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Diving Bonanza in Bimini - Part One


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#1 marriard

marriard

    Sting Ray

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 06:42 PM

Dive Bonanza in Bimini
Since I can almost see Bimini if I jump high enough from the roof of my house, it is an absolute travesty that I had not yet been. So when my good buddy ScubaClicks calls me up and says "How about a short live aboard trip over to Bimini for some diving?", it didn't take me long to say yes.

We wanted to make this a small group of experienced divers, so Scubaclicks had hooked the five of us up with Paradise Charters (www.paradisecharters.com) boat the Easy Goin' which is a smaller live aboard that docks in Ft Lauderdale that had a great reputation.

Diver and Barrel Sponge
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Paradise Charters - the Dive Operation
I am not a camper. In fact my idea of camping is sleeping at the Days Inn. I'll put up with it if I have to - but I hate it. So I was worried - I had seen the cramped quarters some of the other local live aboards have, and I am not one for Blackbeard's style quarters and restrictions..

There was nothing to worry about.

The Easy Goin' is a converted crew boat from Louisiana which used to run workers out to oil rigs in the area on what amounted to bus like seating. The captain showed us who she looked when he bought her - basically a pilot house and seating areas. You wouldn't recognize the Easy Goin' as the same boat.

The owners (Chuck and Peg) live on the boat year round, and have turned this into a home.

The kitchen/galley is a true kitchen behind the pilot house where Peg seemed to be 24 hours a day, sending barrel loads of extremely tasty food and snacks at the five of us. In fact we were wondering where the other 10 people on board where that she was trying to feed, as even though we often had third helpings, we barely seemed to put a dent in the supply of food being offered. And no leftovers either - Peg wont have it even we asked. There was one dive I almost passed on I was so full.

In front of the kitchen is a lounge/dining area area, with seating for everyone and a large table where meals were served and I used as a camera table between dives. It also includes a TV (Satellite),an ice maker, the bar and a VCR with a large quantity of videos to choose from.

Out from the dining area is the dive deck, where there was room for the two tanks each, a dive gear storage area, a hanger for your wetsuits, a fresh water hose and a compressor for fills. Paradise is putting Nitrox on board shortly, but for this trip we had brought our own O2 tanks to allow us to do our own partial pressure mixing.

Down from the dining area is the living quarters, which comprise of several double bunk bed style cabins, which are very comfortable and with plenty of storage even for a camera equipment junkie such as me. There is only one head on board, but this is in a true bathroom with a shower and sink as well. This wasn't an inconvenience with the number of people on board.

Lastly the boat has storage capacity for over 200 gallons of water, and the ability to make several more gallons of water per hour. Thus there are no real water restrictions on board. Thus when we motored by the Blackbeard's boat (30 seconds of fresh water per day per person I believe), we had a blast washing our gear, having a water fight, having a shower and washing the side of their boat. They looked amused! Sorry, that was we looked amused.

Easy Goin'
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The crew consists of Captain Chuck, First Mate/Cook Peg and Divemaster JB. These people were absolutely wonderful and happily talked, interacted, fed and dove with us the whole trip. Many an hour was spent talking to Chuck in the pilot house as we motored around Bimini and the nearby islands. They truly went out of their way to make us feel welcome and to ensure we had a great time. We are a pretty free wheeling and loud bunch, and adapting to us was no effort at all for them

The boat is really homely, extremely comfortable and has one of the nicest atmospheres I have been around to go diving. By the second day we were already discussing when we would be ready to go out with them again. Absolutely amazing.

On our way
Thursday afternoon at 1pm, I found myself and my good friend Rob being dropped off by my wife at the dock where the Easy Goin' is located. We were joined by my other good buddies Jeff (scubaclicks), Steve and Scott, where we made a huge mound of gear while waiting for the crew to finish the boat preparations.

Coming on board we were given the standard coast guard briefing, followed by a quick boat tour and a random roommate assignment discussion. After dumping our dive gear in our lockers and securing our tank, we were introduced the large jug of "Captain's Rum Punch", which we quickly got into as there was to be no diving this day. It was gone before we hit the inlet, and we had to switch to beer and a variety of other beverages we had either brought with us or were supplied by the boat.

The Easy Goin' is not the fastest boat in the world, but she certainly is stable, and the next morning we awoke to a huge breakfast and a trip into Bimini customs awaiting us. After clearing customs (which is done for you by the captain)

Southern Stingray Eye
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JB gave us a standard dive briefing, we told him what we thought of the idea of a check out dive, and we headed out for Tuna Alley, a reef ledge stretching several miles at between 40 and 110 fsw which we were going to drift along. With Dive Master JB pulling the flag, water temperatures in the low eighties and visibility in the two hundred range, we had a blast looking over an extremely lush reef, with a teeming fish population. It was absolutely beautiful. We did one dive in the inside and one on the outside of the reef. The reef walls here reminded me very much of Cozumel, which would be very much a theme for the weekend.
Corkscrew Anemone
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Following these dives we headed out to Victory Reef to do an afternoon dive and a night dive. The night dive was spectacular with basket stars, crabs, conchs and a huge population of adult Long-spined Urchins. The Urchins are extremely gratifying to see as they were virtually wiped out by disease a few years ago, so to see so many adults on both our night dives was wonderful. The population is definitely recovering.

