Dive #1 [Actual: #764]
Location: San Miguel Island
Site: Oil Springs
Time: 9:03 am
Dive Length: 44 mins
Temp: 54 F
Max Depth: 68 ft.
Viz: 20 ft.
Critters Seen/Recorded: Black and Yellow Rockfish, Painted Greenlings, Treefish, Fluted and Lacy Bryozoans, White Spotted Anemones, Bat Stars, Giant Spined and Leather Stars, Black and Purple Sea Urchins, Sea Lemons, Hermessendas, Chestnut Cowries, Orange Puffballs, Red Volcano Sponges, Light Bulb Tunicates, Northern Sea Palm:
I know I'm not forgetting anything, because I had to write it all down on my slate!
Well, with Barb up in Alaska helping to film a diving documentary with Eric Hanauer and his wife [Google him sometime], I decided to take advantage of a spot on the Truth out of Santa Barbara to do some REEF.org surveys [not to be confused with Reef Check], paid for by a grant from NOAA, through the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
There were 8 of us selected for the grant, 3 from San Diego, and the rest from the LA and Ventura areas. The remainder of the boat was filled with an OW class. We boarded the Truth the Saturday night, loaded our gear onboard at around 8 pm and had a nice restful night being gently rocked on the way out and when we awoke, we were 20 mins from the Island.
As we approached San Miguel, the Capt. came over the loudspeaker and said if we looked over the Port side, we could see a Blue Whale spouting: sure enough, we could--now, that was cool! I have seen Grey Whales before, but never a Blue.
Our two previous attempts to reach San Miguel, a couple years ago, in the winter, resulted each time in being diverted to Santa Rosa Island due to rough seas, so this was my first successful trip out here.
The first dive site was to be some pinnacles of some sort, but after dropping anchor and sending the DM down to check it, the Captain, not being satisfied with the position of the anchor or the conditions below, decided to pull ancho and relocate us to another area, delaying the first dive by 30 mins.
This set us behind schedule, resulting in the crew having to rush us through the remaining 'gate times' the rest of the day [my only complaint about the entire trip]: I hate being rushed when diving and putting gear together, because it becomes a safety issue after a certain point if you forget to hook some piece of equipment properly because you're being rushed.
It had been so long since I had used my pelican case to go on a charter dive boat that I found a black widow spider had made her nest in it and was crawling all over my gear.
Not a good guest to have inside a booty or glove!
We finally anchored at a spot called 'Oil Springs' and dropped anchor.
I was teamed up with REEFer Pam, from Sacramento, who proved to be a very experienced and skillful dive buddy, especially on air consumption, never coming even close to breathing down her 60 cu ft. tank on any of the dives. Let's just say if I ever had to use a 60 cu ft tank below 60 ft., it would be an awfully short dive!
We dropped in over some rather dramatically high granite rocks, forming a giant crevice, jutting up from the bottom at around 80 ft. What was cool was that when we dropped down into the crevice, we discovered two 'caves' formed by rock formation over the crevice, which we were able to penetrate back into for about 10 ft. and so, while not 'true' caves, they certainly gave the sensation of being in one.
The marine life here was abundant with brightly colored sponges, Sunflower sea stars, bryozoans, bright yellow and black Treefish and hundreds of White Spotted Anemones, dotting the surface of the rocks.
After a productive 40 mins or so, filling our REEF slates full of entries, we made our way back to the anchor line, where we were promptly engulfed in a cloud of tiny baby fish, or fingerlings, no bigger than a pencil eraser, but the cloud was so thick that viz went from 20 ft. to almost zero in a heartbeat and we lost sight of the anchor line for a few minutes.
A rather strange experience!
Dive #2: [Actual: #765]
Site: Nifty Rock
Time: 10:42 am
Dive Length: 54 mins
Temp: 54 F.
Viz: 20-30 ft.
Max Depth: 80 ft.
Critters Seen: Critters Seen/Recorded: Black and Yellow Rockfish, Painted Greenlings, Treefish, Fluted and Lacy Bryozoans, White Spotted Anemones, Bat Stars, Giant Spined and Leather Stars, Black and Purple Sea Urchins, Sea Lemons, Hermessendas, Chestnut Cowries, Orange Puffballs, Red Volcano Sponges, Light Bulb Tunicates, Northern Sea Palm, Strawberry Anemone, plus a rather large Lincod.
This was a nice site, next to a large rock jutting from the ocean, with kelp and rocky bottom.
Productive survey done here. Noteworthy: the sizable Lincod that majestically cruised by on on his way out of a small hole, as if to say 'excuusse me: this is MY territory--what you you guys doing here?'
Dive #3: [Actual: #766]
Site: Hare [Hair?] Rock
Time: 1:33 pm
Dive Length: 40 mins
Surface: slight chop
Temp: 52 F
Max Depth: 75 ft.
Critters Seen/Recorded: Black and Yellow Rockfish, Painted Greenlings, Blue Rockfish, Treefish, Fluted and Lacy Bryozoans, White Spotted Anemones, Bat Stars, Giant Spined and Leather Stars, Black and Purple Sea Urchins, Sea Lemons, Hermessendas, Chestnut Cowries, Orange Puffballs, Red Volcano Sponges, Light Bulb Tunicates, Northern Sea Palm.
Noteworthy: lots and lots of Blue Rockfish, as well as sizable Vermillion Rockfish, just hanging suspended in the water column.
As mentioned before, because we were delayed getting to the first dive site, we only had time to do 3 REEF surveys instead of the intended 4, but 3 seemed to be the perfect number and we all returned to our bunks by about 2 pm for a nice little snooze after a satisfying day of counting fish for REEF.
Because I had slept through the first part of the trip, I didn't realize it was a 5 hour journey until I woke up an hour into it and still had 4 hours to kill! Luckily, I had brought some reading material.
All in all, except for being rushed through the gate times, it was a very nice and productive trip, with the crew very professional, even preparing barbecued chicken for us for lunch, which was nice, because we had worked up quite an appetite.
Hopefully, there will be more of this trips in the future: I highly recommend becoming a REEfer: it will dramatically increase your skill at fish identification and give you something to do if you're ever paired with a photographer!
Dive safe, everyone,
PS: Here are some photos taken onboard the Truth: