Well another successful trip is behind us at this time. A great time was had by all aboard the Sea Explorer from Blackbeards cruises. We boarded the 65' ft Motor sailor on Saturday Afternoon and set out for our first dive of the trip! We did two the first day just off Grand Bahama. Their New location on Grand Bahama is great for diving because it cuts out 16 to 18 hours of travel to the Bahamas. It was a great bunch of divers including some new to the activity. I got the camera wet the second dive of the day which was the night dive. Everything worked well including my lanyard system to get the 44lbs of camera into the water and out! We had some interesting buddy combinations and some great diving and exploring. We put some great HD video in the Can! These are some of the pictures from the trip. Please feel free to leave a comment on the trip or the photos. Below the pictures is My loge of the trip, hope you enjoy my account of the trip, you can leave comments on the message Board.
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Inside and out: What to expect!
On this trip you will fly into Freeport Grand Bahama and the company will have transportation at the air port waiting for you. The potential problem regardless of the airline is luggage showing up. This problem is made worse if you fly a "Hopper flight" from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The smaller plains make getting all the dive gear there a challenge. My suggestion is pack what you have to have in your carry on and if you can travel on Friday so it will give you time incase you gear doesn't show. The cruise starts Saturday after 12:00pm plan accordingly. Next be sure you understand the port taxes, fuel charges, and tips.
On this trip you really don't have to worry about too many extras except what you buy at the dock and souvenir. Understand that this is camping at Sea at best. If you have toilet hang ups this will not be the trip for you. If you are a larger person you will feel the pinch. I always take a backpackers air mattress for the bunks to help out a little. Also pack light there is no room for any of your stuff cloths to be hung up. Your bunk is it, you are sleeping in the closet. If you understand all of the above and go with the right attitude you will have fun and experience some really good diving. Remember you will be on a 65ft sail boat for 6 days! It is weather sensitive. Wind can be a challenge and from March to middle May it can blow and blow hard. We have seen 11ft Seas and 35mph winds with rain and lighting! I have done this trip 5 times and weather has been a factor only once. My friend has done it for 18 years and it has only been a factor three times. So use your best judgment.
Don't forget to check out Port Lucaya and the shops in the Straw Market. It is the usual stuff but always fun !
Saturday the 13th we arrive in Freeport Grand Bahama with all our gear. This was quit the task considering my camera housing alone was over the new weight limit of 50lbs by 12.5lbs. my dive gear over by 4lbs. both below the old limit. This will take some getting used to that's for sure. With the help of Cory & Mindi Davis and their extra bag all four of my cameras and enough gear for two weeks arrived safely with a tired group of divers ready for an adventure in the triangle.
To start we lost divers left and right, we were really starting to believe the triangle was taking its toll we had 7 of the original divers drop out before we even left due to unforeseen circumstances. One was hit by a forklift and broke his leg the day before, another had an intestinal blockage and had to have emergency surgery the day before, another had strept throat, and a couple had to be in court for a lawsuit that popped up before we left. I forgot a pen in my pocket at the airport (LAX) and was practically stripped searched in security. This was going to be an adventure that was for sure!
At the airport we stumbled to the curb with all the dive and camera gear in tow where we were loaded into a couple vans arranged by Blackbeards Cruises. They took us to their new facility in Port Lucaya's backwaters. They purchased a two-story house with enough room for all three of their Sail Boats. This will become a very nice facility in short time. A friendly staff and launch for all just in time for hungry travelers to fill their empty stomachs and regain their strength needed to load and organize their gear greeted us. Blackbeards stores your empty bags in their storage shed to save space on the 65'ft. Motor Sailors. All this activity recharged our batteries and we were ready to motor out for our first dive of the trip.
We tied off at the Tug and started to splash willing divers into the warm water just south of Grand Bahamas Island. This was everyone's opportunity to get their weight right and splash into the beautiful blue waters. This was my first opportunity to notice the weather was a little windy, but the temperature was the best I have experienced in the Bahamas this time of year. It looked good for the days to come. Our Captain "Red" was starting out in great fashion and it was a pleasure to sail with him again. I sat out the first dive still organizing my equipment and helping some newer divers dial in their equipment. Tony Wiley was doing the same on the other side of the boat with three people that were to make their first dives on this trip. We also had a referral on board along with a couple of divers that Blackbeards had placed last minute because of our dwindling numbers. We would get to know and enjoy the company of these new friends. At this point you're trying to get your sea legs and organize your space so that you have time to meet and get to know the "new" divers aboard. The SCUBA locker holds a pre-dinner so that we as a group can meet each other and get our questions answered as needed. Having new faces on board can make for interesting times.
