Aug 182009

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2009.08.06 Diving Yukon and Ruby E

Heather, David, and I had some great dives on the Yukon and Ruby E at the start of the month. Visibility was the best I had seen on the Yukon and it was a lot of fun to explore.

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2009.08.14 Diving Avalon Dive Park

Adam, Paul, Pete, and I took off for some quick ferry diving at Avalon dive park. Our ghetto dive boxes with tank bands worked great.  I’ll post some photos at some point.  Visibility above 40 feet was great, deeper it was very cloudy. I got to meet Oscar, the huge sheephead. His size isn’t apparent in the photos, but he is a monster.

Feb 262009

There were about ten bright boats anchored just outside of the marine preserve, about a mile from where we were. They are there for the same reason we were – the squid run. Lisa, Mani, and I went for a night dive at La Jolla shores last night in hopes of seeing some. We didn’t have any luck. I’m not sure if they run was just smaller this year, or if the fishing boats were nabbing them all before they made it in to mate at the shores.

One thing was for sure, diving within a mile of squid fishing boats isn’t much fun. They toss small explosives off the boats to try to keep seals out of their nets. Sound travels very far under water, so even a mile away we hear and even feel the bombs in our chests. I’m not sure how much of it will transfer over, but I took a video to give a small idea of what that is like:

In short, annoying. As someone on a dive list said, it makes you wonder why you can’t go near a seal on a beach, but you can throw explosives near them from a boat.

Jan 292009

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Photos of diving Islas Coronados with the sea lions

Adam and I headed out with Waterhorse to visit the Coronado Islands just off Tijuana’s coast. The ride back was a bit rough, but overall it was a really nice day. The first dive was at the usual Lobster Shack. The site is popular because it is usually calm in the small bay and you can be visited by the sea lions in the winter and fall. Adam and I were joking with the captain about doing over an hour in the water, but it turned out to be close to reality. The boat pulled its anchor during the dive and I ended up spending 76 minutes under water with the sea lions. Score!

There were about 12 sea lions in total at the site on Sunday, most of them young. We had a lot of fun being visited by them all over the dive site, and then later hanging out in the shallows with them. The younger sea lions liked picking up small rocks to chew on and blew bubbles with the divers. A few were curious about fins, but none tried chewing on us.

The next dive was near middle grounds at a spot they called little rock. It turned out to be mostly mussel shells and lots of purple sea urchins. There was a swim through in about 20 feet of water, but the surge was so huge that we were hanging on for dear life in some parts of the point. Nothing gets the adrenaline pumping like being thrown around rocks covered in urchins.

Jan 192009

On Saturday I headed out on the Sea Bass to dive some oil rigs just off the coast of LA. The first dive was on the Elly oil rig. Visibility was a solid 50 feet until the end of the dive near the water pipes. There were lots and lots of playful sea lions of all sizes. A few came down to visit us on the super structure at about 80 feet, blowing bubbles and barking. After that they left us alone for while and we explored the mass of life growing on the supports. At 30 feet a large group came to visit us, and playfully looped around us while blowing bubbles.

The next dive was on the Ellen oil rig. The visibility had dropped to about 25 feet and it was fairly dark under the structure, but it was still fun to explore the structure. The currents had really picked up when we were doing our safety stop – a steady swim was needed to keep place. There weren’t as many sea lions on this dive, but it was probably that they were bored with us finally. There was a third dive scheduled on the Eureka rig, but my ear was giving me trouble so I had to bail out.

It was a gorgeous sunny day with barely a ripple on the water. The boat staff and the other divers (especially my insta-buddies Heather and Harry) were friendly and knew what they were doing. Waking up at 4 in the morning to drive to LA isn’t my favorite activity, but the reward was well worth it.

Heather posted a video that gives a pretty good idea of what it is like to be in the middle of a sea lion play time – a lot of fun. I’m in the video a couple times, rolling on my side and making strange chicken wing movements. As much as I love the chicken dance, I’m actually trying to vent some stubborn air from my drysuit. Enjoy:

Dec 212008

The above video isn’t the best quality (it is taken with my digital camera and dive light), but it does illustrate just how much life is on the old Ingraham Street Bridge. The site consists of rubble piles where they dumped the bridge structure just off shore near Mission Bay in 1985. The visibility wasn’t great, but this was a really nice site to explore. I hope to be back soon.

