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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II Captain’s Log
8th – 18th September 2018
Turks & Caicos Islands
Air temperature: 80° - 86° F
Water temperature: 83 - 84°F
Visibility: 25 - 75 feet
Thermal recommendation: 3mm short/full wetsuit
Captain: Amanda Smith
2nd Captain: Alex Brett
Engineer: Rob Smith
Chef: Chace Gadreau
Instructor: Sofia Arnus
Instructor: Bailey Garton
Sandy & Paul, Kathy & Tom, Brook & Steve, Karen, Jack, Judy & Byron, Bryant, Joe, Kevin and Ulf
Our Dive Sites
Sunday: Pinnacles, Grace Bay & Amphitheatre, North West Point
Monday: Rock N Roll & G-Spot, French Cay
Tuesday: West Sand Spit & Double D, French Cay
Wednesday: Spanish Anchor & Gullies, West Caicos
Thursday: Driveway & Brandywine, West Caicos
Friday: Boat Cove & Magic Mushroom, West Caicos
Saturday: Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos & The Dome, NWPT
Sunday: Eel Garden & Stairway, NWPT
Monday: Shark’s Hotel, NWPT
There was great excitement this week as we prepared for the birthday celebration vacation for guest Paul, who was preparing to turn 80. As the guests boarded we were happy to see returning friends and new companions. We have ten fun filled days to eat, sleep and dive. After we had briefed all our guests on our safety procedures, we enjoyed a great meal prepared by chef Chace and settled down to a relaxing night on the dock.
At first light we headed out of Turtle Cove Marina and travelled the short distance to Grace Bay to dive at Pinnacles. A great check out dive, we enjoyed Creole wrasse schooling along the edge of the wall. Caribbean spiny lobsters peeked out from beneath corals, whilst the first of some very small Caribbean reef sharks, that we have recently been seeing, darted around the area, trying to prove their position at the top of the food chain.
After two dives we moved to the Northwest Point of Providenciales to dive at Amphitheatre. Here we saw the resident yellow-headed jawfish. To our great delight, some of the males were with eggs, and even those that were without still made for a great show as they bobbed in and out of their holes. The Amphitheatre is a colourful stretch of the wall as it is encrusted in sponges in a variety of colours and with black coral suspended from the top. The night dive was exceptional with critters revealing themselves all along the wall. In particular the ruby brittle stars were out in force, appearing on sponges, in coral heads and even at the very far reaches of gorgonian sea plumes.
With the anniversary of Irma, we were entering the height of hurricane season and as the trip progressed we watched the development of hurricanes Florence, Gordon, Helene and Isaac in the Atlantic. We, however, experienced some great weather.
After the night dive we moved all the way around to French Cay. We dived, the following morning, at Rock N Roll. We immediately experienced the reef sharks that frequent this area and enjoyed several close passes as the curious sharks came to check us out.
A short move to G-Spot at lunch brought the sharks with us and we again had some great encounters during the afternoon. Under coral heads we encountered nurse sharks resting, on one occasion two squeezed under the same rock. We believe they were resting in preparation for the night. On the way to the wall, we saw an adult spotted drum in the very rear of a coral head and a juvenile of the same fish at the start of the G-Spot. Two neck crabs decorated very brightly with red algae, stood out very clearly on a purple gorgonian sea plume; not vey well disguised.
The night dive arrived and the nurse sharks were very active, seeking the light from our flashlights to hunt by and therefore terrorising the other fish. Joining the nurse sharks were the Caribbean reef sharks, acting a little more feistily than earlier in the day and our resident Cubera snapper that we have affectionately nicknamed Steve.
We took a rare opportunity to travel to West Sand Spit on Tuesday. With all the activity in the Atlantic and surrounding us we were experiencing very calm seas, so we took advantage and headed southeast to the sandy spit. As we descended from the boat, we were met with a school of Atlantic Spadefish, swimming up in the water column and returning to the reef. Also up in the water column a few Oceanic triggerfish could be seen. A couple of stingrays, normally using the sand to disguise their presence, were seen swimming across the reef. A beautifully healthy reef; untouched and filled with schooling fish, it made for a great morning with amazing views on the surface as well as the water shallowed to the spit and created the most amazing azure blue.
We moved back to Double D for the afternoon and enjoyed another spectacular few dives. Again not a site that we frequent with great regularity, mainly sue to recent weather, but one that we wholly enjoyed. With a couple of reef sharks cruising around the focus of the site – two small mounds at the edge of the wall – we also enjoyed seeing some large mackerel around the site. Caribbean spiny lobster strutted about and an octopus revealed its position to the enchantment of those that observed it.
An early morning run to West Caicos, took us to Spanish Anchor where we were greeted by the resident sharks. A juvenile spotted drum danced below a coral head. Large schools of surgeonfish glided across the reef, stopping periodically to devour sponges and reef as they passed, before taking off again, a blur of blue. As we started to return to the boat, crewmember Sofia, saw a large spotted eagle ray cruising along the wall. She beat a tune on her tank and a few of the guests were able to also enjoy this sight.
