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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...