Cortes Banks, Santa Barbara, & Santa Cruz - on the PEACE

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Posted by Jeff in landlocked %$#@^* Arizona on November 18, 2003 at 13:22:44:

I had arranged a couple months ago for 3 days off work in hopes of making it to Calfornia for some of that wonderful diving. Living in Arizona makes it a long drive, so given the option, Iíd much rather do a 3 day over a 2 day liveaboard. Itís lobster season, & I heard the red-tide was going away..
On checking with the Calfornia Dive Boats page ( ), I saw that the Aloha Dive shop ( ) had a Ĺ load going on the PEACE,

& there was space available (PEACE boat ? Isnít that the one with the hot tub ? ! )
I called & spoke with Mr Chris Russello, owner/operator of the shop, & found myself totally happy to be signed up for not only the trip, but also for the EAN / Nitrox cert class.
So, I drove out from AZ, & boarded around 8:00 pm & PEACE departed at 10:00 pm.
We awoke to find ourselves at the Cortes Bank. Apparently the weather is frequently rough such that this destination is not possible; well, this was my lucky day ! And, the crew said this weather is about as good as it ever gets ! There was some current, but minimal wind, the water temp was 60 F, & the vis was 100 feet !
It was Glorious Diving ! !
I didnít rent an u/w camera this trip, I really had planned on just going for the bugs.
I didnít want "extra equipment" to have to think about, & it was a good thing. The bugs were there ! I discovered that here at Cortes, they seemed somehow different; they seemed bigger, yes, but all you had to do was swim around & you would see the antenna sticking out of the holes (maybe the holes were smaller ? or were the bigs just plain bigger !  It appeared that all Iíd have to do was just swim up & grab Ďem.
Wrong As a newbie, I found myself Ďplanning on how best to grab Ďem you know, just wait for those antennae to split, take aim, then go for the horns near the eyes. Those of you who know are already laughing at my antics; I actually did get my hands on one but that was only because the hole was not too deep for me to reach in to the back; but, alas, there wasnít enough room for me to shake him, so, again, I left empty handed. But many others who were in the know, who were experienced, who had done this before (who were smarter than me!) came back with full bags !
This day, day # 1, I got 2 dives in at the 9 Fathom reef (I got 4 dives total): my 4 dives were as follows: 91ft x 27"@ 60deg F, 84ft x 30" @ 61F, 87ft x 25" @ 60F, & 71ft x 27" @ 60F. I sat out one day dive, just to rest & warm up, then I skipped the night dive: there was enough current in the afternoon to make me a little uncomfortable should I miss the boat - I didnít want to wrestle with that at night. The temperature was Excellent my last trip out last February was 51deg F @ 80ft at Santa Cruz this was Way Better !

I own next to nothing for scuba; just the mask, snorkel, booties, gloves, & flippers, but my wife bought me a computer this summer ! As long as I can continue to dive, I will eventually get my own, but so far have been very pleased & fortunate in having quality rental gear. This time my gear came from the Aloha shop; I used a steel 95 & Mares bc, Genesis regs, a 7mm single piece suit, & this time had a hooded vest wow is that a nice addition to staying warm! For weights, I started with 22 #, thinking that the hooded vest would add buoyancy, but ended very nicely with the 20 # - next time, might even try 18.
As I have no clue as to the "habits & lifestyle" of sea life, I was totally amazed to see sealions out at Cortes! Is that common? Anyhow, it was a thrill to watch & be watched by them. I did find myself protecting my snorkel from there dive-bombing; a fellow diver told us of having her snorkel taken by surprise, & along with it went the mask.. itís good to be prepared for that! But nice to try to prevent it, too. (They must be stashing gear somewhere, maybe they have their own rental shop!)
Our last dive at the Cortes Bank was pretty near the buoy had a Cal game & fish boat come by, seemed to me awfully close (w/ our dive flags on display); they never even contacted our boat, I wonder what they were doing way out here?
After the night dive, which only a few folks made, & did get lobsters! we headed for Santa Barbara Capín Eric said it would be a little rough, so get comfortable, & get a good nite sleep for day 2.
Morning at Santa Barbara proved to be beautiful it was more windy here than at the Banks, & so seemed cooler, but I love that we have the Hot Tub!! Many buckets were emptied into cold suits, & it was almost easy to get "dressed" for the day.
Here, I skipped only the "real" night dive our very last dive was for all intents a night dive, you needed light to see anything! Anyhow, I got in 5 dives total on this day 2, I believe the first two were at location named "Boilers" but donít recall names of other sites.

At this island, I saw more unusual (to me) sea life than Iíd ever seen before at least 3 moray eels here, some folks saw octopus, & a group of us sat & watched a "bat ray" for maybe 4-5 minutes! What a thrill to see these things! Lobster everywhere, I just havenít yet developed enough "smarts" to figure out a technique.. but, next dive, Iíll do it for sure!!
Iím not sure if they both happened on this day, but one of the divers got bit twice by moray. Didnít appear to be a significant injury, but would have made me think twice about reaching in. What a superb bug hunter, Ďtho Iím sure he & his enjoy some fine dining in the days to come!
When we were preparing to leave Santa Barbara for Santa Cruz, Eric told us to be prepared batten down the gear (& hatches!) & hold on.. it was a truly bumpy ride with a few people getting sick, & the crew asked us not to step outside the galley it wouldíve been easy to be tossed over the side, & I imagine never being seen again..
Santa Cruz was fabulous, but what a difference a few degrees makes! Here, my 4 dives were 65, 54, 32, & 52 feet in depth, but temps were 56 58 degrees. We did the Yellow Banks, Pink Ribbon, & not sure of other site-names. Wow, it seemed cold!, until, I found the lobsters
Someone on board suggested that I make my plan to grab as aggressively as possible, as though I intended on "crushing" the bug well, that seemed to make the difference. I actually "caught" 3, unfortunately, one got away (he was the biggest one!!!!!), & the other two were short (by about 3/32s of an inch!!!). but at least I sort of figured out how to do it. At one spot, Brent found them, I found the back door, & lo- & behold, there sat 2 of them, side by side, facing opposite directions, with their backs exposed to me; they couldnít even see me!! The hold was just big enough to get my hand in easily, but that meant just enough to grab only one. (I think I got the biggest! But he was still short..) No Matter, I have been bitten by the bug!! What a thrill!!
Of course the sights & activities of diving are fabulous, but making new acquaintances sort of tops it all. I dived almost every dive with Ana, my new most awesome dive buddy!

We seemed to develop a comfort level of diving together that worked very well I hope we can dive together again one day. Chris, who taught me EAN / nitrox was wonderful! Very knowledgeable, & helpful, made the learning process Fun! & Everyone on the boat from both groups, what a fun bunch of people all there for the fun & love of diving. Colleen, Brent, Richard, Missy, Eric, Blaine, JB. Iíd love to join All of you again.
&, THE CREW Deborah & Christy kept us not only fed, but fed with the Best of meals

If you ever go away from one of these trips hungry, well, I believe thatís just not possible.
Eric, Kevin Bradon, & Kurt, you guys were fabulous; you really made this an enjoyable time as the Terminator / Gov says, "Iíll be back."
Definitely plugging here, but not at all shameless I canít recommend it highly enough!
best trip of my life!!

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