We moved to Gullies for the afternoon and encountered even more sharks of all sizes, including our favourite whom we have named Sully. In an encrusting sponge a gaudy clown crab peeked out from its hole, patiently waiting for us to leave. An early hairy clinging crab had started feeding on the reef, having adapted to the fact that it now had only one front claw arm. On the reef, Pedersen cleaner shrimp peddled their services to the fish, keeping them healthy, whilst feeding themselves. In the shallows, we encountered another jawfish with eggs, as located by guest Bryant and a juvenile French angel that we had seen on a previous charter and were pleased to see again.
Half of our night divers were experiencing fluorescent for the first time and all came back buzzing with sightings nudibranchs, decorator crabs and all things that glow.
Our next dive site was Driveway – so named for the large sand chute that cuts through the edge of the reef in to the deep. At the top of a large coral head a good-sized porcupinefish hovered motionlessly watching us as we headed down to the wall. A couple of reef sharks cruised back and forth as we completed our dive. A juvenile queen angel flitted across the top of a coral head amongst the other small reef fish including damsels and beaugregory. Along the wall a large school of yellowtail snapper moved along the edge, circled by mackerel and small sharks keen to catch a snack.
Our afternoon took us over to Brandywine, the home of the wandering anemone. There it was in all its glory – blue under ambient light and pink in the beam of a flashlight. In a gorgonian sea plume a tiny slender filefish fluttered around its fronds. A spotted moray brought great delight, as did a much larger green moray. The night dive revealed small critters, such as neck crabs and juvenile fish hiding from predators. In a gorgonian a small reef squid sought protection from the hunting jacks by hovering in the fronds of the plumes. The blacklighters sought out the anemone, which at night under fluoro goes a third colour – bright green. A very special sighting was a juvenile scorpionfish, fluorescing red and spotted only because it chose to move just at the wrong, or right, moment.
With still three full days of diving ahead, we moved to Boat Cove for the morning. As soon as we entered the water, three reef sharks circled beneath us. On the wall, on a black coral, a neck crab was making the final preparations to shed its skin, so that it looked like there were two crabs on the coral. At the edge of the wall a beautiful indigo hamlet hovered two feet above the bottom as though supervising the other fish around. A turtle cruised through the group of divers and looked as though it would swim straight into the arms of guest, Paul. Under the boat, a variety of jacks circled, attracting the attentions of the sharks that joined them. Soon after and remaining with the group for a good time a King mackerel joined the fray. This is an unusual sighting here, but not as rare as the school of palmetto that journeyed along the reef.
Magic Mushroom was our afternoon destination. Lobster tower was somewhat lacking in lobster, housing only one at this time, but a juvenile queen angel, just the size of a penny. A peacock flounder moved from sand to reef and back again, colours changing revealing the reason for its name. A couple of sharks flitted about but kept their distance.
We started to feel the effects of all the storms in the Atlantic as visibility dropped dramatically. Elephant Ear Canyon was the first of the sites that we experienced this. Along the wall we still enjoyed several of our resident sharks as they cruised along and stingrays on the sand. On the smaller side, which is what the site is known for, we enjoyed the presence of pipefish and pipe horses, in the sand almost immediately beneath the boat. An abandoned conch shell provided a beautiful home for a small octopus that timidly peered out from the opening.
We moved in search of better visibility to NWPT, to dive at the Dome – visibility was not so great but here we encountered a large green moray tucked away under the structure, and there it remained right through the night dive. The blennies were still popping in and out of their homes, mostly abandoned wormholes. In the structure itself schoolmasters and French grunt hung out, whilst sergeant majors & damselfish protected their eggs and algae on the frame. I am so glad they are small fish.
With a full day ahead of diving at the northwest point of Providenciales, we chose Eel Garden for the morning. We were happy to see the large Nassau grouper that hangs out in the sand and if comfortable to a close approach from divers. The amusing aspect is that after each encounter it feels the need to search out a cleaning station. I am not sure what that says about us!
For the afternoon we headed over to Stairway and spent some time with the marching lobsters and schooling barracuda. The start coral in plate formation provides a marvelous space for small critters such as banded coral shrimp and yellow-lined arrow crabs. Still we encountered reef sharks cruising along the wall and comfortable to come in close on a number of occasions. The night dive finally brought out an octopus (until this dive all octopus had been hiding in something) and we enjoyed the sight of it out hunting.
Our final site for the charter was Shark’s Hotel – the first time all week where we did not see a shark – they had clearly all checked out. What we did enjoy was a turtle swimming along the reef and in the shallows a number of different types of grouper including Nassau, tiger and yellow-fin.
A great end to the charter with a total 42 dives offered with just one of our guests achieving the Iron Diver status – repeat guest Joe, who gets to do it all over again next charter – let’s see if he can make all the dives next trip!
Congratulations go out to Karen who reached her 300th dive, to Joe (more awards!) who quietly achieved his 500th and a big cheer to Jack who completed his 1700th dive during the trip.
We returned to the dock at lunchtime and spent a restful afternoon before our cheese and wine party on the sundeck and supper on island. The storms may have prevented our trip farther afield, but we still enjoyed the delights on offer from the Caicos Islands. Let’s hope that the Turks Islands are on the cards for us next week as well.