For all of the Wreck-Aholics out there grab your dive buddies and lets do a wreck week........
The cargo vessel, Island Seal, that originally capsized near Brandywine Bay on the south of Tortola in August 2006, has been moved to her final resting place in Wreck Alley, where she lies on sand in 80 feet of water close to the existing wrecks of the Marie L, the Pat and the Beata. She makes a welcome addition to this popular dive site between Cooper and Salt Islands.
Her relocation was a complex operation that involved salvaging and repairing her, then refloating her and keeping her buoyant while she was transported across the Sir Francis Drake Channel, and it represents the culmination of years of work.
WRECK WEEK ITINERARY
We will make two dives, the first at the Marie L and the Pat. The cargo vessel, Marie L, and tug boat, Pat, were sunk ten years apart - Marie L first in the late 1980's followed by the Pat in 1995. They are located in sand at 80 feet next to a coral reef drop off and are both covered in corals and sponges. We can make short penetrations into the hull and forward cabin of the Marie L and a penetration into the hold of the Pat. This site is also know for the life on the sandy bottom. Conchs run through this area (as fast as a conch can run, which is not fast!), colonies of Garden Eels sway with the movement of the water and Southern Stingrays doze concealed beneath the sand. If you keep your eyes open you may also catch a glimpse of a Caribbean Reef Shark and a Spotted Eagle Ray that frequent this area.
The Beata and the new wreck, the Island Seal, make up our second dive. These are also in 80 foot of water in the sand but have a completely different feel about them than the older wrecks from the first dive. The Beata has been down since around 2004 and the Island Seal was scuttled in October of 2009. The Beata is known for the French and Queen Angel fish that swim through her numerous cabins and the large hold. Penetration on this wreck is extremely exciting as all of the innards of the engine room are still intact - a flash light is needed to explore all of her secrets. As island Seal has been down such a short amount of time it will be interesting to see what life this wreck brings to the area. We can only wait and see.
Wreck of the Fearless & Old Willy T plus a Reef Dive
Another two-tank dive starting at the wrecks of the Fearless and the old Willy T in the mouth of Great Harbour, Peter Island. The Fearless, a 70 foot long wooden fishing trawler lies in sand at 85 ft and resembles a ghost ship. She sank in 1986 due to old age and poor upkeep. The original Willy T was once a floating bar at The Bight, Norman Island and when she sank in the late 1990’s she was towed here to keep the Fearless company. Being wooden, both ships have deteriorated considerably which prevent penetration but if you look very carefully you may find some treasure on the Willy T in the form of old rum and beer bottles.
The second dive of the day will be decided after the first, but will be on a nearby reef site. One option is Painted Wall at Dead Chest Island, a fabulous dive where parallel passages and vertical walls run perpendicular to the island. Three prominent fingers extend out to create color-splashed canyons. The unusual underwater landscape and abundance of fish make Painted Walls one of the most popular dives in the BVI. The rocky ridges are coated with orange, purple, red, green and yellow encusting sponges, accented by many hard and soft coural buoquets. There is a secret garden and a turtle that hangs around at the top of the canyons.
We also have the option of Blonde Rock, located between Dead Chest and Salt Islands, with fascinating topography, a taste of adventure and photo opportunities galore. Blonde Rock is a set of two pinnacles that rises from 60 feet to within 15 feet of the surface. Occasionally current-swept and the only topographicall feature of any significance in the Salt Island Passage, Blonde Rock is a natural magnet attracting all kinds of marine life including turtles, schools of jacks, cobia, barracuda and even the occasional shark. The twin fire coral encrusted peaks (hence the name 'Blonde" Rock) rise from a gorgonian-covered plateau at 35-40 feet. All the way around this sheer-ealled plateau is an amazing system of undercuts, ledges, canyons and tunnels.
There are lots more options that we can discuss and decisions can be made after our first dive of the day.
