Thursday May 24th, 2007
Blackbeard's Bimini Liveaboard
Throughout this year I've been working hard leading the VRIS team on Racer with Camera and the Audio team on Diamondback. Diamondback's speakerphone issues and RWC's m4a and open loop power failures were resolved, DB finally passed STIC labs and RWC goes to STIC next week. With the big issues resolved, I was packing my dive gear and taking off to the Bahamas on Saturday May 12 for a week-long liveaboard.

At 5am, I met Dave and Lori, Chirs, Ilya, and Marc to carpool to port Everglades to catch the Discovery Sun cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport Grand Bahama. With table tennis, dance revolution, the casino, and (unfortunately) the starlight lounge (GQ and Tarzan), we stayed entertained on the five hour trip across the Straits of Florida and the Gulf Stream. After going through immigration we headed off to Taino Beach to Blackbeards where Pirate's Lady and her two sister ships, Morning Star and Sea Explorer, were docked.

Captain Ron, first mate Jeff (Booger), dive master Steph, Shiloh the cook, and Ken the engineer were our crew members. We six from Florida were accompanied by 15 others including 7 from Seattle (Brandon, Doug, Cappy, Gary, John, Karen, Andy), 3 from Ireland (Jill, Tim, Peter), the Rob brothers Jim and Tim, the romantic couple Thom and Diane, and the expert diver David from Georgia who shared the galley with us Florida guys. The first day was no diving, just getting used to the rocking boat, salt water shower, the head with pump flush, and best of all, relaxing, enjoying the ocean, watching the flying fish, sunsets, beautiful night sky, and getting to know the other divers on board the 65 foot boat.

Our first diving day was at Dark Star, Arches, and Laylani all in Gingerbread Grounds, an area south of Grand Bahama and 35 miles from land. Laylani was an afternoon and night dive (same site), where we saw two sea turtles and tiger tail sea cucumbers. Laylani was my second time I’ve ever done a night dive. I was warned but still not prepared for the onslaught of the bloodworms (didn’t have this problem on my first night dive in Mexico). Attracted to the dive light, I only noticed a few worms here and there at the beginning of the dive. If you stayed still for too long, you would begin to feel them on your hands, arms, legs, and around your head; it was like a Wes Craven horror flick. By the end of the dive the worms were so thick they would block the light. It must have been the location and time of year because I can’t imagine that quantity of worms present every night all year long. As long as you kept your dive light moving, it was generally ok. The only consolation was to see them being trapped and eaten by the brain coral when we directed the light over the coral =). Thankfully, the other night dives were not nearly as bad.

The next morning was one of my favorite dives of the trip, a wall dive called Krispy Kreme south of Bimini. At 125 feet below the surface, and crystal clear visibility, the wall was a beautiful cacophony of marine life. I love the everglades and watching the birds and animals, but scuba diving is the ultimate way to interact with animals. The other dives that day included Lunkhead and an afternoon and night dive of a wreck called Miami Rita. At Lunkhead a Caribbean Reef Shark was oddly curious with us scuba divers and swam nearby the whole dive. Generally, the sharks keep their distance but this guy came within just a couple feet of us; maybe it was because of the cut on my leg after the swimthrough =). It became a little choppy and rainy by nightfall, so Dave, Peter, and I were the only ones to dive Miami Rita at night, and it turned out to be the best night dive of the trip. While stormy on top, once we reached the sandy bottom, everything was beautiful and quiet. Lots of lobster, crab, stingray, squirrelfishes, spotted goatfish, and even a pair of bioluminescent cuttlefish.

On the morning of day three was another wall dive called Tuna Alley followed by a shallow dive at The Strip. The Strip was a lot of fun as Chris and I were attacked by a Sergeant Major only to realize he was protecting a purple patch of eggs. At first, we just thought he was a really pissed off fish, but then had a lot of fun harassing his egg patch and watching him go berserk. The little guy had no fear. After backing off and watching him from a distance, he would do the same thing to all the other fish swimming near the egg patch. We only did two dives on Tuesday as we went into port that evening in north Bimini. The Compleat Angler, made famous by Ernest Hemingway, burned down so the most famous bar is the End of the World. Just a little shack with a sand floor and a ceiling full of hanging underwear, it's full of character and still frequented by the locals. After a few Kaliks, there was some dancing, an incident with a dolphin, a lot of markings ("hairway to heaven", "snorkel this", "i love disco"), a French captain, and Cappy adding to the End of the World ceiling.

Highhats, slippery dicks, rock beautys, queen angelfish, porgys, and sand tilefish were all seen at Bimini Barge and Big Greenie, the two morning dives of day four. The third dive was Bull Run, the much anticipated shark dive. Pavlovian sharks tuned to the sounds of Bull Run preparation could be seen from the boat as we geared up. Maybe 30 sharks were awaiting the chum surrounded by fish and a few grouper standing by to pick up the scraps. Also in attendance was Peaches, the Nassau Grouper, who had the unique quality of enjoying to be petted by divers. It reminded me of a fish cleaning station except we divers were the cleaners. Our last dives were Triple Seven, Yellow Brick Road, and Hawkes Bill where we saw bermuda chub, spotted drum, and green moray. On the return trip back to Grand Bahama we stopped and snorkeled the Bimini Road, aka Road to Atlantis.

Between dives we relaxed, ate tons of food, got some sun, played victory lap uno, jumped off the boat on the boom swing (and watch Ilya backflop), fished, slept, talked, etc. It was a great vacation and I can’t wait to do another liveaboard! Don’t worry, I’ll have pictures up soon.
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Thursday June 28th, 2007

SR says:

The pictures were BEAUTIFUL! What an awesome looking trip!! :D