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Bahama Dolphins and the Dol-fin x18, 2012

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C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Well, 2012s Bahama trip is done. We are happy, exhausted, a lot skinnier and with big smiles on all our faces. Its a tale of great diving and shipmates, weather both great and real bad, Captainal stupidity and a great boat, a 25 ft Seacraft called “Someday Came”

I had a wonderful crew. Unirdna, Ted, from Madison Wisconsin, who has made a trip with me every year for the last 5 or 6. Excellent diver, can stay down forever, one of the best, and certainly the smoothest, spearfishermen I've have the pleasure of diving with, and knowledgeable small boat operator. Simon, Azapa, from Santiago Chile, 50 meter diver, freediving instructor, another serious spearo. I've learned a lot, diving with these guys.

The trip was supposed to be 12 days, out 170 miles to Hole in the Wall, Abaco, for a week, then back to Bimini for a couple of days of dolphin diving. Tropical storm Debbie, that vicious, misbegotten bitch who just would not leave, messed that up. Cut the trip a couple of days short and eliminated Hole in the Wall. Tropical systems are supposed to keep moving. Debbie sat still for about 4 days. On take off day, it was storming here(Sarasota), conditions so nasty I wasn't sure I could even get to Ft Lauderdale with the boat on the highway. Rain, high wind, tornadoes, Reallly nasty. I called the crew(they were in Ft Lauderdale) and told them to find a hotel, we were screwed.


The next morning, things were better, but a long way from nice. I beat it over to Ft Lauderdale, picked up the crew and put the boat in the water, even though it was clear nobody in a 25 ft boat was going to going to Bimini from Lauderdale that day. Debbie was just a tropical storm, nowhere near a hurricane, and 400 miles away from Lauderdale. Should have been way too far away to affect the weather. Go figure. We puttered 20 miles down to Miami through a bunch of nasty squals, hoping for a better angle to Bimini, a wind shift and a better forecast. Forecast got even worse(seas 4 to 6 with occasional 9 ft), but another day cooped up on a very small boat and my crew would have strung me up. The next morning early, we pounded out to the edge of the Gulf Stream, just to see if crossing was possible, an unlikely long shot. Getting to the Stream across the shallow reefs was brutal, but once in deep water, it smoothed out and actually looked pretty good, 3-5 ft waves, wind 15 knots, both slightly behind the beam. OK, Debbie is almost gone. Piece of cake in my boat, but I did not think through what it might be like in Bimini after 4 or 5 days of strong southerlies, not smart. So, we took off and it was down right nice for more than half of the trip. Then the wind picked up, way up, waves increased to 5-8 foot+ and breaking hard, not just the wave tops. Ugly, but not as bad as it looked, fairly easy to steer around the breaking ones. It did not feel all that rough, but must have been. I got knocked out of the chair once. Actually twice, but the first time I was trying to steer with one hand and eat trail mix with the other. Doesn't count. The wind really got up, looked like a solid twenty five knots+. Briefly, the gusts were blasting the wave tops into spray so fine that looked like smoke. I have no idea how fast that was blowing, but a whole lot more than 30, for sure.

After that “fun” ride, we arrived outside of Bimini. I was worried about the transition from deep to shallow water, but that was no problem at all. Next, the pass........... Waves breaking all the way across. . . . . .. . For those of you who are unfamiliar with this stuff, the Bahamians call this a “Rage” Its dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. The trick is get the boat on the back of a wave, well back from the breaking crest and ride it all the way in. Simple, right? And, of course, I know what I'm doing, right? Think there might be room for a screw-up? Of course not.

There are two passes into North Bimini, a natural one which is deeper, but requires going parallel to the waves( I could not see any sign of it in the breakers) and a marked, used to be dredged, one that is straight and short, but shallow. What I should have done was gone around the corner to South Bimini and sat on my boat til the weather cleared, but I hadn't thought that one through, either. In we went, the waves didn't look all that large from behind( I know better than this) and I had run rough inlets before (a few times a long time ago). I lined up so the waves would stay directly behind me, cutting across the channel diagonally. All was fine until we were almost through, but I had let the boat speed drop too low. I think we clipped the edge of a bar that intruded into the channel, because I was reading some very shallow water and all of a sudden a big boy jacked up behind us. Crew said it was 8 or 9 feet, I was too busy to look, Crew yelled and the stern began lift, I gunned it as the boat started to go sideways and the wave broke on the dive platform, sending a whole bunch of water into the cockpit. Extra throttle got us out of the bad place before anything more could go wrong, but almost any other boat would have broached, rolled over and we'd be dead. Did I mention I am sometimes a damn fool?

After that excitement, we cleared customs, replaced fuel and ice, and then sat in North Bimini all day, no way I was going out that pass again. But even in Bimini Harbor, a diligent diver can eat very well. Thank you Azapa. We pigged out that night on local seafood.

Debbie finally slipped away in the night and all was beautiful the next morning. We took off early for Riding Rock, thirty miles south. The next 5 days were outstanding, mostly flat calm, adequate visibility, lots of fish , healthy reef and very very good eating. The farther south we got (away from people) the better it was. Conditions were good enough to use the kicker much of the time for following the divers. Saves a whole bunch of fuel. We spent a lot of time in shallow, scouting bottom in 35-40 feet, fish all over the place, and did a little deeper diving on some 50-60 ft high relief stuff that was very very pretty. That kind of diving I love, going slow, very relaxed, long bottom times. I don't try to spearfish in that stuff any more, its just a look dive, but a really nice one. One of those spots also harbored a gargantuan shark. The other guys were in the water, so I missed it , worse luck. You don't see many very large ones. Vis wasn't good enough for anything deeper. There are some great Wall dives in the 120-150 ft range in this area. Need excellent vis for them and we just did not have it. Mostly vis was in the 60-80 ft range. Once, we went out a few miles into the Gulfstream to do some line diving and the vis was mediocre even there.

to be continued in the next post.
 
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C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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continued:


I used Ron Smith's Dol-fin x18 for 5 days straight, switched back to bifins for a day and then back to the Dol-fin. Enough time to get some understanding of the fin. Great piece of gear, substantially superior to bifins in most areas, and I can spearfish with it. My buoyancy needs a little tweeking, but, once that is dialed in, bifins will be history. Azapa tried it and fell in love. Good thing this was at the end of the trip or I'd have had a fight on my hands to get it back. See my review in the Extreme Dolfinism thread. The thing has an unexpected and very nice characteristic, dolphins are fascinated by it. I had a big bottle nose dolphin, which usually don't have much to do with divers, come up close and swim half way around me, taking a long look at the fin before he took off. It was clear that he was interested in the fin, not in me. We thought this as a very good sign for how the spotted dolphins might react, and so it was.

Next, we ran back to Bimini for fuel and set out for dolphins. Day one was fabulous. We found'em in just over an hour and soon had 5 or 6 around the boat, playing with the divers when we dove down and sometimes just chilling with us on the surface. Hard to explain how cool just chilling with dolphins can be. I was driving the boat at first, but switched off with one of the crew after 30 minutes or so. When I got in the water with the fin and started stroking with it the dolphins went nuts, coming from all directions to see what it was. Almost immediately, there were at least 8-10 dolphins swirling around me. I was diving down and turning as fast as I could, dolphins in my face, touching distance away, all the time. It didn't last long, three dives and I was completely winded. The dolphins calmed down after that but WOW!!!! a mind bending experience. They stayed with us for a while, then took off in the direction of “Indigo”, a live aboard dive boat that specializes in dolphins. We followed and they came back to us for 30 minutes or so, then went back to Indigo. Overall, we spent about an hour and a half that day with dolphins. One of the crew has an hour of, in the water, dolphin video. Quite an experience. If you are thinking of doing some of this, I can recommend Indigo. They get more dolphin time than anybody else.

Day 2 started very well, we found some in 15 minutes, but never found the big group, Just pairs of jazzed up teenagers who were very fun to play with. Each pair would come blasting in, circle us close , then take off when we got winded. Sometimes they would come back, sometimes not. That evening we went up to “Indigo” and the Captain swam over. He is a freediver, had heard about the fin, seen it through his binoculars and was as curious as the dolphins. Nice guy, Turned out, that, between the three of us, we had quite a few mutual friends. The universe of serious freedivers is amazingly small. He gave us a bunch of dolphin info that I will put to good use next year.

