It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Anacapa, Day 1

We dove the Peace on Thursday, along with Nils and Ben. I have never been on the Peace before. I got peer pressured into diving doubles, even though I just recently bought a single LP85 with the justification that I'd want a single tank to take when we go boat diving in the Channel Islands :) But Nils said he has dived both the Peace and Spectre in doubles before without complaints from the crew, and I figured this is good practice for boat diving in doubles. I am mildly terrified of the giant stride, especially in doubles. The Escapade has a baby stride, so I don't really get practice from that (not that I am complaining :P). Anyhoo, the layout of the boat was a little annoying for bringing doubles. First of all, there is not room for everyone to put their tanks on a bench. The poor fools who get there late have to put their rigs on the floor (I'm sure Rob would tell me the proper term is "deck" or something), which would clearly be unworkable in doubles. Plus the bench has little semi-circular cutouts for the tank to lay in, which doubles do not fit. But you can wedge them in there and bungee it, so it is workable though not ideal. The bigger problem was all the slow people on the boat, making me wait in line to get in the water, with doubles on my back :) Oh, and hoisting myself up on the swimstep wasn't too fun -- I so prefer a ladder that extends into the water (a la Escapade).

The food on the Peace was very good. Most importantly, it was plentiful. They fed us before the first dive, between each dive, and on the way back. Breakfast was an assortment of bagels, toast, muffins, etc. and oatmeal. After the first dive, there were like 4 different kinds of soup (I had the lamb stew, and I tasted the curry soup). After the second dive was lunch, which was pasta with meatballs, some sort of chicken, rolls, salad, and corn on the cob. I only had the pasta with meatballs, which of course gave me mild heartburn during the following dive :) On the way back, there was brownies and apple crisp and ice cream, plus sundae fixings. Any boat with brownies and ice cream gets my vote :)

The ride out to Anacapa was a bit rougher than usual. I've been out their several times, and the ride has never bothered me (though Rob has felt queasy a few times). Not so this time. I threw up off the side of the boat for the first time after. Now I feel like I have joined the league of real divers :P I mostly blame the half of a very-artificially-flavored banana muffin I ate for breakfast. We spent a while looking for a first dive site. We practically circumnavigated the entire island, looking for a site that was both not too currentful, and not too swellful.

One last thing before I get to the actual dive reports. Rob talked me into taking his old camera out (sans strobe, since he took the strobe with him to his new camera). So I was taking pictures for the first time.

Dive 1 (Landing Cove). Ben and I dove together, Ben led. The site was a small "wall", maybe 10 feet tall. Actually there were supposedly 2 parallel walls, but we only looked at one. We followed it out and back. Nils and Rob were behind us, we basically stayed together for the whole dive. As soon as we descended, I saw a big halibut laying on the bottom. I signalled the others and we took some pictures before he bolted. Next, we came upon a rock with a couple of Spanish shawls (the "Fedex nudibranch", as Ben calls it). Ben and I took turns taking some pictures. We continued on, to find tons more Spanish shawls. I also found one Mexichromis porterae on this dive. I also saw several San Diego dorids, and noticed that they were all a slightly darker color than the ones we usually see around Monterey. I also saw several Doriopsilla albopunctata (which I don't think I see that often in Monterey except when I am really looking, but maybe I am just stupid). We also checked out some blue-banded gobies. Ben found an octopus in a very odd pose -- he was sort of on his head, with his legs flipped over above him, so we got an inside out view of him. We took some pictures and moved on. The picture at left is one that I took -- cool, huh? Not long after, we turned the dive, and ran into Rob and Nils. They were right near the octopus, which I wanted to show to them. They had found an octopus of their own, who was scurrying across the bottom. I guess Rob was pestering him, so he scurried into a hole. Then the hole's owner, a lobster poked his head out and the two tangoed. The lobster won. There were a few garibaldis and some big sheephead, one that was swimming straight at me, in a game of chicken. He won.

One thing I learned on this dive is that doing a giant stride in doubles is actually less scary than in a single tank. Why? Because by the time I get to the gate, I'm like... get me in the god damn water, and I don't get all neurotic about the terrifying fall into the water. I also found out that taking pictures is hard. I'm not sure if I have the patience for it :) It takes up too much of my "looking for neat stuff" time in the water.

