Posted by Elaine on March 30, 2005 at 18:59:09:
Trip Report and Photos: Easter Weekend on the Peace, March 26 and 27, 2005. Oil Rig Grace and Anacapa Island
Story and Photos © Elaine Jobin, may not be duplicated in part or in whole without advanced written permission
One of the first things that I noticed when I arrived at Ventura Harbor was that the "Fishermenís Memorial" has been completed. Iíve watched it slowly materialize during the past several months and it is now a beautiful addition to the harbor parking lot.
I boarded the boat and completed the required paperwork and releases. Next, I was herded off of the boat and onto the dock for an Oil Rig Security Clearance. This is now a requirement to dive on the Oil Rig Grace, inspired by 9-11. I entered the line up, photo ID in hand, and waited my turn for the nod from the Harbor Patrol representative. The entire screening process was relatively painless and in 10 minutes time we had all been cleared for our journey.
We departed the dock at about 7am. The sun broke through the morning haze during our smooth crossing, and, at approximately 75 minutes after leaving the harbor we were in the calm waters surrounding the Oil Rig Grace.
Prior to beginning our dive day, the bow area was cleared of passengers, and an "arrival ceremony" took place. Crew member Steve stood devoutly as a crane lowered its hook to our front deck. He attached a gallon sized Ziploc baggy full of red licorice and small wrapped candies to the crane hook. This "tithe" to the Oil Rig denizens was then raised to the top deck of the Oil Rig. The completion of the "candy sacrifice" marked the start of our Oil Rig underwater adventures.
At the stern, cameras were placed in the chase boat for distribution within the rig structure. At the bow, divers on single tanks, divers on double tanks, divers toting stage bottles, and divers on rebreathers, all lined up for the "live drop" giant stride.
Visibility ranged from 30 to 50 feet and the water temperature was brisk in the high 50ís. The decent at the Grace is interesting in that the first 20 feet or so isnít too interesting. After that, the columns of small white anemones dominate the structure. Somewhere around 60 ft the pink anemones abruptly take over, and at around 110 feet, the large Metridium anemones begin to appear. I organized the following photos with deepest ones first.
We did two dives at the rigs and we were split into two diving groups, (each group had the opportunity for two dives). Everything went incredibly smoothly. Some technically oriented divers went to 280 feet and they reported extremely poor visibility there. I maxed out at 120 feet due to my nitrox mix. Sometimes I wonder how the tech guys can get back on the boat with so much weight in equipment - but they do and they donít even seem to have a hard time doing it.
Two sea lions provided entertainment during the surface intervals. Some divers were disappointed that more sea lions werenít present on the rigs for our dives. Two sea lions were all that we saw.
On route to Anacapa Island, our next stop, many were busy cleaning their take of scallops. 10 scallops per person per day are the allowed personal harvest at the Oil Rig Grace.
We did two great dives at Anacapa, the photos below depict the dive sites topside. (To simplify things, I have put my underwater Anacapa photos in the next section).
The ride home was quick and smooth with an arrival back at the dock before 7pm. It had been an awesome A++ kind of dive day.
I stayed overnight on the boat and joined the trip back to Anacapa on the following day - Easter Sunday.
An entire new group of divers appeared for the Sunday trip. To my surprise, "Dick Analog" was in the new batch of arrivals. Knowing that he is into astronomy, I showed him my compass that has taken sick. It works fine on the surface but freezes up completely underwater. I was really glad to have my Desert Star Systems dive tracker along as I depended on its electronics for navigation the entire second dive day. "Dick Analog", however, never needs frilly electronics - he can get anywhere on a compass.
Our first stop at Anacapa was at Landing Cove - a very old marine reserve.
I jumped in and began my exploration of the cove. The garibaldis have begun building nests for mating season. A large tree was laying mostly intact somewhere shortly past 60 feet. A sea lion was busy harassing all of the "tourists", and, an eel in pipe at about 20 feet was a line up attraction. There were some huge sheephead to be seen here also. These are some of my photos from this dive.
During the surface interval we rounded the corner and headed for the backside of Anacapa. On the backside we dove at Cat Rock, Coral Reef and Amphitheater Cove. The visibility at all of the dive sites was excellent.
One of the things that I enjoyed about the backside is the prevalence of gorgonians, many of them pink or purple. These are some of my gorgonian shots.
Between dives, keeping warm was not a problem. It was so sunny and warm that, for many, most clothing became optional.
I stayed cool by staying in the water as much as possible. On the last two dives I shot macro. These are a few of my macro shots from the backside of Anacapa. Several areas that I crossed during my dive were plastered with brittle stars.
The sky became cloudy and the air temperature dropped around the time of the fourth and final dive at Amphitheater Cove. Many experienced this dive site from the comfort of the hot tub. Hot beverages and blankets also became a popular item.
The trip home ended a terrific weekend on the Peace. As usual, the food was awesome, the crew charming and helpful, and it is hard to think of a better way to have spent Easter weekend. No detail is ever left hanging on the Peace - extra camera buckets even appeared out of nowhere at the Oil Rigs to accommodate the high volume of photo equipment. Many thanks to Eric and the Crew for spending your Easter with us!
Until Next Time.....
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