It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SoCal Shore Diving

We went to Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving, and since we were heading down the coast anyway, we decided to setup a dive in Morro Bay, which has a new dive boat. Nils has been on the boat before, and knows the captain, so he setup a little exploration trip. The plan was to do that the weekend before Thanksgiving, then head down to Santa Barbara for the week. Then Neptune decided to punish us, and the Morro Bay trip was off. Boohoo. We brought our gear anyway, and figured we could sneak off for a shore dive sometime during the week. After doing a little research, we decided to go to Refugio. I have a fear of these fabled hard core SoCal surf entries, so when I read that it was a popular site for OW classes, I was in.

We decided to dive on Tuesday afternoon, since the sea state, Andrea's work schedule, and the parking situation at the beach all lined up well. The beach was pretty empty, though there was a surfer or two off of the point. However, the surf looked very small along the straight part of the beach, where we would enter. It started raining a little when we got there, so we had to get geared up in the rain. As we were getting geared up, a big scary wave came along, but then the ankle slappers returned. We saw a few more cycles like this, where an occasional big set would come through. So we figured we just needed to avoid those, and it should be an easy entry. Once we were geared up, we walked pretty much straight down the beach from the car and into the water without any problems. On the swim out, Rob made some snide comment about scary SoCal beach entries, and I told him he should probably wait until we had made it out without incident before sneering about it.

We swam out to a little patch of kelp that we could see from the surface. Our plan was to swim out to that (which was on the right, standing on the beach looking out) and past it into deeper water, then swim parallel to shore to the left, and the circle back to around our starting point. The viz was better than we expected, which exceptionally clear water in areas, and then silty water in spots where the waves had kicked up the sand. We swam between patches of reef, pausing at each patch to look around. Eventually we found a couple of shale ledges, and one long thin ledge that appeared to run parallel to beach for a long way in both directions. So we decided to follow that ledge. Rob was shooting macro, so we poked around in the shale and the sand around it, looking for subjects. We found lots of snails and little crabs, and lots of flatfish with their beady little eyes staring at us from the sand.

Of course, the highlights of the dive required a different lens than Rob was using. As we were swimming along the ledge, we found a horn shark just sitting in the sand perpendicular to the ledge. What a cute little shark! He was probably about two feet long, and pretty tolerant of us checking him out. Then, on the way in, in about 10 or 15 feet of water, we saw a "big" leopard shark. Well, big for a leopard shark -- surprisingly big. His tail seemed to just keep going as I looked along his body. I guess the sharks shouldn't have come as a surprise, since we saw oodles of shark egg cases throughout the dive. They were all over the place! Rob also found a pretty good-sized octopus way back in a hole. He found the tell-tale pile of crustacean shells outside of a hole, so he peered in and saw it. I took a look too, but then he sort of retracted further into the hole, clearly displeased by our presence. One thing that was definitely missing from this site were slugs -- I saw a grand total of two slugs on the entire dive!

I eventually suggested we head in, because I was getting a little chilly. Mostly it was my hands that were cold -- should have brought the dry gloves! But the water was actually pretty warm. We surfaced not too far from where our car was, and swam in for an uneventful exit from the water. It wasn't the most exciting dive site in the world, but it was still pretty entertaining and I thought the sharks were pretty neat.

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