07 January 2012

Night Diving with Chris Coney

Chris came by the apartment about 7:15 pm.  He is working on his Advanced Open Water certification.  We got our gear and drove to the beach.  There was almost no wind and the air temperatue was warm.  The water was colder.  The moon was almost full and very bright.  It was well up in the sky and we could see fairly well without using our lights.  We swam to the reef and descended, then swam East, but somehow must have drifted South because I did not recognize any landmarks.  My camera battery worked for the test shot on the beach, but died in the water.  I got no pictures, which is just as well as we did not see anything interesting, in any event.  Chris was cold and we turned back well before 1500 psi.  We ended up just South of the dune near Tower 17.

Diving with Luis at the Fish Camp Rocks

Luis and I made a lot of dives last winter and I have sorely missed his company this winter.  It is much easier to get up and drive to the beach on these cold mornings if I know someone is counting on me tos show up and dive.  Turns out that there are not a lot of cold water divers in SE Florida.  Today Luis and I met at the beach, geared up and got in the water.  There was very little wind and almost flat seas, which was nice.  We swam to the reef and descended.  We then 
swam slowly to the North East, but apparently got set even further North than I had intended, because we  ended  up near the perpendicular rocks just South of  the Swept Rock.  We swam a bit farther and found the Big Coral Knoll.   I got a nice shot of some Smooth Flower Coral just on the overhang where the turtles used to sleep.  A little further West, I got a nice shot of a White Grunt, and then on the Northwestern edge of the Knoll I got a nice shot of a Yellowtail Damselfish.  
 We made several passes over the Knoll and then decided to head South to the Fish Camp Rocks.  Found a number of schools of fish.  I tried taking portraits, but the strobe was acting up and they were not coming out.  We next headed to the Furry Rock, then went back to the beach.

05 January 2012

Diving the Ledge of Turtles

I woke up early, but went back to bed and did not start thinking about diving until 8:30 am. By the time I packed up and drove to the beach, the lifeguards were in their towers. The lifeguards will stop me from solo diving if they see me, so Iheaded up to the Pelican Grand where I could enter the water without being hassled. The wind was calm and the sea was flat, but the air
temperature was about 62 degrees.
I entered the water and swam out to the reef

before descending.
The top 8 feet of water was warm, but below that it was cold. My computer measured the temperature at 64 degrees, but I think the comput
er is miscalibrated. The temperature w
as likely 70 degrees. I followed the reef South to

where my mark should have been. Problem was that there was no mark there. The railing has been gone for a while and now the sponge is gone. I found the rock pile that used to hold the railing and the base of the sponge, so I focused on those
and headed out at 120 degrees. I did not find the mid-way rocks but I did swim around until in encountered the Ledge of Turtles. Some college
divers were there measuring things and had a tape strung across the staghorn corals. No turtles.
Got some pictures of fish. Swam back to the
beach but had a difficult time getting out through the loose sand. Once out of the water, I got out of my wetsuit and dried off. I warmed up in the sun.

04 January 2012

Going Wide Angle

I got up early, geared up and headed for the beach at 7:30 am. The wind was from the NW with gusts to 30 knots. It was low tide and the seas were confused, with rollers clashing with the wind on the sand bar. The air temperature was cold: no more than 60 degrees and much less with the wind chill. The water was warmer: at least 70
degrees with pockets that were quite pleasant. I
got in easily enough, but had to swim against a moderate South current to get out to the reef. I
wanted to explore the Mk I with a wide angle lens and the dome port.

I found the fish Camp Rocks, something that has been difficult recently, and got some pictures,
then swam over to the Furry Rock. The wide
angle lens was set at 50 mm and I needed to be quite a bit away from my subject to get the
shutter to trip. Of course, that means more water between the lens and the subject and more floatsum and jetsum floating in that water. The
images were not crisp and clear. I was a little unnerved at being unable to photograph fish portraits. Everywhere I looked, I found a shot I could not take.

I swam for the Lost Knoll, but gave up and
headed North to the Big Coral Knoll, where I
found a little Green Turtle. Then I headed back to the beach, where I struggled to get out of the water. The sand was soft and it was difficult to
walk out. I would lift one foot to step forward and the foot I was standing on would sink another six inches in the sand putting me off balance and unable to step up.

Once I got back to the truck, the fun really began. I was so cold and the wind was blowing so hard! I hid behind the stars behind the Lifeguard's Tower and got out of my suit. I dried off as quickly as I
could and got into dry clothes, but it was an effort.


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.