Channel Islands Sept 2005
We flew Southwest Airlines direct from Albuquerque and arrived at LAX exactly 2 hours after departure. After picking up baggage and a trip to the rental car agency, we were on our way up to Ventura. After a quick lunch, we checked into the hotel and we were off to stop by the Peace Dive Shop. We checked in, ordered our tanks and weights to be delivered to the boat, bought the nudi and fish id cards, and met the great staff there. Next we headed out to Ventura Harbor to get the layout for our early morning dive trip on the Peace for Thursday.
Ventura Harbor is gorgeous! Boats, boats, and more boats.... big boats, little boats, fishing boats, sailboats, dive boats, you name it. We enjoyed strolling around, checking them all out, and visiting all the cute little gift shops lining the harbor. There are several restaurants there also and we decided we must come back for dinner one night. Tonight however, we had dinner plans to meet up with a friend from DigitalDiver and his wife at Anacapa Brewing Company downtown.
Jim and his wife Noelle arrived right at 6:15pm as planned. The dinner was good and and the conversation fantastic. It was great to finally meet a DD board member and make new friends. All too soon we had to go, but I am sure we will be seeing them both again!
We returned to the hotel and called Truth Aquatics to find out if the boat for Friday was canceled. After several calls back and forth, the cancelation was confirmed. We immediately called the Spectre to book diving for Friday. Luckily they had room for us! We ordered tanks and weights to be delivered to the boat and went to bed excited about our new adventure - Kelp Diving!
We arrived at the boat at 6am and found many divers already there, enjoying the breakfast spread. The Peace Dive Boat crew was busy preparing for the 7am departure and we quickly said hello to everyone. Margaret, Jim, and Judy were there to greet us - more DigitalDivers, Woo Hoo! They had driven up for the day to meet and dive with us. After a quick gear setup and nitrox tank check we were ready for that new adventure to begin.
I had taken some seasick medication just in case the crossing was rough but to my surprise and pleasure it was a smooth ride all the way to Anacapa Island. It was chilly though with the overcast skies and "marine layer" as they call it. Before we knew it the boat crew was dropping and setting the anchor and everyone began to gear up. Most of the divers onboard were experienced divers and diving dry. A few of us kelp novices were diving wet and hoping for warm water, well, at least not freezing water! The group was very orderly and one by one the divers exited the boat at the gate and a crew member lowered cameras over the side (and there were alot of cameras with this group!)
depth 52', vis 40-50', 33% nitrox, temp at depth 66 degrees, 38 minutes
Our first dive in California was amazing and frustrating. The kelp was amazing but trying to master swimming in the surge and the fact my mask kept flooding (I guess I didn't have it seated right with the hood which I wasn't used to). I spent the entire dive trying to enjoy the beauty but it just wasn't happening for me. There were all the fish we expected to see - garibaldis, sheepheads, senoritas, and spanish shawl nudibranchs everywhere. I was truly surprized at how friendly all the fish were. They seemed completely unafraid and curious about us. Maybe my mask was flooding because I was smiling so much. LOL We decided to cut the dive a bit short and regroup.
I decided to switch to a different hood for the next dive - a 7mm goldcore which fit me better than the other, lighter weight hood. Boy, what a difference that made! I was warmer and no more flooding mask after that first dive. Yeah!
depth 39', vis 40-50', 34% nitrox, temp at depth 66 degrees, 50 minutes
Okay, all we can say about this dive site is WOW. The kelp was thick here, I mean really thick. In some places you couldn't even swim through it. The sun came out and twinkled through the canopy and it was magical. Ron saw a giant sea bass he says was at least 4-5' long. Jim found a little nudi, funginia something or other which is apparently rare. It was yellow with a hard shell on its back which looked like a chinese hat. Very cool! I tried to get a picture but a frond of kelp kept swaying in front of the lens. Photographers need 3 arms - one to hold the camera, one to hold onto the rock to steady the shot, and one to hold back the kelp! How do these local DD'ers do it?
After the dive, a big hot lunch was waiting for us onboard.
The Peace captain had moved the boat around the arch to the back side of Anacapa to see if diving at the sea lion rookery was good but after checking the current he moved us back around to the front side.
depth 64', 45 minutes, 33% nitrox, temp at depth 66 degrees, 50' +vis
This dive site was different than Cathedral - the kelp was sparse and the bottom was covered with urchins. Fish and seastars were everywhere still and Ron and I darted in and out of the rock outcroppings looking for nudies. A head poked around a rock, I looked over and a harbor seal was smiling at me. He immediately darted back around the rock so by the time I got Ron's attention it was gone. But sure enough he came back, played Peek-a-boo again and disappeared. Too cute! I found a nudi, a san diego dorid, and Ron found a navanax.
Trish had brownies, ice cream sundaes and peach cobbler waiting for us as we boarded the boat. What a day - great diving, great friends and chocolate, too!
