SS Winfield Scott

Sunday morning my buddy Neil and I drove up to Ventura for a two tank trip off Anacapa aboard the Raptor dive boat. The morning was chilly and grey with the sky spitting a few rain drops as we drove up the PCH. Luckily though, the seas were calm, and it was a smooth and quick ride over to the island. The Raptor is a great boat if you’re looking for a quick and easy Channel Islands trip. Its a smaller open boat, so everything’s going to get wet, but its fast and the service is fantastic. Between dives they offer a spread of sandwiches and fruit as well as always a hot dish, Sunday it was chili and it was delicious, especially while hanging out in the cold air after a cold dive.

The site we pulled up to was called Winfield Scott, named so because of the sidewheel steamer, SS Winfield Scott which crashed in that spot on December 1, 1853 after trying to navigate a heavy fog. It was headed from San Francisco to Panama on its usual route carrying passengers and a large cargo of approximately  $2 million in gold when it ran aground on Middle Anacapa.

Capt. Joe mentioned that this site held several interesting features, one being the remains of the wreck of the Winfield Scott, mostly the paddle wheel. Other features were a few swim throughs close to the islands and large thick kelp beds. The whole site was really shallow with anything worth seeing being no deeper than 40 feet. Neil and I joined up with Betsy, another diver in need of a buddy and we decided to head towards the island through the kelp and to the swim throughs. This was easier said than done. The kelp was thick and as we wove our way through it we quickly got off course. Finally finding a small opening in the kelp, and being at about all of 15 feet down I popped up top, signaled the boat I was okay and quickly looked around for my bearings. I noted that we were probably only 10 feet from the main swim through, but it meant navigating more kelp and we were sick of it. I realigned myself with the boat, dropped back down and we high tailed it out of there. Once back at the boat we ran into a group of students finning along mucking up the sand as they learned to control their buoyancy, so we headed in the opposite direction. I found a nudibranch I hadn’t seen yet, Hermissenda, which was exciting and we happened upon a large Sheep Crab. Other than that there was not much in that direction so we turned around and went back towards the direction of the wreck.

Nearing the end of the dive we saw a long pipe nestled on the bottom and searched around hoping to be near the wreck. I started thinking, maybe its more degraded that the captain let on until suddenly we went through a bit of kelp and Neil turned around and signaled me. Turning back he spread his arms wide as if to say, Ta Da! and there in front of us was the large side wheel structure. Around it were more bits and pieces of the remains, all fully covered with growth. Our time was short as we were nearing the end of our air, so we headed back to the boat. Luckily the captain said that the decision had been made to stay at that site for dive #2, so after a surface interval full of chili and cornbread and we were back in the water. Our plan was to keep the dive shorter, we were still chilly after our first dive of about 54 minutes, and fully explore the wreck area again. We gained a diver, Brian, after his buddy decided not to do the second dive, so the four of us headed towards the wreck. I ended up as navigator again, and I kept an eye out for the pipe that signaled us that we were in the area. Finding that we started into the kelp to find the large wheel structure. I came across a few more nudibranchs, several Spanish Shawl and another new one, Triopha maculata! Our dive ended up being a little over 40 minutes as I was engrossed in exploring the wreckage and the surround rocks hoping for more new Nudi sightings! We made it back to the boat easily, and quickly enough that I didn’t think we were there until Neil abruptly grabbed my fin and poined out that we had just swam past the anchor line!

Below is my little video around the wreck, enjoy!

Dive Logs:

Dive #1

Dive #2

Scuba Show, Super Cool.

Last Saturday I headed down to Long Beach with a group of scuba fanatic friends to take in all the glories of the annual Scuba Show. This event highlights all the different gear, clothing, accessories, travel opportunities and toys that are out in the Scuba world. Anything from cute little Scuba teddy bears to high tech rebreathers; from travel as close as Ventura to as far as Fiji. It was one giant room packed with more diving related paraphernalia than any one person should be expected to handle. Always wanting to be prepared, my friends and I arrived just after it opened at 10am. Parking was a pain but once inside it was great. We kept the game plan simple, start at one end of the show and work our way up and down the rows until we reached the other side.

