28 January 2012

Solo Diving off the Pelican Grand

 Luis could make only one dive and it was after 10:00 when we got to the truck, so I moved up to the Pelican Grand to get in the water away from the evil eyes of the life guards.  I spent some time fixing the camera and checking to see that the strobe would fire, then got in the water.  I swam out to the reef and headed South.  I got some shots, but again, the strobe would not fire.  I have no idea why.
 I set the camera up for natural light and got some pictures anyway.   I followed the edge of the reef South to my old marker for the Ledge of Turtles.  The railing is no longer there.  The red sponge is no longer there.  All that remains is the base of the sponge and a small pile of rocks where the railing used to be.  Its enough.  
 I headed out at 120 degrees and found a Pederson Shrimp on a Corkscrew Anemone just as I got on top of the ledge.

I was worried because I never saw the mid-way rocks, but then I noticed a small school of Porkfish to the SW and swam over to investigate and found the Ledge of Turtles.  On the South side of the Ledge I found a Giant Anemone and this Spotted Cleaner Shrimp.
 I also found a Rock Hind who was both curious about me and afraid of me.
There were two Green Turtles, a large one and a very small one.  I got some pictures, but they were spooked and kept me at a distance.
I went back to the beach at 300 degrees and found the mid-way rocks.  I was not far off on the way up, but in poor visibility, it was enough to miss them.

Diving the Fish Camp Rocks with Luis

Luis met me at the beach at 7:30 am and we geared up and swam out to the reef to descend  on our mark.  We then swam slowly at 90 degrees.  I got a few pictures of some little blenny I cannot yet identify.  The strobe worked fine for my test shot at the truck and for several of these shots of the blenny, but then it just stopped.    
I thought maybe it was the cable, itself, that had a short, but as I looked, I could see that the connection was broken at the hot shoe.  So I put the strobe away and adjusted the exposure so I could shoot with natural light.  Some pictures came out well and others did not.
 I got several good pictures of a Midnight Blue Parrotfish at the Fish Camp Rocks.  Because I had to set the exposure for natural light, I had be wait for the fish to hold still or everything was blurred.
 We also toured around the Big Coral Knoll and I got some shots of a Scrawled Filefish.  Again, I had to wait for the fish to stop or the shot just wasn't going to be any good.

 Some fish seemed to pose for me.  Others, not so much.  This White Grunt was in the former group, and I appreciated the cooperation.
 I really like the expression on this Bluestripped Grunt.
 This Chub also slowed down and let me get a shot before he went tearing off.
On the way back to the beach, we encountered what I first thought was a Guitarfish, but now think is a Lesser Electric Ray.  This is the first Electric Ray I have spotted on the First Reef Line.

26 January 2012

Diving the Fish Camp Rocks with Calvin

Calvin had a workout yesterday and was a little laate this morning.  We got to the beach about 7:45 am. The wind was 8-12 knots from the SSE.  Surf was bigger than it has been, but not too difficult.  We made our surface swim to the Ledge and then made the three ascents he needed for certification.
When we dropped, there was a tire next to us, but there was a moderate current that pushed us to the South.  When we finished the ascents, we looked for a tire, but had to swim East to find one.  We also found a lobster trap filled with reef fish.

 Calvin tied off the line and attached it to the lift bag with a sheet bend.  I lifted the tire first, making sure to keep control by letting air out as we ascended.  Then Calvin did it, but I don't think he quite understood what I wanted.  Nonetheless, he maintained control and got the tire up and back down safely.
 We fooled around a bit trying to get all of the air and water out of the lift bag,  then we swam back to the beach.  For reasons I don't understand, I was light.  I struggled to stay down and had to pick up a couple of rocks to balance me out.  I blew through my air.
 We took a long surface interval so that Calvin could look at the 6 table problems I gave him Tuesday.  He has trouble deciding how to handle the problems and did poorly on them.  I was going to have him take the final, but even though I remembered to bring the exam, I did not bring an answer sheet, so we killed time until I could get another parking sticker.

On our second dive, we swam to the reef and descended on the 100 degree bearing off the Lifeguard Tower, then swam 90 degrees and found the Fish Camp Rocks.  The tide was low and the current was slight.  The surf had been up, so I brought the Intova instead of the Canon.

There were a lot of fish around the Fish Camp Rocks, but I saw a Spotted Burrfish duck under one of the rocks and went after a picture.  I took several, but the light was patchy under the rock and the fish was not cooperating.  
 From the Fish Camp Rocks we swam to the Pillar Coral with the extended polyps.  This used to be a very healthy and vibrant coral, but the sea was rough this Fall and there are now a number of areas where the coral has died.  Too bad.

From the Pillar Coral we swam to the Big Coral Knoll.  There were a number of French and White Grunts as well as several Spanish Hogfish.  
 I spotted a Golden Tail Moray Eel, but you can barely see it in the picture.
 I also spotted a small Green Sea Turtle, but could not get close to it.
We swam back past the Swept Rock, the Perpendicular Rocks and out to the Bubble Rocks before turning West and heading back to the beach.  Buoyancy was fine this dive.