Day 3 was just one of those days, a little windy and we never could find'em. Oh well, by 1 pm it was time to leave. Ted had a plane to catch, his wife's birthday was the next day, so we headed back to Ft Lauderdale in easy conditions, dropped him and continued on to Miami to do a lobster dive that is one of my favorites and one which I had not had a chance to do in years.

. This is NOT a normal lobster dive. It's at night, for a different, smaller species than most people go after. There is none of the normal finesse to catching these. They are lightning fast and you don't have long before they split, so, when you see one, the drill is swim down on him as fast as possible and slam him against the rock. Then close your fingers. If you try to simply grab them, they go out between your fingers while you are closing your hand. I wasn't kidding when I said they are fast. The water is very shallow, waves and surge rolling you over big rocks with some extremely sharp barnacles and fire coral. Lots of current. In addition to normal dive gear, required dress includes blue jeans, a heavy shirt, thick boots, and leather gloves. A helmet is not a bad idea. Not a place for nice carbon longfins like Azapa uses. Not to worry, I brought him a pair of old nasty scuba fins, just the thing. I was wearing the same. Getting dressed up in this stuff, at night, had Azapa looking at me like I was a little nuts. I told him, “if you are not bleeding at the end of this you haven't been trying hard enough.” Not exactly reassuring, but I was fired up and on a mission. Back to the dive. The lobster are very very abundant. I won't tell you what a normal catch is, you would not believe me. Azapa didn't. Suffice to say, I'm way out of practice, much older and slower, wrong tide, wrong night, wrong moon, can't get to the area where most of the lobsters live because of current, a couple of gear failures and I caught about 35 in an hour an a half. We lost a few through a hole in the bag, so the count is iffy. Azapa, who is an super smooth and effective spearo(wrong strategy for these critters) was pretty frustrated. I think he caught four, which is pretty good for a beginner, but I don't think he saw it that way. And the best part is stuffing your face with the freshest possible lobster at one in the morning. They also taste much much much better that regular lobster. It is a completely hilarious, goofy dive which is the complete opposite of either freediving or spearfishing. I love it

The next morning, up to Lauderdale, drop Simon at Divers Direct( what a place to browse while waiting for your ride) and back to Sarasota.

Note for all you guys having trouble equalizing. Sometimes it just happens. Unirdna has been diving for years, never could do Frenzel, He could btv, but with extremely tight ears, his descents have always been super slow (good thing he can hold his breath so long). Well, this trip, out of the blue, he suddenly figured out how to Frenzel. UREKA!!! Now he's a rocket to the bottom.
He also figured out how to shoot yellowtail snapper with a pole gun. Anyone who is familiar with yellowtail knows this is quite a trick. Unirdna's head is seriously swelled at the moment. To make matters worse, the yahoo started catching fish by hand. There will be a pic of him and a nice fat cardinal fish. Notice no holes.

Its not nice to show up the captain so outrageously. I'll have to think of something to even the score before next year's trip.

I waited to post this trip until some of the pics and videos were available. I did not bring a camera, that's the crew's job. Unirdna is still working on a video, which will be killer. In the mean time there are two raw, straight off the gopro, dolphin vids below. They are pretty wild. Some stills will follow.

A very good time was had by all.



This vid gets really crazy about minute 3.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEFs8HJoLl4]simon1dolphins2012 - YouTube[/ame]

This one gives a decent feel for how crazy diving with dolphins is, topside and underwater footage. The videographer (unirdna) had the camera in a head mount and was jumping in and out of the boat following the dolphins. . The last 3 or 4 minutes are not worth watching.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2H2bmdYwqQ]Diving with dolphins, Bahamas 2012, - YouTube[/ame]


I'm working on the stills.
 
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Ms Mer

Ms Mer

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Apr 15, 2012
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Wow, what amazing footage. Thanks for sharing. I bet it was a fantastic experience. They were certainly very interested in your fin!
 
