Just returned on Saturday from the trip of a lifetime.
Here was the three part plan:
- Friday 10/6 - Fly out for Seattle after work. Arrive late, get a car, get to Peter and Lynne's for a night cap, face plant.
- Saturday 10/8 - local shore diving, then back to P&L's for a party and photo/video show of their amazing Red Sea adventure. Face plant.
- Sunday 10/9 - Up early, Bandito Charter to wherever (Sunrise and GPO Nirvana was to be one of the two dives.) Back to P&L's, and to bed early.
- Monday 10/10 - depart at 4:00 AM and drive north a couple of hours to catch the 7:45 Ferry, two more hours of Ferry crossing, then drive another 5 or so to Port Hardy BC, get on a boat, drive another 45 Minutes and land at God's Pocket in time for dinner.
- Tuesday 10/11 - Dive local dive sites from the boat at God's Pocket Resort
- Wednesday 10/12 - Dive local dive sites from the boat at God's Pocket Resort
- Thursday 10/13 - Dive local dive sites from the boat at God's Pocket Resort
- Friday 10/14 - Up early, on the God's Pocket boat back to Port Hardy by 8:00 AM, then make the run to the 3:15 PM Ferry, and get back to Peter and Lynne's by 9:30 PM for pizza, wine and exhale
- Saturday 10/15 - for the first time in a week, wake at a civilized hour, relax, hang with our friends and head to SEA Airport, arriving back in SoCal for dinner Saturday night.
This report will be about Part 1 - The Seattle Diving.
Claudette and I arrives in Seattle Friday night. John and Karen had graciously agreed to drive a significant amount of our gear up from SoCal - and they were staying a mile or two from Peter and Lynne's - so for the first time in about 7 trips to Seattle, I had one check bag, one carry on and a laptop bag.
It was glorious!!
No cart. No two carts. One trip to the rental. One take-Jake. I was amazed at how plush this was. This would be my recurring theme for this entire trip - how plush everything was on this trip, and how very, very fortunate I am to have made so many great friends.
One of the best things about diving is everyone looks out for everyone else. From the, "can I help you with that" to the "do you need a cylinder or a block" to the "we're driving up - wanna stuff some of your shiz into our van...?"
It was plush, and as I am on every trip - eternally grateful to Peter and Lynne for their love and hospitality, I am on this trip truly humbled and grateful for John and Karen's kind offer to mule my gear.
What is also plush is WiFi on a plane. I spend nearly two decades in sales, only to have moved to marketing a few short years ago. In-Flight WiFi was a dream when I was packing on 200,000 miles a year domestic a few years ago. I gotta say - I love it. eMail, DMX, IM... while winging it to Seattle with a wacky snack box and glass of bad Chardonnay on my tray table is, well, plush.
From the rental car to P&L's is a short drive. We arrive, Claudette eager for the Champagne greeting and all night bar-side yuck-it-up that has become standard issue for these trips. We roll in, guns blazing and laughing. The house is silent. Its dark.
We walk up stairs to the kitchen - the site of the evening of Champagne silliness that is to come... and its empty.
We immediately put on our inside voices, load in some gear as quietly as we can and then retire to our waiting rooms.
The plan was to do a couple of dives in Cove 2, then get back for a party and video viewing.
Dive One - Cove 2
I love diving Cove 2! So much to see. The plan was to visit some GPO's, go deeper (100 - 110 FSW), cruise back up and wrap the dive in about an hour. Bob and Lynne were to be on Doubles (he in side mount, she on her shore dubs) while Claudette and I were on Single 95's I believe.
As we were deeper, and I was shooting, and we were on singles - Claudette and I needed an assist on the last few minutes of the dive - so we asked and were donated a long hose for the push back in from about 50 feet to the rocks. A fine dive with lots of shots. We found a Golf Ball Crab. Never seen one of those before. Silly! Another crab in a log, with a ton of little coonstripe shrimp all around it.
In Seattle, I could dive every day with a 60mm - its excellent for close up work, all your small stuff is really big (compared to the small stuff in SoCal) and its fast and sharp for your dark water. This is the third or fourth trip in a row my 105mm has been on where it never came out of the case.
Cove 2 - Dive 2
After an outstanding hot lunch right there at the cove, we geared up for a second dive. This was to be a 45 minute dive (as it was getting late), shallower - mostly looking on and around the pilings, posts and other structure for smaller critters.
We splash again into a perfect day - we started late (about 11:30, I believe) so by now we're about the only ones still diving.
We get in and immediately Lynne and Bob start putting us on stuff. Sculpin, Gunnels, Nudibranchs, shrimp, crabs... all kinds of fun stuff. A mosshead gunnel (?) dashing in and around some metridiums like they were giant marshmallow pillows. I met him as he emerged and got the face of a lifetime!
The dive went on and on for probably close to 75 minutes. It was glorious.
Dashed back to P&L's - started making stuff in the kitchen to coordinate with the amazing dinner they had planned. People start arriving, and I met some old friends and made lots of new ones as we watched the amazing video footage from their trip to the Red Sea. I presume it was some sort of sea - even though I couldn't see the water, I could see scooters and bubbles.....
Up early for the Bandito Charter. Last year, close to this time, I dived off of this boat and had two amazing dives. I'm excited to see what we're going to do.
Dive 1 - Mile Marker 8
The dive site for dive #1 changed as we boarded, as tides were favorable to dive Mile Marker 8 - a site where you essentially put in, and drift down to this large bridge.
