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[Sorry, folks: I tend to write really LADRs [Long-Assed Dive Reports] :sleep:
Date: Saturday, February 23, 2008
Dive Times: 11:30 AM/3:18 PM
Location: Wreck Alley, Mission Beach: Yukon, Ruby E. and NOSC Tower
Maximum depths: 85 feet/60 feet, respectively.
Surface Conditions: surface chop, occasional white cap, due to 12 to
15 knot winds, otherwise good conditions.
Visibility: 12 to 15 feet
Critters seen: Huge schools of Blacksmith fish, Surfperch,
Greenlings, Red and Brown Gorgonians, Macrocystis, Gobies, Giant
Spined Starfish and a Mola Mola [!]
With a 24 our 'Storm Window' between Friday's rain storm and the one
which is on its way tonight and threatening to bring 20 ft seas, we
decided that Saturday would be a great day to do the Ruby E and the
Tower with Merrianne, Navy Dan, 'Iron Man' Charlie and NOAA Jim.
The sky was sunny and blue as we motored out on the trusty Scuba Do to
Wreck Alley. We were also on a special mission for NOAA Jim,
attempting to recover something very dear to his heart [and very
expensive] that he had lost on the Yukon the previous weekend.
Although a charter boat was already tide up to the mooring line when
we got there, after a short wait, they gather their divers up and left
and we tide up to the Forward Guns.
'Iron Man' Charlie with his scooter and Jim, on a borrowed one,
jumped in and began their hunt. Navy Dan, Merrianne and I had decided
to sit this one out.
Not 15 minutes later, NOAA Jim popped to the surface, yelling and
mumbling something unintelligible into his regulator; as I leaned
forward to better hear what he was trying to say, he removed the
regulator from his mouth and promptly aimed a stream of projectile
vomit in my direction, which whizzed by my head and landed harmlessly
in the water next to the boat. :11:
[I told him later he really needs to
work on his aim.]
When his stomach was done evacuating, due to surface chop seasickness,
he yelled out that he had found his scooter under the Yukon.
Naturally he was overjoyed at his discovery and so were the rest of
us. I actually felt guilty, because I never thought he would find it,
thinking as I had, that it would've been halfway to Tijuana by now in
the open ocean currents. Turns out it had lodged amidships in the
sand, right where he had found it.
With such an upbeat start to the day, we all motored over to the Ruby
E., to begin our first official dive of the day, with Jim happily
ranting and raving over his good fortune and having found his long
lost scooter, with video camera and Nite Rider lights still
functioning perfectly. We all had to agree that the SCUBA gods were
certainly smiling favorably on him today. :14:
I had been given a task to gather some topographical data on the ruby
E for a project that my [other] dive buddy is working on, so Merrianne, Navy Dan and
I suited up and wasted no time jumping in. And Jim and Charlie had
decided to sit this one out and wait for the Tower
Upon arrival on the Ruby E, we found the visibility was not that bad
and the little ship glowed neon pink in the early afternoon sunlight,
due to being covered by strawberry anemones.
Clutching a wicked looking spear gun, Navy Dan went off to hunt for
dinner and Merrianne and I split off to explore the ship. We started
at the bow and made our way forward, toward the wheelhouse.
The deck of the Ruby E was covered in red and brown Gorgonians,
wafting gently in the current, along with huge schools of Blacksmith
fish, which practically covered the entire wreck, and parted like a
curtain to lead us through.
Of course I promptly did the one thing and I had advised Navy Dan not
to do, which was descend down into one of the many holds in the deck,
now rusting and corroded in many areas, leaving sharp and menacing
edges sticking up in several places.
But with Merrianne hovering above me in a motherly fashion, I felt
safe going down. Inside the holds a thick layer of sand had built up
on the bottom, making it easy to stir things up, without meaning to,
so I was careful to not use my fans for propulsion, but pulled myself
along, carefully, hand- over-hand.
Warty and California Sea Cucumbers dotted the walls inside the holds.
I was careful not to disturb them and create the much dreaded [by
them] 'sea cucumber avalanche' inside the ship.
After carefully gliding upward and out of the hold using only my BC
for gentle buoyancy control, Merrianne and I proceeded down to the
wheelhouse, where I turned my attention to gathering the data I had
come to take.
We had fun gliding in and out of the wheelhouse, and playing
peek-a-boo with the huge schools of Blacksmith fish, which flitted
this way and that, all around the ship in the current, nibbling at
unseen morsels of food in the water column.
