Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You know you want some

Chocolate-caramel crackers.

Really, do I need to say anything else?

Go check it out.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Afternoon in the Garden - dive 34

The Garden Spot, Anacapa, Channel Islands, Calif. (from the Spectre)
April 5, 2009
Logged dive: No. 34
Max depth: 40 feet
Bottomtime: 30 minutes

This was the last dive of the day.
The captain, and most of the people on the boat, had been hoping to get to another spot popular with the sea lions.
But it was too choppy there.

Again, no sea lion paradise for me. But that is OK. This was a nice spot, too.
We did see a couple sea lions, again though they were on their way someplace else and did not stop to play.

This was a pretty uneventful dive. More stars, urchins, sheephead and garibaldi.
And a lot of kelp.

We hung out for a while, fed some more fish and then headed back while we still had plenty of air.
Mostly we got cold. The idea of a hot shower and a cold beer was enticing.
When MF gave the thumbs up sign to head back to the surface, I was fine with that.

All in all, it was a good day. It ended better than it started.
I would go back here again, but there are new places I want to try before that happens.

So, here are the last of the pictures from the Anacapa trip.

Four more dives under the weight belt.
MF and I are hoping to do some Orange County beach diving soon. Maybe in the next few weeks.

Conditions are improving - dive 33

Cat Cove, Anacapa, Channel Islands, Calif. (from the Spectre)
April 5, 2009
Logged dive: No. 33
Max depth: 30 feet
Bottomtime: 40 minutes

By the time we got to the site, things were definitely improving.
The sun was out, the wind was down and my stomach was settled.

The water at this site was flat, like a lake, and bright clear blue.

Of course it was still cold. No amount of telling myself it would be warm worked.

But this time I did not care.

Manfriend had fixed his mask, broken on the last dive, with some wire. We were ready to dive.

We submerged and headed toward the kelp bed. The kelp was thick but not unmanageable here.

Among the usual stars, urchins, etc., we saw this limpet. They are crazy looking. I really find them fascinating.

As we found the rockier area, another diver picked up a rock. As soon as he did this, a sheephead started stalking him.

The diver looked around and found what he wanted... a sea urchin. He used the rock to break it open, instigating a feeding frenzy.

This picture is one of my favorites: two big sheephead fish going head to head for some sea urchin. It looks like they slammed heads and exploded. The debris is just the sea urchin flesh.

Those fish pick an urchin clean in seconds. The diver opened a couple more for them. The whole time we were looking out for urchins, the big ol' sheephead was there.
Below is a little video of the feeding frenzy.

We also saw some sea lions here, but they were cruising through pretty fast and not inclined to play.

We surfaced near the boat into the perfect conditions. A couple other divers are seen at the back of the boat.

Before heading back to the boat I got a picture of the manfriend. The face says it all. That was a great dive.

Swimming in the Goldfish Bowl - dive 32

Goldfish Bowl, Anacapa, Channel Islands, Calif. (from the Spectre)
April 5, 2009
Logged dive: No. 32
Max depth: 40 feet
Bottomtime: 20 minutes
We should call this the dive that almost didn't happen and probably should not have happened.
After the dive at Rat Rock left me queasy I puked a couple times, but felt like I would be OK for this dive. Conditions at the site looked better.
The area was more sheltered and the surface, while not totally flat, looked much calmer than at Rat Rock.
We got back into our gear and waited our turn to take the giant stride off the boat and into the water.
I was in before Manfriend, starting my leisurely surface swim back toward the anchor line.
MF jumped in and popped to the surface ... with his mask in his hand.
Hmmm... that mask should be on his face.
The buckle on one side had broken, leaving the strap hanging, unattached.
We quickly consulted at the surface. I was going to head back to the boat with him, but he said I should find a new buddy for this dive and he would head back and see if he could repair the mask for the next dive.
I checked with some people in the water. They were part of a beginner class, but they had finished their skills on the earlier dive and this dive was just going to be a dive.
There was another certified diver tagging along since his girlfriend was in the class. The instructor paired us up as buddies and off we went, me and Joel, my new dive buddy.
We descended into about 40 feet of water. I was trying to keep an eye on where Joel was while making sure to give him good space to explore. Visibility was probably about 15-20 feet here, but a little murky.
It seemed like only a few minutes that we had been down there when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was MF. He had a mask on, but it was not his.
Cool. We could dive. I motioned to him that I was following Joel, my buddy. He motioned back OK and then indicated that he really could not see with the mask.
See, MF has what they call an optical mask. It's not a true match to his prescription glasses, but it is a lot better than a regular mask. So unless he was within a couple feet of something, he could not see too well.
We tried to do the dive this way, but again, it was not going well.
Joel was off here and there, with no apparent regard for where I was. MF was there, but not seeing clearly. And my queasiness was sneaking back in.
The area was a little rocky, a little kelpy. There were fish such as garibaldi and sheephead here, as well as the usual starfish and urchins. Plus more sea cucumbers.
But I was too distracted to really enjoy what is probably a very nice site. I did not get too many pictures here.
I found Joel and indicated to him that MF and I were going up, but that he should stay with the class. After a couple tries at this he got it.
MF and I returned to the surface and made the swim back to the boat.
Really, not a good dive at all.
It turns out he had borrowed the mask from one of the desk hands. But that was not going to work for the next two dives.
Another deck hand took a look at the mask and offered up some wire to make a crude repair.
That seemed to work. So, set for the next dive, we headed to the galley to try to get warm and to get some lunch.
I was freezing after this dive. I just could not get warm.
I tried some food, which helped my temp and my nausea. Then we went back out on deck where the Spectre has fashioned a basic hot tub. We could not get in with our wetsuits on (and since we wanted to try the last two dives we did not want to take them off).
But we could put our hands in the warm water. This helped warm me up a lot. I also took off my dive boots and got some sun on my feet, which helped.
Once everyone was back on the boat, we were off, headed to the third dive site.