Claudette and I had scooters - so there wasn't a lot of drifting! In fact, after doing two dives in Cove 2 yesterday without them, it was great to be back in the saddle again.
We dropped on a pair of Wolf Eels, saw Nudi's, shrimp, Rock fish and just tons of life. It was a beautiful dive along this tumble down area of large rocks and boulders. Shot a juvenile Albolineata, light tabled with Claudette's HID that is one of my favorite shots of the year!
When we popped up, the dive boat was this teeny spec on the horizon. Guess we were busy shooting and scooting and didn't spend enough time drifting.
Back on the boat, all good and off to the next dive site: Sunrise!
Dive 2 - Sunrise
Home of GPO's and Wolf Eels, and lots of other amazing small stuff! This tiny loaf-of-bread shaped reef is packed full o' life. Having dived it before, I had a good idea of the lay out. Lauryn and Katherine were on board and gave us a tip of where we should look for a GPO on eggs.
We found it!! I couldn't believe it. Claudette and I sat there, on our bellies, just watching her ventilate her eggs until she was too tired and needed a breath - only to start up a moment later. It was the first time I had seen a GPO on eggs... it was something I'll never forget.
We found another GPO deep in a den - so we broke out the Super Soaker (my ultra long high power snoot) and threaded it into the den. I needed to negotiate with this huge GPO, but we both reached a comfort level, and I was able to achieve a lighting I wouldn't have been able to achieve without it.
There was a Wolf Eel free swimming - we were taken to that and able to get some shots. Claudette found a gunnel in a bivalve shell - like a musical box. A large bright red gunnel popped out and visited, too.
All in all - this dive was about 84 minutes for us. I hated the thought of leaving. Such a brilliant dive site, I can't wait to come back soon.
Four fantastic dives - an excellent way to start. Sunday night, when I was driving back to P&L's, I couldn't help but think how great and how different each of these four dives were... I was filled. And I still had 10 more dives to go later in the week in God's Pocket!
HUGE thanks to Peter and Lynne, to Bob Baily, to John and Karen. To Katherine and Lauryn for the GPO, and Kirk for the swimming Wolf Eel - to the Capt and crew of Bandito... such an excellent dive op.
What a start!!
Pics from these first 4 dives below. Enjoy.
(part 2 next - God's Pocket)
Some Saturday Cove 2 Cuties!
Talk about a cloaking device!
Crab with a fine sponge lid and all his shrimpy minions all around (I love this shot!!)
I'm getting a headache! I love these wacky guys! They're all over the pilings and posts.
Marshmallow Pillows! Playing ditch the photographer amongst the Metridium on a big log in Cove 2
A very skittish, and very pregnant Mosshead, deep inside the end of a log. This was a challenge to light. I like how this one turned out.
Wacky Golfball crab. This thing is like a transformer. I may cut an image of just its face... its hard to see here. These have violet-colored eyes. Very cool!
Gigantic Dendronorus Rufus! Anything named Rufus makes me smile. This thing was huge. And so perfectly colored to live amongst the red fuzz and white metridiums.
Cove 2 Snoot Work
We found this tiny Janolus (the size of a nickel) and snooted it up. The Rufus was way, way too large to snoot up, so this was our guy.
I love the red seaweed against this guy - the contrast is interesting. I really dig it.
Another take on the same Janolus. He was moving around a lot, so we got a ton of shots!
More snooty goodness!
Sunday at Mile Marker 8 and Sunrise Reef
Wacky crab with a kelpy headdress. I gotta say, I love the crabs in Seattle. Just the best crabs ever.
This is a juvenile Albolineata we found while drifting on Mile Marker 8. Its back lit through the Kelp with Claudette's HID light. You can see the outline of her HID lighthead on the left of the frame. The Kelp is just glowing, and the Nudi becomes transparent, as its lit from the inside-out. This is one of my favorite pictures of the year.
Another light table Nudi. This one is a Janolus we found. Looks like he's walking on Lava!
This is the wolf eel pair we dropped in at Mile Marker 8. They were deep, DEEP in a small crack.
This is the first of several GPO's we shot at Sunrise. This one was shot with the Super Soaker - a very long, very bright snoot. He was deep in a den, and I used the Super Soaker to throw light into a place I'd never be able to get a real strobe. I was pushing my Flat port (shot this with a 60mm) right against a crack in the front of his den. I love his body color. When I'm not all up in his face with focus lights and a camera and blasting strobes - he relaxes and puts on this very different color.
Musical Box Gunnel!
Speaking of Gunnels - what is this one? He was giant, very red, and not at all impressed with being photographed!
This is the wolf eel that Kirk pointed out to us. This thing was so patient... I think everyone went over and got video and photographs of it!
Another Sunrise GPO. Unlike last year, most of these were tucked deep into their holes and dens. This one was in a vertical crack. I flipped the cam to get it to fill the frame across the horizontal.
This was the GPO Claudette received the tip on before we hit the water. She was beautiful. We spent more time on our dive watching her than on any other part of the dive. We came back three times to see her again. Just stunning. I've only seen the videos everyone up in Seattle shoots of these GPO's on their eggs - but I've never seen it before. It was truly remarkable. Seeing all these eggs, with their eyes already forming, and the velocity in which she blasted the water over them - and how they hold fast for weeks and weeks.... its something else. I'll never forget this, my first den with eggs.
This is my the first Underwater video! I'm so glad I got a video of this beautiful animal so I could remember the movement of the eggs and the rhythm of its breathing on them.