IVS-North heads….well, South!

Posted by Eric Kerr & that Canadian guy, Jim Cormier

If it’s a day ending in “y” then it must be a day for diving somewhere in the Indian Valley Scuba universe, and today was no exception!  The face of IVS-North, our very own James Cormier, with sidekick Eric Kerr, lead a group of 16 divers down for a week of unlimited diving at his favorite Roatan hangout, Fantasy Island Resort.  Started at 0330 this morning at the hotel, and enjoyed an eventful check in at the airport. We boarded Skyservice for the non-stop flight down Roatan and the Aircraft Captain was an old pilot buddy I flew with twenty years ago. Had a chat with him about our old military days.  Landed in Roatan at 1010 and an uneventful customs entry and off to the resort. We were put in my favorite section close to the dive shack and the boats but our room had a single Queen-size bed. OOOOOPPPSS!!!. We are good friends but not that good. I used my connections and had that changed tootsie sweet for sure.

I smooth talked them into letting Eric and I dive on the first day and again no problem. Eric had an IVS 4/3 suit on with 10 lbs of weight for the dive. SO I asked are you sure your good with your weight. Oh Ya! Off we go on the skiff to out on the reef wall instead of going off from the Gazebo close to shore. Nice back roll entry and I start down and at about 15 feet I look back and here is Eric trying like hell to get down. Definitely underweighted so I gave him 3 lbs of mine which put me just under the edge but had to get back to the Gazebo which was about 400 or 500 yards. Of course we can’t, or more realistically won’t do that on the surface. We are divers, professionals well trained at IVS.  So we just decided to hide the fact and stay down. Count one for IVS team eh! That ended up being the first dive of twenty minutes. Fortunately no was around anyway.
After got another 10 lbs of weight we started the second dive off the Gazebo and went in to the lagoon. In 20 minutes we were out the tide had started moving in and brining in fresh water which helped the vis jump to about 75 to 100 feet. We saw several squid and a couple of nice big Green Morays. I showed Eric the wreck of the Prince Albert that sits in the laggon off the resort and the aircraft wreck that sits in there where the Sgt Majors are busy guarding there eggs right now. This was a nice 40 minutes. We got out, logged the dives and waited an hour and a half to do another dive.
Next dive we went back out further around the reef on Newmans wall which is on the resort side of Fantasy Island. The vis was fantastic.At least 100 feet or better with all the fresh water being brought in by the current. When I say current, I mean you would not even notice it. Not like those rippers we had on Vancouver Island after drinking that expensive Canadian Coors Light. Lots of marine life here to see. Schools of fish and healthy corals. All of Roatan is classed as a Marine Park. Eric was enjoying this dive alot more but starting to get chilled towards the end. Just did the diving and getting the poor guy used to being in the water again after so long. Hopefully he can stick with all the dives I have planned.
Day 1 – Big day Saturday to get Eric through his DM stuff.  Some good one on one so he should be primed for the classroom when he gets back. Planning on at least thirty dives for this week. He is going to be taking lots of pic’s with his new camera so we will try to send any good ones back as soon as we can.  The internet is snail slow here, so these reports are painful to send!  Eric is really enjoying the ease of diving down here for sure and is going to start working on for next year.

Second dive was on Valley of The Kings dive site. I was in first again and went off on my own towards the wall to wait for everyone. I ended up staying there by myself and grabbing some great shots of some Jaw Fish and several other species that just seem to want to pose for pic’s. Without all the noise of the other divers they were quite placid that I could within a couple of inches of some of them. Just wish I did not have the 2 second shutter lag on my camera. No problem, that why they made those large memory sticks.  Just take tons of shots and delete them later. After 45 minutes all the fish scattered and I could hear the sound of all the bubbles. I looked up and all the divers were right above me.  All done for that site.

Dive 3 had us out diving “Mr. Bud” an old shrimp trawler that was purposly sunk for divers. It is always a fun dive with safe penatration points all over. There is a great wall just past the wreck. Sometimes you can find a sea horse close buy. Eric was finally well enough to do this one with me. Sending a pic of the two of us on the wreck. Found a rare tube coral species that is only found apparently on the meso american reef here. I have only seen three of them on all the diving I have done here. Got some pics and sending one on to you.

