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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
30 June – 7 July 2018
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 78° - 84° F
Water temperature: 82° - 84°F
Visibility: 100+ feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Brynne Rardin
Instructor: Kenley Williams
Paula & Mark, Grace, Karen & Chris, Alisa & Randy, Dan & Todd, Faustyn, Lisa, Rama, Joelle & Keith
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Eel Garden, NWPT & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Monday: Double D & G-Spot, French Cay
Tuesday: Driveway & Spanish Anchor, West Caicos
Wednesday: Elephant Ear Canyon, Gullies & Brandywine, West Caicos
Thursday: Amphitheatre & The Dome, NWPT
Friday: Shark’s Hotel, NWPT
Gear was unpacked, cabins settled in to and jokes were shared very early on for the week. By briefing time, it felt like our guests were old friends, and to be fair some of them already were.
We boarded our guests at the anchorage in Grace Bay and when all guests and crew were onboard we departed for Northwest Point of Providenciales.
Our first morning was spent at Eel Garden and after we had enjoyed one of Brynne’s excellent breakfasts and delivered our back deck briefing, we got to experience the garden eels, after which the site is named. On the Gorgonians along the wall, neck crabs used the water movement to capture a morsel of food, whilst large Caribbean spiny lobsters peered out from their reef homes. A reef shark cruised the edge of the wall swimming close to our guests until the last moment when he would change his course of direction. The highlight for many of the guests was the octopus that peeked out of a coral head, starting the trend for the week, although we were yet to realize it.
For the afternoon we made the crossing to West Caicos as we had an early window of opportunity to get to French Cay this week. Boat Cove was our site for Sunday afternoon where we got to see Sully, still the expectant mother although even bigger than when we last saw her – it has to be soon. Southern and roughback stingrays glided over the sand, and a variety of Nassau grouper attended cleaning stations to keep themselves preened. A hawksbill turtle swam along the wall and again we enjoyed the small critters, including the neck crabs and wire coral shrimp. The night dive showed us another octopus, but on a miniscule scale. There was not quite enough body mass to even stay on the sand.
That evening we moved to French Cay and enjoyed a calm crossing which prepared us for a phenomenal days diving. At Double D to begin with we saw another larger octopus coiled into itself and hiding under a coral head. Above the two horse eyed jacks and blue runners schooled in circles. A large permit cruised past and several Cero Mackerel moved back and forth along the reef. Two Caribbean reef sharks followed our guests as they navigated the reef. Two juvenile, almost intermediate, drums danced around each other very close to a small slender Filefish that had chosen a purple Gorgonian sea plume to hide in.
We moved over to G-Spot for the afternoon, in preparation for our night dive. The visibility was good and we enjoyed the resident reef sharks during the afternoon, with an occasional sighting of a nurse shark tucked in to the reef, resting. At the G-Spot, in a small nook, a very large nurse shark hung out, at least 10 feet in length she looked mature in age, swam out, turned around creating a little sand storm that kept her from prying eyes. In the sand yellow-headed Jawfish bobbed up and down, none with eggs, but still a delight to watch.
The nurse sharks were far livelier for the night dive. Using the lights of the divers they sought food and many of the fish that were illuminated slid out of the light. The nurse sharks would bump into and swim under guests getting up close and personal. Our resident cubera snapper joined in the fray, as well as a barracuda, making a very exciting night dive.
We returned that night to West Caicos and to Driveway where we spent the following morning. We were greeted with amazing visibility and some great encounters. Our third daytime octopus of the week was truly knotted under a coral head – by far the largest of the three, but not moving much. A hungry Hawksbill turtle tore into a sponge and remained there for both morning dives, working his way up to the surface for breath before returning to the same sponge. More Jawfish in the sand, still none with eggs, but also sharing the sandy area with them a couple of tiny mantis shrimp would peer out with their crazy multi functional eyes.
We moved over to over to Spanish Anchor for the afternoon and delightful dives with great visibility and plenty of critters. As guests swam through past the anchor and reappeared at the wall a large lemon shark cruised past at depth, circled the lower plateau and then moved effortlessly on. In the Gorgonian at the top of the wall two mature neck crabs clung in their usual spots and were joined by more on the night dive. Guest, Faustyn also saw a slender Filefish in the same plume as well as a number of intermediate flamingo tongues. As we headed back toward the yacht, we discovered that a Scorpionfish had chosen to hide, not particularly successfully, in the sand, however after a quick flash of its pink pectoral fins it had regained the camouflage that we know them so well for. The night dive brought out more neck crabs and different lobsters including red banded and spiny spotted. Three white speckled nudibranchs frequented a sea plume and our basket stars and corals were fed well with the bloodworms in the water, thanks to guest Todd. As we headed back to the boat two Caribbean reef sharks and a small nurse shark made an appearance and gave us something to watch during the safety stop.
On Wednesday morning we decided to try three dive sites in one day. Elephant Ear Canyon was our first stop and delighted us with pipe horses and a plethora of head shield slugs or varying size and colour. In the coral head toward the shallower part of the dive we enjoyed the different anemones and their associated shrimp, including squat anemone shrimp, Pederson and spotted cleaner shrimp. It seems our intermediate French angel has fled the coop and was nowhere to be seen, which saddened the crew, but maybe we will see it somewhere else on the reef in the future.
Our second site, for two dives, was, the crews’ favorite, Gullies. We saw Sully once again, still plump with young. On our favorite Gorgonian we were pleased to see the Hamner’s tritonia nudibranchs as well as neck crabs and single toothed simnia. Barracuda paraded the site and a school of Spadefish swam past up in the water column.
For the late afternoon dive and night dive we moved to Brandywine, the home of the moving anemone. In all its glory it glowed blue under ambient light and brilliant pink under white light. Along the reef the coral encrusted engine block provided a home to the dusky Damselfish protecting her eggs, which were attached to the side of the structure. The night dive saw a group of black jacks harassing a large spotted moray, but it seemed that one look from the moray and the jacks backed off. A group of divers chose this night to do the black light dive and were delighted to see all that glowed. In particular it was great to find a juvenile reef Scorpionfish glowing in the sand, next to a juvenile green moray that decided not to hang around.
We moved that night back to NWPT and just about managed to see in the distance the Fourth of July celebrations from Providenciales. Our meals throughout the day had a definite celebratory feel with red, white and blue featuring on the French toast with fresh berries, the Fourth of July cupcakes for snack and the Fourth of July chocolate mousse cake for dessert.
In the morning we dived at Amphitheatre, which proved to be a great macro dive site – despite the large Caribbean reef sharks that patrolled the reef. In the black coral in the Amphitheatre a tiny black coral shrimp was only visible by its eyestalks on either side of the coral frond. Over the edge of the wall we were busily enjoying a gaudy clown crab in a hole in an encrusting sponge when we suddenly spotted the fin of a sail fin blenny. This little critter would dart out of his hole and flip its over sized dorsal fin, mush to the delight of our guests. As we returned we swam over small pockets of jawfish and despite our observations we were left disappointed in our search for their eggs.
We moved across to The Dome for the afternoon and night dive. We enjoyed the swim up through the Chimney and the return swim to The Dome, spotting, en route, a male Jawfish with eggs in his mouth – at last! Several coral heads sported cleaning stations with queues of fish waiting to be cleaned. Shrimps and Gobies exercised their duty removing parasites and other such materials off their customers. At The Dome we came across a large green moray, just hanging out under the central plate. We were hoping that our sea horse from the past two weeks was still there and we were not disappointed, it having moved just a small distance from where we have been seeing it. This caused great excitement and we now have a very well photographed seahorse. Just a short distance away from the sea horse was a slit pore sea rod sporting three-fingerprint Cyphoma, the cousin of the abundant flamingo tongues that we see in this area.
The night dive brought us both octopus and squid with a particularly exciting encounter with a spotted moray that decided to dine on another fish. Guests were amazed to see how the eel twisted and turned with a very full stomach to crush the fish and eat a little more comfortably. A great last night dive of the week.
For our last daylight dives we moved to Shark’s Hotel and enjoyed the numerous cleaning stations and the groupers that like to frequent them. A Hawksbill turtle spent a little time with the crew and guests before heading off. A red orange ghost shrimp was tempted out of his very smooth hole for a short while before disappearing back in. Not so many shark’s at the “hotel”, but a great wall and a beautiful end to a great week.
We motored around smoothly to Turtle Cove Marina and enjoyed time looking at photographs and video and reminiscing the week past. A cocktail hour in true Aggressor tradition ended our Friday and gave us all the opportunity to celebrate the week. Congratulations go out to our Iron Divers – Faustyn, Joelle, Keith, Rama, Todd & Dan and to Lisa for completing her 200th dive with us. A special mention also, with congratulations, to Joelle & Keith who, not only celebrated their recent engagement, but also their 100th dive together. May there be many more.
Check back next week to see what delights the ocean holds in store for us.