Log Date: Saturday, May 04, 2019
Entry By: Turks & Caicos Aggressor Crew
Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
4 – 11 May 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 79° - 86° F
Water temperature: 80°F
Visibility: 50 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Chace Gaudreau
Photo Pro: Sarah Pearson
Stew: Jessica De La Durantaye
Noel & Mike, Sandy & Gary, Darda & Jim, Charlotte, Adam, Annie & Peter
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & The Dome - NWPT
Monday: Boat Cove & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Tuesday: Driveway & Spanish Anchor – West Caicos
Wednesday: Gulley & Brandywine – West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon – West Caicos & Sharks Hotel & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Friday: Amphitheatre - NWPT
A blustery start to our Saturday as our guests boarded, excitedly looking forward to our week of diving. The Captain’s Safety briefing was delivered and chef Chace served an amazing first supper and we headed out to Northwest Point to a gorgeous sunset.
Our first dive site was Eel Garden and after a restful night on the mooring we shared details of the back deck and the dive site before jumping in to a balmy 80° water with visibility in excess of 100 feet. Immediately large lobsters strutting across the bottom confronted our guests. It is mating season for the Caribbean spiny lobster and so it in not unusual for the males to be pursuing the females all over the reef. We enjoyed the first Caribbean reef sharks for the first time of the week as they cruised part the guests in a very laid back manner. Along the wall the gorgonian sea plumes housed decorator and neck crab – their back legs grasping the fronds as their large front arms grasp nutrients out of the water column. Much to the delight of our divers, three hawksbill turtles glided through the group at different times, one of them unaware of the bottom contours swam directly through and got entangled in a gorgonian sea plume.
We moved over to The Dome for the afternoon, the subject of the reality TV show from the late 80s called Pago Pago. Prior to exploring the remains of the dome we visited the wall and were delighted with three reef sharks that cruised around the group providing an increased level of excitement. The Dome was full of grunts and schoolmasters and the edges of the structure provided homes to tiny secretary and spiny head blennies. The coral nursery is showing great signs of growth and a little slender filefish benefited from its presence providing a great camouflage. The night dive revealed the same sharks schooling around the Dome. A large green moray created great delight as well as the smaller spotted morays and the lobsters were on the move, both spiny and the much smaller red-banded lobster.
After the night dive we moved across to West Caicos in preparation for our diving on Monday. We started our diving there at Boat Cove. Visibility was exceptional and with bright sunlight above, it made for a spectacular morning. Our regular residential reef sharks were in attendance and as usual comfortable swimming up close and personal with our divers. In addition to that a large nurse shark decided to swim through the group almost checking out each guest as she swam by. Arrow blennies camouflaged themselves within small groups of gobies, upon which they are known to feast, whilst an arrow crab used the protection of a large barrel sponge to peer out from. At times it felt that the visibility was reducing and we realised that the effect was being caused by a large school of goatfish that were scouting through the sand for a morsel of food. Above all this was the schools of jacks that we have become so used to at this site. Horse eye and bar jacks intermingled with blue runners and yellow tailed snapper creating an ever-moving sense to the upper water column.
For our afternoon we moved to Magic Mushroom, where we visited Lobster Tower Hotel, which had two large specimen in the crack that runs up the back of it. Another friendly nurse shark cruised through the group and a couple of flounder negotiated a coffee mug that had accidentally become a temporary part of the reef, before its return to the yacht. The divers that returned for the second dive at the site were greatly excited by the appearance of two spotted eagle rays that glided along the wall at depth; always an amazing sight, followed by three reef sharks circling the divers for some times before they continued along the wall. The night dive brought out more lobsters – did I mention we believe it is mating season?! A slipper lobster moved along the reef appearing both awkward and nimble all at the same time. Of course, our reef sharks kept us company.
For Tuesday morning we moved the short distance to Driveway. As we descended the slope we came across a small mantis shrimp scurrying around the sand that returned to its hole as we approached and peered out a few moments longer before disappearing completely. Along the wall we saw numerous arrow blennies and on one of the gorgonians a neck crab hung just a short distance away from a small single toothed simnia. Another sighting of a spotted eagle ray brought about high spirits.
The afternoon took us to Spanish Anchor. An extended encounter with a hawksbill turtle created great memories, above which large schools of creole wrasse and blue chromis enjoyed the water movement that would bring them their next meal. The night dive brought all manner of crustaceans. The normally shy red-banded lobster became brazen; a number of hairy clinging crabs patrolled the reef, some of them with less than the eight legs that they are renowned for and a delightful batwing coral crab displayed its beautiful patterns, whilst balancing precariously on top of a coral head. Neck crabs and white speckled nudibranchs fed and we were ever aware of the constant circling of the reef shark.
