|Rental car Blitzen's pal, Donner -- knew I'd see him!
After two weeks of exploration by bicycle, boat and Blitzen, we got a weather window to leave the north side and head back south to West Caicos for some diving. We left early Saturday morning just after high tide, negotiating The Bight and Sellar’s Cut without incident, to moor in the lovely lee of West Caicos for the day. Ron was delighted; he’d really chafed at the enforced hiatus from diving due to the winds, rough seas and diminished visibility last week. Conditions at the reef were great: winds were from the east, long 4’ swells were from the northeast, so Equinox was protected from both, being tucked in where we were. It was delightful, and we rode quietly on the mooring ball. There were no other dive boats out at all on West Caicos (neither the Aggressor II nor the Explorer II had charter guests this week) so we had the wall to ourselves.
We made two dives at The Gullies and enjoyed them tremendously. We were happy just to be back in the water! Visibility was decent, about 60’ - 70’, and there was little current. Just west of the mooring is a deep crevice in the wall where you can sink down into it at the top of the wall and descend through it to about 90 feet, amongst gorgeous barrel sponges, sea fans, wire coral, bushy black coral and clouds of blue chromis and striped grunts. We had our usual escort of reef sharks as well -- the same trio that we’ve seen each time here. It’s unusual for sharks to be so blase about divers, but these fellows are clearly used to them here and apparently don’t mind our swimming through their neighborhood. They definitely make their presence known, though -- they pass by rather closely, and occasionally circle around you in pairs before swimming away. Watching them is mesmerizing, yet sometimes their presence makes it hard to focus on the smaller reef life tucked in along the wall! After the sharks have headed off down the reef, I turn my attention back to admiring some sponges on the wall or checking out a coral head replete with damselfish, only to be startled when I realize a shark has circled back yet again and practically have to stop in my tracks to keep from swimming into its path. (I always yield the right of way to them, believe me!)
After the dives, we noticed the winds were clocking around to the southeast a bit sooner than forecast, so knew that we were soon to lose the lee protection that our mooring was currently enjoying. Rather than move onto the Caicos Bank and anchor in Sapodilla Bay where it would be unprotected from southerly winds, we debated staying on the mooring for the night, but decided to drop the hook inside the basin at the unfinished marina at West Caicos instead. It’s part of the unfinished Ritz-Carleton project that was started a few years ago but all work has stopped and its future completion currently in limbo due to the poor economy. The marina basin with its concrete bulkhead walls and the entry channel are finished beautifully, with plenty of water (~12' deep). There are only a couple of small working piers jutting out in the back portion of the basin, so we had the basin to ourselves. After anchoring, we waved to the caretaker on the grounds who cheerily waved back, and we enjoyed a secure night on anchor, protected on all sides. It turned out to be a smart move to do so, because a few hours later, high winds clocked around from the west and nasty rain squalls moved in to churned up the ocean. It would have been miserable out on the mooring!
|View to the northwest inside the unfinished marina basin
|Far marina wall of the turning basin, with concrete bulkhead