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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Ride the Lightning

Poor old Des. What are the odds?. This is one of our partners in crime from Ocean Frontiers along at the East End. He's going to get such a ribbing when I catch up with him......

Des "Disaster" Duffield more like. Nae luck, fella.
"A local dive instructor has defied some of the highest odds when it comes to natural phenomena after his home was struck by lightning twice in the same week, the local television news channel reports. While lightning does strike twice, it doesn’t do it very often as the odds of it happening are said to be 360 billion to one, but with Cayman experiencing a significant number of electrical storms, Des Duffield ‘beat’ those odds."

"He told Cayman27 he could not believe his home was hit twice in seven days. Duffield had just replaced his electrical equipment damaged in the first strike last week when he was hit for the second time on Monday in the latest electrical storm."

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Stormy Weather

Well we got lucky with tropical storm Isaac passing us by with a whisker to spare. They reckon it will become a hurricane by later today and I pity the poor blighters stuck in it's path.

Looking at the weather reports, we took a chance and hit Lighthouse Point this morning but it wasn't to be. The shore line is still suffering the tidal after effects of Isaac's passing with big rollers pounding the hardpan. no way shore diving is happening with swell like that.
All the decking lifted to make sure it doesn't head out to sea
There is still boat diving taking place at some locations assuming that the boats can get tied up safely put it's going to be full on rock and roll getting through the cut to open water. I hope nobody has had a big breakfast......
West Bay shoreline gets a good scrubbing
Never mind, next weekend, there's always another day for another dive, onwards to the cocktails!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Finding Nemo

Look no further, Nemo has been found. Nemo 33 to be precise. This has been bubbling on the surface for a while (pun intended), and would be a fantastic experience to try. 

"The Nemo 33 is a 2,500,000 liter multi-level swimming pool filled with chlorine-free, potable spring water heated to a cozy 86 degrees F. The pool structure flattens out at depths of 5 and 10 meters to feature simulated underwater caves. Dry visitors are afforded port holes at both these depths to explore the terrain before they dive."

" ...the only accident to occur in Nemo 33 happened when a Belgian Special Forces member punctured both his lungs after failing to observe the prescribed ascent rate"  Ouch.

I couldn't imagine going there every weekend for a dive. Too much like going to Guildy or Stoney. One visit and you've seen it all. Plus I think the pee factor here would be quite high....

Link: NEMO 33
Look out below!
The video clip is entertaining as well, just purely from the fact that the diver sounds like he's running a marathon underwater. His SAC rate has to be through the roof.

If anyone's been here, let me know what you thought....

Monday, 20 August 2012

Red sails in the sunset

Action packed weekend of diving. Saturday we kicked off at Sunset House which is another quality location for shore diving (and boat diving). They open at 7 am which is ideal for people like us that want to get a coupe of dives in before the crowds arrive and still have the afternoon to do what you want.

Plenty parking and less than 30 seconds to the waters edge and less than 5 seconds to the bar. There's three possible entry/exit points, I recommend using the rock pool round to the right as the water is usually level with the top of the ladder and ledge which makes it easy getting in and out with big camera rigs. You're also more sheltered for access/egress when the surface conditions turn rough and less likely to get battered off the wall.
View from the bar. Beware of boat traffic
Once in the water drop straight down and follow the channel from the pool entrance out due West where at 6 metres you'll hit the chains for the twin buoys (one blue, one white). At this point another gully starts up, running roughly WSW. This will take you directly to the the statue of Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon and resident mermaid of the house reef at about 16 metres. Plenty of photo opportunities here, especially if the fish are nice enough to co-operate!
Amphitrite and some fishy friends
From the mermaid, keep heading out West over the sand and to the left you'll see the remains of the LCM David Nicholson, a landing craft from the second world war era at around 22 metres.
The LCM (landing craft, medium) David Nicholson
You can get into the engine room via the hatch at aft but there isn't exactly much to see, unless you want bragging rights about how you penetrated a world war two wreck all the way through to the engine room! :-P
You've seen it now, move along
Just beyond the LCM is the start of the drop off and wall with plenty of coral heads, barrel sponges and whips to keep you entertained as you swim through the clouds of triggerfish, groupers, majors and basslets. Turtles are of course a mandatory requirement.
A teenage turtle of the non-mutant variety
You will of course without fail end up the centre of attraction for the multitude of  snappers that roam around wanting attention. We always seem to have the same one follow us every dive, so I called him Spot. I think Jill calls him Gary because he apparently looks like one. Don't ask.....
Jill with her faithful fish, Gary the snapper (or Spot is you prefer)
Visability was a real problem all weekend and Sunday especially was exceptionally bad for current. Although compared to Scotland it would be classed as the best diving ever. It's one one of the few times I've ever had to swim 90 degrees to the direction of travel just to make headway. A truly ripping current.

