Just another day in paradise
Diving with the Carribean Aggressor Fleet
Text and photography by Jim Church
You inhale the aroma of freshly-brewed coffee wafting down from the galley and hear the muted sounds of a vessel at sea. You yawn, stretch and start think about breakfast. It's morning and you are about to begin another exciting day aboard a Caribbean-based Aggressor. You will eat, sleep, dive, learn and have a fun-filled adventure.
The hotcakes are appealing and eggs can be cooked to order, but the cereals are also tempting. What will it be: a hot breakfast, cold cereal or both? Decisions, decisions. After breakfast, the photographers prepare their cameras. Others linger over that last cup of coffee or head to the sundeck to enjoy the early morning view.
Ding! ding! ding! The ship's bell rings three times the signal for the morning dive briefing. The divemaster has drawn an artistic color diagram of the dive site on a large display board. You can see the position of the vessel and the locations of the divemaster's favorite highlights eels, colorful sponges or friendly groupers. 'The fish,' you are told, 'used to pose for free. Later you had to slip them a fin, now they work for scale.' After a complete but concise briefing, it's decision time again. Do you want a guided tour or do you and your buddy wish to explore alone? Decisions, decisions; what a tough life!
The dive sites vary with region and time of year. Aboard the Bay Islands Aggressor III, you might visit the wreck of the Jado Trader or Cayos Cochinos, the 'Macro Capital of the World.' Aboard the Belize Aggressor III, the dive of the day might be the famous Blue Hole. Aboard the Cayman Islands Aggressor III, it could be the excitement of Stingray City or the glistening Tarpon at Bonnie's Arch. Aboard the Turks & Caicos Aggressor, you might dive with Nurse Sharks at French Cay or snorkel with Humpback Whales at Silver Banks.
Sitting on your personal gear locker, you can either don your tank and walk to the dive platform or have the tank delivered to you at the platform. Your camera will be handed to you after you enter the water. When you come back aboard the boat a crewmember will take your mask, fins and camera equipment while you head for the freshwater shower just a few feet from the ladder. Your camera, having been rinsed in fresh water, will be waiting on the camera table. You can wear your tank back to your locker or a crewmember will take it for you. Someone hands you a warm towel and a tray of snacks materializes.
School time often occurs between the first and second dive. Visiting instructors may be teaching specialized classes such as underwater photography. Crewmembers may be teaching scuba, nitrox, rebreathers or various other specialized PADI, NAUI or TDI courses. You can learn a new skill, head for the sundeck to catch some rays, retreat to your cabin with a good book or socialize.
The second dive begins around 11:00 am. There is no rigid schedule; you enter the water at your own speed. The second dive is my favorite because I've explored the site during the first dive and now have specific subjects in mind for photography.
Lunchtime is fantastic! As soon as you dry off from the dive, it's ready. Sometimes it's served in the main salon, sometimes it's served topside. After lunch, everyone seems to slow down for a half-hour or so.
The boat usually moves to a new dive site during lunch or just after. Generally, the Caribbean Aggressors moor at a new site each morning, noon and sometimes in late afternoon for a night dive. When special underwater photography or other programs are being conducted, or if the guests ask for something different, the boat is moved at appropriate times.
Ding! ding! ding! You hear the ship's bell announcing the dive briefing. Again, the colorful graphic display is accompanied by an informative dive brief. Some of your fellow divers are missing, napping in anticipation of the night dive. Oh well, sleep is part of the Aggressor Fleet motto. You and a few others ask for a guided tour and enter the water. The dive guide seems to have sonar eyes that spot creatures you would have never found on your own. Those who didn't take the tour didn't do bad either. They saw the large ray that glided over your heads while you were looking at a pair of eels.
It's dinner time already. Dieters roll their eyes and cross themselves as they approach the buffet. The choices can be overwhelming, so you surrender and take a little of everything. You remember reading somewhere that 'calories consumed on a live-aboard don't count,' as your self-restraint and the butter on your vegetables melts away. Oh well, you decide on the Aggressor seafood diet. (If you see food, you eat it.) If you have special dietary needs, please give advance notice and the Aggressors will do their best to accommodate you.
After dinner the exact time varies with different groups and dive sites it's night dive time. Photographers attach lights to their strobes with duct tape. Dive buddies huddle and discuss whatever night diving buddies discuss. The dive guide gives his briefing. The nightlife crowd has already migrated to the upper deck for a glass of wine or a cocktail, and a view of the sunset. Some are enjoying a relaxing soak in the hottub.
The quiet of the evening is broken by excited words and laughter when the night divers return.
'Did you see that big octopus?'
'Yeah, but did you see the big eel that tried to catch it? I can hardly wait to play my video!'
These are just a few comments bandied back and forth as the night divers head for the hottub.
Every evening is special. Slide shows feature underwater slides by the vessel's photo pro and videos and slides taken by guests. (E-6 film is processed daily.) On the last night, the photo pro will play the video he shot of you and the other guests during the week. All the Aggressors have an ample library of VHS video movies for your evening entertainment. You watch a movie and then head for bed, where your exciting day fades into sleep.
You inhale the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting down from the galley and hear the muted sounds of a vessel at sea. You yawn, stretch and start think about breakfast. It's morning and you are about to begin another exciting day aboard a Caribbean Aggressor. You will eat, sleep, dive, learn and have a great day.
For more information about the Caribbean Aggressors, call the Aggressor Fleet at (800) 348-2628 from the U.S.
or at (504) 385-2628 internationally,
fax (504) 384-0817. Send e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at www.aggressor.com. For Jim Church's Photo Course Trip Schedule aboard Aggressor Vessels visit his Web site at http://home.earthlink.net/~jimchurch/.