25 January 2012

Calvin Barnard's First Open Water Dives

I had a new Open Water student start on Monday.  His name is Calvin Barnard and he is South African.  Since I found the knoll yesterday, I decided to take Calvin there for his first two dives.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

The air temperature was warm and the day was sunny.  The water could have been warmer, but it was not bad.  We headed East from the middle entry point just as I had yesterday, but I did not find anything I recognized.  We swam out farther, then came back and came across the Tiny Knoll.
 I went up to verify that it was the Tiny Knoll, then went back down and headed North.  I almost swam past the Knoll, though, but I just happened to glance to the West and saw the Coral head on the NE edge of the Little Coral Knoll.  Calvin and I looked around, but I had taken the Intova, not the Canon, so I didn't try to get many pictures.      
 I took the Canon on the second dive and got a good shot of a Smooth Trunkfish coming straight at me.  The picture would have been better if I could have been lower and looking up.  Still, it's a good picture.
 I found and photographed a small Great Horseshoe Worm.
 I also got a portrait of a Yellow Jack
 and a Porkfish.
My favorite is this picture of a Blue Stripped Grunt.

 We had trouble finding the Knoll on the second dive.  We spent 42 minutes of our 79 minute dive looking for the Little Coral Knoll.   I saw the bucket.  I saw the 3 concrete blocks.  I saw the really tall coral we saw on the first dive.  Got a picture of Calvin coming over that coral head.

24 January 2012

Verdes and I dive the Little Coral Knoll

 Verdes stopped by the apartment yesterday and asked if he and a woman from the Bridge could come diving this morning.  She apparently wanted to take advantage of the deeply discounted price for Bridge guests.  Verdes came by at 7:30 am as agreed, but his friend failed to appear.
Apparently, she just decided to stay in bed rather than come diving.  Why didn't she just say she was lazy and not interested?  It's like the people who approach me at the beach and want a business card.  They say they want to learn to dive, but they never do anything to make it happen.  
I got gear for Verdes and we drove to the beach.  The wind was not bad, but from the East, so there was more surf than we have had lately.  We got in without any trouble.  I took the Canon 5d Mk 2 with a 100mm macro lens.  We headed out looking for the Little Coral Knoll.
The swim buoy was no longer, so I headed East from the middle entry.  We swam a long way, but I found nothing I recognized, so I headed back a little SW and found a rectangular concrete block that I recall was due North of the Knoll.  I headed South and sure enough, there it was.
The Little Coral Knoll was a little disappointing, though.  There were a number of French and White Grunts, but not a lot of other life.  We saw Sergeant Majors, butterflyfish and Angelfish.  We saw no turtles.
 Lots of Juvenile Cocoa Damselfish, but they darted around frenetically.  It was very difficult to get a good shot of them.
 Got some shots of a Neon Goby on a coral head.  The picture I entered in the Underwater Photography contest at underwaterphotography.com has garnered 25 votes, but it was a photo of the goby in mid-water with a well blurred background.
 I was hoping to find some Midnight Blue Parrotfish, but none were around. I did find a nice Stoplight Parrotfish, who let me get a few good shots.

 I like these Sand Divers.  They are so patient, yet deadly.
I found this Scrawled Cowfish on the sand on the way back to the beach.  I like the way they change colors.  It was a fine dive and pretty good visibility, too.

22 January 2012

Diving the Little Coral Knoll

Dianne and I were late getting away, but Luis pulled up beside us at the light at Sunrise and A1A.  We parked at Tower 15 and got ready to dive.  Leo showed up about 10 minutes later.  Peter Restivo did not show up while we were on the beach.  .    
 We swam out to the reef, but there was no swim buoy so I had no mark upon which to fix a bearing.  We simply swam at 300 degrees and took photos whenever there was something to shoot, which was not all that often.  Luis and Leo got separate from Dianne and I somehow during the first 30 minutes of the dive.  We swam more SE and eventually ended  up at the Porthole rocks, which were essentially destroyed this Fall.
  I got my bearing and was headed back to the Little Coral Knoll when I started overbreathing my regulator.  I knew that the valve must not be fully on and tried to get Dianne to turn it on for me, but she wanted to go to the surface to talk about it.  I wanted to stay on bearing and get to the Knoll.  She went up.  I took my gear off, turned on the valve and started towards the Knoll, but I was on my on.  So I finally went up.
Dianne complained that she was out of air, which would be quite unusual as I still had 1200 psi.  I assumed that she had not turned her tank on, but when checked, it was fully on.  I did not think to check her pressure gauge.  Turns out she still had 1200 psi, too, but thought she was out of air because the regulator was breathing differently.  Who could know.  Having now swum and drifted well off the bearing I gave  up and she and I swam in together.  Luis and Leo joined us and we swam to the beach together.
 I was wearing the Lavacore suit again and had been okay for the whole dive, but I passed on a second dive because I wanted to go to the Shell Show.  The Broward Shell Club was hosting the 47 annual Broward Shell Show in Pompano Beach this weekend.  They offered Shell Identification clinics, free admission and free parking.  I wanted to go.
 So Dianne and I went home, unpacked the truck and I downloaded my pictures.  I was editing them and falling asleep, so I decided on a nap.  Of course I woke up at 3:00 pm, just 30 minutes before the Show closed.  Great.  Maybe next year.