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Shallow Waters May 8, 2016

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log, Shipwrecks.
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Wednesday turned out to be a disappointment followed by a decent shallow water dive. Once again we were to dive the Duane, and once again the current was way too strong. Like the previous time, we headed over to the Spiegel Grove only to hear of ripping currents there too, so we gave up and the boat took us to the wreck of the Norwegian merchant freighter Benwood, a wreck of a wreck lying in about 35′ feet of water. The Benwood sank after a collision, and then, according to our boat crew, the US Navy used it for target practice , so not only are there a few bombs lying around the site a lot of the metal is twisted beyond recognition. The Wikipedia article on the Benwood states that her stern section “seems to have been mostly obliterated by explosions of an unknown type”.

I dove with Rob, who’d recovered from his cold enough to dive. We took our time examining the wreck. Lots of time, actually, as my total dive time was 120 minutes. Rob logged 115 minutes but I explored for a few minutes below the boat so I could come up with 120 minutes on the computer. My reward was spotting a cluster of 4 lobsters. I’d had the best fill of the week so far so even with the length of the dive I still came up with 1000 PSI in the doubles. We saw a few Rockfish, a spotted drum, and various other more common species, and these mysterious rust coloured fish with big glassy eyes. The boat crew had some opinions on what the fish was, but we didn’t come up with anything definitive.

Any dive is a good dive but this good dive would have been a better dive if it were a dive on the Duane or the Spiegel Grove.

Update

The mysterious red fish is identified as a Glasseye Snapper.

priacanthus_cruentatus

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Cozumel 2011 Day 5 – Dalila Mountains March 6, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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Sometimes I think they make up the names of these sites just so we don’t get bored. I’ve never heard of this one but it did feature vertical outcroppings of Coral that were enjoyable to swim around and true to the name of the site. Sheri still had some buoyancy problems but fared better overall, although she didn’t figure out that she was hitting her backup second stage purge button rather than the deflator button until the safety stop.

For marine life this was a really cool dive. Turtles were plentiful, and on two occasions, like the one in this photo, they were accompanied by large Grey Angel Fish. We had a decent current so I didn’t have time to get as low as I would have liked for this photo, so it blends a little too much into the background.

Once again, we found at least one juvenile Spotted Drum. Perhaps they’re too easy to spot because the Juveniles far outnumbered the adults as far as I could tell. Maybe it’s the time of year. Even with the shutter lag I managed to frame this one satisfactorily. It’s really just a matter of luck since I can’t anticipate which way they will turn next.

Another Juvenile Spotted Drum

The high point of the dive was at the end, unfortunately after Sheri and Lee had surfaced, when we drifted past an Eagle Ray feeding on bottom. I tried not to scare it but it took off as I drifted by about 8 feet away, but afterwards Jackie said that it returned to same spot almost immediately. Seeing the Eagle Ray at the end of the dive is quite common, I think because the dives often end over sandier areas than the reefs on which they start. This should be encouragement to control your breathing and stay in shape.

Cozumel 2011 Day 3: Cedral Wall February 27, 2011

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Dive Log.
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My third diving day in Cozumel began with the familiar site of Cedral Wall, which I’ve dived on previous trips. This dive was to be the deepest of the trip at 125 feet, although it got shallower fairly quickly allowing a bottom time of 41 minutes plus a 5 minute safety stop. We saw lots of turtles and the current was quite strong in the deeper part of the dive.

Working with the currents is an important skill in Cozumel drift diving. In general, the closer you are to the reef the less current you experience, so if you’re getting ahead of the other divers you can let them catch up by hunkering down. Good buoyancy control is important to keep you and your equipment from damaging the reef, especially when the currents are pushing you up or down. Most reefs have plenty of features that also allow you to hide from the current, often taking the form of ledges which are nice to look under. It can be quite useful to have a dive light handy for that purpose. A third method is to present a small profile to the current with a horizontal body position, but that’s effective only for a short while as the current will eventually accelerate you to equal its own speed.