Anacapa adventure - dive 31

View from our room at the Holiday Inn Express at Ventura Harbor

Finally, about a week later, I am getting the Anacapa dives in writing. I should have done it last Monday, but I was... Well, I was doing something. I can't really remember right now.

So, here's how it goes...

We are in the process of having furloughs at work. I have to take five days off between April and June. I wasted no time. I took the first Saturday in June (normally a work day).

The plan was to find a dive boat for Sunday, then spend Saturday night wherever the boat was.

I picked the Spectre, out of Ventura Harbor. It was going to Anacapa, a new trip for me. Manfriend had been there before, but was up to it again since it had been a while.

We got everything packed and ready early Saturday afternoon and headed up the 405 to the 101. It was a clear, sunny day with a bit of wind. It looked perfect.

After getting to Ventura we went directly to the harbor to check out the boat and decide if we wanted to sleep on board. The boat was scheduled to leave at 7 Sunday morning.

It looked like the boat was not back from that day's trip, so we went to take a look at the beach area.

After that little detour, we went back to the harbor and found the boat.

This is six of the bunks in a very small space.
They were very short and narrow.

This was our bunk. Since we didn't plan on sleeping there,
we only took one. But this is considered a double. We used it
mostly for storage, though MF did rest there at the start of the trip.
Once you are wet though, there is no going below deck. After the
first dive we did not see it again until we were
headed back at the end of the trip.

We took one look at the cramped bunk spaces - the bunks were about 6'2" long and MF is 6'9" long - and decided to stow some towels and other stuff on one to reserve it for the next day, but that we would be better off getting a room at the nearby Holiday Inn Express at the harbor.

To save some time the next morning we did set our dive gear on deck.

We had dinner that night at Winchester Grill in downtown Ventura, then headed back to the harbor to a restaurant called Margarita Villa for, what else, margaritas.

Soon enough it was time to sleep... early. We wanted to be back over at the boat by no later than 6:30. It was a quick 5-minute drive from the hotel.

Sunday morning came quickly and soon enough we were back on the boat.

The ride from Ventura to Anacapa is only about an hour and 20 minutes. It was a pretty smooth ride, though a little wind had kicked up overnight.

You can barely make out Anacapa in the distance as we set out.

The captain took us around to the back side of the island first, but the current and wind were too strong there, so he headed back toward the front side, stopping at the northern end of the island at a site called Rat Rock.
Rat Rock, Anacapa, Channel Islands, Calif. (from the Spectre)
April 5, 2009
Logged dive: No. 31
Max depth: 80 feet
Bottomtime: 35 minutes
There was an advanced open water class on the boat, and one of the dives they were required to do was a deep dive. The captain said this site was about 40 feet to one side and down to about 100 feet to the other.
The surface was very choppy. We jumped in and headed to the anchor line to descend.
I was holding onto my memories of the great dives we had in November at Santa Barbara Island, but this was not to be the same.
We chose to go to the deep side for a bit, then head back to a shallower area.
The divemaster had said that while it was choppy at the surface, it should be OK once we descended. It was not. It was still fairly surgey. Plus I had a lot of problems with my mask fogging up, which made it tough to see. I kept having to tip my head down to let water in the top of the mask then tip my head back to clear the water out to defog it.
All in all, it made for a nice little case of vertigo.
I was determined to tough it out as long as I could, but the foggy mask was too much after a while. It was actually worse than the surge. If I could have at least seen clearly, I would have been OK, I think.
Anyway, other than the surge and fog, the site was rather nice. There was a rocky reef area in the shallower side of the dive area. There were urchins, big starfish and vibrant purple and orange nudibranchs.
And there were sea cucumbers everywhere. I did not get a lot of pictures here since I was having trouble seeing. Really, I am surprised I got anything clear at all.
There was little kelp in this area, mostly it was the rocky tail of the island stretching under the surface to form the reef.
After struggling a bit and being very cold, MF and I gave each other the thumbs-up sign indicating we should head back to the surface.
We surfaced not too far from the boat and waited our turn behind another group of divers to get to the swim step, all the while bobbing and bouncing with the chop of the water.
By the time we got back on the boat, was definitely queasy. Not good.
After shedding my gear at my station, I headed to the bow of the boat to get some sun and catch my breath. MF brought me some water. I was starting to feel a bit better.
But then the puke came. Yup. Nice.
But it did help. I figured I would be OK by the time we reached the next dive site.
Next post... dive 2 for this trip.