Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Channel Islands Part 1: Day 1 Anacapa Island

In October Travis and I went on a scuba diving trip on a 3 day live-aboard boat in the Channel Islands.

We left Salem super early on Wednesday morning, as in 3am early, and started our 900 mile drive down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Unfortunately, too late the prior evening to really fix it, Travis discovered something lodged in one of the tires that was causing a slow leak. He picked up some cans of Fix-a-Flat to spray on and hope that it held the leak well enough, long enough for us to stop at a shop for a fix somewhere on our drive down in the morning. We reached Weed, CA right near Mt Shasta in northern California right at 8am so we stopped to find a shop and have some breakfast while we waited.

Mt Shasta in the early morning light right before our stop.
Mt Shasta, sunrise

The retro cafe where we had breakfast during our wait.
retro Hi-Lo Cafe

Here's Mt Shasta transformed by light only just over an hour later as we headed back out on the road.
Mt Shasta

Around 6pm we were nearing our destination in sunny southern California.
sunny southern California evening

We loaded our gear on the boat that evening and settled ourselves in. About 4am in the morning while most of us still slept the boat pulled out to start our trip in the Channel Islands.

Here's a look at the boat deck
boat deck

And the galley

The boat had laminated maps of the Channel Islands. Each map can be clicked on to enlarge. The Channel Islands are south of Santa Barbara and west of LA.
Channel Islands

Day 1 was spent at Anacapa Island.
Anacapa Island, Channel Islands

We arrived at the east end of Anacapa Island at our first dive site around 7am. The place was called Landing Cove and it had an underwater arch that you could swim through.
Channel Islands Anacapa Island

Channel Islands Anacapa Island

A very rocky place
Channel Islands Anacapa Island

We loved diving here, and on the first day I did get these two mug shots of us, so I'll share them first before the rest of the dive shots.


I didn't take my camera for that first dive, I just wanted to get back in the water and work out any cobwebs, but we were all loving the gorgeous purple with orange nudibranch (sea slug) called a Spanish Shawl (Flabellina iodinea) and we saw many more of these beauties on our trip so this is a picture from another dive.
Channel Islands Spanish Shawl nudibranch

Wet and happy with our first dive! Justin, Amy, Travis, Debbie
scuba diving Channel Islands

I don't remember why I didn't take my camera for the second dive, maybe we were warned of surge or current or maybe I still wanted to focus on my dive skills so didn't take it. In any case we next dove Rat Rock on the very west end of Anacapa. There was an incredible carpet of brittle stars that completely hid the bottom.
Here's a shot of lots of brittle stars with other sea stars and a Blackeyed Goby (Coryphopterus nicholsi) that I took on the next dive.
Channel Islands Blackeyed Goby, brittle stars

Surface interval!
scuba diving Channel Islands

Our third dive was at Coral Reef, just east of Rat Rock on the southern side of of Anacapa. Here's a wider view of the terrain, showing a rocky bottom, kelp and the site had a wall too.
Coral Reef, Anacapa Island, Channel Islands

Here's a close up of some brittle stars' arms.'
Channel Islands brittle stars

Treefish (Sebastes serriceps)
Channel Islands Treefish

I was focused on the small stuff on the bottom, but Travis kept trying to get my attention. He was doing some funky dance moves trying to communicate what he saw, including what looked like the way a ray moves. I would look around, obviously having missed whatever he saw, and eventually go back to searching the bottom. That happened twice when finally I saw what he had. A sea lion had come to play! Thankfully she really wanted to play and kept coming back. It was the coolest thing, it was as if she knew I was the one with the camera because she would come up right in front of me and do some twists and turns for me and then zoom away. She did that THREE times! Always she would look at me after her dance like, "Did you see that? Did you get it?" SO COOL! Isn't she beautiful?
sea lion Channel Islands

And there she goes racing away past Travis.
sea lion diving Channel Islands

It seemed she was truly gone after the third dance she did for me so I went back to the combing the bottom. Here's a big ol' California sea hare(Aplysia californica). These are giant cousins of the nudibranchs.
Channel Islands brown California sea hare

Looking down into a crevice/hole where what looks like some sort of rockfish I can't identify is holding court amongst a school of blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis).
Channel Islands blacksmith fish

Here's a look at what the bottom looked like. There so much to see in such a small space so you really have to look closely to find the small hidden gems like nudibranchs. See what's big but camouflaged right in the middle? Another sea hare.
southern California sea hare

The fourth dive of the day was at Cat Rock, a little further east of Coral Reef. I sat that one out, knowing I wanted to do a night dive and not wanting to be too tired when the time came. Travis said it was a pretty uneventful dive with nothing really standout. There were two ways off the boat, at the sides near the back which was where we typically entered from, but a couple times we had to enter the water from the gate at the bow of the boat which meant it was a lot further fall to the water. Here's Travis entering the water.
Travis scuba diving Channel Islands

And off the boys go
scuba diving Channel Islands

Travis after that dive
Travis scuba diver

And Justin rockin' a hot look

The second day we were going to be diving around Santa Rosa but we stopped by Santa Cruz on the way over for the night dive at Goblin Wall, just west of Prisoner's Harbor. I found another sea hare and used the opportunity to get a little closer. They have little eyes that are only for detecting light and dark.
southern California sea hare

These are the rhinophores, which nudibranchs also have, but on this guy the size and location of them are what gave it the name of sea hare.
Channel Islands brown California sea hare

Sidestriped Shrimp (Pandalopsis dispar) up close and personal.
Channel Islands Sidestriped Shrimp

On to Santa Rosa!

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