02 January 2012

Diving the Fish Camp Rocks with Frank and Martijn

Martijn van Breukelen and Frank Schipper booked a stay at the Bridge @ Cordova and wanted to dive off the Fort Lauderdale beach. Dianne and I were happy to oblige. We met on New Years Day and got some gear for them. Frank is 6 feet tall and weighs 165 pounds while Martijn is 6 foot 3 inches and weighs all of 176 pounds. Most of my wetsuits fit a 6 foot guy who weighs 230 pounds. Fortunately Underseas Sports had some suits for tall, skinny guys and we got two, as well as some SeaQuest BCDs. So with gear bags packed, we headed for the beach at
7:30 am. My computer battery died overnight
and I have been unable to figure out how to open it and change the battery.

I now dive with an Oceanic VT 3 which is virtually identical to the Aeris Elite T3 that I have dived with
since 2007, but which somehow refuses to open in the
same manner that I recall opening the Aires. Another problem for Underseas Sports to solve.

We got to the beach well after sunrise. The winds
were calm and the seas were flat.
There is still a good deal of fine silt in the water, so it is hazy, but the visibility was around 25 feet on the reef. We swam East towards the Fish Camp Rocks, but got set by the North current and ended up at the Big Coral Knoll, where we spotted a small Green Sea Turtle. We got within 15 feet of the turtle, but that was as close as it would let us come, then someone exhaled, the

turtle went into hyperdrive and it was just gone. We continued to explore the Knoll for awhile, and saw some White Grunts going mouth to mouth,
which appears to be a dominance ritual like Big
Horn Sheep butting heads. then swam to the Disc, over the mid-way rock and to the Fish Camp Rocks where we spotted a Lionfish. Of course, I
did not have my Liontamer spear with me.

We explored the Rocks for a bit, then swam over to the Pillar Coral, which is one of my favorite dive spots. The Furry Rock is yellow and has long extended polyps that wave in the water like a
field of grain in the wind.
The bad weather we had earlier this Fall has taken its toll, but the coral remains an impressive feature.

As we left the Furry Rock and headed back towards the Fish Camp Rocks, Frank motioned to me that he was down to 1500 psi, so we headed
back to the beach. We surfaced just slightly South of the Tower and struggled through the soft sand to get up on the beach. The dive lasted 77 minutes. Frank had run out of air by the time we got back.

Getting out of the water was an effort. The air temperature was lower than the water
temperature and the sand was very soft coming up the beach, so as you lifted one foot to step
forward, the other foot sank deeper into the sand. But we did get out, dry off and warm up.

The second dive was a straight shot to the
Eastern edge of the reef. I took my Lionfish spear and we stopped at the Fish Camp Rocks to dispatch the lionfish we saw on the first dive.
He was well exposed on the side of the rocks and let me get within inches of him,
but my shot was high and only rolled him. He made a swift get away.

We were looking for a Hawksbill Turtle. Unlike the Green turtles, the Hawksbills are not intimidated by divers and are
quite happy to let you swim with them for as long as you like. They seem to like the 10-15 foot ledge on the other side of the reef, so we went there. Unfortunately, we did not find any turtles. We did find an odd looking anemone and a curious Graysby Grouper. We also found a very large corkscrew
anemone and a Pederson Shrimp. I got some nice pictures of the shrimp.

Martijn signalled that he was low on air, so we swam West towards the beach. Along the way, I spotted a very small Scrawled Cowfish who was hiding from me . I stopped and got a few pictures. I assume that the fish was a juvenile, but really do not know.

Later that afternoon, Dianne remarked on how fortunate we were to meet and dive with people from all over the world. Frank and Martijn were good dive buddies: they did not wander off on their own and they seemed genuinely interested in exploring the reef.

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