A Time To Dive, My Time - Mendocino Day 2
The day started with a bit of fog, which suggested that wind wouldn't be a problem. More people were there this morning. John and Robin were a couple of devoted kayaking free divers that terrorized the fish. Marcus and Keko were not the most seasoned divers, but Marcus has to qualify as one of the most enthusiastic divers I have met in a while and Keko was sure up for anything diving. We were expecting Dale and Steve, but their schedule was anybodyís guess.
The plan was for Eric, Marcus, Keko and I to go south from Van Damme cove and do some free diving for abalone.
The diving areas just go on mile after mile
We anchored just off shore within 100 feet of a number of great looking spots. Part of the area was a bit protected behind a small island and the rest was exposed. Keko and Marcus headed in. I went out and Eric was in between. I was carrying my 9 inch abalone measure and was just hoping my dive skills still existed. A few dives and God Bless, I was cruising to 25 feet with no trouble. There were abs everywhere as well as lots of other life, but the abs seemed mostly less than 8 inches. I continued to where the bull kelp was sticking up out in the open. It was deeper and I was enjoying it, but it was hard diving and didn't show any real big abs. Again there was an incredible amount of different life on everywhere. There were lots of small fish as well as some larger cabazon and greenlings. Numerous picnopodia starfish of all sizes were on the rocks. Some were a deep purple and some a bright fire orange.
Waters full of life.
I did a few more dives to about 35 feet and even one deeper into a hole, but not surprisingly, it seemed I was a bit deep at that point for most of the abalone. I headed towards shore where the other divers were working. The diving was beautiful. I wasn't that worried about taking abs, but I was surprised that they seemed mostly a bit small. I was finding an occasional 8 1/2 incher, but I was checking a lot of abs. After my last trip, I actually wanted a fat one near 9 inches rather than a flat one that was a full 9 inches. I saw something that I never had seen before. Probably 20 feet off the bottom and 10 feet from the surface was a 6 inch red abalone that had climbed up 2 bull kelp stalks. I've never seen any abalone climb kelp. I saw a nice sized cabazon and tried to stab it, but that rarely works and didn't this time. I had made a lot of dives and it was time to get serious. Near the cabazon I had seen what looked like some big abs. I went back down into what was a hole about 18 feet deep and only about that long. I made about 3 dives to measure what I could. At the end of the hole was some overhanging rocks and sure enough I found one ab that was a bit over 9 inches. Unfortunately I also managed to drop my measure. I went down, picked it up and took a real fatty that was a bit short of 9 inches. Both went in the boat.
Abalone hole by Chris G.
The diving was beautiful and considering I was limited to 3 abalone over 4 days, I was far more into site seeing than worrying about filling my limit. I can free dive like this for hours without ever getting tired or cold. Free diving is a bit to scuba as bicycling is to driving a car. You are just going to see more. but it was time to head back. It was a beautiful day and Keko, looking ahead in the bow of the boat with the shore behind her, in the sun and the breeze, looked like a scuba magazine ad, just without the logo.
Dale had made it in his big tri-mix truck. With K bottles of Oxygen and helium, along with a compressor, he was able to make any mix you wanted there in the parking lot of the campground.
A couple lemon nudis under the watch of a pin cushion
We got in the water and I went down. As I passed the top of the rock, I could see some nice large red abs in the bull kelp as well as some Flat Abalone. Below the top though, it was rock with almost no algae. There were loads of invertebrates though, including various brilliantly colored anemones. Visibility was at least 15 feet and the water though cold, was not like the last dive.
Flat Abalone were on top of the rocks
At about 60 feet I saw a hole in the rock that had light at the back of it. It was too small for a diver to pass, but there was a large red fish in it so I poked it real quick and stuck it in my bag.
Orange Sea Cucumbers
I headed along the side of the rock. As usual, there were all kinds of starfish, anemones, sponges and various other invertebrates. I saw 2 other edible looking fish and put them in my bag. There were fish I saw that I just couldn't identify, though they looked like miniature ling cods. I wasn't sure about them and left them alone, but later I found out that they were a kind of cabazon and quite legal to take.
Picnopodia Starfish. A swift predator that is the the terror of the reef. Pic by Eric S.
I made it back to where I was heading south. I had some air, but no where to go but up. At 60 feet, I went past the hole I saw at the beginning of the dive. Behind it was a large hole filled with bright red corynactus and some picnopodia starfish. I moved around the rock some, but stayed below the bull kelp. Even so I could see large abalone and lots of other life towards the top of the pinnacle. I looked around some, but it was time to go up.
To see this is why we dive. Pic by Eric S.
The seas were nice and after a bit, it worked out that Keko, Marcus and I were going to dive
again, but the others were going to sit it out. Since it was the same rock, I figured I would bring my camera instead of my spear. I went on down again, but stayed at about 55 feet where I thought the most invertebrate life was. Using my camera was difficult with the shutter button
broken, but I was shoving the end of the abalone measure in it to take each shot.
The artists colony of Mendocino on the Little River
That night there were more cooks and we started out with Robin's ceviche. The main course was something Eric thought up to try. It was mixed abalone and fish fajitas and it was very good. That led to a late night again of mild conversation under a beautiful starry sky. This was the weekend when Mars was at its closest to Earth and the diving was at its bestest.