01 October 2011

Nicky's Open Water Dives off of Tower 17

I got a new student from the yacht Il Sole' earlier this week. Nicolize van der Merwe is an ebulliant and athletic young woman. She overcame her habit of breathing in through her nose and was ready for her first open water dive this morning. The visibility was not great and there was a moderate South current, but she was undaunted. We swam to 8 feet of water and descended, then swam out on the sand to make sure that she could equalize. Unfortunately, that meant that our current set was important and I simply lost track of it. I did not know where we were until half an hour into the dive, when I saw the big rock West of helmut head on the Big Coral Knoll. Once I spotted that, we did fine. We explored the Big Coral Knoll and spotted a small Green Sea Turtle sleeping under some coral. We swam to the Fish Camp Rocks to check for hermit crabs and Parrotfish. We even found the Pillar Coral, which is where I took the picture of Nicky. It was a long first dive, but enjoyable.

The second dive was better, though Nicky experienced some dizziness, headache and nausea immediately upon surfacing after the first dive. We took a long surface interval and tried again. We swam on the surface to the swim buoys and descended to go over the skills. Then we headed for the Ledge on the Eastern edge of the reef, where the bottom drops to about 35 feet on the sand. We came back to the Pillar Coral and turned slightly South to swim to the Lost Knoll and then the beach. This was also a long dive, but quite enjoyable.

27 June 2011

Finding the Lost Coral Knoll

Nicco and Trisha joined me for a dive this evening. I wanted to get a bearing on the coral knoll we found on the first dive on Sunday. Its a knoll we used to see frequently, but do not now because we have bearings on the Big Coral Knoll and the Fish Camp Rocks. So we entered in front of the life guard tower, swam to the reef at 100 degrees, and swam to the Fish Camp Rocks at 90 degrees. From there, I headed to this new reef at 120 degrees, except that we never found it on that bearing. We swam to the Eastern edge of the reef, went South along the edge and then West, and then we found the reef. Maybe at 150 degrees. We did find a crab and I got a picture. Also saw two French Grunts going mouth-to-mouth. I was not able to get a picture of that.

26 June 2011

The Final Two Dives on the Fish Camp Rocks

The 3 students, Luis, Dianne and I swam on the surface to the Eastern edge of the reef and descended to 33 feet to make the ascents. I paired the students up to make the alternate air ascents and the buddy breathing ascents, then took each of them up on a Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent. Chris had some trouble as did Juliana, but they each successfully completed a CESA from 33 feet. Then we swam back underwater exploring the reef. We encountered a little coral knoll to the SE of the Fish Camp Rocks. Its a knoll we used to see frequently when we first started diving here, but have lost as we were better able to locate the Fish Camp Rocks and the Big Coral Knoll. I need to come back and try to get a bearing on this knoll.

During the surface interval, I administered the final written exam in the course. Zahra was the only one to pass, though Chris only missed by one question. The tables are a big stumbling block, but I continue to think it is worth the effort.

The parents came on our fourth and final dive. To begin with, Dianne had trouble blowing up her BCD and then found that she could not tread water effectively. She asked for help. Laura and Luis swam over to her and helped her out. In doing so, Laura did something to her BCD so that it would no longer hold air. She swam back to the beach to drop her weights and then returned to make the dive. Then as we descended, Zahra discovered that she had no air. Rather than just surface or reach behind her and turn on her air, she swam down to her father and ripped his regulator from him. They ascended safely together and turned on her air, but she was too panicked to make the dive, so Mamoud, her father, swam back to the beach with her. We caught up to the flag at one of the Mountainous coral rocks NW of the Fish Camp Rocks and SW of the Big Coral Knoll. We went to the Knoll and explored for several trips around the knoll. I spotted two French Grunts in a dispute over a coral head. They went mouth-to-mouth several times and I tried to get pictures. Then Dianne swam over and they separated. From the Knoll, we swam to the Fish Camp Rocks, where I spotted a Nurse Shark's tail under my marker rocks. She swam off, but I got some good pictures. We did the grand tour and saw a lot of reef fish, but nothing special. So we swam to the Pillar Coral we call the Furry Rock. I also stopped by the Giant Anemone in the rock to the NE. Then we returned to the Fish Camp Rocks and to the Coral Knoll. From there we headed West to the beach. Allison and Juliana got separated and Luis went after them. Dianne, Laura, Chris and I went to the beach, though Chris spotted a turtles and swam away. I gave Laura one of my weight packets as she was really light and having trouble staying down. We rejoined Luis, Allison and Juliana along the way and we all returned to the beach as if we had been together for the entire dive.