For Wednesday morning we moved north to Gulley to see if our friend Sully, the Caribbean reef shark was in residence. She was, but not particularly approachable for the first dive, but it may have been a little early for her. In the purple gorgonian sea fan at the edge of the wall, two Hamner’s tritonia were seen; one of the few nudibranchs that we see during the daytime dives. These two appeared amongst their lines of eggs, so we can expect to see more of these critters in the future.
Our afternoon was spent at Brandywine, the home of the wandering anemone. Sporting a banded clinging crab this time, the anemone will change from a soft blue to a bright pink when subjected to artificial light. Again, we saw a number of spotted drum in a variety of stages, in the immediate vicinity. In the words of crewmember, Alex, it was another sharky dive with at least three Caribbean reef sharks accompanying the divers, including a large female. The final day dive for Wednesday gave us great visibility again, despite the time of the day. It allowed us to see an enormous hawksbill turtle as it lumbered along the wall and as our gaze swept up the reef to the top edge of the wall we were delighted to see another large eagle ray gliding up in to the shallows. It has certainly been a strong week for eagle rays this charter.
The night dive brought out the usual dark loving creatures, including lobsters of all varieties including the ancient looking slipper lobster. Three of our intrepid guests decided to experience the wonders of black light diving to see all that glowed. Longhorn nudibranchs and our condylactus anemone gave a provided a great display as well as the tiny explosions of colour in the sand identifying the presence of tiny polyps of coral, yet to expand into a greater colony.
Another beautiful sunrise brought Thursday alive and we moved north again to one of the Captain’s favourite dive sites – Elephant Ear Canyon. Visibility was amazing once again and as we descended into the canyon, that is strewn with elephant ear sponges, the sheer wall to the south was very clear to see and quite dramatic. As we crossed the promontory to the south we were surrounded by juvenile creole wrasse and blue chromis. Amongst them schools of blue runners cascaded over the edge of the wall. As we passed the tip of the point we spotted a large batwing coral crab that was a feature of both dives at the site. As we moved into the sand shallows we encountered a variety of conch including milk and queen, surrounded by a sea of garden eels. In the sand tiny headshield slugs hurried about, whilst on the grass blades arrow shrimp sought refuge disappearing to the other side as soon as approached by a diver. All the time as we focused on the small stuff, stingrays and reef sharks moved amongst us.
Over the lunch period we moved back to Northwest Point and spent the remainder of the afternoon at Shark’s Hotel. Guest Jim suggested that we rename the site “Texas” – the reason why? Everything was bigger! From the large barracuda that the hovered above a coral head, with a whole jaw covered in parasites, to one of the biggest smooth trunkfish that we have ever seen. A large green moray added to the fray and the sharks after which the site is named made their presence known; one of them showing obvious signs of the baby sharks that we can look forward to meeting in the near future. A scorpionfish caused great delight, sitting motionless on the reef.
The night dive was at Amphitheatre and brought all the little critters out, including a rare tufted tritoniopsis – all bright orange and tufted. White speckled nudibranchs shared purple gorgonians with numerous flamingo tongues. Enormous basket stars perched along the edge of the wall waiting for a morsel of food to drift by and as ever the sharks cruised around.
We stayed at Amphitheatre for the early morning dive – seeing the reef at night, waking up and in full daylight glory. The yellow-headed jawfish were everywhere and were described by guest Jim as a ballet. Only one of the males had eggs, but that did not stop the others swimming between holes, carrying out maintenance to their homes and generally giving the impression of dancing above the reef. The red banded lobster were being brazen again, more so in the daylight, which is unusual for them. One of the female spiny lobsters was sporting eggs, which she kept carefully under her tail constantly moving them about to keep them aerated. Or reef sharks remained with us for the dives and accompanied us back to the boat at the end of the last dive to bid us farewell, making a great end to an excellent week of diving.
With all souls onboard, rinsing their gear, we departed for Turtle Cove Marina and enjoyed a comfortable ride back to port. Another fine meal delivered from the galley of Chef Chace and the guests relaxed, preparing for the wine, cheese & conversation of our cocktail party. The sun set as we reminisced on the week past and talked of future plans; a fitting end to our week.