We all dream of that perfect day of diving in which we see everything including an eagle ray. Then that day ends with a long soak in a hot tub watching an incredible sunset over the ocean. Imagine if you could live that dream for an entire week, with each day's adventures surpassing those of the one before. It has to be someplace romantic and warm with amazing diving. Where would you go to find all this? How about the Cayman Aggressor IV? DAY ONE: We boarded the Cayman Aggressor in Grand Cayman amid a flurry of dive bags, luggage and how-do-you-do's. In a welcome briefing to the guests on the top sun deck, Captain Tom made it quite clear that for the next week his very existence was dedicated to our having a fantastic and safe time. He also explained that there were Drager rebreathers on the boat and we could rent them. Since we were both Drager Dolphin certified, we knew we could put them to good use. If you're like us, then you know that one of the most important things on any trip is the meals. During our week onboard we were as impressed with the food as we were with the diving. South African-born chef Lenny Burckardt has culinary school credentials that would impress anyone, and his efforts yielded meals that were an event. DAY TWO: In the morning we were anchored at Bloody Bay Wall. Angelyn, my wife, photo assistant and model, was the first in the water. As we descended, there was a shallow reef flat below us and beyond, The Wall. We finned over the edge of the wall and hung motionless in awe. Visibility had to be in excess of 150 feet, and for as far as we could see there was nothing but the indigo blue of the abyss. This was our first trip to the Caymans, and we had heard many stories, but none prepared us for this experience. We have been many places and sometimes we wish there were a little more to see, a little more diversity. The Wall provided just that. We had a hard time deciding what to shoot and I wished for some way to carry just one more camera with us. Back on top of the reef, we met a small green turtle that allowed us to visit for a bit, then it was off. Of course, all the film was long gone when we discovered the turtle. It seems that always happens. Each time we emerged from a dive the crew greeted us with a hot, dry towel, and usually Chef Lenny had fresh-baked cookies or cake. We spent the rest of the day at several different sites along Bloody Bay Wall, each more interesting than the one before. DAY THREE: The day began on the east end of The Wall with visibility down from the day before. As we exited a swim-through we were greeted by a giant school of horse-eye jacks that passed by before circling overhead. We were doing as much diving as our physiology would allow, but there are limits, as Mr. Haldane would say. We always pack books for our dry times, but after finishing a book a day, my wife wanted something a little more exciting. She decided that one of the ship's kayaks needed some exercise. There are two kayaks on board and the crew is happy to show you how to use them. After some brief instruction, she was off. I preferred to spend my surface time on the sun deck, where there is a complete bar, a large open sunning area and my favorite feature -- the hot tub. That night I thought I'd utilize the hot tub to enjoy the sunset and the balmy early evening. When I arrived, I discovered that Angelyn had the same idea and was already in the hot tub enjoying the view. Somehow she is always a step ahead of me. DAY FOUR: Windsock Reef is a great place for photography because there is abundant marine life and the reef is fairly shallow, about 45 feet. The most memorable encounters at this site were the stingrays, which were everywhere. On our way back to the boat (out of film, of course), I noticed something flying over a coral head. I quickly realized that it was a beautiful spotted eagle ray. It was obvious that I couldn't get back to the boat to reload my camera and return in time to get the ray. I realized there was only one thing I could do, and that was to savor the moment. It's those moments that continue to drive me to figure out how Angelyn can carry three cameras for me. DAY FIVE: Just when you think that things could not possibly get any better, they do. Just minutes into my first dive at Three Fathom Wall, I met a friendly grouper that posed for the camera. There came a point that I wanted to actually photograph something else, but this grouper kept getting in front of my lens. Later, Angelyn and I met a green turtle. With turtles, it always works best to let them do their own thing, and perhaps the turtle will let you join in. As we visited with the turtle, there were plenty of giggles, bubbles and photos. DAY SIX: We had spent the entire trip, so far, on Little Cayman. A cold front had settled in and made diving in other areas less than ideal. Captain Tom relied on his extensive knowledge of these waters and seamanship to give us the best diving the Caymans have to offer, even with weather limitations. Fortunately, things had settled down enough to allow us to dive Cayman Brac's signature dive, the scuttled Russian missile frigate Keith Tibbits. This wreck is an easy yet exciting dive, with lots of life on it. The top is only 18 feet below the surface. Tibbits is open and easy to penetrate and is surrounded by an array of critters, big and small. There has been some damage to the ship as a result of a hurricane, but this only makes the wreck more interesting. Spotted eagle rays can frequently be seen in the sand flats that lie around the wreck. Unfortunately, Angelyn and I left the boat in order to continue our adventure on Cayman Brac. We bid farewell to our crew and newfound friends and looked forward to our next trip on the Cayman Aggressor. The Cayman Aggressor IV is a 110-foot, 18-passenger dive yacht built for comfort, safety and stability. She cruises at 15 knots and has 110-volt power on board. Nine air-conditioned, carpeted staterooms are located on the lower level. Each includes a vanity with lavatory, individual climate control and a TV/VCR. Seven cabins have private head and shower. Two cabins share a head and shower. A port window in each room offers great views and plenty of natural light. The dive deck, salon, galley and the computer station are on the main level. The air-conditioned salon includes a TV, VCR, Nintendo 64 and stereo with compact disc player. A personal computer station, also in the salon, offers guests the ability to send and receive e-mails from ship. E-6 film processing is done on board, and a slide scanner and a light table are available. Each diver has his own personal dive station complete with seat and locker. After donning their gear, divers take a few steps down the ladders to the dive platform. Exiting is simple with the aid of two ladders. Two freshwater hot rinse showers and a fin rack are located on the dive platform. A three-tiered camera table with low-pressure air hoses, camera rinse tank, head and photo lab are all part of the roomy dive deck.
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