25 June 2011

Diving the Ken Vitale with Leonardo, Felipe and Guillermo

I decided to shoot wide-angle today, so I changed lenses. Then I decided to use the dome port, but instead of switching ports, I just put the Mk2 into the housing for the Mk I. It seemed like a good idea. When I got in the water for the first dive, however, the housing was flooding, so I took the camera back to the boat, which is why there are no pictures accompanying this entry. But that is not the biggest problem. I have been unable to get the camera out of the housing. The hot shoe is caught on a 2mm lip on the top of the housing.

The dive itself was a delight, though the visibility was pretty poor for a second reef dive. We swam around the wreck, then entered the wheel house and went down the staircase, out onto the mid-deck and down into the hold. Well, Leonardo, Guillermo and I did. Felipe swam around. We went back for a second try, and Felipe ascended the staircase, but Guillermo swam around. We penetrated into the bow of the boat and had just come up on deck when Guillermo indicated that he had only 500 psi remaining, so I sent him to the asecnt line and I rounded up the others. Leonardo was reluctant to leave, as he still had over 1500 psi. Felipe was okay with leaving as he had only 1000 psi remaining. At my insistence, we all swam to the line and caught up to Guillermo, with whom I shared air since I still had about 1800 psi. We made a long safety stop and swam to the stern to board on the swim ladders.

The second dive was a drift dive on the Oakland Ledges. During our surface interval, I had urged the guys to stay horizontal, not use their arms to swim and to focus on their breathing. Felipe was still having some problems, so I switched one of my 2 pound weights for one of his 3 pound weights and he seemed to do better, but it was probably psyhological. We surfaced when I heard the boat nearby. We had been diving for just over an hour and Leonardo was getting cold.

24 June 2011

Diving the Little Coral Knoll with Open Water Students

I woke up Thursday morning and I did not want to go diving. I did not want to edit photographs. I wanted to take the dog for a walk. So I did. But this morning was a different story. I had an open water class that was set to make their first two open water dives. One of the students, Chris Coney, came to the apartment at 6:45 am. We had agreed to meet at 7:15 am and that he would ride with me to the beach. He got there early because he was excited. He wanted to dive.

We found a place to park along A1A just North of Sunrise. By 8:00 am, we were joined by Juliana Eichsteadt and Zahra Shiuji, the other two students in this class. I wanted to dive the Little Coral Knoll because it is close to the beach, filled with life and after diving the area most of the week, I thought I could find it, but I was wrong. We geared up, did our buddy checks and descended in about 10 feet of water. We swam out on the sand and no one had any trouble equalizing. We drifted to the North some, but I adjusted for the drift and thought I had maintained a 90 degree bearing, but we never saw the Little Coral Knoll or anything else I recognized. We did see the usual reef fish and the curious little blenny in the photograph. We had a pleasant enough dive, it just wasn't the dive I planned.

We spent our surface interval discussing decompression problems and re-taking quizzes. Then we entered as before and swam out at 90 degrees. We descended just shy of the swim buoys and went through the various skills. The students did just fine. When we had finished the schools,we again headed 90 degrees and this time, I ran into the Porthole Rocks. From there we swam 55 degrees to the Little Coral Knoll. We explored the knoll for quite a while. There was a lot to see and I'm sure that we did not see it all.

