22 March 2014

Luis and I Dive the Eastern Ledge off Tower 17

When I woke up this morning, rain was pouring down.  Leo decided not to come and sent me an email to that effect.  I called Luis, and he was eager to dive, so I loaded up and headed for the beach.  By the time I got there, the wind was out of the SE and building. There was about a 3 ft surf breaking erratically.  The ocean was choppy and there were white caps even past the breakers.

Luis and I decided to go to the Eastern Ledge, but to leave our cameras behind where they would be safe.  It's a hazard getting in and out of rough surf with a camera, but as it turned out, the ocean was much calmer at depth. Even so, there were not a lot of good shots that presented themselves during the dive. We got set to the North as we swam out, but ended up at the Fish Camp Rocks, where Luis found a little black crab with white pinchers that could have been a great shot, but, as I think about it, might have needed a diopter to get that shot. From the Fish Camp Rocks, we headed East to the Ledge, then North along the Ledge.  We turned and headed Northwest and came out just North of the Tower.

Getting out was a chore, as it often is.  We decided not to make a second dive.    

21 March 2014

Solo Diving on the Ledge of Turtles

It was a little chilly when I got to the beach.  I read the Kindle for as long as I could, then geared up and got in before the Lifeguards took to their Towers and protected me from myself based on their arrogance and their civil service experience.  I descended early and swam to the reef underwater to look for the Rock Pile.  I had to surface to see that I'd been set way North.  I headed out at 120 degrees after allowing for the current.

Despite how calm and quiet the ocean was, visibility was poor.  The water was milky and  you couldn't see more than 15 ft clearly.  The current set me a bit North of the Turtle Rock, but I was close enough to spot it when I went by.  Went to the Ledge and hung out with the fish, taking pictures as unobtrusively as I could.

Found this Red Hind on the flat just South of the Ledge. He let me follow him around and get several pictures.

This Initial Phase Princess Parrotfish was much more timid and would race away as soon as I took the first picture.

This Striped Parrotfish was also camera shy.

I saw a lot of the French Grunts fighting, or at least I think it is combative behavior.  It's hard to tell with fish. No punches thrown just a shoving match.  Neither participant looks worse off at the finish, either.

Lots of Squirrelfish and I saw them chase one another but I never saw them go mouth to mouth like the French Grunts.

This guy just looks like he is ready for a fight.

As before, I headed to the beach at 1000 psi.  I stayed on the reef until I got to 350 psi and then headed across the sand.  I took a lot of pictures, maybe too many considering I did a second dive.  I surfaced after 126 minutes.  I was cold, but it was warm in the sun.

Solo Dive off the Pelican Grand

After an hour on the surface, I had warmed up considerably and decided to make a second dive. I was afraid I would be instantly cold and that the dive would be much less than 2 hours.  I am so glad I decided to try despite my rather low expectations.  The water was one degree warmer according to the computer and that single degree to 75 degrees made a lot of difference.  I was warm the whole dive.

I swam out past the swim buoy in front of the Pelican and then went down and headed ENE.  While this wasn't exactly uncharted territory, it has been at least 2 years since I have dived here and nothing looked familiar.

Early in the dive I spotted and photographed this Slippery Dick.

Pretty sure this little fella is a Blenny, but otherwise I cannot identify it.

This Townsend Angelfish is a hybrid:  the offspring of a Blue Angelfish and a Queen Angelfish.  It has the blue crown of the Queen Angelfish but the body of a Blue Angelfish.

This is a Yellowline Arrow Crab.  If you look closely, you can spot its two eyes on either side of the central stalk and the mouth lower and more centered.

This Giant Anemone had peculiarly large bulbs at the tips of its tentacles and was also hosting two Spotted Cleaner Shrimp.

We frequently see Flamingo Tongues on the first reef, but there are two other close relatives present there as well.  This is the Fingerprint Cyphoma.  The other is a Spotted Cyphoma.

This is a Sheepshead Porgy and is often found along the edge of the reef on the sand.

This, of course, is a Green Sea Turtle, which can be found often along the reef.

I ended up just South of Tower 20, but the current helped me swim to the entrance.  Total dive time was 2 hours and 13 minutes.  Not bad for a second dive.

20 March 2014

Solo Diving on the Ledge of Turtles

Got to the beach and had two separate individuals approach me to talk about diving.  One fellow cannot dive for medical reasons, but wanted to know a bit about it.  The other would like to dive but is afraid of sharks.  I spoke with each at length and gave them a business card.  Maybe something will come of it.

I geared up and got in the water about 9:20.  I swam over to the reef and found the Rock Pile.  I descended and headed out at 120 degrees, but ended up North and East of my mark.  I did not recognize anything specifically, but knew I was off and went SSW to the Ledge.

Lots of fighting among the French Grunts, but I had a hard time shooting it.

They spooked when I headed for them and it seemed like I was always on the wrong end of the Ledge for the best shot.

As I hovered over the coral, I noticed a single tentacle reaching out from underneath and searching for something.  I got a couple of shots, but I do not recognize the tentacle and never got a look at the animal.

I also got a shot of this Giant Anemone and you can see the animals mouth puckered up.

I like this shot of a Spanish Grunt,

this Scrawled Filefish, and

this Hogfish.

When I first got to the Ledge, I thought I might get to 2 hours, but I was cold and burned more gas at the end of the dive than at the beginning. I surfaced at 113 minutes.  Still, its better than yesterday.

19 March 2014

Solo Dive to the Fish Camp Rocks

This morning was much nicer than yesterday, but it was still cool.  I geared up, including wearing the Lavacore suit, and got in.  The water felt warmer, but my computer says it was not.  I swam out to the concrete blocks and descended.  Went up the gunsight to the Mid-Way Rock and then continued East to the Fish Camp Rocks.  Lots of fish.

