Peering at the Palawan.

I know, I know. Its been forever since I’ve graced you with my presence and recounted the latest and greatest dive adventure. Honestly its because there haven’t been too many lately. Sad right? However its not for lack of underwater time, I’ve just been passing along my knowledge teaching in the pool and ocean this year…but more on that later. In addition, my goal for this year is to find a balance between my two passions, Scuba and triathlon, two hobbies which do not mesh well, especially since both want to take up the bulk of any weekend…but again, more on that later.

Last night, I hooked up with a group of dive buddies for the rare mid-week boat dive. The plan was the wreck of the Palawan, which lies off the coast of Redondo. The Palawan is a 440′ Liberty Ship that was sunk in the 1970’s as an artificial reef. It lies in about 110′ – 130′ of water, so with my single tank of air it made for a couple of short dives. Since the ship has been down there going on 30 years its somewhat degraded, with mostly just the hull remaining and has a ton of life and growth surrounding it.

We left Redondo on the Island Diver, and the short… 15 minutes!… motor to the site was easy and calm. This is diving at its most basic, we had rigged up and loaded our gear on the boat, suited up on shore and were chilling with some water and a bag of peanuts for snacks. Simple and perfect. That is until a wayward bit of peanut shell (or so i believe… you know, not the hard outside the but the papery like inner-shell…) caught the eddying winds and made a beeline for my eye. As the boat was dropping the buoy and setting anchor, I was doubled over with scratching pain in my eye, trying to figure out what happened! Shane and Saif assisted in trying to see if it was still in there, and Dan came to the rescue with his first aid kit and some saline solution. I never saw what truly flew into my eye, but I must have managed to get it out, because by the time the anchor was set and we were to go my eye was at a manageable level of distress… I figured I would try to descend and if it bothered me, then I’d call it. Luckily, I had no issues once in the water, and continued the descent down the rope into the black abyss.

Our first dive started out with a shock for two of our members as they approached the wreck and peered in the first hole only to have a large sea lion barrel out of it. It cruised around then disappeared into the darkness in an instant. All in all this dive was fantastic. I barely got to take in the wreck, as I worried about not finding the buoy line again, so buddy Saif and myself explored a small area around where the buoy lay. With the short no-deco time available at 110′ this was more than fine, and I was able to peer into some holes, and snap a few pictures of some of the many fish lounging about. The wreck is covered in strawberry anemones, red gorgonians, and plays home to a variety of fish, nudibranchs, sea stars, crab, lobster and a ton more I didn’t see I’m sure! I recently rigged my little Tusa as a focus light which allowed my camera to actually focus (finally!), ¬†and I enjoyed the few minutes of bottom time seeking out fish and playing around with my new strobe… still trying to get the hang of it!! From there it was a long slow ascent up the rope, avoiding the few jellyfish floating nearby.

After a good surface interval, we splashed back into the water and descended back into the deep once more. This dive was even shorter, and its amazing how quickly time flies! I found a large rock crab, posing nicely and tried to get some shots of the wreck structure, but before I knew it my watch was reading one minute left!! A quick swim to the rope and it was back and up again. The ascent this time was a bit more harried, as around 20ft I glanced up to make sure all was stil clear and looked right into a huge jellyfish that was tangled around the rope! Of course the first reaction, is “OH SHIT” which also includes a sharp inhale… with full lungs I was now floating right into it, so I exhaled and purged the remaining air, dropping away from the rope, but not quite in time. One of the tentacles just barely grazed my cheek… no big deal really, a little stinging and some irritation but that was it.

After the dive, it was a short trip back to shore, quick break down and pack up before we headed over to Henessey’s for a late night snack. The dives were short but sweet, and Dick, our captain, was great. They visit the Palawan so frequently that he has the coordinates written on the boat window, and dropped the buoy line within 2 feet of the wreck, making our dives that much more enjoyable! I can’t wait for the next one!

North @ Vets.

Friday night Jessica, Bryan and I ventured back out to Veterans Park to squeeze in two quick dives that would bring my total dive count to 98. We did this because we were diving the oil rigs off of Long Beach the following morning and I desperately wanted to make the oil rig dives fall on my 100 dive. 100 is a pretty big milestone in the dive world and I was extremely excited to be hitting it.

Everytime I dive Vet’s I have gone south. Its a west facing beach, so we swim west to the depth we want, then turn south in the canyon and swim down until either our air or time limit is up and we turn around to swim back to the entry. Vets is all sandy bottom, so its not the most exciting dive, but in the evening or at night there are a plethora of creatures that come out. Typically you see octopus, crab, small fish like scoropionfish, sarcastic fringehead, cusk eels, lots of sand dollars, and sea stars. Friday however, we decided to explore north for something different. There is supposed to be a large grassy area, known as the “Salad Bowl” just north of the stairs that you use to get to the beach. We were told that you can find more life in this area than you usually see heading north, and that often there are nudibranch hiding out in the grass.

Either, we didn’t swim far enough or it just wasn’t a good day for nudi hunting. The grassy area was fairly sparse, and while there were a bunch of little octopus swimming around that was about it. I saw a nice scorpionfish and was able to get a great shot of him resting in the sand, but otherwise it was a rather boring and cold couple of dives. However these two dives weren’t really for quality, they were for quantity, and by completing them I was able to align the oil rigs and my 100th dive!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!