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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
7 - 14 July 2018
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 78° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82°F
Visibility: 75+ feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Instructor: Kenley Williams
Steve & Dede; Sally; Mike, Jane & Alec; Frank & Jenise, Kristin & Kaitlin; George & Dave; Lionel & Tony
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & The Dome, NWPT
Monday: Amphitheatre, NWPT & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor & Brandywine, West Caicos
Wednesday: Gullies & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos & Stairway, NWPT
Friday: Pinnacles, Grace Bay
All our guests were boarded shortly after 3pm and briefed by 5pm on the safety aspects of the vessel. Everyone was excited about the trip and gear was assembled and ready to go before we sat down for a hearty welcoming meal prepared by Chef Brynne. We settled down to a quiet night at the dock; prepared for an early departure at first light.
We motored around to Northwest Point and as soon as we got to the dive site, Eel Garden, we briefed the details of the back deck and went diving. Eel Garden is known for its garden eels and this trip was no exception. As well as the sand dwelling variety from the conger family, we also saw spotted and green varieties of the moray families. Four Caribbean reef sharks cruised up and down the wall and chose some guests to closely circle before moving away. A great start to the week and between the two dives guest Kaitlin started the first of her check out dives for her Open Water certification.
We moved to The Dome for the afternoon and enjoyed all the creatures that inhabit the structure that was the subject of a reality game show in the late eighties. The Dome itself is covered in small blennies that occupy the abandoned wormholes. These critters would dart around the Dome and then backed into their holes. We were delighted to see that our black sea horse had moved only a small distance and all our guests got the opportunity to enjoy this special creature. The night dive found a hawksbill turtle underneath the main structure. In the gorgonian sea plume a trumpetfish slept, motionless and inverted.
The following morning we moved across to Amphitheatre to enjoy the plethora of yellow-headed jawfish that we always see here. On the edge of the wall we saw the sail fin blenny that we discovered last week. It was still there but not so keen to display its sail for us this time. Whilst looking at an arrow blenny we discovered medium sized spotted drum swimming in one of the nooks in the wall. On top of the wall, several porcupine fish tore pieces from the reef and ground them down to sand before moving onto the next coral head. Queen angelfish flashed their brilliant colors as they picked algae from the reef and an occasional reef shark cruised the edge of the wall. It was at this site that Kaitlin completed her certification. Kaitlin - you make a great cake!
We moved to West Caicos during lunch to check out lobster tower at Magic Mushroom, West Caicos. The tower was filled with Caribbean spiny lobster; all legs and antennae. Also inhabiting the largest coral head in the surrounding area was a small golden tail moray. The night dive brought out sharks and rays and created a great excitement for the guests.
The following morning, with the remnants of Beryl approaching, we decided to remain at West Caicos and enjoy the protection given by the close proximity to the island. Spanish Anchor was our choice for the morning where we swam down the gulley and past the anchor that has been wedged there for a very long time. It is covered in encrusting sponges and has a small school of fairy basslets that hang around it at all angles. As we swam along the wall we enjoyed reef sharks and groupers. In the nooks and crannies we saw a red-banded lobster and, not one but, two adult spotted drum together with a third tiny juvenile, with its long and delicate dorsal fin. As we returned to the main vessel a young male reef shark was noticeably chasing parrotfish, whether for fun or for food, he was not very successful at the latter, but he did buddy up with a large hawksbill turtle for a short meander along the wall. Closer to the boat two other reef sharks circled guests creating great photo and video opportunities.
Our afternoon and evening was to be spent at Brandywine, the home of our roving anemone. A beautiful blue under ambient light, this condylactus anemone is shocking pink with the light of our flashlights and great to photograph. It seems that it has settled down, as it has not moved for a few weeks. Adding to the wonderful ambience of this site with its large, perfectly formed barrel sponges were a trail of critters including a scorpion fish, not entirely well camouflaged in the sand, and a peacock flounder. This ultimately meant that not too much distance was travelled in the for the five o’clock dive, the ultimate treat for this dive being the juvenile French angel.
The night dive was spectacular with a variety of different critters that we do not regularly see. It started with a reef octopus that narrowly escaped the clutches of a jack, but then went on to continue feeding. A couple of tiny squids played in and around the beams of our lights before heading into the darkness. As we returned to the boat, a golden spotted snake eel was slithering across the bottom, looking for something to feed on. Also in the sand a king helmet sat motionless whilst a furry sea cucumber looked a little as though it were trying to break-dance – slowly!
