Posted by Patrick on October 01, 2012 at 21:50:06:|
Since I’ve been asked to recount the events of a dive trip a week ago, and there seems to be interest in the events our crew encountered, I’ve been persuaded to do this small write up.
Saturday a week past, Captain Andy, Captain Cindy and I departed Marina del Rey aboard D/V Moby Kate and headed to the South Bay in search of clear water. Photography was the order of the day and reports from Captain Phil and Captain Merry and Walter the video guru had indicated excellent visibility and diverse subjects were to be had in the Redondo region.
As Andy caught a few winks below, Cindy was entertained by phalanxes of pelicans and distant pods of cavorting dolphins while I ran the boat. A few miles off Manhattan Beach I spotted a large fin nearly in front of the boat. Slaloming the Kate around the fin, I made out the form of a pretty large Mola Mola disappearing under our bow wave. Slowing the boat and taking a wide turn, I motored back to the spot to see if the close encounter had scared the poor Mola to death or to depth. Amazingly, the Mola was still there, and better yet swam over and seemed to be most interested in the drifting boat.
He/she was a pretty big specimen, one of the larger ones I’ve seen in the bay. We took pictures as he/she circled the Kate and were much amazed by the actions of the critter. It would stick its head and eyes above water and eyeball us as we killed pixels trying to get a good shot in the morning glare.
After about ten minutes, Cindy and I suited up and jumped in to see if we could get some in water shots of this friendly Mola. It was great! We managed to capture a few images before two small Molas appeared on the scene.
They were a lot more cautious than the big one and after doing a couple of circles around us, swam over to the big one, hovered for a moment and then descended out of sight. The big one hung as though undecided for a moment and then followed the little Molas into the depths and out of view. It was a great way to start a beautiful day.
Our dives following the Mola encounter were so-so. On the Avalon the anticipated spectacular visibility was a milky, particulate-laden 20-ish feet and worse, there were few critters to be found.
We moved to another dive site hoping for better vis. As we anchored, I spotted the No Pressure running toward us.
When closer, I could see Phil skippering and Merry and Walter Marti standing on the deck.
Initially I thought Walter was really happy to see us, but it turned out that he was just holding a GoPro on a monopod.
We found slightly better vis at this spot, but still a lot of particulate in the water column.
Heading back to del Rey, a few miles off Hermosa Beach, I again spotted fins. This time there were at least six small fin tips breaking the surface indicating a group of small Molas. Attempts to bring the Kate close to the group were unsuccessful, so Cindy and I once again jumped into the water and tried approaching with a stealthy, swimming approach. I was some 50 yards out from the Kate with Andy pointing the direction and yelling. “Another 30 yards,” when I looked down and saw a large Bat Ray cruising about 30 feet beneath me. “Hey,” I yelled at the boat, “there’s a Bat Ray swimming here.” I looked down again and it appeared that the lone ray wasn’t alone. Two, five, ten, twenty-five, then suddenly the entire field of view below me was nothing but Bat Rays! Hundreds, thousands of Bat Rays! Layer after layer of these wonderful winged wanderers were below me. An attempt to skin dive down to the top of the flock resulted in me sitting in 30 feet of water with the whole flock cruising bay at the edge of visibility. Despite the numbers it was nearly impossible to get close to the huge cluster. Every attempt just scattered the group to the edges of vis.
Yelling again to the boat, Cindy jumped in and we watched the huge migration move beneath us. Catching a movement out of the corner of my eye, I looked over and there was Captain Andy swimming next to us – WHO WAS ON THE BOAT?! “Andy”, I choked, “the boat?”
“Don’t worry,” he calmly replied, “It won’t drift far…”
And it didn’t
After watching the endless stream of rays a while longer we re-boarded Moby Kate and headed home after an amazing day in Santa Monica Bay.