A few Sundays back I became PADI certified for open water. This means I can dive on my own without a dive master there. It is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but just never got around to doing it. I’ve snorkeled all over, but diving definitely is a different experience. I’m happy I did it.
I took a two weekend course through Auqatech; 4 days, 8-5 each day, plus a few hours of outside study. The first weekend was class and pool time, getting ready for the ocean. Two weekends ago we finally got into the ocean. Two dives at La Jolla shores, and two at the Coronado Islands (Mexico). Both locations were great. The shores had 20 foot visibility (despite a lot of surf and surge), and a lot of life around the shallow thermocline. We saw a huge sheep crab, a few giant sea bass, and a lot of guitarfish and other bottom dwellers. The giant sea bass were very impressive. The first two we saw were quite large, but didn’t stick around. The next one was a bit younger, but still a decent size (about 3.5 feet long, 2.5 feet high, and a bit over a foot thick). He swam up within two feet of my mask three times, just checking us out while we did our alternate air source practice. It was incredible to watch his saucer sized eyes swiveling around to look us over.
The next day we spent two hours by boat to travel to the lobster shack area of the north Coronado island. There were a lot of starfish and urchins along the bottom, with a few sea cucumbers and other goodies. We first checked out an eight year old wreck not far from shore. Apparently someone set out from mission bay, set autopilot, went to bed, and ran into the island. The ship is now in sixty feet of water and mostly covered with marine life – there was even a spanish shawl walking on it. There were a lot of different smaller fish, but nothing much larger than the garibaldi. Our next dive we went along the coast where the harbor seals and noisy sea lions have a little bit of a base. The seals and pups were curious, popping their heads in and out of the water to check us out. Some were curious enough to pop their heads around rocks about eight feet away, but most were happy to keep their distance from us. The sea lions on the other hand weren’t too shy. The huge patriarch was doing his rounds and swam within a few feet of us on his patrols around his harem. I swam back later came back after the dive was done to grab a mylar balloon and do some snorkeling. He swam right up to check me out with his slightly foggy eyes.
I loved our ocean dives, and it would be easy to see how you could get hooked. But it is an expensive (and bulky) hobby, so I don’t think I’ll devote myself full time. But I’m definitely going to have to grab some rental gear for La Jolla cove a few times a year. The Channel Islands would make a great trip as well, I’d love to hit the kelp forests.