Bimini & The Bahama Banks on Sea Fever -- 4/97

When a fellow photographer invited me for a week long trip on the liveaboard, Sea Fever to photograph sharks and wild dolphins, I jumped at the chance.

Departing Miami, we would cruise east to Bimini and then work our way south through the Bahama Islands towards Andros Island. Shark encounters were anticipated near Cat Cay and dolphins were expected towards the end of our week.

The first day out I had a close encounter with a large gray reef shark. We both came around a coral head on the wall at the same time. I'm not sure who was more startled, but he darted away not to be seen again before I could raise my camera. Later on that dive I found a very bold octopus hunting in the daytime, somewhat unusual behavior. I took the opportunity to try some deep, ambient light shots. This is a technique I usually reserve for shipwrecks and ended up with a very interesting, ghostly image.
The next day was our first "shark dive" at Shark Reef. This dive location is well known for shark activity and though we did not feed, the sharks apparently had become accustomed to others who had and when we were in the water, they were CLOSE! Two dives yielded some nice images and a desire to return before the week was through.

Over the next few days we had some rather average reef diving, a few walls and the wreck of the Rio Miami off Ocean Cay. The better subjects included a huge turtle with a remora attached, some fish schools and night dive macro shots.

 

Unfortunately, we experienced 30 knot winds and high seas for several days and put into Cat Cay to hide from the weather. Now Cat Cay is about the most boring place on earth, especially when you came to dive! If it had been a deserted island I believe we would have been better off. Instead it is a planned community of rich folks with their yachts, island getaway homes and country club. We entertained ourselves in heat of the day with beers from the boat in an abandoned native bar that still had a functioning pool table.

When the winds finally set down, we were back out to Shark reef for two more electrifying dives with about a dozen reef and nurse sharks. Though visibility was off from the seas, a few adjustments to the camera and the experience of the other day's visit allowed for some acceptable photos.

 
The afternoon before our return trip to Miami was spent with wild dolphins. Unlike the captives frequently offered for interaction, these pods are wholly wild and need to be enticed to "play" before an in the water visit. This involved the captain cruising a vast area of sand shallows, and when spotting a pod of dolphins, running the boat in very wide circles. The dolphins would swim to the wake of the bow cutting through the water and surf! The speed with which they move is incredible. The first thought in my mind was the boat was sure to run right over them, but it was clear after watching for a few moments, they were in no danger and could easily outpace us, even at full speed.
After the dolphins had entertained themselves, we would come to a stop, and all simultaneously hit the water. The dolphins were naturally curious and would come up close to those that freedove or otherwise moved in a way they understood. We had a female and her baby as well as a larger pod of eight, come and go over the course of the afternoon. It made for a very special ending to our trip.

Sea Fever is a 90 foot aluminum vessel, powered by triple Detroit Diesel engines, capable of cruising at 16 knots and a top speed of 21 knots. The dive deck is well equipped and spacious enough. There is a large three tiered camera table and the crew always friendly and helpful. The salon was a bit narrow but we did not spend much time there. The food prepared by our cook, Mark was phenomenal! Fresh salmon with pesto, Cornish game hens, and roast beef were just some of the fine meals prepared for us. I'm afraid I actually gained weight on this trip.

All in all, Sea Fever gets a thumbs up! Reasonably priced, comfortable though not luxurious accommodations and perhaps most important - a crew that listened, responded and did what they could to accommodate the specific requests of a diverse group is a fair analysis of this operation.

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1997 John Petrak