Inside the Urchin
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#2 marriard

marriard

    Sting Ray

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Posted 28 March 2003 - 06:44 PM

Saturday morning had us headed out to try and dive two sites we wanted to get in - the Nodules and Bull Alley. Unfortunelty sea conditions were against us, and we ended up motoring back to Bimini for the morning to do a long, leasiurely dive on the wreck of the Sapaona. The Sapona is basically a big concrete hulk which actually sits half in/half out of the water in 20fsw. It is surrounded by turtle grass, and is a macro photographers dream. I saw everything here, including Cushion Sea Stars in Turtle Grass, a big Southern Stingray, a Yellow Stingray swimming in the open, Arrow Crabs and Cleaner Shrimp in Corkscrew Anemones, Glasseye Snappers, schools of grunts, conchs and most importantly a population of over 50 Red-Line Blue Sea Goddess Nudubranch. The Sea Goddesses were everywhere with none more than an inch in size, and bright blue contrasting against the drab concrete. I had an absolute blast. Next time I want to do this wreck as a night dive. That might well be incredible.

Red-line Blue Sea Goddess
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By lunch time the seas had settled, and we again attempted to get out and do the Nodules.
The Nodules is part of a reef wall that starts at about 90 fsw and drops down to probably 3000 fsw. Each nodule again rises to about 70 fsw. We planned to start the dive at 130fsw and then make our way up the wall following our computers.

Hawksbill Turtle
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This reef wall is beautiful. Huge strands of black coral and enormous sponges everywhere. A couple of reef sharks swam on by, along with some Hawksbill Turtles. The current was ripping by on the dive, and I was absolutely blown away by the health and beauty of this reef. I could see structures on the reef as far down as probably 200 fsw, and JB told me that even at 250fsw + it was still the same. There is absolutely miles of wall here, and it is a dive screaming for an extended deco dive. I could drift along this wall forever. For those who have been to Cozumel, this is very much like Maricabo and Punta Sur, only much better and much less dived.

Caribbean Reef Shark
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After this dive we motored on a couple of miles, to a site called Bull Alley. Here they lightly feed a few nurse sharks, reef sharks and groupers. Because of the rain, visibility wasn't as strong as it could have been, but it was still nice to swim around an absolutely pristine reef with a few sharks swimming on by as you went.

Black Grouper
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Following this dive, the night dive was held on a site called Clusters which is a reef very similar to the one at Bull Alley. Scott got buzzed by an enourmous Loggerhead, which I missed as not surprisingly I had my head buried under a reef ledge looking at an urchin and a fire clam. Another beautiful day of diving completed.

Yellowline Arrow Crab with Egg Sack
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Sunday we had to head home, although we got two more dives in before we did so. We once again did Nodules in slightly less current, this time getting to 150fsw to check out some of the magical black coral formations that start at this depth. Two reef sharks cruised by as we slowly made our way up the wall, and back to the waiting boat.

Slow Shutter Speed on Black Coral at 150fsw
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We then steamed off to Bimini to clear customs, our intention to do another dive on the way back. We were presented with an option - either a decent reef (Hawksbill Reef) or to do a blue water Gulf Stream Drift Dive. We choose the Gulf Stream.

The idea of this dive is to pick a random place in the gulf stream, jump in, descend to roughly 90fsw and wait to see if something swims on by. Maybe you see something, maybe you don't. I spent some time with the two divers who hadn't done this type of dive before. It is easy to get disorientated when you have no reference to up, down, left or right, especially when drifting at anywhere between 3-6 knots.

We jumped in, and although we could see forever, we weren't fortunate to see anything bug. We did however see some of the most amazing jellyfish and pelagic tunicates you will ever be likely to see. It was extremely relaxing drifting along in totally blue water.

As we started to get towards being ready to ascend, I found Steve who was very, very relaxed and broke the seal on his mask letting the water flow in. He was not impressed, although the rest of us found it amusing.

This was a great last dive for the weekend, which led right up to beer o'clock and half-past Baileys. The ride home was dead calm, punctuated only by Rob who was determined to get his Ice Diving specialty done by diving for Kalik Gold in the cooler. You can't take him anywhere.

So when can we go again
So much diving, so little time off. Forget any other live aboard for the Bahamas close to Florida. This is the one you want to be on. For the same price (and often less) than any of the other options you get more comfort, better food, unlimited water and a great crew.

They have a Dolphin Itinerary I can't wait to try, and if you book the boat, will basically take you where you want to go and make this the best live aboard experience of your life. I have been on many, and this surpassed absolutely all of them.

Best of all, for those nervous about flying, you can leave right out of Ft Lauderdale!

Lots, and lots, and lots of images
For PC Users - The Bimini Slideshow Sound Card Required - 16mb

For PC Users - The Bimini Screensaver Place in your windows directory to run - 10mb

Or non-PC Users, slow connections, or if you want to buy a print or just look at the image visit
- All the images from Bimini at Deep Sea Images

Enjoy,
Marriard
marriard@deepseaimages.com