C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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A few stills:


the Boat , Luxury sleeping arrangements , Paradise
 

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cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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A few more

We ate well


Spider Crab , Crab reduced to eats , Coney, great eating that turns to plates full of food
 

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cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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The last thing a fish sees before the shot:
 

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K

Kars

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Oct 24, 2003
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Conner I took a little liberty with your spearfishing photo :martial :

X20.jpg


I hope you enjoy it :) :king
 
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baiyoke

Well-Known Member
Nov 13, 2011
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Very nice trip report - and I love how the dol-fin looks like just a straight thin black line...

And nice one Kars.

One question though: Is that a slingshot in your hands Conner? Thats badass oldschool :) Together with a high-tech fin... he he
 
C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Kars, nice work, looks great! It does long real nice with a sling. Its actually Azapa's shot. He takes good pics.

Baiyoke, Its a Hawaiian sling. Guns are not legal in the Bahamas. Fine with me, a sling is so much easier to carry around and, in Bahamian conditions, it is way more effective than a gun.

The commercial guys prefer slings over guns in the Bahamas. There is a reason.

Connor
 
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baiyoke

Well-Known Member
Nov 13, 2011
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Damn that's cool - lowtech and just damn cool... But how about the spear, is it not attached to anything like - a wire..?
 
C

cdavis

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Jan 21, 2003
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Spear is free, no line. Works well in clear water that is not too deep. 20 meters is about the limit of effective shooting because there is a high premium on being able to shoot, run the fish down, grab him and get back to the surface on one dive. Otherwise, you lose too many fish to the sharks, bad vis, shaking the spear out, etc. Mostly used for benthic, reef type fish, although I have shot a bunch of mackerel with it.

Range is slightly less, only slightly less, than a gun, but most divers aren't accurate enough to take advantage of that range. A sling maneuvers MUCH faster than a gun, reloads much faster(two or more shots on one dive), easier to carry around(try a 6 hour spearing day hauling around a 110 cm wood gun).

Does it sound like I am a fan?

Major disadvantage of a sling is learning to use one. Getting reasonably good with a sling takes much more time than a gun.
 
acardet

acardet

New Member
Dec 14, 2005
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Hey Connor,

Looks like another great trip.Good to know the lobsters are still there.I still have my old gigs.
 
monkeyhatfork

monkeyhatfork

leaf game novice
May 31, 2007
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very cool guys i do miss those spotters
 
C

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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A long time delayed, but its a fun video.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RglQQeHgH1I]Bahamas Spearfishing 2012 - Part 2 - Narrated by Ted's HoldOver - YouTube[/ame]
 
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Kars

Well-Known Member
Oct 24, 2003
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It surely is!
It makes me hungry too!
 
REVAN

REVAN

The Right Stuff
Mar 19, 2009
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Thanks for the video update. Having left out video of the storm, what a great looking diving adventure. It is almost time to go do it again. :)
 
C

cdavis

Well-Known Member
Jan 21, 2003
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We were way to busy hanging on to shot videos when it was really jumping.

Good things come to those who wait. Sorry for the delay, but I think it will be worth it. Below is Unirdna's last video. For those of you who are terrestrial shooters, Unirdna is a dead shot with a rifle as well as a speargun and well known in air rifle circles. Check out some of his other videos, and the number of hits he gets.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXMTPUBjgP0]Spearfishing and Dolphins - Bahamas Part 3 (Ted's HoldOver) - YouTube[/ame]

Connor
 
K

Kars

Well-Known Member
Oct 24, 2003
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Well such trips define quality time!
 
REVAN

REVAN

The Right Stuff
Mar 19, 2009
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This is the second time I've seen a video where someone refers to a DOL-Fin product as a Lunocet. It just doesn't seem fair. :(
 
K

Kars

Well-Known Member
Oct 24, 2003
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I must assume that Unirdna did not check that. Though he appears to have downloaded a photo of the Lunocet, it appears that he did not recognise the inconsistency with his video. I hope he corrects his video, he seems such a nice guy, and Ron's DOL-Fin deserves proper credit.

Maybe Ron can make a youtube video about the proper names and definitions of fins.

Here at my job (lifeguard) most people don't know the difference between swimming goggles and a diving mask. It's a matter of priority and care, a matter of mind size. Most have no ambition to call things by their proper name.
 
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