Wreck of the Inganess Bay & Reef Dive
A later start today, giving you the chance to explore Tortola or to have a lie in before we head out around Noon to dive the wreck of the 136 foot long steel island freighter, Inganess Bay. Built in Holland in1950 for a Scottish company, she was sold in 1988 by Captain Hugh Bailey of Antigua to Captain Cosmos Sealey. The colourful red ship plied Caribbean trade routes from Puerto Rico to Trinidad until 1996 when, in a storm, she snapped her anchor chain and grounded in Road Harbour, Tortola. After assessing the damage and repair costs, Captain Sealey decided to offer the ship to the BVI dive Operators as an artificial reef and she was put down on the sand in 95 feet of water just south of Cooper Island in August of the same year. She's a bit broken up now but you can still peer into rooms and hallways within her structure, where you'll find schools of Grunts and Squirrel Fish taking shelter. In the surounding sand you'll see the track marks of Conchs as they move around and colonies of Garden Eels swaying with the water movement.
Our second dive can be at any number of reef sites - Rhone Reef on the south of Salt Island is one of our favorites. This area gets nutrient rich water coming in through Salt Island passage and the overflow of marine life from the Wreck of the Rhone. With abundant fish life and beautiful coral swim throughs, this area is teaming with Lobsters, Crabs, Octopus and a Turtle who hides out in the canyons.
Or, there's one of Kate's favorites, Vanishing or Forget Me Not Rock between Cooper and Salt Islands which has just about the most color of any BVI dive site. The rock just breaks the surface and is completely covered with corals, sponges and gorgonians. There is one area on the back side of the rock that is a photographers’ dream - a large area of Pillar Coral that is swarming with Sergeant Major Fish, Yellow Grunts, Squirrel Fish and Blue Chromis. It is a living screen saver!
Then off to Cooper Island at 4pm for the Beach Party with other divers and dive operators who are participating in Wreck Week 2010.
The Chikuzen & Airplane Wreck
The Chikuzen sank about 7.5 miles northwest of Tortola in the Atlantic Ocean. The wreck is too far out for diving in the winter months and as it hard to find if you don’t have the exact coordinates. Therefore this site is rarely dived and because of its location is teaming with large pelagic life.
She rests in 75 feet of water far from any reef, attracting marine life like an oasis in the desert. The ship is on its port side with the starboard rail reaching up to about 50 feet. Except for the pilothouse, most of the ship is intact, with three large cargo holds that can be entered through open hatches. Schools of Barracuda and Cobia make this a great dive with lots of BIG things going on!
For the second dive of the day we will head over to The Wreck of the Airplane at Great Dog, a lovely shallow dive over a hard coral reef to an old small passenger prop plane sitting in 40 feet in the sand. An easy dive when conditions are good but we will have to watch out for current on this site. It is great photo opportunity as you can sit in the cockpit of the plane and have your photo taken.
For our final day of diving in Wreck Week 2010 we have saved the best until last. The Wreck of The RMS Rhone at Salt Island is without a doubt one of the best wreck dives in the world. She sank in the hurricane of 1867 with a loss of around 80 souls. She lies from 15 to 80 feet next to Salt Island. Last year she was voted the best wreck dive in the world by Sport Diver subscribers and is regularly in the top 10 for night and wreck dive voters’ favorites.
As she has been down so long, there is an abundance of coral and more critter life than you see on a normal healthy coral reef. This is because of all the nooks and crannies which provide shelter for the lobsters, crabs and octopus. Aside from the dive being incredible for those reasons alone, there is still the wreck itself to enjoy with brass port holes, a silver spoon embedded in the coral, kitchen (galley) floor tiles and sinks, a massive wrench set, the propeller which was only the 6th one ever used, a cannon and lots more... if you only ever get to do one of over 70 dive sites in the BVI this is the one!
As you will be flying out soon and we have done several days of repetitive diving, we are unfortunately out of the water today, but not totally. We leave from the dive center and Kayak and Paddle board around our mangrove fringed bay, we give you a eco tour that you will love looking at the system that us divers rarley get to see.
With all these activities planned come and join us for a fabulous week of diving and fun in the sun!
Prices for diving are available on request and depend on the number of divers involved.
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