This was easier said than done. We began pouring over the different gear, looking at new BCD designs, masks with silicone linings so soft it forms to your face so well (making me think my awesome slightly retro mask is in need of an upgrade), and custom wetsuits (had some great features but sadly the design left a lot to be desired). We cruised past travel booth after travel booth, entering trip raffles (sadly I’ve received no “you’re a winner” calls or emails yet) and ogling the bright and beautiful tropical locales, someday… someday. We all took a turn spinning the “wheel of fortune” for the Hermosa Inn and each won between 25-50% off a 2 night stay. We took our sweet time admiring the strobes and nice cameras at the first of several photography booths, both Carolyn and Lawrence eyeing new lights but hesitant to drop the dough right away. I managed to keep my wallet safely in my purse with the exception of a key not so necessary items. I bought a DAN mat, which is a big woven mat that works great for beach diving to lay next to your car and keep your gear from getting all dirty and gross from the parking lot. I also picked up one of those previously mentioned Scuba Teddy-Bears. C’mon, it was $4 and SOOOOO cute.

After what seemed like mere minutes we realized that we had been submerged in the show for nearly 3 hours and our stomachs were rumbling. We took a short surface interval at the Yard House with some much need food and a beer to refuel and tackle the remaining half of the show. Continuing around we looked at the great art of Wyland who was there and had just painted a wicked looking great white shark piece. We tried on some high tech full face masks that included a communications system so you could talk with your buddy. Not only were they techy and neat looking, but they came in a variety of colors so you could keep the gear color coordination going!

Caryoln and I eyed a great looking 1-2mm skin suit by Fourth Element that looked warm, comfortable and fashionable…always helpful in the world of thick wetsuits and clunky gear! We got sucked in by probably what I feel was the coolest accessory at the show, the Dive Caddy. This is no gear bag. As the rep called it, its more of a “gear wrap”. This wrap is specially designed to take a light packers 3-4 days worth of clothes, a wetsuit (3mm), BCD, regs, fins, mask, snorkel,  toiletries, etc and package it perfectly for carry-on airline travel. No more having to check your gear and hope it arrives and arrives intact. It was genius! I wanted one right then and there. Of course then my brain clicked in and said hey Kelli! You’re not traveling anywhere this year, and maybe not even next year, why do you need this thing? Of course the answer was, I don’t… but its so cool. So being a smart little shopper, I added it to my mental must have list for the day when I’m jet-setting around the world on Scuba adventures.

Rounding off the show were a few more gear booths including Atomic where, because Carolyn and Lawrence knew the rep we got a sneak peek at their new computer, the Cobalt, which looks crazy amazing. We stopped by Titan Dive gear where Randy and Web were showing off the amazing rebreather, then we hit up several more photography booths where Carolyn and Lawrence both broke down and got the second strobe and video light they each wanted. Some how we managed to be at the show the entire day, not leaving the convention center until after 5:00PM. I was exhausted, but overall it was a very fun, educating and exciting day!

Rescue Course Video!

The rescue course video that Ron at Eco Dive Center made from our class in March has finally been put up on YouTube! Enjoy! Its a great video done in a very creative comic book format.

Living the high life.

Last Wednesday marked the large fundraiser dinner for the Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber known as Chamber Eve. Held at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the dive community comes together each year for a nice dinner, private access to the aquarium after hours, fantastic raffle and in general to support the hyperbaric chamber.

I barely made the Eco limo, but arrived in the nick of time to madly change in the bathroom and sprint to catch up with everyone heading to the cars. We rolled into the event in style and had a blast in the limo. Touring the aquarium was fantastic, and what I really enjoyed was the lack of rowdy kids running around from tank to tank, there should be adult nights at the aquarium where kids are not allowed!

Dinner was simple and good, I didn’t win any of the awesome raffle prizes, but I’m sure those who did were stoked. This year the event (including the Chamber Day diving activities) raised $117,000.00 for the chamber, almost half of its yearly operating budget.

After the festivities we went over to Mai Tai’s for the after party, another drink and some delicious street tacos really capped the evening nicely.

No bubbles? No kidding.

So there is technology out there I’m sure you all have heard of called a Rebreather. Its a closed circuit form of Scuba that recycles your air allowing you longer air consumption time, longer no decompression limits, deeper dives and it emits no bubbles. While many people have heard of them they are not widely used and my people think of them only in terms of the Navy, or highly advanced technical divers and commercial divers.

Titan Dive Gear folks Randy and Web explain about the Titan eCCR.

