Aug 23 2010

Busy week ending with a fun day of diving……

Published by at 11:45 pm under Diving

The Weekend of 08/08/10 was a lazy resting weekend for me and also i found that i had put on weight and not only that but my body fat percentage had increased. So it was time to take some action, it meant going to gym and being more active during the weekdays.

Mon, Tues went to gym after work, wednesday was going to meet with a newbie for climbing in the gym. After being almost dropped by her, i ended up just bouldering since wasn’t confident in her belaying skills and she also got some rope burns.

Thursday Night: Malibu Road Dive with Dana and Andy.

We were planning to dive Vets first but then it was lake pacific and malibu lifeguard reported a viz of 15 ft so we decided to head out to Malibu Road for diving.

As i was driving out to malibu, the ocean was absolutely flat and the conditions on surface looked great. We suited up and as then swam out to the kelp in dark where the main or one of the reefs would be. We dropped down next to the kelp bed but then the viz wasn’t that great, it was about 10 ft and we missed the reef. :(

We were just swimming around trying to find the reef but couldn’t, even though we were going over the sand still came across a lot of critters. Saw a big nudi, large brown shrimps, mating purple glove crabs in different sizes. But since we were going no where and not finding the reef, we decided to surface and then tried to head over to the place where the kelp was.

We did find the reef but it was little late and i was at 1500 psi, it was going to be a long swim back underwater so couldn’t afford to stay longer at the reef. On the way back we again found some cool critters, some octopuses, purple glove crabs, pair of hermissenda’s, long pipe fishes and few big lizard fish.

It was a really nice dive, i thought about staying in water and swimming to the exit point but then decided to get out and walk the distance to the car.

Santa Barbara Island Trip:

Thursday morning i came to know about trip to Santa Barbara Island organized by Laguna Sea Dwellers and i got interested in it. There was still room on it and then the ocean looked calm so it would be an easy crossing over to the island which really made me consider this trip.

It also meant that i would have had to kick out the german couchsurfers at my place but then i had warned them about it before agreeing to host them and they were pretty chill about it too so it was all working out.

I signed up for the trip on friday afternoon and after an evening of climbing indoors i was all set to head out to board Magician. We were going to leave the dock at 2 am so that we could reach Santa Barbara Island early in morning.

I got to the boat, did the paperwork and then immediately went to bed in the single bunk which was assigned to me. It was a comfy spot i got and even though i was next to the engine room i wasn’t complaining. I woke up briefly when the boat started and checked the time, it was 4 am so i figured we weren’t going to Santa Barbara Island :(

Woke up in the morning and we were briefed about the situation, even though the crossing to SBI wasn’t so bad the swells due to the winds were upto 3-4 ft and the conditions for diving would have been miserable. It was decided that we would try to do 4 dives at catalina, goat harbor for the GSB, Rock Quarry for the Scythe Butterfly fish and then Captain Jerry knew a secret spot where the squids were laying eggs and bat rays were close by to feast on them.

I was excited after hearing the plan for the day since i haven’t seen a GSB this year, failed to find the butterfly fish during previous dive to the quarry and have never seen squids either.

First Dive: Goat Harbor.

We all got ready and there was a very weak current running, few people jumped in and the current started getting stronger and Captain Jerry asked us to watch out for it. But as soon as I jumped in it got really strong, we didn’t get close to the site before descending and when we descended i could feel the current, i was kicking hard but going no where.

I was just having a hard time staying at one place, the viz in shallows wasn’t great and later on as it cleared i could see the kelp was jus flat parallel to the bottom, the current was that strong. I had no intention of fighting the current and since the viz wasn’t that great either i decided to end the dive.

I signaled to my dive buddy that i planned on aborting the dive, also since the max depth was 100 ft i had to ascend slowly. I was just having a hard time in preventing myself from being swept by the current, i didn’t want to fight it but had to work hard so that it wouldn’t take me with it.

Upon ascending, i saw that we were really far from the boat and had to swim against the current to get to it. The current line was out too but still i was far from it so i had to swim hard to get to the boat. I was really in trouble at this point because i wasn’t making any progress towards reaching the boat, luckily after a while the raft from the sand dollar came to our rescue and picked us up.

The deckhand on the magician also came out in kayak and helped us around. The boat had removed the anchor and it came to pick us up. It took another half a hour to get everyone back on board safely and it was an interesting experience which i would not like to repeat. Even while doing drift dives in egypt didn’t face such strong currents.

Second Dive: Rock Quarry.