The one thing that you definitely don’t want to do for any length of time is fight it, especially at that depth as you’ll find yourself low on air in no time. If you fall behind, usually ascending 10 feet or so off the reef and a couple of kicks will catch you up pretty fast.

The dive featured a big Black Grouper and a Parrot Fish that was almost as large. I also photographed a Juvenile Spotted Drum, which was a feature of just about every dive, although I only saw one adult the entire trip. The Juvenile has no spots. These develop later.The lobster population seemed to be doing well with 3 hiding under one sponge, and near the end of the dive we had an encounter with a young Green Turtle.

Juvenile Spotted Drum

The lobster population seemed to be doing well with 3 hiding under one sponge, and near the end of the dive we had an encounter with a young Green Turtle.

Lobsters

Young Turtle Heading Towards Surface

 

Cozumel Day 2 – Chun Chacaab February 18, 2011

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To my surprise on day 2 we headed once again to the south of the island to dive Chun Chacaab, which more or less starts where Maracaibo shallows leaves off. The dive was more arduous than we normally have in Cozumel, because the current was present but going in all directions, along with a fair amount of surge. That meant swimming instead of merely steering with the current. It was the same bunch of divers as the day before, namely Joe, Braxton (also known as “Grunt”, or “Ronco” in Spanish), and Jackie. Mago was still our Captain but Blue XT Sea’s regular guide Pedro had taken over the underwater duties.

There were plenty of Turtles and both an adult and a juvenile spotted drum, as well as the usual assortment of Lobsters and Crabs.

Adult Spotted Drum

Juvenile Spotted Drum

Cozumel Day 8: Paradise Reef March 19, 2009

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When Blanca from Blue XT Sea Diving offered Paradise Reef as an option for my final dive of the trip, I jumped at it. It seems that Paradise Reef is going to be destroyed to build a new Marina, so it would perhaps be my last chance to see it. After diving Punta Tunich we docked at a local resort but the water was too rough so we motored off to La Caleta Marina to wait out the surface interval, although first Capitan Adan had to pull start the  200hp outboard as the electric start wasn’t working.

Even though the reef wasn’t far from shore, and only 40 feet deep, it was full of life.  It was also only a couple of minutes ride from La Caleta. We saw crabs of various kinds, juvenile and adult Spotted Drums, Morays, a Mahogany Snapper, Barracuda, lots of box fish and Grunts, Stingrays and trumpet fish. I think there was more variety of fish on that dive than anywhere else.

cozd8b-anemone-crab1

Blanca was great at finding little creatures like this Crab pictured above.

Drumfish

Drumfish

This was the only adult Drumfish I saw in my entire trip, although we saw juveniles on just about every dive. I suppose that means life is risky for the average Drum, like it is for most sea creatures.

Juvenile Trumpet Fish

Juvenile Trumpet Fish

This Trumpet Fish was only about 6 inches long.

Anyone know the name of this clam?

Anyone know the name of this clam?

Yellow Stingray

Yellow Stingray

Usually photos of the Yellow Stingray are pretty boring because they’re on open stretches of sand, but this one was better because the sand was surrounded by colourful coral. It might have been a better photo if I’d gone around the other side of that opening and photographed it from down low, but with the current flowing in Cozumel lingering isn’t all that well received by the other divers in the group.

Cozumel Day 3: Cedral Wall February 27, 2009

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Continuing with February 10, 2009 diving in Cozumel with Blue XT Sea Diving. This 50 minute dive down to a maximum of 78 feet was just another drift dive in Cozumel, with its abundance of sea life and coral. The water temperature was again about the lowest it gets in Cozumel, at 25C (77F), which is a few degrees more than the warmest I see in Canada.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Black Grouper

Black Grouper

This Black Grouper was almost as long as me, and was lazily holding station by swimming against the current. I drifted by about 6 feet away.

French Angelfish

French Angelfish

Angelfish are really common in Cozumel, so this isn’t one of those rare finds, but nice to see and my wife likes them.

cozday3a-juv-spotted-drumJuvenile Spotted Drumfish seemed to be everywhere on this trip, as were juvenile fish of many other species. I suspect that February is prime hatching time in the reefs (and February dives in other parts of the Caribbean and elsewhere have proved similar). I think we found at least one Drumfish every day we were diving, and eventually I stopped photographing them.

