18 June 2011

Diving the Fish Camp Rocks with Open Water Students

These were the final two open water dives of the open water class comprised of Adrian Giatan, AJ Nieto, Michael Nieto, Maria McGowan, Stephanie McGowan and Alexis Shaw. Luis Monroy came along to help and brought his camera, which was terrific since I forgot mine. The pictures posted here were taken by Luis, whose copyrights are reserved.

The class swam together on the surface to the Eastern edge of the reef to avoid any nitrogen loading before making the required ascents. I broke the students into buddy pairs and the girls simulated being out of air first, making the alternate air ascent with their buddy and blowing up their BCD orally at the surface. Then the guys were out of air. Stephanie and Adrian had no alternate air source on their gear, so they just watched. Then the buddy pairs performed a buddy breathing ascent. Finally, I took each of them up with a CESA. Maria had to breath on her first attempt, but nailed it on the second. Everyone else made it on the first try and AJ made an absolutely perfect CESA. Once everyone successfully performed the ascents, we swam North along the edge of the reef looking for the turn marker.

For our second dive, we got geared up and entered the water in front of Tower 17, the swam on the surface to the reef to descend. I tried to track our bearing and was more or less successful. We sound a Hawksbill turtle who swam slowly so that everyone could follow. We were a bit North, but I spotted the precursor rocks and we found the Fish Camp Rocks. Luis spotted a small Nurse Shark, but had trouble getting a good picture.

17 June 2011

Open Water Class at the Little Coral Knoll

I have a class of six open water students, but only three of them dove with me last Sunday and now the other three are catching up. We met at the beach and geared up, the entered the water at the main entry, but descended early and swam out on the sand so the students could easily equalize. We also ended up being set well off our 90 degree mark. I wandered around for the entire dive hoping to find something I recognized. I never did. I did find a tiny knoll, but it was not The Tiny Knoll, though I only discovered that when I sped off to the North and failed to come to the Little Coral Knoll. We were half way to Tower 16, but came back right to the point of entry.

So on the second dive, we swam out on the surface 90 degrees from the main entry. We descended and swam into the Porthole Rocks. From there I navigated 55 degrees to the Little Coral Knoll. We explored the Knoll for a bit, then went 90 degrees out and back. On the second trip to the Knoll, I saw the Scamp from this morning and got some pictures. We then swam out to the Porthole Rocks and then 90 degrees to the entry point.

Diving the Little Coral Knoll with Chase Papoy

Chase was at the beach waiting for me when I got there. We geared up and entered at the middle entry. We descended before the swim buoys and went out on the sand at 90 degrees. We did not hit the Porthole Rocks, instead, I spotted the four blocks and turned 150 degrees to swim to the Little Coral Knoll. We had gotten set well to the North. We explored the Knoll and I got some photographs, then we headed East looking for nurse sharks. Chase was a little light with only 8 pounds and was fighting both the current and her positive buoyancy. As we were on the way back, she simply went to the surface and followed the flag. I headed to the Porthole Rocks, then to the beach to end the dive.

16 June 2011

More Diving on the Little Coral Knoll

No wind and calm waters. I got to the beach early and headed for the Little Coral Knoll. I tried the 90 degree bearing from the main entry, but ended up at the 5 gallon bucket. I headed 150 degrees from that point to the Knoll. I explored some and took pictures, then headed North to find the Tiny Coral Knoll we encountered last night. It was due North and not that far. Next I swam out to the SW and found the Porthole Rocks, which are not that big but they are built like a cat's playhouse. I spent some time tracking the 155 degree bearing to the rocks from the single rock on the NW of the Knoll. They are about 80 kick cycles from the Knoll and 90 degrees from the main opening on the beach.

On the second dive, I went out at 90 degrees, but not only missed the Porthole Rocks, but missed the Little Coral Knoll, as well. I surfaced and positioned myself E and S of the swim buoy and found the Knoll. I swam out to the Porthole Rocks, but got lost coming back. Ended up finding the concrete square just South of the Knoll and then found the Knoll from there. Got some nice pictures of a Spanish Hogfish and a Queen Angelfish.

15 June 2011

Still Diving the Little Coral Knoll

The wind was light and from the West. The sea was flat. I swam out at 90 degrees, but ended up way to the North in an area I did not recognize. I tried to swim back, but nothing was familiar. I went from rock to rock shooting pictures. I found a small Nurse Shark and a small Speckled Hermit Crab. Then I headed back to the beach.

