Since our project at work reached an important milestone, they gave our entire group the week off. Which was perfect since it was my birthday week. Since it is not often I get a week off, I asked if Katie could get time off and we could go on a dive trip…luckily she was able to. So after buying some new dive gear, and renting some tanks on Tuesday, we headed off to Monterey on my birthday Wednesday. We wanted to get a dive in on Wed, so we went to our favorite spot – Lover’s Point.
The water was very still, even more still than last time, which is hard to believe. There were some warnings about high bacteria in the water, and the whole area smelled like piss. Apparently the bacteria was from the sea lions and seals peeing in the water…and no waves to take it away or something like that. Either way, that didn’t stop us from diving, and since there were little kids playing in the water, we figured it would be ok. The visibility was good at about 30 ft. We start swimming out and already it is clear that there are going to be a lot of jelly fish. We get through a lot of kelp and decide to drop down earlier than normal, at about 15 ft deep so we can swim under the kelp. There were a few place we came to where there was no easy way to swim through the jellyfish, they had long tentacles that would just float through the water. We found that swimming closer to the bottom was the easiest way to get past them. I noticed a seal at the surface, looking at us and swims by us about 5 or 10 feet away and keeps going. We continue on, and then a bigger seal and more white comes right up to us. He was the biggest seal I have seen in the water, and a really nice color, very light almost whitish. He seems to like Katie’s fin and is putting his claws on one of them. I couldn’t tell if Katie was scared or if she was ok, or what. I swim over to the seal and stick out my fin in an attempt to get him away from Katie. It is always hard to know how to act in a situation like that since the seal looks friendly and doesn’t look aggressive, but it is a big animal and way better in the water than we are…it was a really cool experience none the less, I just wish we had a camera. We swam back under the kelp and finished off the dive.
We ate some Mexican food for dinner and stayed at some cheap motel for the night, in preparation for the next day’s dives.
We filled up our air in the morning at Bamboo Reef in Monterey and drove to Point Lobos. Previously when we would go on dive trips, we wouldn’t plan too far in advance, and Point Lobos would be booked up on the weekends early. This time, since we were there during the week, we were able to get in without a reservation. The visibility was pretty good, about the same as lover’s point, but the day was foggy, so the water was darker. The surface swim was long. We went for a long way between the kelp in a channel that was open due to a sand bed in the middle of the cove, the water was freezing, with a minimum temp of 48 degrees! We dropped down and started to swim around, the video camera case started fogging up, so my video is harder to see what is going on. I am a little disappointed in that, but I think we still had some good video. There were a lot more fish than what we normally see at other parts in Monterey. There were more blue kelp bass, the bigger fish with pointier fins and a black line, and bigger rock fish than I have ever seen. Some of the rock fish had really cool patterns, like red and white, or black and yellow. While I was filming one of these rock fish, I went to get in closer and stabilize myself with my hand on a rock next to it. As I placed my hand down, a smaller fish swam. It was the first time I had seen this fish before. I don’t know what type it was, it was white and redish, had a slender body and was about 4 inches long. It didn’t look like the other white and red sculpins though, which I saw probably about half a dozen of, but perhaps it was a juvenile or something like that. We didn’t set our compass and I could tell that we were swimming in circles, which is ok since we didn’t really have anything in particular to see. In the sand we saw sand soles small ones and bigger ones, up to 6 inches or so. We saw a white nudibranch that was pretty cool. Some big anemones that had really nice colors, green and red and white. Saw some anemones that were almost all red, and that I have never seen before. There were schools of little fish, not sure what type, but hundreds of them. Katie got cold, so we swam back.
At the same spot in Monterey, but this time we wanted to get out of whaler’s cove and into bluefish cove more. We swam further than we did before, but the swim to bluefish cove was just too far. So we set our compass this time with a heading for these rocks which divided bluefish cove and whaler cove. The kelp was pretty dense and it was dark under it. It was weird because at the surface it seemed like the visibility wasn’t that great, but once we got down we could see much better. We could see when we got closer to the rocks, as the kelp opened up a bit and let more light in. There were a lot of blue fish here. Katie got some great picture of me swimming with the fish. The surge was stronger here next to the rocks, and we wanted to swim back under water most of the way so we didn’t have to crawl through the kelp, so we start swimming back. We found a rock that had almost a vertical wall. There was a real cool orange tree type coral that looked a lot like a type of coral that Katie liked at the store. Also by this rock there was a big red rock fish, it was about 2 feet long. I was running out of air, so we found a spot to surface that didn’t have kelp everywhere and started our long swim back.
We then just started driving down route 1 on our way to LA to visit Evan. We stopped for dinner in Big Sur, and slept in the car overlooking the ocean somewhere on route one after I was too exhausted to drive further. We woke up and started driving again, Katie thought she saw something in the water. I thought it looked like a piece of wood moving in the waves, but she wanted to stop, and when we did there was a nice little parking lot area. Without really knowing that it was there, we found the elephant seal sanctuary area. There were a couple males in the water making noise and waiving their big noses around. And then we noticed the hundred or so on the beach down the way, and decided to walk down. There were a couple next to the walkway so we could get a good look at them. It was pretty cool, and I recommend anyone driving down route 1 from Monterey to LA to stop and take a look.
