Thursday, November 29, 2007

Channel Islands Live-Aboard – Thanksgiving Weekend 2007

I am not a huge fan of the Thanksgiving festivities with the hectic travel, etc. so Mark and I stayed home for the holiday. We were fortunate to have gotten two places with Adventure Sports Unlimited on the Vision boat out of Santa Barbara. Three days and nights upon a boat in a little berth with the noisy engine going – sounds good to me!

We left work early on Wednesday in order to make the potentially traffic-infested trip down to Santa Barbara to get to the boat early enough to get a good spot topside for our gear. I was surprised to see that there were only about 8 people had shown up by the time that we arrived. We got onboard, gear into the bunks and topside, tanks set up for the morning. Great fortune in that we ran into two divers, David and Dori, who had been on the same boat last New Years Eve. It was great to reintroduce ourselves to them and find some familiar faces onboard! Always a treat.

Soon after boarding, we were off to bed realizing that 4 am when the engines turned on and the boat left port would come early. Regardless, I slept like a log – anxious to get diving in the morning.

The mornings are always a bit confusing. You wake up, knowing that the boat has moved, but not really knowing where in the islands you are. Greeting David, he told me that we were out near San Miguel, off the coast of the island. I was intrigued and slightly excited as I know that San Miguel is not a typical destination for most boats due to currents, winds, etc. So the fact that we were anchoring off the shore made me excited. Soon Mark was up and we were waiting for Captain Tommy to give us the greeting, lay down the rule and then explain the dive.

The trip was a success. We spent almost the entire time out at San Miguel with 2 dives and an overnight near Santa Rosa’s shores. My strobe, unfortunately, packed up and quit on the second dive and so my photos all were done with the camera’s onboard flash. While disappointed, I did my best to remember Alcina’s advice (from ScubaBoard) about getting closer and closer still and ultimately, I think my photos came out quite well.

We were fortunate to have good dives, although the first two were slightly less successful (and deeper) than we had anticipated. However, we walked away having learned the lesson regarding pre-dive training and not always believing the dive briefing (or what we thought we heard in the dive briefing).

My logs are not as complete due to the bulk of the diving and the fact that, when onboard, I rarely stay up past 8 pm! All in all, we did 10 dives over the course of 3 days, all challenging in their own way although some more so than others. I enjoyed meeting and making friends with David, Dori and Eric and look forward to (hopefully) diving with them again in the near future!

Dive Stats:

Dive #37 – Thursday, 11/22/07 – Boomerang – San Miguel Island, California. 11:04 AM. Max depth 130 feet, bottom time 14 minutes. Water temp 55°, viz approximately 50-65 feet. Surgy water conditions so it was hard to maintain depth. Was surprised to see maximum depth and motioned for our group (3 of us) to ascend along the face of the pinnacle to shallower depths. Did not violate no-deco limits. Critters: kelpfish, sea lions playing with us on the anchor line, tons of strawberry anemone. Surface interval: 1 hour 45 minutes.

Dive #38 – Thursday, 11/22/07 – Boomerang – San Miguel Island, California. 12:58 PM. Max depth 98 feet, bottom time 19 minutes. Water temp 54°, viz approximately 20-30 feet. Strong current caused separation of divers with Mark resurfacing separate from the group. Because of the current, he did not descend as the current was more at depth and he knew that, by the time he returned to do the safety stop with us at 15’, we would have been further away. Ended up not seeing anything as the plan had been to drop to 70’ and then swim horizontally to the pinnacle. Because of the current and the low viz, we didn’t find the pinnacle and ended up surfacing. Drift during safety stop caused us to be way off course and so we had the “water taxi” ride back to the boat. Pride = gone. Surface interval: 1 hour 55 minutes.

Dive #39 – Thursday, 11/22/07 – Site name unknown – Off the coast of San Miguel Island, California. UNKNOWN TIME. Max depth 67 feet, bottom time 22 minutes. Water temp 55°, viz approximately 15-20 feet. Nicer dive because the site was a bit more shallow. While I don’t mind the deep dives, I prefer the bottom time. Saw a HUGE lobster crawling along the tops of some rocks in a slight depression. Probably about 2 feet, head to tail. I swam up behind him and grabbed him but he was fast and strong. He quickly evaded us. Male sheephead and lots of kelp rockfish. I was a bit concerned after the first two dives about locating the boat, but we ended up coming up right along side of it after having done our safety stop on kelp strands. Always a favorite of mine! Surface interval: 12+ hours – last dive of the day.

