Monday, November 14, 2011

Diving up north. Just a little farther up north.

Friday night, we set out to find the Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker. An adorable little fish I'd never seen, but favored with such ardor it had become a joke. Earlier this year at a ScubaPro seminar in Seattle, someone I didn't know from three rows back passed up their cell phone, with instructions to show me the photo on the screen: an adorable lumpsucker. I looked back to see three rows of smiling, laughing divers, all involved in the tease.

Bastards.  ;)

Well, there's nothing more to tease me about! (LOL) Arriving at Redondo and in the water around 7pm, we dropped down a whole 10 ft into the eel grass beds to the north of Salty's, it took me just a minute to find one of the darlings on the outer edge of the grass bed.

See a photo of the lovely first to be found, taken by Stephen Wood.

There were many more, from so teeny you could barely notice them to a substantial golf ball size.

Such a simple, focused dive led to discoveries of many great critters in the area. An easy dive means lack of movement, though, and I found myself getting colder by the minute. At 48 minutes, my hands were so cold they'd gone through the numb phase and had started to burn, a new sensation. Signalling my departure, I held court at the van talking about the water with an endless string of locals until my buddies came up some after some 70plus minutes for total dive time. An awesome start to a great weekend.

Conditions and circumstances squelched the diving a little bit, however.

The next day the fine folks at Anacortes Diving and Supply filled our tanks and tipped us that despite a great small exchange, our destination of Keystone was not divable due to high winds (40mph the day before, 25mph on this day). We went by the site anyway, and while two of us were like, "Yeah, let's do it," our friend in the know said, "It's not divable, period" and the we whimpered away in defeat. (This is the fourth time now I've been blown out of this dive.) One of the women at Anacortes had told us to join them over at Langley, however, for some dusk/night dives. We made our way over there, and found a good sized parking lot, easy entry (small stairs OR boat ramp onto a narrow sand beach), and great facilities (restrooms and hot showers). None of the three of us diving together had been to the site.

This was a night dive by the time we got under the water; the third in our group of Muskateers had a fatal error with a drysuit zipper that pulled him out of the water before his fun got started. He sadly relegated himself to shore support.

The directions to the site were easy: the site is past the floating cement breakwater. Something about the simple looking site is disorienting; we can usually just sight it, drop down and go. After one fail with this method we popped up, swam over to the breakwater, got a bearing and dropped.

We found a rope while scouring the flat sandy bottom for critters. Almost immediately a very curious and calm ratfish of medium size was with us, and allowed us plenty of time for great shots of him. Shortly after, I found the tiniest baby red octo in the sand, and played with him for quite some time. Next was a sailfin sculpin... good stuff, and all before we GET to the real feature. The spread out blocks holding down the rope were like little towns along a country road, each holding a few interesting residents.

Following the line for what seemed like a while, I scanned the sides again and saw this huge, looming behemoth that is the tire reef. I was thinking a few tires laid down in the sand, maybe stacked one or two up... but no, this is a huge tangle of tires going up and down, undulating like a huge mat of tire madness. So many pockets, holes, ins and outs that you could spend days looking. An impressive number of large fish of various types, too.

Here's a link to a sidescan sonar of the site, showing just how huge it is.
First time there, at night... it was a little spooky! There are some projections that come straight out of it, too; huge logs/poles that extend long and tall. Lots of life on all of it. And I saw some LARGE crab carcases around (and there are OODLES of crab, too), so there HAS to be a good sized octo there, but how in the heck you'd ever find him I don't know. :) Can't wait to dive it again, hopefully in the daytime with good viz to get a better feel for it.

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