Thursday night, I did a night dive off Back Beach with a group from East Coast Divers. It was an awesome dive; the water was relatively warm, the dive was easy and we saw a lot of stuff.
The main point of a night dive is that things come out in the night that you can’t see during the day. And the highlight, for me, were the squids. I’d never seen them here in New England before, but I saw a bunch of them on this dive. We also saw a bunch of very small lobsters, a flounder, a small skate, and a shorthorn sculpin. Continue reading →
I did another pair of dives at Pebble Beach yesterday, this time as part of the East Coast Divers shore dive. It was good to see Ken Apple, who was running the dive, again.
For me, Pebble is not a particularly edifying site because you have a fairly long swim over the sand to get to the reefs, and getting into the water over all the cobbles can be hard. It was a little easier the first dive since the tide was low enough that the water’s edge was right at the sand.
Mostly what we saw was crabs. Lots of crabs, big and small.
Crab in the kelp
Last week, at Folly, I shot a number of pictures of this thing, which I was vaguely aware was some sort of egg casing. I didn’t know what had made it, so I turned to my friend Ralph Fuller, of Poseidon’s Web, who identified it as a “sand collar”, an egg casing left by moon snails. I was a little surprised, because it doesn’t look at all snail shaped, and because it’s bigger than most moon snails I’ve seen.
Well, now I’m certainly a believer, because I saw the biggest moon snail I’ve ever seen. It’s very easy to see how it could have created something like that:
One of the biggest moon snails I’ve seen
I was diving with very new divers; Sam on the first dive, and Sam and Phillip on the second; both were newly certified. On the second dive, Philip managed to startle and grab a small lobster; he made his first lobster catch.
After several weeks of being out of commission due to a cold and back and shoulder problems, I’m finally able to do stuff on my days off again. Today I did the East Coast Divers shore dive to Folly Cove. The first dive was on the left hand side. The left side of Folly is a steep rocky cliff; and there used to be tons of anemones there. Then one year, there were none. Today, I finally saw a few today; the first ones I’ve seen at Folly in a long time. Continue reading →
Tuesday morning I did Weber’s Joy with the Hinzes and Alec and Nick, Tuesday afternoon, the Nolans, Henri Menco and I did Dee Scarr’s Touch the Sea program, and in the evening, I did a dusk dive with Jack and … Continue reading →
While it looked like it had rained overnight, today was warm and dry and sunny. We had our second set of boat dives this morning, and in the afternoon, Henri, Alec, Natalyia and I headed to Pink Beach.
Paul had been pushing for a very nice dive site called Rappel this morning, so we headed north.
In order to protect the reef from anchor damage, there are a number of boat moorings all around the island. The dive boat ties up to the mooring, and doesn’t have to drop an anchor on the coral.
We were literally about 100 yards away from the mooring, when a small dive boat from another resort zipped in and scooped it. Paul was utterly beside himself. There was an upside, though— as we headed for the alternate site, we saw a bunch of flying fish zipping along beside us. They pop up and glide about a foot above the surface for about two or three seconds. First there were a couple, then a few more, then suddenly a whole school came up.
We arrived at our dive site, Cali’s Reef, and went in. Almost immediately, I noticed a turtle deep underneath us. Originally, I decided it was too deep, but eventually I went down and got a picture of it.
Turtle at Cali's Reef
Overall, though, probably because I was dead tired, I felt out of sorts and didn’t see much that got my photographic sense going. I also managed to burn through my air pretty quickly. It felt strange to be the first one back on the boat.
That feeling continued through the second dive too. There wasn’t much big stuff to shoot, so I tried focusing on the small fish. The problem with that is that they move really fast. I did get a really good picture of a fairy basslet, though.
In addition, I was having problems with the strobe not firing. I tried plugging and unplugging the sync cable, and finally realized a dial was mis-set… right before it was time to come out of the water.
Two years ago, I dove Pink Beach with Ralph Fuller as my last dive of the trip. I was determined to do it again this year. This year, I did it with Henri and Alec and Natalyia. It was almost as good as I remembered (no dolphins or rays this time). The nice thing about Pink Beach is that the sponges and coral are in better health than other sites, so there’s more texture and more variety in the sea floor.
Pink Beach has a very wide sandy area before you start to reach the reef, so we snorkeled out, then dropped down once we started seeing coral. We ranged along the edge of the reef headed south, then turned around. When I thought we’d gone far enough, I popped up long enough to get our position. We were nearly in position, and I took a bearing to get back.
After we were all back and situated, we decided we didn’t want to do another dive right then. Instead, I drove down to the south to take a quick look at the slave huts and saw some kite surfers flying across the water near the southern end of the island.
The No-Camera Dive
Henri wanted to do another dive back at the resort. She likes the variety of sea life there, and, I believe, feels most comfortable getting in and out there. We both decided we wanted to do a dive and just enjoy it as a dive, rather than try to take pictures. It was getting closer to dark, so we both brought lights. Since I wasn’t carrying a camera, I did a giant stride off the dark.
It was a really good dive. We went to the south, and since there was a current running, it was a drift dive for parts of the way out. Because of this we turned around relatively early. As we were coming back in, I felt, rather than saw, something go flying past me. It startled the heck out of me. I then saw it turn on dime, then go flying into a school of small fish.
For me, today was a relatively unscheduled day. With no boat dives or visit to Dee, I was able to do the morning shore dives, and then do a couple of dives on the house reef. Unlike yesterday, the weather today was sunny and warm, with no rain.
