Conception Island

Conception Island-

Underwater Conception link

 

We checked the weather report again while sitting at Calabash Bay, Long Island. The forecast still held and was predicting 5knot winds for the next couple of days, making the trip to Conception pretty attractive.

We left Long Island in the morning for the trip around Cape Santa Maria, and over to Conception Island, total of about 20 miles. Seas were small 3 foot or so, wind was 10-15 knots, and it was a beautiful day to spend on the fly bridge.

I trolled some lures behind the boat, but got no action as we made it across to Conception. We headed toward the southwest end of the island, to check out the dive sites (moorings provided by the government as Conception is a national park). 

There were two boats already on the wall, but there were still 3-4 moorings available for us to use. The west side of the island is in the lee of the winds, and the conditions were ideal for our first real dive off Southern Star.

We tried to pick up one mooring, but it had no slack, so we could not get a line through the pennant. After a couple of frustrating attempts, we decided to try another mooring.  A large schooner dropped his mooring and moved over to another one, so we decided to take his mooring. And it was no problem as the mooring had a nice long line off it. We backed hard, but felt as it held the 90 foot schooner it would hold us, and it was fine.

We readied for our dive, both of us rather excited.  From the boat we could clearly see the large coral head from which the mooring line originated a sandy bottom under the back of the boat, and the ridge of the wall off to the west of the sand.

I readied my camera gear, after wetting up the dive gear, set out our 50’ floating tag line, and we were ready. Jenny went in first, she had to make some weight adjustments, I followed her down to the mooring line and we descended.

Jenny has major trouble with her ears, so she takes at least 10 minutes to get to the bottom, slowly descending to equalize her ears. I descent like a rock, and hang around the coral head and start relearning my camera settings on some of the squirrel fish and striped grunts under the boat.

When Jenny finally joins me, we are in about 55’ of water; we swim down a sandy swim through and over the wall. The visibility is very nice, 75-100 feet. The wall is deep, the ridge staring at 65’ or so. We turn north on the wall, there is no significant current, so this is an arbitrary decision, and we float alongside the wall. Below us at about 150’ is a small sand shelf, and then the wall plummets to the great beyond.

We stay at about 100’ cruising along the undulating coral pinnacles and sand valleys. At one pinnacle, we linger to enjoy the beautiful growth of sponges. I frame Jenny off of the wall, hovering, and place the sponges to the right side of the frame. I take several shots, but the strobes do not seem to be firing properly. I cannot get enough light on the sponges to make the shot work – it is very frustrating for me.

We continue along the wall, and spot an anchor chain draped down the wall. The chain is covered with growth including some very large sponges, meaning that it has been there for a very, very long time. I wonder to myself it this could be an anchor chain that got stuck and had to be abandoned by Christopher Columbus, when he was exploring this area. It is rumored that he did indeed land at Conception during his explorations of the New World.

We follow the chain back up to the top of the wall, and head slowly back toward the boat. The trip back is always shorter, and more direct, as we have to time our arrival at the mooring with our air consumption.

We arrive back at our massive coral head, and mooring, with a little time and air to burn before we need to make our descent.

I continue playing with the camera and strobe, and cannot get the strobe to light the photos. So I am essentially stuck with shooting at ambient light levels. Jenny is poking around, doing a circumnavigation of the coral head, when I spot a good size hawksbill turtle munching on some sponge off the east side of the coral head. These guys often jet away when they see you coming, especially when you want to take the picture. So I ease over to him slowly, after indicating to Jenny to go around him and toward me for a photo opp.

The turtle was not concerned with our presence at all. I took 12 shots of him (without strobe) while he swam slowly along, picking at things on the bottom. I was able to get some decent shots, with Jenny in the background, until he headed off toward the shallower water, and we headed back to the boat.

A great dive it was, with the highlights of Columbus’ anchor chain and a nice Hawksbill turtle encounter. I think I like this place.

As we moved into the anchorage we spotted a sister Nordhavn, as well as two massive superyachts, one a motoryacht and one a beautiful sailing vessel, the 130 foot Adele. As soon as we anchored, our sister vessel dingied over and invited us for cocktails that evening. We joined David and Susan on Dragonfly for a lovely evening – they are N47-15 and we are N47-18 so very closely related.

We spent two nights at Conception. We did a second dive on the wall, on Sunday and then we toured the mangrove creek that flows from the west side for miles into the interior of the island.

We really enjoyed the mangroves, finding sharks, rays, and lots of hawksbill turtle in a deep section of the creek.  Navigating the creek was fun, as we tried to read the deepest water channels, and when we exiting the creek, across the mouth into the ocean, we did get hit by a wave, which soaked us and the Olympus camera. I dinged the prop as well, and will have to try to straighten out one of the blades.

Good news  is that we got back to the boat, and sponged the camera with fresh water, removed the battery, and card and dried it off with a hair drier, and so far it is working fine. Fingers crossed.

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