09 May 2015

Recovering the Plow Anchor with Luis

Got to the beach early but managed to fritter away my time and got in the water 8 minutes earlier than yesterday. Took the camera and headed to the East looking for the plow anchor. I swam slowly, trying to spot a Banded Tube Dwelling Anemone. I haven't seen any lately and I am curious as to why. Certainly did not see any this morning. Did get this shot of a Sharpnose Puffer.

Got into a little Staghorn coral, but not the big thickets I know are out there. Kept swimming East to water 23 feet or deeper, but I never got there. I was looking for the tire and the L-shaped cable, but I didn't find them. Surfaced at 40 minutes.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 21 feet; bottom time was 40 minutes; SAC rate was 18.38 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Although I thought I had done a decent job of holding a 90 degree bearing, I was past the second building and well on my way to the Marriott when I hit the surface. I spent the surface interval swimming South then dropped into 22 feet of water. I did not recognize the area, at all. I thought I might be too far East, so I headed West looking for the Swiss Cheese Reef, but I couldn't find that, either. Just swam around until 40 minutes and surfaced to see where I was.

Got this shot of an Intermediate French Angelfish

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 23 feet; dive time was 40 minutes and my SAC rate was 18.85 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Just drifted during this short surface interval. I was concerned that I had not seen the plow anchor and Luis expected to help haul it in this morning. Still, I was low on gas. I made one pass going North looking for the tire and the L-shaped cable, but no luck. I turned and headed back to the beach.

Got this shot of a Yellow Sand Ray.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 24 feet; dive time was 31 minutes and my SAC rate was 18.31 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Luis met me at the South Beach parking lot. I was still warming up after my first dives. We talked about the plow anchor I had previously located and how I had failed to locate it earlier this morning. Then we geared up and got in the water. Swam on the surface out to the swim buoy and descended. Headed East.

I really focused on holding my bearing. We swam out to 24 feet of water and started looking. I first went North and South on the sand, but did not see the tire and the L-shaped cable. So I surfaced to see where I was. We were East of the buoy and off the catamaran masts. Should be the right spot. Went back down and looked. Spotted the tire. It was not alone on the sand, but set back on a bit of uncovered reef. Headed West and spotted the line then the anchor. Then the work began.

I brought a hammer and cold chisel and tried to break some of the chain links, but had no luck. Luis saw what I was trying to do and took over. He managed to break one of the links, so now we were rid of the line, but still stuck with the heavy chain. I coiled it up and tied it off and Luis hooked his lift bag onto the coiled chain. Mine was hooked to the head of the anchor and had no trouble lifting that.

Unfortunately, Luis' lift bag leaked terribly. Though it would lift the coiled chain, it only held air for a few minutes, then sank.  Luis put his SMB sausage on the coil and that helped. He had his finger spool from the  SMB and stayed on the bottom pulling the anchor and chain while I held onto the chain and pulled it along at about 12 feet. We muddled along like that and finally got to white sand near the beach. Wish I could have gotten pictures of us bobbing along pulling the anchor and chain, but I never would have been able to get out of the water if I had the camera with me.

At about 4 ft we stood up and started disconnecting bags and anchor. Then we went ashore and dropped out gear so we could go back out and bring in the anchor. The step on the beach was about 2 feet and a stretch for me, but I made it twice. We left the anchor and chain on the beach and took the gear back to the truck, which was no small distance. We came ashore in front of Tower 3 and had to walk down to Tower 4, where we parked, but I was just happy to get to the beach. I did notice that I had lost my hammer.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 24 feet; dive time was 76 minutes and my SAC rate was 25.59 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Luis wanted to make a second dive and talked me into it. It wasn't a tough sell since I had lost the hammer somewhere over the white sand and since the likely spot was where we go out of the water. I wanted to go back and look for the hammer. Since I thought I would be searching for lost gear, I did not take my camera as it is often just in the way. We got in the water in front of Tower 3 and a fellow noticed Luie looking for something and asked what we'd lost. Luis told him we lost a hammer and he said it was with his stuff on the beach. His boy had stubbed his toe on it, so he had removed it from the water. I should have brought my camera. We headed out East off Tower 3, which was a new area, except we got set by the current and ended up where the anchor had been. I collected shells and just looked at things. Luis took pictures. It was a pleasant dive, but I was exhausted at the end of it. Maybe it wasn't five hours in the water that morning, but it was close at 284 minutes. I was the worse for wear.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 23 feet; dive time was 97 minutes and my SAC rate was 15.13 psi/minute (compared to 25.59 psi/minute towing the anchor).