With my little Pentax Optio 5Si camera, now quite obsolete (the current model is 1/2 the price as has 12 mpix, but naturally doesn’t fit my underwater housing), has a significant delay in between when you press the shutter button and when the picture is taken – almost a second. So it’s really hard to get good photos of Drumfish as they never sit still, changing direction constantly.

Some day I’d like to get a really good underwater camera, but I’m a bit afraid of the expense, as there’s the price of the camera, then the housing, then the flash units, and so forth. I could probably by a rebreather for the same amount of money, or a high definition underwater camera. I’m going to keep at it with what I’ve got now until I’ve finished all my diving courses and see where my interests lie at that time.

Squirrelfish

Squirrelfish

Like Angelfish, Squirrelfish are a dime a dozen in Cozumel.  My wife really likes this picture so I’m including it. In my book, any picture where the fish is more or less pointing towards the camera instead of away from it is a good one.

Cozumel Splendid Toadfish

Cozumel Splendid Toadfish

The toadfish is a cool looking creature that makes a low sound you can often hear without being able to locate the source. They hide under ledges so I’m often upside down when taking the picture, which, along with the delay in the shutter and surround current means that I have difficulty framing the picture properly. To date, I’ve never taken a decent picture of one. On my last dive of the trip, I had one lined up perfectly when my battery died.

Cozumel Day 3: Dalila Wall February 24, 2009

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Today (February 10, 2009) we did two more local reefs, Dalila Wall and Cedral Wall. The first was spectacular with marine life, the second not so much. Within the first two minutes we were at our maximum depth – for me this was 105 feet as I was trying to get closer to a Nurse Shark I’d spotted, but it went deeper and against the strong current so I returned to our planned depth of 90 feet.

cozd3-juvenile-spotted-drums

There were 6 divers (Steve, Debbie,Tom, Stephanie & Jennifer) on the boat Shamu from Blue XT Sea Diving, along with Capitan Mago & Divemaster Pedro. A first for me on the dive was to see a group of 4 juvenile Spotted Drumfish. I’d never seen more than 2 previously. Most of the time I’d seen them in pairs. My cheapo camera has a significant and annoying delay after pressing the shutter release before it takes the picture, so I couldn’t get a good shot of the four together, although I got one that I can use if I need to prove my claim. Out of the 6 shots I took one came out nicely which you see here.cozd3-turtle-queen-angelfish

We also encountered a couple of Turtles. They’re so used to divers that they often just ignore us, especially if they’re eating something. This one had a Queen Angelfish hanging around picking up the scraps that the Turtle was missing as it fed.

Pedro found some Conch shells in a heap and moved them to reveal this Octopus, the first I’ve seen underwater. Other Angelfish, more Nurse Sharks, some large Grouper, Barracuda and various Box fish were also encountered.

cozd3-octopus

The marvelous winter weather continued at  Cozumel, with the day hot with some scattered cloud. Underwater it was about 25C (78F), with a reasonably strong current.

Scuba Diving in the Turks and Caicos: Conclusion November 13, 2008

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Following my first day of diving with my new gear, I settled into 6 full days of great diving, much to the annoyance of my wife. The worst for her was the 3 tank dive and the Nitrox course, both of which kept me away until after 5pm. Good sport that she usually is, being alone for the entire day is not her preferred way of spending a holiday, so she was understandably upset. These days we find it hard to beat Cozumel, as I can be picked up at the hotel dock between 8:30 and 9:00, do two hour-plus dives, and still be back in time for lunch at one. My wife is then quite content to read a book on the beach all morning, knowing that I’ll be around for the rest of the day.

