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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
22 - 29 JUNE 2019
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 80° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82°F - 83°F
Visibility: 50 - 100 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
Engineer: Robert Smith
Chef: Sarah Pearson
Video Pro: James Whittle
Instructor: Luis Peralta
Stew: RJ Beckford
Dennis, Pat, Theresa & Tom, Lon, David, Scott, Dave, Pam & Dan, Susan & Steven, Katie & Ben, Kristy & Lance
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre - NWPT
Monday: Driveway & Boat Cove – West Caicos
Tuesday: Spanish Anchor – West Caicos & G-Spot – French Cay
Wednesday: Half-Mile – French Cay & Magic Mushroom – West Caicos
Thursday: Gulley – West Caicos & The Dome - NWPT
Friday: Shark’s Hotel - NWPT
We were met with a challenging tide at the beginning of our charter and so we boarded as many guests as we could and departed the dock early. Our remaining guests had the pleasure of a small boat ride to meet us in the turquoise waters of Grace Bay. As some were boarding others were enjoying the warm waters surrounding the boat. When all were aboard, we briefed, enjoyed a delightful meal prepared by chef Sarah and waited for enough tide to leave the last part of the channel.
We motored to NWPT, where we moored for the remainder of the night at the dive site Eel Garden. After a briefing of dive deck procedures we readied ourselves for our first plunge. The visibility was great and allowed us our first glimpse of our resident reef sharks. As we approached the wall, Caribbean spiny lobster peered out at us, two of which were females protecting eggs. Gorgonians were shared between neck crabs, crinoids and flamingo tongues all vying for their share of the critters in the water column. Arrow blennies hung amongst the gobies, whilst arrow crabs recessed in the nooks and crannies around sponges. Under one of the large coral heads we spied a very big porcupinefish that appeared reticent to emerge to begin with, but favored guests Katie & Ben with a swim past before returning to its former protection. As we returned to the boat, we stopped and spent some time looking at the sand, where we were delighted to discover tiny leech head shield slugs. They were so small that to the naked eye they looked black, but when light was introduced to them you could see their vibrant colours.
At Amphitheatre the jawfish were again out in force and despite a thorough investigation of all the mature adults we could find none with eggs. Crabs and lobsters edged toward the front of their hideaway in preparation for their night feasting. The night dive was one of black & white light this evening, with the white lighters seeing all the crustaceans out and about and the black lighters focusing on decorator crabs, fire-worms and tube dwelling anemones as well as the more often seen longhorn nudibranchs, four of which were found on one tube sponge. Whilst they focused on that which glowed our regular night divers enjoyed a nurse shark as it moved around the reef.
Early on Monday morning we moved to West Caicos and Driveway. We descended in to great visibility again and immediately saw Caribbean reef sharks cruising along the wall and up over the driveway after which the site is named. A school of porgy kept us company during the dives and stingrays glided over the sand in search of food. In the gorgonians neck crabs clung poised waiting for a morsel. Grouper stopped at cleaning stations to enjoy the ministrations of gobies and cleaner shrimp. Toward the end of the second dive one of the reef sharks decided to explore the top of the water column and so created a great experience for our returning guests as well as the back deck crew who could see him clearly from the surface. We are pretty sure that at least one of the female reef sharks is pregnant.
We moved to Boat Cove at lunchtime and were delighted to see our broad-banded moray in his usual spot and even more excited to see a reef octopus out and about during the day on the same coral head. In the water column large number of barracuda hung almost motionless. Around them different jacks and snappers moved about in their individual schools, including blue runners, bar jacks and horse-eyed jacks. The late afternoon dive revealed two hawksbill turtles, one happy to swim amongst the guests and the other passing under the boat as our guests started their ascent. The night dive was great with one of the highlights being the octopus out on wall feeding, flaring and contracting as it covered coral heads and prospective food. We enjoyed the company of this cephalopod for about ten minutes before we moved on. Tigers tail sea cucumbers poked out of the reef and a slipper lobster sauntered across the sand before getting some good height in the water column, much to the guests’ surprise. Our black lighters were delighted to come across a mushroom scorpionfish, which this week we managed to capture this tiny critter’s image.
Tuesday morning took us south to Spanish Anchor. We enjoyed the swim through with the anchor wedged into the reef, covered in encrusting sponges and providing a beautifully coloured array when lit. Fairy basslets covered all angles swimming upside down as is their wont to do. A spotted moray peered out from a coral head at the top of the reef, whilst down below decorator crabs filled the gorgonian sea plumes. Of course, our resident reef sharks joined us and guest Katie pointed out that one of them was for sure with us the whole of West Caicos as evidenced by the scratch across his nose. Between the two dives at this site our guests got to shop and many were sporting new rash guards for the future dives.