We were now exploring the Triangle for real, at least it was a start the real Triangle stuff was still to come.
Some aboard had never been in 80* water and brought way too much thermal protection for these conditions. I grabbed Miguel wearing his 7mm suit and turned the deck hose on him to cool him down, he was sweating bullets, and was not going to have a good time at this rate. I pulled his hood off unzipped part way down his top and told him he will not need "that" for the coming week. After the dive he said "man you're right, I was in a sauna the whole dive"! With the kinks worked out we had dinner, the only weak spot of the trip and a sign that the Triangle was striking again, and hit the same spot as a night dive. Good choice by the Captain and some made their first ever night dive with lots of cool critters to see and video. This was the new HD housings first trip underwater on the lanyard system I had worked out at home in order to get the 44lb beast into the water on a pitching deck without hurting someone. It worked out well and the camera worked as well although I realized it was going to be fun to push it around and keep things in the viewfinder. I was glade I started my Swim, Kick, and Snorkel workout in February other benefits were to come of it later on in the trip. After the dive we all hit the rack, which is a combo sleeping and storage place like sleeping in a horizontal closet, I always stay in the galley in order to have room for all my camera gear and charging stuff. We all were so tired and Red pulled into a quit anchorage for a good nights sleep, although some went to the beach I understand from the red eyes the next morning. Luckily for those people the crossing to the Gingerbreads gave them a chance to catch a few more winks.
Sunday the 14th of May
We tied off at Swiss Cheese for our first Sunday dive and splashed by 9:00am on one of the most beautiful isolated dives in the Bahamas. This is an oasis with no land in sight and some divers coming on deck for the first time couldn't believe it was a dive site. The only clue was the briefing and the dark patch under the water at the front of the boat. With some apprehension by some of the divers we headed out to see what we could find. This site has some beautiful swim throughs and earns its name. We often see turtles, eels, soft corals, and a lot of little critters that make this fabulous coral head a great dive. Next we headed to one of the best dives in the Triangle the wreck of 1906 or also known as the "Faulkurk Wreck" named after one of the first divers to find and dive her. It was a steel hauled steamer that was reportedly trying to out run a hurricane and in the sallow waters of the Ginger Breads hit a 15'ft. deep Sea Mound in the hart of the Triangle in heavy seas causing her to break her back and blowing up as the cool water rushed into her supper heated boilers. The resulting steam explosion laid her open. The wreck's wooden decks and bulkheads of the steel hulled ship have long been claimed by the sea. The cargo of whines, Laudanum, and china are strewn about just under the sand with some still in tact. This is a no-take on scuba area that keeps this wreck special in so many ways. It is a hard wreck to dive unless weather is just right, but well worth the effort. You can't help but wonder if she was a victim of circumstances or another one of "The Triangle" mysteries that helps build a reputation deserved or not? As to help answer the question we did our dive and re-boarded the Sea Explorer to face a gathering sea and winds. We made a run for Dark Star in the same area.
Dark Star, which is a star shaped reef in the same area in about 50'ft. of clear warm water, were starting to see currents picking up and some rougher surface conditions. This site has a lot of the same as Swiss Cheese and can be transversed under the coral for a fun dive and interesting critters including Silversides by the thousands in the caverns. We were going to make the night dive here as we watched the currents pick up and the wind guests increase. So we changed it to a transitional dive instead of the night dive. As soon as everyone was on board we headed for Bimini to find calmer waters.
Monday the 15th of May
With a gentle breeze blowing we woke to patchy skies with clouds on the horizon and headed for the Bimini Barge that sits in 105'ft.of still water for this day anyway. The Triangle was doing a weather thing with us, but we weren't questioning our luck to get a no current dive on the Barge. From the time you put you face in the water you could see the barge sitting in the sand on the bottom over a hundred feet below. I was able to get wonderful video on this dive of a beautiful classic wreck. When people think of a shipwreck this is the picture in their minds with all the fish and sea life. It is very photogenic. After the barge we headed to the Sapona wreck that was the last known position of flight 19 that disappeared on a training run at Chicken Shoals. This has been one of the most famous masteries of the Bermuda Triangle. This was the opening scene of Close Encounters, the discovery of flight 19 in the Mexican desert of Sonora. After snorkeling around the wreck that is falling apart after years of being pounded by the ocean. We re-boarded the SE for a new dive site.