08 May 2015

Can't Find the Plow Anchor in the Dark, but Swam Right to the Danforth Anchor

Got up early but frittered my time away watching TV. Pathetic. Went to the beach and geared up. Got in the water and swam out to the swim buoy to descend. Swam East with just a slight adjustment for the current. Missed the Staghorn coral. I think I was North of it. Took some pictures, but seemed like everything was stark: black and white. I like it warmer with yellows and oranges. Spotted a Flame Box Crab who was so still that I thought it was dead until I reached to pick it up. At that point it became quite animated.

Got this shot of a Sand Diver waiting.

Swam into deep water: 24 ft. but did not find the anchor. Surfaced at 40 minutes and found myself off the apartment building immediately North of Tower 4. Swam South during the surface interval.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; maximum depth was 23.6 ft; dive time was 40 minutes and my SAC rate was 18.43 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Dropped down to 24 ft then decided to get East of the reef and on the sand where I spotted the tire and bent cable. From there I swam West and found the anchor. I did not bring the pliers and screw driver on this dive. I wasn't certain I could find the anchor. Not sure it will make a difference, the pin is rusted solid to the shackle. Maybe a cold chisel and a hammer might work. There are some links in the chain that I could probably break with a hammer, but the links closest to the anchor are pretty solid.

Got this shot of a Sailfin Blenny greeting sunrise on the reef.

Have to coil the chain and tie it down somehow so we can use the bags to lift it. Anyway, no way I was going to move the anchor this morning. Maybe I can get Leo or Luis to help tomorrow. I headed back, taking pictures along the way.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; Maximum depth was 23.5 feet; Bottom time is 41 minutes and my SAC rate was 16.22 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Headed SW into the beach by the buoy marker off Tower 3. Wanted to look again for the Danforth anchor I dropped there a week or so ago. Along the way I crossed the staghorn coral and got this shot of a Juvenile Cocoa Damselfish.

No long afterwards, I spotted this Giant Anemone and the tiny Spotted Cleaner Shrimp that was trying to hang on as the Anemone's tentacles went back and forth in the surge.
Also spotted this Spotted Scorpionfish, which is difficult to see in the picture even though I know it is there.

I swam West and was well North of the buoy when I spotted the Danforth anchor.  The anchor must have gotten pushed to the North by the current. Doesn't speak well for it's holding ability, but there it was. I picked it up and swam/crawled along the bottom with the anchor. Got into 5 ft of water and stood up.

Secured the flagline and got my fins off. Managed to pick up the anchor and hold it, my fins and the flag in one hand while holding the camera with the other. The step was building and was steep, but I managed to dig my left foot in and step up. I could as easily have fallen over.

Bottom temperature was 75 degrees; maximum depth was 24 feet; Dive time was 31 minutes and my SAC rate was 20.27 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

07 May 2015

Night Diving off Catamaran Beach and Recovering a Danforth Anchor

I was late getting to the beach, but quickly geared up and got in the water. I swam out to the swim buoy to descended, Along the way, I took some pictures looking back at the beach.  Used Canon's Picture Stitch to create this shot.

Took another photograph of the Spotted Cyphoma on the Knobby Sea Rod just East of the buoy pin and West of the blocks.

Continued East looking for anemones or other photographic subjects, but the visibility was poor and there was not much life around. Went up to the swiss cheese reef and beyond to flat, deeper sand at 23 feet. Took 40 minutes, so I ascended.

Bottom temperature was 76 degrees;  maximum depth was 23 feet; dive time was 40 minutes; consumption was 27.1 psi/minute at an average depth of 18 feet and my SAC rate was 17.54 psi/minute on an aluminum 80

When I got to the surface, I found that I was well North of Bahia Mar, almost to the next building. I tried to stay in deep water, but swam a little to the South, against the current. When I dropped down, I was in 24 feet of water.

I decided to head North to the umbrella stands off the Marriott. Got this shot of two Seminole Gobys

This shot of a Seaweed Blenny,

and this shot of a Gaudy Natica shell.

Spent about 20 minutes swimming and then decided to head Southwest to get in a better position to make it to the beach. I surfaced after 40 minutes.

Bottom temperature was 76 degrees; maximum depth was 24 feet; Dive time was 40 minutes; consumption rate was 26.38 psi/minute at an average depth of 22 feet; my SAC rate was 15.82 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

 During my surface interval I swam southwest towards the swim buoy off Tower 3, to look for the Danforth anchor I dropped there on the 24th of April. I descended to 25 feet then headed off to the SW to get to the swim buoy so I could search for the anchor.