However, last Tuesday for the monthly Eco Dive Club meeting we got to hear from Titan Dive Gear about their (might I say awesome) eCCR. This is an electronic closed circuit rebreather that is working to make the rebreather technology something that is more available to the general diver. I went into the meeting highly skeptical, I’ve heard horror stories about rebreathers, sometimes called a “widowmaker” because if your oxygen or carbon dioxide monitor fails you could easily pass out and drown before you realized that you were breathing a bad gas mix.

Titan however has created a rebreather that is not only really streamlined, but also rather redundant in terms of safety features and failsafes. They have created a system that relies on several components for safety, from multiple oxygen sensors (3), to a safer and easier to use carbon dioxide scrubber, more streamlined gear organization, easy to use buttons, and a large, deatiled and easy to read computer. There is also a second “heads up” display on the main air hoses to alert you if something is wrong as well.

(from Titan website http://www.titandivegear.com)

The carbon dioxide scrubber is a solid state absorbent that is housed in a clear plastic container. This sounded better than the usual granular absorbent that takes extra time to make sure its well packed in the canister and disposed of properly after its used up. The solid absorbent is cylindrical and slides right into the canister, then can be tossed in your gear bag without having to worry about spillage. Having a clear outer canister is great because it allows easy visual checks for the o-ring seals, making sure the scrubber is in there, checking for any water, etc.

The unit itself weighs approximately 48lbs with the absorbent and cylinders filled. It is designed that you really should not need much additional weight unlike normal open circuit systems, and since you don’t drain your tanks due to the recycled air you don’t have to add weight to account for an empty tank. The 48lbs is about the same, if even less than a normal open circuit set up (and far less than a typical technical set up) which makes this product even more desirable.

Now for the good part. Using a rebreather not only extends your bottom time tenfold, but it allows you to get to depths you can never achieve on a single tank dive. Imagine cruising underwater at 200ft for several hours with little or no decompression requirements (sure in California that doesn’t seem so great…brrrrrrrrr! but think tropical…). Yup thats right. From what I understand (and I’m no expert) that because you are able to control your PO2 (oxygen partial pressure) you can keep the gas mix you are breathing at a lower partial pressure so that you don’t run into oxygen toxicity at depth. Also by keeping the PO2 lower you keep your nitrogen loading down which means you can stay deeper longer without added decompression requirements. Now to top it all off, theres the fact that you create no bubbles. So instead of being this loudly breathing bubble making oddity under the water you begin to blend in with the other quiet animals surrounding you, and they don’t scatter as you get close (some still will since we’re big and look threatening). The Titan Dive gear folks sold us with stunning images of a rebreather diver and dolphin together underwater and the dolphin is curiously examining the diver, not swimming away disturbed by our bubbles.

Basically I walked away from that meeting completely sold. My only problem is I don’t have the means for the $10,000.00 price tag that comes with the gear set up and training. My OWSI training is currently breaking the bank! I also feel that right now in my dive career this is not a toy I need, but is something I will keep my eye on, and hope that as technology improves and time passes it will be more readily available and cost less down the road! All in all, from my limited knowledge on rebreathers, the Titan model really looks like the winner, well designed and simple to use. If you want to learn more about this rebreather, visit their website: titandivegear.com.

I want. (taken from Titan Dive Gear website http://www.titandivegear.com)

(So anyone have $10,000.00 to donate to my cause? I promise a great write up on the wonders of diving rebreather!)

The Itty Bitty Octopus Convention

I’ll admit, we were uninvited guests. The people who sneak into the ballroom as the doors close and take a seat in the back. You know they didn’t pay for the convention, and the probably don’t care about the speaker, they’re just there for the free buffet and drinks. That was us, only we were intruding, bubbles and all, on what seemed like a tiny octopus convention. Monday night we dove Vet’s Park at twilight. It was my first time entering the water here while the sun was still up and it was amazing. There were small (about the size of a lime) Red Octopus EVERYWHERE! I easily shone my light over 15 or more. Like I said a moment ago… amazing.

Diving here at twilight was definitely weird. For the first time in my short Scuba life I really felt the weight of the water. We maxed out around 80ft and I flipped onto my back and looked up towards the sky. At most dive sites when you do this you see the water and a small round orb that’s the fuzzy sun reflecting down… or you get a fuzzy blue mass when the viz is not great. Here however it was a deep green blur that looked a bit menacing, and overall, heavy. Honestly I didn’t like it. Most of the dive really seemed like a typical night dive, the site was dark at 30ft and we needed our lights, so flipping back over I just pretended that green mass wasn’t there. When I wasn’t using my light to see, it sort of felt like I was looking through night-vision googles; everything was cast in a green hue and contrast was high.

