San Miguel and Santa Cruz: Trip Report and Pics

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Posted by Craig Hoover on September 19, 2011 at 16:48:05:

There is a transition from summertime diving and shooting to sixty hour weeks of digesting cellular biology. Anticipating the shock, I booked passage out to San Miguel for three days of diving with Worldwide Diving Adventures on the Truth. Squeezing twelve dives, a fantastic crew, delicious food and a horde of critters into a Labor Day weekend is toil for the body and rest for the mind.

Coralline sculpin, Artedius corallinus

The sea gods threw a party at San Miguel and left us the cleanup. A few of the guests remained such as the coralline sculpin. Back on board the Truth, our cook, a self proclaimed "galley girl," lit up the boat like a rampaging pinball. It is a wonderful thing to watch a woman who loves life. I think all aboard were affected. Almost made me think twice about the night dive.

Coonstripe shrimp, Pandalus stenolepis

Captain Davy anchored us in the lee of Hare Rock for the night. I expected to be krilled. The daytime schools blocked view of the bottom a few feet below. I was pleasantly surprised when they stayed below forty feet. I spent the entire dive playing with a christmas tree worm. Willing photo subjects are sooooo much fun.

Christmas tree worm, Spirobranchus spinosus

The engines awoke me before dawn. The anchor was stubborn and wanted to stay for another round of partying. The crew convinced it to tag along to the quieter waters of Santa Cruz. I enjoyed the darkness and the rocking of the boat until thoughts began to race through my mind. It's time to wiggle into the dampness of the drysuit and warm up in the galley.

We dive the morning at Ruby Rock. Red gorgonians abound at sixty feet and I spot a couple festive tritons. Too late in the dive, there is not enough time to get a shot. The slugs are uncooperative on a second dive too. I explain to Dan Chua, Worldwide's trip coordinator, my fascination with nudibranchs. I'm happy to be able to share the sighting with a story, though not the photo I hoped for.

We cruise to Fry's Cove for the remainder of the day. Captain Davy warns us about caves along the west wall. I decide to take a look. I am passed by a scooter diver at the entrance. He emerges a minute later. The water in the cave is still and clear. There are no side tunnels. The passage turns ninety degrees ten yards past the entrance and then ends twenty yards farther in. A group of large Macfarland's chromodorids is laying eggs on the wall. Yesssss!

MacFarland's Chromodorid, Chromodoris macfarlandi

Back aboard the boat divers swap fish tales and a bit of lingcod sashimi. While enjoying the fish, I listen to the adventures of one of our divemasters. Apparently a "fob" Austrian accent is quite practical when eluding law enforcement while drinking a cold one in front of a fire at Monastery Beach. Memories of my first dive at Monastery this past summer bring a little sadness. Okay, I promise myself another layer of waterproofing for the tent and the open road this winter...

On Labor Day we harbor in Fern Grotto. On an epic two hour dive I explore the kelp canopy, swim through a tunnel leading to the grotto, drool into my regulator while face to face with a five pound bug and find the rare nudibranch Hypselodoris californiensis. I am happy merely remembering.

California chromodorid, Hypselodoris californiensis

"Gotta get a couple more shots of that nudi," I tell Captain Davy. Deco can't go fast enough. Fresh scallop in lemon and Tapatillo help to pass the time. The nudi is where I last saw it but the trip doesn't feel complete. With ten minutes remaining to return to the boat I descend the steep slope to eighty feet deep. Red gorgonians are everywhere. With four minutes remaining I spot a festive triton. Click, click, click, okay, time to go. Now I feel ready.

Festive triton, Tritonia festiva

Thanks to Dan of Worldwide Diving Adventures, the crew of the Truth, Ty and the other passengers who made this trip a pleasure. I hope to see you all again through the years.

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