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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
7 - 14 April 2018
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 75° - 78° F
Water temperature: 78° - 80°F
Visibility: 100+ feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm/5mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Video Pro: Conor Ferrin
Instructor: James Wilford
Instructor: Kelly Currington
Laura & Matt, Andra & John, Kim & Chuck, Lisa & Joe, Jessica & Rob, Rick, David, Nickie, Pascale, Jeff, Andrea & Jeff and remaining with us for another week - Woody
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden & Amphitheatre, NWPT
Monday: Driveway, West Caicos & G-Spot, French Cay
Tuesday: Rock & Roll, French Cay & Spanish Anchor, West Caicos
Wednesday: Boat Cove & Gullies, West Caicos
Thursday: Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos, Stairway & The Dome, NWPT
Friday: Shark’s Hotel, NWPT
And we are back to our regular dive charter schedule with our first seven-day charter of our season. At 3pm, 12 guests were boarded and we moved out to the mooring in Grace Bay to await our final guests and the tide. Chef Brynne fed us well and we settled down for the night with a plan to leave the mooring earlier than first light on Sunday morning.
The weather was delightful and as we looked over the side at the shallow water of the mooring area, we could clearly see the critters moving around – it bode well for a great week. Before 5am, engines were started and we started our journey to NWPT of Providenciales. Seas were calm and there was little wind and soon we were being briefed on back deck etiquette before dropping into the crystal clear waters of Eel Garden.
Much to our dismay, confirmed from the week before, our Condylactus anemone is missing. This beautiful anemone has been at this location for many, many years and its loss will be greatly felt. Further investigation will be made – watch this space.
We were able to enjoy the Creole wrasse that cascaded over the wall feeding on the microscopic critters in the water column. Stingrays fed on the garden eels in the sand and larger moray eels peeked out from beneath the reef.
We moved to Amphitheatre for the afternoon and enjoyed the yellow-headed jawfish – one of which had eggs, but only very small ones, so the lines down the throat were not very obvious and the mouth was only slightly bulging. There seems to be a good number of large sand tilefish at this site, their homes also provided protection to smaller critters, such as squat anemone shrimp and squat lobster. They build a hole in the sand and then cover the area with pieces of broken off coral; some pieces being relatively large for the size of the fish! The night dive was slow to start but moved on to epic proportions. Three different types of squid revealed themselves to us – Caribbean reef squid, Atlantic reef squid and arrow squid – all varying in sizes. Spotted morays peeked out from their holes and the gorgonians and sponges were home to white spotted and longhorn nudibranchs. Up in the water column, Caribbean reef sharks remained just outside the edge of the boats underwater lighting along with the bar jacks and blue runners. On the sand a southern stingray foraged for food and up in a large gorgonian, a slender filefish clung in sleep.
Early morning on Monday we moved to West Caicos and spent the morning at Driveway. Here we enjoyed the West Caicos Caribbean reef sharks. Stingrays glided over the sand around the Driveway. It is a beautiful wall and dive site, with isolated coral heads providing home and protection for small reef fish and crustaceans alike. Look at any coral head and there will be hundreds of tiny hermit crabs working their way around the reef, easily startled, often enough to make them roll back down to where they started. We experienced our first sighting of a spotted eagle ray and our first encounter with a three legged turtle that fate was to bring to us again later in the week.
We moved at lunchtime to French Cay to take advantage of the weather, which was due to pick up a little mid week. G-Spot was our first dive site. Visibility continued to be outstanding and we enjoyed two very clear afternoon dives, seeing eagle rays again, along with the resident Caribbean reef sharks. The queen angelfish seemed to be very prevalent during our dives here with their bold yellow and blue colouring making great photographic and video subjects. There was not too much evidence of our nurse shark friends who were to be the feature of our night dive. And that they were! Our divers need not have ventured too far from the yacht before they encountered the full range of nurse sharks – small to large – feeding by the beam of our lights, supported by the black jacks and our very own cubera snapper.
The snapper joined us again the following morning when we moved to Rock N Roll. With a good sized shark sucker attached to his back he came up close and personal to all our guests under the boat. This was a site good for spotted morays – along the wall there was one area where there were three peering out all within a 10-foot area. An orange filefish paused to watch us as we looked on at a juvenile lizardfish with a Pederson cleaner shrimp at its side. Turtles were seen during both dives and gave our guests the opportunity to photograph them.