Eric and I are having a great time can’t wait to model those new t-shirts for Beneath the Sea!Day 3 –  Jim and I are on our second full day here and the sun is shining much brighter and warmer than the one reflecting off the snow there. It was 86 today and water is 80 much warmer then the melted snow water there in Harleysville ( sorry can’t help myself). Another 4 dives today with some pictures (coming w/email). We have met people from France, Italy and of course some Canadians. One of the nice things here is that you can dive as much as you want and whenever you want. Today, for example, three boat dives with Free Nitrox and on our way back the captain dropped us of on top of a wreck called Prince Albert and we spent some time there then hit the air plane and followed the reef back to the gazebo. They have six large dive boats and a small skiff that they will run you out to reefs and let you work your way back. This is an ideal place for family’s that have both divers and none divers, the beaches are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen and there are even thing for kids to do. The monkeys are cute and love sugar packets and the Pina Colada’s. Even with the airfare to Toronto the trip is about $1600 and that also includes all your meals, alcohol (though of course we don’t drink much) and priceless views. I do have one complaint so far…….. I have not found a mermaid yet. I will not give up though. I did meet Saffron though, who is Indian Valley Scuba’s coordinator at the headquarters of The Public Safety Divers Association. Small world!
 Now with that all said we started at 9am and were first in and last out. We headed East along the wall and saw Nudibranc
h, parrot fish, lobster, schools of fish, rare tube sponge, juvinile File Fish and a Sea Horse. There was more but I don’t want to bore everyone. There was a quite comical moment when a larger woman dropped down on top of Jim and got his head stuck between her legs, I mean thighs and of course I missed that picture.
For the last dive, there was only four of us and we went out to a reef called The Missing Link, v
isibility was about 100ft and the marine life was phenominal. On our way back we were dropped off in the lagoon on the wreck of the Prince Albert. Two guys from Calgary joined us, I gave the briefing and I lead them to the wreck and the plane and then to the gazebo just as any future Dive Master would and even had to help a trouble diver. Jim was supervising me and said I did very well. Another tick towards my DM cert. Well another day is done but our goal tomorrow will be 3 Nitrox and 2 air dives it is really hard but we will do it for IVS. Well our work is done for another day, its hard but we do it for the good of IVS. Oh yeah Bev I miss our multi-weekly visits.,

Day 4 – Started by getting up and making our long 30 yard walk from our room to the dive boat to drop our gear on our way to breakfast. After breaky, back to the room for a quick change and out on the boat for our next exciting adventure. Eric is doing his Divemaster stuff and with 20 people on the boat in the mornings, he is getting the chance to see a lot of different diving styles. Mostly right and wrong ways to put gear together, enter/exit the water, buoyancy and weighting problems etc. With one on one training with an instructor on the boat, Eric will be well be prepared.

We hit “Gold Chain Reef” in 3 foot waves. This reef is known for its reef which appears like thousands of stags horns thrown over the side of the boat littering the bottom. It if quite spectacular. Small marine life is abundant and several schools of fish. Swimming along we saw a couple of green morays and a rare species of yellow tube worm. It is only by itself and about 2 – 3 inches tall. Looks like a yellow mushroom with a hole down the middle of it. %% minutes later we are back on the boat for the 5 minute ride back to get some more gas in the tanks.

Quick stop for more tanks and back out at 11:00 with 6 less people as it seems to be the norm. Another 15 minute trip out to a site further down the island to Pirates Point. The wall here starts at about 35′ and the fan corals a re fairly healthy along with all the marine species. In the four years I have been coming to Roatan, I have definitely noticed the marine life getting healthier in the last 3 years since has been declared a Marine Park. Much of the same on this dive as the rest.

