At the risk of encouraging everyone to become as big a procrastinator as me, one of the advantages of diving in your hometown is that you can look at the weather reports and decide, at the last minute, if conditions look good. When you go on a dive vacation, you typically plan months (even years) in advance. When the trip finally materialized, you get whatever conditions you get. Not so, when diving locally.
Case in point was my trip to San Miguel on Saturday, Jan 19th. The big storms early in January had passed so on Thursday, Jan 17th, I signed up. Conditions were absolutely ideal; I can’t imagine a better nexus of sun, wind, waves, and vis.
In some sense, the trip began with the end of work on Friday. I headed out to the Beachside Café for the Paradise Dive Club deco stop. We had a great time watching the beautiful sunset and chatting. Then around 8:00pm, my dive buddy and I headed out to the boat to sign-in and pick out our bunks.
The boat was pretty full with about 25 divers, most of whom were hunters. There were only 3 photographers on board. I had several goals for the trip. I wanted to do some wide-angle photography since it is much harder than macro, and conditions are rarely conducive. San Miguel, with its abundance of pinnipeds should be an ideal place to practice. The second goal was to test out the dry-gloves that my wife gave me for my birthday. The DUI zipgloves are outrageously expensive, but the hope was that they would help me manipulate my camera. In particular, I wanted to practice with them in preparation for our upcoming trip to dive Alaska and the Inland Passage this summer. The last goal was to trim in the weighting of my drysuit. My current setup has 20lb in the BC weight pockets, 8lb in the upper trim pockets, and 2lb on my ankles. This works fine for keeping my balance, but I don’t like the ankle weights. There is only 1lb on each leg, but that is an extra pound that you have to push through the water on every kick cycle. Instead I bought a weight belt. I am not changing the overall weight, just its distribution on my body.
When fiddling with the camera, it is important to have the diving be second nature
In general, I believe that one should only make small changes to your gear configuration to keep down the number of variables, but on this trip I was changing a lot of things simultaneously.
The trip out was amazingly smooth. The channel was like glass, and the sky was clear and cloudless. After a dramatic sunrise, we pulled up to Wilson’s rock. My buddy and I suited up and over the side we went. Wow! The vis was 60ft and the wall was sheer and covered with sea life. I followed my buddy down into the depths. I rarely dive deep on our local waters since it usually just gets cold and dark. This time it got dark (since we were in the shadow of the rock), but didn’t get particularly cold. The temp at 100ft was 54F. What a great spot. We slowly spiraled our way up the wall and at 30ft the greeting committee came out to meet us, a little late, but full of energy. A big group of sea lions were dive-bombing us and litterly swimming rings around us. I was getting low on air so holding onto the line for my safety stop; which made it almost impossible to use the camera at the same time. Oh well, at least I enjoyed the show.
They moved the boat to Simonton’s cove. This time I was ready for the sea lions, but they decided to say away, until I was swimming back to the boat on the surface. Even so, they were turning summersaults and playing the dive-bomber game. What fun. On the next dive a friendly juvenile delinquent came up and tried bite my left strobe. I don’t know what was particularly interesting about my left strobe, but he seemed fascinated by it. Now I had the opposite problem, I couldn’t get far enough away from him to get a decent portrait. That is the frustration and fun of underwater photography.
My other goals were a mixed bag. The new weighting configuration worked great. I had better balance and could even roll upside down or lie on my back. The new “dry” gloves were a disappointment. My hands were toasty warm until they leaked. I am a bit surprised because until this point, my suit has been like the Sahara desert. It hasn’t leaked a single drop until trying the new gloves, and I am positive I installed them correctly. Let’s see what DUI has to say about it.
We ended up doing four dives on an absolutely perfect winter day. What could top it off? How about a pod of grey whales spouting right next to the boat, or perhaps a picture perfect sunset over the glassy water? So, the next time you decide that “winter” diving isn’t for you, think about this perfect day. I know I will.
Edited by drsteve, 21 January 2008 - 08:00 AM.