Pirate’s Week Grand Cayman Trip Recap

The third annual Scuba Shack Grand Cayman Pirate’s Weekend trip began on Nov. 6, 2014. Led by staff instructor Peter Katz, the group arrived at Cobalt Coast Resort and was warmly greeted by our host Arie Barendrecht and his staff. After checking in and a brief orientation to the resort, the group signed in at Dive Tech the onsite dive shop where we were given a briefing on their facilities (lockers, rinse tanks, etc.) as well as their shore diving locations (Cobalt Coast and Light House Point). Our long day of travel ended with a relaxing dinner seaside at Cobalt Coast’s restaurant.

pirates-week-201411-05Friday morning, after a pleasant buffet breakfast, we were transported to West Bay dock by Dive Tech for our two tank morning boat dives. Trinity Caves, a Cayman classic, and Victoria’s Secret were the dive sites selected that morning. The diving was typical Cayman, excellent visibility, no current, wall dive first; followed by an easy going shallow 50-60 foot reef dive. Highlights of the dives included seeing eagle rays and turtles. Bottom times were limited to 60 minutes (if you could manage your air well enough) with a 60 minute surface interval.

Transportation back to the resort was provided by Dive Tech. After a quick shower and change into dry clothes, we were off to Georgetown for lunch and a preliminary scouting expedition for the evening’s Pirates Week kickoff. Negotiating the nine passenger van we had rented for the weekend was an adventure unto itself, especially trying to get through the round-abouts on the “wrong” side of the road. Fortunately, neither people nor animals were harmed during our excursions. We had lunch in Paradise, a local watering hole right on Hog Sty Bay in Georgetown, where some of us decided to linger over local brews while others chose to shop. It was a quick trip back to Cobalt Coast for a change into our pirate garb, much to the delight of other guests staying at the resort and then, off to dinner at the Lobster Pot.

Dinner was served on the outside deck overlooking the harbor providing us with a superb view of the fireworks display. Afterward, we joined the throng in the streets of Georgetown for an evening of music and pirates.

Saturday dawned somewhat rainy, putting in question whether or not the pirate invasion and parade would be cancelled. Fortunately, the rain cleared prior to our two tank morning dives (Big Tunnels and the Doc Poulson). A quick trip back to the resort for lunch and dry clothes then back into Georgetown for the Pirate invasion. This year, following a cannonade of the port and the landing of the pirate ship, the pirates prevailed over the red coat defenders. Immediately following the invasion, the parade commenced. Perhaps not on the scale of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but what it lacked in size it made up in enthusiasm.

After an afternoon standing in the sun watching the festivities, it was time to kick back and relax with an adult beverage and the soothing sound of waves lapping on the beach. Our intrepid revelers set off for the Tiki Beach Bar on Seven Mile Beach. We were afforded a lovely table by the beach overlooking the sun setting on the water where we could relive the day’s adventures. The evening was topped off with an incredible meal al fresco at the Calypso Grill in Morgan’s Harbor.

Perhaps tpirates-week-201411-09he highlight of the trip occurred on Sunday. Our two tank morning boat dives took place on the north side of the island. We boarded our boat right at the Cobalt Coast pier for a short five minute ride to our first site, Ocean Point Ledge. A nice wall dive followed by an hour surface interval and then a mini-wall, Spanish Bay for another hour dive. It was a very short ride back to the pier for a quick lunch and then the fabled “treasure hunt dive”. Dive Tech has been sponsoring this shore for a number of years as a fund raiser for a local children’s welfare agency. It is open to the public for divers and snorkelers for a $25 fee, all of which is donated to the charity. Various businesses supply prizes that correspond to numbers on metal discs that are hidden in the waters of the dive site. This year we were fortunate enough to be able to use the pier right in front of Cobalt Coast as our point of entry. In past years we’ve used Dive Tech’s second location at Light House Point as the site of the treasure hunt. There were 82 divers and snorkelers participating in this event and although the objective was to find a coin, the dive was quite enjoyable. Our group quickly found the “treasure” coins and then spent over an hour exploring the mini-wall out in front of the resort. We were rewarded with a juvenile spotted drum, purple tipped anemone, lobsters, eels, and lettuce slugs. Immediately following the dive, prizes were awarded poolside at Cobalt Coast.