New friends: Margaret (Senioraweeb), Ron, Jim (Jlyle), and Margaret again, and Margaret with JudyC (jujee bead lady)
I must say, the Peace crew was fantastic. They are there on the swim step to take the camera and take off your fins, get you up the ladder and hand you your fins at the top. My camera was safely in one of 3 rinse buckets onboard waiting for me. Between dives the crew members were friendly, always had time to answer questions, and run down to your bunk to retrieve something you forgot. The snacks between dives, the buffet lunch, the goodies, all included in the price make this a great value. Another great thing about this boat is the NITROX. We weren't doing dives where we needed it, but it is always nice to keep your nitrogen load down when doing multi-day diving. All in all this was an A+ day. Peace boat is a top notched operation.
After some goodbyes at the dock we headed back to the hotel to rinse gear and change for dinner. Ron and I were both exhausted but thrilled with the diving. After quick showers we headed out for some burgers for dinner then back to the hotel to crash for the night.
We arrrived at the dock at 7am for the 8am departure of the Spectre. After boarding and locating our tanks and weights we headed downstairs to find an empty bunk to stow our towels and dry clothes. The bunk area is much more congested than the Peace bunkroom and also most of the bunks were full of people who had spent the night onboard. We located one empty bunk and tossed in our gear and returned topside. Only lunch is included in the price for the Spectre. All breakfast orders and drinks are priced according to a list on the wall in the galley. Many of the divers were ordering food and the smell of frying bacon was a bit much for me. We found a spot to sit for the crossing on the upper level out of the wind and very soon we arrived at Anacapa. (the Spectre is a faster boat than the Peace taking only an hour and 15 minutes to cross)
The divers on the Spectre were very different than the Peace group the day before. The average age on the Peace was probably 40, the Spectre group was half that. Most of the divers on the Peace were diving in drysuits and brought their own gear, the Spectre group were all diving wet and at least half had rental gear. Another big difference is the crew - the Spectre crew consisted of only 2 guys on deck and 1 lady in the galley. No time to chat with the crew here - they were busy, very busy, all the time. I am sure this is the norm for most dive boats in Calif.
depth 51', vis 40-50', temp at depth 61 degrees, 43 minutes
Ron and I were the first ones suited up and standing at the gate. We headed off into the kelp and hunted for nudis again.
After the dive, the captain moved the boat around the island to the back side west end. It took almost 30 minutes to get there and anchor but we were excited see a new area of the island. As we lined up to get in, a fishing boat pulled up along side and waved at the captain. He told him not to let us get in, a shark was in the area, a white shark. The gate was immediately closed, darn! and we sat back down. Back around the island again we went, another 30 minutes sitting on the boat. Our SI ended up being almost 2 hours. Arrggghhh. I just wanna dive!
48' depth, vis 40-50', temp at depth 66 degees, 42 minutes
This dive spot is just west of Cathedral and we were thrilled to get in the water again. The kelp forest wasn't as thick here as at Cathedral though and much of the kelp (a different kind??) covered the ground. Ron and I started picking up the fronds and looking under them for critters and sure enough - the bottom was covered with fish. Ron found a 4" long scorpionfish that was white and gray like the sand but I couldn't get a good picture. I found a sculpin and got a couple of nice shots. We moved over to the rocky area and found tons of spanish shawls waving in the "breeze". As I was getting set up to take a shot of one, I noticed something blue and very, very tiny. I tried to focus the camera on it but it was just too small. I called Ron over and he put his finger down next to it. Bingo, the camera focused. It was a cute little Mexichromis porterae! Woo Hoo! Ron then found a spanish shawl that was so tiny it only had one orange flame. I didn't even try to get a picture but it sure was adorable. I found a couple of sea hares, let's just say, getting friendly..... Nice dive.
Lunch plates were served after this dive and we were really starving. The boat moved while we ate and soon it was time to get back in
34' depth, 45minutes, temp at depth 66 degrees, vis 40-50'
Ron and I weren't in the water 5 minutes when we were joined by a pair of sea lions. Woo Hoo!! I tried to get a few pics but they just wouldn't be still. They swooped and darted and sat on the bottom barking at each other. It was so funny that Ron and I were laughing out loud. Soon they were gone and a batray swam overhead. We decided that we liked all this action out over the sand so we stayed on the fringe of the kelp forest and cruised around looking for new things. The sea lions never came back but it was still a great dive to end our trip with.
Our crossing was uneventful and soon we were back at the hotel. We showered and changed and headed back to the Harbor for dinner at one of restaurants there. We decided on the Spinnaker Seafood Restaurant and it was excellent. I had the fisherman's platter and Ron had the tri-tip platter. Both were delicious.
Our flight wasn't until 3:20pm but we knew that LAX on a holiday weekend would be insane so we checked out of the hotel early and made a last trip around town to pick up the obligatory t-shirts and stopped by the Channel Islands Wecome Station out at the Harbor to visit the gift shop. I bought a map (I collect maps) and found some cool books about fish and nudies that I should have bought. Then we headed out and arrived at LAX at 1pm. Thank goodness we arrived 2 hours early - there were lines and more lines. It took an hour just to get through them all and to our gate. The plane was delayed but then it wasn't, and we arrived home right on time at 6:30pm.
Will we go back to California to dive the Kelp again??? Of course we will. I want drysuits though, but we are heading back as soon as we can. Great diving, great people, great fun.