|Trip Report and Photos: Sea Divers to Cruz/Rosa on the Peace|
Posted by Elaine on December 12, 2005 at 22:12:26:|
Trip Report and Photos
Sea Divers Trip to Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa Islands on the Peace
December 3 - 4, 2005
Story and Photos © Elaine Jobin, may not be reproduced in part or whole without advanced written permission.
The December Sea Diver trip on the Peace is one of my yearly favorites. Why...well, besides the fact that I'm with a great group of friends and divers, the dawn of winter often brings spectacular visibility. This trip is when we play with the hats. It is our Christmas Trip.
Peter's creative mind wasn't sure this multi armed thing with puffballs was a hat, but he eventually adopted the Sea Diver Christmas variation of a Sarcastic Fringehead look.
Some fashioned themselves into the "Cat in the Hat".
Others opted for the sporty Christmas Elf look.
Our departure was rescheduled from midnight to 2am due to bad weather at our planned destination of San Miguel Island. Our first stop would be closer to the mainland at Santa Cruz Island. We had a bumpy overnight crossing but woke up to sunny skies, cool weather, and some nice diving conditions. It was a little windy but Captain Kevin kept found us sheltered dive sites with visibility up to 80 feet and beyond. .
Now that I'm getting older, I don't always force myself out of my bunk for the first dive. I had breakfast and waited to start off underwater on the second dive. Visibility was great. I met a smaller sized torpedo ray who let me take close up photos of his eyes. I saw several terrific nudibranchs that were huge. Photo after photo was terrific subject matter. It was awesome. Until......I got back on the boat and discovered I had forgotten to put film in the camera. Uh Oh.... that's an error an old person might make because they are becoming, um, forgetful. Oh well, at least I can still remember that it was a great dive.
Next, I decided to try my new gear, which consisted of a high pressure steel 85 tank, a plastic backpack, and the smallest Oxycheck wing. It was one of the most miserable dives I've had in a long time. I usually dive with an aluminum 80 and a Zeagle BC - I hoped my new setup would reduce drag. The steel tank felt like I was pulling a passenger around on my back. I had crummy balance and stability. When I raised the camera for an upward shot I would fall over backwards. When I wasn't fighting a backwards loop maneuver, I was flipping from side to side. The goal of the steel tank seemed to be to make me an upside down turtle. My old gear may make me swim like a blimp, but it does give me an extremely stable platform for taking photos. To make matters worse, a strong current came up at the site shortly after we entered the water. I'm used to being able to grab a sturdy kelp plant for ascents in a current. Without the lift of my Zeagle I had a tough time pulling the kelp upright and maintaining a stable safety stop under the boat. When I dumped air to do the last 10 feet without the plant, it was one of the least controlled surfacing maneuvers I've done in a long time. Once on the surface, the current sent me sailing rapidly to the tag line. The weight of the steel tank made it seem like it was harder to pull myself along the line back to the boat. Maybe I'll like this set up if I can get used to it but so far all it did was make me run for my old gear. I know it isn't in vogue, but I love my aluminum 80's, and maybe I love my old bulky BC too.
Due to the equipment issues and the current, I didn't take many photos on the dive. The visibility was really good though.
We dove the east end of Santa Cruz and we dove the west end of Santa Cruz. Water temperature at some dive sites was 52 degrees, and, at others it was about 4 degrees warmer. The hot tub was a very popular place. The lobster and scallop hunters had some good hunting, but, I didn't see any really large lobsters in the game bags.
Throughout the day, hats continued to provide some unexpected amusement.
My favorite dives of the day were the evening and night dives that we did at our Santa Cruz harborage. I saw the largest torpedo ray I've ever seen sitting in the sand not far from the boat. At first he looked just like a large, at least 5 feet across, sand pile. As I swam closer I saw occasional white flashes on the side of the sand pile. Curious to see what they were, I kept heading toward it. When I was about 10 feet away, I realized that it was a mostly buried Torpedo Ray and that the white flashes were from his gills. I looked down and saw the outline of his tail. Just his tail seemed almost as long as I am, and, the meatiest part looked almost as wide as I am. My eyes must have gotten as big as saucers. This torpedo ray was huge. I did a slow turn and headed away, checking occasionally with my flashlight to make sure that he wasn't following me. At the shore side wall I had a terrific dive. I saw huge sculpins. I saw sticks slowly walking across the sand - crabs had moved in and were carrying the sticks like a shell. I also saw my very first swell shark sleeping in the rocks. It is hard to believe that I've never seen a swell shark before. It was a totally awesome night dive. I never completely forgot though that somewhere nearby in the darkness there was a torpedo ray that was bigger than I was though.
Those who sat out the night dives were treated to memorable sunset.
It was an exhausting day and after dinner, something unusual happened. It must have been related to brainwave frequency amplification properties of the tin foil hats.
I saw a snowman walking around the boat.
He seemed to enchant the Sea Divers and the crew.
The next thing I knew, we were on our early morning run to Santa Rosa island - who do you think was driving? Yep - the stinking snowman. Our boat was hijacked by a carrot nosed, coal eyed, top hatted giant snow cone. Oh no!!!!!!
Huh? What? I was just dreaming? It was just the "Nightmare Before Christmas"? Whew. Are you sure there wasn't a snowman on the boat? The cold water must be starting to get to me.
OK, now its morning, I pinch myself to make sure I'm not dreaming - we are at Rosa, and, everybody is getting ready to dive.
The cool water at Santa Rosa was a wake up experience. The visibility and diving conditions had been better at Cruz so we stayed at Rosa just long enough for a few dives and returned to Santa Cruz for our final dives of the trip.
Day two was filled with nudibranchs, invertebrates, and all kinds of fish. The visibility was so excellent at Santa Cruz Island, I'm not sure why I didn't shoot more wide angle - but I stuck with macro. I also used some of my Kodachrome 25 stash that won't be back from the processing lab for a few more days. These are some of my photo's that I did on my regular slide film.
As our trip was coming to an end it was clear that once again, the Sea Divers proved they are a hearty lot. No hail storms like last year, but it was definitely winter diving here in Southern California.
The Peace Crew did another outstanding job. They are the best.
My personal special thanks to Trish in the galley. I mentioned to her that I'd been working hard for two months to lose weight. She stayed on my case not to overeat, pointed out the lower calorie foods, and made me chicken without that delicious sauce (darn). In part, thanks to her help, I managed to loose a pound on a week that I'd been on a Peace trip. For me, that is unheard of. The food is just too good.
Thanks also to Captain Kevin for not letting a snowman take us on a diving trip to the North Pole.
The Sea Divers wish the happiest ever holiday season to all.
Until Next time..........
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