Posted by ScubaBob on January 30, 2008 at 00:04:57:
The rain in California had been relentless. With one storm after another I had little hopes of having even a mediocre day of diving on Saturday. From the looks of the swell model late in the week, I was starting to have doubts we would even make it out of Long Beach. With Capt. Greg, however, I knew the Bottom Scratcher would make the crossing, so I popped the dramamine and strapped down the gear for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. Saturday morning was cold, but was suprisingly cloud and wind free. The swell had dropped considerably since Friday, which made for a rather pleasant trip. Within 30 minutes of casting off, we were treated with a smog free view of the southland, complete with snow covered mountains. This view would be ours for the entire day, even from Catalina.
With only a few open water students on-board, we anchored off of bird rock for our first dive. Based on reports from the previous few weeks, the expected visibility was in the 15-25' realm and my video camera was already equipped for a close-up only day. All of the kelp sitting on the surface, and flat conditions at Isthmus brightened my spirits and prepared me for the poor visibility.
The poor visibility that was not to be found! Instead a gorgeous 30-40' of viz was ours for the taking. I ventured over to the wall where I filmed several Hermissenda in July. No Hermi's this time, but upon closer inspection, I found several tiny Flabellina trilineata eating away at the fauna.
I struggled for some time trying to get some shots of these little guys. It seemed having a steady hand just was not in the cards for the day. This was more apparent as I came across a beautiful Navanax on a Kelp leaf during my safety stop. Unfortanelly, every shot that was well white-balanced was out of focus, and the in focus shots were dizzying to watch at best.
For our second dive, we moved into Isthmus a little further. The good visibility continued and I admired several blue-banded Goby's that really stood out amongst their spiny Urchin dwellings.
As the anchor was retrieved Greg spotted a Buffalo grazing on the hillside, so we took a quick detour around bird rock for a closer look. Seeing these large animals is so much more of a treat given their greatly reduced numbers on the Island. We continued on to Lions Head for our final dive. The sky was already beginning to fill with clouds, the sign that our next storm was approaching quickly. Visibility was greatly reduced this far west, but we still managed to sneak in a decent final dive for the day. With only a handfull of divers still in the water, the conditions were beginning to turn. A few divers were quickly and safely retrieved by Bubba, and the last group was a live pick-up since we had slipped anchor as the winds and swell began to increase. With everyone safely aboard, we made our way back to Long Beach with only a few raindrops beginning to fall.
We knew we had already been very lucky for the day, and we were quickly reminded of this when the engines powered down to idle and we approached two whales just 5 miles short of break wall. Looking back, we could see the approaching rain cells as the words See-Cure-It-Tay, See-Cure-It-Tay, See-Cure-It-Tay rang out from Channel 16, warning of the worsening conditions, and we knew we had been Blessed by the Dive Gods..