Mad Monk's SCUBA Trip Reports Mad Monk's SCUBA Trip Reports

Cozumel, June 18-25, 1999

1999 NED Fest

Travel -
Flew with FunJet/Sun Country. Cheap but... sometimes you get what you pay for. 1 hour delay leaving looking for the receipt for the fuel (reminding me of Airplane) and 45 minutes coming back waiting on some other piece of paperwork on some maintenance. Then a 1 hour wait for luggage at DFW. All in all, not the most pleasant flying experience.

Lodging -
Stayed at the Bahia on Calle 3 Sur and Melgar (the waterfront.) At 55/night it is a nice hotel. Not as quiet as one might like (one of the local stores has a burglar alarm that goes off nightly) but conveniently located downtown and across the street from the pier where many of the dive boats depart. For a small party (2-3 people) it would be difficult to beat but for a larger party a rented house or condo can provide some savings. If you want to rent a house, a good source is Cozumel Vacation Rentals This will real soon include our vacation house in Cozumel (Casa Ventura) as the deal is all but done.

Diving -
Dove with three different operators this trip. Aldora, Scuba Du, and Black Shark. Of these three, if I were to rate them 1, 2, 3 it would be in the order shown. Aldora pays a lot more attention to details than the other two and has fast boats. Scuba Du allowed more freedom than Aldora but the boats were sloooooooooowwwwwwwwwww (in fairness it was SUPPOSED to be a cattle boat dive and it lived up to that.) Black Shark had 'fast boats' but they aren't so fast when one of the engines has a clogged fuel line. While we had pretty much complete freedom, the attention to detail was lacking and (IMO) the attention to safety was not what it should have been.

If all you are really interested in is the pictures, click here and we will skip all the BS and get right to it.

Dive Day 1 - Murphy's Law of Cameras
'If you find something extra special that you want a picture of, one of three things will occur. You will not have the camera. You will be out of film. The batteries will be dead.'
Dive 1 - Las Cuevas de Palancar
90FSW 64 minutes 85F 60foot visibility Aldora
I only rarely carry the camera on a deep dive or on the first dive of a trip. This time I should have taken it. At about 68FSW, we found some pipehorses one of them pregnant. I also spent a good portion of the dive applying direct pressure to the cut on my hand that was bleeding profusely after bumping some coral inadvertently. Another Cozumel first for me was a sea slug. I now know why I never see them. They are so small they are almost invisible to a blind old fart like me.

Dive 2 - Chankanaab
51FSW 70 minutes 85F twi-lite/night dive
Great dive! No current to speak of. Found lobsters galore, crabs (large), and crabs (small). Either I am getting better at finding them or the splendid toadfish are becoming more abundant since I am finding one on almost every dive. Spotted two juvenile drumswimming on top of the reef (an unusual thing to find.) Spent some time watching jawfish and then spotted a tiny peacock flounder no more than an inch across. Under a ledge found a parrot fish spinning it's nightly cocoon but couldn't get the camera in to take a picture.

Dive Day 2 - If at First You Don't Succeed Try Try Again
Dive 1 - Las Cuevas de Palancar
81FSW 49 minutes 85F 60foot visibility Aldora
Went back with the camera to look for the pipehorses. We found them. Also spotted another juvenile drum and some turtles. There seem to be a lot more turtles around Cozumel. One of the locals told me they are gathering the eggs and incubating them and then the school kids release the baby turtles on the east side of the island. An enlightened environmental policy considering the locale.

Dive 2 - Paraiso (shallow)
39FSW 65 minutes 85F 80-90 foot visibility
Another great dive! Mucking about in the shallows searching for sea horse. Didn't find any but did find various kinds of blennies, jawfish, lots of juveniles, some kind of worm, a small crab that buried itself in the sand and when disturbed looked like a wind-up toy scurrying across the sand. Lots of different kinds of animals living together. Lots of shrimp or crabs sharing a hole or shell with an anemone. One very large and unafraid barracuda that gave a start to the diver who turned around to see it hanging 6 feet behind his head.

Dive Day 3 - Just Another Shitty Day in Paradise
Dive 1 - San Francisco
65FSW 70 minutes 85F 80 foot visibility Aldora
A nice leisurely dive. Found some more drum, another splendid toad fish , lots of lobsters but nothing startling. This is one of my favorite dive sites because of the coral formations.

Dive 2 - El Paso de Cedral
39FSW 65 minutes 85F 75 foot visibility
Cedar Pass is always a good dive. Lots of things to see. We found a hole with a pile of conch shells in front of it. When one of the conch shells was removed, a long tentacled arm reached out to retrieve it. There were two octopus nesting in close proximity protecting their eggs. Rare to see one during the day and it was interesting to watch the tug of war. Also found lots of arrow crabs and red banded shrimp along with the usual Cedar Pass groupers trailing along like loyal puppy dogs. The find of the day was a scorpion fish though.

