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My batteries are still in the yellow, edging into red, but after this past weekend, I think there’s hope of being able to recharge them at some point.

We set off around 5:45 Friday morning, picking up Ron and James M along the way, and made our way south, stopping in Gilroy for the all-important Starbucks and Panera for breakfast. We were in LA around lunch time with no incident, and the car-top carrier firmly still attached to the car (thank goodness!), and stopped for lunch at some fast food grill place, which resulted in marked queasiness on my part several hours later. Eventually, after some traffic and some detours around traffic (thanks to the capabilities of James M’s iPhone), we made it to the hotel in San Diego with no troubles and got our room.

The advantage of my car and the car-top carrier over last years’ trailor was that we could leave all the gear secure and packed in the car instead of schlepping it up to the room. Yeehaw!

We sat around for a good chunk of the afternoon, watching random bits of random things on TV and eventually playing Killer Bunnies, the best game ever! Hunger kicked in, and we went off to the hotel restaurant to eat, not wanting to venture much further. Then it was bedtime, as morning was coming all too early.

We went out on the Zero Gravity with Dive Connection, Inc., and I can recommend it somewhat. They have a good operation, and Chris the captain and Greg the Divemaster were great. However, if you need nitrox fills, the logistics suck (at least they did for us wanting to fill 36 tanks in good time).

Also, can you really trust a dive operation with the initials DCI????

But if you just want two dives, it’s all good. We had problems getting the tanks filled between the morning and afternoon dives, and because we had steel 100’s not aluminum 80’s, so I think we created our own problems there.

Anyways, on to the diving.

After another 5am wake-up call, we hit the dock by 6:10, and were off by 7:30 or so. We did two morning dives on the Yukon, a Canadian destroyer that was sunk as an artificial reef a couple of years ago. It has much more growth on it this year than last year, including a miniature kelp forest, much bigger metridiums, and huge patches of strawberry anemones.

Our group of four, plus two others who weren’t coming along to take the wreck class, went off to explore from the forward guns, where we were moored, to the bow of the ship and back. There were a ton of Hermissenda, most of them really small, all over the ship. Must have been hatching time for them. I also found a White-spotted Dorid (I think) and John found some small orangy nudibranch, which we think was a Cockerell’s Dorid. You really need the nudibranch identification book with you underwater! There were also a lot of Senoritas and Painted Greenlings all over the ship.

For the second dive, Ron and John buddied up and penetrated a whole near the forward guns. I hung around outside, managing to find lots more Hermissenda and a San Diego Dorid. I took pictures, but I don’t think my camera is great for macro. Then we went off to the bow again, where dolphin shaped holes were cut into the prow of the ship.

Then we had the infamous 6-hour surface interval, 4 of which were spent at the dock waiting for tanks to be filled. I managed to get a decent nap in, which was all well and good, but once I’d gotten out of my warm fuzzies and drysuit, I wasn’t real keen on getting back in.

The third dive of the day was at the Ancient Sea Cliffs (or something like that). It was a deep dive for the people in the class, and the rest of us just explored at 100’ around the anchor line. I found some Festive Tritons and some Spanish Shawls, which was exciting as I hadn’t see any of either last year. There were also some other yellow and white nudibranchs that I don’t know what were.

Then, John found an anchor. With no boat on the other end.

My mental conversation, at 100’, went something like this:

“He’s not thinking what I’m thinking he’s thinking.”

“He is thinking what I’m thinking he’s thinking.”

“He’s not going to do what I’m thinking he’s thinking.”

“He is going to do what I’m thinking he’s thinking.”

“I wonder how narc’ed he is?”

In any case, he put our Search and Recovery PADI class skills to good use, and with Ron’s help, lifted the anchor. He now claims it’s going to decorate the back yard, but not if I have any say about this. And he claims he wasn’t narc’ed at all. Hmpf.

I want the rest of the boat. Then I’ll be impressed.

It was a good dive, though, and I had no trouble with the drysuit at that depth, or really with my buoyancy at all. One of the instructors that came along just for fun, whom I buddied with when John and Ron were buddied up, told me I had excellent buoyancy for someone with so few drysuit dives, with the exception of sort of having my feet below my head instead of being laid out horizontally and flat. Gotta work on that, but sounds like I’m doing well!

The fourth dive (by which we were already tired) was at the Radio Tower, a radio tower (duh) that had been used for research purposes that capsized awhile back. It’s basically like a giant steel jungle gym underwater. It was pretty cool, but I think I’d have preferred another shipwreck.

