15 February 2014

Luis and I dive the Big Coral Knoll

     It was raining on Thursday morning and so I decided not to dive.  On Friday it was cold:  in the 50's.  I was eager to get back in the water on Saturday.  Luis and I arranged to meet behind Tower 17 that morning.  I got to the beach a little early to set up gear and discovered the capped tank I had chosen had only 1200 psi.  I don't understand this, but it has happened several times lately.  I may need to service the valves or I may need to catch the drunk in the back messing with my tanks.  Anyway, the 3rd tank I got had 3050 psi in it so I set up and we got in the water. The surface temperature was in the 60's, so by the time we reached the blocks and descended, I had over 3100 psi in the tank.

     I got a nice shot of both of the Blue Gobys that live just East of the concrete blocks

      I also got this shot of these three Juvenile White Grunts just as we started onto the reef.

     Luis found this little hermit crab in a small shell and we both got some pictures.

      We went up the gunsight to the Cigar Rock.  I looked for the octopus, but he was gone.  Then we headed to the Gray Mid-way Rock but ended up at the green mountainous coral head just SW of the Perpendicular Rocks.  I have no idea how that happened, but there we were.

Found several of these Juvenile Puddingwifes all over the reef.

At the Perpendicular Rocks, I watched this small Porkfish check various White Grunts about a mouth cleaning.

    I got this shot of a Sergeant Major on top of the Swept Rock

     This is an Initial Phase Puddingwife and I got this shot just South of the Knoll.  There were a few of them on the reef.

    I took a detour to the English Garden and got this shot of a Christmas Tree Worm.

      I got this shot of a Spanish Hogfish just East of the Knoll, where I found Luis when I got back from the English Garden.   We headed over to the Fish Camp Rocks.

On the way, I got this picture of a Spotted Scorpionfish.

I took some pictures at the Fish Camp Rocks, but nothing significant.  We also went over to the Columnar Coral just south of the FCR.  It's in terrible shape.  It used to have long waving cilia on all the corals.  Now most of the corals on South side are gone and only bare rock is left.  Pity.

      Found another Initial Phase Puddingwife on the way back to the beach.

      I did okay on air, but not good enough to make a 2 hour dive.   The water temperature was colder and I shivered, and that was enough to make the difference.

12 February 2014

Solo Dive on the Big Coral Knoll

       I got to the beach about 8:50 am and the lifeguard showed up at 9:00 am.  I was not prepared for this.  I hurried and got my gear on and headed out through the surf while he was still opening up, but in my haste I forgot my weights and the dive flag came apart in the surf.  I sure wish the old men in the red-leather chairs would have found something else to do besides keeping me safe by requiring me to always swim with an impediment.     Anyway, I had to go back in.  The Lifeguard, to his credit, was decent enough about it all.  He came over to tell me that I needed to get in before he was officially on the job as his orders were to stop solo divers.  So I quickly got back in and he swam out with me.  I went to the concrete blocks, he went to the buoy.  The surface was rough.  Lots of wind and chop, but it was relatively calm on the bottom and visibility was pretty good.

Got a nice picture of one of the Blue Gobys near the concrete blocks.

and another nice picture of a Midnight Parrotfish by the Cigar Rock.

Somewhere after the Cigar Rock and before the Perpendicular Rocks, I found and photographed this green insect looking thing.  I have no idea what it is, but I've got these two pretty clear pictures of it.

At the Perpendicular Rocks I got this shot of a White Grunt .

On the Knoll, I got this shot of a Mutton Snapper.

I found this Hogfish over at the English Garden

Then picked up this Queen Angelfish when I got back to the Knoll.

On the way back to the beach, I got this shot of a Yellow Jack.

The water was warm:  77 degrees.  I was able to make my third 2 hour dive of this year.

11 February 2014

My second two hour dive in 2014

      Got to the beach a little before 9:00 am but had some trouble with the strobe.  Actually, the hot shoe and the cable that fits it were just not connecting.  Got the strobe working, but it was slow.  Took 30 seconds to a minute to get ready for a second shot.  I think it was an old battery, but we'll see.

     I got in the water and dropped in about 12 feet.  Swam to the reef and found the rock pile, though I had to surface to do it.  Got set quite a bit to the North.  Took my 120 degree bearing and really worked at holding it, but I was up in a staghorn coral patch and knew I was not on the way to the Ledge.  I started looking around and just taking pictures, figured I was going on another lost dive.

Found this Fingerprint Cyphoma

A Yellow Jack,

and this Slender Filefish in some Staghorn Coral.

