.