12 July 2014

Luis Joins Dean and I to Dive the Staghorn Coral Forest

Luis, Dean and I geared up and walked down to Tower 19 to get in the water.  We then swam out to the swim buoys and descended.  We were still over sand, but we soon came to reef and then more and more staghorn coral until we were at the old NOVA growth project.  The storms over the last few years have trashed much of the coral, but there is new growth all over.  We swam back and forth with no particular pattern in mind.  I was looking for Cowrie shells, but did not see any.  Looked like a Cowrie friendly area with all the dead coral.

 Got pictures of this Barred Hamlet,
this Harliquin Bass,
 This Hawksbill Sea Turtle,
 this Initial Phase Queen Parrotfish,
 this Pigfish,
and this Smallmouth Grunt.  

I did much better on my breathing on this dive:  dive time was 145 minutes and my RMV rate was .37 ft3/minute.  Luis took the flag to the beach.  We headed West by Northwest and surfaced South of Tower 20, then swam in on the surface.

Dean and I dive the Ledge of Turtles

I got to the beach early and took some shots of the sunrise.  Pretty spectacular.

Dean joined me at 7:00 am.  We geared up and swam out to the reef to look for the Rock Pile.  I thought I was over it, but I could not see the bottom in 16 ft of water.  It was too dark.  We swam South just a bit and descended, but I didn't see the Rock Pile, so we swam North slowly looking for the Rock Pile, but we did not find it.  I surfaced to see where we were, and we were way North, so we headed back South and eventually found the Rock Pile.

From the Rock Pile, we headed up the reef at 120 degrees.  I pointed out the empty Octopus lair and the various surrounding shells.  I was getting nervous because nothing was looking familiar, then I spotted the round brain coral SW of Turtle Rock and I swam back on course.  We got to the Ledge and took pictures

Got this shot of an Ocean Surgeonfish.

 This shot of a Sergeant Major.
This shot of a Sharptail Eel.
 This shot of a Spanish Grunt.

This shot of a Squirrelfish.
This shot of a Yellow Jack.
 This shot of a Yellowline Arrow Crab.  Notice the blue claw.

I started for Shark's Rock, at one point, but I got turned around and ended up back at the Ledge. We swam around the perimeter, but stayed close to the Ledge since it was getting to about 1500 psi.

At 1000 psi, we headed off down the Ledge. Didn't see the Rock Pile on the way back, so we just headed West over the sand and came out at the Tower instead of the entry.  Dive time was 111 minutes and my RMV was .45 ft3/min.

09 July 2014

Solo Dive on the Big Coral Knoll followed by two Open Water dives with Students

I can't take my camera when I am diving with open
water students, so I got to the beach early to make a dive with the camera before the students got there.  It was a short dive.  I wanted to avoid getting a large nitrogen load before taking them to the Ledge for ascents.  Still, it was fun.  Got some nice pictures.

On the was to the reef, I spotted this Sailfin Blenny doing his little Dawn Dance.

 A Barred Cardinalfish was hiding in the reef.
 A Bluestriped Grunt posed in front of a large Sea Fan.

The Rock Hind was out sunning itself on the large rocks on the North edge of the Knoll.
Just North of the rocks, I spotted this Ocean Surgeonfish getting cleaned by a small Juvenile French Angelfish.
And lots of Green Sea Turtles.

This little guy came over to swim with me.

 Seemed to like having his picture taken.

The dive time was exactly one hour and my RMV rate was .52 ft3/minute, which is on the high side.  I was swimming hard instead of going slowly, and it showed.

I waited for my two Open Water students to arrive.  When they did, they set up their gear and we discussed what we were doing.  I explained that I wanted to swim to the Ledge on the surface to avoid any nitrogen buildup since we were doing two ascents relatively quickly.

It seemed like it took forever to get out to the Ledge.  One of my two student's feet were blistered and even though he wore his shoes inside the fins, he was hurting.  My computer showed 109 minutes of surface interval when we finally got to the Eastern Ledge and made our descent. I suggested that they go down slowly and equalize often since we would be doing several descents.

I tied off the flag line, to use as a brake when I took the first of the students up on an alternative air source ascent. At the surface, he inflated his BCD orally, as he would have to do were this really an emergency ascent.  Then I dropped and took the other student up the same way. At the surface, we discussed the CESA once he got his BCD inflated orally.  He and I went down to demonstrate the CESA for the first student's benefit.

We took three breaths on my count and then both myself and my student started up.  The student was with me the whole way, but I did have to slow him down some. He dribble air out slowly as he ascended and had gas for the entire ascent.

I went down and got the second student in position.  We went through the 3 breath countdown and started up, but he put his regulator in his mouth to breath after only about 30 seconds at 20 feet.  So we went back to the bottom and tried again.  This time, when he reached for his regulator, I shook my head and we made it to the surface. Maybe a bit fast, and the computer print out showed, but we made the surface.  So I retrieved the reel and flag and we swam North along the Ledge to the ravine leading to the Fish Camp Rocks, then down the reef and to the beach.