Got this shot of a Christmas Tree worm.
 I knew I was North of the buoy but I did not see the anchor and did not recognize any landmarks. I decided to head South, but I did not see anything familiar, so I went to the surface to see where I was. I was now South of the buoy, but right on the white sand.

Got this shot of a Bicolor Damselfish.

So I picked up the anchor and bounced my way into the beach. I surfaced in 4 feet of water and held the camera with one hand while I held my fins, the flag and the anchor in the other. Climbed up the step holding on to everything and then walked up to the shower.

Got this shot of a Knobby Sea Rod.

Bottom temperature was 76 degrees; maximum depth was 25 feet; dive time was 34 minutes and my SAC rate was 18.56 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

I forgot my sweatshirt this morning, but the sun was warm and now so am I. I geared up after a 72 minute surface interval and got back in the water. Headed due East from the swim buoy. On the way over the Swiss Cheese Reef, I spotted the chain and plow anchor. Due East of the buoy and on the reef.

Got this shot of a Purplemouth Moray Eel, too.

 Got this shot of a Two Spot Cardinalfish.

I surfaced to check the bearing to the anchor: due East of the Shower. I dropped and continued swimming East out to a tire on the sand and near a bend in some cable.

I swam back to the West, looking for the anchor. I was beginning to think I had lost it again, but I continued to the West and ultimately found it on the swiss cheese reef. I again went to the surface to check the anchor's location. I've found it three times now, so maybe I'll take some tools tomorrow and try to disconnect the chain and raise the anchor with the lift bag.

Bottom temperature was 76 degrees, maximum depth was 25 .4 feet; Dive time was 121 minutes; my SAC rate was 17.05 psi/minute and the Residual minute volume was .44 ft3.

06 May 2015

Night Diving off Catamaran Beach

Got to the beach eager to dive. Geared up and got into the water. swam on the surface to the swim buoy, then descended. Lots of sand in the water. Visibility was terrible. Saw a little Spotted Cyphoma on a sea rod near the buoy pin, but could hardly get a picture. Barry serviced my regulator and now it free flows a lot. Got to take it back and get the 1st stage pressure adjusted. I headed East, but would check the compass and find I was swimming North. Not sure where I went. Spent a lot of time on shallow sand. Did not see the staghorn coral. Did not see the Swiss Cheese reef. Finally hit 40 minutes and came up to see I was still South of the Marriott.

Bottom temperature was 76; maximum depth was 19 ft; dive time was 41 minutes and my SAC rate was 19.92 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Swam South during my surface interval and dropped down to 24 feet. I was in the corridor SE of the Swiss Cheese reef. Tried to get a picture of some shrimp, but just could not find them in the view finder.

Sort of looked for the plow anchor, but did not run a pattern. Just looked around where I happened to be. I did swim West to try to get on the Swiss Cheese Reef, but had overcompensated and got too far South. I missed it.

I swam back, but surfaced at about 1000 psi. I was concerned about making it to the beach. My regulator was free flowing a lot and my air usage was poor.

Bottom temperature was 76 degrees; dive time was 31 minutes; maximum depth was 24 feet; consumption was 29.10 psi/minute at an average depth of 22 feet and my SAC rate was 17.46 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

Just tried to stay in the same spot during the surface interval. Came close. I dropped down to 24 feet of water and started swimming SW to the beach. I didn't get on the Swiss Cheese Reef, but I was on something like it. Lots of holes in the surface and some fish, but not like the reef, or at least not like the reef in the daylight. Not that it was pitch black. More like twilight. Sky was overcast and the sun was well up, but it was hidden behind the clouds.

I just plodded along. Got down to 147 but was on the white sand and kept going. Surfaced in 8 feet of water and swam in. Missed the step. Had a reasonably flat bit of sand to cross and I was out of the water. Cold, though. I tried to dry off and warm up, but it wasn't happening, so I went home.

Bottom temperature was 75 degrees; maximum depth was 24 ft; dive time was 33 minutes and my SAC rate was 18.71 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

03 May 2015

Diving on the Sea Emperor with Scubatyme III

Ricther arranged to be dropped off at 11:00 am and Arantxa, Carlota and Javier arrived about 10 minutes later. Arantxa had purchased her own mask, fins and 1.5 mm wetsuit, so she was set. We managed to get everyone outfitted very quickly and to get on the road. We drove over to Ryan's to pick up him and Ashley, then headed up to Sands Harbor Marina and Scubatyme III.

