04 January 2014

Leo, Luis and I dive the Yankee Clipper Jacks

     We met at the South Beach lot at 8:30 am, geared up and walked out to the beach.  We swam out through the surf.  I started just East of the rocks and the three of us stayed on my mark.  The tide was high and it was quite deep close to the beach.  We swam for 23 minutes before descending.

      Unfortunately, I tried looking North for the jacks.  I surfaced to find we were well North of the entry to the lot, so we headed South and found the jacks.  Must have been quite close where we descended.   Could hardly see anything.  If I backed up a few feet, I couldn't find the jacks.

 The Jacks are full of Trumpetfish.  Some are yellow and others more of a golden color.

Also plenty of Smooth Trunkfish

As well as Porkfish.

The stobe battery went dead after only a few shots and visibility was too bad and dark to shoot without the strobe.  Still, it was interesting to be on the Jacks and fun to be in the water.

03 January 2014

Solo Dive on the Ledge of Turtles

      I decided to drive up to the Ledge of Turtles, thinking I could sneak onto the beach through the Pelican for a second dive.  The air was cold:  about 61 degrees.  The water was a lot warmer:  71 degrees by my Oceanic VT3 computer, which has consistently read about 3 degrees lower than the real temperature.

      I swam out to the beginning of the reef and looked for my starting spot.  It started out as the railing from a smaller motor boat and then was an odd looking sponge.  I found neither this day.  What I did find was a pile of larger rocks and I figured that could be all that was left.  I descended, set my gear and headed off at 120 degrees, but the current made it difficult to hold a course and for whatever reason, I missed the Ledge on the way out.

I wandered around taking pictures.  I got these two photos of the same Scrawled Filefish.  The one on the left did not have nearly as much stobe as the one below.  The day was bright and sunny, so it wasn't much of a problem, but it does illustrate the difference in color that a strobe can make.

I swam over large piles of staghorn coral and found this Townsend Angelfish just East of Shark's Rocks East.
I swam up to Shark's Rock and then headed South to Nipple Rock, where I turned West to swim to the Ledge.  I found this Butter Hamlet among the staghorn coral clusters along the way.
I found this Queen Angelfish just yards from the Ledge of Turtles, though I could not see it at the time.
 I continued swimming West and swam right to the Ledge of Turtles.  A lot of the coral is gone and much of the sub-structure on the reef is broken or battered.  Still, it was nice to see it.  Still lots of fish, including this Squirrelfish and the French Grunts behind it.
I have not yet been able to identify the Grouper on the left, but it was hanging around the East side of the Ledge and just watching me.  

     The entire dive lasted just two hours.  I was wearing a 5 mm sleeveless, hooded vest with a 1.5 mm long-sleeved shirt with a pair of 2 mm shorts.  I was cold, but no worse than a lot of dives, at least until I got out of the water.  The air temperature was so cold and the wind was bitter.  I hid in the truck, but still could not warm up.  After an hour, I just went home.

02 January 2014

Diving the Big Coral Knoll on New Years plus 1

      Early on the morning of December 31st, Ms. Gillian kicked me to the curb.  A few hours later the condo manager called to tell me that he would tow my truck if he ever saw it in her parking lot again.  It all had something to do with lickin' and pokin', which were things I understood made her happy before that morning, but which apparently on that morning were not very good things at all.  I didn't dive on that last day of 2013.  Neither did I feel like diving on the first day of 2014.  By the second day of the new year, however, I was ready.