It was now time to move to Rock Quarry where the Scythe Butterfly fish reside, i have dove here once before but didn’t manage to find them, this time i really wanted to. Captain Jerry explained us exactly where to look for them so with excitement i jumped into water.

Everyone, including me wanted to make sure there was no current and that was the case. We descended down the anchor line and started our hunt for the butterfly fish. I came across some funky jelly like thing and then after taking its pic all of sudden my camera started fogging up.

It was really annoying, i didn’t want to miss out on the picture of the butterfly fish but as it turns out when we did find them, they were really skittish and swam away fast. There was no chance for me to take its picture and i didn’t have the patience to wait for it. I was so glad that we managed to find it, as we were heading back to the boat, i came across one of the biggest navanax that i have seen so far.

I brought my dive buddy back and had to show it to him. Saw bat ray at the end of the dive but then we were headed to bat ray city next. I was happy to see it but the joy next dive brought is something that i will not forget for a long time to come :)

Third Dive: Bat Ray City (name given by me)

We then moved to the mystery spot, which i called bat ray city, where there are bat rays along with the squid eggs. Everyone knows about the bat rays but the squids were a recent discovery and the squid eggs are the main reason why rays are there at this spot. In night they like to feed on the squid eggs in the depths and during the day they just hang out and chill in the shallows.

We anchored in a spot such that both the dive sites were easily accessible, since the squids were in 105-110 ft range not everyone wanted to dive down there since it was our third dive of the day. My dive buddy was on 32% nitrox so had to be careful about the depth too.

The plan was to follow the anchor and then go try to find the squid eggs and then on the way back we could visit the site of the bat rays. It would be like best of the both worlds.

We descended down the anchor which was resting in 70 ft of water so had to swim further to find the eggs. Also i didn’t know how steep the floor was so as we kept on going in the same direction as the anchor. It was a gentle slope, 80, 90 ft and 100 ft and no sign of squids.

We saw one or two eggs lying around but not the entire cluster that i was expecting. I didn’t want to continue further because i wasn’t sure if we would have enough gas to get back and do our safety stops and then also if we kept going further it would mean we were getting closer to MOD of my buddy so didn’t want to take that chance.

Little disappointed we headed back and in the shallows reached the spot where all the bat rays were chilling. As soon as we got there all of my disappointment went away. There were so many bat rays at that spot and in all sizes. As soon as we got closer they would swim away, they were alert all the time and would just take off as we got closer.

It was so much fun to see them all over the place, i was beyond thrilled. I was bummed that despite borrowing a new desiccant for my camera it was fogging up but anyway the bat rays were too quick. They never allowed us to get any closer to them so that i could take good pictures.

Swimming around i came across one of the guys from the boat taking pics of the ray, it was as if the ray was posing for him. It wasn’t moving at all, just laying there in sand. I tried taking pictures of this ray but had to be careful so that i don’t disturb it and roeland misses out on some photo opportunities.

Pics Courtesy Roeland.

We swam around for a bit and the reef structure also seemed interesting to explore but we were low on air so it was almost time to end the dive. Once back on board, Cathy and others mentioned how they found the squid eggs, the key was to go north from the anchor and we just went straight ahead.

Fourth Dive: Bat Ray City

I was bummed that we missed out on the eggs but Cathy agreed so lead the next dive and show us the eggs, that was so kind of her. After lunch we geared up and Cathy led us to the eggs. We got down the anchor and instead of going straight up we headed north and all of sudden at 100 ft there were hundreds of squids.

It was such a cool site so see all the squids, the ocean floor was covered with their eggs and hundreds of them were just floating around, mating and laying eggs. It is a sight that i am not going to forget anytime soon. We stayed there for sometime, i tried taking pictures but my camera wouldn’t co-operate.

Pics Courtesy Roeland.

I had 9 mins left on my deco time and my buddy had 4 mins left ¬†and this was our 4th dive of the day so we decided not to push it and headed back to find the bat rays. This time i think we went too far southwest and hence didn’t find as many bat rays as the previous dive but still saw some swimming by.

As we were heading back to the boat, in sand we came across 5-6 skates. I was totally surprised because i swam over top of them and then all of sudden 5-6 of them swam away. It was pretty cool, i was like how the hell i missed them. Moving on i could spot one under the sand barely visible because of its eyes and i knew why i missed them first time.

I was excited to see them and then after a while it was time to end the dive. I was really thankful to Cathy for leading the dive and showing us the squids. I have always wanted to see them at Redondo Canyon but then never got a chance to do so.

Even though it started off not so good it was a great day of diving where i saw different critters and enjoyed diving with Laguna Sea Dwellers.

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