Dive #40 – Friday, 11/23/07 – Woodson Pinnacle – San Miguel Island, California. 9:32 AM. Max depth 96 feet, bottom time 18 minutes. Water temp 54°, viz 40-50 feet. Large pinnacle with its top resting in approximately 70 feet of water. Covered in crevices filled with strawberry anemone. Drop off to the left of the anchor line to approximately 110’ – according to some of the other divers. Diving over the overhang was like flying off of a cliff. Really amazing. Good buoyancy control allowed for exploration of the crevices and sides of the pinnacle without exceeding my desired depth. Saw strawberry anemone, aggregating anemone, scallops and wispy fans. Sallop (?) jellyfish (like a bunch of tubular jellies stuck together in a long belt like construction, slightly curved). Playful sea lions while we were doing our safety stop. I entertained myself by doing some ducking and twisting with them. Too cute. Surface interval: 1 hour 20 minutes.

Dive #41 – Friday, 11/23/07 – Woodson Pinnacle – San Miguel Island, California. 11:08 AM. Max depth 89 feet, bottom time 19 minutes. Water temp 54°, viz approximately 30-40 feet. Again at the same pinnacle, but I was quite happy to be there as there was so much to explore and check out. Mark tagged along with Dori to watch how she hunts for scallops and seemed pretty intrigued. I hung out nearby checking out all the stuff in the crevices. Surface interval: 3 hours 53 minutes.

Dive #42 – Friday, 11/23/07 – Caldecott Shoal – Santa Rosa Island, California. 3:19 PM. Max depth 55 feet, bottom time 31 minutes. Water temp 57°, viz approximately 30-45 feet. Really great site with good viz. Tons of fish (mostly rockfish) and some huge starfish (whitish and puffy) at the base of the anchor line. Rockfish, and one that seemed quite interested in having his/her photo taken. Every time that I would take a photo of it, s/he would swim slightly closer and give me a different angle. It was really great. I must have taken about 10 photos of it before I got bored and swam off! Came across a beautiful Hilton's Aeolid nudibranch (photo) clinging to the bottom of some kelp holdfasts. Lots of giant purple urchins, sea lemons and bat stars clinging to the algae on the ledges. Good safety stop along the anchor line, but not holding on. Surface Interval: 45 minutes.

Dive # 43 – Friday, 11/23/07 – Caldecott Shoal – Santa Rosa Island, California. Same site, as dive #42, we just moved slightly from the original dive site. 4:36 PM. Max depth 48 feet, bottom time 30 minutes. Water temp 57°, viz approximately 20-30 feet. Dive site was nice – easy run down the anchor line to were it touched bottom led us to the face of some nice ledges, heading up. Following the anchor line over the ledges, there was a flat bit followed by a nice large ledge, approximately 12-15 feet, covered in kelp palms along the top. The water surging over the top of the ledge made the palms gracefully sway in the water movement. All around were urchins, cowry shells and nudibranchs – even found some mating doris (Doris montereyensis) surrounded by their eggs! Tiny blood star about the size of a quarter, and again, tons of fish and warty-neck paddocks (Chaceia ovoidea) and sleeping red-spotted anemone.

Dive #44 – Saturday, 11/24/07 – Woodson’s Pinnacle – San Miguel Island, California. 9:13 AM. Max depth 81 feet, bottom time 25 minutes. Water temp 54°, viz approximately 30-40 feet. Nice dive with an average depth of 47 feet. More sea lemons and other critters. Mark found a nice crevice with cowries and a Spanish Shawl (Flabellina iodinea) tucked away. Surface interval: 1 hour 37 minutes.

Dive #45 – Saturday, 11/24/07 – Heebee Jeebee’s – San Miguel Island, California. 11:15 AM. Max depth 62 feet, bottom time 25 minutes. Water temp 55°, viz about 30 feet. Nice site although full of either baby fish or krill which made it somewhat hard to see. Average depth 40 feet. Surface interval 1 hour 27 minutes.

Dive #46 – Saturday, 11/24/07 – Heebee Jeebee’s – San Miguel Island, California. 1:09 PM. Max depth 51 feet, bottom time 22 minutes. Water temp 55°, viz approximately 25 feet. Average depth was 36 feet. Current picked up slightly causing us to come up on along the drift line. Resulted in a fairly long surface swim. While doing the safety stop in the water column, came across two jelly fish – one moon jelly and Leucothea pulchra (photo)
, both of which were beautiful. The latter, upon close examination, showed a coloring effect, almost as if it were lighting itself internally in a waving motion. Absolutely amazing.

To top it all off, on the way back into port, we encountered a huge pod of dolphins which accompanied the boat back in under a full moon. A perfect ending to a wonderful weekend of diving!

Video of Moon Jelly: