Christmas Eve Dive Report and Photos - "The Pale Riders"

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Posted by Patrick on January 04, 2007 at 11:37:39:

Dive Report - 12/24/06 Christmas Eve

"The Pale Riders"

Taking a much needed break from the Christmas frenzy and end-of-year report writing, Captain Andy and I snuck out for a quickie Christmas Eve dive in Santa Monica Bay. The streets and launch ramp at Marina del Rey were remarkably (and thankfully) empty.

Conditions were spectacular. No wind. Calm and glassy. And the light from the sunrise imbued everything with a warm golden glow that was just beautiful.

Photo by Patrick Smith

As we moved from the harbor proper (5 knots - no wake) into the main channel (8 knots - the hell with the wake) we picked up some visitors; two snowy egrets.

Photo by Patrick Smith

This same interception had happened a few times before. Just as we make the turn into the channel, one or two egrets do a fly over, and usually settle in for a landing. Bow or stern, there doesn't seem to be a preference as to touch-down areas. They'll hover over bow roller or stern cleat, alight and then look about with bright inquisitive eyes.

Photo by Patrick Smith

They are very tolerant of humans and allow you to approach with seemingly little concern. This doesn't seem to be a food thing (i.e. begging bait from fishermen's bait tanks) but might be. On this particular morning our two visitors rode with us about halfway down the channel before they launched back into the air and flew back to the harbor channel intersection and chose a new boat to grace with their presence.

Since we had the time (and the sun was barely up and that first dive was probably going to be really cold...) we watched this process happen a couple of times as boats made the turn out of the harbor. Strange, interesting and very cool behavior. It was a bit disappointing to watch our pale riders schmooze with other boats, though - We thought they just liked us. Since we had to be back early, we chose to do a couple of dives on the MdR and Venice artificial reefs.

The first dive found about 10-foot visibility as I entered and promised reasonable viz for the dive. The promise wasn't kept. On the bottom the temperature and visibility both dropped. Visibility on the bottom was a dark, particulate-laden 3 to 4-feet. Temperature was 55-degrees, down six degrees from the surface.

These rock piles are pretty heavily covered with gorgonian and in this visibility, to get close enough to the bottom to actually see it, you ended up constantly pushing your face through the gorgonians and spooking sand bass and sculpin out of the weeds.

The thought crossed my mind that there are probably a whole lot of people who would find marinating in cold, deep, dark salt water, with 75-pounds of gear strapped to them, unidentified critters bouncing off their faces as they swim through "stuff" an unpleasant if not terrifying experience. As far as I'm concerned, there is very little that is better.

A little better viz? Sure - Always appreciated. Warmer water? Never an argument there. Despite the conditions, just being out is the pleasure. And compared to fighting the angst and traffic of the holiday mall scene, it is Eden, poor viz, cold water and all.

As Capt. Andy made his dive I amused myself by running through a nearby tideline and gaffing floating plastic, managing to accumulate a fairly impressive pile in short order.

Apparently one piece of floating trash took umbrage at its forcible removal from the marine environment.

The second dive found conditions on the rock piles had changed - for the worse. Viz had dropped to about two-feet, but it was okay. The two dives had cancelled those holiday-negative ions and cured the dry-gill buildup of the last week.

Back at the amazingly empty launch ramp, we received a very pleasant and long desired present: we got to meet the newly assigned game warden for Santa Monica Bay. Woohoo! We'll now have somebody on site for those times when we find illegal strings of ug traps, or for those folks who think 25 is the limit on Garibaldi. George is a heck of a nice guy, but I get the impression that you'd better have all your i's dotted and t's crossed. Speaking of that, those of you who do a bit of hunting and gathering might think about icking up your 2007 fishing license if you haven't done it by now. I understand that sinking feeling one has when they see the game warden waiting at the gangway and remember that they forgot to buy their new license is a terrible thing to experience. And the fine isn't that great either.

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas and we all have a great New Year.

Stay wet.

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