I was concerned that the student with the blistered foot would not want to make the final dive, but my concerns were unwarranted.  We took a 57-minute surface interval and then got back in the water.  We swam out to the Sea Rod and descended, then swam East to the Blocks, up the gun sight to the Cigar Rock and then the Gray Mid-way Rock, though we were a bit South because I and over adjusted for the current. We turned North to the Knoll and toured around.  While we were there, we heard a boat above us, though I did not see one come over.  Still, we were in 13-14 feet of water and both students lifted their heads up to look around while I was trying to get them to drop as low as they could.  Anyway, the boat went its own way and we headed for the English Garden.  The sky clouded over while we were underwater and it was getting darker.  We turned back when one student hit 1800 psi. I went free-form SW until we picked up the tipped coral head to the North of the Cigar Rock and then found Irish Thighs and went in.  One of the students indicated that he wanted to surface.  I tried to find out what was wrong, but nothing seemed to be wrong.  So we ascended.  At the surface he told me that he just needed to breathe through his nose. So we floated on the surface for a few minutes, then descended to complete the dive.

08 July 2014

Dean and I dive the Clipper Jacks and the Galt Ocean Mile

Met Dean at the South Beach Parking Lot.  We geared up and got in the water.  We swam out to the Jacks and descended, then swam East along the Jacks taking pictures. Got to the East End of the Jacks and turned back to swim along the Jacks. Along the way, we took plenty of pictures.

 This is a Banded Butterflyfish,
a Blue Parrotfish,
a Midnight Parrotfish
a Porcupinefish,
 a Rainbow Parrotfish,
 a Red Grouper,
a Scamp,
a Trumpetfish blowing his own horn,
and a Yellow Jack.

Then a long swim back to the beach.  Dive time was 102 minutes; my RMV was 0.46 ft3/minute.

After the first dive, we went back to Dean's condo and dove off the beach in back.  We swam out on the surface until we spotted some larger rocks and more interesting bottom contour.  We descended and began swimming South, into the North current.  We also moved East some as we went along.  Got lots of pictures.  Too many maybe.

 Got this shot of a Spotted Trunkfish, which apparently lives there.
 This shot of an interesting Split Crown Feather Duster hanging into a small rock window.
 A Hogfish.
And a Barred Hamlet I at first confused with an Indigo Hamlet.

We turned when I got to 1200 psi.  The current had slacked by that time, but we still made good time going back.  I remembered passing a large rock on the way out and went to the surface to confirm that we should head West to the beach when we passed it on the way back.  We ended up a bit South of the condo, but close enough.  Dive Time was 142 minutes; RMV was 0.38 ft3/minute.  Still had air in the tank at the end of the dive.

07 July 2014

Aborted Dive on the Ledge of Turtles

Got to the beach early, eager to dive.  Geared up and got in.  It was windy and the surface current was moving right along, but I descended in 8 ft of water and worked my way to just North of the Rock Pile.  Hardly any set at all below 10 ft.  Not much light and visibility was poor. I headed up the reef at 120 degrees.

 Spotted a little Green Turtle and swam with it but got completely turned around.  Surfaced to see I was due East of the Tower.  Went back down to search for the Ledge.  

Did take a few photos:

 This Purplemouth Moray Eel only peeked out at me.  He wasn't going anywhere.
This is a Queen Angelfish.

Queen Angelfish are smaller than either the Gray or the French Angelfish. They are often curious about divers, but shy.

 Found this Rock Beauty in a stand of Staghorn Coral.

Like the Queen Angelfish, she was curious buy shy.

No luck finding the Ledge.  Uncomfortable in the darkness. Headed back to the beach and called it a day.

06 July 2014

Dean and I dive off the beach on the Galt Ocean Mile

Dean Yates owns a condo on the Galt Ocean Mile and invited me to dive the beach there.  We geared up in the parking lot and walked down some stairs to get to the water. Walking down stairs with scuba gear is a lot more difficult than I had thought it would be.

We got in the water and headed out on a 90 degree bearing, but likely got set by the current.  We went over sand, then some small rocks and then came to a really nice area of much larger rocks and lots of sea rods and other plant life, though I could probably never find it again.  We turned South and swam against the current for quite a while, both of us taking pictures and enjoying the dive.

 Found a Barred Hamlet,
 a Blue Tang,
 A Cymothoid Isopod on a Doctorfish,

a Townsend Angelfish,

and a Lionfish.  I really didn't think we had them on the first reef line.

Dean found a mask, but we lost sight of one another on the way back. I couldn't see him but I did spot the mask and was concerned that something must have happened, but we got together quickly and he had only dropped the mask by accident.

The current was difficult and my breathing went from .35 ft3/min to .41 ft3/min.  The dive time was only 123 minutes, but I did have more than fumes left in my tank.  .

A Solo Dive to Photograph the Sailfin Blenny Celebrating Dawn

I got to the beach about 5:45 am and geared up.  I was in the water by 6:20 am but wanted to get out to the sea rod before descending.  I couldn't find it and I couldn't fight the surface current, so I just went down.  Things were better on the bottom.  I made my way slowly to the reef, then South to the concrete blocks.  I looked for the little sailfin blenny I have been photographing, but he was no where to be found. I swam around looking for another one, but I could not find any.  Went back to the blocks, and my little guy was there, so I settled in and took a few shots to try and get a good angle.  Then I sat there for well over an hour shooting the blenny every time he would wave his huge dorsal fin.  I ended up with probably 100 shots, of which 18 were good shots of the blenny doing his dance.  These are the four best shots.

I guess the next thing is to shoot video of the whole thing.  I headed back to the beach and found the sea rod this time.  Ended the dive at 151 minutes and a .35 ft3/minute RMV.