After the first dive, I noticed a little notch in the neck seal of my drysuit. Of course, 90% of my diving is from shore, but the day my neck seal goes, I have to be on a boat, without my spare zipseal around (it was in the car). It was alright, but I figured that taking the thing off would be dicey, so I decided to just not remove my neckseal until I was done diving for the day (and altered my liquid consumption accordingly ;) ).

Dive 2 (Cathedral Gardens). One of the divemasters mentioned that if we went to a different area than what was covered in the briefing, we might see black sea bass (Rob was shooting wide angle) if we could handle a little current. So we decided to head in that direction. I was diving with Nils (primary team, me leading), and Rob was with Ben (Rob led, I think). The area we ended up in was basically a series of small parallel reefs, separated by sand. Nils claims this is the type of terrain where black sea bass are seen (I've never seen one before, so I don't know). The current was pretty mild. There was some debate about whether I actually took us to the area described by the divemaster (debate in the sense that 35 minutes into the dive, when we were heading back, Rob whipped out his wetnotes and claimed I had been going the wrong way all along, good time to point this out). As it turns out, some other people on the boat supposedly saw a black sea bass. Anyhoo, so we didn't see sea bass, but we had a playful sea lion hanging out with us for much of the dive. At some point, Rob was facing me, signalling something to me about where we were going, and I realized I was completely ignoring him, because there was a sea lion hanging out just behind him. So I pointed it out to him :) I found this really odd-looking nudibranch, a Tylodina fungina. It was like a snail with a tiny shell that was too small for it, but it is actually a nudibranch. I have never before seen a nudibranch with a shell, although I knew they allegedly exist. I also found another Mexichromis porterae, and a Doriopsilla albopunctata (which I showed to Rob, since I'd told him about them on the surface interval). I saw some juvenile sheephead -- I didn't know what they were at the time, but identified them from someone's channel islands creature identification card on the boat. We didn't descend the anchor line (based on the directions the DM gave us to the alternate site), so I was a little concerned about getting back to it. So I went back in the direction of the boat, and then noticed its shadow of the boat above us. I love these shallow, high viz sites :) Nils and I thumbed it based on my gas (I was preserving the last third + rock bottom in my doubles for the final dive), and Rob and Ben hung out for another few minutes.

Dive 3 (Winfield Scott). Rob and I dove together. I made him lead (a departure from my recent theme) because I was annoyed at him for second-guessing me on the first dive, and didn't want to have to put up with it again. This site was pretty unthrilling. The viz was not so good, it was very chunky. This site was pretty barren. Lots of sea urchins and sea hares. We saw one really big sea hare, probably the biggest I've ever seen. He wasn't very active though unfortunately. Rob saw a small bat ray, but by the time I looked, it was gone. I really don't have much to say about this dive. We swam around for a bit, and then when we happened back upon the anchor line, we thumbed it because the dive just wasn't very thrilling. Rob and I were a team, and we didn't keep the two teams together -- given the surge and bad viz, we would have either lost each other or been constanting knocking into each other. I started taking video clips on the camera, since that is a lot more fun than taking pictures.

The conditions on the first day were a little disappointing. I guess there were some serious currents on many parts of the island, so we didn't really have our pick of sites. The sites that weren't super currentful were pretty surgy, with the accompanying bad viz.

After a day of waiting in line to get in the water, and climbing back on the boat in doubles, my legs were a little tired. And I knew the Spectre was supposed to be full on Friday, so I wasn't looking forward to maneuvring doubles around the throngs of other divers. So Ben loaned me his rig, since he wasn't diving on Friday. That's one nice thing about standardized gear. His harness even fit me quite well (the right D-ring was just a little high). He also offered me his drysuit (which would probably fit me pretty well, we are about the same size), but I decided I would try to fix the seal or replace it. We ended up just trimming it down a little bit near the tear, and that ended up working fine the following day.

Selected pictures from the trip are here in the BAUE gallery.
All of the pictures from the day can be found here.

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