We arrived at the Channel Islands and I had always heard good things about diving in the Channel Islands, so we decided to stop and see how much it costs to go etc. We found a shop in Ventura that was planning trip to go on Sat which would cost $125 a person and was for 3 dives. We decided to fill our tanks, and save our money and just do some shore dives instead. We drove around for a while browsing on the Evo to find a good dive site and decide to go to Leo Cabrillo. We scope out the area and decide to go next to the surfers but further out. The water looked pretty blue, and the waves weren’t that big. We suit up and carry our gear a long way to the beach. Now the waves were picking up, but we decided to go anyways. It was definitely tougher than it looked to get out cause the water was pretty shallow and the waves were probably like 3 ft waves and the rocky bottom was difficult to walk on. We get out past the waves and the visibility is terrible. We keep swimming with the thought that once we get further from the sand it will get better. It didn’t. Now we are really far from the shore and the waves are even bigger than before. We decide not to go out the way we came in, since that really sucked, and we would rather take the longer swim to the sandy area. So we swim all the way around the surfers and almost get run over by some wind surfers, get hit by some 6 ft waves as we are trying to get out, but finally make it. After all that we had to walk up a bunch of stairs with all our gear to get to the street, where I could pull the car up. We drive the rest of the way to Evan’s place and finally take a shower…
On Sat, we went to Dive ‘n’ Surf, a local dive shop just down the street from Evan’s place. We find out that it is the oldest dive shop in the country, and the founder was also the founder for body glove wet suits. We got a tour and was able to see some pictures of the 81 year old founder diving down to 162 ft in his antique gear. They convinced us to go to Catalina Island($66 each) to get the best diving since the swell was coming in, and the only places to dive off Palas Verdes is hard to access. The ferry left at 6:15 Sunday, so we had to leave Evan’s at 4:30 to make sure we could get all our stuff together and on before 5:30. We see the sun rise on the boat, and get a quick nap in before we get to diving. We could pay $8 to have someone take our gear around the town, so we don’t have to lug it there, but we decide to save our money and lug it around the town. It wasn’t too bad of a walk, maybe a mile or so. We get our tanks from a truck right by the dive site ($13 for rental $7 to fill) and start getting ready.
We didn’t have to swim very far before we dropped down, this dive site was by far the easiest entry we have ever had. We literally walked down some stairs into the water. You put on your fins and when the wave comes you just float out as it goes out. Facing out the water, we went to the right corner dropping down about 30 feet from the stairs and swimming along the bottom. It was the first time seeing Garibaldi fish while diving, and they were everywhere. Visibility was great at about 45 feet. We went the deepest I have ever gone diving to 74 ft. The bottom was rocky with some spots of sand when we got deeper, and it was a pretty steep slope, which is why we hit 74 ft pretty fast. We found the wreck we were looking for, but it wasn’t very impressive…it was just a pile of scrapes and some cables and such. We saw many kelp bass, and lots of small fish. There was a school of chromis fish that were blue with yellowish tails. We also found a plaque that was on a rock dedicated to some people…we took a picture of it. We saw some type of sculpin fish or perhaps it was a scorpion fish that blended in very well with the rocks. I saw 3 of these fish. We also found a bottle that was covered in algae and blended in with all the rocks. Katie spotted some big spiny lobster under the rocks, and some smaller ones in the rocks. Also saw some sheephead fish, males and females, this was the first time we had seen the sheephead fish, they were pretty cool. Also spotted a kelpfish that was different than the kelpfish that we see in monterey, it was more green and blended in really good. We saw some snails that were probably about the size of a 16 inch softball…that was different than Monterey. We saw bluebanded gobies and gorgonians as well. At our lowest depth, I saw a bat ray right at the visibility range. The amount of life down there was amazing. It was a really cool dive.
We were going to the other wreck in the dive park, which was slightly left when facing down the stairs. We swim out and drop down. This time the slope isn’t as steep, and there is more sand. The visibility isn’t as good as it was on the first dive, but it is still about 30 ft or so. My mask was giving me a lot of problems on this dive, and was fogging up a lot. I literally had to clear it out every 30 seconds. It was the worst I have ever had. I thought that I saw a barracuda, but it could have been my mask being foggy playing tricks on my eyes. We saw many more wrasses than we did on the first dive, but overall there was not as much life on this side of the park. We found the other wreck, and that was pretty cool, just a rusty old sailboat, but there were fish all around it, and gorgonians growing on it. We swim around some more, and see a flounder or smaller halibut or something that looked similar in the sand. That was pretty cool, as it was the biggest flat fish that I had seen as of yet. Everything else was more of what we saw in the first dive.
We decided to do a similar dive as the first dive, since there was more life on that side. Most of what we saw was similar to the first dive, with the exception of a different looking kelp fish, and a yellow and black rock fish that reminded me of a juvenile snapper fish. It looked pretty cool, and through out the dive we saw about 3-4 of them.
We took a lot of pictures this dive both of us, and of the Garibaldi fish.
We hung out with Evan for a bit before we left, and showed him all our photos. Then we drove through the night getting back to Folsom around 5am. It was a great trip and I am glad we did it.