      At Tower 17, the wind was out of the Northeast at about 10 mph.  The NOAA forecast was for 6 to 7 foot waves, but we had 2-3 foot waves on the beach.  I had no problem at all getting out, even with the camera.  Once past the breakers, it was hard work to swim in the chop, but just hard, not difficult and certainly not dangerous.  I swam out past the swim buoy and descended close to the blocks.  I couldn't see them until I got to the bottom, but spotted them nearby.  Swam up the gunsight and to the Cigar Rock , but missed the Gray mid-way rock.  Spotted the big rocks North of the cut-out coral head and turned North towards the Perpendicular Rocks and the Knoll.  I was having a hard time staying calm.  Lot of surge.  Lot of current. I focused on my breathing and controlling my buoyancy.  I had some trouble breathing down.  I kept wanting to fill my lungs with every breath.  Still not a bad dive.  Eight minutes shy of two hours.  Got some pictures. No turtles.
 Found this Smooth Trunkfish just before the Perpendicular Rocks.  Just below and behind his eye you can see where a spear has entered him.  I couldn't get a shot of the other side, but there was a big chunk out of him.  I can't imagine why anyone but a budding serial killer might try to spear one of these guys.
 Found this juvenile French Angelfish just past the Rocks.  He was intrigued by my strobe.
 As I came up to the Swept Rock, this small school of Porkfish swam past me.
 Just as I got onto the Knoll, I spotted this Orange Spotted Filefish.  These guys are normally very shy, but this fellow just raised his spike and gave me the evil eye.
 This Sand diver opened his mouth quite wide, as if he were yawning.  I got this picture as he was shutting it.
I was hoping to find some of these Dusky Jawfish incubating eggs.  The males hold the eggs in their mouths and will frequently come out into a bit of current to aerate them.  No luck this dive.
 Lifted a rock and found this Reticulated Brittle Star underneath.  
Spotted this Juvenile Yellowhead Wrasse as I was leaving the Knoll.

30 December 2013

Luis and I dive the Big Coral Knoll

     When I pull up the NOAA coastal forecast on the internet, I tend to forget that the forecast is aimed at big ships and that "coastal" is up to 3 miles out.  The predictions are usually much worse than the weather off our little stretch of beach, and they have been particularly discouraging lately.  I have been spending a lot of time with Ms. Gillian, so I have not been inclined to dash off to the beach for almost a week.  Luis wants to get in the water, however, and I oblige.

       We meet at Tower 17 and take our time gearing up.  The surf is not inviting.  We get in easily enough, however, even with cameras, and swim out towards the blocks.  the water is extremely choppy, so before we even get to the swim buoy, we decide to descend.  Unfortunately, visibility over the sand is terrible and I am lost most of the way out.  Twenty minutes into the dive, I recognize the Green Mountainous Coral just SW of the Perpendicular Rocks, and  finally know where I am.  We head for the Perpendicular Rocks and then to the Knoll.

I get this shot of a Spotted Goatfish just before spotting the Green Mountainous Coral.
 There was a small school of Sergeant Majors on the South edge of the Knoll and I got this shot of one of those fellows.
 Not long after, I came upon this Foureye Butterflyfish.
As we were rounding the SE corner of the Knoll, I got this shot of a Redband Parrotfish.  It sort of looks like he is smiling for the camera.
There are numerous patches of this Brown Encrusting Octopus Sponge around the Knoll and this one looked especially tangled up to me, so I got a shot.
This is the first Red-lipped Blenny I have seen.  Took me a while to identify it, but I'm pretty certain now that it is a Red-lipped Blenny.
 I got this shot of a Sand Diver just as we left the Knoll heading out to the English Garden area.
 Spotted this Scrawled Filefish on the North side of the Knoll as we returned from the English Garden.
 I first spotted this eel in the Perpendicular Rocks as we located the Knoll.  He had been tucked into the rocks, however and I couldn't get a good shot.  On the way back to the beach, we went by the Perpendicular Rocks again and he was out.  I think he is a Goldentail Moray Eel, but I am used to seeing Goldentails with much finer spots.  Humann and DeLoach show a picture of a Goldentail from Dominica, however, that looks very much like this little fellow.  

     Luis and I made it back to the beach and managed to walk up the soft sand without falling on our cameras.  The dive was a full two hours and while the water is getting cooler, it is not miserable yet.