Dive Day 4 - Let the Party Begin - A Pre-NED Fest Dive
Dive 1 - Palancar Horseshoe
77FSW 48 minutes 85F 60foot visibility
The first official NED-fest activity. It is interesting to put faces and personalities to all of the names you find on SCUBA-L. Only rarely do the internet personae match up with the reality. For all the participants that have never been to Coz, this was a chance to see their looks of amazement and to find the indigenous species for them. Saw toad fish, arrow crabs, red-banded shrimp, a HUGE bristle worm (I estimate at least a foot long), and a lot of very pretty coral formations.

Dive 2 - El Paso de Cedral
54FSW 52 minutes 85F 65-90 foot visibility
There were large numbers of ocean triggers around for this and all of the rest of the dives this week. I have never seen so many or more than 1 or 2 together. Spawning perhaps? Or perhaps their Pacific cousins had alerted them to Strike's impending presence and they were hoping to mount a mass attack on him. Also the usual number of big groupers and morays. Some smaller barracuda and that odd toad fish or two were also in evidence.

Dive Day 5 - Once a DM and the 100 yard dive
Dive 1 - Santa Rosa
76FSW 26 minutes 85F 60foot visibility
Found another scorpion and had a close encounter with a damsel fish. Damn thing kept nipping at my fingers and attacking the camera. If these fish were the size of barracuda, the water around Coz would not be a safe place. Dive was shortened when I did an AAS ascent with a diver low on air. NBD and didn't really need to use the AAS but he seemed to calm down some when I gave him my reg (and it also let me control him more.)

Dive 2 - Yucab
56FSW 58 minutes 85F 60 foot visibility
We dropped in and four of us basically never moved. Certainly we never moved more than about 100 yards. There was so much to see in this one spot that we never moved again. Found crinoids, crabs, jawfish, lobster, etc etc etc. It can be an interesting experience to just sit in one place and watch over a long period of time. After a few minutes everything that went into hiding when you arrived comes out again. Found another nudibranch. Actually a sea slug but at a quarter inch long who's counting?

I watched two neighboring jawfishfor about 5 minutes. They were both very busy. One was picking up a mouthful of sand and dumping it in the other's hole and the second was busy removing the sand dumped by the first. This is the Cozumel Good Neighbor Policy.

Dive Day 6 - There's Never a Cop Around When You Need One
Dive 1 - Maracaibo
151FSW 29 minutes 85F 80 foot visibility
Where are the SCUBA cops? We were far from the deepest on this dive and I never once heard any sirens. As usual on dives this deep don't get a lot of chance to play tourist but it was a nice dive. Spotted a large school of ocean triggers swimming past.

We were supposed to make the second dive at El Islote on the east side of the island but the seas were so rough we turned back to the north. I heard that on at least one of the boats the fish got a warm meal.

Dive 2 - Punta Tunich (shallow)
74FSW 45 minutes 85F 60 foot visibility
A wild ride. The current was ripping along! The batteries in the camera had gone dead and it was just as well since holding still to take a picture would have been largely impossible. Did spot a toadfish and large congregations of jawfish.

NEDFest Notes:
To the powers that made the NEDFest happen (Feesh and Strike) my thanks and my congratulations. It was a wonderful party and (I think) a good time was had by all. Your efforts will not go unpunished.

To all those we met for the first time other than online, it was a lot of fun and we hope to see you again. If not in Cozumel than at the next NEDFest.

Rockin Java (next to the Naval station) - VERY good breakfasts and lunches
Pasta Prima (downtown) - the best crab I have ever had!
La Choza (downtown) - Fish/shrimp in mustard sauce (now called tropical) - yummmmmmmmmm
Pepe's Grill (downtown) - Extremely nice place. Good food, good service, reasonable prices. Good steaks and prime rib. The wine list is not extensive but they have some pretty good Mexican wines.
Los Gavilanes (N end of the square go east two blocks) - Atmosphere and OK food
El Moro (take a cab) - The Zacharia platter is more than one person can possibly consume and the guacamole is excellent.
La Mission Tacos (Av 30 a few doors N of the San Francisco market) - very good and very very cheap. Tacos are a buck each. It is worth the walk.
Coffee Bean (across the street from the Bahia) - Coffee/espresso bar with an extraordinary selection of cakes and pastries served in HUGE portions.
Jeannie's Waffle House (at the Vista del Mar hotel) - good for breakfast

DOT send some E-mail to Chuck

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