At lunchtime we moved back to West Caicos to dive the Spanish Anchor. All guests got the opportunity to see the sponge encrusted relic. Our three legged turtle joined us; this dive site is just half a mile from where we saw this critter earlier in the week and we were delighted to see her again. The late afternoon dive revealed our resident scorpion fish and the adult drum that has made this site home for many years, just north of the swim through. Also, to the delight of the divers, we discovered a chain moray peeking from out of a coral head – a rare treat, as we do not see this type of moray regularly here. As night fell, we turned on our underwater lights, and plunged into the dark world. An enormous channel clinging crab pulled at a sponge and fed. Large basket stars clung to gorgonians and sponges to catch any passing critters. A tiny orange spotted hawkfish sought shelter in a vase sponge. Under the ledges orange ball coralimorphs dipped in the water movement and then disappeared as the light fell upon them. This was a great site for a fluorescent dive, with decorator crabs and fire worms glowing brightly under the beams of the blacklight.
Our morning broke bright & breezy. We spent our morning at Boat Cove and the plethora of Caribbean reef sharks that hang out here. Particularly delightful is their contrast with the sand that covers the bottom under the boat. Bar jacks, blue runners and horse eyed jacks circulated under the boat up high in the water column, peppered with barracuda of varying sizes, eyeing up the jacks, opportunistically. In the sand we enjoyed a peacock flounder, undulating across the ridges, changing colour making the blue rings bright and then muted. A turtle cruised through the reef and provided a great photo subject for guest Nickie. On the wall, we watched a minute wire coral shrimp run the length of its home disappearing behind the narrow gorgonian only to reappear on the other side. In a purple gorgonian sea plume two neck crabs waved back and forth with the water movement.
Our afternoon was spent at Gullies. As we descended into the gulley we saw a large female southern stingray, sat at the base of the swim through. Around it a smaller male was flittering, trying, it seemed to capture her attention. She was very accommodating and after she had moved onto the top of the reef she hung out with our divers for a little while. In the gorgonian above the gulley we spotted flamingo tongues and simnia and guide Rob was just pointing out a Hamner’s Tritonia when he realised that there was a turtle underneath the gorgonian. This, very settled, turtle swam around the reef and then led our guests back toward the boat. As we were also seeing our resident sharks we were delighted by the dive, so it was a bonus when a spotted eagle ray cruised past whilst our guests were reflecting during their safety stop. Al in all it was a very gratifying dive.
We explored Elephant Ear Canyon for the first time since our return and were happy to see that the sharks, turtles and stingrays have not abandoned this, one of our favourite sites. In the grass we spotted a pipehorse and in the sand a fireworm that quickly disappeared into its home. During an impromptu dive by the Captain and Chef, we could hear the squeaks and clicks of dolphins nearby, but were unable to see them – when we returned to the boat our guests had snorkeled out to an large pod of spotted dolphins that were swimming off the back of the boat. They remained for at least 15 minutes and then headed off in to deeper water.
We moved back to NWPT and dived one dive at Stairway – here the theme of the dive was turtles and lobsters, although guest Jeff did spot a small octopus tucked up in a coral head.
We were to dive the night at The Dome so moved for the fourth dive of the day so that our guests had some familiarity with the site. The guests headed along the wall to the Chimney, swimming up vertically to the top of the wall and then back under the boat to the Dome. En route we encountered a hawksbill turtle that again presented herself on the night dive around the structure. A nurse shark lay in repose under the framework, resting before an evening of hunting. The fluorescent night dive revealed the longhorn nudibranchs on sponges. A tiny juvenile green moray fed upon a bloodworm and more juveniles became exposed including a peacock flounder. Also feeding was a mantis shrimp, out and about, which is unusual here.
Our last dive for the week took us to Shark’s Hotel – not so many sharks around, but we did get another chance to see a Hawksbill Turtle. Along the wall guest Woody saw an octopus tucked away. Peering up from a hole a spotted moray tested the water with mouth open showing the long line of teeth. At the edge of the wall small schools of grunts used the coral heads to gain protection from the slight water movement. As our guests bid farewell to the reef and fish and boarded the vessel in preparation for departure to the dock, we talked of future trips and wish list destinations.
A smooth crossing back to Turtle Cove and a relaxing afternoon followed up by our cheese and wine party on the sundeck made for a perfect end to the week. Congratulations go out to our milestone awards this week – Woody for 1500 hours underwater, Nickie for 1100 dives, Andrea for 600 dives, Rob for 300 dives and Joe for 200 dives. A shout out for our Iron Divers – Woody (again), Rob, Joe, Matt and David. Also to Rick who became a Nitrox diver this week. Join us next week to see what adventures we have.