Dec 212008

Since moving to a dry suit I had to switch from my lovely Mares Superchannels to a fin with a much larger foot pocket – drysuit boots are much larger than wetsuit boots.  After trying several without success, I settled on the OMS Slipstream fins.  They are hard paddle style fins that are neutral in water.  With some modifications I’ve become much more comfortable with them.

Adding spring straps

These are some of the best things you can add to your existing fins.  When properly fitted the fins go on and off very easily and are much more comfortable due to the spring compression.  Spring straps come in a wide variety of attachment points for all the different types of strap posts.  I own Innovative Scuba Concepts Ez Spring Fin Straps for both of my fins (wet & drysuit fins), and am very happy with them.  I don’t see any reason to buy the more expensive offerings.

Remolding the fin foot pocket

The first modification I made to the fins was simply to improve the fit of the foot pocket.  I found it a bit too wide, and not tall enough.  The material the fins are made of is fairly stiff, but with a little heat it can be manipulated a little.  I put on my drysuit boots and boiled a pot of water.  I dipped each fin pocket into the hot water for ten seconds, and then took it out and shoved my foot in the fin.  The pockets changed shape a bit and wrapped around my foot a lot better.  After cooling they retained their new shape.

Adding drain holes to the fin foot pocket.

For some strange reason the Slipstream fins only have two small drain holes on the back side of the foot pocket.  When holding the fins by the straps this means they drain very slowly and hold a few cups worth of water after draining.  I wanted to speed the process up a little, so I added three holes to the very bottom of the foot pocket.  This way, they drain fairly quickly when holding them by the straps.  To add the holes I heated the end of a drill bit up with a lighter, and then drilled three holes in the bottom of the pocket.  After drilling I cleaned the holes up with a x-acto knife.  There is probably a cleaner way to do it, but it works well enough for me.

Fin foot pocket drain holes

Adding fin keepers

When shore diving I often double check my hood, mask, or gloves as I walk to the water.  I usually end up awkwardly trying to tuck my fins under my arm, but that doesn’t work so well when I’m trying to adjust my mask or hood.  There are some commercial fin and mask holders available which are simply a strap loop on a plastic buckle.  However they unfortunately usually include a suicide clip, which is not a good idea in kelp or wrecks (a suicide clip does not require interaction to clip into something).  I considered making my own strap with buckle, but wanted something that would use existing hardware.  I finally settled on 1″ stainless steel split rings.  These rings are added to the straps, which can then be clipped off to a double ended bolt snap.  I will probably need to add the rings to the main spring strap instead of the pull tab, but it seems to work fine for now.

Split rings used as finkeepers
Nov 182008

Anna, Pete, Paul, and myself had a great time on Catalina Island last weekend. We started in Avalon, had a nice night in the Aurora Hotel, and then took a taxi van overland to Two Harbors. The ride was a bit crazy but provided great views of the island and even a few bison along the way.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The Santa Ana winds that were burning north LA were calming the seas and warming the air on the island. We did several dives over the course of the weekend, here is a quick round-up:

  • Friday afternoon we swam over to the north point off of two harbors for a nice easy dive.  Run time was about an hour due to the shallow depth.  Visibility wasn’t amazing, but there was a fair bit of life around to explore.
  • Saturday morning we dive Ship Rock with a bit of current.  Loads and loads of blacksmith in the kelp with a curious sea lion buzzing the divers.  The swim south was tough going against the current, but gliding back around the rock in the current on the way back was a lot of fun.  Visibility was decent, 25-50 feet.
  • Late Saturday morning we dove the NE side of Bird Rock.  We started to the east on the fantastic gorgonian walls – I love em.  After that we explored the north wall and the shallow kelp.
  • Saturday afternoon we kayaked over to the marine preserve and went free diving and snorkeling in the kelp.  No seal buddies were there to play, but the lobsters and horn sharks were fun.
  • Sunday morning we tried a kayak dive off Isthmus Reef.  The reef wall was interesting, but very bare.  The life at 20′ more than made up for it – lots of leopard sharks and other fish.