Catalina Tired Dive

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Posted by seahunt on January 18, 2003 at 20:56:30:

Catalina Tired Dive

After lots of traffic and a typical boat thing of a dead battery was solved,
we were heading out across San Pedro Harbor. Near Angels Gate was a car
carrier ship that looked like a gigantic building. We couldn't tell what it
was doing, but from its positioning, we assumed it was just getting under
way. The green spot of the Angels Gate lighthouse washed across it a couple
of times a minute. We couldn't tell if it was moving or just starting to
move, but you have to be extremely careful of ships like that both because
they are so huge and also because they are so fast. As we got closer, we
could see that surprisingly, it was still not moving or even appearing to
get under way. Soon we were outside the breakwater in smooth water heading
for Catalina. The forecast was for calm, with some fog and drizzles. Right
now it was clear with a very bright half moon.

Since we were a bit late getting off, we decided to go to the Pyramid
rather than explore a new spot near Church Rock as we had discussed. It
was a spot we both knew well. The option was Isthmus High Spot, but this
late in the season, the lobsters were likely to be shallower anyway.
We anchored in close and hit the water. I wanted to try out my other lens,
so I had my camera along. It's not any help when lobster diving, but it
shouldn't be too much in the way, floating over my shoulder most of the

The water was warm and clear. I went west, Lem went east. This is a spot
we both knew in detail. I went down at the first kelp bed and dumped out
some abalone scraps I had saved. The plan was to check it on the way back
to the boat. It had never worked in the past, but I wanted to try

I like to swim right against the shore here when I can and the surge
wasn't bad, but the kelp was thicker than usual. The tide was low, so the
water level was at the level of a band of short laminarea kelp. I was
staying along the bottom at 10 or 15 feet, looking for lobsters on the
rock face under them. I was traveling through macrocystis kelp, inside
of rocks covered with bright green eel grass. I really wasn't seeing much
other than some shorts and some fish. I wasn't bothering the shorts, but
a few seemed to be panicking as I passed and I kept feeling them bump into
me as they jetted away. I took some pictures of a couple of them as I went

I saw a group together and one looked legal so I swatted him before he
started moving. With all the shorts I was seeing, I expected to see more
legals. All the bugs I was seeing were on the rock face, but closer to the
bottom in the short red algae.

Then about two feet under the surface, I saw the smallest moray eel I had
ever seen. It was about 18 inches long and moving along the rocks down the
reef. I felt bad flashing him with the camera, but I sure hope the pics
came out. That was really something to see. Cute little bugger.


I was looking up all the way to the surface and out into the rocks away
from the island wall and didn't see much. I was going into small shallow
surgy inlets between the rocks. I just wasn't seeing much legal. I figured
I would go deeper on the way back, but I wanted to travel as far as I
could shallow before turning around.

A few things were becoming evident as I went along. I had just gotten over
a bit of flu, so I had used some Afrin to clear my head. After the last
time, I had promised myself that I would remember not to take
antihistamines ever again while diving. They get me incredibly high, but I
didn't remember why I didn't like Afrin unless needed. I was remembering
now. The drip down my throat tasted disgusting and was making me a bit
nauseated. Also the camera was being more of a problem than I expected.
The extra weight of the lens was making the camera neutral, so it wasn't
floating above me. When I wasn't holding it, it was following behind my
shoulder. I had taken the camera with me lobster hunting before, but not
in kelp this thick or in this much surge. I really needed both hands for
good mobility. It was a hassle.

A snail out cruising the Kelp Hiway

I went up to look for the boat and finally turned back. I went back down
to about 18 feet so that I was outside the eel grass and headed back
quickly. Along the way, there were some shorts and a maybe that I
grabbed and put in my bag. I always put my light between my legs so that
it won't float up into my face, then close my eyes and put the lobster in
the bag by feel. It seems the easiest way. I really didn't see that many
fish, though I was taking pictures to use up the roll whenever I saw
anything of interest.

I felt fairly miserable, so though I came up perfectly in line with the
boat, I only swam past the outer reef quickly and didn't really look for
the abalone scraps. Lem was coming from the other direction just after me.
He had 5 nice legals and I ended up with two. That was a lot of work and
I had no intention of bringing my camera with me any more that night.

We went east to the Isthmus to anchor for the night. Lem wasn't feeling
that good and wanted to call it a night. He was still a bit illish himself
anyway and had mostly wanted just to get wet. We anchored near Little
Cove for the night. I've gotten a couple of bugs most dives
there anyway, so I figured I would do one tank and sleep. I was already
tired anyway.