It's akin to drift diving on Cozumel. Just without a boat to pick you up if it all goes pear shaped, so unless your experience level and SAC is really, really good, it's easier to sit in the sun and wait for the conditions to settle down.

We knocked out a 70 minute dive followed by a 105 minute dive to make the morning completes. The second dive was especially entertaining, as soon as we hit the water we were buzz bombed by a squadron of low flying squids. Unfortunately I only got a chance for a quick , haphazard shot before they flew off into the depths, so excuse the quality.
Dive, dive, dive!
As always on the second dive, for me, its about the macro/close up work. And although some of the smaller stuff was proving to be elusive, there was still plenty to be found for the eagle-eyed diver. I am still consulting my books, but I think the little tyke hiding in the sand in the shot below is a female sailfinned blenny. If I'm wrong, please feel free to correct me.
Correct answers on a postcard
Jill made a nice find of a spotted drum fish and as usual with drum fish, they like to hide in the most inaccessible, impossible spaces which never makes our lives easy when trying to get a shot. Not my best ever shoot of a drum fish but considering the small space I had to shove myself and rig into, it could have been worse.
Next time, drum fish, next time......
The flamingo tongue cowries were out in force and everywhere you looked they were either on the sand, on the coral, on the rocks like someone had scooped up a bucket load and thrown them over the reef. Maybe they were having a party and we weren't invited.
Snails, lots of them
Further up the reef on the right hand side, I came across the Caribbean twin of Grandfather lobster from St Abbs back home. This thing was enormous. Easily the size of Grandfather, minus the pincers and it wasn't afraid to get into a staring contest with my camera. 

For a moment he looked like he was going to drag me down into the depths  but I think he thought it would be too much effort to get me out the neoprene wrapper.
Grandfather's warm water cousin
We headed back into the shallows and on the way back, I checked out one of the little sandy holes than pockmark the hard pan and was delighted to find a lettuce leaf slug which was the icing on the cake for today's diving.
This little fellow made the morning's diving worth it
Out the water by 11.45am and sitting at the bar for cocktails by noon. Perfect. As always when shore diving here, you can swim out at the surface to get to the made drop off, but that's not something we personally do as the surface conditions are occasionally pants and you also have the issues of boat traffic. So unless your gas management is especially chronic, just get in the water, get down and enjoy the fantastic scenery.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Return of the Space Cowboy

Well despite the best efforts of the shipping company to delay and destroy some of our possessions, despite customs officials being a corrupt shower of miscreants, despite island bureaucracy being more complicated than a game of cricket, we finally have all of our cargo which we shipped over here nearly two months ago.

Even the fringes of tropical storm Ernesto couldn't dampen our enthusiasm as we now have a real keyboard and a real PC to use. The 21stcentury has finally arrived on the island. Next year we'll have indoor plumbing......

Lighthouse Point, quality shore diving
We’ve been getting some diving done in the meantime and checking out a few of the operators on the island to suss out who’s got the best deals and where the best dive sites are, both for shore and boat diving. Boat diving is cheap for locals but tourists get first dibs on any spaces as they pay more. We can only phone 24hrs in advance and hope for the best. Damn those tourists!