Our last night found us dining under the stars at The Wharf. We had a terrific meal complete with entertainment provided by the local tarpon that hang out in the water adjacent to our table. Alas, our trip was over and we all set off on Monday back to our homes with the vow to return for next year’s Pirates Weekend, only we will add another day – too many dive sites, too many restaurants, not enough time.

State police dive team sinks new wreck at Brownstone Park

During the second week of June, the Connecticut State Police Dive Team conducted training exercises at Brownstone Park in Portland, Conn. They were checking out a new dive helmet for their surface supplied air system.

While at Brownstone the dive team raised the Nissan pickup that was one of the underwater attractions at the park since its beginning. Using 1000 lb. and 2000 lb. lift bags, they moved the pickup truck to the beach area.

They brought a Cadillac Eldorado with 20 inch “bling” wheels in on a flatbed wrecker, and sunk it in the pickup truck’s place. Out with the old, and in with the new! It is now a permanent underwater attraction and joins the school bus, airplane and boats that were already in place at Brownstone. Check it out on your next dive at the park.

Nassau 2014 Trip Report: Great weather and diving again!

This year’s annual Scuba Shack Memorial Weekend adventure in Nassau went off without a hitch. Again led by Scuba Shack instructor Peter Katz, a slightly smaller group, but no less enthusiastic, descended upon the renowned Orange Hill Beach Inn for five nights and six days of fun in the sun. And sun there was!

In my 15 years of running this trip I have never seen such incredible weather. Each day was better than the previous, with blue skies, calm winds, and flat seas. The weather gods were really smiling on us this trip.

nassau-memorial-day-2014-19Our first dive day, as well as each subsequent one, started with a dolphin escort out to the dive site. Turtles and dolphin were in abundance on almost every dive. As luck would have it, we ran into a pod of dolphins as we moved to our second dive site. This pod seemed to want to play with us, so we obliged. Our captain, Johran, stopped the boat and allowed us to jump in with masks and fins for 20 minutes of frolicking with our marine mammal friends.

Teri and Charlotte, our dynamic duo dive staff, were able to capture the moment on video courtesy of Jimmy Drew’s GoPro camera. If we saw nothing else on this trip, the time in the water with the dolphins was priceless.

Fortunately, we did see more. Turtles became an every dive event on this trip, both on the surface and underwater. And yes, hammerhead sharks were seen on two dives and this year I saw one of them. We were able to dive on three new dive sites, two on New Providence and one in Exuma.

As in previous years, the Exuma trip was the highlight of the trip. We returned to the swim through we named Beach Bum Tunnel and were amazed by the clarity of the water this year. This was followed by an incredible shallow drift dive that was remarkable for the speed and the quality of the coral. And then the beach. Johran found the “Corona Island” with the solitary palm tree, crystal clear water, white sand beach and the local fauna – iguanas. What an incredible afternoon!

But the fun didn’t end with the diving. We were well treated at our favorite eateries, Capriccio’s, Café Matisse, and Luciano’s. Wonderful evenings of dining under the stars. Judy and her staff at Orange Hill were able to do our traditional barbecue on the last night followed by an evening of good cheer with our dive staff in the Orange Hill bar.

It was a most spectacular trip and hopefully next year more of our regulars will be available to join us as well as some new faces.

New divers kick off the New England scuba season

Winter is finally over and its time to start enjoying the warmer weather and waters by jumping in (giant stride please)! Scuba Shack’s dive team is starting the summer off right by completing seven PADI Open Water Diver certifications and a Dry Suit class last weekend.

