15 March 2014

Swimming to the Eastern Ledge to perform the ascents and certify Ricky Belgado

We were slowed down by the police blocking traffic for a foot race, but we finally got in the water a little before 9:00 am  We swam on the surface out the the Ledge, then descended.

 Leo tied off the flag line and Ricky and I made the alternate air source ascent

Ricky had trouble with the CESA and aborted the ascent twice, just a few feet off the sand.  As with the surf on his first day in the ocean, on the third attempt, we made the ascent.

 We then went down and, together with Leo, headed back to the beach.  Ricky was leading and navigating by the compass,  but we ended up South. I spotted the Lost Knoll and moved us North.  We finished and got out of the water around 10:15 am.

14 March 2014

Open Water Dives at Tower 17

A student from Madison, Wisconsin, called to schedule his open water dives in South Florida. He and a group of friends were chartering some boats to tour the Bahamas and dive and he needed to finish his certification.  That's fine, but he flew in Thursday night and needed to make his four dives before noon on Saturday.  The weather, which had been warm and lovely, turned both windy and cold.  

We aborted our first dive attempt because the surf was rough and the student froze in the breakers.  He just stood there and tried to get his fins on with the waves breaking around and over him.  Fortunately, he didn't lose his fins in the surf.  We got out, dried off and warmed up.  The second attempt got aborted ostensibly because the student did not have enough weight on, though in retrospect, it was probably that his Lizard brain wouldn't let him exhale.   At the time, we blamed the inflator valve on the BCD and I disconnected the inflator hose, which solved that problem.  I also put two more pounds on him:  up to 24 pounds.  He's a big guy, but he really shouldn't need 24 pounds of lead.  Nonetheless, on our third attempt, we got onto the reef and spent 30 minutes underwater.    

For the second dive, we swam out through the surf, then descended on the sand to the West of the swim buoys. We went through the skills, including the mask clearing and removing then replacing the gear.  We hovered, too, but the student had some trouble.  I think he is overweighted at 24 pounds, but he still has problems coming down at the start of the dive.  I'm confident that as he gets more comfortable in the water and his Lizard brain relaxes he will be able to take some weight off.  After doing the skills, we ended up at the Big Coral Knoll and met with two Green Sea Turtles, which was exciting.  Unfortunately, I don't take my camera along with Open Water students so I did not get a picture for him.  We turned back when the student had less than half a tank and he ended up at a little less than 500 psi by the time we climbed onto the beach.  Difficult to believe this was the same student I started with this morning.

I was expecting another student to begin his classroom work at 2:00 pm, so I raced the referral student back into the water for the third dive.  We went down in 10 feet, just after the sand bar, swam out to the edge of the reef, performed some skills and swam back.  The dive was 33 minutes.

13 March 2014

Looking for the Staghorn Coral Forest

I decided to look for the staghorn Coral Forest off Towers 18 and 19.  Descended over sand and swam out to the reef, then went on East looking for the coral.  I found the Eastern edge of the reef, then came back West and just happened onto the Forest, which is an old NOVA University project.

 I found the blocks on which they grew coral.  I also found the large rock in the center and surfaced to see that it was due East of Tower 19.  Don't understand why I missed it on the way out, but I did.  Maybe too far North.  I was low on air but took a few moments to look around.  A lot of the coral has been flattened by the various storms we have had.  Still lots of life, but I did not see any of the Blue Hamlets that I used to find. Maybe another day.  

12 March 2014

Another Solo Dive on the Ledge of Turtles

Got to the beach and the ocean was not as calm as yesterday, but the surf was not bad and the visibility was okay. I swam out to the reef and spotted the Rock Pile from the surface.  Descended and

 got some nice photos of a Bandtail Puffer.

Headed out at 120 degrees and stopped to photograph a Knobby Sea Rob.  I am fascinated by the 8-arm stars that are the knobs.

Kept going, but must have drifted North with the current because I spotted the cushion rock, so I headed SW and spotted some familiar coral heads, then spotted the Ledge.  Got a shot of a Striped Parrotfish in the staghorn coral North of the Ledge.