Eric and I had 1500 lbs. left in the tanks so on the way back I had the Captain drop us off on Coco View Wall by the lagoon. We dropped in and went down to 60 feet for the swim along the wall towards the lagoon. There are some spectacular overhangs along the wall and when you are under them you roll onto your back and look up. With the sun shining straight down it is absolutely breath taking. Usually by the end of the week there are several more people going in with me on this dive and all of them are usually thrilled after the dive. After about 15 minutes you stay at or slightly above 60 feet when you come to a large sandy area. This will lead you to the back of the Prince Albert. This is the 160″ Ship Wreck in the lagoon. It is perfect for doing Wreck training and penetration diving as it is well prepared. There is one hold up the front to avoid as it has some ragged metal inside but the rest is fine. You swim along the top of the wreck to the bow and  just about 20 yards of the left (port) is the Plane Wreck. The bow and the plane sit at 40 feet. The plane is at the bottom edge of Newman’s Wall which is on our side of the Fantasy Island Resort. Usually as you approach the plane you can see Sergeant Majors guarding their nests of eggs. They will make a threatening attempt at scaring you away but nothing comes of it. You will see round patches all over which will be in various stages. It is an interesting site to see the progression every day. From the plane you follow a cable line along the wall which takes you back to the Gazebo. I normally go up the wall to around 20 feet to do a long safety shop and get rid of more of that nasty nitrogen load before lunch. You arrive at the Gazebo and usually it is around a 40 minute dive just before lunch. Drop your tank there, walk back along the beach to the boats, drop your gear, get changed, go for lunch, back to get changed and gear up for the next trip out at  14:30.

Everything put together for the next dive out to “Valley of The Kings”. This site is right near “Gold Chain Reef”. It is a reef which looks like a whole bunch of leaf lettuce. It is really cool when you reach the west end of the reef as it turns into “Gold chain Reef” with all the “Stag Horn Corals”. Not much different to see on this reef. This is close to News Wall so after this dive we got them to drop 4 of us on the wall for the swim back to the lagoon and the Gazebo. Newman’s wall has some nice swim through if you get dropped far enough along the wall away from the lagoon. It is a nice 40 minute dive. You can swim along the wall at around 40 feet until you see the bottom start to rise sharply in front of you and there is to large pinnacles to your right. Follow this up to 25′ where you will find the anchor chain for the channel marker. You can stay along the wall back to the Gazebo or head 030 at 25′ which will take over to the wheelhouse of the Prince Albert. You do the same as the last dive. Up to the bow, plane and back to the Gazebo. A nice end to the day of diving with 5 easy dives under you belt.

Dinner starts at 18:30 – 2100 so lots of time for a shower or get suited up for a twilight dive at 18:00. The dive shop closes at 17:00 but a guy stays to fill tanks and look after divers. He will run you out in the Skiff and drop you right over the wreck or on the walls if you like. So that’s what we did. We had 3 other people join us for a dive on Newman’s Wall then over to the wreck. Did not see to much exciting on this dive. It was a little too early. Probably should have waited another half hour. Oh well still counts as a dive.

Sitting in the bar we met a couple of guys from Calgary Alberta who were on another boat. Had some good chat time with them then went to dinner. Food was again, great! Hit the racks at around 2230.

Day 5 – Eric woke with a bit of a Migraine this morning. Must be from talking to the two guys from Alberta. We persevered and joined the crowd of 20 and went diving anyway out to “Mary’s Place”. This is a popular dive site often listed in the dive magazines. It is about 20 minutes down the island to the reef. The top starts at around 20 feet then you go down along the wall and enter the swim through at about 80 feet and swim along ascending to about 50 feet. Here you turn left and enter another swim through which rises up to about 35′. At this point, I like to come around on to the top of the reef where you see all the bubbles coming up through the coral which likes you are swimming a champagne glass. It is spectacular for pictures. Saw a Golden Moray swimming along with a Coney doing some hunting. Nice to observe the symbiotic relationship between the two.  Always a neat dive, and we’re back on the boat for the 20 minute trip back. We seem to be always a little late getting back so we tanked up quick for the trip at 11:00 but is now closer 11:30.

