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Cayman Brac Invasion

Discussion in 'Tech Trip Reports' started by kensuf, Mar 6, 2017.

  1. kensuf

    kensuf Cave Instructor

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    I recently joined a bunch of like minded fools for a week of deep CCR diving in Cayman Brac. The trip was organized by In-Depth Watersports in Grand, and included 12 CCR divers in a total group of 27 people.

    Given that there are only two dive operators in the Brac, and one of them wasn't interested in supporting a bunch of deep diving, there were some serious logistical hurdles. Nat Robb (owner, In-Depth) had to premix the gases and ship all of the bailout, deco gases, and sorb over by barge. He set up a temporary mixing station in a shed near the airport for our nightly fills.

    The guys at Brac Scuba Shack took great care of us during the trip, and it was a learning experience for them because they had never worked with CCR divers before. They kept talking about how to the best of their knowledge there had never been an organized group that was doing 300-340' dives in the area before.

    On my flight over there I started to feel a head cold come on, and this progressed into a chest cold, so I missed a day of diving, but I still managed to get in a couple of great dives. One of my favorites was the Captain Keith Tibbetts, which is a 330' Russian destroyer that sits about 75' from the wall in water ranging from 100' to 20' -- we started off with a 100m wall dive, then did our deco on a kick ass wreck.

    I can not describe how great the diving was. Corals were very healthy, lots of mature grouper, snapper, and sharks on the reefs, and the visibility was easily 100'+ every dive.

    Here's a couple of videos. I'm the guy in the shorty.






    The guys at Brac Scuba Shack wanted us to unfurl one of their flags in 100m of water. So here we are..

     
    Compressor, flyboy08, KathyV and 4 others like this.
  2. KathyV

    KathyV ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Glad that you had a great trip, thanks for the report. I am curious as to whether you saw a lot of lionfish at the deeper depths? The Cayman Islands and the local dive ops have been trying to control the lionfish population around all 3 islands, but I am sure that most of their efforts are concentrated on popular dive sites that have permanent moorings and within recreational dive depths. I wondered if the lionfish are taking over the reefs in other locations?
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  3. kensuf

    kensuf Cave Instructor

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    That's a great question, and one I was curious about myself. A friend of mine finished his masters here at UF studying lionfish at CCMI in Little, and we had previously had a number of conversations hypothesizing about the distribution, population, and size of lionfish below 150', so it was something I was looking for.

    Based on my personal experiences on Grand, I expected to see a large population at depth and I expected them to be fairly large.

    I saw eight lionfish during the 5 dives I did. Only one of them was below 200' (at a depth of 250'), and it was small. I have video of it that I'll try to edit and clean up and post later. The rest of them were in the shallows, I saw the majority in the 40-70' depth ranges.

    Compared to Grand, which on any given day I've seen dozens at places like Ghost Mountain, the lionfish are well under control in Brac. I kind of wonder if the grouper and shark population in the Brac helps keep them under control.
     
    Compressor and KathyV like this.
  4. KathyV

    KathyV ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    That's great news, and very interesting, thank you!

    It's also interesting that you mention seeing a lot of sharks. Over the years I have take several (recreational depth only) dive vacations to Brac, including just last November, and I usually see 1-5 sharks during each trip (average 2 to 3) - primarily Nurse sharks and maybe the occasional Reef shark.

    Based on my experience, I would not consider Brac (or Little Cayman) to be "Sharky" locations but perhaps they mostly hang out at deeper depths? Hopefully eating the lionfish!
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2017
  5. divezonescuba

    divezonescuba ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Did you bring all your own tanks for everyone in the group including the OC rec people?

    The reason why I ask is they don't seem to have many tanks and are reluctant to let you have more than one at a time.
     
  6. kensuf

    kensuf Cave Instructor

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    Nat shipped over CCR cylinders (3L and 2L) and bailout cylinders (40's and 63's), enough to account for 12 CCR divers splashing at once. As I said, there was some logistical hurdles getting everything there.
     
    Compressor likes this.
  7. divezonescuba

    divezonescuba ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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  8. kensuf

    kensuf Cave Instructor

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    No, we were all on CCR.

    We were broken into three groups of divers. One group was diving at depths between 150-200', another group were diving at depths to 250', and the third group were diving at depths to 350'.

    An ideal "normoxic" gas suitable to 200' is 18/45. To support a single shallow diver on OC, that would be 160-200 cubic feet of helium just to top up a set of doubles each night, and 220-300 cubic feet of helium consumed during the week.

    To support 12 shallow divers on OC we would have needed to ship over 2400 cubic feet of helium just to top up our cylinders, and we would have used roughly 1000-1200 cubic feet of gas to start the fills. And that's just for the shallower depths.

    You'd need to nearly double that for the deeper teams.

    Unlike the inert gas uptake, there really is a helium penalty in the Cayman Islands. That penalty is about $4 to 5 per cubic foot. There was also the logistics of having to barge everything over.
     
  9. divezonescuba

    divezonescuba ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Thanks for the info.

    Unless there is more competition on CB, it doesn't sound like there is much opportunity to do tech diving without significant logistics.

    I heard that there is something called appendix c from the cayman watersports association safe diving document that regulates tech diving in the caymans. Did you encounter that?
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2017
  10. kensuf

    kensuf Cave Instructor

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    As I stated in the first post, the entire event was organized, overseen, and run by an operator in Grand that offers tech training/diving in compliance with CITA standards.

    For those that are following along, all diving operations in the Cayman Islands are overseen by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association. The CITA safe diving standards state that only technical diving may be permitted by members qualified to offer it, and that all dives must be conducted within the limitations of certification or as part of a training class. Then there's a guideline ("Appendix C") that specifies safety protocols and procedures.

    In practice this means if you show up with a set of doubles filled with trimix, there are basically only two operators on Grand that can let you dive from their boat and no operators in the sister islands unless they are working with one of the two operators in Grand.
     

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