Spirits were high as our two instructors, Nick Civitillo and Joel Toohey, lead the open water divers through their exercises. The open water divers started by getting used to the new wetsuits and moving in the water correctly with just exposure protection and weight belts. From there everyone progressed to towing, navigation, and basic underwater skills such as mask clearing and regulator recovery. On the opposite side of the pier, Ed Hayes ran a Dry Suit class. He worked with the two new dry suit divers to get comfortable in the quarry waters and use the new equipment effectively

Happily, over the course of two days, all of the new divers progressed to fully certified (with only one snorkel lost to the depth of the quarry)!

 

Scuba Club Cozumel Trip Report – Jan. 2014

How did you spend the last week of January?  Did you shovel snow or maybe throw another log on the fire?  Eleven divers and one non diver escaped the polar vortex gripping the northeast  by heading to sunny Cozumel, Mexico from Jan, 25 to Feb. 1 for some drift diving. The group, led by instructor Joel Toohey, spent the week at Scuba Club Cozumel. The weather could not have been better, with day time temperatures in the low to mid 80s and light winds.

cozumel-scuba-shack-201401-toohey-42With each visit I am reminded why I keep returning to Scuba Club Cozumel. I am greeted with a warm “welcome home” when I walk through the front gate. I see the same familiar, friendly faces providing top notch service. The food is wonderful and the diving is world class. This trip was no exception.

We dove on Reef Diver all week, with Pepe as our divemaster. Pepe did an outstanding job with our group. We went nice and slow (not easy when your drift diving), with Pepe finding all kinds of marine life for us including, of course, lots of Splendid Toadfish.  We hit all of my favorite sites including, Paradise Reef, Palancar Caves, Yucab, Delila, and Santa Rosa Wall. The visibility was excellent at all of the sites.

The diversity of marine life and terrain of dive sites in Cozumel can’t be beat. Further, between all of the marine life, and the dramatic coral formations on the walls backlit by the morning sunlight, Cozumel is perfect for photography buffs or for anyone who just appreciates nature’s beauty. During our very first boat dive at Paso del Cedral, we were only in the water a few minutes when we saw a large spotted eagle ray. Throughout the week, we saw many, many turtles at various sites, including four hawksbill turtles at Palancar Bricks and two very large loggerhead Turtles at San Clemente Reef. We also spotted nurse sharks, along with many eel varieties: green moray spotted moray, goldentail moray, chain moray, and sharptail. We saw plenty of small stuff too, such as pipefish and a variety of shrimp, including squat anemone shrimp, pederson shrimp, banded coral shrimp, mantis shrimp, snapping shrimp, and hidden cleaner shrimp. During our wreck dive on the Felipe Xicotencat, we saw the largest green moray eel on the planet. During a night dive on Paradise Reef, we saw no less than six octopus!

cozumel-scuba-shack-201401-toohey-49We also did several afternoon and night dives on the house reef, during which those of us with cameras practiced macro photography. Divers without cameras found interesting critters for the photographers to shoot. A few of us wrapped up the week with a dive at Punts Sur to swim thru Devil’s Throat & Cathedral.

We had quite a few “firsts” for several members of our group; first night dive, including first night dive from a boat; first wreck dive; first deep dive; and of course, first drift dive. Congratulations to all on these milestones.

Cozumel offers world class diving and Scuba Club Cozumel is a very special place for divers. I’m already making plans to go back next year.

Trip Photos

All photos copyright Joel Toohey for Scuba Shack.

Scuba Shack at SECONN Frozen Fin Dive

Scuba Shack staff members headed down to the 50th Annual SECONN Skin Divers Frozen Fin Dive. Read more about the event and check out more photos over at the SECONN Skin Divers website.

Since January 1st 1964, SECONN Divers have kicked the year off with a dive into the waters of New England. This year marks the 50th edition of the annual tradition which has grown considerably over the years.