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Posted by Patrick on May 04, 2005 at 16:12:02:

A belated report on Sunday dives in Santa Monica Bay.

A call on Saturday to Ross-O indicated that there was viz to be had in the south end of Santa Monica Bay, but the troops were dead-set on the Star and other spots toward the north end of the bay. Thus we were traveling towards Santa Monica over glassy water sporting a fair swell, and under mostly sunny skies. The 10 minute trip from del Rey was uneventful except for an exceptional number of birds – terns, gulls, cormorants, and pelicans – working bait balls.

The Star was clear of other boats, and on dropping the marker buoy, the viz on the surface looked promising. The first team in had only been down about five minutes when all hell broke loose. Looking like a boat wake, a wall of foam, but in actuality, blitzkrieg birds, dolphin and sea lions moved up to the boat, lingered for several minutes and then moved on – Awesome!
Dolphin were leaping clear of the water in every quadrant of view, with the sea lions attempting to follow. The bait making up the ball – ‘chovies, I believe – attempted to take shelter under the boat but with not much success. And the birds! It was sad to watch the pelicans get aced time and again by the gulls, and even when they did score, the damn gulls would dive right into their pouch and poach the catch.

Topside I was thinking “can I get the boat anchored and in the water with my camera before this ends?” But the show moved on pretty quickly. I was thinking the team below must have seen and had some great interaction. But when they surfaced, they were totally unaware of anything going on since the viz on the wreck was 0 to 1-foot on the bottom. However, like the skyscrapers of LA poke above the smog, the high points of the wreck – the bow and stern – poked up to where there was perhaps 6 to 8-foot of viz. And wrapped around the highest point of the stern was a very nice 20 Kg. Anchor (brand new – price tag still affixed) and a considerable amount of chain. John had amused himself on the first dive by untangling most of the chain below the anchor, but the anchor and the first ten or so feet was basically a knot around the steel beam coming off the stern of the Star.

Discussion ensued: Crank up and run for Palos Verdes? Stay on the Star and recover the anchor and chain? Run north looking for better viz at Topanga, Malibu or Dume?

The decision was made to recover the anchor.

I descended with the required lift bags and clips and easily found the anchor. There is a line from one of Hemingway’s books, something about “what was it doing up so high” referring I think to a leopard on Mount Kilimanjaro, but the same question could have been applied to how the anchor managed to get so entangled when it was basically clear of most of the wreckage.

With one bag on the fouled hook, I was able to untangle the 3/8” chain knot fairly easily. I left a single loop around the wreckage to prevent new entanglement and descended to add lift bags along the chain.

First problem. I had apparently unclipped the goody bag with the two other lift bags, and it drifted off. I spent some time looking, but in the zero viz on the bottom it was useless. So if anybody finds a red net goody bag with a couple of lift bags….

I decided to swim the chain and verify it was clear of any entanglements. Again, working by Braille, it was going pretty well. For as new as the anchor and chain were though, there was a lot of fishing line and hooks tangled in clusters along its length.

Second problem. Though I come equipped with three different cutting devices, most of time when I encounter fishing line entanglement (monofilament) I can usually break it off with my hands, or abrade it on rock or wreck, stuff the clump into a bag or pocket and be done with it. On this occasion I found a new type of line, very thin and stronger than hell. Initially due to the poor viz I thought it was mono, but on trying to break the line, it was actually cutting into my gloves. I did cut away the entanglement and we eventually floated the hook and 150-feet of chain a couple of dives later. Some of this super line came up with the lift and I had a chance to look it over. It seems to be a very fine braided synthetic and is dark gray / green in color, and its strength is unbelievable. This is BAD stuff. If this starts to accumulate on wrecks and reefs as monofilament has in some areas this could be a serious consideration for divers. With its low visibility and high strength it could be a killer.

Anybody know about this stuff? How common? Is it the new state of the art for fishermen?

Despite the poor viz and the encounter with the line from hell, it was a good day to be on and in the water.

Stay wet

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