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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
1 – 8 JUNE 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 81° - 86° F
Water temperature: 81° - 82°F
Visibility: 50 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Chace Gaudreau
Video Pro: James Whittle
Instructor: Luis Peralta
Liese, Alison & Adam, Xenia and Nathan
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden – NWPT & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Monday: Driveway & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Wednesday: Half Mile – French Cay & Brandywine – West Caicos
Thursday: Gulley – West Caicos & The Dome - NWPT
Friday: Pinnacles – Grace Bay
We explained to our oncoming guests this week that they could spread out, as there would be only five – so enjoy the space. We briefed and served a delightful supper three fifths of the group whilst we waited for our last two to arrive. With all essential briefings given we settled down for a restful evening of excited anticipation at the prospect of the week to come.
We departed early Sunday morning and enjoyed a wonderful sunrise as we followed the narrow channel to the open ocean. After a calm crossing to Northwest Point we were ready to be briefed on the back deck procedures before our first plunge in to the warm waters of the Atlantic. Eel Garden was the site of our first dive and we were happy to see that our friends the garden eels, after which the site is named, were in attendance. A southern stingray was seen in the same vicinity gliding across the sand in hopes of a tasty morsel. In the gorgonians, neck crabs were abundant enjoying the nutrient rich waters that a slight drop in visibility is likely to bring. It was, of course, the first site that our divers enjoyed the local Caribbean reef sharks that were to be a continuing presence throughout the week.
We moved at lunchtime to West Caicos, whilst chef Chace served up a delightful feast, and we were very ready to enter the waters once again at Boat Cove. As soon as we descended Sully, our resident reef shark made us aware of her company and throughout the dive she would cruise slowly through the group, in no great hurry to be anywhere else. At times she was accompanied by a couple of other females; equally unhurried. Along the edge of the wall we saw a female yellow lined arrow crab, body swelled heavy with eggs. A school of spadefish caught our eye in the distance as they spiraled up and into the water column. It was clearly bath time as many of the grouper and goatfish were taking the opportunity for a clean from many of the Pedersen cleaner shrimp and shark nosed gobies that frequent this site. We were also delighted to see the large green moray that is often seen at this site.
The first night dive brought out large channel and hairy clinging crabs and the opportunity to peek at the broad banded moray that resides in a coral head under the boat at this site. The black lighters enjoyed fluorescent nudibranchs and a sculptured slipper lobster that glowed.
We moved just a short distance on Monday morning to the dive site of Driveway. This choice was to situate us close to the location of Yankee Town, on the island, which we planned to explore between the dives. The dive site is renowned for its yellow-headed jawfish and today was no exception, with the added bonus of being able to watch a male mouth brood. Another healthy serving of reef sharks kept the water column exciting, whilst the usual suspects of reef fish busied themselves below. Brilliant sunlight illuminated the reef.
Between dives we took the short tender ride to a small manmade stone “dock” by Yankee Town on West Caicos. We took some time exploring the remains of the settlement that had produced salt and sisal in years past. Most of the buildings are in ruins, but some of the steam engines that they used are still in place. It would certainly be a challenging environment to live in and some of the mosquitoes took the opportunity to remind us of one of their challenges. We walked along the remains of the single gauge track that was used to transport objects from the deep waters where we dive to the shallow waters of the Caicos Bank. As we approached Lake Catherine we spotted two flocks of Flamingoes; the pink colour of those that enjoy a shrimp full diet. By the time we had returned to the boat we were again reminded of the harshness of the environment caused by the heat and were happy to launch ourselves back into the ocean to enjoy the under water vista.
After a lunch served on the sundeck, a nap was in order, to prepare us for the dive site of Magic Mushroom. It seemed that the tower that usually bustles with lobsters at this site was somewhat lacking with just one small specimen tucked right the way up at the top. The second dive at the site revealed our two juvenile trunkfish at the top of lobster tower. Gone this week were the eggs of the damselfish and so the dusky damsel that resides alongside was a little more relaxed.
The following morning we moved to Spanish Anchor to enjoy the swim through that has housed the anchor for over three hundred years. As we swam toward the cut in the wall we could see many oceanic triggerfish, in pairs, seemingly nesting. Three schools of Atlantic spadefish cruised by and the whole water column felt like it was alive with schooling creole wrasse, blue chromis and other reef fish. A couple of cero mackerel swam close to the group and of course our resident reef sharks accompanied us. At the edge of the wall a hawksbill turtle cruised past at a speed slow enough to our guests an up close encounter.
We motored down to French Cay for our afternoon and enjoyed the warmer waters afforded from the Caicos Bank. Reef sharks cruised past whilst a turtle fed on a sponge, at the same time harassed by a French angelfish keen to feed on the same sponge. A very large spiny lobster caused some excitement, especially as it seemed particularly determined to disquiet guest Allison. The night dive was spectacular with about eight nurse sharks feeding by our flashlights and enticing the Caribbean reef sharks and Cubera snapper into their foraging. We rarely see octopus in these conditions, as they are a favourite food of the nurse shark, but on this dive a number of our divers saw a small octopus moved around the reef. Up in the water column a large reef squid flared its tentacles and changed many shades of colour as it moved away toward the surface and out of our range of vision.
We dived a site that we have not been to for some time on Wednesday morning. Half Mile is so called because it is half a mile from French Cay. Large coral formations lay under the boat with some quite spectacular vistas. Holes in the reef supported schooling grunt. A very large hogfish, not quite in its terminal phase, cruised between the coral heads, but still about three feet long. Pedersen cleaner shrimp were prolific and provided a great source of healthcare to the fish that they clean. Immediately under the boat three reef sharks cruised back and forth.
At lunchtime we moved back to West Caicos and spent the afternoon at Brandywine, the home of the wandering condylactus anemone. Out in all its glory during the day, it was as spectacular under black light on the night dive. Whilst not as exciting as the night dive last night, it still proved to be an amazing night dive, just of another nature. A large reef octopus moved across the reef covering corals and rocks, changing colours as it searched for prey. Large channel clinging crabs fed, as lobsters crossed the reef. A large green moray delighted the divers and added to the tally of eels, as a spotted moray not only revealed itself but also joined the critters out for searching for supper.
The following morning we moved to Gulley and enjoyed the swim through that cuts through the edge of the wall. Our reef sharks were cruising the edge of the wall and a friendly turtle posed for some photos with the divers whilst it fed on a sponge.
We moved back to Providenciales for our afternoon dive and the site of the Dome. French & blue striped grunt used the protection of the frame and create a yellow glow within the structure. Along the edges secretary and spiny head blennies used the abandoned holes of worms to reside in and emerge when food passed by. The night dive was great, with sightings of measled cowrie and their cousins the fingerprint cyphoma. Our resident turtle was snoozing under the base, whilst an Atlantic long arm octopus slid around and fed round the base of the tyres to which the boat was attached.
After the night dive we travelled around the north shore of Providenciales to spend our last morning in Grace Bay at Pinnacles. The conditions were perfect and we spent some time exploring the two large coral heads at the bottom of the wall that create a very dramatic underwater vista. We discovered another fingerprint cyphoma, but it was less keen to show its mantle and was only barely identifiable from its close relative the flamingo tongue. Two spotted drums created great delight and provided a wonderful ending to a great week of diving.
We travelled the short distance to the marina for a relaxing afternoon, where cards were played and families caught up with. Our cheese and wine party was a great opportunity to reflect on our past week and talk of future adventures. We hope to have an equally epic week with our new guests.