We made our way to Ward's the stern, where the buoy line no longer had
a buoy attached to it and then made our way back towards the bow and
did this several times, while I gathered my data, and then we headed
up the line toward the surface, having had a productive and satisfying
For more on this divesite, see: Ruby E
Navy Dan never found suitable prey on the Ruby, so was eager to dive
the Tower, a popular site for local fishermen.
Upon arrival, we tide up to the buoy, suited up and jumped in, with
'Ironman' Charlie and Jim and doing the first dive, and Merrianne,
Navy Dan and I, the second.
Descending down the line towards the tower, we could see long strands
of giant kelp coming off the top and large schools of surf perch
swimming in and through the crossbeams.
Upon arrival on the bottom we saw the usual assortment of giant Spined
starfish all heaped on top of one another as if in a giant orgy, with
brown Gorgonians scattered everywhere and the same large schools of
Blacksmith fish we had seen on the Ruby E.
As we began our circumnavigation of the tower in a counterclockwise
fashion, we saw Navy Dan pointing towards the surface….. following
his finger, we looked up and saw a juvenile Mola Mola hovering in the
water column about 20 feet above us.
As I ascended slowly in the water column to check him out, I could see
him glance worriedly down at me, perhaps wondering who this predator
was coming at him. But since I was not the one with the spear gun,
he had nothing to fear and Navy Dan knew better than to try and spear
him because of their reputation of being a lousy meal. We wouldn't
have let him do it anyway, to such a delightful and comical creature
of the deep.
After checking out the Mola Mola, we descended back down toward the
tower and resumed our counterclockwise circumnavigation. Large
schools of surf perch seemed to mingle with a Blacksmith as curtains
of fish parted to lettuce through the water.
We checked out the abundant sessile and Gorgonians attached to all the
many iron cross bars lying scattered along the bottom. There were
also many barred sand bass cruising along the bottom, trying to avoid
all the mono filament and hooks dangling from the crossbar is of the
tower, indicating what a popular the fishing site this is for local
San Diego fishermen.
Ironically, despite all the fish around us Navy Dan never did find
suitable prey to bring home to his wife for dinner, since he was
looking for the sheep head of a particular a minimum size and we
appreciated the fact that he was a discriminating hunter and didn't
just shoot at anything that moved.
After about 45 minutes of this, we all began to feel the late
afternoon cold, due to leaky seals, and reluctantly began heading
towards the surface.
We clambered aboard the Scuba Do happy and content and having had a
satisfying day of diving.
Surface Conditions: flat going out in the morning, choppy with whitecaps and 15 knot winds on the way back in the afternoon
Visibility: 0-24 inches in most spots, a murky 3 to 5 feet in other areas
Temperature: 50-52° F
Critters Seen: not much, given the poor visibility, but did see some Red Gorgonians, orange puff balls, Giant Spined Starfish, Bat Stars, and a large Lingcod flash by.
After some initial delays, we got gas and motored out under leaden gray skies with Peter, Jimbo, NOAA Jim and 'Iron Man' Charlie with high hopes to our favorite spot at the southernmost tip of Point Loma, Matt's Reef, named for the teenager who so skillfully piloted the boat our first time out there.
After dropping anchor, we noticed that even though it was close to noon, the sun had still not come out, but we didn't think much of it and we all suited up eager for an expected excellent day of diving.
We let the Scooter Twins Charlie and Jim splash in first, followed by me, Jimbo and Peter. Had we waited for Jim and Charlie to come back and report on the the the conditions before going in, we might have saved ourselves the trouble.
I had positioned the boat between the areas marked Matt's Reef and Matt's Wall on the GPS. What I didn't realize until we began descending was that we were actually on Matt's Wall, which meant that the bottom was quite a bit deeper than we had anticipated.
After what seem to be long free-fall through murky green water, we suddenly struck bottom at 95 feet, which came as a bit of a shock because we couldn't see a thing, through the swirling underwater sandstorm which reduced visibility to nearly zero.
We took a minute on the bottom to get our bearings, adjust camera settings and figure out what we wanted to do. The original plan had been when simply to swim South until we hit sand, which would mark the end of the reef and then turn around and Head north, back the way we came.
I was also planning to do a REEF survey while Peter and Jimbo took photos.
But in these conditions of near- zero visibility we began to question how much we're going to be able to accomplish.
Our depth alone, told us we were most likely at the edge of the reef anyway, so after checking my compass, I began to lead our little group North, back towards the boat. In the swirling haze of sand, it was tough keeping track of each other and we kept our lights on the whole time.