    Then I found one of the knobby coral heads near Shark's Rock; and then I found Shark's Rock and Shark's Rock East. I swam over to the Nipple rock and went West to the Ledge of Turtles.  By the time I got to the Ledge, I had about 1800 psi left.  So I got busy shooting.

As you can see, visibility was pretty good on the Ledge. Wish I had taken a wide-angle lens out.  I have one of the Canon utilities called Photo Stitch which will put several frames together and this seems perfect, but obviously I have a learning curve to deal with.

Found another pair of French Grunt going mouth to mouth on the Ledge.

Got this picture of a Squirrelfish,

This Golden Variation of a Yellowtail Damselfish

and this poor doctorfish with a Cymothois Isopod firmly attached under his fin.

     I stayed at the Ledge until I got down to 1000 psi, then I headed to the sand trying to hold my 300 degree bearing.  Seems easier going back, but I can't imagine why it would be.  Nonetheless, I came out right at the Rock Pile.  I was at about 96 minutes and still 750 psi, so I swam around at the edge of the reef until I was a 500 psi and then I slowly headed across the sand.  I got to about 10 ft and had 117 minutes, so I just sat at 10 feet until I turned 2 hours and then I swam in.  Ended up a 2 hour 3 minute dive, which is only the second two hour dive I have made since the weather turned cold.

10 February 2014

Another Lost Solo Dive to the Ledge of Turtles and more trouble with the Ikelite Housing

Parked next to the main entrance, geared up and got in the water.  Just wearing the 5 mm sleeveless hooded vest under my lavacore suit.  Swam out to my spot and descended to find the rock pile just East of me.

I swam along a 120 degree bearing for quite a while, then spotted a Golden Variation Trunkfish and chased after it.

Didn't get any good close up shots, but you can tell what it is.

I went back and tried to pick up my bearing, but I was in new terrain.  So I headed East to the Eastern Ledge and then worked my way back hoping to find Shark's Rock or the Nipple Rock or something I recognized.  This Intermediate French Angelfish watched with some interest.

I found a nudibranch and got a lot of pictures.  I have only spotted one other down here.  I used to see them more often just below the Commercial Pier.

The area really noted for Nudibranch is the Blue Heron Bridge, but I don't often get up there.

I left the Nudibranch and was just swimming around when I found the Ledge of Turtles.  I came upon it from the NE and it took me a while to recognize where I was.  Of course, by this time I was down to 1400 psi.  I got some shots of various fish, including this Butter Hamlet,

this Atlantic Spadefish

This Scrawled Filefish

This Yellowtail Damselfish

this more unusual Golden Variation of the Yellowtail Damselfish.

and a small school of Porkfish traveling across the Ledge.

I stuck to my 300 degree bearing and swam right to the rock pile, then doubled back to look for landmarks and got lost.  So I swam to the beach.

      As I was crossing the trench and about to climb the embankment to get out, the left housing handle came off with the strobe.  I looked and saw the nut still on the housing, but I got knocked over by a wave and the nut came out.  So I was holding the flag, my fins the camera inside the housing and the left handle and strobe in my right hand while I tugged my mask on with my left and looked for the nut, but I did not find it.  I haven't had the damn thing in the water a week yet and already the Ikelite housing is falling apart.

09 February 2014

Solo Dive with Squid Near the Big Coral Knoll

I didn't feel like I was cold.  I was wearing the 5 mm sleeveless vest and hood under my lavacore suit.  Still, I sure wolfed down the air.  I swam out to the blocks and descended, then swam up the gunsight to the Cigar Rock.

 Got a picture of this Sheepshead Porgy

and one shot of this Bluespotted Coronetfish.  This one was not interested in playing with me like the fellow on

   Just West of the Gray Mid-way Rock, I spotted three large Reef Squid.  One had black spots on a lighter body and light streaks on his tentacles.

The other two had solid color bodies.  We swam around for quite a while and I took tons of pictures, but we never really left that area with a number of knobby sea rods.  I think they may have been mating.  If so, they will die shortly after the female lays her eggs.  That's depressing.

 Anyway, I turned towards the Big Coral Knoll to search of the baby trunkfish I had spotted with Luis last Sunday.  I couldn't find them or the spots I saw them.  Visibility wasn't the problem, it was that I just could not remember where we were.

I did get a picture of this Blue Tang

and I got to swim with this little Green Sea Turtle

 I swam for a bit with this Spanish Hogfish

and I got several shots of this Yellowhead Wrasse.

 I headed back to the Gray Rock at about 1200 psi and found the squid again.  I spent another 5 minutes or so with them, then headed to the blocks and to the beach.

Might have done a second dive.  I was not that cold.  Maybe tomorrow.