22 June 2011

Diving the Ledge of Turtles with Cole Evans

I descended before the swim buoys, then swam out at 100 degrees and found the railing. I turned to 120 degrees and adjusted for the current, then swam against the current to the Ledge. The visibility was terrible and I was set by the current, but I happened to spot the mid-way rocks and got myself back on track. I made it to the Ledge perfectly. There were no turtles on the Ledge. No Green Turtles and certainly no Hawksbills. Sad. I looked around a bit then headed out to the Shark's Rock, taking my time through the coral in the hopes of finding some Grunts going mouth to mouth. No luck on the Grunts and no Nurse Sharks at the Rocks. I headed South up the rise just looking to see what was there. Not much. So I went back to Shark's Rock and then back to the Ledge of Turtles. This time, there was a small Green Turtle skimming over the coral, but he took off as soon as he spotted me. I didn't even get a bad picture of him.

Cole arrived at 8:30 am as planned. I brought one of the puny (XXS) BCDs for him and it fit him well. He might even be able to get into an extra puny. We went diving. We swam to the reef on the surface so I would be sure to find the railing, but I didn't. I wasted 5 minutes swimming up and down the reef before I surfaced and discovered we had been set 30 feet to the North. We correct our position, descended, located the railing and swam to the Ledge at 120 degrees. Along the way, we spotted a young Nurse Shark that was maybe 30 inches long. Cole wanted to feel its skin, but then decided he wanted to pull it by its tail. That was too much. We continued to the Mid-way Rocks and to the Ledge. We explored for a while, then headed out to the Shark's Rock, but there wasn't much out there, either. We went North-East and found a few rocks, a Smooth Trunkfish and some Atlantic Spadefish. We came back to Shark's Rock and to the Ledge, then headed back to the beach.

21 June 2011

Solo Diving in the Staghorn Coral Forest off Tower 19

I decided to dive on the Staghorn Coral Forest off Tower 19. There was a light breeze out of the SE and no surf. I swam out and found a North moving current. I swam along the Northern edge of the forest looking for the concrete block and medieval coral racks as well as the scientific testing station (aka space station). I found the concrete blocks and I found the space station, but I can't tell you where one is located in relation to the other. I never saw the medieval racks. I did find a little Red Reef Hermit Crab, a huge Sand Diver, a Two Spot Cardinalfish and a Banded Coral Shrimp.

The current died down, but the visibility got markedly worse. There was a haze over everything. Nonetheless, I swam out as before and went to the Eastern edge of the reef. I came back looking for and found the concrete block racks, but nothing else. Got pictures of a blue hamlet in the coral, who was very cooperative. I also got some shots of a striped burrfish, but try as I might, I could not get a picture of its face.

20 June 2011

Diving the Ledge of Turtles with Dean Yates

Dean met me at the beach at 6:30 am and we dove the Ledge of Turtles. There was little wind and no surf, so entry was a breeze. There was a moderate current to the North, however, and we got set to the Crow's Nest on the way out, so I swam South to adjust and we found the mid-way rocks and swam on over to the Ledge, where we found a small Green Sea Turtle. Unfortunately, the turtle was frightened and would not let me get close. I took some shots, but there was too much backscatter for the distance. Dean is also a photographer, so we explored the Ledge before swimming over to Shark's Rock. There were no Nurse Sharks there, but there were a lot of reef fish and we both got a number of shots. Then we swam back to the Ledge, to find that the turtle had returned, but he left immediately upon seeing us. Finally, we headed West to the sand and then NW to the point of entry.

Dean was taking his son and daughter diving at the Blue Heron Bridge, so he only made one dive with me. I went back to the Ledge for a second dive and found the same Green Sea Turtle, but it was still unwilling to share the Ledge with me and took off. I got a picture of a White Grunt with its mouth open wide in front of a young Porkfish, apparently for cleaning. This time I got a picture, though it was not the best shot. I spent a good bit of time swimming slowly to Shark's Rock and poking around in the Staghorn Coral. I found a small crab but it was well inside the coral and I could not get a shot. I also found a Rock Hind who gave me the evil eye when I got its picture. I went back to the Ledge, but this time, the turtle was not there. I got a picture of a Highhat, then headed back to the beach along the same route Dean and I had used earlier, looking for the snorkel Dean though he lost along the way. I did not find it. I did find some kind of animal inside a tube, but the pictures are neither very clear or complete and I have no idea what this thing is.