Spanish Anchor placed us appropriately for our crossing to French Cay. It was a delightful day and whilst we travelled we enjoyed our lunch up on the sundeck. As we approached French Cay we were met with sparkling turquoise waters and an invitation to dive, difficult to refuse. G-Spot was our first site and not only did we have an array of sharks (not the one from West Caicos) including reef and, during the day, an occasional nurse shark. We watched as a smooth trunkfish changed colour from that of the reef to a bright iridescent blue, swam a very precise circle around another trunkfish, before returning to more muted colours. A scrawled filefish swam around a coral head switching the side it was swimming on as it approached the reef for food. Two separate sightings of spotted eagle rays kept everyone’s spirits high, which put everyone on a great mood and high expectations for the night dive, which was spectacular.
Nurse sharks wedged themselves under coral heads, appearing stuck, but in reality just seeking supper. They swam close to guests, under legs, over tanks and generally anywhere in the vicinity of the divers. Whilst they remained low, the reef sharks circled slightly higher in the water column waiting for whatever they could catch off guard, as did the large black jacks that joined the affray. It was an amazing night dive with very little covered in terms of distance.
We moved closer to the island of French Cay for Wednesday morning and the dive site Half Mile, so called for its distance from land. Here we immediately fell in with a couple of reef sharks that accompanied us along the wall and then met us back under the boat upon our return. A large nurse shark checked us out, paid little attention and continued off into the blue with a last gait. Near the mooring line a large coral head housed an arrow crab on one level with a spiny lobster on the ground floor. This level also attracted a recently mature spotted drum, that seemed to be using the area as a swim track as it circumnavigated the area at great speed, making seeing it a challenge, let alone photographing it.
During the surface interval we launched the drone and flew over French Cay – in the shallows it looked as though two nurse sharks were mating as one kept biting the dorsal of the other. Both were in water shallow enough that it did not completely cover their bodies.
At lunch we headed back to West Caicos to spend the afternoon at Magic Mushroom – this is the home of the lobster tower, which had virtual “Vacancy” sign and was not occupied by the regular crustaceans. Instead two juvenile trunkfish had located themselves in the same spot that we had seen two previously this year. We knew they were a different pair as they were smaller than our previous inhabitants. A turtle cruised by, checked us out, and carried on about its business. The night dive brought out the reef sharks that circled above in the edges of our spotlights whilst a large nurse shark visited at the same time. Crustaceans were out in force as nighttime is their feeding time. A small squid revealed itself to guest Pam, just in the last few minutes of the dive, much to her delight.
Our morning move took us over to Gulley, where immediately upon descent we spotted a scorpionfish laid in a sand patch. It was a beautiful critter with delicate sirri above the eyes. As we focused on this delightful creature, another made itself apparent by flexing its pectoral fins and revealing the gorgeous stripes of pink and purple. We proceeded along the wall enjoying spadefish, blue chromis and creole wrasse. A number of different hamlets moved around the reef of the barred, butter and indigo variety. We also enjoyed a very cooperative turtle that was enjoying a spongy snack. As we returned to the vessel, we spotted another scorpionfish, but this one appeared to be a different one. The two that we had originally seen had moved to another sandy spot and sat nose to nose whilst the third one sat in their original spot. Mid way up the gulley we spotted a juvenile spotted drum wending its way beneath an overhang and in the encrusting coral our resident gaudy clown crab peered out motionless.
We travelled to NWPT during lunchtime and spent our afternoon and night dives at The Dome. We started by heading down to the wall and along to the chimney. This is a vertical swim through covered in encrusting sponges and home to a plethora of golden crinoids. As we emerged at the top of the reef we encountered a single reef shark that accompanied us part of the way back along the edge of the wall. Making our way in toward the Dome we enjoyed a southern stingray as it attempted to feast on garden eels. Blennies found homes on the structure of the frame, within the abandoned holes of tube dwelling worms. Within our resident grunts hung out using the frame as protection and in the set of tubes inside the dome, a slipper lobster sought protection for the day.
At night the dome came alive with critters of a different nature. A small octopus moved around a sponge protected by a damselfish. The colours that he displayed were deep browns and blue as he popped up in the holes in the sponge. A hawksbill turtle joined us around the structure before returning to his place of rest underneath the center stone. A small banded clinging crab positioned itself at the end of a finger coral and sat watching the world go by, moving very occasionally to grab a morsel of food. As we returned to the boat, not only did we see longhorn nudibranchs on a tube sponge, but also a hamner’s tritonia on a sea plume, very close to its run of eggs. As we ascended towards the hangbar a reef shark appeared from out of the dark and even whilst completing our safety stop we could enjoy the stingrays as the foraged in the sand.
Our last site for the week was Shark’s Hotel. It was beautiful at 0700 hours, with many parrotfish preparing for their day and up in the water column. We enjoyed a juvenile/intermediate spotted drum swimming its little dance at the edge of the reef and whilst we were enjoying the this popular little fish, our resident Nassau grouper decided to join us and swam with the group for the remainder of the dive, becoming a firm favourite amongst our guests.
We had a late tide on Friday, and so we enjoyed the waters a little longer around Northwest Point, before heading back to Turtle Cove Marina. It was only a short time before we reconvened on the sundeck for our cheese and wine party where we celebrated the week gone by and the achievements of our guests. Congratulations to Susan & Steven for becoming Nitrox divers and Pam & Lance for achieving Iron Diver. We threw down the gauntlet to collect the set.