One step closer

Before heading out of town on a whirlwind adventure I was able to sneak in one last dive and check off one more DMC requirement. My final open water internship marker was “leading certified divers.” While I lucked out and was able to brief and lead a small group at a site very familiar to me, I was also doing it at night, which adds some thrill because if you don’t stay close to each other, its easy to get separated in the oppressing darkness.

After gearing up on land I gave my first ever official briefing, stumbling a bit at points, but making sure to hit all the important aspects of diving Vet’s Park at night. We lucked out because the ocean looked as still as a lake, so the usual cautions of careful beach entry were unnecessary. After this we walked down to the beach and away we went.

Vet’s Park is a really easy dive site, in that its all sandy bottom and its typically an out and back site. My goals in leading the group was to not drop below our decided depth, and to resurface just off the stairs so we would not have a far walk out. The visibility was really crappy in the shallower water, but once we dropped below 40 ft things cleared out. Continually looking behind me, I made sure everyone was following as I lead down into the canyon. Immediately on dropping down to around 40ft we encountered a GIANT Sea Hare. This thing was larger than a basketball and by far the largest I’ve ever seen. Making note, I hoped we’d run into it again on return; it would serve as a perfect marker of where the steps were amongst the never changing sand bottom.

We capped our depth around 70ft, and headed south. I kept us a bit shallower at first so that we would run into the “Shrine”, a collection of dumped items that create something different to look at and homes for lots of little sea critters. After exploring around that for a bit we continued on. There was all the usual tiny octopus and sand dabs, etc. I tried to point them out as much as possible, but even then not everyone got to see them.

I think we went the furthest south on this dive then I ever have before mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t diving with my camera or a bunch of shutterbugs. We ran into a patch of weedy growth that I have never seen before. It was great to get to explore that area, I even found a small horn shark nestled in the weeds. This marked our turn around point and we cruised back at a slightly shallower depth. We indeed ran into the sea hare again (and I was sure glad we did, because it felt sooner than I anticipated where the stairs were). After hitting that I began moving everyone shallower hoping to be able to do our safety stop along the bottom, but the visibility deteriorated too quickly. We began our ascent and completed our safety stop mid water. Upon surfacing I was glad to see that we were just north of the stairs. The ocean had picked up a little bit, but over all was still an easy exit. After the dive we debriefed a bit on what we saw, how it went etc. Everyone had a good dive and there were no issues which was fantastic. One more pool session and a day out as back up DM next weekend and I’ll be putting through the DM cert and officially be a “Pro!”

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!

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.