Dive report: Long Point/Old Marineland 7/3/05; Ankleslappers!

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Posted by Dick J on July 03, 2005 at 13:51:10:

Surf at entry/exit: 1ft (or less)
Water temp: 59degF above thermocline, 53degF below
Visibility: consistently around 15ft
Max depth: 42ft
Bottom time: 61min

Ankleslappers! Ankleslappers! I’d heard about them but believed them to be mythical phenomena. Today I discovered they are real – quiet little sloshes at the shoreline, like you’d expect at a modest-sized inland lake. Obviously I was elated – my very first beach dive without getting slammed into the bottom on entry or exit. This was also my first return to Marineland in exactly 40 years. Last time I was here was as 7-year old kid to see the aquarium and dolphin shows; today I came as a slightly bigger kid, and again left this place full of wonder.

I went to Long Point today because it was the Sandeaters’ scheduled Sunday morning dive. Having heard that the gate on the entrance road might not be opened until 8am or 9am, I was pleasantly surprised when I was able to roll into the parking lot at 7:30 and find a half-dozen cars already there with divers setting up their rigs. I made a quick recon trip down to the shoreline and was absolutely amazed by the calm conditions. I got my rig quickly set up and tested, had a guy in the parking lot help zip my wetsuit, glanced one last time at the Sheckler’s book, and was into the water in a flash. After taking a compass bearing on the rocky point on the East side of the cove, I dropped down to the sandy bottom in just 6ft of water. Since this was going to be a new site for me I decided to take the time (and air) to see the sandy areas on my way to the reef, and was rewarded by pleasant encounters with crabs, sea pansies, sand dollars, and fast-moving stars. I went slowly, imagining in my mind that this was basically an underwater nature stroll.

On my way across the sand flats I saw numerous 12in.-18in. deep craters where stingrays had been at work, foraging for food. At about 22ft depth I hit an abrupt thermocline – I could actually see the bottom shimmering below me, an optical effect caused by looking through layers of water with differing densities. Above the thermocline the water temp was a balmy 59degF; when I dipped below it the temperature dropped quickly to 53degF.

I encountered the reef at about 25ft depth and was initially disappointed by the seeming lack of animal life. But, as I worked my southward, and eastward into the heart of the rocky reef, swimming things seemed to blossom out of every ridge and crevice. There were many garibaldi, barred sand bass, chromis, blue-banded and black-eye gobys, and several species of perch. I also saw a couple of large, colorful male rock wrasses for the first time, as well as two species of rock fish.

I spotted a scorpion fish resting, curiously, in a small sandy patch; I settled gently on the bottom directly in front of it and stared into its beady eyes. For some reason it lurched forward a few inches which give me a bit of a start – maybe it was trying to tell me I was getting too far into its territory.

The best finds of the day were a pair of octopi – my first ever on a So.Cal dive. The first one was loosely folded into a gap in the reef wall. The second, larger octopus, was found no more than 50ft away, and was sharing a cozy hole with an 18in. swell shark. By this time I was absolutely elated – it was one of my best critter dives ever. And it was a beach dive!

When I was about to enter my second hour on the dive clock, with tank pressure getting close to 500psi, I was briefly tempted to switch over to the pony bottle to buy some extra dive time – I was having that much fun. But, dipping into the pony bottle would have violated one of my solo diving rules so I resisted the temptation. And, I was freezing my arse. Reluctantly I headed back across the sand flats, then rose slowly to the surface in 10ft of water when the tank pressure hit 300psi. Even though it was a long trudge back up the hill to the parking area, if I had had a second tank (….and maybe a dry suit) I would have headed straight back to the water without the slightest hesitation.

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