I swam in to the kelp and went down. I immediately came to some large
rocks at about 20 feet and there were big bugs everywhere. The only
problem was that they were way under those large rocks. These bugs are
probably hunted more here than almost anywhere else and they were cagey.
They moved back as soon as they saw the light and they had a long way to
go back between and under these big rocks. I was making some good grabs,
but they were making better dodges. I got some antennas and even some
legs, but could not get anymore than that. I was basically not even
trying to hold on if I only got hold of an antennae, because that was not
going to get me a lobster. I was keeping the light extremely close so as
not to give warning, but they were still just way down in their holes. I
was moving close enough to the rocks that I put my console behind my
shoulder so it wouldn't bang on the rocks. I dumped air until I was
fairly negative, because any grabs were down as far as I could reach.
What also made this interesting was that there were a fair number of
sculpin around. This went on for a while before I got to the deep ledges
that I knew were closer to Big Cove. There were a lot of fish
to see as well as a couple horned sharks, but the cove is a reserve, so
I turned around at the big ledges at the point. I figured it was time to
look shallow and I did find some shorts, but nothing

There was a shallow wash ledge against the cliff so I hauled out to take a
breather. It was a beautiful starry night and the moon had just set. It was
clear enough that Palos Verdes was clearly visible. I try to never forget
how special this is or take it for granted and stayed there in the light
surge taking in the night. I always remember that such is life that this
may never happen again. There were no shooting stars tonight though and it
was time to keep moving.

Swimming along the shore, I was seeing a number of shorts, but nothing real
interesting. It made sense that there were shorts and very big lobsters.
An area like this has a right of passage. Shorts are safe, but once a
lobster is legal sized it had better be fairly paranoid and stay that way
or it's going to get caught.

After going south as far as I wanted, I went deeper to look in the big
rocks again. Sure enough, they were there, but if anything they were deeper
in the cracks. All you see are these big legs moving back. Then I came over
a rock and there was a big one between some rocks, but not far enough back
to be out of reach. He didn't move, so I hesitated (not a good idea) to try
to figure a decent angle. I finally just reached in as far as I could and got
a death grip on one horn. He fought. I held. I had room to get another hand
in on his other horn and that was that. He has lost then. I held him by the
horns in one hand and tried to get him in my bag. He wanted nothing to do
with it and was big enough to protest. Eventually I stopped trying long
enough to unfold my bag that had been turned in so it wouldn't catch as I
swam. Then I did a quick jam to get him in, but still had to work a while to
close the bag. I couldn't believe it. Nice bug. I figured it was at least 4

She's got him licked

I kept moving on, with a bit of an adrenaline boost now, but there were no
more big volunteers. This time when I turned back, I stayed at about 10 feet
to check the middle area I had not covered. At one point, I saw one in a small
flat crack. I could only get some fingers in, but that was enough to pin it. I
got some fingers of my other hand on its horns and like it or not, I had it.
It definitely felt like a legal, but just so. Well, that big bug didn't want
to move away from the top of my bag no matter how much I shook it. I opened it
just enough to shove the other one in all the way. I closed the bag, but not
before I felt it jet sideways right out the side of the bag. I didn't even
look for it.

I swam past the reef over the sand until I was at 42 feet and shut off my
light. I slowly drifted up enjoying the bioluminescent light show. With no moon
up, it was so black that the bioluminescence was brilliant. At the surface, the
boat was only about 20 feet away.

I was tired and really hadn't planned on another tank, but hey, those were some
big bugs. I had to try for another. Besides, I had another bag of abalone
trimmings. I figured that I would swim over the rocks dropping pieces, then come
back a bit later and see if any of those big ones were tempted. The bug I had,
weighed in at 4.7 pounds and I had definitely seen much bigger in the rocks.
As far as nitrogen load, there was really no need for a surface interval and
there was no point in putting it off, so I geared up again immediately and
headed back in.
I went down near the boat, over the sand and sure enough, right away there was a
nice bug in the sand. I was careful since he had a lot of room and could go
in any direction. Since I was barely spotting him with the edge of my light, he
didn't know which way to go and I nailed him. That was a great way to start a
dive. I went closer to shore and moved over the big rocks dropping out pieces
of ab. I also hoped the lobster would be more inclined to be out now that the
moon was down. Way down in a space between rocks, I saw one lobster that had to
be at least 9 pounds, maybe bigger.

Nice Bugs

To make a long dive into a short story, I saw a number of shorts, but even in
the big rocks, the lobsters were further back in their holes than before. I
didn't even grab for anything. It was a beautiful dive and I saw a lot of
critters, but at the end of it I was dead tired and grateful for the hot shower
on the boat. After I dressed, I went out to enjoy the stars. The Belt of Orion
brought up one end of the brilliant stars of the zodiac, in the cloud of light
that is the Milky Way.

Lem came half awake to ask how it had gone. He was surprised I had used both
tanks. So was I, but I had to try.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt

seahunt Diving and Morality

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