It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Sunday, September 30, 2012

GUE Conference 2012

Lynne and I sharing some juice
I went to the GUE conference this year, since it was practically next door.  Well, in the same state anyway.  I have never been diving in Catalina before, so I thought this was a good excuse to do that.  Rob was already down in LA for his instructor requalification (which he passed, by the way, can you believe it?).  So I flew down solo on Friday morning, and had to deal with the daunting task of finding my way to the dive shop on my own.  Actually I just had to find my way to the GUE shuttle at the airport.  This was made significantly easier because as I was wandering along outside of the terminal, someone said "hey, you must be looking for us" and I looked up and saw a GUE-Seattle t-shirt.  Actually I saw Kees, wearing a GUE-Seattle shirt.  I was wearing my GUE hoodie.  We exchanged introductions and he asked me if I was the Allison of Cold Water Kitty.  I confessed that I was.  Off to a good start.

Two of the many giant sea bass
The diving didn't quite turn out to be what I expected, due to logistical problems (and not because of anything inherently bad about diving in Catalina).  Now that I have been there once, I can more easily imagine going back and diving.  People make it out like this big ordeal to schlep your gear onto the ferry.  But it really wasn't a big deal at all.  I was not bringing tanks, but I don't think it would be that much more complex to strap on a single tank and walk it onto the boat.  But if I went back, I'd probably just bring what I brought, and rent a tank once on the island.  Anyhoo, I only ended up doing one dive, due to some timing issues, and it was at a pretty lame site, which they called "Blue Car".  However, the site had a bunch of giant sea bass hanging out there.  I think this was the only reason the boat took us there.  The problem was, instead of briefing us with something like "this is a shit site, but there are probably giant sea bass... go find them" they made it out like it was a decent "kelp forest" and there might be giant sea bass down the sand slope.  So, we found the sea bass (I saw at least 5 congregating together at once, and my guess is that there were actually around 10 distinct fish).  We spent about 20 minutes or so being entertained by them.  Then, we headed up the slope to the "kelp forest" which was more like, umm, a couple strands of kelp.  Not really worth visiting... should have stayed with the sea bass the whole time.

Rob and Doug ponder a sea hare
The one thing that sort of redeemed the rest of the dive, though, was that we were diving with Doug (finally, after years of him fending off our dive invitations).  Doug has never been diving on the west coast before.  So basically everything we found was new to him, and thus very exciting for him.  And we did have a couple of cool finds for someone new to our kind of diving -- we got buzzed by a lone sea lion, found a small octopus, a teeny tiny swell shark (which even I was excited about!), a couple of giant sea hares, and lots of garibaldis, including the juveniles.  The swell shark was so cute, I want one for a pet.  The water was much warmer than I expected (it was like 68 in the top 40 or so feet!).

Aside from the so-so diving, there were a variety of interesting presentations at the conference.  I particularly enjoyed Michael's presentation on CCRs, and Jarrod's presentation on the Mars.  I totally want to dive the Mars now.  Even if it is in bone-chillingly cold water!  Aside from the presentations and the diving, there were many opportunities to socialize with old (and not-so-old) friends.  And take pictures of ourselves sharing fruity beverages.  And send them to Kevin via SMS, taunting him for missing out on the fun.  I also got this awesome DUI tattoo on my arm.   Anyhoo, I just wanted to post a few pictures, and there you have it.  It was a fun time, and I look forward to the next one, though I hope it's in Florida next time :)

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