We swam south as usual, passing octopus after octopus, and tons of little Sand Dabs, most of which were so well camouflaged that I could barely make them out. I saw a really cool snail, thanks to Tim who pointed it out. Its called a Lewis’ Moon Snail, and has a small smooth shell that at first I thought I was seeing a snail in search of a new home! There was also a great (again TINY…thats they key word from this dive) Scorpionfish, that was not camera shy and let me get right up near it. To top off the dive there were several large Rock Crap who didn’t feel like exerting the effort to move and allowed me to get some lovely photographs. I especially liked the pair that looked like they were cuddling! I was a little annoyed at my camera which was having trouble focusing in the nearly non-existent light, but in the long run it did alright. I’ve dove this site now more than any other site and I can easily say that I am always impressed by how it changes each time. The life is extremely interesting right now and I can not wait to go back down!

Sweet San Clemente!

Last weekend I braved gale force winds and 13ft high seas to travel to San Clemente Island for an exciting day of diving. Well thats not entirely true, the trip was delayed until the seas and wind calmed a bit, but it was still a bumpy ride (not that I would know, I slept through most of it!). Our scheduled 8:00pm departure was pushed to midnight in order to let the wind and high seas diminish so we could safely make the six hour motor out to San Clemente Island. This meant no Catalina night dive, but we were able to still get in 4 dives off San Clemente so there was no loss.

After rolling back and forth on my bunk as I drifted in and out of sleep we pulled up to San Clemente around 6:00am. We were up and dressing as the boat laid anchor so that we could be in the water as soon as possible, giving us the most possible time for diving. The sun was barely up as we made our first giant stride off the back of the boat.

Sea Cucumber and a Tiny GobySite #1 was called Fish Hook. We swam off the boat away from the island towards a large patch of kelp. Through the kelp we emerged onto an immense wall that plunged to below 100ft. Knowing we had a full day of diving we capped our dive around 80ft and explored up and down the wall. The visibility was fantastic, and there were a ton of critters around including all the usual suspects (Garibaldi, Kelp Bass, Sheephead, Senorita Wrasse and Blue Banded Gobies). There were a bunch of sea stars and even a baby sheephead (which I in my ignorance was rather excited about before looking it up because I thought it was a new fish I had yet to see! Oh well…just a Sheephead.) The highlight of the dive for me was when I glanced down into the depths to see a 6-7ft Soupfin Shark cruising along the wall. It was sleek, smooth and AWESOME! I had to keep myself from charging after it down into the depths. Luckily I had wicked fast video skills and caught it on camera!

Site #2: was called Wash Rock. We were told that we should see LOTS of the Soupfin sharks in the shallows, but we must have gone to the wrong section of shallows because we saw none (sadness). Upon surfacing we found that one group had seen a whole bunch, up to ten all laying in the sand just chilling. (Lame!) Anyways, we headed east from the boat exploring a very surgy shallow area. It was beautiful and full of fish, so I can’t really complain about not seeing any sharks. We did come across a HUGE bat ray with a little bat ray sleeping next to it in the sand which was great. After exploring the shallows a bit we headed slightly deeper near the boat and explored a cool section of kelp.

Site #3: After another surface interval we jumped into a site called Green Acres. I’m sure you can guess how this site got its name. Its a huge expanse of thick healthy kelp that seems to go FOREVER down and down into the water. We kept the dive fairly shallow since it was our third and we had one more to go, but the kelp and the rock formations on the bottom (as Jessica pointed out, they looked almost volcanic…which they probably were!) were fantastic. We found 2 octopus all curled up inside some holes in the rocky ground and I discovered how much I hate that I can’t bend my strobe all the way down level with my camera…it was damn near impossible to get the camera and the strobe into the small hole to light up the octopus, but I managed fairly well on the second one.

Site #4: Little Rock. This site was a bed of sea grass and weeds. We traveled along, and I brought a bunch up with me after sinking down into the weed beds to get some photos. We progressed into a kelp forest and explored before circling around, overshooting the boat and swimming back. Unfortunately for me, I learned that my camera battery quickly progresses from the “halfway dead” symbol to completely dead and ended up with a dead battery early on in the dive. I was however able to eek out one shot, not great though, when I came across a large Moray Eel in a patch of rocks.

