The heat wave we’ve been experiencing this year has made our work-a-day world nearly intolerable. Up to triple digits for weeks on end can put people in the worst moods. But what great conditions for diving! The cool breeze was so refreshing and being out on the water with the sun beating down was a little piece of heaven.
We boarded the Cee Ray around 6:30AM, just in time for breakfast! We set up our tanks, ate scrambled eggs, bacon and pancakes, then found our bunks to rest up for the day of diving.
Our first stop was Black Rock, which was a very nice first dive, nothing too challenging so we could get used to the conditions. The first thing I noticed was the kelp—it was everywhere! I couldn’t help but want to swim through it. Tons of kelp fish and sheephead were hiding from the sun and below were more abalone than I’d seen in awhile as well. After seeing the devastation from last year when this same spot was like a lunar landscape, I was relieved and thrilled to see so much greenery. There was so much of it, we spent nearly the entire dive navigating our way through.
Lulu Reef is fast becoming one of our favorite spots to dive, so we spent the next two dives exploring the three pinnacles. Here is nearly every kind of critter you could hope to see with so many crags and crevices and tiny swim throughs for them to hide in. Not to mention the sandy areas where we spotted several bat rays nestled into the sand. You know they’re around somewhere when you see the indentations in the sand where they’ve been sleeping. I find I can get fairly close without them being disturbed, but once they start to rise up, you know you’ve gone too close. One of the most graceful creatures to see gliding through the water, I could watch them endlessly.
Back at the pinnacles, I spotted a small octopus tucked into a crag alongside an urchin. I know a lot of people see octopus fairly regularly around Catalina, but I’ve only ever seen one, and that was at Casino Point, so I was thrilled with the find! As I tried to get my GoPro closer for a better shot, it would squeeze in closer to the urchin, which must not have been very comfortable. But as I backed away, its little eyes would pop up to see what I was up to. Very curious! Further down the crag, we found many morays, some sharing space with another moray. And in one area, I noticed two tiny cleaner shrimp dancing away in front of an eel.
The garibaldi were super aggressive, guarding their nests. And they seemed to photo bomb every shot I took! As I would try to capture a shot of some lobster hotel, a huge garibaldi would stick its face right into the lens. Grrr! Stop that!
My favorite moment though was when I spotted a couple of other divers hovering low, focusing on something. We swam over and they pointed at… another octopus! Amazing! Not just one, but two in one day! I was over the moon! I got excellent footage as it moved along, taking on the patina of its surroundings. So hypnotic!
Although the visibility was a bit on the murky side, the temps were low 70’s so they were all comfortable dives. We did catch a chill or two going below 60 feet, so we kept it to around 40 most of the time.
Once we were back onboard, the excellent chef Kim had an amazing meal for us and later we hit the bunks for a quick snooze on the way back.
I do have to give it up for the Cee Ray: they treat everyone like family. From the friendliness of the dive masters they choose, to the kitchen staff, to the owners, they are some of the nicest people you could meet. One of the main missions for Barnacle Busters is to find gay-friendly environments in which to indulge our underwater passions, and the Cee Ray is as good as it gets.