09 August 2014

Three Open Water Dives off Tower 17 with Matt Hatcher

I went to the beach at 5:30 am in order to find parking convenient for our dives and to try to capture the sunrise. My picture is a bit of a disappointment, but an acceptable first effort.  Matt met me on the beach at 7:30 am.  We were parked South of the Park Tower Building, but well within walking distance of Tower 17, even with tanks on.  We geared up at the truck, crossed the road to the beach and swam out to the Eastern Ledge off Tower 17 to make the ascents for his Open Water certification.  The swim probably took 20 minutes and required some effort, but Matt managed handily. He had some trouble equalizing while getting down, but finally made it.  I tied off the flag to some lines buried in the sand and we made an alternate air source ascent, including a 3 minute safety stop at 15 feet,  then we descended to try the controlled emergency swimming ascent, the CESA.

I demonstrated to Matt how it would work, he signaled that he understood and we took took 3 breaths, taking the regulator out on the third breath, dribbling air out and rising.  We went a little too fast and I used the line to slow us down, but Matt began breathing from his regulator at about 10 feet, when he ran out of air to exhale.  We surfaced and discussed what had happened and why he felt panic when he ran out of air. We spent 7 minutes on the surface discussing Matt's first failed attempt at the CESA.  My Suunto D6i treated our surface interval as the end of a 19 minute dive to 35 ft. His second attempt at the CESA became our second dive.

We descended.  Again, Matt had a little trouble equalizing one ear, but worked through it and got down.  We prepared for the CESA., took and exhaled two deep breaths and then took a third breath and began our ascent.  I kept a tight hold on the line, but we still got a rapid ascent warning from my computer during the first 6 feet of our ascent, after which we slowed down. Matt dribbled air more slowly and had air all the way to the surface this time.  We rested just a bit, then descended and swam back to the beach underwater. As his tank pressure lowered, he found he was underweighted and needed to expend energy swimming to stay down.

We looked for Matt's weight packets to add more weights. At first, he feared he had dropped them as he geared up for our swim to the Eastern Ledge, but it turned out that he had not taken them out of his truck.  We next discussed the table problems and then Matt took his final exam during our surface interval, which may have stretched it out a bit.  I didn't object.  I was tired and a little dehydrated.  He easily passed the exam.  We changed tanks and got back in for our final dive.  

Matt wanted to catch a lobster and I was interested in seeing how he maintained his buoyancy, so he took his net and tickler.  We swam up to the Gray Mid-way rock, under which he found two lobster, but could not catch either one.

We then swam over to the Big Coral Knoll where I found a small Spotted Trunkfish to photograph and Matt chased a very large lobster on the tipped coral by the two large rocks the Rock Hind hangs out on.

He didn't get the large lobster, but did manage to get a smaller one that was still legal size.

We swam back towards the beach but he was down to less than 1500 psi and too light to swim under water while transporting his lobster.  He was carrying 10 pounds of weight, but went to the surface and I followed when I realized he was not able to get back down.  We swam in on the surface.  Dive time was 52 minutes, my RMV was 0.39 ft3/minute.

07 August 2014

Two Dives on the Little Coral Knoll

I was late getting to the beach and the road crew has now closed all the parking on the West side of A1A from Park Tower North, so I came back to park at the little coral knoll.  I still went under before 6:30 am, barely, and it was a good 15 minutes before the sun came up.  Spent  a lot of time slowly getting to the Big Rock.  

Spotted this Nurse Shark under the Big Rock and was able to get a few pictures without unduly disturbing the creature.
 Found a pile of Caribbean Spiny Lobster under the other side of the Rock.  Counted 14 lobster in all under or in the Rock this morning.
 Spent some time getting shots of this small Queen Angelfish just West of the face of the knoll.

Spotted this Star Horseshoe worm on the knoll.

I spotted this apparently melting coral just North of the face of the knoll.  Looks a lot like dripping candle wax.  Saw some other coral nearby that was glazed over as if it had been overheated.

This was, however, one of the few dives on which I did not see anything new.

Dive Time was 145 minutes; RMV was 0.36 ft3/minute.

The first dive was longer than I had anticipated.  I quickly changed tanks.  The new tank showed 3560 psi, but had been sitting in the sun.  Nonetheless, I was expecting a very long second dive.  On the way out to the swim buoy, however, my Suunto showed only 598 psi in the tank.  I was committed by that time, so I descended and swam out to the counter-weight and looked for a 20 ft hole.

I spotted and photographed this Star Horseshoe Worm.

I also got a shot of about six lobster marching along over the sand before the knoll.  

the tank pressure reading got down below 100 psi and I decided to just call the dive.  Even if I got more air, I wouldn't be comfortable not knowing how much and the gauge was apparently stuck on 100 psi.  I had hoped it might start reading something in excess of 3000 psi, but it never did.  So I got out and went back to the truck.  I put my mechanical gauge on the tank and it showed over 3000 psi.  I put the Suunto back on, and it then read 2530 psi, which sort of fits with me using 500 psi on the short dive.  

Dive Time was 34 minutes; RMV was 0.26 ft3/minute, which is sort of surprising given the amount of swimming I did and against the current, as well. It suggests that I passed on what may well have been a record breaking dive for me.  

