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Turks & Caicos Aggressor II
27 October – 3 November 2018
Air temperature: 80° - 84°F
Water temperature: 82° - 83° F
Thermal Protection recommendation: 3mm shorty or full suit
Nathan & Lindsey, Karen & Frank, Kelly & Josh, Karen & Angus, Nancy & Dave, Milos, Homer & Todd
Amanda Smith – Captain
Alex Brett – 2nd Captain
Rob Smith – Engineer
Sofia Arnus – Photo Pro
Caleb Dudley – Chef
The Dive Sites
Sunday – Eel Garden, NWPT & Spanish Anchor, West Caicos
Monday – West Sand Spit & G-Spot, French Cay
Tuesday – Rock N Roll, French Cay & Brandywine, West Caicos
Wednesday – Gulley & Boat Cove, West Caicos
Thursday – Elephant Ear Canyon, West Caicos & The Dome, NWPT
Friday – Amphitheatre, NWPT
An early tide led to a departure ahead of schedule and the afternoon at the mooring in Grace Bay, whilst we waited for our last guests to arrive. It was a beautiful afternoon, with a light breeze and bright sunlight. We shared the safety briefing whilst still at the mooring and then enjoyed a delightful meal prepared by chef Caleb, before throwing loose as soon as we had enough tide and heading the short distance to the northwest point of Providenciales.
Sunday morning dawned bright and clear, with blue skies and almost no wind. The forecast suggested that this was to be the condition for the next few days and so we were keen to get to the most southerly sites whilst the weather was so settled.
Our first dive site for the week was Eel Garden, at Northwest Point. Here we were delighted to spend some time with a hawksbill turtle that started out eating a sponge and then joined us for the meander back along the top of the wall as we returned to the boat. Crabs and lobsters peered out from their holes along the wall and various neck crabs in a myriad of decorations clung to their gorgonian homes whilst awaiting the arrivals of morsels of food in the water column. Whilst the crustaceans entertained us, the sharks kept us company as they cruised along the reef.
During lunchtime we moved to West Caicos and to the dive site Spanish Anchor. A scorpionfish perched on a coral head, stretching its fins periodically to reveal the beautiful bands of colour. In the gorgonians large, heavily camouflaged neck crabs occupied the same fronds as smaller more delicate varieties. The night dive was definitely a crustacean dive, with channel clinging crabs all over the top of the wall. As well as the usual Caribbean spiny lobster we saw red-banded lobster and slipper lobster. An enormous fire worm clung to a gorgonian, motionless.
We moved to French Cay after the night dive and then onward to West Sand Spit the following morning. The dive site revealed a large quantity of queen triggerfish that seemed to be lighter in colour than their usual bold tones. They also seemed more curious as to our presence – maybe because not so many divers get out to this area. Our second dive at the site was shared with a number of Atlantic spadefish, in assorted sizes of schools – their presence was felt for the entire dive. The actual spit of West Sand Spit was beneath the surface, but underwater the dive site was bigger and bolder with everything exceptionally healthy.
Back to French Cay to dive at G-Spot and one of the highlights of the week – this statement is usually reserved for the nurse sharks that we enjoy at this site, but today it was the green and yellow frogfish that was perched across to tube sponges of exactly the same colour. Guest Frank was to find it, but all our guests got to see it. As it sat on the sponge a small reef fish swam out of the tube only to be immediately consumed by the frogfish and to our surprise it escaped a few moments later. The frogfish resumed its surveillance of the reef, stretching its mouth periodically and raising and dropping its lure. Guest Karen, on the second dive at the site, spotted an octopus that remained out despite the time of day and amused all our divers. IT was at this site that Clyde, the sea horse, was introduced to some of our guests – much to guests Karen & Frank’s amusement. The night dive was the usual frenzy of nurse sharks and our resident Cubera snapper, Steve. Tonight was different as the reef sharks were far more involved and pursued, successfully, a grey angel, very close to the divers that were looking on.