The first dive this morning was to the Hilma Hooker, a freighter that sank right off shore to the south of Kralendijk (the capital city). The story is that it showed up deserted one morning off the coast, and when it was boarded, the crew was gone, and the holds were full of marijuana, and then one night, it mysteriously sank right at a handy spot off one of the beaches, where it’s relatively accessible to divers swimming out from the beach. The ship is lying on its starboard side, right at the bottom of the reef drop off, There are mooring lines at the bow and the stern.
Paul and Alec and Henri and I surface swam out to the bow mooring, went over our dive plan, then descended.
It’s about 85 feet to the port side of the ship, and about 100 feet down to the bottom. We went to the edge of the port side at the bow, then traversed to the stern. It’s an awesome dive, since the ship is mostly intact. We traveled along what is now the side of the wreck, and was originally the deck and wheelhouse, hanging over us.
You can see the freight booms, the wheelhouse, and at the far end, the stern railings and propeller. Once we got to the stern, we turned around, and ran along the bottom of the ship.
There were a bunch of sergeant majors there, and I was glad I’d done Dee yesterday, since I was able to recognize the egg masses they were protecting. Once we returned to the bow, we ascended the slope the ship sank against, and returned to shore.
After the Hilma Hooker, we headed south to Salt Pier. This is a big salt transfer pier from the salt pans on the island. We found out after returning to the resort that it was illegal to dive there, and we could have had our gear confiscated. Fortunately or unfortunately, we didn’t find out until afterwards, because it was an awesome dive. Lots of sponges, lots of fishes, including French Angelfish, Rock Beauties, and Queen Angelfish feeding on the sponges, and a bunch of tarpon, probably looking to feed on the smaller fish. I spent a lot of time on the angelfish, and boy, are they hard to get– they move fast. The sun beams shining through the pillars of the pier was very pretty.
We then headed back to the resort, where I reduced the amount of lead I was carrying, had some lunch, checked the news, and then did a pair of dives on the house reef. We had two really good dives. On the first dive, we headed north, and saw an octopus out in the open,
Octopus on the Buddy Dive house reef
and a turtle. The dive was so good, we decided to cram in a second dive to the south before dinner. On the second dive, I got some decent pictures of a small yellow fish I’d been trying to get, and we saw another turtle.
I think the two pounds less I was carrying made a difference– it was a little easier to hover, and I could possibly take off more, but I’m leaving in two days.
For dinner, most of us headed out to a small restaurant called Cactus Blue, where Paul knows the owner. The food was good, but everyone was pretty tired, so it was just as well that we finished up pretty early.
When I went down to breakfast this morning, it was cloudy and overcast, and it was obvious it had rained overnight. When I looked out over the ocean, there was a cruise liner standing in to Kralendijk, all its lights glittering in the gloom.
Some of the group did a dawn dive this morning; I decided to wait until later this week since I had to pick up some stuff at the dive shop, and Paul was running a shore dive this morning.
Oil Slick Leap
The first dive this morning was at a location a couple of miles north of the resort called Oil Slick Leap; I have no idea where the “Oil Slick” came from, but it’s definitely a leap. It’s a low cliff of fossilized rock about five feet or so above the water. There’s also a platform, and ladder down to the water; the ladder is the only way out. Most of our group did a giant stride off the cliff; since I had the camera, I climbed down the ladder.
There’s a mooring a short way out; we swam down to it and went down. The mooring is at the edge of the reef, and we spent our time here moving along the wall.
The second dive of the morning was at a beach that used to be called Old Blue, and is now referred to as Tolu, to the north of Oil Slick Leap. It too has a cliff, but it’s only about three feet high, and there’s a notch in it that divers can walk down. At the base of the cliff is a narrow sandy beach. The sand extends out a short way, and then there’s a wall down to the deeper water.
As soon as we got to the wall, we found something special — another bait ball, similar to the one from yesterday, only smaller, and made up of small blue fish, rather than silver fish. We spent quite a bit of time with this bait ball; it was possible to herd it a little. After a little while, they moved away, and I decided not to chase them, and started looking at the other fish. Suddenly the bait ball was back around me again.
There was a lot to see at this site; Henri found an eel out and about, and I saw a lionfish nearby. Just as we were turning around, I saw a damselfish chase a parrotfish out of its algae farm; I actually laughed out loud underwater.
It’s been sprinkling off and on all morning, and the heavens opened up right as we were leaving Old Blue. Paul took us on a scenic tour of the hills at the northern end of the island—cactus lined roads, goats grazing along the sides of the roads, and small shanties. here and there. A very stark contrast with the main town of Kralendijk.
Once we got back to Buddy’s, I had lunch and then spent some time on this post. By 3:30, Henri and I were both ready to get back in the water, so we did a dive off the dock. Buddy’s has a very nice house reef. The southbound longshore current that we’d been experiencing the last couple of dives had abated, so she suggested that we go to the left, ie, to the south. (the resort is on the western shore). It was a very nice dive. The fish were out in droves, and it seemed to be mealtime. I saw lots of black barred sergeant fish (I think that’s the name) lots of jacks, and a moray eel. During the dive, I experimented a bit trying to balance the strobe with ambient light, with mixed results.
I realized during this dive that I’m definitely overweighted. I hit the reef a couple of times today. I think while Henri’s doing a class tomorrow, I may take a couple of pounds of lead off and work on my buoyancy.
Once I finish this post, I’ll be heading over to the place next door to see a slideshow by Dee Scarr. I think we’re scheduled to do our dives with her tomorrow.
It hasn’t been raining all day here, but we’ve seen rain each day, and when it comes down, boy does it come down.
I’m starting to get the hang of a standard shift, but I’m still lurching around a bit.
There are tons of geckos around here.
I like the breakfast buffet here.
Internet access is very spotty here. I’m in a first floor apartment, and it’s generally unavailable. Nick and Paul are in a second floor apartment and have access. It’s generally better out by the pool.