Hit the water at 11:50 at “Inside Outside”. This reef is around 40 feet and the mooring point is attached to an old tractor. You can usually find the odd Green Moray swimming around on this reef. As it was, shortly into the dive I found a moray swimming towards me along the wall. Got a couple of nice pic’s before it got away. As the site is only 5 minutes away, we made it a 55 minute dive and then back for lunch. No drop on this dive into the lagoon. Back at the dock for 1300 so get down for lunch and get ready for the next dive.

Well after another great lunch, back at the boat for the 14:30 departure out to “Peters Point”. This was 5 minutes past “Mary’s Place”. I have done this one as a drift dive before where we swim West along the reef at least 3 or 4 mooring points and the boat just follows along and picks divers up as their air runs out. It is quite nice as the reef wall is a nice slope to it so you go whatever depth you want along the wall. There are some Barrel corals here that are taller than 8′. You could put a man inside one.

 Day 6 – Well here we go again. A rather rough looking day today. We decided to skip the first dive as Eric is still fighting his migraine. Just as well, it turns out there are at least 9 foot waves today. I talked to the Divemaster Derry when they came back and it was terrible getting people back on the boat. Even the “Divemasters” as Eric refers to them as the “Frumpkins” as they don’t say too much when you say hey or anything. We decided to go out on the second dive at 11:00.  We put our gear on the boat and got everything ready to go. A lot of people bailed on the rest of the dives so there were only 7 of us. The DM was making people put their fins o and walking from the front to back of the boat in 9 foot seas. I told them they were just asking for trouble. We went out to “Gold Chain Reef” and I talked the DM into just doing a drop and we would have everyone follow us back to the west channel into the lagoon on the west side and get picked up where it was calm. He liked the idea and so we did the dive and had great time as we were more relaxed knowing e did not have to worry about how rough it was going to be getting back on the boat. Derry really liked this dive and felt it was more relaxing for him also. We got back to the dock and as it turned out we were told that the one of the two guys we met from Calgary. The ones wife had fallen on the boat and broke her femur walking to the back of the boat with her fins on. We  almost had the same thing on our boat.

We went for lunch and got back for the afternoon dive. We went out to “Valley of the Kings”. Eric and I looked at the conditions and decided we would just swim along the wall east back to “Newman’s Wall” and back to the gazebo. The rest were going to do the reef and get back on the boat. Found after they wished they had gone with Eric and I. It took us a nice leisurely 35 minutes to get to the corner of “Newman’s Wall” and as we were coming around the corner, a beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray was coming straight towards us. This was a really nice dive and we stretched it out to over an hour by swimming across to the wreck then over to “Cocoview Wall” were we spent about 10 minutes then made our way back to the wreck a towards the Gazebo.

After we dropped our tanks at the Gazebo and walked back to the room we had a nice talk about the ray. We were really excited. We have seen Southern Stingrays in the lagoon but this was a first for me. Had a lot f fun in the bar again trying to get some writing done but again the internet was painfully slow.

 Day 7  – We started out same as always but today is the last day of diving. Today I make dive 4800. The plan was for the second dive was #4800. As always I like to write stuff on the bottom of the scuba tanks for fun so I picked my Nitrox tank to write “Jim’s dive #4800” and when I turned the tank to start writing on it, I noticed I had my wife’s tank which she had done her #100th dive with. How ironic is that! I gave that one to Eric and took another one. We took pictures for the occasion. Did our regular routine on the dives at 11:00 and dropped off to give us both 22 and 19 dives each.  The rest of the day spent drying the gear and having a few drinks to end the week.

Day 8 – Up early for a 0730 departure from the hotel. Pretty uneventful with this charter, as hoped for. We got to the airport, cleared customs, paid our $34.00 departure tax and sat for 2 hours waiting to leave. Boarded the airplane a half hour late and arrived unscathed 4 hours later in Toronto at 1630.  All in all a pretty good trip, and we’re already planning next trip down for the 2nd week in Feb 2010 if anyone wants to join us. Sure can’t beat the price.

                                                        Eric and that Canadian guy 




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