Our group of friends, most from Eco Dive Center, made for a great trip. We had enjoyable surface intervals, full of delicious food thanks to the awesome staff of the Sand Dollar dive boat. Quick fills allowed us to keep getting in the water as soon as the boat set anchor and the gates were open. The weather was clear, the water was warm (for CA…around 59-55 degrees!) and I really don’t think the day could have been better!

Old Marineland

Last Tuesday myself and a couple friends woke at the crack of dawn and ventured down to PV to take advantage of the calm waters before the windy storm blew in. This time we were getting wet at Old Marineland, a site on the south side of the peninsula, where the new Terranea resort was recently built. This site got its name because it used to be home to Marineland of the Pacific, one of the first and largest Oceanariums that operated from 1954 to 1987 (http://www.marinelandofthepacific.org/). After years of nothing a new resort has recently been built, but the beach and diving remains open to the public. Whats great about this site now, especially compared to other shore sites around PV, is that the path to get down to the diving is paved and packed dirt. No crazy hike, just a long walk. The entry itself isn’t bad, so long as you go when the water is calm. Any actual swell at this site and you’d be getting crushed into the rocks. Its a rocky beach entry which drops off really quickly so a wave would literally pound you down. Luckily our water was nice and calm!

We had a nice smooth entry then kicked out towards a large kelp and reef to the east of the entry. I’ve been told that this is the “boring” side of the Marineland dive site, but the cool stuff is a good 20-30 minute surface swim west and we just didn’t have that kind of time!

Down we went into what looked to be pretty crappy visibility. Luckily though, as we descended deeper the water cleared some. I wouldn’t call it good, but it was fair enough and not bad for shore diving. We came up to the kelp… one of the things I always love about approaching kelp, especially in not so good viz is that it starts as just a black mass growing in the distance and doesn’t really take shape until just before reaching it. Its a bit spooky, but adds to the mystery of the temperate dives.

Our route had us cruising along the edge of the kelp until we reached our “halfway” of air consumption then turning around and heading back to the beach. We flitted in and out of the kelp and saw lots a great things. I saw a new (and my second) type of Nudibranch, finally something other than Spanish Shawl (but they were there too!) This guy was a Sea Lemon (Pelotodoris nobilis) and was quite big! I really want to get to the “cool” side of Marineland because I’ve been told that its Nudibranch City…soon my friends, soon.

This reef was great, which really makes me curious about the “cool” side of the site. We explored varied rock formations along the reef, the kelp was thick and healthy and it was littered with sea stars and fairly free of urchins. There were lots of fish, mostly the usual that you run into around So Cal… Garibaldi, Kelp Bass, Sheephead.. but they’re always fun to watch. I think the biggest drawback to the day was that it was overcast. If it had been a bright sunny morning the reef would have well lit and beautiful… that morning it was a bit dark and beautiful.

Unfortunately for me, the batteries in my strobe were dead (guess that’s what happens after about 4 months…oops!) Regardless, I spent the morning taking video. Enjoy!

Blackjack anyone?

Monday night I met up with Kristan and Richard down in Redondo for a quick night dive off of Veteran’s Park. The ocean was calm and there were no waves to battle as we easily walked into the sea. Cruising down the canyon Kristan had a bit of equalization issues, but was able to clear and we swam down to 100ft to settle on the sand. Unzipping a pocket of his BCD Kristan pulled out a pack of water proof cards and began to deal out a hand of black jack! I got my first card, a Queen…so far so good. Next came a 10 and of course when signaled I chose to stay. Everyone turned over their hand and with 20 points I was the big winner! It was smilies all around, then we carefully gave back the cards, I cleared my mask (one of the drawbacks of smiling…you break the mask seal and it floods. I would wager that 90% of my dive time is done with a partially flooded mask, the other 10% is the few minutes after clearing it!)

After the game we started our ascent, exploring the bottom as we slowly swam up out of the canyon. On the way down we had seen a pretty good sized Red Octopus, just out for a night of hunting. On the way back there were the usual crabs, several Mantis Shrimp, a Red Irish Lord and even an itty bitty teeny tiny baby octopus! Overall a great dive, though I will say, beware of that thermocline… it was COLD down at depth, around 50 degrees!! Yikes!

Red Octopus out hunting.

Mantis Shrimp... these guys are a pain to get a picture of...the swim off as soon as you get near.

This little octopus was about the size of a golf ball! So cute!

A Red Irish Lord laying in the sand.