Monday, March 24, 2008

Shark dive!!

It isn't every day you get to hang a shark cage off your transom, and dive with dozens of lemon sharks!! A bit of good karma came into play for us, unexpectedly, when our nitrox dive compressor stopped working. While that was not in the plans, in our bid to get some airfills and compressor advice from another dive boat at the marina, we met Greg Barron, who runs shark cage dive expeditions in the San Francisco area. He was in the Bahamas with the R/V Tiburon out of Florida, on a charter for a German groupd to do some shark cage dives on the Little Bahama Bank. While he couldn't claim to be an expert with compressors, he said he'd try to give us a hand to figure out what was wrong.

Alas, Greg could do little for our compressor, but he stayed for a bit as we chatted after his diagnostic efforts. Following a tour of Equinox and learning of our passion for diving, Greg asked if we wouldn't help him out, and use Equinox to host some dive photographers on the aforementioned shark dive!! The dive photographers? None other Douglas Siefert, a well-known, award-winning dive photographer, as well as Australians Ron and Valerie Taylor!

We took Equinox out early Easter Sunday, and spent the day alongside the Tiburon, diving with sharks. We hung a floating shark cage off our transom, and put a "shark bone" in the water: a perforated pvc pipe filled with fish guts, which attracted the dozens of sharks that circled the boat. It was an amazing opportunity to watch the sharks in the wild.

For those
who aren’t dive enthusiasts, Ron and Valerie are true pioneers in the world of scuba, ranking among the top elite in shark and underwater photographers. Working alongside Peter Gimbel and Stan Waterman, their underwater footage for the 1971 shark classic, Blue Water, White Death showed the world images never seen before, from diving among feeding Oceanic Whitetip sharks to the first-ever 35-mm footage of an encounter with a Great White Shark. Icons in the underwater film making business, the Taylors’ diving and shark expertise has been called upon for films such as Jaws, Jaws 2, Orca and others. Douglas, along with his girlfriend Emily and the Taylors, were only in the Bahamas for a few days, returning from the 2008 Explorers’ Club Annual Dinner gala in NYC, which had as its theme "Exploring Planet Ocean”. They were en-route to some further shark filming adventures in Fiji after this brief Bahamas stopover. Ally really enjoyed meeting the Taylors and was captivated by their stories.

Ally and her friend Claire Messano were the first in the dive cage while the rest of us were on scuba gear, checking out all the sharks. You can see the Claire's exuberance at being in the shark cage...she and Ron's co-worker Liz McMann were our newcomers to the amazing realm of the shark.

Ron spent hours in the water taking photos with his new camera gear, while I just snorkeling with the girls initially, then dove amongst the lemon sharks in the clear Bahamian water.
Every time I turned around, there was another shark passing by, close by! While the weather wasn't the best (namely, torrential rains) and the current really ripping, it was still truly exhilarating.
We would do it again in a heart beat!! We had a fabulous day, and didn't return until well past dark. Once back in the slip, we hit the restaurant there at West End for a delightful dinner to celebrate the great day and fun new friends.

Monday, March 17, 2008

After a couple days at Spanish Cay, we cruised down to Powell Cay for a bit of anchoring out and lobster hunting. Ron is most adept at that, and we were hungry for a bit of lobster. However, the winds were howling enough that we wanted a more secure anchorage, so headed further south to Green Turtle Cay, which was fabulous! We took a slip at the Green Turtle Club on the northern end of the Cay, and explored that part of the island on foot. There is a tiny community of about 450 on the island with their main town, New Plymouth, full of very quaint out-islands houses and shops dating back to the 1800s. Very pretty and definitely old Bahamian, but on the southern part of the island, so we cruised into town by dinghy and by rental golf cart, which is the fun way to get around. We walked through town, hit the local museums and had as much conch salad as we could find!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

All went according to plan for most of the trip...out of FL on the night of March 14th, with smooth cruise under moonlit skies and calm seas over to the Little Bahama Bank by dawn, then finally arriving Spanish Cay by late afternoon of the 15th. We spent a couple of days at the private resort there where we did a bit of diving, hiking and exploring. The place is privately owned, but you can clear customs here and stay aboard at the marina, having the use of their pool and hot tub, etc. We met Richard, their chef from Amsterdam, during a nearly private gourmet dinner, as we basically had the place to ourselves. There were only a couple other boats there so it was our own bit of paradise!