I did better on the second dive. Sam, one of the divemasters on American Dream, introduced himself to me and asked about my camera. Next thing I know, the Life Guardette showed up 20 minutes early for her shift and I had to scurry into the water while her back was turned. I went out at100 degrees, but did not find the knoll. I surfaced and check the first pole to the South, then the swim buoy. I was too far East. I swam back in and was just North of the Knoll. Spent some time shooting pictures on the Knoll, then did a little exploring. I could not find the two concrete blocks and the line that I found yesterday. I also could not find my way back to the Knoll, so I surfaced again, re-positioned myself again and found the Knoll. I swam back in at 270 degrees, but ended up in front of the Life Guard Tower.

14 June 2011

Another Solo Morning on the Little Coral Knoll

The morning was gorgeous. Clear skies, no wind and no surf. I tried once again to find the Little Coral Knoll by swimming out on a 90 degree bearing. This time, I ran into the 5 gallon bucket, turned 150 degrees and found the knoll about 2 mintues later. A Scamp, maybe the one from yesterday came up to see me, but got spooked by the strobe. He came back a few times, but never got really close. I found Flamefish, Spotted Goatfish, a Purplemouth Moray Eel and even a Queen Angelfish. Nice dive. Towards the end, I headed 270 degrees to the sand and found the same marks that I found yesterday: two concrete blocks tied together with a long line and the white rock I laid up next to a vase sponge.

Having proved to myself that the marks were where and what I remembered, I tried once more to find the Knoll by swimming out at 90 degrees, but the result was similar. I ended up seeing the three joined concrete blocks and a fourth nearby that I pass as I come 150 degrees from the 5 gallon bucket. I swam out to the bucket to be sure, but it was there, so I turned to 150 degrees and again swam to the Knoll. Not much of a current, so I do not understand the current set being so much, but I cannot otherwise explain what happens.

13 June 2011

Solo on the Little Coral Knoll

No wind. Nor surf. Just flat seas. Unfortunately, there is a haze only 25 ft out. I swam out at 90 degrees and ran into a rock with 3 Lionfish on it. Turns out that I was on the rock just East of the swim buoy in front of Tower 15. I swam back on the surface and descended over the reef. I found some concrete blocks and the 5 gallon bucket. I swam at 150 degrees and found the Little Coral Knoll. I surfaced and made it 270 degrees back to the entry point. I explored the reef and got some photos, including a few photos of a Scamp that seemed very curious about me and not all that afraid. He would swim right up to me and watch me while I photographed the reef. He did not like but seemed to accept the strobe flash. I spent most of my air on the Knoll, then swam 270 degrees and looked for markers. I got lost on the way back and ended up just swimming to the beach.

Using my 90 degree bearing measurement, I tried to find the Little Coral Knoll, but could not. I tried running a U-Pattern search, but that did not find it, either. I think in retrospect that I was set too far North by the current and was just looking in the wrong spot. When my tank got down to 1000 psi, I surfaced and found myself almost to Tower 17.

12 June 2011

Diving the Little Coral Knoll with Half an Open Water Class

Three of the six open water students came out to make their first two dives this morning: Alexis Shaw, AJ Nieto and Adrian Giatan. Dianne and Luis came along to help me. We checked weight at the sand bar, and everyone was able to sink. As usual, by the time we got to the reef, some of the students were having problems staying down. Luis brought his tube/flag with weights, so we fixed the problems and headed out due East from the entry point, which I remember as the correct bearing. My memory notwithstanding, however, we did not find the Little Coral Knoll. We came upon a Hawksbill Turtle sleeping on the bottom. We also found a young nurse shark with the remnants of the purple spots. I teased an Amphipod and he reached out to get my stick but I was not coordinated enough to do so and snap a picture at the same time. We found a small sponge brittle star and saw a lot of reef fish, but we did not find the Knoll. It was a delightful dive, anyway. Adrian hoovered through his air in record time, then went through what remained of Dianne's tank, as well. Got to calm him down.

Back at the truck, we discussed the dive and the students' weight, fine tuned the problems and got ready for the skills dive. We swam on the surface to the swim buoy and descended. Luis and Dianne took the flag and went in search of the coral knoll. They say they saw an octopus. The students and I went through the various skills, then joined them. We swam around until Adrian let me know he was low on air, and we turned back.

Dianne and I made a third dive, but had to wait about 70 minutes to get additional parking time. That's a bummer. Both Adrian and Alexis had quizzes to retake, so we went over the review questions and let them answer the quizzes. After they finished, passed the quizzes and loaded up their gear, Dianne and I still had a 30 minute weight to re-up the parking. Once we did, we went out looking for the Little Coral Knoll. I went due East from the entry point, still certain that would be the way to find it, but we found nothing. I started a U-Pattern search, but that produced no results either. We did spot a spotted moray eel and saw some rather large rocks to the South, but we never found the Knoll.

The nurse shark video is LD and very slow to load. Sorry.