Fourth of July and what better way to celebrate than right off the beach, parade and fireworks included. We were all geared up and ready for an early dive before it got busy. Had coffee and a small bite to eat, suited up and headed across the street. Really easy and much lighter with the steel tanks and 6 pounds less weight in BCD. All in all about 13 pounds lighter. Richard had his weight down to 8 pounds.
Water was flat and it was easy to get to the buoy and drop. I didn’t take the wetsuit out at all for the weekend. It was warm enough to skin dive.
Plan was to head straight out to second reef. Have a looksie and explore to the south bearing at 180 degrees. It looked good on the swim out past the cheese. Viz was about 20 feet over cheese. Got to second reef and viz improved to about 30 and up to 40 in some area. I got to 20 foot depth on this dive but not really sure where.
Tons of schools of queen angels in groups of 2-8. Hung upside down for a bit with my head in a hole and had a large beauty swim face to face several time. Absolutely amazing, graceful visions of beauty. Bright markings and adorable pouty lips. The small baby reef life was abundant. Little spotted drums, damsels, blennies, squirrel fish, spider shrimp and these weird crab creatures. They looked to have tarantula like hairy legs. Just looked this up and they are spider reef crabs. Saw quite a few lobsters. Good news that they are pairing up and replenishing one of my favorite food sources. We swam around some huge brain coral and were among a little hatchery. Lots of little damsels, spotted drum and juvenile tangs. It was cool to watch the cleaner fish taking care of a french angelfish. I really enjoyed watching the macrolife and how the little sea creatures all interact with each other.
I saw a lot more variety on this trip. We saw french, grey and queen angelfish. It was a first time for the queens. The queens seems to like to hide in the holes more of the reef. One large french angelfish kept swimming straight up to my mask within 4″ or so. Checking me out. Rich and I also observed some smaller baby french angelfish. They are the ones with the stripes. Very pretty. The larger french angelfish seemed to be protective towards them and I noticed that most of the angelfish we saw travel in pairs or groups
As we swam around the second reef we found what I thought were originally some sort of sea snake but were spotted eels. . We saw three different types of eels this trip. The spotted, moray and a goldfin tail eel. The moray was big about 3 foot long and 5″ in diameter at head. He was aggressive.
We also saw some incredibly long skinny fish. I thought it was a cigar fish but it may be a baracuda. It does not look like any of the barracuda I have seen in the keys. It has more yellow on it and is not as mean looking. Any thoughts on this one??? Please comment if you know. I am thinking a hound fish or trumpet fish but am researching some more. The largest one we saw was at least 4-5 feet in length and body 6″. Still doing research on this. They say trumpet fish don’t get larger than 3 feet so I think the smaller ones we saw may have been trumpets but still trying to find the big bad boy we saw.
For the first time we saw the midnight and blue parrot fish. The midnights were harder to spot and liked to stay hidden in the holes in the cheese area. Brighter shinier blue with a metallic look to them. We saw these late afternoon on Saturday. Ranging in sizes from 10″ to about 16″. There were also plenty of large parrot fish of the usual variety. Ranging up to 24″. The biggest I have seen before.
There seemed to be alot of grouper as well on the reefs. We saw a couple different varieties including red and black grouper. I would say all total that at least a dozen lizard fish, aka sand pikes were around. They ranged from small 9″ to large 24″ These are funny guys. They look like they are sunning when you see them sitting up on a rock with head stretched out. I was working on the hole hanging out with the critters upside down and face to face this weekend. I had one large guy that let me get about 2 feet away without darting off. Very cool.
On the Morning dive Saturday we saw a really big nurse shark holed up. Very cool! Not quite as big as the one we saw off Fort Zachary in Key West but a real beauty! We watched it for about 5 minutes and Rich went to swim off but the critter moved as a urchin hit him and brought his head into full view. What a gorgeous creature! I watched his gills on the side going in and out. I thin khe watched us for a minute but stayed put. After 15 minutes or so, we left him in peace.
It was definitely a highlight of my trip.
This is where I interject my butthead diver remark. I came up after our dive about 11 am and the water was full of divers. Probably all told 30 in the water. We headed to shore and passed several divers. Lots heading to the water. We walked over to Santa Barbara Inn where we were staying. Started cleaning the gear and saw a dive couple heading to car across from hotel. Gave the nod of the head while we were washing off outside and inquired if they had a good dive. Let me tell you folks, that in my opinion any day diving where viz is over 15 is a good day. They said yeah and I commented that we saw a nice size nurse shark out there. I got the snooty, “Oh we see (whatever they named in) all the time. ” BFD (big friggin deal!) I don’t! They commented they saw some stonefish. It was all I could do to say we saw at least 5 or 6 but I was not going to stoop to that level. I have my blog I can vent on.
My opinion is, if you have people coming into your area spending money and supporting the local economy you should be your nicest to them. I own a store in a mall in Merritt Island that is 4000 sq feet. I suck it up all the time for the tourists. Touting my area, pushing snorkeling or diving and thanking them for coming to our area. Without the “outsiders” I would have to work for someone else instead of myself.
I honestly feel that the more people who love our oceans and are interested in them…the better. Maybe with more ocean conscious people around we wouldn’t have these damn oils spills and catastrophies that aren’t closely governed. (Hang on folks I am almost off my soap box) We have to wear seatbelts but we don’t check equipment that can damage the environment on a regular basis. Deep breath here…I am done now!
I will post more later. This trip was incredible. U got a much needed break, spent some good time with my hubby Rich, met some great people (Ray and Susan), and even watched fireworks. Perfect all around.
I have been asked for directions and things so I will try in future to be more specific. I realize that while seasoned veterans may not gleam much new info from my blogs, new divers and visitors will. And I say, come on down to Florida, we got shore diving, boat diving and all around mostly good vibes going on.