Just West of Irish Thighs I spotted this Warty Sea Rod.

Also found this Red-Tipped Fireworm.

This Spotted Goatfish swam to me, apparently looking for a place to sleep.

This Black Margate swam under one of the Mountainous Coral.

This Atlantic Spadefish and two others swam over the Rocks.

Check out the coloring on this Sharpnose Puffer.

Lots of Midnight Parrotfish at the Rocks.
I did better on my air usage getting a RMV rate of .45 ft3/ min.  Total time was 111 minutes.  Yesterday was .48 ft3/min and 97 minutes.  Like yesterday, I dropped on the blocks and headed up the gunsight to the cigar rock and then the Gray Mid-way rock.  This time, though, I continued heading East up to the Fish Camp Rocks.

18 March 2014

Diving by myself on the Big Coral Knoll

I had trouble getting to sleep last night, so I was a little late getting going this morning.  Got to the beach just before 9:00 am and got in the water by 9:20, but spent 20 minutes swimming out.  I overshot the blocks and got all confused about where I was in the water.  Took awhile to find the blocks.

I descended and was almost immediately spotted by a Shark Sucker who headed straight for me.  I got some photos of the little fellow and apparently the strobe scared him away.  

I got this shot of a Green Razorfhish shortly after leaving the blocks and almost a quickly got lost.  

I got this shot of a Juvenile Cocoa Damselfish, but it wasn't anywhere I recognized.  I missed the gunsight.  I missed Irish Thighs.  I missed the Cigar Rock.

I ended up just West of the Swept Rock and got this shot of a Flamefish.  

 I also found a Caribbean Spiny Lobster walking alone along the bottom a bit to the North of the Swept Rock.  I seldom see them anywhere but under coral heads.

When I got to the Knoll, I spotted this Goldentail Moray Eel.  I tried to coax him out for a picture, but he resisted my entreaties.  

Found this Juvenile Creole Wrasse just off the Knoll on the South Eastern ledge.  I followed it for a few minutes hoping to get a better shot, but had no luck.  

Spotted this Juvenile Yellowhead Wrasse along the North edge of the Knoll.

Got this shot of a Black Spotted Feather Duster well into the middle of the Knoll.  

Tried to work on my breathing, but the water was cold and I started shivering at about 40 minutes.  The whole dive only lasted 90 some minutes and I was really glad to get out of the water.  I had hoped to take a student on their first open water dives today, but I called him and told him it was just too cold.  He has no particular time constraints, so he should wait for warmer weather.    

17 March 2014

Diving Solo and Shooting Supermacro on the Big Coral Knoll

Lennon came by for his bag at 6:45 am, so I got down to the beach kind of early.  Decided to shoot supermacro today since I expected rough surf and not much visibility.  I was not disappointed.

I got some good shots of Knobby Sea Rods, including this shot,

as well as a got a few good shots of a couple of Seaweed Blennys.

I got some shots of Red Boring Sponge, but can't say that the +10 diopter really helped.  In fact, I think I liked the photos using just the 100 mm macro lens.

I found and photographed some Mat Zoanthid that had wormed its way into a patch of Giant Star Coral

and got a nice close up of some Great Star Coral.

If you look closely at this photo of a Flamingo Tongue, you can see the antenna coming out of the animal.  I had hoped the + 10 diopter would get a better shot.

Of course, I also got a whole lot of blurred or badly exposed shots, but there is no reason to keep those.  

16 March 2014

Lennon Shannon's first two Open Water dives

Leo Paez, Luis Monroy, Lennon Shannon and I were supposed to meet at Tower 17 at 8:00 am to make the first two of the four open water dives Lennon needed to get certified.  Unfortunately, there was a foot race and the police had A1A blocked off from the Pelican to the Yankee Clipper.  We regrouped and went to Vista Park.

Leo served as divemaster and Luis accompanied us. After the pool session yesterday, I decided to put 10 pounds on Lennon.  He is active and athletic, but obviously inexperienced and a little hesitant.  We made it out through the surf, finned up and swam out to the swim buoy.  We descended just a bit further East, but were still over sand.  Shortly, we did hit a reef with a fair amount of life.  Visibility was not good and it was cold and overcast.

We got to the other side of the reef, which was not far, then swam South for 10-15 minutes.  When Lennon hit 1500 psi, we turned for the beach.  Lennon's air usage fell apart and he was down to 500 psi  several minutes before we got off the reef.  He took my alternate air source at 1600 psi and we shared air to the beach.  The surf was rough and we all had problems exiting.

The weather had warmed up a bit.  We enjoyed hanging out in the park, but we were still a little chilly when it was time to make the second dive. Lennon did not hesitate a moment getting through the surf.  We descended just past the swim buoy, as before, then headed East across the reef and North on the sand.

 Lennon seemed to be doing better on air and had no problems clearing his regulator or his mask.  He did have some trouble with his buoyancy.  He had to try several times to hover, but he did fine with the fin pivot.
I plan to re-test him after the ascents, when he has made the dives and is a little more comfortable in the water.

 He took his gear off and replaced it just fine.    We headed back when he hit 1500 psi.  Like before, he got 40 minutes or more on the first 1500 psi then dropped to 500 psi in about 10 minutes.  I think the gauge may be inaccurate.  Again, we headed back after about 40 minutes when he hit 1500 psi, but he was out of gas fewer than 15 minutes later.  We all did a little better getting out the second time, though the currents were strong and varied.  I had thought about making three dives, but we were cold and I decided it was better to end the dives on a high note rather than get one more in.