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San Miguel Island on 1-19-2008


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#1 drsteve

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 10:52 PM

Attention fair weather divers, I’ll let you in on a little secret. The best Channel Islands diving is in the winter! That is, of course, if you dodge the storms.

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.

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Edited by drsteve, 21 January 2008 - 08:00 AM.

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#2 davephdv

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 02:34 PM

Nice photos Steve.

Look into the Si Tech glove system. Works with Latex seals. Slips on and off easily and is inexpensive.

It is what I used in Alaska without problems.
Dave Burroughs, Nikon D300, D2X, Subal housing, DS160 strobes

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#3 segal3

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 04:36 PM

I second the the Si-Tech dry glove setup recommendation. Low maintenance and quick donning/doffing.
Matt Segal - carbonos scuba

#4 davephdv

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Posted 21 January 2008 - 04:46 PM

I should mention I got the idea from Matt.
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#5 drsteve

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 04:14 PM

I'll look into the Si-Tech system. Thanks for the tip.

The hope was that with the Zipgloves, I could keep my normal seals and wet-gloves as backups. The great thing about the ZipSeals is that it is very quick to change out a bad seal. I almost swapped out the faulty glove on this trip. I inspected the glove and the suit with a dive light last night and I didn't find any holes. So far I am at a loss as to where the leaked!

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#6 davephdv

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 07:10 PM

Steve, call me about this.

The Si Tec use your own seals you can still dive without the gloves. They snap on and off very quickly. I have put the ring back on my suit once while standing at the exit gate on the boat. Having watch people put on zip gloves I would say these are quicker to put on and off. Also if your glove leaks you may not get any water in your suit as the latex seal is still in place.
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#7 JackConnick

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Posted 22 January 2008 - 08:49 PM

Fun report, thanks for posting.

I've made a couple of summer trips out there, but the viz has been so-so. It's like 30F here and I'm envious.

I've been using the Northern Divers system and I'm not so sure I can recommend it. It works ok, but is expensive and the rings have shattered on me twice. The LDS replaced them without question, but what a PITA. But drys gloves are so nice to shoot with.

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#8 CADiver

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 10:44 AM

Quick question Dr. Steve, which boat/operator did you go with ? From Ventura or Santa Barbara ?
I want to dive their this year sometime.
Thank you !
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#9 Taxgeek

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 12:41 PM

Hi Steve, great report! Too bad I didn't make it out there with you. We had good conditions at Anacapa, and a huge pinneped welcoming committee, but I was cooooold in my wetsuit! We had 52-56 degrees.

Yeah, wetsuit. I didn't even bring the drysuit.
I got into a huge fight with my (newish) drysuit hte night before as I tried to put on the . . . drumroll . . . DRYGLOVES! !!! Argh, what a huge PITA. I have to go research it, but I think these may be Si-Tech gloves - it's a Bare suit, and the gloves/rings they sell. What just fries me is that they take a suit that in certain areas (i.e., seals) is extremely delicate, and then they design a system that requires a fair amount of force to assemble. Talk about recipe for frustration! (The rings are the ones that still have the latex wrist seal underneath, then there is a plastic ring mounted on the sleeve of the suit, to which you can attach the dry gloves, or not attach them, as you desire. My wrists won't seal without the gloves however - too many ligaments sticking out too far.) I'm not sure I recommend them at this point - I have another wrestling match with these things set up for saturday to see if I can make them work. grumble. mumble.

Sorry for the dryglove rant. Wish I could have been at San Miguel - I'll probably sign up for a Truth Aquatics single day trip in Feb, or maybe actually on the 3 day weekend, since I just found out my tax refund amount. :)

If anybody's interested in joining, please do! The Truth Aquatics boats (Conception, Vision and Truth) are the best day boats in socal.

Taxgeek/Susan

Quick question Dr. Steve, which boat/operator did you go with ? From Ventura or Santa Barbara ?
I want to dive their this year sometime.
Thank you !


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#10 drsteve

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Posted 23 January 2008 - 08:33 PM

Quick question Dr. Steve, which boat/operator did you go with ? From Ventura or Santa Barbara ?
I want to dive their this year sometime.
Thank you !

I went out of Santa Barbara on the Truth. There are good boats out of Ventura too, but the Northern Islands are closer to Santa Barbara than they are to Ventura, so the Truth Aquatics Boats make more day trips out there than the Ventura boats. However, I should mention that my success at making it to San Miguel has only been about 1 out of 3. If often occurs that I wake up and find myself on the back side of Santa Cruz, which is nice, but not as nice as making to to Miguel.

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