Day 2 at TCI was at West Caicos, with two plus 80 foot dives to Gorgonia Reef and (what looks in my log book like) Orange Wall. This latter dive was my first sighting of a sea turtle in the Caribbean, and also my the first time I let my computer go into mandatory decompression, although it was only a one minute obligation. Towards the end of the dive I was hanging around below the boat waiting taking pictures and I saw that my time was almost up. I then saw something I wanted to photograph and not-so-accidentally let the computer exceed the NDL. I think I just wanted to see what it would do. While the computer called for a 10 foot stop, I stopped at 15, did my time plus a 3 minute safety stop, and surfaced.

The visibility on Day 3 was excellent like the previous dives. I wrote 60-80 feet in my log book, which made me very happy. The locations were called “Tons of Sponge” and “Ken’s Wall”, although I didn’t note anything else about the locations. Ken’s wall had some current which I noted. On one of the dives that week, we had a strong current that we had to fight to get back to the boat. We usually arranged the dives to be with the current upon our return, and I don’t know why this one was different. I was with two other divers and one, getting a bit low on air and anxious, powered his way back towards the boat. I didn’t try to catch up, but kept a steady pace and stayed as close to the bottom as I could, where the current was weaker, returning with plenty of air.

We also spotted (pardon the pun) Eagle Rays on both dives. These are beautiful fish, although hard to photograph well because they don’t come very close.

Day 4 was the Nitrox Certification dives. As I mentioned in my post about the course, these were just like ordinary dives. I did follow the wrong group of divers and the instructor retrieved me at one point. I’d hit 103 feet by then, which is good because I needed to build up 100+ dives as a prerequisite to my Tec Deep course more than a year later. These dives were back at French Key, including the site “Rock’n’Roll” which I’d done on day 1. This time I saw my first spotted drum, but didn’t get a very good picture of it. They tend to turn now and then, and the delay between pressing the shutter and taking the picture on my little pocket camera has messed up many a photo.

Day 5 was the three tank dive day. We were back at French Cay at “Double-D”, “Eagle-Ray Cavern” (there were Eagle Rays there) and “G-Spot” at 91, 85 and 72 feet maximum depths respectively. Despite using Nitrox on the second dive, I ran the computer into 5 minutes deco on the third dive. I was definitely getting used to the idea. That day we saw all kinds of wildlife including sharks, eagle rays, spotted drums, barracuda and so forth, and I had fun poking around the caves with my new dive light.

The sixth and final day started with my 100th logged dive. We were on the south side of West Caicos at sites called “Anchor” (which I never saw) and “Driveway”. I used Nitrox again, commencing my habit of diving Nitrox on my last day of a diving trip to be more conservative the day before flying. Both dives were exactly an hour long, as I was really getting relaxed down there.

Speaking of air consumption, the instructor who did my Nitrox course told me he used to work on a cruise ship where they used small tanks and made everyone come up when anyone went down to 1000 PSI. He said one day an absolutely huge guy, weighing at least 300 lb was in the group, and the tank looked ridiculously tiny on him. Sure enough, the diver was down to 1000 PSI in 7 minutes, which was a record short dive for him. On the last day of my trip the instructor told me he was leaving the island and returning to his native South Africa (I hear the diving is amazing there too).

I have fond memories of that trip because it was the first extended diving experience I’d had, and also the first guided diving where there didn’t make everyone end the dive at the same time. The service from Caicos Adventures was excellent and the operation professionally run without being imposing. Too bad that the proposal to have TCI become part of Canada never went anywhere. It would have been the best of both worlds.

The owner of Caicos Adventures Philippe “Fifi” Kunz, went solo diving during one of the surface intervals. What pleased my greatly was to see him do a forward roll entry, like I was taught to do in the early eighties. He’s the only person I’ve seen do one of these (besides me) in the last twenty years. My favourite entry has got to be the Cousteau back roll, though. I especially love this in when wearing my tech gear, as it takes forever to surface again. It’s really a lot of fun. The one I haven’t tried is the backward stride entry like they did on the 1980s documentary series “The Last Frontier”. Step out while turning around to face the boat. Not sure why they liked that one.

Sorry I don’t  have pictures. I had a hard drive crash. I should have a backup and will try to add them later.