Dive report: Sundiver to Catalina frontside on Sunday, 3/16/05



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Posted by Dick Analog on March 14, 2005 at 22:36:03:

This past Sunday we made our first dive trip with the Sundiver, to the frontside of Catalina. Our main objective was to try to pick up a lobster or two on the last weekend of the 2004/2005 lobster season. Being relatively new divers, and really new lobster hunters, we knew from the outset that we needed to keep our expectations low. But we could always hope.

The day dawned gray, and stayed that way. (until we were headed back across the channel to Long Beach, of course Ė then the sun came out in all its glory) Most of the divers on board were students completing the last of their open water certification dives; there were maybe a half-dozen non-student divers. Capt. Ray really had his hands full, as illness had reduced his crew to the absolute minimum necessary to make a trip. All crew members wore many hats that day.

Our first dive site was just west of the big rock quarry, called Red Crane. The swells in the cove were pretty small, but the wind kept shifting from East to West, and back again, which made anchorage a real challenge for Capt. Ray. He eventually got the boat settled down and we hit the water, finding 30-40ft of visibility at depth and the water temperature at about 61degF. We probed nooks and crannies in the boulders between 50ft and 30ft depth but didnít see anything resembling a lobster. Because the surge was quite mild, we decided to try the shallower areas, and concentrated our search in the 10-20ft depth zone. Here, we found a few isolated pockets of bugs, but they were in very secure holes. In fact, they seemed to taunt us Ė waving their antennae, as if to say ha! ha! just try and get us. I did manage to pull out one frisky little guy, but he was too short for the grill. This year, anyway.

With everyone back on board after the first dive, we headed west past the Isthmus, and past what seemed like most of the dive boat fleet out of L.A. County: the Sea Bass, the Pacific Star, the Magician, and the Cee Ray. After looking around a bit for a cove without too much current, we settled into Africa cove. Here, we were in a no-take zone for lobsters, so it was to be a sight-seeing/exploration dive rather than a mission to put food on the table. This turned out to be a fun place to look for critters. We chased a small torpedo ray, and poked our heads into one hole with an improbable bunch of room-mates: a horn shark, an eel, and three lobsters. And speaking of lobsters, the place was crawling with them Ė some quite large. Pretty much every deep crevice had several sets of waving antennae. It was mouth-watering, albeit frustrating.

We played hop-scotch with the Cee Ray and anchored in Eel Cove for the third dive. The gray sky, brisk breeze, and accompanying chill took a toll on the diversí desire for adventure, and only a half-dozen went into the water for the last dive of the day. In fact, I was surprised at how chilled I felt once we were in the water. It was only at the end of the dive that I discovered my wet suit had been un-zipped the whole time. This site seemed to have an unusually dense population of garibaldi, and unusually aggressive ones at that. One made several bump-and-run charges at the camera, but no harm done; Iíve never heard of anyone being lipped to death by a garibaldi. Because we did lots of shallow water crevice poking, our tanks lasted nearly an hour. My dive buddy and I were the last ones back to the boat and the over-worked crew were more than a wee bit anxious to head back to Long Beach. Capt. Ray threw me a rope, just to speed up the extrication process.

We cleaned up and then headed below deck for a pleasant nap during the return trip to port. And Iím not kidding, both of us dreamt of dark crevices, full of waving antennae and big, fat lobsters. At least we took lobsters home with us in our dreams, if not in our game bags.

Our thanks to Capt. Ray and crew, who worked extra hard to make this a pleasant and safe trip.

Capt. Ray, during a rare moment of relaxation, talking with Steve Ladd of Ocean Adventures. I hope they were talking about happy things, rather than any current, weighty matters...

Man, if my arm was about three feet longer. We could have BBQ lobsters every weekend.

When we saw a kelpfish swimming from one kelp cluster to another, it was covered with patterns of spots. But, as soon as it entered the kelp plant, the spots vanished and it looked just like...kelp!

At first, there was just one...

Then, a few others appeared...

Finally, they rushed us all at once. It was the Attack of the Killer Damselfish!




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