Luis was already at the marina, and had staked claim to a nearby parking spot on my behalf. We unloaded tanks and gear and then Leo arrived. Everyone signed the release and the roster and we were underway. Doug was the divemaster but someone new was Captain. He was personable without being over bearing and seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Ya gotta like that in a Captain.

We got to the site and Doug tied off the ball and we were on. Luis, Ric and Carlota were quiet and Ric was getting a little green. Enzo recognized the signs and rushed the divers into the water where he knew they would feel better. I was next to last getting in and Luis came in last. I had talked to Leo, who agreed he would watch Arantxa, Carlota and Javier while I would be primarily responsible for Ashley, Ryan and Ricther.

There was little current going down and I did not need to hang onto the line. I started taking pictures of the divers. Visibility was poor because of a haze, so I shot without the strobe to cut down on the back scatter.

We'll see how that turns out. I got to the bottom before Ashley and Ryan but had to swim over to get their attention before but they followed me over the culverts and around the wreck. Ricther wasn't far behind us.

When we got to the bottom, Ryan was concerned about the air leaking from Ashley's valve where the regulator's first stage attached. Probably a dry O-ring, but I shrugged it off because over the course of a 40 minute dive it would be insignificant. I certainly wasn't going to go back to the boat to change the O-ring. Note the bubble from Ashley's breathing and compare them to the bubbles from the leaking valve.

As we came to the North end of the wreck, I got this shot of Carlota coming out of the wreck. I wondered at the time if Leo had taken them inside by entering the wreck at the South end by crawling under it.  

I thought it would be better to avoid the current by swimming North inside the wreck, and suggested that we penetrate. I dropped inside the first compartment and went under the compartment wall, where I spotted a very young Smooth Trunkfish. I took several pictures, but without the strobe and without a macro lens, they didn't turn out well.

Ryan had followed me into the wreck and into the next compartment, but I waited for Ashley and she did not come. I went back to see what had happened, but she was not inside. I went up and saw her outside the wreck. Ryan came up to join us and he indicated that she had only 1000 psi left. I signalled that 600 psi was plenty to get to the surface, so we swam to the South end of the wreck then turned and went with the current back to the line where Ryan and Ashley headed up.

I spotted Arantxa apparently having some trouble and went to her. I saw that her BCD was full of air and dumped it, but the valve was stuck open and it began filling immediately. I tried to disconnect the low pressure inflator hose, but I could not get it off. Leo came to help but neither of us could undo the inflator hose. The best we could do was get her to the line so she could hold on and avoid a run-away ascent.

I went to check on Ryan and Ashley, who by that time were making their safety stop.

I stayed off to the South of the line and got shots of most of the guys coming up the line, then I went up.

 I got this shot of Carlota coming up the line;
this shot of Javier testing his buoyancy control after playing with the bubbles coming from the divers below him;
and this shot of Leo and Arantxa coming up the line with Luis in the background with his pin-point buoyancy control and flawless horizontal positioning. That, boys and girls, is what a diver looks like in the water.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; dive time was 36 minutes; consumption rate was 47.75 psil/minute at an average depth of 46 feet and my SAC rate was 19.95 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.

The 59 minute surface interval became a puke fest as first Ricther, then Luis, became sea sick. We didn't need pictures. Several others were quiet and looking for a spot on the rail. We needed the surface interval to off gas, but we also needed to get back in the water before more divers became sea sick.

Our first dive was to 70 ft for 36 minutes, which put us in pressure group P. After a 59 minute surface interval, we were in group F and a group F diver has a residual nitrogen time of 19 minutes at 60 feet (to the sand). Thus, our bottom time could be the 55 minute no decompression limit less the 19 minute residual nitrogen time or 36 minutes, plus 25% for using a computer, or 45 minutes. I tried to make a lesson of it, but the divers were focused on the bouncing boat. We got back in the water.

I had a little trouble at first deciding which way to drift, The current was so light. Finally decided it was a North current, but I also watched Luis head off to the South, and that gave me pause.

We swam along looking at lots of different fish, like the Creole Wrasse above, swimming with a small group of Tomates.

The photo to the left is a shot of a Rock Beauty.

We saw a number of Atlantic Spadefish like these in the foreground.  That's Ryan and Ashley in the background.

When Ashley ran low on air, we called the dive and went slowly to the surface, stopping at 15 feet for a 3-minute safety stop.  We floated on the surface as we waited to get picked up.

Bottom temperature was 78 degrees; bottom time was 42 minutes; the consumption rate at an average depth of 42 feet was 39.55 psi/minute and my SAC rate was 17.40 psi/minute on an aluminum 80.