We went to Middle Turtle Rock and moored up next to Big Greenie the largest star coral in the Caribbean. This is a sallow dive with picture opportunities everywhere. I took the Olympus C-5050 in a Tetra housing with duel Sea & Sea strobes on this dive for some still opportunities. After this dive the wind and seas were really getting nasty, so the order to set sail for the shelter of Bimini Docks was given. We were headed for port night a day early because of the weather.
After tying up at the docks we headed for showers and exploring the ruins of The Complete Angler that burned down in January of 2006. With the complete destruction of this historical landmark it felt like a different island. This was truly a tragedy of monumental proportions. The news was that the Mother of the proprietor had died the day before we ported on mothers Day! It has hit the Island hard. Night brought a Bar-B-Q and one of the better meals. I have to say that this was not the best week for food on a trip that was always known for great food. The cook was very nice, but used way too much Seasoning on everything! Given the weather it made it worse by the nature of her taste. Having said that, I have to thank her for the 6lbs I lost during the week. I needed a few more trips like this one! We all partied as best we could at the End of the World bar, but nobody expected us on Monday. With the cooking issue the Conch fritters tasted wonderful at the local restaurants. The question is will I miss the Bacon & Banana Bread breakfast when I am back home?
Tuesday the 16th of May
At 5:00 am I awoke to the sound of the cables in the mast slapping harder and harder throughout the night as the wind increased. I realized in the fog of sleep that I had left my towel on deck without securing it. I got out of my rack to find water pouring in the hatch from the rain. The hatch had been left open to take advantage of the great temps we were having on a good breeze. I closed the hatch and came on deck to Lighting everywhere like neon lights in the sky, Wind blowing out of the north at 60mph and the rain going by horizontally! I grabbed my towel and anything else loose and shoved them in the lockers. I went down below and curled up in my rack to wait out the squall. When we emerged from below for breakfast we were greeted by a stiff breeze and white caps in the distance. We were in for a ride. We ran out for a quick dive and the weather was not cooperating and it was decided to have another port day and night! We had rain most of the day and a couple of our folks got caught in some old abandoned bathrooms they had ducked into to get out of the wind and rain. They had to hide in the stalls to get out of the wind and rain coming through broken windows. We spent wet time at the Big Game Club telling dive stories and laughing at jokes.
Wednesday 17th of May
We went out and did Turtle Reef, a strip reef called Moray Ally, and Bimini Roads. The Roads were a part of our Triangle exploration and we saw our visibility go to the worst I have seen in the Bahamas, maybe 30ft at best! The stones as they're called are unusual to say the least. I saw and Videoed a stone with four ninety-degree angels, which just does not happen in nature, but seems common here. We were told that a University was coming out in two weeks to core the stones to see what they're made of. (Post trip note the stone are of Limestone common to this area, sorry if that burst the bubble!). It had been said that they're granite and not limestone, I cannot confirm their makeup even after a very close look. It will be interesting to keep up with what is found out about these stones by the University. After three dives we headed for the wreck of the Hesperus for a great sallow dive with fish and Stingrays galore. The weather was tuff getting there and we cancelled another night dive in order to run north back to Grand Bahamas and smoother seas. Everyone got a good dive in at the Hesperus and some good video in the can. We started the Sail & Motor part back across the channel to GB. It was a pretty good ride until after 5:00 pm when we fell behind the wind shadow of the large island. It was a wild ride until we pulled into flat calm seas at 10:30pm. Moored up and got a good nights sleep.
Thursday 18th of May
Thursday Morning brought the weather we were wishing for! Flat calm seas gave us a chance to get in four dives for the day. We even tried to attract a shark or two with a chum ball at the Fairy wreck, but they were not having any of it! We did the Sea Star wreck, Ann place, another site, and the Fairy. Then it was time to head to another port night in Lucaya. We cleaned up our gear and got ready to party down! Again the temp was the best I have seen this time of year. We pulled up to the Lucaya Hotel docks for another Bar-B-Q and a lot of dancing and some drinking of adult beverages! We partied like there was no tomorrow, because tomorrow was going home day for all but two of us. See Aqua Cat 2006 for the rest of the story!
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