We sat around West End on Grand Bahama for the better part of a week. We got a taste of the marina life and frankly, it just led to a couple 2 day hangovers. Finally, we got what we were waiting for, one nice day for shark diving and then another for our crossing back to the United States.
I have done several shark dives. I did one a couple weeks earlier in Nassau. But, those were Caribbean Reef sharks. Beautiful as they are, they are a lot smaller than my target species this time, the Tiger shark. For comparison, a large Caribbean Reef shark may be 8ft and weigh up to 150lbs. Tiger sharks on the other hand typically grow to 12-14ft and weigh in somewhere around 1200-1400lbs. Couple the large size discrepancy between the two sharks with the fact that records for shark attacks on humans place the Tiger shark as a Top 5 offender, I needed to try this for myself.
Once again, I found myself diving with a Stuart Cove resort. Andrea, my divemaster, was dead serious when he told me "... this is nothing like Nassau". Okay, he has my attention. I am all ears. The dive briefing is pretty similar with a few exceptions. Instead of 15 divers, there is just 3 of us. This is not a shark feed, we will us a chum bucket. We will sit directly under the stern of the boat and each of us will be issued a stick. A stick?!?!? Yep. Not for beating or poking the shark, just to expand our personal space. Point the stick at the shark whenever she gets too close. My camera proved to be an acceptable substitute, I didn't get a stick. Finally, the dive times. This is a two tank dive, each dive will be 90min long. AWESOME!!! I have never done a 90min dive before, let alone two of them back to back.
A little fish oil in the water as we first circle our dive site. Our anchor barely hits the bottom and our first Tiger shark appears. Suit up, it's show time!
The first shark at the site turns out to be Charlotte, named after a previous divemasters' girlfriend. Charlotte is now pregnant. Andreas says she is a beautiful shark and that he believes she likes him, but insists he is not the father.
Charlotte is with us throughout both dives, as well as some 10 other Lemon sharks. For a while we had a two other Tiger sharks join us. They were not as comfortable with the routine and never came as close as Charlotte. The one had a deformed dorsal fin and Andreas recognized her. The other, he claims to have never seen before. The Lemon sharks are impressive in the own right, but I was there for the Tigers.
How close were they? All images were taken with a 16mm fisheye lens on a Nikon D200. Check out the video.
With our Bahamas 'grand finale' now complete, it's time to return to the United States.
West End to Palm Beach turned out to be as easy 53nm as we have met on this trip.
However, our Customs and Immigration check in was a little more exciting than we would have liked. It turns out there was a small issue with our Cruising Permit. We had one, yes, but we were not following the rules of the Cruising Permit. You see, sailing to Florida is not the same as driving to Florida. If I were to drive to Florida, I would cross the border, do my stuff there and never talk to another official until I returned to Canada. It turns out our border agent made a lot of assumptions when I requested a Cruising Permit, like I knew what I was doing. Apparently, he expected that I was to report to Homeland Security every time I leave one county and check in to the next. Who knew? Well, I do now! Some 2000nm of oops. Sorry.
Up next, a couple weeks of boat maintenance and evenings of indulgence. Fix the boat by day, some light to moderate beer drinking by night. Let's just say we got a lot of both done.
That was fun, but even that has to come to an end. Get your tears ready, it is time to start heading home for real. We said our good-byes and loose the lines. Day 1 of some 14 days to get home. Unfortunately, all day a disorganized low pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico is starting to intensify. Crap!!! We are cut-off!
So, another night in Vero Beach. Get going Andrea, we will following you home. Please, don't make too much of a mess.