06 August 2014

Two Open Water Dives off Tower 17 with Matt Hatcher

Matt Hatcher needed to get certified.  He has been diving for some time with friends, but had never gone through a certification class.  He spent two days watching the various DVDs and going over the review questions, the quizzes and my table problems. We had spent an afternoon in the pool going over the various skills and this was our first open water session.  Matt met me on the beach after my dive.  Of course workers have blocked off all parking on the East side of A1A, making it difficult to find a place to park, but Matt found a spot only a few cars from the truck.

On our first dive, Matt wore a full 3:2 mm wet suit and carried 10 pounds of weight.  We swam on the surface to the blocks and descended, then chugged up the gun sight, to the cigar rock and the Gray Mid-way Rock, then headed North to the Knoll.  As we were swimming, I had him recover and clear his regulator, then clear and replace his mask.  He did fine.  We didn't see any turtles on the Knoll, but there were lots of fish.  We made one lap around the Knoll, then headed over to the Fish Camp Rocks and then back to the beach via the blocks. Matt was a little light and had to work to stay down.  

We put another 2 pounds on Matt for his second dive, which was a short dive just off the beach.  We stayed on the sand to went through the various course skills.  I even had him take off the gear, stow it on the bottom while we surfaced, then dive down to get back into it.  Matt did well.  Then we headed over to the blocks and toured the algae patch a little.  I still had 1400 psi in my tank after the first dive and I used that same tank for our second dive. I surfaced will over 650 psi left in the tank.  Dive Time was 34 minutes.  My RMV was 0.40 ft3/minute.   

Solo Dive on the Big Coral Knoll

Today I actually got up early and got to the beach a little after 6:00 am.  Geared up and got in the water, had to wade out quite a ways to get to chest deep water, then went under and slowly made my way in the near dark to the blocks.

I found and photographed this large shell, which was the size of a large Conch Shell, but reminded me of a Welk.

Unlike a Conch, this animal moved on a large, flat foot instead of pushing off with a small foot.

Wasn't sure about being set, so I surfaced to see where I was, and I was just slightly North of where I needed to be.   Found the blocks and headed up the gun sight to the cigar rock and the Gray Mid-way Rock, then headed North with the current over the perpendicular rocks.

At the Perpendicular Rocks, I found and photographed a small Nurse Shark, who was resting under the North edge of the Rock.

From the Perpendicular Rocks, I swam up to the Swept Rock and the Knoll.  I made several laps around the Knoll taking pictures.

I got this shot of the Rock Hind who has taken up residence among the large rocks on the North edge of the Knoll.

I got this shot of a Purplemouth Moray Eel in the coral along the Northwest edge of the Knoll.

I found this Hawksbill Sea Turtle just North of the Swept Rock where the French Grunts and lots of small fish frequently clean larger fish.

Got this shot of a Seaweed Blenny on the South edge of the Knoll just South of the large rocks where I had photographed the Rock Hind.

Got this shot of a small green crab in the coral and rocks just off the Knoll and a bit further East along the Southern edge of the Knoll.

  My first dive is usually a little rough, but the water was warm and I was breathing well.  My dive time was 154 minutes and RMV was 0.36 ft3/minute.  

05 August 2014

Solo Dive on the Little Coral Knoll

Just could not get going early in the morning, but I did make it to the beach for one dive.  I parked right across from the entry.  Geared up and got in.  Swam out to the Big Rock, then swam over to the smaller rock and headed 120 degrees past the knee high coral, over the counter-weight over to the Dog Rock and then to the knoll at 110 degrees.  Got lots of pictures with lots of backscatter.  I'm still cleaning them up.

Got this shot of an Almaco Jack,
this shot of a Green Sea Turtle,
this shot of a Speckled Hermit Crab just coming out of his shell,
 this pulpit shot of an Ocean Surgeonfish on the Big Rock,
 this shot of a Queen Angelfish,
this shot of a Red Hind,
this shot of a Redband Parrotfish,
and this shot of a Yellowtail Snapper.

Dive Time was 135 minutes; RMV was 0.40 ft3/minute. Little high, but I skipped a day of diving.

03 August 2014

Luis and I Miss the Clipper Jacks

Luis and I went to the South Beach parking lot to dive the Clipper Jacks.  We geared up and swam on the surface on a 100 degree bearing holding the black lamp post in the edge of the red bricks on the fire house.  We never saw the Jacks.  We swam for 30 minutes and eventually decided to drop and swim SW.  Luis tells me I was swimming due South, which is likely as I tend to swim into the current.  We swam and swam.

I found some Spotted Cleaner Shrimp and took pictures.  

 I also found this Bearded Fire Worm,
 these Christmas Tree Worms,
this Juvenile Gray Angelfish,
and this Rock Beauty.
We ended up well South of the life guards jurisdiction, but swam North towards Tower 2 to exit.  The water was deeper to the South and there was some interesting formations, but not much life.  A Life Guard on a paddle board instructed us that once inside the swim area we were to swim directly to the beach and exit.  So we did and then walked to the vehicles.

The sky was overcast and I was tired.  We swam a lot on that dive and I was ready to quit. Dive Time was 111 minutes and my RMV was 0.44 ft3/minute.