One place we’ve been hitting on a regular basis for shore diving is Lighthouse Point on the North West side. This is run by Divetech, they also have another place up at Cobalt Coast, but it’s not worth the effort as the people in the dive centre there are utterly unhelpful and a waste of space. If you want a good location, a perfect set up and friendly staff, Lighthouse Point is where it’s at.

They open at 7.30am, which is when we like to get there for as nobody else turns up till about back of 9am so we have the whole place to ourselves for at least the first dive. It’s a 20 metre walk down the jetty then you can decide if you want to jump or use the ladder. Divers with big rigs are better using the ladder as they have a rope for lowering your camera into the water, which is a much better option.

The site gently slopes from East to West starting at 1.4 metres and after about a 4 min. swim you will hit the mini wall running North to South at around 13 metres. Keep heading West for another 6-8 mins. and you’ll eventually hit the main wall at around 22 metres and it drops off fairly sharpish in to the blue. Good air consumption is a must if you want to get to the drop off and have a decent bottom time there too.
Jill hits the main wall
The corals and sponges are excellent here with plenty of marine life and loads of nooks and crannies to get in about. Turtles, feather tail rays, groupers, jacks, pipefish, triggerfish, parrotfish are all over the place with the occasional barracuda hanging around as well. Yet to see any sharks or eagle rays here but they have been spotted from time to time so that’ll be something to look forward to on this dive site. There’s also a massive sandy patch during the transition between the mini wall and the drop off which is covered in sand eels and the occasional ray feeding on them.
Awesome sponge formations
Today was particularly harsh (in Caribbean terms anyway, back in Scotland it would be a beginners dive!) due to a really strong NW current so it was hard work getting out to the main wall and back again. We really had to hug the bottom and follow the cut outs to try and stay out of it. We knocked out a 65 minute first dive and headed shallow complete our safety stop and there’s plenty to keep you interested whilst you’re there.
Juvenile turtle glides past
As you’re facing the jetty from the water, if you head left for about 20-25 metres you’ll find a hole at 4.8 metres with some wheels in which are said to have come from an early 1800’s mine cart. They look crusty enough to be the real deal at least.
Ye olde mine cart wheels
If you head to the right from the jetty for about 20 metres, there’s another hole at around 4 metres with a big old anchor in, again dating from the 1800’s.
Anchors a-weigh!
You’ve got some good references with these features as you know where you are in relation to the jetty. Not that it’s difficult to get lost on this site, it’s an absolute doddle to navigate. Having said that though, I can think of at least one person who could still get lost here…*cough-cough, no names mentioned...*
With a surface interval consisting of drying out in the 32 degrees sun, drinks from the cooler box, cookies from Fosters and Bob Marley playing in the background, it’s just slightly better than soggy bacon rolls in the pissing rain outside the Ebb Carr cafĂ© at St. Abbs!
On the mini wall
After swapping out lens and arms on the rig it’s time for some close up/macro work for the second dive where we spent most of the time on and off the mini wall looking for the small stuff. 
Christmas tree worm. No fairy on the top though.
 There’s a white marker buoy off to the right at around 5.5 metres attached to an old engine block. We’ve been told on several occasions that there are some sea horses in the vicinity but we have yet to find any despite out best efforts.
Golden tail moray pops out for the camera
There’s still a massive amount to see though, flounders, morays, christmas tree worms, squirrel fish, blennies, flamingo tongue cowries, gobies, wrasse, basslets, damsel fish, snappers, sponges, corals, whips, the list is endless!
A secretary blenny takes down some notes
With loads of coral and rock pinnacles to get lost in and it pays to have a good look in, on, under and around these as you just don’t know what you’re going to find.
Peacock flounders are a regular sight in the waters
We finished off a 90 minute dive with another circuit round the engine block just to make sure the sea horses didn’t gallop back in whilst we were away, but no such luck. 
A happy looking scorpionfish
But I did make a lucky find of a bristle worm just as I was about to get out of the water so I am happy with that. It’s no nudibranch but it will do for now.
It's small but it's no nudi
A family of tube worms in the shallows
And I had to put this in as Jill loves here little blue damselfish...