We were excited to move to Gullies for Wednesday morning and the potential to see Sully, our pregnant reef shark. We were not disappointed; she is still very rotund and escorted by three smaller males. In the gorgonian at the edge of the wall a slender filefish camouflaged itself very nicely in the sea plume’s fronds, whilst a Hamner’s tritonia used the stem to leave its long trail of eggs. Along the wall a green moray lay on its side enjoying the administrations of a banded coral shrimp on cleaning duties. Up in the water column a school of Atlantic spadefish circled. Sharks and rays kept everyone excited as both came up close and personal with our guests.
We moved a short distance to Boat Cove for the afternoon and night dive. Sully came with us and we enjoyed her some more for the afternoon. On the black coral, at the wall, we were delighted to see a sea spider next to a much smaller black coral shrimp and one of the gorgonian sea plumes was found to be sporting a triangular cyphoma, a much smaller cousin to the flamingo tongue. A slender filefish occupied the same plume and was still around during the night dive. The night dive was another great dive. Not only did we see a king helmet again, but also a sponge crab and many different types of decorator crabs, including one known by Captain Amanda as a flamenco crab as a result of the algae that it layers up its arms. It looks a little like a bolero jacket worn by flamenco dancers! Two spotted morays were out and about searching for food and equally active were the stingrays, sharks and jacks under the boat. A scorpion fish sat motionless at the edge of the wall whilst just in the sand chute a tiny arrow squid danced around the beams of our lights as we sat quietly and watched.
And so to Elephant Ear Canyon – the flapping dingbats are back – yah! This is a delightful site for macro and this week we were particularly excited to see all variety of head shield slugs and our favorites the flapping dingbats, all busying themselves in the sand. In the grass, we came across two arrow shrimp that slipped from side to side of the individual blades. In the shallows we visited the variety of anemones that are home to squat anemone, Pederson, spotted cleaner and sun anemone shrimp and all the time the schoolmasters darted around this small patch of isolated coral heads. On our way back to the boat we enjoyed southern and roughback rays and reef sharks to make for a great morning.
Our afternoon was back at Northwest Point. We chose Stairway for a great afternoon and evening of diving. Along the wall we enjoyed Caribbean reef sharks that followed throughout both afternoon dives and a large nurse shark that cruised past uninterested in us. At the wall three small long snout butterfly fish danced around each other and as usual at this dive we saw large Caribbean spiny lobsters strode across the reef. One coral head sported two large clinging crabs that we could see, one hairy, one clinging. They were out and about during the night dive with all their buddies, so maybe there were a few more in there than we expected. A regal slipper lobster created great excitement along with a few small squid that danced in the water column before inking and taking off.
Our early morning dive on Friday was at 0600 at Pinnacles in Grace Bay. As the light came up on the reef all the fish started appearing making you wonder where exactly they had all been sleeping. Parrotfish followed each other out to the wall and reef before splitting up and going about their day. A number of smooth trunkfish, of varying sizes, fed off algae on the reef whilst a slender filefish used a gorgonian sea plume to provide protection and food. A nurse shark cruised over the edge of the reef and some of our slit pore sea rods sported fingerprint cyphoma, the stripy cousin of the flamingo tongue. The highlight of our dawn dive was at the very end. Turks & Caicos’ own national treasure, Jojo the dolphin was hanging out at the safety stop entertaining the back deck crew. It was almost as if he waited until the divers returned, made sure we all saw him, and then swimming past each of us headed off toward the shallows of Grace Bay. It was a truly exciting reward for being up so early.
We ended the week with our Cocktail Party at the dock at Turtle Cove Marina, where we reminisced about the week gone by and talked of future adventures. It is a small world, who knows where we will meet up again.
Congratulations go out to Kaitlin for completing her open water check out dives with us and then to go on and do her first night dive with us (which we think she enjoyed). Also to Dave for completing his nitrox course on this his first liveaboard. Also to our Iron Divers – Lionel, Tony and Mike – way to go!
Next week is Family Week onboard the Turks & Caicos Aggressor II, check in to see what fun we had in addition to our usual great times.