We splashed first, as we did for all dives in order to stay out of the class’s way, and set off to explore. There was a vicious thermocline (dropped from 75° to 55° or so, about the same for all dives, but here you could really feel it), and my mask kept leaking, though, so after about 20 minutes, I was ready to call it a dive. We did see lots and lots of female Sheephead, and I also found 3 cowrys, which was neat.

By the time we made it back to the dock, it was 8:45, which made for one long day. We tried a local steakhouse for dinner, but the wait was 35 minutes, and none of us were willing to wait that long. Another steak house down the road worked out, but about 10 bites into the meal, our sleepiness overcame our hungry, and most of us didn’t finish, and there really wasn’t much conversation. So it was back to the hotel for a quick rinse shower and into bed, finally, thankfully.

Another 5am start beckoned on Sunday (is it any wonder I’m so tired?), and we had to load the car and check out prior to heading to the docks.

My drysuit worked great all day both days, with one exception. The latex seals abraded my neck something fierce, and it looks like I’ve been strangled by something. I have a red hickey-like mark running from under one ear to the other, and there was enough abrasion to give me wounds the scabbed over under one ear and on the equivalent of my Adam’s apple. Got a lot of fun comments from co-workers upon my return, but putting the seals back on Sunday morning just SUCKED!

The boat set off again, with a new and much more humorless captain, who gave us a safety briefing and then a cryptic comment about an “incident on the Yukon that we weren’t to repeat”, and with that hid in the cabin while we were diving, unlike Chris, who’d been on deck assisting people and all. Gah. Though, in retrospect, we’re thinking he might have been captain of the boat when a instructor diver when out and through a series of stupid judgment calls and mistakes, got himself killed in the engine room on the Yukon. In which case, he’s (the captain) probably entitled to his grumpiness.

The first dive had no surface current, but as soon as you reached the bottom, it was vicious. We swam from the mast mooring line back to the munitions bay and poked around in some of the holes. Then we tried to swim around the back of the ship to see the screws, but the current whipping around the end meant that even after a minute or so of swimming, we hadn’t gone far, and as soon as we stopped, we were back where we began.

Having used a decent amount of air swimming against the current, we swam back to the mast and ascended. The safety stop was real fun (sarcasm, please) with the four of us all flagged out on the mooring line, bumping into one another.

I was contemplating not doing the second dive, as the current just sucked so much, but I did anyway, and was glad I did. Current had died down a lot, so the six of us penetrated the ship into one of the air intact ducts. The giant fans were pretty cool, and if we’d been in a horror movie, they would have turned on and shredded us all. But they didn’t, and I found a Hermissenda but not much else, and the penetration went just fine.

We swam around Milt’s Tilt, where I found a light dropped by a diver, continuing the grand tradition of finding dive lights while diving the Yukon, started last year by James M, but was disappointed to realize it belonged to one of the instructors with the class and thus should be returned, along with some good natured teasing. Milt’s Tilt had a lot more growth on it this year than last, and the plaque proclaiming it “Milt’s Tilt” was nearly overgrown. We swam past the Wardroom, where the class penetrations were taking place, and eventually up the mooring line.

I had the distinction of splashing first for every single dive, and my only diving regret was not finding the pirate flag that we saw last year, but I guess there’s always next year!

After packing wet and nasty and smelly gear back into the car, and our sweaty, smelly selves (hey, you try being encased in a giant plastic bag for multiple hours in the San Diego sun!), we headed off to Riverside via a McDonald’s (so much for my vow not to eat fast food) to stay with James M’s family. We met his dad and youngest sister, both of whom were lovely. The dad even let John and I have his bed, which has to be the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in! Very, very nice of him! We washed the gear and ourselves, and aired out the fishy-smelling car.

We all went to a place called Ooka, a Japanese restaurant similar to Benihana’s but not a chain, for dinner. Mmmm. Tasty! I had chicken and shrimp, but John definitely won with the filet mignon and shrimp!

The next morning, we hung out with the family for a suitable time, packing gear that had been rinsed and hung to dry in the convenient backyard, and headed into Upland, CA, to eat at San Biago’s New York Pizzeria, and exceedingly excellent pizza place, and then Handel’s Handmade Ice Cream, which qualifies as National Geographic’s Top Ten #1 place to eat ice cream. And believe you me, they deserve it!

Suitably stuffed, we turned north and headed home, again without incident beyond minor traffic into the bay area.

So it was lots of early mornings, late nights, tons of good fun/exercise, and good food and friends. An excellent trip that I now need some sleep to recover from. Why can dive vacations also be relaxing?

Anyways, craziness is ensuing at work, where I’m again trying to fit a 5 day work week into 4 days, and not being very successful. Wish me luck.



May 2018
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