We moved the short distance to Rock N Roll for the next morning and we were happy to see our Caribbean reef and nurse sharks once again. A hawksbill turtle made an appearance much to the delight of our divers as it devoured a sponge. A school of spadefish cruised past up in the water column along with a couple of pompano out over the wall. Under a coral head an intermediate spotted drum danced around with its long dorsal fin showing signs of the fish maturing, feathery and delicate.
West Caicos was our afternoon destination and we spent our time there at Brandywine. Our roving anemone was in residence and proved a match for the bloodworms during the night dive when it plumped itself up on them with the assistance of our lights. Another turtle created excitement as he swam through the group and then settled down to munch on a sponge. Neck crabs occupied gorgonian sea plumes that were also home to the tiny Bahamas simnia. As we returned to the vessel we spotted a couple of banded coral shrimp, evident from their long white antennae. The night dive brought out sharks for our white lighters, but for the fluorescence divers there were fire worms and trapania and all things that glowed.
Gulley was Wednesday morning’s dive site and we were happy to see Sully, our resident female reef shark. On the gorgonian sea plume by the edge of the gulley Bahamas simnia perfectly matched the colour of the fronds, as did a Hamner’s tritonia that also resided there. Along the wall a neck crab poised waiting for breakfast to drift past and all looked on with curiosity as guest Karen celebrated Halloween by dressing for the occasion.
We enjoyed a special Halloween guest at lunch as Norman Bates mother, of Psycho, in the form of guest Frank, made an appearance.
After the excitement of lunch we moved to Boat Cove for the thrill of different variety. We have been seeing a batfish with some regularity over the last few weeks and were delighted that this week there was not one, but two. Not moving very quickly they loped along the sand turning in circles, with the smaller of the two following the larger. Not everyone saw this during the first dive, so there was a return trip on the second dive to make sure everyone got to see them and they obliged once again. In addition to this treat, guest Kelly spotted a tiny Atlantic long arm octopus hiding inside the broken tip of a conch shell. A tentacle crept out and returned followed by its eye.
Thursday morning took us over to Elephant Ear Canyon and all the tiny critters that we usually enjoy there, but on our way to find them we were entertained by numerous southern and roughback stingrays and our resident Caribbean reef sharks. Once in the sand and amongst the sea grass and bristle brush algae we started to see headshield slugs and pipefish. One of the small delights of the site were three eyespot costasiellas, a type of sap-sucking slug similar in appearance to a tiny hedgehog. Of the three, the largest was about 5mm in length, the other two being much smaller. On the subject of tiny critters, the most impressive find were the four juvenile pipefish – so small they resembled a cobweb – found with the use of a magnifying glass by guest Karen.
We moved to Northwest Point over lunch to spend the afternoon at The Dome, covered with the usual suspects of blennies – secretary and spiny head. Three fingerprint cyphoma crowded a slit pore sea rod, devouring it as they ate. Stingrays glided over the sand around the structure and a spotted moray peered out from under a coral head. During the night dive the waters along the edge of the wall supported a myriad of strange pelagic creatures, some of them we identified as tunicates. In the sand a large marginella buried itself in the sand as we watched. By the time we made it to the Dome, we discovered a hawksbill turtle resting under the base and a large channel clinging crab, minus its front claw, munching on a ball of algae.
Our final dive site of the week was Amphitheatre at Northwest Point and we had a bright and early dive at 7am. We enjoyed numerous yellow-headed jawfish, but none of the males had any eggs. On the edge of the wall a sailfin blennie peered out of its hole but did not reveal its fin. Lobsters seemed to emerge from every nook & cranny, including one such critter that held a cowry shell in it front claws and would not let it go. It made for a great and memorable last dive for all our guests.
After a comfortable trip back to the marina, our guests spent a relaxing afternoon reflecting on the week gone by. We enjoyed a sunset cheese & wine party on the sundeck and celebrated milestones and iron divers. Congratulations to Nathan & Lindsey for 100 dives, Karen for 300 dives, Angus for 600 dives and Karen for 700 dives. Also we shout out to Kelly, Josh & Milos for diving all 27 dives with us – our Iron Divers.