Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bummer - Florida Diving!

Regretably, our dives in Florida were cancelled as a result of windy conditions from Tropical Storm Noel. Reported seas were 8-12' which makes boat diving a bit too adventurous for most, including us. Back to the cold waters of N. California for us!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

ScubaBoard Get-Together @ Point Lobos - Sunday, October 7th, 2007

We had anticipated doing a night dive on Saturday but the windy weather on Friday resulted in less-than-optimal visibility and so we decided that getting all the gear out, wet and then donning a cold, damp wetsuit in the morning wasn’t worth doing for bad visibility. So we opted to have margaritas with Michelle and her dive partner, Bob. A great way to end a beautiful day of whale and dolphin watching off the coast.

Sunday was the big day though – something I’ve been looking forward to for about a month now – diving at the famed Point Lobos State Reserve located in beautiful Carmel, California. Despite some car problems, we arrived at Point Lobos on-time. The skies were blue, the water calm and we were all looking forward to some great diving.

Point Lobos is a beautiful dive site with such easy access. The boat ramp provides a great in and out to the water, ideal given the shoreline around Whaler’s Cove. From the surface, you can see kelp all over the place and I knew it was going to be great. After kitting up and getting to the water’s edge I was thrilled to see a star fish sitting in approximately 2 feet of water just at the boat ramp. I’m not even wet and I am already seeing sea life already!

After a long surface swim out of the cove, being “chased” by Doc Wong and his buddy Mark on their scooters, we arrived at our drop down point. A quick “Doc Wong Video” introducing ourselves and all 8 of us were letting the air out of our BCs and heading to the bottom.

I was a bit worried about the visibility. On the surface I wasn’t able to see my fins when my legs were below me. Granted, they are not that ‘high vis’ but still – I was hoping that we wouldn’t be dealing with a low-visibility situation – especially after the swim out. As we began to descend, Mark and I stayed within close proximity to each other in the event that the visibility didn’t open up. Down we went, slow but steady. Mindful for the bottom, I thought my worries were going to be warranted – I kept expecting the bottom, yet I couldn’t see it. All of a sudden there is was – just below me about 10 feet. Reaching the bottom, we regrouped and everyone was taking photos of all the other divers.

I was AMAZED. My eyes must’ve been huge. The visibility was AMAZING - about 40 to 60 feet. Far better than any I had ever had in Monterey. It was magical. There we were - sitting in about 63 feet of water and I could see all around me – giant strands of kelp gracefully reaching for the surface – like a forest. I could have just sat there for the entire dive, but soon we were off – to the “Hole in the Wall” site.

After a few minutes, I saw some divers heading back to the cove about 20 feet above and to my right. And there it is the ledge, and it’s beautiful. The visibility is still amazing and I am just in heaven. I’ve got the camera in hand, testing out the new strobe that we just bought and I see so many subjects to photograph – huge anemones everywhere including the fish-eating urticina anemone (photo), kelp strands with snails clinging to the leaves, blood stars (photo abovet)and bat stars, beautiful sponges and algae. Even a few fish – gobies and sculpins! Finally I am seeing what I have always marveled in Brad’s photos. I swim to the wall knowing Mark is well aware of my location and start taking photos. And then I see it. Tiny but there – a nudibranch. More specifically, a yellow-marginate nudibranch (Cadlina luteomarginata) (photo). Not the first nudi I have seen, but the first one that I would, come hell or high water, get a good photo of. I was thrilled.

The rest of the dive was just as beautiful. A long surface swim back to a nice potluck lunch with the rest of the group during the surface interval. Our second dive was less “beautiful” as Mark and I decided we wanted a more shallow dive and opted to stay in the cove. During the short surface swim, we passed a seal who I entertained by making clicking noises to keep his attention and curiosity.

While the middle cove reef has prolific amounts of kelp and was teaming with fish and other sea life, the trade off for the shorter surface swim is the lack of visibility – we estimated it to be approximately 2 to 12 feet, only intermittently opening up to anything close to 14-15’. Despite the visibility, we used the dive as an opportunity to practice our buddy and navigational skills. We saw more kelp with snails, crabs, chiton, serfperch, anemones and fantastic orange-yellow corrals (photo).

It was a beautiful day – great weather, company and even the rangers were super-friendly. The site is a beautiful site full of life and vibrant colors. While the new site provided excitement, however, I found a part of me that was still longing for the familiarity of the Breakwater or Lover’s. Funny how those sites have (and probably always will) a special spot in my heart simply because I was certified there. I would go back to the Point Lobos again in a heartbeat though. It is truly amazing.

Dive Stats:
Dive #35 – Sunday 10/07/07 – Point Lobos “Hole in the Wall” – Carmel, California. 11:13 AM. Max depth 74 feet, bottom time 34 minutes (600 PSI remaining at end of dive with AL80). Ramp/beach dive. Water temp 50˚ (brrr!), vis approximately 40-60 feet.

Dive #36 - Sunday 10/07/07 – Point Lobos “Middle Cove Reef” – Carmel, California. 1:51 PM. Max depth 34 feet, bottom time 30 minutes (1100 PSI remaining at end of dive with steel 2700). Ramp/beach dive. Water temp 52˚, vis approximately 2-12 feet.

[Topside photo from diverdunne - copyrights belong to him. All of his photos can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/11413840@N08/collections/ ]