The visibility was so bad I kept running into large rocks and cliffs, but this also afforded me the opportunity to get a closer look at them and the tiny critters with living in and around them, mainly giant Spined starfish, bat stars and orange puff balls, with a rather large Lincod flashing by me at one point. At least, I think it was a Lincod.
I was able to make a few notations on my REEF slate before looking around and realizing that Peter and Jimbo had disappeared into the sandstorm , without a trace, and I was alone in the swirling sand.
Oh well, I thought, there will be no finding them in this muck, and so I might as well complete my survey and begin heading in; that's when the I looked down and saw that I had dropped my slate while fumbling with a piece of gear. To my astonishment, because I was on air, I was also nearing deco already. Boy, that didn't take long!
I'm sure we've all had moments on a dive when we're realized that the universe was trying to tell us something, and it pays to take heed –this was one of those moments.
Finding myself without dive buddies OR a slate and force to crawl hand over hand like a blind man in a sandstorm, I knew it was time to end this dive.
I began inflating my BC and slowly heading toward the surface, hoping that the visibility would improve a bit on the way up. No such luck. The visibility was as bad at 15 feet as it had been at 90 feet.
I hovered at 15 feet to complete my safety stop, and then climbed back top on the boat, shaking my head at the realization that this had indeed, been 'one of those days' underwater. Oh, well: there will be other days.
Peter and Jimbo popped to the surface shortly afterward, shaking their heads as well, and chuckling, all of us getting a good laugh from the absolutely atrocious conditions we have experienced down below.
Conditions had been so bad, that it was truly comical, and because we had all arrived back on the surface safe and sound, we're able to get a good laugh out of it.
We had survived Braille diving in point Loma to dive another day.
By this time, the wind had picked up, creating whitecaps on the surface of the ocean and on this gray clouds were moving in: it was time to head home to safer harbors.
Dive safe everyone, because, if you can laugh about it afterward, it could've been a lot worse!
Remember: King Neptune gets to win whenever he wants.
Only a handful of the faithful showed up at Marineland today. Reverand Al, Drysuit Greg, Divebum Don and I were joined by the Evil Bunny. Vis was horrible and the water was 52F, but it was our last chance to enjoy my favorite site for a few months.
Dive Site: Yukon
Conditions: Calm seas, light wind, full sunshine
Water Temp: 49-51F depending on whose computer you looked at
Dive Buddys: Sean B, and Paul visiting from the UK
Comments: this was a 'tech' dive, full penetration with doubles & stages
3 of us took Seans rib out to the Yukon for a morning dive.. sea was mostly flat with an occasional small set of swells rolling by~ maybe 2 ft'ers at best, barely any boat movement at all. We strapped on the doubles, backrolled into the water, clipped the stages on, and dropped down the bow line.. The water was greenish, which didn't look like it would be a very promising dive, but at around 40ft we could see the wreck~ the water cleared up and we ended up with at least 20ft of vis and blue water.
Did a 45 min penetration dive all throughout the wreck then the surge picked up and the water temp seemed to drop, so we axed the remaining time of our dive plan and headed over to the line-- fighting the VERY increased surge from the plaque to the bow. Hung on the line breathing off of our stages and shaking like leaves from the cold, and surfaced to the same calm sea that we'd seen prior to the dive.
Not many critters out and about~ the usual warty cucumbers, greenlings, sheepcrabs, stars, etc.. Found: mask, small anchor, and weight pouch~ all INSIDE of the wreck...
With the one foot of vis reported around Palos Verdes the past few days Merry and I decided to head north. We looked at Long Wharf first. It was iffy, but we decided to come back here if Malibu was out. As we approached the north side of town the waves flattened out in spots. We decided to try Nicholas Canyon. I'm glad we did.
We had an easy entry, despite the 3-4 feet surf and headed out toward the kelp. Along the way we met Sandy the Lifeguard and a small pod of dolphin. Sandy is also a marine biologist and gave us a fascinating talk about flatworms after the dive.
We dropped into five feet of vis and scouted the rocky reef for critters. Among the crabs, lobsters and sponges were a few rockfish, including a pregnant Brown rockfish. I had my camera set for macro, so I got a great shot of its tail.
Merry found a Rostanga pulchra, Red dorid. I had only seen one other one, so this made the dive special. Many rocks were covered with yellow lightbulb tunicates. I had only seen them in white and pink before.
On our way in we came across a Horn shark and lobster that each swam in front of us for a closer look.
The water was warmer than expected at 54F.