East of the Sea Lion Rookery-Santa Barbara Island-What a difference a few hours can make. Let me bring you up to speed. We left Catalina last night for Santa Barbara. We awoke to calm seas and a beautiful morning. . The Captain moved the boat around to a site on the west end of the island. We were exposed to the swell from the northeast but I didn’t think too much of it, I was ready to go dive. Kent and I hit the water and headed down.
The site had a plateau about 40’deep with a wall heading down from there. The wall was just gorgeous, covered in small anemones and star fish. The water was noticeable colder, about 58* down from 63* at Catalina yesterday. We headed along the wall until I looked out in to the blue and noticed something hanging in the water column above us and just out in the blue. From where we were it looked like a ray. As we swam closer I could see a long tail that looked more like a shark. It was an angel shark. They are really weird looking, ½ shark and ½ ray, and usually hanging around in the sand so it was strange to see him in the blue. It was hard to tell just how big it was since it was floating in blue water and there was no reference for size. We headed back to the wall and came up a gulley and then the fun started. Those of you who have dove with me in the past know that I can get reverse blocks from time to time. A reverse block occurs when you ascend and your ears can’t re-equalize. Basically you get the spins, get real dizzy and depending on how long it takes to clear, you feel real crappy. So I got a reverse block and spent the rest of the dive dealing with an upset stomach. Once we got up and back on the boat, I didn’t feel any better since we were just rocking and rolling due to the swell. I just sat down near the bow feeling miserable and wondering why I ever came on this trip. With an upset stomach and a blocked ear, I was ready to go home. We finally pulled up the anchor and worked our way around island. As the seas calmed and I warmed up, a wonderful thing happened, my stomach got better, my ear cleared and I suddenly enjoyed life again.
Once we got to the next site, the sea lions arrived! We were right next to the large rookery. This is what we came to Santa Barbara for. We had seen a few on the surface and one or two underwater but now we had a pack of about 25 pups swimming right up next the boat. Now I had a decision to make. I knew my ear was not going to like it but with my stomach feeling better and the sun shining, I felt like a new man (You know the best part about feeling bad is how good you feel once it passes). I just had to jump in and see if the pups were going to hang around with us. I suited up and hit the water and sure enough, there they were. Watching sea lions underwater is the coolest thing ever. They are so quick and graceful, they can stop on a dime, turn 180* and dart to the surface in a second. I have swum with seals and sea lions a few times but never for this long and never with this many. It was well worth it, even if my ears plugged again on the way up and the spins came back even worse then the last dive. Luckily my ears cleared quickly and I felt fine by the time I got back to the boat. Everyone enjoyed this dive, even the guys who sat this one out. The pups kept coming back to the boat to check us out. One even climbed on the swim step and hung out for bit and another climbed into the chase boat. We also finally had some luck with lobsters as Martin (one of the Divemasters) got 4 including 1 monster and my buddy from the night dive had a big one as well. Broccoli and cheese soup and a grilled cheese sandwich made for a great lunch and since my ears tell me I am done for the day, a nap might be in order.
4:45pm-Just a bit further east then earlier in the day
We made a second dive just down from the last one. Sea lions aplenty again. After that, the captain wanted to see if the swell and current had died down on the other side of the island. Since it had not, we came back to the same area as before and made the last dive of the afternoon. We will eat dinner here (Tri-tip BBQ) and make the night dive as well. Since the sea lions are still around it will interesting to see if they will come out for the night dive. Twice I have had seals dive with me at night to use my light to help them hunt for fish. They stay with you the whole time, just in front of your light. If the Navy will let us, we will move back to San Clemente tonight so we can dive longer tomorrow before heading back to San Diego. The Navy owns the island and closes it down for training exercises some times as they storm the beaches or whatever they do. When that happens you need to keep a certain distance away. I have had that happen once before but they only closed the northern end so we had to dive just one side. Since San Clemente is closer to San Diego that means more diving. If we have to stay away and dive Catalina, then it will take longer to get back and we will stop diving earlier. Of course if my ear doesn’t feel better, then it won’t really matter will it?