As I got to the Ledge, I spotted the Red Hind I had seen a few days ago.  He was lying on the sand under the same rocks he had been under before.  I got a few shots.

I spent the bulk of the dive at the Ledge hanging out with those fish.  Got a nice shot of a Yellowtail Damselfish.

Increased the shutter speed and I think I got some better pictures of the Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish. The spots appear better defined shooting at 800.

Got a nice shot of a Spanish Grunt on top of one of the two coral heads on the East end of the Ledge.

Also got a nice shot of a young Green Sea Turtle just passing through.

Like yesterday's dive, I headed back at 1000 psi and waited until about 400 psi before I headed out across the sand for the beach.   Burned 100 psi more air today and the dive was 8 minutes shorter than yesterday.  Still, it was a pleasant dive.

11 March 2014

Solo Dive on the Big Coral Knoll

Got to the beach about 9:00 am and hustled to get in the water before 9:30 am.  The ocean was calm and flat.  I swam out to the concrete blocks and descended.

Photographed a couple of Blue Goby just East of the concrete bocks,

a Goldspot Blenny

and then some Knobby Sea Rod on my way up the gunsight to the Gray Mid-way Rock

At the Rock, I turned North and swam to the Perpendicular Rocks and got a nice picture of a Bluestriped Grunt.

I then continued North to the Swept Rock.  As I approached the Swept Rock, I got this picture of a Bue Tang.  Just after I clicked the shutter, I saw a spear fisherman swim down.  We were both surprised.  He was free diving, so I just swam over to the Knoll and he went towards the fish Camp Rocks.  

On the Knoll I found a tiny round baby Smooth Trunkfish.

 I got some pictures, but he was hiding in every crevasse he could find.

I hung around the Knoll until I hit 1000 psi, then headed back to the Gray Mid-way Rock and back to the beach. Did pretty well on my breathing: 2 hours and 11 minutes on about 3000 psi.  The Sunnto does not record psi less than 212, so its a little hard to know  but its close.  

10 March 2014

Solo Dive to the Ledge of Turtles

Swam to the reef, but couldn't see a thing from the surface.  I descended in 3 ft visibility and it took a while to find the Rock Pile, but I did.  From there I headed on a 120 degree bearing and found the three small coral heads near the Sea Plume and just WNW of the Mid-way Rock.  From there, the Ledge was just around the corner.  I just hung out at the Ledge until my tank pressure dropped below 1000 psi.  During that time, I saw a couple of French Grunt fights that I couldn't get close enough to shoot.  I did, however, get a shot of

this Spanish Hogfish,

this Redband Parrotfish

this Juvenile Stoplight Parrotfish,

this Scrawled Filefish,

this Yellowtail Damselfish

this Juvenile Yellowtail Damselfish next to a French Grunt,

this Spanish Grunt

and this Christmas Tree Worm.
Fun to hang out with the fish, but really, really cold.  Oddly, I did well on air and hit two hours before I left the Rock Pile for the beach.

09 March 2014

Diving the Yankee Clipper Jacks with Luis

Daylight Saving Time started at 2:00 pm this morning.  Met Luis at the parking lot at 9:00 am, which was really 8:00 am.  Leo emailed to say he was too hung over to dive this morning.  From the parking lot, the ocean looked flat and calm, then you would see a wave crash on the beach and water spray up.  It was a lot worse than it looked.  I had trouble just standing up as we walked into the surf.  There was a lot of water moving in and out. When one of the bigger waves came, it moved me.  There was a South current right along the beach that swept me along with it.  We swam out past the swim buoys, then descended past the algae but not yet to the reef. Visibility was terrible, less than 5 ft.  Luis and I lost sight of each other several times.  Finally, we got over the reef, so I headed South, though I kept getting turned to the East.  We swam and swam and finally ran into the Jacks.

We continued East on the North side of the Jacks, trying to stay off the Jacks and manage the surge while attempting to take pictures.  Visibility was terrible and the shots I took are poor.


Blue Faced Trumpetfish

Snooth Trunkfish

Spotted Trunkfish

When I got down to 1000 psi, we headed back to the beach.  I ran out of air at 200 psi and surfaced, to swim in on top.  It was difficult swimming and even walking out onto the sand.